22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. As the activities associated with the International Geophysical Year have been in progress for a period of three months, will the Minister make a brief statement showing what has been achieved to date and what projects are in hand in Australia as a contribution towards the year’s success?
– As the honorable senator knows, that matter comes within the administration of my colleague. I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to him to see whether the time is opportune for a statement to be made along the lines requested.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer by stating that in the banking legislation to be submitted to Parliament later in this sessional period, the Government proposes an amalgamation of the existing Mortgage Bank Department and Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Bank under a new development bank. In view of the feeling of primary producers and their organizations that there should be an extension of credit facilities for the purpose of developmental projects which will increase production, can the Minister indicate the means by which the new development bank will be able to render assistance in this direction?
– The honorable senator’s question is not an easy one for me to answer. I am relying now on my recollection of public statements made by the Treasurer at the time, and my recollection is that the new development bank, which is to be formed by the amalgamation of two existing departments of the Commonwealth Bank, is to be given a commencing capital of the order of £20,000,000. I think that, up to this stage, the Government has committed itself only to laying down what is more or less a general charter which sets out that the purpose and policy of the bank will be to provide finance and make advances to primary producers on terms that are not usually available. The advances will be made moreor less under a system of backing the man rather than the security. That answer hardly dovetails with the honorable senator’s question, which relates more to the general availability of money as a result of thecentral bank’s operations generally. 1 think the two matters are entirely independent, one relating to the central bank’s policy, and the other to this special new venture, which I am sure everybody will look at with very great interest.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development, who administers the War Service Homes Division. For what period will applicants for war service homes have to wait under the legislation which is to be presented to the Senate before they are granted assistance?
– Applicants for war service homes fall into different categories. There are those who desire the War Service Homes Division to build homes for them or to take charge of their building operations, those who themselves build, and those who buy existing homes. At the present time, the waiting period is about fifteen months for the last two categories, and more than that - I think about two years - in the case of homes built by the War Service Homes Division. The extra allocation will be applied, in the first instance, to the building of homes. It is somewhat difficult to forecast the result. Much will depend upon the volume of applications. We are hopeful that, as a result of the provision of additional money - assuming that the number of applications will be about the same as it was in previous years - we shall have eliminated by June, 1958, the waiting time for those persons who want homes built for them. At this stage I would not forecast the effect upon other categories, except to say that the waiting period will not lengthen. There will be an improvement.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been drawn to an announcement in this morning’s press of the development of a safe and reliable electronic instrument to revive the heart after the pulse has stopped? The equipment, which is called a defibrillator, can eliminate the need for surgery of the thoractomy type with its attendant risks, and is designed to resuscitate the apparently drowned, those suffering severe electric shock and similar cases. Will the Minister have inquiries made to ascertain whether the published claims for this instrument are justified, and if they are, will he arrange for installation of the equipment in appropriate centres in the capital cities of Australia?
– I did read in the press a report of the wonderful instrument that the honorable senator has mentioned, and I thought at the time of the great use we could make of it and the wonderful advance it represented. I am quite sure that my colleague, the Minister for Health, has already seen this press report, but I shall bring it .under his notice and ask him to be good enough to give me a statement of his own impressions, which I shall later on convey to the Senate.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. On 28th August, 1957, I caused a question to be placed on the notice-paper. I am most anxious to know whether or when I shall receive an answer.
– I have much pleasure in informing the honorable senator that he will receive an answer this afternoon.
– I direct to the Minister for Customs and Excise questions relating to the tax on diesel fuel. What form of legislation does the Government propose to use in imposing the tax? Under what existing legislation is the tax now being collected? What will constitute a private road and a public road for the purpose of any proposed exemptions from the tax? Finally, what procedure is to be adopted in relation to claims for exemptions or rebates, as the case may be?
– In answer to the first question, the Government will proceed by way of a regulation. The tax is now being collected under the authority of a regulation. The oil companies co-operated - I think it was on the 13th of last month - by rebonding all the fuel which they had withdrawn from bond, and paying duty on it, so that they could all start on the one day under the provisions of the regulation. The third matter is one of policy which is in the process of formulation, and I cannot answer that aspect of the question at the moment. I refer, of course, to the matter of the definitions of roads. With regard to claims, the department is at present working out a scheme, which it hopes to perfect, whereby larger users can be given certificates to present to the oil companies when drawing fuel and that will eliminate refunds. The details of the scheme have not yet been finally decided, but we hope that that is the form it will take.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that frequently people who desire to travel quickly from one of the eastern capital cities between Brisbane and Hobart . to another have to wait for up to three days for a seat in a commercial aircraft? Will the Minister ascertain the reason why the commercial airline operators over eastern Australian areas are unable to cope with the passenger traffic available between Fridays and Tuesdays? As this state of affairs is likely to be aggravated during the coming summer months, will the Minister issue an instruction to the effect that the names and addresses of unsuccessful applicants for seats on Trans-Australia Airlines aircraft shall be recorded, and that when the waiting list has a specified number of applicants, a special aircraft will be provided for them?
– I am aware, of course, that air travel on the east coast of Australia is extremely popular and that, on occasions, there is a necessity to delay the on-movement of passengers. I am astonished to learn, however, that the delay extends to as long as three days. I shall have a look at the matter, ascertain whether delays of up to three days are being occasioned, and see what can be done immediately to relieve the position.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Treasurer agree that, as an anti-inflationary measure, the Commonwealth Government should encourage increased deposits in savings banks in this country? Will he place before the Treasurer, in due course, a suggestion that has been made by Mr. Sinclair Thynne, chairman of the Launceston Bank for Savings, that the Australian Government should adopt the policy of the United Kingdom Government, under which the first £15 of interest received by depositors on amounts in savings accounts is free of income tax?
– In answer to the first question, I agree with the honorable senator’s contention that encouragement should be given to the people to increase their deposits in savings banks accounts. I shall place before the Treasurer the suggestion of Mr. Sinclair Thynne, to which Senator Marriott has referred. It remains to be seen, of course, whether the right honorable gentleman will adopt it, because to do so would open up a very wide field, as interest of £15 represents quite an appreciable investment in Commonwealth bonds. The merits of one have to be weighed against those of the other.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether he noticed in this morning’s “ Canberra Times “ a report that the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council was considering the need for an inquiry into the sort of meat available for consumption in Canberra. Will the Minister, in order to remedy one of the present causes of discontent, consider immediately altering the regulations to ensure that any butcher who complies with the requirements of the Department of Health as to branding, transport and killing, shall automatically be given a permit to import meat into the Australian Capital Territory, whether or not meat of the same kind is already available in the Australian Capital Territory?
– I did see the statement to which the honorable senator has referred. I shall be only too pleased to bring his question to the notice of the Minister for Health and endeavour to obtain a reply for him as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Some months ago, 1 asked a series of questions relating to the common market and the European free trade area, and their possible impact on Australian commodities sent to the United Kingdom and Europe. I did not receive a very encouraging answer - possibly because the Minister did not understand the tremendous implications of these international proposals. The Minister for External Affairs is reported to have said, last month, when passing through London, that Australia had nothing to worry about. If the Government has a policy in regard to these proposals, will it present to the Senate a considered statement on the subject, placing particular emphasis on the way in which Australian primary products are likely to be affected?
– I shall ask my colleague, the Minister for Trade, whether he is prepared to make a statement on the subject for presentation to the Senate. This is a very complicated question, and I should like to correct any impression that it is not receiving the Government’s most careful and constant consideration. It gives rise to matters of great importance. For instance, honorable senators will have noticed in this morning’s press a sort of byproduct of it - the suggestion that there should be a British Commonwealth free trade area.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government, representing the Prime Minister. Most of us will, no doubt, have heard the most arresting address that was delivered last Sunday week in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s guest of honour programme, by Sir Keith Murray, who has recently been charged with the duty of chairing a most impressive committee of inquiry into the general problem of university education in Australia. Can the Minister give an indication of the date when the report which Sir Keith said had already been submitted to the Government will be submitted by the Government to Parliament? Can he also tells us whether the Senate will have an opportunity to debate the proposals that will be formulated as a result of that report?
– I am not in a position to indicate when that report will 4>e furnished, but I shall have inquiries made and will advise the honorable senator.
– I direct a question ito the Minister for Civil Aviation. I understand that provision is made in the Estimates for the expenditure of £70,000 on extensions of the Guildford aerodrome at Perth. Has any consideration been given ito the provision of living accommodation for through passengers, such as that which has been provided at Essendon airport for some years now by Australian National Airways? A licence has been granted to Trans-Australia Airlines by the Western Australia licensing court. I point out that Guildford is becoming an important international airport.
– There is au amount of £75,000 in the Estimates this year for the provision of a wireless transmitting station and there is provision for . “further works, making the total to be expended on the Perth airport about £130,000, speaking from memory. The licence to which the honorable senator referred applies to the international airport at Perth. Aircraft do not stay overnight at Perth or for long enough for passengers to require sleeping accommodation. At the international airport adequate toilet and bathroom accommodation is provided. There is no intention of providing anything in the way of living accommodation, nor indeed is there a demand for it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade: Has an appointment yet been made to the position of chief executive officer of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation? If such an appointment has been made, will the Minister indicate the name of the appointee?
– An appointment has been made. I do not remember the name of the person who has been appointed, but I know that he is an officer with very considerable experience of the British corporation. Arrangements have been made for him to come to Australia to take care of the Australian organization during its initial period.
– I want to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade on the same subject as that which has been referred to by Senator Seward. My question is an attempt to ascertain the response of the commercial community to the facilities which have been provided under the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act. Will the Minister ask his colleague to seek an opportunity to make a statement on the operations of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation and, in particular, to inform the Parliament of the number of applications that have been made for policies, the number and amount of the policies that have been written and the countries for which the exports concerned were destined?
– Such information as is readily available will be furnished later this afternoon in reply to question No. 3 on the notice-paper, which was asked by Senator Kennelly.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that a comprehensive uniform traffic code seems likely to be implemented in Victoria in a few months’ time? Can he say whether that momentous achievement in Victoria is likely to bring nearer a uniform code for Australia? Can he state what progress is being made in negotiating such a code?
– Traffic codes, of course, are the business of the States. However, advantage is taken of the opportunity that is presented at meetings of the Australian Transport Advisory Council to discuss traffic codes and variations of them, and I have no doubt that the new code that is shortly to be introduced in Victoria will be the subject of discussion at the next meeting of the council, which I am pleased to say is to be held in Perth early next year. I am sure that discussion of this subject will bring some progress towards the introduction of possibly more modern and better codes in the other States.
– I preface my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate by saying that some time ago I raised the question of land settlement and the constant persecution of a Mr. O’Shea. I have been pushed around, and have finished up by interviewing a Mr. Colquhoun without getting any further forward. Can the Leader inform me which Minister is responsible for issuing instructions for the prosecution of Mr. O’Shea and whether it is that Minister with whom I should take up the question of trying to stop this persecution?
– I am sorry that I cannot throw any light on the matter, but, if the honorable senator will see me later, I shall endeavour to obtain the information for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. 1 am led by the press to understand that by 1975 England will derive 75 per cent, of its power from nuclear energy. Does the Minister believe that Australian industry in remote areas could receive cheap power from this source of energy? Has any approach been made by firms to have atomic power stations erected in Australia?
– I have little doubt that the time is fast approaching when, in mining communities in outlying areas, atomic power will be the most economic kind of power to use. I know that some of the larger mining companies are considering the economics of obtaining their additional requirements from atomic power houses,
– I address the following questions to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence: First, is it not a fact that many pessimistic leaders in the Commonwealth have stated that defence against hydrogen bomb is practically nonexistent? Secondly, is it not a fact that Mr. Butler, Britain’s Home Secretary, stated recently that a tremendous amount could be done by an efficient civil defence organization to minimize the effects of a hydrogen bomb attack on Britain, that most of that country could escape damage, and that even radio-active fallout from bombs was a killer we could fight? Thirdly, will the Minister make inquiries to ascertain the reasons for this hopeful change of opinion?
– I have read some references to the subject-matter that has been raised by the honorable senator. I shall make inquiries along the lines he has suggested.
– I direct a question to . the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the many disturbing statements that have been made recently regarding the instability of the £1 sterling, and the fact that some countries in the sterling group are very worried, will the Minister ascertain from official sources whether those rumours are likely to affect Australia’s external trade seriously, and add to the dissatisfaction that has been caused by the trade agreement with Japan, thereby giving rise to further unemployment in Australia?
– I can only refer the honorable senator to the emphatic statement that was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Thorneycroft, in Quebec within the past few days to the effect that there was not the slightest possibility of any depreciation of the £1 sterling.
– I wish to preface a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by stating that about twenty years ago, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited established at Essendon airport accommodation for patrons who wished to stay at the airport overnight to connect with an aeroplane in the morning. As the Perth airport at Guildford has become an important terminal, will the Minister consider establishing there living quarters for interstate or overseas passengers who have left their hotels during the day and require a bed before departure? I believe that such provision would be welcomed by the travelling public.
– Some years ago, some airline companies, both international and domestic, did provide overnight accommodation at various Australian airports. The honorable senator will recall that the
Qantas company conducted an hotel not far from the Perth airport for the convenience of overnight passengers. I have no doubt that if that sort of demand becomes apparent again, airline operators will consider whether it is a good proposition to provide such accommodation. Different circumstances have arisen because of the speed of modern air transport and changed methods of operation. When travellers require accommodation overnight the airline concerned makes sure that they have arranged for such accommodation. I can only answer the honorable senator’s question by stating that I am sure the provision he has suggested will be kept closely in mind by the airline operators. If the demand for such accommodation arises again, I am sure that its provision will be considered.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health state whether it is a fact that the United States Government has suspended the importation of all Japanese toys into the United States of America for the time being because of a report that injurious ingredients have been found in the paint on the toys which may be harmful to American children, particularly if they put the toys to their mouths? Is the Minister considering similar action in Australia to protect Australian children?
– I read a press report which stated that some of the paint on Japanese toys contained up to 10 per cent, of white lead. No doubt that is a very disturbing discovery. I have not been in touch with the Minister for Health on this matter but I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to him and ask him for a report.
– I address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it a fact that two fish-canning factories in Tasmania have ceased operations, or are contemplating closing down, because they are unable to sell their stocks? Is it a fact that canned fish imported into Australia from Japan was produced at one-sixth of the Australian cost of production? If so, can the Government do something to protect both the Australian fish-canning industry and the employees engaged in it?
– I have read in the press some reports relating to fish-canning factories in Tasmania. 1 understand that representatives of the association concerned are to come to Canberra next Friday to discuss the matter with the Minister for Trade, within whose jurisdiction this matter lies.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether.it is a fact that, up to last year, America was dumping surplus wheat into Japan, and that the Japanese Government resented the dumping, but has now agreed that, as from July next, it will accept this surplus wheat from the U.S.A.?
– I am unaware of the matters to which the honorable senator refers. I do not know whether subsidized wheat has been sent by America to Japan, but I shall have inquiries made. It is a well-known fact that the Australian Government, in common with other governments, has protested to, and has negotiated with, the United States Government regarding its policy of sending subsidized primary products into countries and areas the trade with which, traditionally, is attracted to Australia.
– I address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. It relates to the imposition of the tax of ls. a gallon on diesel fuel oil. Has the Government received representations from the goldmining companies, or the Chamber of Mines, Kalgoorlie, for some relief to be given to those mines which are working low-grade ores or which are receiving a subsidy? Is the Minister aware that the gold-mining companies are very concerned about this tax and consider that it is dangerous to their industry economically, because it will offset the subsidy which the Government has so generously increased? If no representations have been made, will the Minister indicate to the Senate whether the Government will consider exempting these gold-mining companies from the new charge on diesel fuel?
– I am not aware of any representations having been made on this particular matter. I understand that, at this stage, and until a policy has been decided, representations will be made to the Treasurer. To date, no representations have been made to the Department of Customs and Excise.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following information: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade has provided me with the following answers: - 1 and 2. Under the Export Payments Act (1956) the corporation is constituted by a sole commissioner. There is provision for a consultative council consisting of not more than ten members to which the commissioner may at his discretion and shall as required by the Minister refer matters for advice. The consultative council is in the process of being established.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade has advised me as follows: -
New South Wales - Sir John Tivey and Mr.
Alfred J. R. Parsons.
Victoria - Messrs. J. T. Campbell and R. A. Rowe.
South Australia - Messrs. W. G. Gerard and
Western Australia - Messrs. H. V. midge and
Queensland - Messrs. E. W. Ross and J. W. Peden.
Tasmania - Messrs. E. H. Thompson and
Departmental chairmen of the boards will be - New South Wales - Mr. F. McGuinness. Victoria and Tasmania - Mr. W. G. McNally. Queensland, South Australia and Western
Australia - Mr. F. Litchfield. (n addition, steps are being taken to appoint alternate members to serve during such times as members may be ill or unavailable, and thus to minimize delays in hearings, (b) Members are paid a sitting fee of seven guineas per day, plus a travelling allowance of five guineas per day when this is necessary.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade has supplied the following replies: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following replies: -
– I lay on the table the following papers: -
Defence - Statement by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives, 19th September, 1957.
Proposed Agreement between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Federation of Malaya on External Defence and Mutual Defence - Text of United Kingdom Paper.
Arrangements for employment of overseas Commonwealth Forces in emergency operations in the Federation of Malaya - Text of United Kingdom Paper.
I shall not formally move that the first of these papers be printed, because that might hamper the debate on the Budget. The Senate will have an opportunity of debating the statement during the debates on the Budget and the Estimates.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
St. Mary’s Ammunition Filling Factory - Statement by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives, 1st October, 1957.
– On behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, I present the following report: -
Thirty-second Report - Department of Health: Canberra Abattoir; together with minutes of evidence taken by the committee in connexion with this report.
The delay in presenting the report has been due to breaks in the parliamentary session, and the difficulty of getting witnesses to attend. We hope to present three further reports before the session ends.
Ordered that the report only be printed.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Repatriation Act 1920-1956 and for other purposes.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act 1940-1955.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) - agreed to -
That the following orders of the day, Government Business, be discharged: -
No. 2. - International Affairs - Ministerial Statement - Paper - Adjourned debate on the motion that the paper be printed.
No. 3. - Australian Defence - Ministerial Statement - Paper - Adjourned debate on the motion that the paper be printed.
Debate resumed from 1st October (vide page 269) on motion by Senator O’Flaherty -
That the following paper: -
Agreement on Commerce between the Commonwealth of Australia and Japan, be printed.
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the motion: - “ and the Senate expresses its disapproval of the Agreement on Commerce between the Commonwealth of Australia and Japan “.
And upon the following amendment moved by Senator Cole to Senator McKenna’s proposed amendment -
Leave out all words after “ Senate “, insert: - “ request the Government, under the terms of the Agreement, immediately to restrict Japanese imports to goods the entry of which will not cause unemployment in Australian industries “.
– I want to say at the outset, after having given this matter very serious consideration, that I have genuine fears as to the possible effect of this agreement on the Australian manufacturing industries. I feel that the Government entered into the agreement without considering seriously the possible implications, and without consulting the Tariff Board and other interested organizations. My apprehension about the possible effects of the agreement is shared by prominent industrialists and manufacturers throughout Australia.
Supporters of the Government have tried to brush aside criticisms of the agreement by saying that the fears that. have been expressed are not warranted. I remind the Senate that considerable anxiety has been expressed by people engaged in secondary industry who have done a great job over the years. They are prominent and able men, who understand the problems and ramifications of Australian industry. Therefore, I believe that honorable senators on the Government side are not justified in disregarding the opinions and the fears that have been expressed by these men.
From time to time, supporters of the Government stress their advocacy of private enterprise. I point out to them that, although strenuous protests have been forthcoming from private enterprise against the trade agreement with Japan, the Government has ignored them, lt is futile and wrong to suggest that the manufacturing industries of Australia are actuated only by selfish motives; I believe that, over the years, they have done a good job for this country.
I object to the agreement because it is a serious innovation. It effects a serious change in, and is a serious interference with our fiscal policy and the method of dealing with tariffs. By this agreement the Government has seriously interfered with trading arrangements both in Australia and in other countries. The agreement goes beyond business dealings with Japan under existing conditions. I cannot understand why the Government did not consult a high and competent authority, such as the Tariff Board, before entering into the agreement. As I have said, the Government has interfered with tariff arrangements by deciding to admit goods from Japan on the basis of intermediate tariff or, as it is most commonly known, the most-favoured-nation tariff. This is a serious departure from the usual routine.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that this treaty affects tariff matters that are ordinarily referred to the Tariff Board?
– I do not know about that, but I do know that the Government took this step without consulting the board.
At the beginning of the debate, Government spokesmen stated that ample safeguards are embodied in the agreement to prevent hardship from being inflicted on Australian industries. Supporters of the Government have since changed their minds in that connexion due, perhaps, to the criticisms that have been forthcoming from the manufacturing industries. I have learned to-day that Mr. McCarthy, the chairman of the Tariff Board, has been directed to observe and report on the effects of the implementation of this agreement on Australian industries. I should like to say that I do not think a better selection could have been made. Mr. McCarthy is probably the most able public servant in Australia, particularly in relation to trade matters. As I said before, I think that the Government would have been wise to consult the Tariff Board before entering into this agreement. Had it done so, probably an agreement satisfactory to Australian industries would have been evolved.
I said a moment ago that the Government claims that adequate safeguards are embodied in the agreement. If it is convinced on that count, why is this action now being taken? It indicates, I think, that the Government now realizes the possibility of this agreement seriously and adversely affecting Australian industries. In my opinion, the Government should be doing everything possible to foster Australian industries. I cannot understand the reason why it has entered into this agreement. I have heard it suggested that the agreement will enable us to sell our wool. That is all nonsense, because wool is to Japan as oil is to Australia. Wool is a basic material in the Japanese textile industry. Every year, Japan earns millions of pounds sterling by exporting goods manufactured from Australian wool. Supporters of the Government have stated that we shall have to buy more goods from Japan in order to enable that country to trade with us. Do they believe that Japan purchases from Australia any commodities that she does not require? Japan will purchase from us as much, or as little as she requires in order to advance her economy and protect her industrial interests.
I realize the desirability of removing as many trade barriers as we can. The idea was that, wherever possible, the nations of the world should discuss their problems in relation to production and exports so that various difficulties could be smoothed out and interference with the trade of the world obviated. As a matter of fact, that was the objective of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. But we did not get very far, certainly not as far as we had hoped. The Government realizes that we must develop our industries in order to continue to hold this country. Take the Government’s policy in relation to the Colombo plan. I did not object to the plan, but I should like honorable senators opposite to tell me what the Government has done to develop the northern parts of Australia. There are in Queensland fertile and wonderfully wealthy districts which are bigger than the whole of Victoria, but this Government has not spent a penny on the development of northern Australia to enable it to absorb some of the immigrants who are coming to this country. We used to hear, often, the expression, “We must populate or perish “. I remind honorable senators that we cannot populate unless we provide industry in which people may be employed. If, years ago, Australia had accepted this doctrine of the Australian Country party, we should now be, not a nation, but a colony of peasants. We have crowded nations to the north of us, and these days we realize that our greatest safeguard is an increasing ability to absorb more people. We should not be accepting our responsibilities as a parliament if we did not realize that. We cannot have more people in Australia unless, at the same time, we have more industry. We must endeavour to become a self-contained nation.
I realize that we must trade, but we ought not to do so at the cost of our general security. A great deal has been said about the need to encourage the investment in this country of overseas capital.
Whenever an addition is made to a factory or plant, members of Parliament may be heard giving fulsome praise to secondary industry for its great service to Australia. How does the Government expect people to invest in industry if the goods that industry manufactures are being imported from Japan. It does not add up. I see no occasion for this agreement, which can only disturb the trend of development in this country, and has already disturbed our trade with the United Kingdom. Only yesterday, we read in the Sydney “ Sun “ - always making due allowance for propaganda - that serious misgiving exists in the United Kingdom concerning the possible effect that this agreement will have on trade with Australia.
I sometimes wonder whether we have been told the real reason for the agreement. I have the feeling that people in high places have told the Government that Japan must be built up as a strong military nation. Certainly, that view is held in many important countries. Japan cannot be built up militarily unless she is first built up economically. 1 think that such considerations might well be behind this agreement. If not, I see no reason for it at all. I doubt very much the wisdom of rebuilding Japan’s strength. To me, it seems a little dangerous, for Japan might very well change her mind overnight, as she has done on previous occasions. Our first duty is to our own country. Let us grow up as a nation and make ourselves strong. Sometimes, when I look across this chamber, I wish that I could see sitting there an Alfred Deakin or a Charles Cameron Kingston. If such men were here, an agreement of this kind would not see the light of day.
At present, the most important Cabinet positions are held by members of the Australian Country party. I refer to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). The Australian Country party, which has never helped to build Australian industry, is a very powerful influence in the counsels of this Government. I was very disappointed to see the change in portfolios which cut the heart out of the Department of Trade and Customs by transferring, in the first instance, the function of trade to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. The
Department of Trade and Customs was best able to safeguard Australia’s trade relations throughout the world.
Are we to sell out our secondary industries for a few bales of wool? A great deal is said about trade relations and agreements, but if the United States of America reduced her tariff even slightly we should find a very good wool market there. The United States of America has not done so because she wishes to protect her own synthetics industry.
If we are to be a force in world affairs, and have some influence on the future course of democracy, we must become a stronger and bigger nation. We shall not become an efficient nation until we have a great many more people in this country. We cannot depend on primary industry to help in that direction. There is plenty of room for all the sheep that we shall need, and there is also room for a great many more people. That is one of the important matters that this Parliament ought to be considering.
The Government is reducing its immigration intake because of a fear of unemployment. Will unemployment diminish if opportunities for work are removed - as they will undoubtedly be under the agreement? Millions of pounds’ worth of Japanese goods will come into Australia and, to that extent, employment in Australian industry, and in the industry of the United Kingdom, will be adversely affected.
We do not hear very much nowadays from the other side of the chamber about the United Kingdom. There was a time when those who now support the Government were prone to make scathing references about the attitude of the Australian Labour party to the United Kingdom. The people of that country know to-day - as do the manufacturers - that the Australian Labour party is, politically, the great friend of the Australian manufacturer. If I were guided by party considerations - and were given the opportunity to vote - I would support the agreement, because I believe that it will mean the beginning of the end for this Government. We cannot interfere with industry and trade, which so closely affect the employment position, without risking serious political repercussions. I believe that the Government has made a great mistake. There is no occasion for the agree ment, and we shall derive no benefit from it. On the contrary, Australia must suffer greatly as a result of it. Anything that hinders or hampers our progress cannot but be harmful.
Only a very few years ago prominent men. in Australian public life were willing, in order to develop Queensland, to allow inmillions of Japanese to enter this country. That proposition was put forward seriously by people who believed that Australia, and especially north Queensland, must be developed, but that this was beyond the capacity of white people. We know now that Australians and Britishers can work as efficiently in any part of Australia as can the people of other countries.
The Australian Labour party has not objected to a vigorous immigration programme. Indeed, the Australian Labour party initiated a very extensive immigration programme which has been carried on by this Government. But this Government, during a time, as it claims, of great prosperity, is going to restrict immigration. Can we afford that? If the Government follows a policy of causing unrest in industry and of not encouraging industry, I fear that it will do this country a great disservice.
If Japan buys our wool, then, to the extent that it increases its trade in woollen goods with Australia, the United Kingdom and Australian woollen mills will buy less. I have discussed the problem with some of the Australian wool milling interests. They are not making huge profits. The people who have been making huge profits during the term of office of this Government are the racketeering importing crowd of people. They have made huge profits, have caused costs to rise and have made it difficult for Australian manufacturers to compete with manufacturers in other countries.
– To what form of racketeering is the honorable senator referring?
– Those who are making huge profits.
– I thought the honorable senator mentioned racketeering in imports.
– No. I was referring to the huge profits that have been made. If there has been any racketeering in imports, I do not know about it. I have heard Senator Wright and Senator Henty - we do not get so much of Senator Henty’s eloquence these days - refer in scathing terms to the Government’s policy in regard to sales tax, for instance. The way in which the Government has piled up the costs of industry in this young country is shameful. Honorable senators opposite talk about our hindering private enterprise, but nobody has done more to hinder private enterprise than this Government.
I notice that Senator Maher has just entered the chamber. During almost a lifetime in politics, he has had the doubtful honour of being opposed to every move to create secondary industries in this country. The Australian Country party is a delayed action party. It does not support these enterprises until about a quarter of a century after they have been initiated. The attitude of members of the Country party to the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme illustrates that. They scoffed at that scheme when it was commenced by a Labour government, but today this Government sees the great value of the project. It has come to realize that if we are to populate this country, real development must take place.
I could criticize the Government seriously for its attitude to the development of Australia. I should like honorable senators to have a good look at northern Queensland to see the great potential of that area. The Queensland Government has just completed a wonderful hydro-electric scheme there and has built the Tinaroo dam to store water for irrigation. Those projects are great national assets. When we were in office here, we recognized that developmental works in northern Queensland had a great defence value and we said that we were prepared to assist the State government. We said that lack of money would not be an obstacle, because the Commonwealth Government would assist in every possible way. What has this Government done in that field? When one refers to the budget one sees references to financial assistance to every State except Queensland - the State which should receive the greatest consideration because it is most important to the development and the defence of Australia.
What hope have the industries of Australia to compete with those of Japan? In. the past we would have been flooded with. Japanese goods if we had permitted them, to come in. We imposed quantitativerestrictions, but this Government has now reduced tariffs to enable more Japanesegoods to enter Australia. Senator Scott and. another senator - I think it was Senator McCallum - have said that the agreement will have some virtue in that we shall get more toys for our children. If getting toysfor our children meant putting returned’ servicemen out of work, I would rather see my kiddies playing with pots and pans. When I was a Minister, returned soldiers engaged in the toy industry came to me for assistance because Australia was being: flooded with Japanese toys. The government of that day gave them assistance and they built up an industry, but Senator Scott wants more toys to be imported from. Japan - entertaining toys that will please the children. It is not toys that we want ir* this country; it is work and development.. We seem to be forgetting the essentials.
This agreement will lead to our obtaining goods from other places instead of manufacturing them ourselves. I have visited” some large factories where I have seen millions of pounds’ worth of machinery lying idle because the manufacturers were unable to obtain markets for their products and so were unable to keep the whole of their staffs employed. We are going to import the very things that those peoplewere manufacturing. At present, some industries are working short time because they cannot get markets for their production, but the Government intends to make things more difficult for them.
– Does the honorable senator want to sell more Queensland sugar to Japan?
– We have been* selling Queensland sugar to Japan for many years, but our sugar has been sold at a lower price than other sugar. Otherwise, Japan would nol have bought it from us. I welcome trade with Japan. Do not think that I have petty ideas about not trading with Japan. But we must give some consideration to our standard of living. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have noobjection to the Japanese, any more than> they have to the Russians or to the people of China. It is only the Russian and Chinese systems of government and ways of life to which we object. If this Government, by its extravagance, brings about high costs in Australia, how on earth can our manufacturers compete with manufacturers in Japan? If Senator Maher were to read to-morrow that shipments of Japanese wool and wheat were coming to Australia, his cries would lift the roof of the Senate. But under this treaty, rural industries are not affected. It is only the manufacturing industries which are affected - those industries which produce the shirts and other goods which we wear, lt is the people engaged in those industries who will be interfered with. If our manufacturing industries are hampered in their development we shall be unable to maintain the intake of immigrants which is so badly needed. Anybody who knows anything about the economy of Australia knows the difficulties we face because of our small population. Senator Maher knows that in the northern part of Queensland we need miles and miles of roads. He knows, too, the distances over which goods have to be carried to the markets. That is a tremendous handicap for a young country like Australia, but things will be made more difficult by reducing the intake of immigrants. I hope that nothing very serious occurs.
– The worst never comes.
– It is easy to say that. Other countries have protected themselves by quantitative restriction of imports. It is suggested that the toy-makers of Australia and the United Kingdom cannot supply our needs, but once we allow serious competition from overseas we damp down enthusiasm for the development of the industry.
– Does not the honorable senator think that import licensing will exercise a very potent control?
– Of course, it will, but under the tariff system we are not supposed to use import licences to protect our economy or industry.
– But, in effect, it protects them.
– The principals of trade associations throughout the world agree that import licences should not be introduced to protect industry.
– Hear, hear! It has that effect, all the same.
– It will have thai effect?
– I think you are all crying out before anybody is hurt.
– It is of no use crying afterwards. There are not in this Government the big men that we had in earlier days. I recall the great fight to build up industry in this country. It was argued that we could not establish various industries, but we must do so if Australia is to become a great nation. With all due respect to my friends in the Australian Country party, that party is exerting too great an influence on the Government. I admit that I was very nearly a member of the Australian Country party at one stage, but I discovered that it was becoming closely associated with the great and powerful interests in Australia and was forgetting all about the dinkum farmers. If the Australian Country party had had its way, we would have had no secondary industry; we would merely have been a colony of peasants. Ever since federation we have had to fight against those interests that would have had us remain a primary producing country.
We cannot defend Australia, we cannot build the nation and we cannot establish industries without adequate population. To try to do so with inadequate population is like trying to conduct a large farm with small equipment. It is necessary to have things in the right balance. One cannot move around Australia without realizing that our greatest need is more people, but this Government’s policy is discouraging people from coming to Australia.
It is of no use saying that our position is not like that of America. Although America is a very large country and has to export probably only 2 per cent, or 3 per cent, of her production, she is very careful not to allow the importation of any Australian commodity that will earn dollars for this country. Australia should not be asked to carry too much of the burden of helping Japan. If the Western countries believe that we must keep Japan on our side and must build up her economy, let America do her share.
– She is doing her share.
– America has money invested in Japan, but we have everything to lose and nothing to gain. I object to any serious change in the present trade arrangements. I know it is necessary for the Government to do certain things by executive action, but surely it could have consulted its supporters before it thought of increasing our export trade to Japan. I do not know whether the Minister for Trade or the Government was prompted to negotiate this agreement in the search for markets, but the Government has agreed to sacrifice the industries of Australia to enable it to export a few bales of wool.
.- I am very pleased to have the opportunity before this debate is concluded to go on record, not only as being thoroughly in favour of the agreement, but also as believing that it is one of what I hope will be a series of such agreements that are designed to unclog the channels of international trade and which will eventually, I believe, be the means of bringing greater wealth and prosperity to the peoples of all countries. I am one of those who, with the economist Keynes, believe that when the channels of international trade are clogged, even those who think they are benefiting by such clogging do not benefit, and that, when those channels are open, all who are parties to such agreements will eventually gain.
Before I deal with the specific agreement, I ask the Senate to consider what the situation in Australia would be if, instead of our being one nation, free to trade from one corner of the country to another, we were five or six colonies unprotected by section 92 of the Constitution and enabled to raise barriers of all kinds against each other on the ground that South Australia must have one industry and Victoria another. The result obviously would be that the prosperity of all Australians would suffer. That is a general observation which I wish to make at the start of my remarks.
Now I wish to discuss what the agreement does, lt does not bring in a general reduction of tariff from the existing level. It removes a specific wrong from which Japan alone has suffered. She is now placed in the same position as is Czechoslovakia, Italy, France. Belgium, or any other country outside the British Commonwealth, but she is not placed in as good a competitive position as are the members of the British Commonwealth. That is as far as the tariff part of the agreement goes.
It would be wrong to think that that meant that Japanese goods of all kinds could now come in on a lower tariff than before. Pursuant to the negotiation of the agreement, large numbers of Japanese goods will come in at no different tariff level from that at which they have come in hitherto.
– Well, why negotiate the agreement?
– I said large numbers of them; I did not say all. Such things as cotton blankets, serviettes, corrugated iron, home clothes washers, household aluminiumware and vacuum flasks will come in at the same tariff rate- as they did before. In other words, the tariff on those goods has not been reduced. On such things as toys, shirts, towels and radios there will be a small tariff reduction. On other categories such as machinery and cameras there will be a substantial tariff reduction. I merely wish to make it clear that the agreement does not lower the tariff on all categories of Japanese goods, because much of the argument that has been advanced seems to suggest that it does.
The other change which the agreement effects is that, whereas in some cases the holders of import quotas have not been able to expend the value of their quota in Japan, they may now do so. I emphasize that in some cases the value of import quotas could not be spent in Japan, but in many cases there was no licensing discrimination at all. Holders of import licences could, for example, expend their quotas in Japan for the import of woollen goods. The trade agreement lowers tariffs on some goods and permits a freer expenditure of import licensing money in Japan. That is all it does.
– What are the goods in that category?
– Woollen goods are one example. I could obtain a list from the department and give it to the honorable senator.
– The tariff on woollen goods has been lowered?
– The tariff on woollen goods has not been lowered.
– Then what goods are involved?
– I have told the honorable senator some of them. In return for those considerations, Australia has received very substantial benefits indeed. Senator Courtice has said that these concessions have been made for the sale of a few bales of wool. I believe that the undertak>ing given by the Japanese to make available for the purchase of Australian wool 90 ; per cent, of all her foreign exchange that is provided for wool buying will be a great benefit to Australia.
It has been argued that Japan would not buy the wool from us if she did not want it. It has been said also that she would buy the wool anyway. I do not believe that that is so. Japan differs from other countries which buy our wool. Most other countries buy it to manufacture goods for export. Japan predominantly buys our wool for internal consumption. In that way, she is different from other countries. “That being so, if Japan were short of foreign exchange, she would probably resort to import licensing or controls of that sort to deprive her own people of the use of those woollen goods. Any country is likely to find itself in that position. The impact of such a course on Australia would be considerable.
We are deriving more from the agreement than the benefit of being able to sell our wool. We shall also have access to the Japanese market for 40 per cent, of our soft wheat, 30 per cent, to 40 per cent, of our barley and 40 per cent, of our sugar. Our hides and tallow will be on the list to be automatically accepted into Japan. We shall have the benefit of being able to sell to Japan some of our dried vine fruits which have been difficult to sell recently. We are told - and it is a reasonable argument - that Japan would not buy these products unless she meant to use them. That is true, but the point is that she could buy them from other countries.
– Where could she buy them?
– Japan could buy wheat from the Argentine, Canada or the
United States of America. She could buy dried vine fruits from the United States of America, Turkey and the Middle East.
– And bells from St. Mary’s.
– That does not seem to be a valuable contribution to the debate, but no doubt Senator Sandford thinks it is. Japan could buy all those commodities from other countries which are on the world market for competitive selling. If other countries would engage in reciprocal trade with Japan, undoubtedly she would be forced to buy from them. What would be the effect? Some attempt has been made to prove that it would not really matter. It has been suggested that the only persons who will benefit from this assured market are a handful of primary producers who are scattered around Australia and for whom the rest of the Australian people are being sacrificed.
– Who made that suggestion?
– It was made by members of the Labour Opposition on three or four occasions. I shall be happy to supply Senator Hendrickson and electors in the country districts throughout Victoria with copies of “ Hansard “ showing clearly that that suggestion was made. Nothing could be more wrong than a suggestion of that sort. I know that there are not many individuals engaged in agricultural pursuits in Australia. Those engaged in that work are fewer than they were some years ago, but every man who is on the land in Australia now keeps in employment, directly and indirectly, five times as many persons as his forebears did years ago.
It is true that the drivers of the horse teams have left the wheat “farms, and that the men who used to drive the pumping plants have gone into the towns, but how many persons are engaged in manufacturing the tractors that have taken the place of the horse teams, producing the artificial horse-power that is used on the farms and keeping the machines in order? How many men are working to supply the kerosene, the diesel fuel, the oil and the tyres that are needed for the mechanical aids on the farms? How many more are engaged in transporting products between the farms and the cities? Production has increased so tremendously that the work force to handle it has grown also. I do not know the exact figures, but I believe that 33 per cent, to 40 per cent, of the entire Australian work force is dependent on the people who work the land. Those workers will also benefit directly from the advantages that will accrue to the farmers from this agreement. But that is not all. People other than those who are directly dependent on the farmers will also benefit.
It is unfortunately true that we can obtain foreign exchange to import materials we need only by the export of our minerals and primary products. We need those imports if we are to prevent widespread unemployment. The primary products that we sell abroad provide us with the foreign exchange we need to buy oil to keep the wheels of commerce running. Of all the raw materials that are imported into Australia, about 70 per cent, to 80 per cent, go directly into our secondary industries. If we cannot find overseas markets for our products, and if the supply of raw materials ceases, those who talk about unemployment in Australia will really have something to talk about. By finding and guaranteeing markets that will provide us with foreign exchange, this Government is making a great contribution to the continuation .of full employment.
– It will not be much good to the primary producers if many persons are unemployed.
– Australia will derive benefits other than the immense and obvious benefits I have mentioned. The consumers will benefit. What is the great objection to the majority of the Australian people being able to get a cheaper motor car from Japan? Is it absolutely necessary that the profits of General MotorsHolden’s Limited should be kept at the high level of the past few years? I should have thought that the Opposition would have had a different opinion judging from the speeches that have been made by some honorable senators. Certain it is that that company could afford to reduce the prices of its cars and benefit the Australian people. It is also certain that the only way that company will be brought to reduce its prices is by the introduction of proper competition of this kind. Will that be bad? If we are to judge from what the Opposition has said, it will be. I do not see it as something bad, nor can I see that unemployment will come from it.
During the debate on this agreement here and in another place, much has been said about shirts. Will it be so terribly bad for the working men of this country and their wives if they were able to buy cheap twin sets or cheap shirts? Is that such a shockingly bad thing? If I am to judge from the noise on the Opposition side of the chamber, it is a bad thing. I do not think it is. Honorable senators opposite think it is bad because they can think only in terms of a” rigid and unchanging market and a rigid and unchanging demand. Has every person in this country got all the shirts he wants? Has every working man got all the shirts he wants? Has his wife got all the household gadgets, such as washing machines, that she wants? If she has not got them now, and if she is enabled to buy those things which she cannot buy now, will that necessarily reduce the sales of Australian goods, or will it merely make for a greater volume of sales? I believe it will make for a greater volume of sales and thereby contribute, in various tertiary directions, to greater employment. It is only if the market is saturated that the importation of a cheap, shirt can stop the manufacture and sale of a dearer shirt. There will be competition to get the cheaper shirt, but that will not necessarily prevent the sale of one garment manufactured in Australia. And I believe that position applies equally to all the other commodities about which opponents of the agreement talk.
– You should go to the industrial areas, to the woollen mills and to the textile mills, and tell them that.
– I am now being offered an invitation to go down to the industrial areas and tell the people there that they will be able to get cheaper shirts and cheaper goods of all kinds without fear of causing unemployment. I should be happy to go down now, and I shall be even happier to go after my predictions have been shown to be true, as I am certain they will be, in two years’ time. What is more, I have a sneaking suspicion that when these predictions are proved to be true in two years’ time, there will be signs of great unhappiness amongst the Labour Opposition in the Senate when it is reminded that it tried to prevent the people from getting cheap goods of all kinds by holding out the bogy of unemployment. Honorable senators opposite have been wrong every time in their predictions so far.
Why should there be grave unemployment? Apart from the arguments I have put forward to the effect that the market is not saturated, is not there now a limit imposed, by import licensing, upon the number of goods that can come into Australia from any country?
– Then why have the agreement?
– Is that position to be changed?
– Yes, to the extent of £70,000,000 worth.
– If the permitted number and quantity of goods are to come from Japan instead of from some other country, and if that permitted number and quantity do not increase the total volume of goods on the market, how can their importation contribute to unemployment? I cannot see one reason why it will cause unemployment. Of course, there cannot be any reason why it will do so, but I mention that matter apart altogether from the reasons I have put forward for supporting the agreement.
Most of the complaint about the agreement has come from the woollen industry. Its representatives have inserted advertisements in the press suggesting that the woollen industry will be ruined by this new competition, by these great changes which sweep everything before them. Not only have these people been crying, as Senator Maher said, before they were hurt, but they have been crying when there is not the slightest possibility of their ever being hurt. As I said earlier, the wool trade had no licensing discrimination against it even before this agreement was signed. Any one who had a licence to import woollen goods before the agreement came into being could have imported it from Japan just as freely as he may now that the agreement has been entered into. There will be no change in circumstances there.
– Then why is it necessary to have the agreement?
– It is not an agreement on wool; it relates to all commodities. Again, there was no difference in respect of wool between the general tariff and the most-favoured-nation tariff, so that there has been no change between what will now be the position and that which existed before the agreement was signed. Wool could have swept into the country just as easily before the agreement was negotiated as it can now that the agreement has been entered into. Despite that fact, we find that in the last three years the total Australian market for woollen piece goods amounted to 94,000,000 square yards. Out of that market, with no discrimination whatever against Japan, only 6,000,000 square yards was imported, and of that 6,000,000 square yards only approximately 1/ 900th came from Japan. I repeat that the position with relation to woollen piece goods - I speak only of them because they constitute a major import - will be exactly the same in future as it was before the agreement was negotiated.
– Importations were limited then.
– And so they will be under the agreement. It will be appreciated, from what I have said, that the woollen industry has had to face competition from Japan for only about 1/ 1000th of 1/ 17th of the total amount of piece goods sold in Australia.
– Will it be the same in the future?
– Conditions are exactly the same under the agreement as they were then. Under those circumstances, I cannot see that there is any foundation for the cries we have heard from this industry, cries which I believe have been actuated purely by self-interest and, no doubt, to a large extent by ignorance.
Finally, let me say that I am a strong supporter of private enterprise. I believe that the people of this or any other country get the best and cheapest goods under a system of private enterprise, but I believe also, as I have said before, that those engaged in private enterprise, those who run our factories and industries, are trying constantly to get out of engaging in private enterprise. I believe that the force of economic circumstances is constantly compelling them to endeavour to establish price rings and trade associations so that they will not have to work as hard, or meet so much competition, and in that way keep prices higher than they otherwise would be. If that is so, and I think it is, then the introduction of competition from overseas, from whatever country it may be, will tend to prevent and smash price rings and trade associations, and cannot but be of great benefit to the consuming public and indeed to the people of Australia as a whole.
For all those reasons, I am happy to go on record as a complete supporter of this agreement and of the philosophy of which it is an example.
.- The first thing that should be referred to in a discussion of this agreement is that it is not just another agreement; it is an agreement which has been reached under the most extraordinary circumstances arising from the Pacific war. There is no doubt that even though, over the years, feelings have tended to return to normal, and even though wounds have healed, nevertheless, deep down in the hearts of the Australian people, there is still a feeling of resentment and of suspicion which time alone and mutually honorable conduct can ultimately dissipate.
My first criticism of the Government in my approach to this agreement is this: Whatever the Government’s intention was, or for whatever reason it wanted to negotiate the agreement, I think the agreement has been negotiated with a haste which will defeat the very purpose for which it was designed. As I see the position, the effect has been to exacerbate feelings which were aroused years ago and which, in the interval, have started to recede. The effect is to open old wounds and to arouse old suspicions.
Some honorable senators, speaking with obvious conviction, and with obvious sincerity, have expressed the very type of thought that we hoped would never again be expressed in this country in relation to the Japanese. Such thoughts, I feel, would not have been expressed unless they arose from a genuine fear that this agreement will have an effect which, in the ultimate, will be detrimental to the people whom we regard it as our prime duty to defend. So, while perhaps the Government should receive some approbation for conceiving the agreement at all and for taking the very decisive step forward that it has attempted to take in these circumstances, it has defeated the very purpose which it intended to effect. This was to put our relations with Japan in the field of commerce and trade on a contractual basis, as the agreement for peace signed in San Francisco in 1951 put our political and social relations with Japan on what might be called a contractual basis. Unfortunately, this trade agreement has had an opposite effect. I feel that the reports of the debates in both chambers on the agreement, which will go to Japan, will, coupled with things that may be said in that country, only exacerbate the very feelings which we had hoped were softening with the passage of years. For this and other reasons, I do not approve of the agreement in the terms in which it has been drawn, although my general approach is that J welcome it as an agreement and as an attempt to place our trade relations with a former enemy on a contractual basis.
In this debate, strangely, we find both major parties in this country, acting apparently out of character. On the one hand are Government supporters, particularly members of the Liberal party - ra party which has always been devoted to the protection of the welfare of major manufacturing industries, in the interests, I feel sometimes, not of the people who are employed in those industries or of the services which the industries give, but of the industries themselves. According to the allegations from one side, these Government supporters have been prepared to throw those industries, in a major degree, to the wolves of free and open competition with Japanese industry. I do not say that critically, but I merely state the fact as an observation in passing.
When we come to the attitude of the Opposition senators, we find them in a very difficult position. A dilemma faces them which I personally would not like to resolve. The Australian Labour party is essentially a protection party, a party that aims at full employment, and a party that tries nevertheless to keep down the price of goods to the consumer. Those three objectives are not necessarily incompatible. On this occasion, the Australian Labour party has had to make a choice between the maintenance of full employment in the textile industry and other industries that are likely to be affected by this agreement, and the protection of the consumer by guaranteeing that he shall be required to pay only fair prices for products emanating from industries that are protected, whether by the Tariff Board, import controls or in some! other way. That is a very difficult decision to make, and the Australian Labour party, has, in the balance of advantages, come down to the side of the maintenance of full employment, even though the consumer must, to some extent, pay the price.
It is all very well for Senator Gorton to address this chamber about the goods that will now be available to the Australian consumers at lower prices, as if that were the only objective to be achieved, no matter what the cost may be. He forgot to mention that there is an alternative method by which low prices can be assured to consumers, while at the same time maintaining employment in our factories. I refer to the very much debated method of national prices control, which is so much disliked on the Government side of the chamber. If there were an effective system of national prices control, there would be no need to protect the consumer by selling out the high level of employment in any field of Australian industry. When Senator Gorton put forward that proposition, he completely disregarded, overlooked or concealed what is a practicable alternative, at least in terms of certain political philosophies. For that reason, therefore, I find that there is some cause to criticize the agreement severely.
I criticize it also because although it emanates from men of commerce, it has not been concluded with the degree of commercial wisdom that we might have expected. I should imagine that in any commercial negotiation, a country would not necessarily throw into the pool for barter the commodity which it could, apparently at any rate, sell in all circumstances. It would barter on some other basis. It would barter the other things that it wanted to sell for the things that the other partner to the proposed contract wanted to sell. But in this agreement we have thrown into jeopardy our wool, which I say, despite Senator Gorton’s remarks, we most certainly could have continued to sell to Japan.
When speaking to the motion for tha printing of this agreement, Senator Spooner mentioned that the supply of wool was abasic condition precedent to the conclusion of the whole agreement. I think that is a very weak, unconvincing and uncompelling . argument. Without quoting authorities, he said that there was some suggestion that the Japanese Government proposed to impose some sort of import duty on its purchases from our wool clip. I do not know how conclusive or valid the .evidence is,, but is it not obvious how subject to pressures and threats of that kind we would be if we were prepared to submit to them?” Let the word go round that some country will impose a duty on a commodity which in. the past it has always bought from us and,, in the reasonable prospect, will continue to buy from us, and on the basis of the fear that is generated, undertake to conclude an agreement! Before I would accept that as a valid condition precedent to the conclusion of this agreement, I would requirevery much more compelling evidence thani Senator Spooner put before us when headdressed himself to the document.
When we read his remarks, as they appearin the report of the debate, we find that they are vague, not documented and anything but convincing. He said -
Moreover, the previous uncertainty about thewool import duty position has been removed.
That statement may be valid, and perhaps the Minister was speaking from information which he could not actually disclosein this chamber, but insofar as he waspresenting us with what, I think, was oneof the most relevant and important piecesof evidence, it was completely unconvincing. Therefore, the outcome is that anagreement has been concluded, and the wool we sell has been the very basis on. which the Japanese have negotiated.
– If there were evidence, would you accept it?
– If the evidence weresufficient and conclusive and I had no doubt as to its validity. I think the Senate had the right to expect such evidence, in suchform as was acceptable, to be submitted toit, because we are bartering our most important export commodity. It is all very well for Senator Gorton to say that the Japanese would not have to buy our wool. I dispute that statement also. Apart from the interruption caused by the war, one thing in- our overseas trade that has been consistent has been the continued purchase of our wool by the Japanese, irrespective of their balance of payments or economic situation. In those circumstances, I do not feel that the supply of wool should have been a condition precedent.
The allocation by Japan of 90 per cent, of available export exchange for the purchase of our wool is a condition precedent to only one thing. It is not the condition precedent to the whole agreement, as was suggested by Senator Gorton. It is the possibility of the imposition of a duty on wool generally that is mentioned and recited as the condition precedent to this agreement. Therefore, I think that, on a commercial basis, the agreement has not been negotiated as wisely as it might have been. There were plenty of commodities in respect of which we could have negotiated to our mutual advantage, and which might have produced the same effect, without involving our wool in any way.
– What commodities?
– I have only limited time, and I am sure that Senator Scott would not think it beyond the ability of commercial men who have negotiated other agreements to suggest commodities which might have been included in a satisfactory agreement.
I also criticize the agreem’ent as it has been in the making. We have not had any evidence of the sources which initiated the negotiations. The Senate is not fully primed on this matter. I stress the importance of this agreement. I stress its historical significance. If ever there was an occasion on which we should have been fully informed about an agreement, it was when this document was presented to the Parliament. I do not feel that the Senate has been taken into the confidence of the Government. It has not indicated whether the initiative sprang from Australia or from Japan.
– It was mutual.
– It is all very well for Senator Scott to say that it was mutual. That is hardly sufficient. Surely, the initiative in a matter of this kind always springs to a greater degree from one side than from the other. By whom were the approaches made? Did our commercial negotiators in Japan make them? I am not saying that I should like the initiative to spring from them, but it is a significant point in trying to determine the value of the agreement.
A most important point arises in the disputation between Senator McKenna and Senator Wright on the actual legal implications of the agreement. Senator McKenna appeared to suggest that it was a legal document which would be, to use Senator Wright’s term, justiciable in courts of Australian jurisdiction. That contention was equally strongly opposed by Senator Wright. Such a disputation is not merely a matter of academic disagreement. It is more than that because the interpretation you accept influences your approach to the agreement and the operation of your rights under it. Such questions as what we can do and what we should do if we find the agreement is working in a manner more prejudicial to the Australian manufacturing community than we had anticipated is disturbing many members of this national Parliament.
If Senator McKenna is right, our approach to the agreement would have to be in the strongest possible terms, with every step carefully looked at in the legal sense before we took any action to protect our industries, no matter how justifiable or how necessary it might be. If Senator Wright is correct, then it would not be merely a declaration of trade intentions by either side and so subject to a wide interpretation by either party working unilaterally. We could have a much greater liberty of action, and in those circumstances, it is not a matter of academic disagreement. It is a matter of vital importance in our approach, and in our interpretation of the agreement. Therefore, I had hoped that the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) would enter the debate to give the considered opinion of the Government as to how it regards the agreement and in what light this document should be interpreted. In fairness to the Minister I must say that the disagreement - the varying points that were expressed by Senator Wright - arose only after the Minister had spoken. At that stage, Senator McKenna had submitted his proposition. The Attorney-General spoke, but it was only afterwards that Senator Wright controverted his words. I do feel, in view of the disagreement between two competent members of the bar, that there should be a decision on it, if for no other reason than as a re-assurance to honorable senators on this side of the chamber and members of the Government who approached the agreement with some misgivings or even with great trepidation. I feel that such a decision, such an interpretation, such a declaration, should still be forthcoming from the Government.
Mr. President, I did not intend to speak at any great length on this matter. The actual trade implications of it and to what extent it will affect employment are matters of dispute between various people in the community. From both sides of the chamber, various opinions are being offered. I have not made the necessary study of it to indicate how my views may be, but I would be inclined to suggest an amendment, although there are already two amendments before the Chair - one an amendment that favours the agreement with certain modifications, and the Opposition’s amendment, which rejects the agreement. I should like to propose an amendment which accepts with pleasure the establishment of trade relations with Japan on a contractual basis. Of course, I may not be able to obtain a seconder. The agreement, as framed, is not completely satisfactory, for the reasons I have advanced, and for very many other reasons which have been advanced on this side and in another place. The terms of Senator Cole’s amendment, indicating more specifically the way the agreement should operate, could be embodied. In that way, we can get a composite amendment which substantially represents the views of the great body of members of this Parliament and which will re-assure our Japanese friends that we do welcome the establishment of trade relations with them on a contractual basis as projected by the peace agreement. It would re-assure the Japanese that we recognize the necessity for contact on a social and political plane. If that were done, we would at least be doing something to retrieve the position that might have obtained if the Government had proceeded in its approach to this matter with far greater circumspection, with less brashness, perhaps with less courage, but with regard for that particular sensitivity of the Australian nation in its dealings in any respect, in any sphere, with the Japanese people.
This agreement, and the debate on it, will do little to cement our relations with Japan, vitally important as they are to both countries. Nevertheless, we should reassure that nation that we do welcome its entry into the world of trading nations on a basis of equality, with due protection for the things that we have fought for, that we have created, and that we wish to prove at all times and against any one. If I get an opportunity, I may propose the composite amendment I have suggested. If I do so, I should welcome the assistance of a seconder and the adoption of the amendment by this chamber.
.- I welcome the opportunity to support the ratification of this agreement, because I believe that history will record that its implementation will be of vital benefit to the economy of Australia. I believe, too, that it is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle it without debating, and I am bound to say that some honorable senators on the other side of the chamber have finally and conclusively settled this question in their minds without debating how it affects the Australian economy. They have declared that the only result of the implementation of this agreement will be unemployment. On that question I have before me a full-page advertisement that appeared in the daily newspapers of Victoria and New South Wales, headed “ Unemployment “. I am bound to say that it is strange to find honorable senators on the other side of the chamber and the people who sponsored this advertisement - John Crundall Knitting Mills Proprietary Limited - on the band-wagon together. This advertisement is typical of the sentiments of honorable senators opposite, but unfortunately it discloses depths that are not worthy of an established business organization because it is full of untruths, distortion and innuendoes. It hangs the whole of its case on the peg of unemployment. That is exactly what honorable senators opposite have done, so I propose in the short time at my disposal to discuss one or two of the points that have been raised in the advertisement. This remark is directed to the Prime Minister -
We ask you, do you honestly think the Japanese trade treaty is really necessary? We only have Mr. McEwen’s word for it.
That is the first sneer. Let me quote, for the benefit of honorable senators opposite, the opinion of Mr. L. Trout, the president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia - a man who could hardly be said to be embroiled in politics. Indeed, he is the very gentleman whom honorable senators opposite have been citing in support of their case. Mr. Trout has something to say that should command the very close attention of the honorable gentlemen on the other side of the chamber. He says -
It is generally agreed that our immediate economic objectives are higher export income, continuance of full employment^ improvement in our material standard of living . . .
We all agree heartily with those objectives. During the last seven and a half years this Government has made them the basis of a positive policy, the success of which is reflected in the present prosperity of Australia. Mr. Trout goes on to say -
The new Agreement with Japan should help towards this objective.
Let us consider for a moment the objective itself. The first element is that of higher export income. No one would quarrel with that. Australia has always been, first and foremost, a primary producing country. The way in which primary production has made this country great is now history. But no country can thrive without a prosperous secondary industry also. The contribution which primary industry has made to our general economic stability is reflected in the flourishing state of our secondary industry. Both must be present, and healthy, if we are to have a balanced economy. We cannot have a satisfactory trade balance unless we export our primary produce, the income from which buys the raw materials that go into our secondary industry. Senator Gorton spoke of them earlier - oil, rubber, tin and everything that we need to keep the wheels of industry turning. In short, no one will argue with the contention that primary industry is indispensable to the successful development of secondary industry. 1 pass now to the second part of the objective - full employment. This has been the constant aim of the Government since it came to office in 1949. I am prompted to say that, despite the spate of propaganda that has been directed at the employment question, a great many people are missing the point. Need I remind honor able senators of what happened between 1930 and 1939? Need I remind them that our primary industries were in such a deplorable plight simply because of the uneconomical prices that were being received for primary products and that, as a result, misery and hardship stalked the land? When wheat was ls. 6d. a bushel, when the average price for wool was a ls. per lb., when eggs were 6d. or 8d. a dozen, and when we were talking of dumping our fruit in the sea, men, women and children were to be found tramping the roads. They had long since given up the idea of asking for work and were simply bent on begging for food. The reason for it all was that the income of the Australian primary producer was so low that the spending power of the Australian people had been reduced to a calamitous degree. History has recorded that on no occasion have excessive imports caused unemployment. But it has also recorded that the depression of our primary industries has caused disaster - something that this Government is determined shall not occur again. For that reason, this treaty is an eloquent expression of the Government’s wisdom in providing a longrange policy for the development and protection of our industries.
The third aspect of the objective is a high standard of living. The key to that may be expressed in two words - full employment. The agreement goes a long way towards ensuring that our primary industries will prosper, and that full employment will continue to obtain. I quote further from the advertisement -
It appears to most people that what Australia gets out of the treaty is just a half-promise by the Japanese to buy a few million bushels of our low grade soft wheat. Is it necessary to produce this type of wheat?
That is the second sneer. Let me say right at the outset that our soft wheat is not low grade but in world class. It is the kind of wheat that predominates in the great wheat producing countries of the world. One would imagine from this propaganda that the wheat-grower was so slothful, disinterested and negligent that he did not bother to grow :j better type of wheat.
The quality of wheat is governed almost entirely by the type of land on which it is grown. Australia’s wheat comprises 90 per cent, soft, and 10 per cent, hard, wheat. Any one who is in any doubt about the difficulty of selling soft wheat need only look at what has happened as a result of the policy of the United States of America. That country dumped wheat into markets that had been ours for years. We have lost the Indian and the German market. It is passing strange that though, for the first six months of this year, Japan did not buy a bushel of wheat - either soft or hard - from Australia, since this agreement has been ratified it has come right back into the market and proved a most useful customer. Will any one say that such purchases are not of immense value to the whole of our economy?
Paragraph 11 of the advertisement is really a classic. It reads -
Have you considered that employment in primary industry has fallen by approximately 36,000 in the last ten years–
This, mark you, is put seriously - but the population has increased somewhere in the vicinity of 2,000,000?
– What is the reason for its decrease?
– The reasons for the decrease are many and varied. The start of the decrease was during the war years, when primary producers could not obtain help at any price and were obliged, often at great expense, to mechanize their plants so as to become self-sufficient. To-day we have 2,000,000 more people in Australia than we had at that time, and our primary producers have a greater responsibility to maintain our overseas balance of payments in order that we can bring into this country all the raw materials that are vitally necessary if we are to employ the additional 2,000,000 people. If any one suggests that the wheat industry, which has made such a great contribution to the economy of this country, is not worthy of consideration, for the benefit of new Australians as well as old Australians, I suggest his reasoning is very hard to follow.
Paragraph No. 12 is rather good. It reads -
Has Mr. McEwen told the retailers that after a few months workers will not be able to buy their goods!
Then listen to this -
And they will be “ crying “ just like the inefficient farmer (represented by Mr. McEwen) . . .
The inefficient farmer! What evidence is there to suggest that he is inefficient? Our wool is the best in the world to-day, but is the wool-grower satisfied with that position? Is he resting on his laurels? Of course he is not. He is contributing 4s. on every bale for publicity and 2s. on every bale for research. So anxious are the nations of the world to get some of the products of our wool industry that this country has been obliged to place a ban on the export of merino sheep, and I hope the ban remains. Is that an indication that the wool-grower is inefficient? During the last session of this Parliament legislation was passed ratifying an agreement that the wheat-growers had made voluntarily whereby they would pay a levy on every bushel of wheat sold, the money to be used to improve the quality of their wheat. I could go on right through the piece and speak of the things that honorable senators opposite are sneering at.
One statement in the document that I have referred to suggests that this is a bad agreement and that it is bad policy to put all your eggs in one basket. Of course it is bad policy to put all your eggs in one basket, but has not this Government, through the Minister for Trade, realized that the more markets we can get for our products the better it will be for us? Is not that a good policy to pursue? Did the Government rest on its laurels after it had completed the revision of the Ottawa Agreement and say, “Well, as we have gone so far, there is no need for anything further “? Of course it did not. The people on the other side of the chamber have been screaming for years that we should go further afield to get more markets for our primary products. As soon as the Government provides the answer to the demands of honorable senators opposite, they put up an Aunt Sally and spend days and days in knocking it over. Their objection to the agreement has been based only on unemployment. They have built the whole of their case on that. They have not considered the value of this agreement to Australia as a whole. They have ignored the real possibilities that it contains for preventing the type of unemployment that the older members of this chamber know so much about.
Finally, I say that any clouds on the economic horizon are mostly those conjured up by the moaners, knockers and croakers. The people of Australia can draw great comfort from the knowledge that this Government will not be pushed around, will not be beaten into submission by the pressure groups and knockers who wish to pursue a policy that suits their own particular interests, but will continue as a government to govern for the whole of Australia.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) put -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Cole’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Sena tor Cole’s amendment) be inserted.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 47
– I direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that all that is left of Senator McKenna’s proposed amendment are the words -
That the following, words be added to the motion: - “ and the Senate “.
As those words are meaningless, the amendment as it stands is not in order. I therefore put the original question -
That the paper be printed.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 5.49 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Senator Cooper, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill which is now before the Senate, gives effect to the increases in rates of war pension which were provided for in this year’s Budget and makes some desirable amendments to the Repatriation Act. The bill, therefore, provides for an increase of 25s. a week in the special rate of war pension payable under the second schedule to the act, the rate commonly referred to as the totally and permanently incapacitated rate, and an increase of 7s. 6d. a week in the general rate of war pension payable under the first schedule to the act.
It also provides for an increase of 7s. 6d. a week in the rate of war widows’ pension, and, in addition to this increase,.’ provision will be made to raise by 5s. 6d. a week, the rate of domestic allowance which is payable under the repatriation regulations to a war widow who is over the age of 50 years or who is permanently unemployable, or who has a child which is under the age of sixteen years, or is still undergoing education or training.
A consequential adjustment has also been made to the rates of pension payable under the first six items of the fifth schedule, so that members receiving those amounts will benefit by having their total pension maintained at the equivalent of the special rate.
The following new rates of pension will operate from the first pension pay day after the amending act comes into force.
The special rate payable under the second schedule to a member of the forces who has been blinded as a result of war service and to a member who, as a result of war service, is totally and permanently incapacitated, will rise to £11 a week.
Under the second paragraph of the second schedule a rate of pension not exceeding the special rate may be paid to members suffering from tuberculosis. Under the provisions of that paragraph, the Repatriation Commission determines the rate to be paid to the two classes which are commonly known as class C and class B. The new rate for class C will be £11 a week, and for class B £7 17s. 6d. a week.
The rates payable under the first schedule, the general rate payable for incapacity, which is Jess than that which would entitle a member to the totally and permanently incapacitated rate of pension, are increased by 7s. 6d. a week, the basic rate for the 100 per cent, pensioner rising from £4 15s. to £5 2s. 6d. a week. The war widow’s pension payable under the first schedule will be increased by 7s. 6d. a week, the base rate thus rising from £4 10s. to £4 17s. 6d. a week. With the increase of 5s. 6d. in the rate of domestic allowance, which will rise from £1 14s. 6d. to £2 a week, a widow entitled to that allowance will receive a total of £6 17s. 6d. a week instead of £6 4s. 6d. which she now receives. A widow over 60 who conforms to the means test for social services will be able to receive, with her pension, an income of £7 16s. a week compared with £7 10s. previously.
In addition to these increases in the rates of war pension, the rate of service pension will be raised, by 7s. 6d. a week to £4 7s. 6d. a week. 1 would like to remind honorable senators that, as a result of this Government having repealed section 91a of the Repatriation Act in 1955, and thereby abolishing the ceiling limits, there is now a very large number of war pensioners who benefit both by the increase in the rates of war pension, and in the increase in the service pension or the age or invalid pension.
For instance, the maximum amount which a totally and permanently incapacitated war pensioner and his wife will now be able to receive by way of war pension and service or age or invalid pension, will be £15 15s. a week. Of this amount the total war pension tor the member and his wife is £12 15s. 6d. a week, being £11 for the member and £1 15s. 6d. a week for his wife, and this is. of course, paid free of means test. There is a means test for a service, age or invalid pension, and for this means test the war pension is taken into account as income. The result is that a totally and permanently incapacitated war pensioner who is eligible for a service pension can, with his wife, receive up to a total of £15 15s. per week from both pensions.
I stress the point that war pensions arc free of any means test. There has been much misunderstanding in the press about the amount that a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner and his wife will now receive in pension payment. There is to be an increase of £1 5s. in the war pension of the member, which will bring it up to £11 per week. As I have said that pension is not subject to any means test. To bring the total income of a man and his wife to £15 15s. both the pensioner and his wife must receive a partial service or age pension. The service pension will be subject to the means test. The total of war and service or age pensions which a man and wife may now be able to receive will rise by 15s. because of the increase of 7s. 6d. in the rate of service or ago pension.
If the totally and permanently incapacitated war pensioner is not eligible for a service pension, as in the case of a member who has not served in a theatre of war, he and his wife can receive up to the same amount of £15 15s. per week between them if the wife is eligible for an invalid pension in her own right, or if being over 60 years of age she is eligible for an age pension. On the other hand, in the case of a totally and permanently incapacitated war pensioner who is not eligible for a service pension, but who is eligible for an invalid pension under the Social Services Act, the wife is not qualified to receive a wife’s allowance under that act and their maximum combined total income from both pensions will be £14 5s. 3d. a week.
As 1 have stated, there had been a good deal of misunderstanding about this. As it it difficult for the layman to work out how these sums are arrived at, I have endeavoured to explain the method.
A married man who is receiving a general rate pension at the 100 per cent, rate and who is eligible for a service pension on the ground of permanent unemployability will, with his wife, be able to receive up to a maximum of £13 0s. 6d. a week by way of both pensions. This is made up of war pension for the member of £5 2s. 6d. a week; war pension for the wife of £1 15s. 6d. .a week; member’s service pension £4 7s. 6d. a week and his wife’s service pension of £1 15s. If his wife is over the age of 60 years she would receive an age pension of £4 7s. 6d. a week instead of her service pension of £1 15s., giving a combined weekly income for husband and wife of £15 13s.
There again, we have the two types of pension. First, we have the war pension which is not subject to any means test; then we have the social services pension, the age or invalid pension, which is subject to the social services means test. The amounts I have given are those payable to all persons who qualify under the social services means test.
The actual rate of the service pension of a member and the social service pension of his wife will depend upon the extent to which their income and property affect that rate under the means test. Pension or education allowance is paid in respect of the children in their own right and is not taken into consideration when the means test, is being applied to service pensions. I may add here that the attendant’s allowance, education allowance and transport allowance are not taken into consideration in arriving at these pension rates.
In 1950, after the Government had granted all-round increases in pension rates, the total expenditure for war and service pensions was approximately £22,250,000. The estimated expenditure for the current financial year on war and service pensions is £59,250,000. I mention these amounts in passing only to remind the Senate that this Government has honoured its pledge to keep repatriation benefits under constant review. That review has not been limited to rates of pension only, but other new benefits have been introduced and existing benefits have been extended. Some of those additional or extended benefits have applied generally to members and dependants while others such as the provision of a marriage gratuity for war widows who re-marry and the supply of a gift motor car to war pensioners, whose war-caused disability is either double amputation of the legs above the knees or complete paraplegia, resulting in the loss of use of both legs, have been designed to meet the special needs of particular classes of persons.
Overall there has been a substantial expansion both in the range and extent of benefits under the act.
The other major feature of this bill is the provision it makes with regard to arrears of pension which may be allowed where a case is decided under section 64 of the act.
It is felt that there should be some additional latitude with regard to the amount of arrears which can be allowed where a claim which had previously been disallowed by an entitlement appeal tribunal is subsequently granted by the tribunal or the commission under the provisions of subsections (6a.), (7.) or (7ab.) of section 64 after further evidence has been produced. Those sub-sections enable a claim which has been disallowed by an entitlement tribunal to be reconsidered in the light of any further evidence which might become available.
At the present time the maximum period for which arrears are granted in such cases is six months prior to the date of production of the further evidence to the commission or the lodgment of the further appeal to the tribunal as the case may be. This amendment proposes to extend that period of six months up to a maximum of four years.
The principles upon which this amendment is based are these: A claimant should not be encouraged to delay in pursuing an appeal to the tribunal, but should rather be encouraged to press on with it. For that reason no change is proposed in the present provision whereby the amount of arrears which can be made available when a claim is allowed by a tribunal or the commission under sub-sections (3.), (5.) or (6.) of section 64 is fixed at six months. On the other hand, however, where such a first appeal has been rejected and further evidence subsequently comes to light, which was not known and/ or was not available at the time of the rejection, and this leads to the claim being allowed, it is felt that the tribunal and the commission should not be limited to granting arrears for only six months prior to the production to it of the further evidence.
This bill therefore proposes to extend the period for which arrears may be granted in such cases from six months up to a maximum of four years provided that the commencement of the period so fixed does mot. precede the date from which a repatriation board, the commission or the tribunal could have made the pension payable had the claim been allowed in the first instance. This amendment is to apply to all cases which have been decided under the relevant sub-sections of section 64 since 1st June, 1956. As soon as the amending act comes into force, all cases to which this amendment applies will be reviewed so that those persons affected by it will receive the benefit it provides.
This bill provides substantial benefits to war pensioners, and I commend it to the Senate.
– The Opposition will not oppose this measure. We hope that it will be passed without delay because it proposes to adjust the rates of various pensions payable to exservicemen. As we all know, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has always treated the ex-servicemen very sympathetically, but he always presents his case in such a way as to lead honorable senators on both sides and the people of Australia to believe that the ex-servicemen are being granted increased payments. I should like to emphasize that no increases are to be made under this measure. It simply provides for long overdue adjustments. Apart from a slight alteration made last year, this is the first attempt by the Government since 1951 to give to totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen their full entitlement calculated in terms of purchasing power. In actual fact, the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners are only now to have corrected anomalies that have existed for too long.
The Minister stated that this bill proposes to grant an increase of 25s, a week in the special rate of war pension, but he omitted to point out that the increase is not applicable to all totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. Actually, it is payable to only a limited number. Earlier this year the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Soldiers Association sent out a questionnaire. The answers revealed that only 53 per cent. of the members of the association were receiving the full pension for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. Therefore, 47 per cent. of the totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen will receive an increase of less than 25s. a week, and 53 per cent. of them will receive only 15s. a week. Totally and permanently incapacitated persons comprise the only branch of ex-servicemen to which a means test applies. Their numbers are decreasing year by year, particularly in the case of the surviviors of World War I., of whom the Minister is one. I know that he is in full sympathy with them in their plight. I understand that the total number of totally and permanently incapacitated men in the Commonwealth is between 12,000 and 14,000. Is that right?
– Yes, that would be about right.
– They are dying at the rate of about ten a week. It must be a great blow to these men to find that, because of the application of a means test, they will not be entitled to the full increase of 25s. a week which they expected.
– Every one of them will be entitled to the full increase. I thought I had made that clear in the second-reading speech.
– Unfortunately, it was not made clear. The Minister spoke of the abolition of ceiling limits. He said -
I would like to remind honorable senators that, as a result of this Government having repealed section 91 a of the Repatriation Act in 1955, and thereby abolishing the ceiling limits, there is now a very large number of war pensioners who benefit both by the increase in the rates of war pension, and in the increase in the service pension or the age or invalid pension.
– That is quite true.
– The Minister used the words “ a very large number “. Not all of them will be affected. I have a letter from the federal secretary of the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Soldiers Association, which reads -
Subject to eligibility under a means test, they may each receive an additional pension of £1 14s. 9d. per week under either the Social Service or War Service Pension Acts. Thus their total pension may amount to £15 a week.
– That is right.
– That is the present rate. The letter continues -
This sounds all very well until we look at the answers to a questionnaire recently submitted to all members. It reveals that only 53 per cent. of married members of our association are in receipt of £15 per week pension.
– Yes. Forty-seven per cent, of them have assets that bring their incomes up to that level. You cannot have a means test and do away with it at the same time.
– We have a means test.
– There is a means test for the social service pensions; that is all. There is no means test for a war pension.
– The means test is applied to 47 per cent, of the totally and permanently incapacitated men, whereas the Minister said -
The bill, therefore, provides for an increase of 25s. per week in the special rate of war pension payable under the second schedule to the act-
– Every man will get that, whether he has £1,000 or £10.
– Subject to the means test.
– No. The totally and permanently incapacitated pension is £11 a week, subject to no means test at all.
– I hope that that assurance is correct, because the people on the receiving end, including the federal secretary of the association, claim-
– The federal secretary did not know what he was writing when he sent that letter, and I wrote and told him so.
– He is on the receiving end, and he should be in a position to know. It is on the information that we receive from these people that we put forward their claims in the Parliament.
– Their claim is already adjusted.
– The Minister made an exception in his second-reading speech when he said that as a result of the abolition of the ceiling limits - there is now a very large number of war pensioners who benefit-
The Minister made exceptions to his claim that all will receive an increase of 25s. a week.
– No. I said that a man and his wife could build their income up to £15 a week, and now they will be able to build it up to £15 15s. a week.
– There is still a means test that prevents them from going higher.
– Of course. I do not claim that a totally and permanently incapacitated man will receive £15 15s. a week in war pension. His pension will be £11, and the allowance for his wife £1 15s. 6d., making £12 15s. 6d. That will be his war pension.
– These points can be answered by the Minister when he replies. The Minister claimed that the bill confers substantial benefits on war pensioners, but it applies, in its fullest extent, only to a percentage of them. As I pointed out before, adjustments are being made in some categories, but in no case will they do more than restore the war pension that the Parliament intended totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen to receive.
However, I do not want to get into any political argument on this matter. Anomalies are continually being shown and adjusted. Each time the Minister submits an amendment to the act he does so as the result of advice, possibly from the Opposition. If he adopted the attitude that the act was perfect, there would be nothing for him to do. We do not expect that the exserviceman will ever get full justice. He has to keep fighting to get as nearly as possible his entitlement under the wording and the spirit of the act. We challenge the Minister’s statement that an increase of 25s. a week will be granted to all totally and permanently incapacitated men. The care and welfare of ex-servicemen are the responsibility of each and every one of us. I am pleased to note that this year the Minister has not followed the practice, which has prevailed for far too long, of saying so much was paid so many years ago. Honorable senators on this side, and the Australian Labour party generally, will continue to take a lively interest in this matter and watch the Government very closely to ensure that the spirit of the act is observed to the fullest extent. This bill implements proposals contained in the Budget that was recently introduced in another place - a Budget that is characterized by sins of omission and commission. One of the few pleasing features of the Budget is that it is proposed to bring up the purchasing power of ex-servicemen’s entitlements to a reasonable level. Various ex-servicemen’s organizations have asked for certain improvements, as the Minister for Repatriation will know, because over the years he has kept in close contact with the returned servicemen’s league and with various bodies associated with it.
The question of increasing the amount of the funeral benefit for ex-servicemen has been consistently overlooked by this Government. The inadequacy of the present rate has been more marked since the inflationary cycle reached its present rate. As has been pointed out at State and Federal conferences of the returned servicemen’s league, the lowest charge for burial these days ranges from £60 to £80, according to certain circumstances, and it is to be deplored that the amount of the funeral benefit payable in respect of a deceased ex-serviceman has not been increased. I urge the Government to give immediate consideration to increasing the amount of the funeral benefit. 1 come now to the question of the date from which the proposed increases will be paid. Unfortunately, prior to the introduction of a Budget, the press seems to be able with uncanny accuracy to forecast proposed variations of the rates of social services.
– That did not occur in respect of repatriation benefits.
– Many of the proposed increases are long overdue. Between the time that the first forecasts of repatriation increases appeared in the press, and the date from which the increases will take effect - the Minister has stated that effect will be given to the provisions of this measure as soon as it receives the royal assent - a period of two months will have elapsed. It will be well into October before the measure is passed by both Houses of the Parliament. I foreshadow the submission at the committee stage of an amendment to clause 7 so as to provide that increases under clauses 4, 5 and 6 will apply to and from the instalment of pension on the first pension day after 1st July, which means that the increases would be paid retrospectively. It is becoming the practice - I believe quite rightly - each time certain legislation is amended to make increases retrospective to the beginning of the financial year. It would not be an exception if that were done in this instance because it will be remembered that remissions of sales tax were made retrospective by this Government. Furthermore, in creases in the salaries of the judges and parliamentary allowances were made retrospective. It is the intention of the Australian Labour party, when it again becomes the government of this country, to make increases of social service benefits and repatriation benefits retrospectively to the beginning of the financial year. That is why I have foreshadowed an amendment to this effect.
From time to time, I have urged the Minister to use his influence to abolish the means test in relation to the pensions of totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. We believe that the application of the means test in connexion with any social service payment deprives the people of something to which they are entitled, because throughout their working lives they have been taxed to provide for the payment of pensions out of the National Welfare Fund. 1 consider that, as the social services contribution is collected from all taxpayers, it is unjust to apply the means test either to totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen or to social service beneficiaries. This injustice should be removed. Until it is, I do not consider that full justice will be done to them.
– A previous Labour government applied a special means test to them.
– Labour’s policy has changed. We now believe that the means test should be abolished, particularly in relation to totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners, whose numbers are decreasing.
– On the contrary, they are increasing.
– The number of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners from World War I. is decreasing. The means test applies when the burnt-out rate comes in or the ordinary social services rate comes in. Therefore, ex-servicemen of World War I., particularly, would be affected immediately. I consider that the measure now before us should provide for the abolition of the means test in relation to totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners.
Recently, the report of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal for the year ended 30th June, 1956, became available. It contains the view of the tribunal on the very contentious onus of proof provision in section 47 of the Repatriation Act. Many people who have interested themselves in the activities of ex-servicemen’s organizations have, over the years seen genuine cases in which it has not been possible to produce the final evidence that would have proved conclusively that an incapacity had been war-caused. According to the report, 83.4 per cent, of appeals to the tribunal are disallowed. Of 2,116 appeals which went to the tribunal, 67 were withdrawn, nine lapsed, four were not within the tribunal’s jurisdiction, and 93 were deferred for later decision. That was the position at 30th June, 1956. Of the remaining 1,943 appeals, and the additional 32 that were accepted for review under section 31 - a total of 1,975 - only 16.6 per cent, were allowed. The Repatriation Commission accepted 1.6 per cent for review under section 31. A further 3.7 per cent, were accepted, after substantially additional evidence had been produced, under section 64 (4); 1 1 .3 per cent, were allowed under section 64, and 83.4 per cent were disallowed.
I am sure that in their hearts, Government supporters believe that it is the interpretation of section 47 which causes so much heart burning among those whose appeals are disallowed. That is certainly the view of those who assist many of these unfortunate people to present their appeals. The Parliament should write its intention clearly into the act. It is not enough for a Minister or a member to make a second-reading speech in answer to a charge that the onus of proof provision is not being applied according to the spirit of the act. Such observations do not affect the findings of the tribunal. A much clearer definition should be given, so that the act may be properly interpreted.
– Does the honorable senator realize that the tribunal is an independent body?
– That is so, but it can only follow the wording of the act.
– Would the honorable senator have us write into the act directions to the tribunal?
– I would write into the act something to show that the onus of proof rested on the tribunal, the commission and the board.
– That is put into practice now.
– On the figures given by the tribunal, the board and the commission have been wrong in 328 cases. The tribunal itself has rejected 83.6 per cent, of the cases that have been submitted to it. It has put the member concerned to all the inconvenience and frustration of going before these various tribunals and then learning that 83.4 per cent, of appeals are disallowed.
– But they have already been disallowed by two other bodies.
– That is quite true. Some of them are allowed by the final body, and also by the commission itself.
– On the production of further evidence.
– The War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal itself has said -
Neither the Minister for Repatriation, nor the Repatriation Commission which he controls, should be in a position to exercise any influence, direct or indirect, upon a war pension tribunal. These tribunals, therefore, should be under the aegis of the Attorney-General.
We believe that, on the weight of evidence, a judge should be appointed as a final arbiter of appeals, and that they should be taken right out of the tribunal field. This would happen after they had gone through what is called “ the normal procedure “. Then the 83.4 per cent, referred to earlier would have a right to present their case to a judge and have it decided on the weight of evidence - with due consideration for the fact that under the act the Repatriation Commission has upon it the onus of proof.
– It should be sufficient for the applicant to establish a prima facie case.
– That is the point that I am making. He would need to present a doctor’s certificate, or similar recommendation. To reduce this matter to the realm of solid fact, let us consider the case of a man from World I. who, wishing to apply for a pension under the Repatriation Act, finds that his memory is not as good as it used to be. He cannot remember all the details of his service.
– It is all on his medical history sheet.
– Not always. His regimental aid post may have been under fire in the front line, and not had an opportunity of keeping records. One could mention many similar hypothetical cases in which the ex-serviceman has to produce evidence to the tribunal, and therefore bear the burden of onus of proof. If the spirit of the act were observed the very reverse would happen. The mere fact that a man was in an area which had been gassed, or was a member of the services at the time, should be enough. At present, he must be able to prove his claim conclusively. In the final analysis, before the judge, the tribunal or the commission should have to prove conclusively, by evidence, that the man’s disability was not due to his war service. I believe that full justice will not be done until there is such an interpretation of the act.
– No federal body of any returned soldiers’ organization has asked for that.
– The Minister has presented this bill in an effort to catch up with the depreciation of the value of money. The bill provides for increases of payments to certain sections of ex-servicemen, but we feel that the act should be amended to give effect to certain principles. Perhaps at a later stage, in another place, amendments could be moved proposing that the means test be abolished and that the onus of proof question be settled by appointing a tribunal consisting of a judge or some similarly qualified person, who, on the weight of evidence, could give an entirely independent judgment in cases such as the 87.6 per cent, of appeals disallowed by the Wai Pensions Entitlement Tribunals.
– The returned servicemen’s league turned that suggestion down at its conference two years ago.
– When the bill reaches the committee stage, I shall move an amendment proposing the omission from clause 7 of the words “ the commencement of this act”, and the insertion in lieu thereof of the words “ the first day of July, 1 957 “. I am suggesting that these increases should be paid retrospectively, instead of from some date within the next two or three weeks. I suggest that a little compassion be shown to the people who will benefit from these payments, and that the extra amount which they will receive be increased by providing that the payments shall be made retrospective to the first pension day after 1st July.
, - First of all, I should like to pay a welldeserved tribute to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). One could travel throughout Australia, but from all walks of life the present Minister would be the mart one would choose to take charge of the Repatriation Department. I know that he has the confidence of the ex-servicemen, who pay tribute to the work that he has done for repatriates. His honesty of purpose and his achievements in this field are outstanding. How he is able to persuade his fellow Ministers to agree to the bills that he brings forward is something that I should like to know. I wish that he would also take charge of the Department of Social Services and obtain similar results for the pensioners.
The recent report of the federal executive of the returned servicemen’s league is very interesting. I desire to bring to the notice of the Senate certain things that have happened in relation to this bill. I should like to show how the Government, or the Minister, has acceded to the recommendations made by a number of people who were appointed to study repatriation pensions and to make recommendations to the Cabinet. The April meeting of the federal executive exhaustively discussed repatriation matters and agreed that Mr. Luke and Mr. Lee should submit a pension plan to a sub-committee of the Cabinet. Other men, of course, were brought in to help in the preparation of that plan. Certain points were submitted by the league’s subcommittee to the Cabinet sub-committee for consideration. The first was -
That the 100 per cent, war pension rate be increased to £5 a week with corresponding increases in dependants’ pensions and allowances.
That is what was recommended. They got £5 2s. 6d. It is incredible! That is why I say that the Minister should be in charge of the Social Services Department. The next submission was -
That the totally and permanently incapacitated pension be increased to £11 lis. 3d. a week with corresponding increases in dependants’ pensions and allowances.
The Minister has come forward with a pension, of £11 a week. The next submission was that -
War widows’ pensions be increased to £5 a week.
We find that the widows’ pension is to be £4 17s. 6d. a week, not very far off the target set by this committee. Knowing that it was a committee appointed to make recommendations to Cabinet, I am sure that it was a little liberal in its outlook. The next submission was that -
The domestic allowance for aged, sick and unemployable widows be increased to £3.
It is to be £2. I admit that the Government could have been a little more liberal in that respect. However, I believe that this bill has done a great deal for the soldier pensioner, and we commend what the Minister has brought forward. Certain payments, I suppose, could be increased, but while the Minister has held the Repatriation portfolio the ex-serviceman has been getting his due, and I hope he will continue to get it. It will be necessary to increase the payments in the future, because the cost of living is rising. The Government has set a very firm basis for the payment of war pension, especially the total and permanent incapacity pension.
It has been stated that the funeral benefit is still very low, and I agree. However, I do not think it is a matter of very great importance to the ex-serviceman, because when an ex-serviceman who has given long service to his country dies little difficulty is experienced by his comrades in contributing towards the cost of his funeral expenses.
– What credit that reflects on the Government!
– His comrades do not mind showing a little respect when he passes.
I refer now to appeals lodged with the war pensions entitlement appeals tribunals. After appeals are refused, we, as members of the Parliament, frequently have exservicemen call on us and seek our help to establish their entitlements. I again make the plea that I have made in this chamber on many occasions on behalf of exservicemen who have been in the front line of battle. Those men lose something in life. I believe that their front-line service shortens their lives, even though they have not been wounded. All ex-servicemen who have been under fire should be given a small pension when they leave the services. Some persons might say that under existing conditions of warfare civilians are under fire just as much as are the servicemen. But that argument is not tenable, because civilians do not come within the scope of the Repatriation Act but are catered for by the Department of Social Services.
Servicemen who have been under fire frequently suffer from a physical handicap which does not show up for many years after their discharge. To grant those persons a small pension would give them something to begin with, at least. At the present time, they are compelled to depend greatly upon their medical card in order to establish their entitlement to a pension. The appeal tribunals do a good job, but it is difficult to convince them that diseases such as cancer, which in a great number of cases have become manifest years later, could easily have been caused in the stress of battle. The result is that the exserviceman feels frustrated when his appeal is rejected. The doctors say, “ We cannot say that he is suffering from a war-caused disability, because so many years have elapsed since the end of the war “. But many such disabilities may have been latent and have come to light with the weakening of the physical frame in later years. I repeat that I should like all ex-servicemen who have been in the stress of battle to be given a small pension.
The provision for four years’ retrospectivity in relation to arrears of pensions that have been granted upon the production of fresh evidence after several refusals is a marvellous idea. I commend the Minister for having included it in the measure. The provision relates too, of course, to ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war.
Senator O’Byrne has indicated that he will move an amendment to provide for the payment of the increases retrospectively to 1st July. I am in agreement with that proposal; the more the ex-servicemen receive the better I am pleased. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment. Our own salary increases were made retrospective, and I. should like to know from the Minister why the proposed pension increases cannot be made retrospective to the beginning of this financial year. No government has ever made such increases retrospective, but there is nothing like doing something for the first time. When the amendment is moved, I shall have no hesitation in supporting it unless, of course, the Minister can produce a sound reason for rejecting it.
This is a good measure; it seeks to provide for the ex-serviceman something which he deserves. Ex-servicemen have done a lot for their country, and a great number of them, especially the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, have suffered a lot for a great number of years. lt is only right that they should be allowed to live in a reasonable degree of comfort, and I believe that the proposed total and permanent incapacity pension will enable the recipient of it to live in that degree of comfort. The various ex-servicemen’s leagues and their federal committees are in agreement with the provisions of the bill. They see very little wrong with the measure. It has their blessing, and I believe that we all should follow their example and give it our blessing.
When the Minister replies, 1 should like him to explain his understanding of the onus of proof provision. That provision has caused a lot of trouble, and we would be greatly helped in dealing with the cases that come before us in our electorates if we had the benefit of the Minister’s explanation of it. i support the bill and again pay tribute to the Minister.
– The Senate has received with acclaim the gracious tribute that was paid by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labour party (Senator Cole) to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). I think there should be a little more of this honest, sincere opinion expressed in the National Parliament. When we speak of the present Minister for Repatriation, we recall that he was appointed to that high office when this Government was first elected in 1949. One can understand why honorable senators on the Opposition side are astounded by his success and the manner in which the Government gives further aid year after year to ex-servicemen because we remember the words of a national newspaper which is now unfortunately out of publication. In 1949, after the general election of 10th December, it said of previous Ministers for Repatriation that, so far as the Labour Government was concerned, “ whom Caucus wishes to destroy, it first makes Minister for
Repatriation “. Of course the Australian Labour party now has more modern methods for destroying its members.
The opening speech on this bill for the Opposition was delivered by Senator O’Byrne, a gallant ex-serviceman whom we honour for his war service. But I do not think that he was a good spokesman for the case he tried to espouse. Obviously he was not well informed. That was shown by the many interjections from the Minister for Repatriation who had to correct him and put him on the right track. Senator O’Byrne followed the party political line. In his main criticism, he produced a hardy annual when he suggested that pension payments should be made retrospective to the first of the year. We often hear that bleat from the Labour party. I will only say now that, in some ways, I respect the Opposition for that complaint, because it enables me to say, within the bounds of this debate, that this is another indication of the faults of the late presentation of the Budget. We should introduce the Budget earlier and start the pension payments as soon as the debate on it is concluded. I hope the Government will be able to do that in future, but I shall say more about that matter at another time.
In examining this bill and considering our responsibilities, I believe that we should pay more attention to the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, its outlook and expressed opinions. Everybody agrees that the league is completely free of party politics. What is more and greatly to its honour, the league can never be accused of being a pressure group. It weighs the pros and cons, and does all it can to get the Government to understand its point of view and to ensure that the nation’s promises to its exservicemen are kept. When a body such as that expresses opinions, they should be remembered by the members of this national Parliament when they are considering a bil’ of this character.
I have the annual report for the year of the Tasmanian State branch of the R.S.L. It speaks in even more glowing terms than Senator Cole did of the Minister for Repatriation in these words -
Himself a League member of some 40 years* standing, Senator Cooper has administered his responsible post with all the sympathy and understanding possible, and is held in the highest esteem by R.S.L. members and ex-servicemen generally throughout the Commonwealth.
The federal executive of the R.S.L. had -something to say about the record of this -Government, and I remind supporters of the Australian Labour party that the Labour government has been out of office for nearly eight years. This comment was made in the annual report of the federal executive which was distributed to-day -
It is interesting to note that, during the past seven years, as each successive budget has been introduced, there have always been some additions to the benefits granted to ex-service men and women.
I am not saying that the league or I, as a supporter of the Government, feel satisfied *hat everything possible has been done. I think that the conditions of the various classes of persons eligible for repatriation benefits have been greatly improved, but I believe that the search to discover facts and to discover those who may need extra help is not finished. It may be that provision -should be made for an entirely new category of ex-servicemen. Those of us who have any ideas along these lines should express them here. We know that the Minister, and the department under his administration, will consider those suggestions.
I am making no criticisms, but I believe the time is ripe for consideration to be given to aged ex-servicemen. A man who enlisted at twenty years of age in the 1914-18 war is now about 63 years of age. Many ex-servicemen of World War I. are older. The service pension, which is available to those who are 60 years of age, is a great benefit, but we have to look beyond that provision. Many of those who are in the 75 to 80 years old group are very frail. They are probably more frail than those who had no war service. Many of them need assistance. Consideration should be given to the very old widowers. Upon the death of the wife, they lose the income that was previously paid to her. The Repatriation Department should consider whether it could formulate a regulation to cover specific cases of that nature.
Another group of ex-service personnel who deserve special consideration are the nurses of World War I. I do not want to introduce any pathos into this debate. I am most sincere. I have had many representations made to me in this matter, and I want to put the facts before the Senate calmly and clearly. The nursing sisters of World War I. had to work under difficult conditions day and night. When they were ill they did not report sick because there was no one to nurse them. If they had to take medicine, no records were kept of such treatment. They simply battled on to help the sick and wounded. Those who are alive now are in dire need and require some help from the Government. I believe that nurses of World War I. who reach a certain age should have free hospitalization at repatriation hospitals, free medical benefits and pension rights. That would apply later to nurses of World War II. They are now sick and invalid, and only because of the service they rendered in the fields of France and other theatres of war between 1914 and 1918. I do hope that the Minister and his department will give the call for assistance - I emphasize it is not charity - to this body of ex-service personnel the most sympathetic and immediate consideration.
Both speakers who have preceded me in this debate have referred to appeals and delays in hearing them. I have given this matter a good deal of study, and I do believe that the machinery to deal justly with all applications for pensions and other repatriation benefits is in existence, but I feel that we should be careful to guard against undue delays in its operation. It is not pleasant for a war widow who applies for a pension to receive a refusal, after the lapse of some weeks and to be told that she may appeal. Then, when she does appeal there is a further lapse of some weeks and she has to suffer the anxiety of further inquiries only to be told that if she can produce further medical evidence she may appeal again. It is the right of every applicant for a pension that the machinery which we have shall be put into immediate operation and that a careful watch be kept to guard against undue delay in announcing a decision, although I am of the opinion that in most cases a just decision is arrived at finally.
I do not think this bill requires much discussion. The Minister has outlined in detail the benefits to which ex-servicemen will be entitled under it. I am in favour of what it contains and all I can say in conclusion is that so long as the Minister can faithfully say, as he has done to-night, that this Government has honoured its pledge to keep repatriation benefits under review at all times he will earn the respect and gratitude of all ex-service personnel and their dependants.
.- I address myself to this measure with some feeling, because anything that can be done to benefit ex-servicemen in general is a subject very dear to my heart. Quite naturally, we, as an Opposition, do not wish to oppose the increases proposed by the measure, but we do say emphatically that the Government should make the proposed payments retrospective to 1st July. As was pointed out by Senator O’Byrne, payments have been made retrospective in many other cases. Why not do the same for the ex-servicemen?
The Minister took Senator O’Byrne to task for correctly stating that all totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen will not receive the full increases proposed by the measure.
– I am sorry to have to correct you. They will.
– If the Minister will have the patience to listen, I shall explain to him why I say totally and permanently incapacitated men will not get the full benefit of the proposed increase of 25s. The fact is that only 53 per cent, of the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners are receiving £15. It is quite
Clear, therefore, that whatever income the other 47 per cent, may be receiving, whether it be by way of social service benefits or income from other sources, that other income will be reduced by the amount of the proposed increase in the totally and permanently incapacitated pension.
– Not at all. The totally and permanently incapacitated pension at present is £11 10s. 6d. a week for a man and his wife.
– In actual fact, that is what happens.
– It is not £15.
– I am sorry if 1 am interrupting the Minister.
– I want to put you right.
– I think that during the suspension of the sitting the Minister must have been inoculated with a gramophone needle.
– What I say is right, and I want it to go to the public.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - Order!
– I have put the Minister on the right track there.
– No, you have not.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I ask the honorable senator to proceed with his speech.
– But the Minister keeps on interjecting.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Take no notice of interjections. I ask the honorable senator to proceed with his speech.
– I cannot while the Minister is continually jabbering away.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I ask the honorable senator to proceed with his speech.
– I have indicated to the Minister, through you, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that 47 per cent, of the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners will not receive the full benefit of the increase proposed in this measure.
– One hundred per cent, will get the rise.
– However, we are grateful. We do not oppose the granting of any further benefits to the ex-servicemen, but we reiterate that the least this Government could do, particularly in view of the fact that its Budget for this year involves about £1,400,000,000, is to make the payments retrospective to 1st July. Surely to goodness it can make the proposed increases retrospective, as it has done in many other cases!
Another improvement that we on this side advocate is the abolition of the means test on totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners in particular. They are a dying race.
– They are not a dying race.
– I do not know what the figures are for the whole of Australia.
– The number is 18,000.
– Mr. Acting Deputy President, I am sorry that I keep on interrupting the Minister.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I ask the Minister not to interject.
– I listened to the Minister in silence, and it is up to him to do me the courtesy of listening to me.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator will please proceed with his speech.
– In Victoria, there are approximately 4,000 totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. Of that number, 2,000 are chronic cases. As mentioned in a question that I asked the other day, only about 200 of the 4,000 in Victoria are receiving hospital treatment at Heidelberg, but I shall refer to that again later.
I wish to proceed now with my request that the means test be abolished. It is of no use this Government’s endeavouring to shelter behind the statement that other governments have not done it. The fact that other governments have not done something is no reason for perpetuating an injustice. We say the means test for totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners should be abolished. It is of no use saying that the country cannot afford the additional cost. This Government has poured millions qf pounds down the drain, so to speak, in the construction of the St. Mary’s filling factory. Every day we read in the press that big companies are making millions of pounds in profits. Under those circumstances, surely the amount that would be involved in removing the means test from totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners would have a negligible effect upon the economy.
Another matter with which I wish to deal more specifically is the so-called onus of proof. It is of no use the Minister or anybody else saying that the onus of proof actually rests upon the department. In actual fact, it rests upon the applicant. Honorable senators are always receiving representations, either by mail or by interview, from people who have applied to the various tribunals, who have utilized all the machinery that is established for appeals, and have come to us in desperation. They go before tribunals in fear and trepidation. 1 do not want to cast any reflection on the personnel of tribunals, but it is perfectly obvious that they are obsessed with the idea that they have to reject every appeal that they can possibly reject. 1 do not care who the personnel are. I do not suggest that they do it consciously with bias against the applicant, but they are obsessed with the idea that they must save public money.
– That may have been so under the Labour government.
– It is of no use to shelter behind statements that other governments might not have done what they should have done. Even if that were so, it would not make it right for this Government to refrain from doing what it should be doing. The onus of proof should be made to rest where it is supposed to rest, that is, on the department. To achieve that end, we should enact some measure similar to that which operates now in England, as mentioned by Senator O’Byrne. We should place these matters finally before a Supreme Court judge, or some other judicial authority. I have a pamphlet written by Mr. Vincent J. Brady which gives some indication of what is done under the English law in relation to these cases. It reads -
Evidence may be given orally or in documents, but every document must be available to both sides, and each side may put questions to witnesses called on the other side.
We find that it is very difficult, in the absence of some judicial authority, to weigh the evidence, because even medical opinion differs in these cases. In the absence of some medical evidence, sometimes it is absolutely impossible for an applicant to supply sufficient evidence to convince a tribunal. Medical opinion is often sharply divided on disabilities which may be considered by a tribunal. Mr. Brady’s pamphlet, referring to Australian tribunals, states -
At what stage is the onus lifted? The authority is directed to give to the appellant the benefit of any doubt. The question arises as to whose doubt this must be. Solely in the minds of the members of the tribunal, or a doubt among the respective medical opinions?
That is an aspect that we claim is very important. What happens if the medical evidence on both sides is in direct conflict? Mr. Brady says that the medical world is divided in quite a number of such matters as may be placed before a tribunal.
The onus of proof should be placed fairly and squarely on the department, and if there is the slightest doubt, it should, be resolved in favour of the applicant. To establish a claim is almost impossible, particularly for men of World War I., because in many cases they did not bother to go near the Repatriation Department when they were first discharged from the services, as all that they wanted to do was to get back into civilian life.- In later years some disability develops, and who can deny that any illness or ailment occurring later was, if not actually caused, at least aggravated, by war service?
We suggest that the Government should consider the granting of hospital and medical treatment to all ex-servicemen. After all, they have given the best years of their lives in the service of this country. We know what was promised to them at the outbreak of both world wars. We know that it is because of their service, in conjunction with that of our allies in those wars, that we are able to enjoy the conditions which we have to-day. According to the Government, the economy of this country is in a very strong position. I suggest that the least we can do is to give the best and finest medical and hospital treatment to the men who fought to keep this country safe. Is there anything wrong with that suggestion? It might cost a few million pounds more, but we shall shortly be discussing a Budget of about £1,400,000,000 for the current financial year.
Let us consider the attempts of some people to establish repatriation entitlement. I have had them come to me and write to me. I have sent them to the Minister, and 1 do not deny that he is sympathetic, but a matter of general policy is involved. They have told me of what one might almost call third-degree interrogations to which they are subjected when appearing before these tribunals. They are asked such questions as, “ Who cuts the lawn? “, obviously for the purpose of trapping them. That indicates that members of tribunals are out to ensure that as many cases as possible will be rejected to save public money. This is indicated, also, by Senator O’Byrne’s statement that over 80 per cent, of appeals to tribunals have been rejected. Yet, the Minister still says that the onus of proof rests on the department.
I repeat, with all the emphasis at my command, that every consideration should be given to an ex-serviceman who seeks medical or hospital treatment. A few days ago, I asked -
Will the Minister for Repatriation inform the Senate whether it is a fact that five wards at the Heidelberg Repatriation General Hospital are closed at present? If that is so, are those wards closed because of a shortage of staff? I have been assured that there is a shortage of staff, and that it is due entirely to the withdrawal by the Government of the bus service to the Heidelberg hospital . . .
That bus service had operated until about 1953. The Minister, in reply, made this astounding statement -
Sufficient wards are open at Heidelberg hospital to cater for those who are entitled to be admitted to it.
I know that to be absolutely incorrect. I know dozens of men who are anxious to be admitted to that hospital. They are dying while they are walking about. They are desperately in need of hospital treatment, but they cannot get accommodation at the Heidelberg hospital.
– Why do you not let me know who they are, so that I will be able to help?
– I am sick and tired of writing letters, and I am on the telephone continually to repatriation headquarters. The Minister went on -
At present, I think, there are 23 wards open.
I am not concerned with how many wards are open. I want to know how many are closed, and why they are closed. The Minister said that sufficient wards at that hospital were open to cater for all the ex-servicemen needing hospital treatment there. I. say that that is distinctly incorrect. The Minister continued -
I think there is now one more ward open than was the case when the bus service was running.
But he had said that the withdrawal of the bus service had nothing to do with the shortage of staff at Heidelberg. I have been assured by people who know the local conditions that that is the one and only reason for the shortage of staff there. Despite these assurances, the Minister persists in stating that the withdrawal of the service has had no effect on the staff.
I have already mentioned that there are five closed wards at Heidelberg. The
Minister stated that there are sufficient wards open at Heidelberg to cater for all the ex-servicemen who require hospital treatment. I should like to mention a case, which is typical of hundreds. To my personal knowledge, this particular case could be multiplied at least one hundred times. An ex-serviceman living at Parkville, who does not want his name divulged publicly - I shall give it to the Minister later - has gangrene in one foot. He is in receipt of a total and permanent incapacity pension and his wife looks after him. This man sits in the bath and picks pieces of flesh off his foot. When he was unable to gain admittance to Heidelberg, his wife went regularly to the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Pensioners’ Association to try to have treatment authorized for him. Due to worry, she is a nervous wreck and she cannot afford the expense of keeping her husband supplied with sedatives and other necessaries.
I shall now mention another case. I shall not mention the man’s name, but he lives in Essendon and he has a VX number. He reported to the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital for examination in January last, and called to see me on 14th August. This man enlisted in 1940, and was discharged in 1945. He served in Singapore and escaped from the Japanese. He then served in New Guinea, from where he was boarded home with a stomach complaint. When this man called to see me he said that he had not been informed of the result of the medical examination at Heidelberg, either verbally or by letter. His condition persisted and, in desperation, he went to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where he was advised to have an immediate operation. He had been under a local repatriation doctor at Essendon. When he went to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the hospital authorities endeavoured unsuccessfully to ascertain from the Repatriation Department the result of his medical examination in January last. The department refused to divulge the findings, but stated that that information would be available in a month’s time if requested in writing by the man concerned. His wife visited the Repatriation Department many times in an endeavour to obtain acceptance of her husband’s condition, but she received no satisfaction. She is a comparatively young woman of 49 years of age and has four children, the youngest of whom is three years of age and the eldest eleven years. The man has since died. 1 knew him personally and I can vouch for the particulars I have outlined. He was in receipt of a 10 per cent, pension. One would think that that fact would haveentitled him to treatment at the Heidelberg. Repatriation Hospital but, as I have said, he was unable to obtain treatment there..
I expect the Minister will say, when, replying, that the man’s complaint was not covered by his war pension, that it was not due to war service. He had a malignant growth. Who could say whether or not that, was caused or aggravated by war service?” Who could deny, at least, that it was aggravated by war service? This young man was. a public servant. He had exhausted hissick leave entitlement on full pay, and he was approaching the end of his leave entitlement on half pay when he came to me. I wrote to the Minister about the matter, but! the man died a few weeks ago.
I have in mind, also, the case of a man who served in the same unit as myself. I mentioned this matter in this chamber some time ago. At the end of the war he was. eager to get out of the Army and back into civilian life. He did comparatively well for quite a long time. Subsequently he became ill, could not obtain treatment, and died. I believe that every person who> served during the war was affected in some way by his war service, although the disability might not manifest itself until years, later. That is why I contend that, with a Budget of nearly £1,400,000,000, the Government should provide decent medical and ‘ hospital treatment for every man who served his country in either of the two world wars. That would not hurt the economy one iota. Why, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited makes a profit of £10,000,000 a year, as also does General Motors-Holden’s Limited, apart from money that is tucked away in depreciation reserves and reserves for taxation, to say nothing of watered capital and the like. This Government has. poured millions of pounds down the drain at St. Mary’s, yet it allows an ex-serviceman to die in the circumstances I have mentioned. I am not suggesting that he might not have died in any case, but at least he should have been given prompt hospital attention by the Repatriation Department. Had that been done, he would have been caused less worry and he would have had -a fair chance of recovery. As I have said, in desperation he went to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and he was in a pitiful condition when he called to see me. 1 have before me the particulars of another case concerning a man 67 years of age, which demonstrate the rigidity that is displayed in connexion with claims by ex-servicemen for medical treatment, despite the fact that facilities are available. 1 have pointed out previously in this chamber, and the Minister for Repatriation has admitted, that there are wards at Heidelberg that are closed. I suppose a similar state of affairs exists in all the States. 1 do not know the present position in relation to accommodation at the Caulfield Repatriation Hospital. However, the fact remains that hospital treatment could be provided for ex-servicemen who need it, and obviously it should be provided. The man I mentioned was told by a repatriation doctor on 26th June that he was not totally and permanently incapacitated as a result of his war service, but that that condition was due to other causes. He is unable to perform any worthwhile job, and so is precluded from earning more than a negligible amount of money each week. He cannot obtain proper hospital treatment.
Although we appreciate that the exserviceman will derive some benefit from the bill, we consider it necessary to point out what should be done to improve this legislation. It is useless to say that the economy of the country cannot stand it. The economy can stand it, and we should honour our obligations to those who have -served this country so well.
We do not wish to delay the passage of this legislation, but we do say, emphatically, that payment of the increased rates should be made retrospective to July, and that the means test for the total and permanent incapacity pension should be removed entirely because, even though the Minister says that the number of special rate pensioners is increasing, in fact, they are gradually dying out. Of the 4,000 in Victoria, whom I have mentioned, 73 per cent, are from World War I. That is an indication that the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen are dying off. In Victoria alone they are passing away at the rate of ten a week. I have before me figures which confirm this. The gentleman whom 1 interviewed on the occasion to which I have referred had to attend the funeral of a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman on that very day. The wife of the deceased had not been able to take her clothes off and go to bed properly for a fortnight. Her whole time had been occupied in looking after him - yet she received the princely sum of £1 15s. a week! The Government should consider, as a matter of urgency, increasing the allowance to the widows of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. As I have already said, only 200 of the 4,000 such persons in Victoria are receiving hospital treatment at Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital. Two thousand of the 4,000 are virtually bed-ridden. Those figures will give some indication of the difficulties which confront the wives of such men. The position can be relieved considerably by increasing the allowance for wives of such pensioners, and removing the means test entirely in such cases.
The Minister, in introducing this measure, gave certain figures which I believe were misleading. He said that whereas in 1950, repatriation benefits amounted to £22,250,000, the present figure was £59,250,000. The figures might be accurate, but they do not reflect the true position. There is a vast difference between the value of the £1 to-day and its value in 1950. Therefore, the difference in expenditure is not what it seems to be.
I appeal to the Government to consider what I have suggested, and to recognize that the least we can do for ex-servicemen is to remove the means test that is at present applied to applicants for the total and permanent incapacity pension. The best medical and hospital treatment available should be given these men. After all, if they are not cared for by the Repatriation Department they must seek medical and hospital treatment elsewhere. Why not give proper medical treatment to those who have served this country in the forces, and thus make their lot a great deal easier?
I cannot impress too strongly upon honorable senators the urgency of the matters to which I have referred. The cases which. I have cited should be sufficient, to make the Government realize its responsibility to our ex-servicemen. The least that it can do is relieve the anxiety and cares of those who are suffering as a result of their service to this country. I ask the Minister to give some indication in his reply that the matters raised by honorable senators on this side of the House will be considered.
– I rise to support the bill, and join previous speakers in congratulating the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) upon his proud record as Minister. He has held the portfolio since 1949, when this Government came to office, and his achievements as Minister for Repatriation in that period do both himself and the Government great credit. As I have said on previous occasions, it is very undesirable that exservice members of this House should come to grips on matters of repatriation. After all, we all are striving for the very best possible deal for our fellow ex-service men and women. Therefore, I regret very much that I shall have occasion to criticize Senate Sandford severely for the quite unwarranted and damaging things that he has said. He has reflected upon the character of men who are doing a magnificent job, both for Australia and the ex-servicemen, as members of the appeals tribunals. He said - and I wrote down his words - that these men were out to see that cases were rejected.
– I said that they were obsessed with the idea that they had to do that.
– It was a terrible thing to say. I remind him that the appeals tribunals include the direct representatives of ex-servicemen’s organizations - men with magnificent war records. To suggest that they would be influenced by dishonorable considerations is quite wicked.
– I did not use the word “ dishonorable “.
– I am sure that when Senator Sandford is in a more reflective mood he will agree that the members of the appeals tribunals can discharge their functions only according to the letter of the act. In practice, they do so with justice, and in accordance with all the principles of fair-play. To suggest that they do not is a terrible and wicked thing. It is a wicked thing to take a man’s character away when he is not present to defend himself. Senator Sandford thinks so little of this matter that he has left the chamber.
This bill has two main purposes. It raises, in a number of categories, the pensions of ex-servicemen and war widows and it provides that arrears can be paid in respect of a period longer than the six months provided for in the act at present. There seems to be some confusion about whether the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner is to receive the full benefit proposed. I think it is fairly apparent that the confusion that arose in the argument between Senator Sandford and the Minister is due to the fact that Senator Sandford is assuming that £15 15s. is the amount of the pension, whereas in fact the total and permanent incapacity pension will be £11. Surely there can be no argument about this. A totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner or 100 per cent, pensioner has a pension card on which the amount of the pension is recorded. The money is paid into his bank or he collects it. There is no variation. There may be some adjustments of other income or other pensions.
– That is what I am saying.
– Every totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner gets the full pension to which he is entitled. Surely there can be no argument about that. There may be some confusion in some cases as to whether he draws a service pension in addition, but that is a different matter.
– I told the honorable senator that.
Senator ANDERSON__ Senator Sandford told me that, but he did not seem to grasp the situation clearly.
– The fact is that the man does not get the cash.
– The Minister made it quite clear that every totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner will get 25s.
The war widows will receive an increase of 7s. 6d., bringing their pension to £4 17s. 6d. The totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen will receive an increase of 25s., and the service pension will be raised by 7s. 6d. to £4 7s. 6d. There is also a series of other adjustments which I do not want to develop now, because I propose to deal with some other aspects of the matter.
Senator O’Byrne, who led for the Opposition, dealt with the subject of ceilings. Very gently, I would remind him that in 1948 ceilings were imposed by the Chifley Government but the records show that since the advent of the present Government the ceilings have been progressively raised, and finally have been removed. For that reason, 1 think honorable senators opposite should tread gently when dealing with that matter. In 1948 or 1949, if a 40 per cent, pensioner became unemployed and sought the unemployment benefit his application was refused, because of his 40 per cent, pension. That shows how cruel the treatment was in those days. Thank God, those days are gone! This Government has a good record with pensions. I think every fair-minded man will agree that there has been a great improvement in that sphere since this Government came into office. Indeed, the ex-servicemen’s organizations are appreciative of what has been done.
I want to refer to hospitalization, and so that I shall be in order in doing so, I relate my remarks to the 100 per cent, pensioner. The 100 per cent, pensioner, of course, can be taken into a general military hospital, even though the ailment from which he is suffering is not related to his accepted disabilities. If a man is receiving less than a 100 per cent, pension, he may be taken into a repatriation hospital for diagnosis and report, except at weekends. It does seem to me that we have reached the time when we should extend this concession so that a man receiving less than a 100 per cent, pension will be entitled to be taken into a repatriation general hospital and given some treatment, irrespective of whether his ailment is war-caused. The situation can arise that an 80 per cent, pensioner is taken in for diagnosis and report and when it is found that his ailment is not due to war service, the repatriation hospital has to transfer him to a general hospital. We all know that in the big cities general hospitalization is difficult to obtain. 1 ask the Minister to consider a provision that an ex-serviceman receiving less than a 100 per cent, pension shall be entitled to enter a repatriation general hospital, not on the basis of diagnosis and report, but on the basis of receiving treatment in the same way as a 100 per cent, pensioner.
I should also like to refer to exprisoners of war. Some time after they returned to this country, prisoners of war who had been in the hands of the Japanese were given a special medical check. That was a good thing. It was done in order to find out how they were rehabilitating themselves medically and whether they were getting along as well as could reasonably be expected. Certain conclusions were drawn from that medical check. But time marches on. Most of those men who lived for something like three and a half years under very arduous conditions, to put it no higher, are reaching the age at which any disability arising from the hardships that they endured is likely to appear. I suggest to the Minister that it would be a good idea to have, if not a full medical check-up of all ex-prisoners of war, at least a check-up of a cross section of them, so that the department could know what is happening medically to the men. As we move in ex-servicemen’s circles, we hear that such and such a person personally known to us is a bit under the weather. We hear of another man whose disability seems to be catching up with him. When we sit down and think about it for a while, we realize that men who were eligible for war service in 1939 are now reaching the age at which, even if they had always lived under the best of conditions, they are likely to be suffering from some medical disability. When we add to that three and a half years of starvation, privation, cruelty and lots of other things, we can appreciate why a close watch should be kept and, perhaps, a cross-sectional medical checkup made to ascertain the real position.
The Opposition has circulated an amendment which provides that the increases should be made retrospective to 1st July. Ex-servicemen do not want any more than what they are entitled to, and they would not want to have an increase made retrospective to 1st July at the expense of another section of the community. Obviously, we cannot logically argue that retrospectivity should be granted in relation to war pensions and not in relation to all the social services benefits. For that reason, I think that the granting of retrospectivity is beyond the realm of possibility.
The plain fact of the matter is that a government must accept responsibility for what is done. The allocation of benefits is a matter for its judgment, and it has only a certain sum to expend. If it started with the assumption that retrospectivity would be granted in relation to all benefits, the result would be that the recipients would lose some of the increase which otherwise would be granted. A government, having determined how much it can make available for various benefits, seeks to ascertain the most logical and fairest way in which to apportion them. In other words, if a person has a pound of sugar to distribute, he cannot distribute a little more than a pound. I think that in reality the amendment is not a serious one. It is all very well for the Opposition to propose certain things but the Government must accept responsibility for the allocation of funds that are available. It certainly could not grant retrospectivity in this case without granting it in all other cases.
I refer now to the provision for four years’ retrospectivity in relation to arrears of pensions that are granted after production of fresh evidence. I do not think it is wise to refer to certain cases, as did Senator Sandford. I should say that the best way of dealing with those cases is to see the Minister, whose door is always open to us all, and place the facts before him. He and his departmental officers will then do everything possible to help. I repeat that I do not think it is wise to refer to individual cases in this chamber, because human beings are involved and perhaps they do not wish their affairs to be published all over Australia.
As the Minister knows, I was particularly interested in a case in which, after the production of fresh medical evidence, the appeal was allowed, and there was great joy in the hearts of all those persons who worked on behalf of the widow and her children.. Naturally there was much disappointment when we had a further look at the act and discovered that the pension would be retrospective for only six months. It is gratifying that the Government has reviewed this aspect of the matter. Because a case is rejected first by the Repatriation Commission and subsequently by an appeal tribunal, it does not necessarily follow that it will be rejected for ever. Following the production of fresh medical evidence, and because of the operation of the onusofproof provision, an application for a pension can succeed, and it is now proposed that justice shall be done to the extent that the pension will be made retrospective for four years.
I do not wish to appear to be difficult about the matter, but I again tell Senator Sandford that I do not think he should reflect upon the appeal tribunals. They are constituted of ex-servicemen who are there to do a certain job. If any fault is to be found,, it is not their fault; rather, it is our fault. They have a responsibility to the Government, and they can operate only in. accordance with the provisions of the act and the dictates of their consciences. I believe that they have performed their task faithfully and well.
To say that 80 per cent, of the cases are rejected is very confusing, because the appeal tribunals deal only with the residue of cases that have been dealt with by the Repatriation Commission. If percentages are to be quoted, they must include all cases that go before the commission. To suggest that 80 per cent, of the cases are rejected is quite unreal. Please do not let us say things about men who are rendering a service in Australia and who have given valiant service in time of war.
I congratulate the Minister upon having introduced this measure, and I congratulate the Government upon its repatriation record.
– I join other honorable senators in congratulating the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), just as I have congratulated previous occupants of that portfolio upon the work they have done in the interests of ex-servicemen. The Minister does all he possibly can to assist, but we must realize that he has his limitations under the act. However, when all is said and done, we are now dealing with government policy as it is reflected in this measure. Even though other honorable senators, including Senator Cole, are satisfied with the bill, I venture to suggest that the Minister himself is not wholly satisfied with it but that, if he could use has persuasive powers to .the full, he would persuade the Cabinet to approve greater increases.
I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to give credit to the staff of the Repatriation Department. At all times I have been shown the utmost courtesy, andhave been assisted in every possible way.
I am not saying that I have had too much success.
I say for Senator Anderson’s benefit that he misunderstood the statement that was made by Senator Sandford. Senator Sandford was not casting any aspersions on the members of the tribunals. What he said was that the soldiers who appear before the tribunals - not the R.S.L. - feel that their cause is hopeless because they are limited in one way or another in putting their case. They cannot give the information they would like to give.
I want to make a few comments on the speech that was delivered by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labour party (Senator Cole). I have never heard such an amazing speech before. I do not know how the Minister for Repatriation was able to stand up, because Senator Cole was on his back and crawling all over him. The Minister is a limbless soldier. He lost a leg in World War I., and I do not know how he could stand up under such a hefty load as Senator Cole. I congratulate him on his marathon effort in carrying Senator Cole around. I can assure Senator Cole that the Minister did not come down in the last shower. When he wants to buck Senator Cole off his back, it will not take him long.
I am sure that the Minister will not agree with Senator Cole that the onus of the cost of burying an ex-serviceman of either of the two world wars should fall upon their comrades who are left. He suggested that they could put in a couple of bob towards the funeral. Just imagine a responsible senator making such a statement in this chamber.
– You are simply being stupid.
– That statement was made by Senator Cole. I shall stand corrected if any honorable senator will deny that those words were used by Senator Cole. If the deceased digger has not been treated well by a Labour or a Liberal government, at least the cost of his last rites should be properly met.
– I am prepared to put in a couple of bob for somebody.
– It is probable that somebody would put in more than a couple of bob to get rid of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator
Henty), but we are talking about the soldiers who fought for Australia. Senator Cole said that every ex-serviceman should be given a small pension. Then if he contracted cancer, he could be given a full, pension. What a ridiculous statement! Why give him a small pension? Would1: that prove to the tribunals to-day that an. ex-serviceman is suffering from an injury that was caused by a war service? That: is such a ridiculous statement. I can tell. Senator Cole that there are not many honorable senators on either side of the chamber who would be prepared to accept such a< suggestion.
– You would not even> understand it.
– Senator Cole is supposed to have been a schoolteacher. I would not want him to teach any of my children. If he is typical of Tasmanian schoolteachers, I pity future generations of Tasmanians. He cannot even speak the Queen’s English.
– If Senator Hendrickson! is typical of those who are educated in. Victoria, pity help the Victorian Department of Education.
– My main, concern is for the soldiers of World War I.. I do not think that any government, including that of the little Digger, Mr. William Morris Hughes, ever gave the soldiers of World War I. the treatment they deserved. World War I. was different from World War II. We had had experience of war in 1939, but the men of 1914-18, who were the cream of Australia, were subjected to privations that had! been unequalled in any earlier war and probably will never be equalled in any future war. When they returned, they were not looking for a small pension. They were young and healthy. They had been, through crucial times in the trenches in France. The winter of 1916 was the coldest in France for 40 years. Some of our soldiers lay out in the fields, not for days, but for weeks, in places like Delville Wood’ and others. They stood in mud up to their knees for weeks on end. They returned to Australia about 1918 when they were 22 or 23 years of age. They did not know what the years ahead held for them. They did not want a pension. They wanted toget out of uniform. They did not hang. about the offices of the Repatriation Department, but went back to their jobs.
– They are over 60 years of age now.
– Many are 66 or 67 years old. They are physical derelicts now. They are the men about whom I am concerned. The Minister for Repatriation, by way of interjection, said to Senator Sandford, “ You give me the names of the men of World War I. who cannot get medical treatment from the Repatriation Department and I will attend to them “. I have written numerous letters to the Minister and I have always had very courteous replies. He has probably made a close investigation of these cases, but I have yet to strike a winner. None of those men has been able to satisfy the authorities that his ailments are due to war service.
– There was nothing on their discharge to show that they were unfit?
– In many instances their discharge showed that they were medically unfit. What does that mean? I do not want to criticize the Minister unjustly, but he must remember the cases I have put before him unless he gets so many that he would not remember the comparatively few I sponsored. Those ex-servicemen went back to their jobs when they were discharged after World
WaT I. They did not look for pensions. The Labour Government put the onus of proof on the Repatriation Department. I do not give the Labour Government much credit for that because it was only justice. There should not be much need for proof because if anybody looks at these exservicemen, he would indeed have poor eyesight if he could not see the evidence of their suffering. They have failed to convince a tribunal on evidence that they are entitled to treatment by the Repatriation Department.
What evidence would one expect to be placed before the tribunal? Surely one would expect that if some of the men who fought in the trenches with a soldier were present when certain things happened and evidence was available from a repatriation doctor, that should be sufficient. No fear! Such a case is not considered to be proved. The appeal is refused, and the exserviceman is told that if he can get any further proof he may appeal again after a short period. How in the name of Heaven is the soldier from the first world war - I am speaking only of him at the moment - to get further evidence beyond what he has already presented to the tribunal? I do not wish to mention names, but I can quote one case and I am confident that it will be admitted the soldier had something wrong with him when he was discharged. His wife and sister worked, and they took it in turns to look after him. His application was supported by the repatriation doctor in Coburg. His evidence was also supported by other soldiers in his regiment. His wife asked me to see her. She offered to come to see me, but it was so hot that I said I would drive out to Coburg, and I did so. When I went into the room, this man’s eyes were closed. I said that I would wait, that there was no hurry, but his wife said, “No, he is not asleep. He is deaf and blind. His heart has failed him and he has paralysis down the left side. He is bed-ridden.” That man was receiving the invalid pension despite the fact that there was evidence upon which these people who constitute these tribunals, if they were in any way humane, could have granted him some relief. There was the evidence of the repatriation doctor, and there was the evidence of his comrades who were at the war with him that he was fighting with them in the trenches under circumstances which could have contributed to the ailments from which he was suffering. That man’s appeal was dismissed! The doctor offered to take the sufferer along in his own car to the hearing, but, as a matter of fact, he was unable to put the man in the car. I repeat that his appeal was dismissed. That is what goes on in the repatriation of these soldiers.
We should not be considering to-night whether the Labour party or the Liberal party or some one else has done something better or something good for the returned soldiers; what we should be considering is what benefits we should give these men who gave all they had in fighting to defend this nation. We should be considering what comforts, what social security we can give these gallant men in this buoyant period through which Australia is passing. Are we giving these soldiers all that we can and should give them? That is what we have to consider. The Minister says that the total value of benefits given has risen from £22,000,000 to £49,000,000. That means nothing at all.
– The figure is £59,000,000.
– You can make it £69,000,000 if you like; it means nothing at all. We have been told by honorable senators to-night that returned soldiers set up a committee which made certain recommendations to the Minister and that the Minister gave them what they wanted. All 1 can say is that they were easily satisfied. The Minister or any other honorable senator has only to go to any returned soldiers’ branch or any reunion to learn that the soldiers are not getting all the are entitled to have. They are not getting enough to enable them to enjoy the little necessaries of life in their old age after Having given everything they could in defence of this country.
Today we were told about soldiers from ihe first and second world wars who set up an industry making toys for children. They did so only because they were partly incapacitated. Yet the members of the Democratic Labor party and Senator McCallum suggested that we should wipe out their industry, that we should take from them the opportunity to enjoy some comfort in order to give work to the people who maimed them and in order to give profits to the Japanese.
– We said nothing of the sort.
– That is the statement they made.
– We did not say anything of the sort.
– The members of the Democratic Labour party supported the suggestion made from the other side of the Senate. And those soldiers established that industry only because they could not do any other manual work! The members of the Government and the members of the Democratic Labour party . are delighted because the Government has increased the total and permanently incapacity pension to £11.
The basic wage is about £14 a week, yet these totally and permanently incapacitated sional men, who gave their all in defence pensioners - artisans, tradesmen, profes- of this country - are remunerated with a paltry £11 a week for having made that sacrifice!
– In 1949, Labour did not give them anything.
– Never mind about what we did not do. That has nothing to do with the case. The responsible government to-day is satisfied that £11 a week is ample reward for those people who are blind or totally incapacitated as a result of having defended this country.
– You would have them on the same rate as the age pensioner.
– This is a great country. It was worth fighting for.
– You got a bit out of it.
– Yes. It is fortunate that 1 am not depending upon you, for then I should not be able to live very well. In these prosperous times, and without booming ourselves up to the skies, surely we can do more for these men. I know that the Minister is most sympathetic. 1 know that he is not satisfied with this bill, that it is merely the best he could extract from the Cabinet. I remind the Senate that this Government proposes to spend £200,000,000 on defence this year. We have budgeted for a total expenditure of, 1 think, almost £1,300,000,000. Prior to going to war, the soldiers contributed to Commonwealth revenues, and are contributing to them now. If the Government can afford £200,000,000 for defence, surely it is not expecting too much to ask that it expend a small part of that £200,000,000 on enabling these returned servicemen who have fought already in defence of the country to live decently.
Disregarding what any other government has done or has not done, let us consider the measure before us now. And here I emphasize that I do not seek to take any credit from the Minister. I know he has done his best. But in my opinion there is nothing too good for the soldier, and it irks me when T hear honorable senators tell the people over the broadcasting system that they have done something wonderful by giving the totally and permanently incapacitated soldier £1 1 a week after having voted themselves £3 19s. 6d. a day by way of an allowance for living in Canberra and when I know that a Minister gets almost the equivalent of one week’s payment to a totally incapacitated soldier as his allowance for living away from home for one day. Let me say at once that I do not think either a Minister or an honorable senator is overpaid, but I say emphatically that those men who fought in defence of this country and who have been maimed in fighting for it are entitled to a better deal from this Parliament in these prosperous times. I hope that the amendment to be moved by Senator O’Byrne will be carried. The cost will not “be much, and some small measure of relief will be given to some ex-servicemen.
I have not heard one honorable senator on the Government side say one word about the plight of the nurses who rendered yeoman and gallant service to this country during both world wars. I remind the Senate -that there are many such nurses to be considered. Only the other day I spoke to one of them in the country. She was one of the leading nurses in the first world war and she is now struggling to live on the meagre pension allowed her by this Government to-day. Most of those nurses remained unmarried. They have continued in their nursing profession. Surely the Minister for Repatriation, the Government, or whoever “formulated this scheme, could have given some thought to relief for those nurses who to-day are from 65 to 75 years of age.
This bill will give some measure of relief to some persons who are receiving pen.sions. I do not say that the Minister has not done the best he can do, but I appeal to him to put before the Government the proposition that any ex-serviceman of “World War I., who is ill to-day, be given the right to occupy some of the empty wards in the General Repatriation Hospital at Heidelberg and receive proper care. No malingerers will be found amongst them. These are men who did not look for pensions. They were healthy when they returned from the war, and they now look to the Government for some measure of relief. Not many soldiers of World War I. who are dependent on the Government remain. Surely those who are left should not be merely awarded a service or age pension and allowed to lie sick anywhere they can lay their body down, because the Government says that their illness is not due to -war service. Who can say for certain that :such illnesses are not due to war service? Let the Government be humane and give to ex-servicemen of World War I. who are ill, the right to enter hospital and be treated during the last days of their lives. I shall support the amendment foreshadowed by Senator O’Byrne.
– in reply - I have listened with great attention to this debate, and I thank honorable senators who have expressed their appreciation of what is to be done in terms of this bill, but it grieves me to feel that some honorable senators are bringing politics into repatriation. It is a great pity that we cannot keep politics out of it. I listened with great attention to the last speaker, and I have no hesitation at all in saying that his speech was absolutely loaded with politics.
– With what?
– With politics, party politics. Everything that the honorable senator suggested this Government should do could easily have been done when the Labour government was in power for eight years.
– I told you that it failed.
– It failed lamentably. Had it not failed so lamentably, it probably would have remained in office in 1949. It was the dissatisfaction of the returned soldiers over what had not been done during that government’s term of office that turned it out. At least, that dissatisfaction was a contributing factor in the defeat of that government. Two men who had held the portfolios of Minister for Repatriation during the regime of the Chifley Government lost their seats. I do not want to bring politics into this discussion, but I am forced to do so. Honorable senators opposite know very well that they are just humbugs.
Senator O’Byrne, whom I honour as an ex-serviceman, should ascertain the facts before he starts to speak in this chamber. To-night he just did not know what he was talking about. Senator Sandford, too. did not know what he was talking about. The totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman, the special rate pensioner, receives the full war pension to which he is entitled. At present he receives £9 15s. a week, and his wife £1 15s. 6d., making a total of £11 10s. 6d. In my second-reading speech, I tried to explain to honorable senators that this Government had been able to benefit the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner by bringing him within the scope of the social service legislation.
– Are not social service payments adjusted in relation to his pension?
– I am trying to explain the facts to the Senate. When we came into office-
– What happens now?
– The honorable senator does not like it, I know. The Chifley Government in 1948 applied a ceiling, which debarred war pensioners from the full benefits of the social service legislation. Had we not removed the ceiling in 1955, the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner would not, even at present, have had any benefit from social service pensions. He would have been debarred from benefiting because of the operation of the ceiling provision. The maximum amount he could have received would have been a war pension of £9 15s., and the maximum amount that a man and wife could have received in war pension would have been £11 10s. 6d. The removal of the ceiling meant that his pension could be counted as income, and he was then able to receive in social service payments the difference between his war pension and the allowed income. This was the difference between £11 10s. 6d. and £15. Was there anything wrong with giving to a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner the benefit that an ordinary civilian had? That is what we gave him. The Labour government deprived him of that benefit. Senator O’Byrne said that we are applying a means test to entitlement for a war pension. No means test at all is applied in relation to a war pension. The pensioner receives the full war pension, but we have been able to give him also the same benefits in relation to social services as are enjoyed by an ordinary civilian who receives superannuation or other income. He can now receive a maximum of £15 lis. in pension plus income.
– Is he subject to any means test?
– His war pension is not subject to any means test.
– Is he subject to any means test?
– Of course, if he is getting a social service pension he must be subject to a means test, but the honorable senator’s statement was that such a pensioner would not benefit by 25s. a week from the passage of this bill.
– He will not, either.
– He will get the benefit of an increase of 25s. a week.
– It will be deducted from his social service pension.
– He is entitled to a war pension of £11 and his wife is entitled to £1 15s. 6d.- a total of £12 15s. 6d. If he had been on the same basis as the Labour Government put him on, he would get no more than £12 15s. 6d. But now he gets £15 15s.
– He gets £3 a week more.
– Where does he get that from?
– From social services because the pension plus income rises by 15s. Have we done wrong in giving him that much extra?
– Then what is all the fuss about?
– You still subject him to a means test.
– No. His war pension is £12 15s. 6d., but he can have other income to bring the amount up to £15 15s. a week.
– That is where the means test applies.
– No, you said that he would not get that 25s. Those were your exact words.
– He does not get the benefit of it.
– Yes, he does, because he gets his war pension. He does not get the same amount of social service benefit, but he gets £3 more. You cannot: have it both ways. Either we have a ceiling or we do not.
– Well, do not have a ceiling! That is what we are arguing.
– The Labour Government imposed a special ceiling.
– But you said that this Government abolished it.
– There is a ceiling on a social service pension. Put is as you like. There is a limit to income plus pension under the Social Services Act. Senator O’Byrne should know that, at the present time, that is £7 10s. a week. When this measure is passed, the amount will go up to £7 17s. 6d., and the amount for a married couple will increase from £15 to £15 15s. A married couple will be better off by 15s. a week as a result of this measure. The special rate pensioner who has no other income will receive £12 15s. 6d. instead of £11 10s.
– That is right.
– Well, what are you grumbling about?
– He would get £17 2s. if the means test were abolished.
– I say again that it is very easy for honorable senators to sit in their places and criticise this Government, but Labour, when in office, made no attempt to abolish the means test. In fact. Labour imposed a special means test to bar a war pension.
– This Government could have done much better than it has.
– We have done much better than Labour did. When we came to office in 1949 the special rate pension was £5 6s. a week, and the wife’s pension was £1 10s. - a total of £6 16s. That was as much as the pensioner could get. The limit now is £15 15s. So if you ask me, I say that we have done very well indeed for that particular type of pensioner. I have been forced to say these things because of Senator O’Byrne’s misstatements. They were not really untruthful; he just did not know anything about the matter when he made his rambling statements.
– But the Minister has admitted my point.
– Senator O’Byrne thought that he would get away with those statements, but he could not do so, because I know the position fully. However, I am not going to argue about it any more.
Honorable senators opposite have made a great song to-night about this Government not giving to the returned men of the 1914-18 war the full benefits of repatriation in respect of hospitalization and medical benefits. Something has been done in this connexion. The special rate pensioner is provided with free hospital and medical attention for his war-caused disability. The same provision is made for the 100 per cent, general rate pensioner. I hope that, in time, we will be able to include the 70 per cent, pensioners, or something like that. Let me tell the Senate that we cannot just say, “ Repatriation will take over all of the 1914-18 returned soldier patients “, because we have not room for all of them in our hospitals. At the present time, about 610,000 ex-servicemen are receiving repatriation pensions and benefits. The Opposition suggests that we should throw open the repatriation hospitals to all ex-servicemen of World War I., numbering between 400.000 and 500,000. I should like to know what would happen if we did not have beds available for ex-servicemen who are at present entitled to hospital treatment for war-caused disabilities because we had filled up the hospitals with patients who, under the present act, are not entitled to treatment. It is necessary to give these matters considerable thought and to plan ahead. I should not like it to be thought that the Repatriation Department is not studying all these things; they cannot all be provided immediately. We have to find out where we are going and how we can continue to go that way.
– We were given them in Tasmania up to the introduction of the Page scheme, when they were taken away.
– Nothing at all has been, taken away from any returned soldier or his widow. Indeed, in Tasmania we fixed up a female ward, to which widows have access. That was especially done last year so that they would be provided for.
– Because accommodation at the general hospital is not available to them?
– A widow has no entitlement.
– She did previously in Tasmania.
– No, she did not. A widow may be admitted to a repatriation hospital only if there is a vacant bed.
– Tasmania had a State scheme, which applied to every one.
– I am talking about repatriation hospitals. We have opened a female ward in Tasmania. Provided there is a vacant bed, a widow who has an acute sickness can be admitted and receive attention.
One or two other matters were raised, but I do not think there is any need for me to discuss them now. Reference has been made to the intention of the Opposition to move an amendment in committee. I shall deal with it at the appropriate time. I thank the Senate for the manner in which it has received the bill.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally pui the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Earlier, Senator Vincent asked by what form of legislation the Government proposed to impose a tax on diesel oil fuel. To make the matter quite clear, I might say that it will be dealt with by what is technically described as a “ Tariff Proposal “ - not by what is known in common parlance as a regulation.
– Am I to understand from what the Minister has said that the tax is at present being collected pursuant to a Tariff Proposal, and that the proposed tax envisaged in the Budget will be introduced, in due course, by way of a bill?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 October 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19571002_senate_22_s11/>.