22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question without notice to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Having regard to current difficulties in Australia’s overseas trading, will the Minister state, first, whether consideration has been given to a suggestion in the Sunday press that South American countries presented an opportunity for Australian exports, particularly of coal; secondly, whether it is intended that the Minister for Trade, before returning to Australia, should explore the possibility of increasing exports to South American countries; and, thirdly, what steps, if any, the Government has in contemplation to increase Australia’s exports to Asian countries?
– I am able to tell the Leader of the Opposition that a good deal of thought has ‘been given to the possibility of increasing trade with South America. This is a market that has only recently been opened up. We have been successful in obtaining orders for two shipments of coal. In fact, I have had a series of discussions with the merchants who got the orders and with the representative in Australia of the Argentine. The difficulty does not lie in the selling of our coal or other products to South America but in the fact that South America, like a number of other places, is short of foreign exchange arid is looking for two-way trade. As I said, this is a new chapter that is being opened up, and it is receiving a lot of attention. I do not think it would be practicable to ask the Minister for Trade to call in at South America on his way back home from overseas. The facts that are available do not warrant that course being taken.
As to the question of trade with SouthEast Asia, I remind Senator McKenna that we have recently concluded trade treaties with Japan and Ceylon and that a trade ship is at present on its way to South-East Asia, Japan, and other parts in that area. Other trade missions have visited the area, too. Business generally is developing quite well, and I think I can say that the Department of Trade would welcome suggestions for developing that business still further.
– On 14th May last, I asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question concerning unfair tactics in regard to the allotment of shipping space for potatoes that had been adopted by merchants’ combines and shipping companies to stifle the operations of independent merchants. As the finances of the potato-farmers are in a parlous state, and as many of them are likely to leave the industry, which would lead to unemployment, will the Minister look into the matter, as he promised on 14th May? Will he take particular note of the fact that block stacking of potatoes, which ‘is desired by the merchants’ combines and shipping companies, is causing a grave deterioration in the quality of potatoes shipped and is resulting in ‘falling prices and a lack of demand for Tasmanian potatoes? Will the Minister ensure that a weekly shipping service to Sydney is available, so that the potato market there may be kept supplied, with neither a glut nor a famine?
– I shall be pleased to have a look at all the matters raised by the ‘honorable senator, and to give him an answer before the present sittings end.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: Is it a fact that he announced yesterday that there was a likelihood of installing an atomic reactor for the generation of electric power somewhere in the Snowy Mountains, so that the power thus generated could be used to help to meet the base load of related electrical systems during the day, while demand is high and constant, and allowing hydroelectric power to be used, most economically, for peak load purposes? Also is it a fact that the Minister considers that this atomic power could then be used at night, when demand for power is light, to pump water back to higher storages so that it could be drawn on as an extra source of hydro-electric power, when required to meet peak loads? If it is the intention of the Government to install such a reactor in the Snowy Mountains area in the future, will the Minister investigate the possibility and also the practicability of linking the South Australian electrical system with that of New South Wales’ and Victoria, so that power could be interchanged, particularly at peak periods, which, because of the variation in times between the States, might be expected to be at different hours?
– I think that the honorable senator overstates what I said at the federal council meeting of the Liberal party yesterday. I did draw attention to the tremendous added potentialities of the Snowy Mountains scheme that would result from the use of pump power in conjunction with the present hydroelectric schemes. It is possible that an atomic power station could be the base load station for that extension of the Snowy scheme. It is possible, of course, that we could take the base load power from the State power systems, but the foundation of the idea is added base load power allied to re-use of water - running the water over the turbines twice, giving added potential.
As to the linking of the South Australian system with the New South Wales and Victorian systems, I think that the opportunity has passed for that to be done. Whether power could be transmitted from the Snowy scheme to Adelaide is a technical question. I believe that it could be transmitted. Whether it could be transmitted economically is another question. I believe that that could be done. However, as matters now stand, agreements have been completed between all the governments concerned setting out the basis upon which the power and the water from the Snowy scheme will be shared between the States concerned.
– I preface a series of questions to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry by stating that when 1 was in Tully, north Queensland, last week it was being freely circulated amongst the cane farmers by members of the Australian Labour party that the trade delegation from red China that recently visited Australia was prepared to buy any quantity of our sugar, but was prevented from doing so by our trade policy which, the delegation alleged, bans the sale of sugar to red China. I now ask the Minister:
– Senator Maher was good enough to indicate to me that he intended to ask these questions. I communicated this information to my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, who has furnished the following reply: -
The agreement limits Australia’s total sugar exports this year to a quota of 632,000 tons, of which the greater part will go to the traditional preferential markets of the United Kingdom and Canada, and to New Zealand. In addition, a substantial quantity of sugar is being exported to Japan, and the balance of the export quota will almost certainly be sold to Hong Kong, Ceylon and Malaya.
It is understood that the greater part of the above production is required for consumption within China, and that mainland China’s sugar export trade, when there is a surplus, is on a limited scale.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development, relating to our overseas trade. When I asked the Minister a question on this subject last week, he replied that he could not see how countries to the north of Australia could form a market for Australia’s metals. He generally ridiculed my suggestion in that connexion and, in rounding off his answer, made a savage attack on the United States of America, exclaiming, “We shall never forget”. On the same day, in another place, one of the Minister’s colleagues stated that Australian lead and zinc producers would try to establish markets in the Far East, including Communist China, and he went on to say that the situation in America did not call for hysterical outbursts. As these totally different expressions of governmental outlook indicate that the Government does not know which way it is going in dealing with this subject, will the Minister ask the National Capital Development Commission immediately to erect at the entrance to this capital city a monument to the ancient Latin deity Janus, who is symbolically depicted with a double head - one facing each way - with an appropriate inscription indicating that the present Menzies Administration is a howling failure?
– I should have thought that the honorable senator would have hesitated to mention Janus and the way he is heading when the Labour party itself is heading for an election - with the inevitable result that is going to befall that party. I am sorry that the honorable senator thought that I ridiculed his proposals last week, because that was not my intention. Whether we can open up markets for our various products in particular countries is a matter of opinion. He is a brave man who would stand up and say “ Yes “ or “ No “ on a particular matter. As I said to the federal council of the Liberal party last night, I think that the limiting of imports to the United States creates short-term problems for Australia, but in considering the long-term prospects it must be remembered that Australia is the world’s cheapest producer of lead, and the third largest producer of zinc. I am certain that, though the situation in America is not helpful, our great mining industries will nevertheless survive. In my opinion, we will look more and1 more to them to provide us with the export income which we shall need if we are to develop manufacturing to the extent necessary to enable Australia to support the additional population that we want.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether it is a fact that the International Tin Council recently stopped purchasing tin at the floor price of £730 sterling a ton. Can the Minister say why the council dropped out of the market, and has he been informed how long it intends to stay out?
– No, 1 cannot give the honorable senator the information which he seeks. I think that the operations of the International Tin Council have been among the most interesting in world metal markets for a long time past. The story, as I understand it, is this: The Russians flooded the London market with tin. Despite the fact that tin-producing countries had reduced their exports to 50 per cent, of normal the Russian influx of tin caused a collapse of prices. The price of tin fell from £735 a ton to £640 a ton; it went back to £680 a ton, and the International Tin Council stopped buying. There was a further move, under which importing countries agreed to limit their intake of tin from Russian and Sino-Soviet countries. The Tin Council met in London, I think last Thursday. There appears to be a good deal of secrecy - and quite rightly - about what the Tin Council manager is doing. I do not think he is wearing his heart on his sleeve, or saying whether or not he is buying. Anyhow, the net result of it all is, I think, very good indeed, in that yesterday the price of tin was back to £730, or just slightly below the floor level fixed in the tin agreement.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether he was correctly reported, when speaking about the Snowy River extension, as having said that lack of water resources was not likely to restrict Australian growth and development for, perhaps, 100 years. Also is it a fact that conferences are to be called with the States to investigate supplies of underground water? Will the proposed conference with Western Australia be fully informed of the preliminary surveys and work already completed in the Kimberleys and the Ord River basin? Will the Minister take particular notice of that excellent report, No. 25, of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, a body which has done a considerable amount of research work in that area and whose report says that the Kimberleys project could serve as a prototype for similar irrigation settlements elsewhere in the Kimberleys arid in northern Australia in general?
– I did endeavour to outline, in the speech that I made, that we were inclined to be too despondent about the extent to which we were lacking in adequate water resources. I pointed out that we in Australia were not using our water resources to the extent that other countries were using such resources. I also pointed out that a great deal of research into the management of our water resources was going on and that we were reviving the artesian water conferences which were held in years gone by. I also pointed out that we were asking the States to agree that those conferences should consider not only artesian water, but also all underground water supplies. It is a matter of very great interest, and I agree with what the honorable senator says about the work that is being done by the C.S.I.R.O. on the Ord River. I was out there a few months ago’ with some other honorable senators, and it is very good to have the opportunity of seeing the work that the organization is doing in that part of the world.
– Before addressing a question to the Leader of the Government, I take this opportunity to express pleasure at seeing the Minister for Repatriation, Senator Cooper, back in his place in the Senate.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– In view of the serious economic position of the Australian dairying industry, will the Leader of the Government indicate to the Senate, before the closing of Parliament, whether the Government intends to take action to assist the industry in its present crisis, a crisis which has been caused by inflationary conditions for which the industry cannot be held responsible, but for which the Government must accept a large measure of responsibility?
– I am aware that the subject raised by the honorable senator is one to which my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, has given very earnest and serious consideration. I shall be pleased to bring the honorable senator’s question to his notice.
– I ask the Minister for National Development, as the Minister charged with administering the Commonwealth and State Housing’ Agreement, whether it is a fact that under that agreement funds are made available to State governments for the construction of houses. Will the Minister consider altering the agreement to permit State government housing commissions to spend some of the available funds on roads, water supplies and sewerage for the new housing sub-divisions, as, at the present time, local government authorities either cannot raise the necessary funds or have not the opportunity to provide these facilities at the time the houses are ready for occupation? Is it not a fact that, should these facilities be provided by the housing authorities during the period of construction of the houses, the cost would be decreased considerably and local government bodies would be relieved of what, in many cases, is an almost intolerable burden?
– The honorable senator raises a question which is really too big to deal with without notice. It has been the subject of debate and consideration at, I think, most of the conferences that have been held with the housing Ministers at the time the housing agreements were completed. It has also been the subject of discussion at meetings of such Ministers. I think that, in the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, it would be possible for a State to do a certain amount of developmental work in a group housing scheme. I would have to refer again to the agreement to make certain on that point. The great argument has been that the States desire to include not only houses, but also other facilities such as shops, parks and developments of that kind’. I am sorry that I cannot answer the question more adequately, but what I have said outlines the position as I see it.
– I preface my question to the- Minister for Shipping and Transport: by saying that not very long agc the planning research engineer of the Victorian Country Roads Board stated that an; additional £30,000,000 was required to meet the necessary road-building programme. He stated also that the recent increased allocation of money had done little to- relieve the grave financial shortage. He went on to say that a conference of road authorities of Australia took place in Melbourne at which it was agreed to prepare a detailed survey, on a uniform basis, of the nation-wide need for primary and subsidiary roads which are so essential for intelligent future planning at local, State and national levels. Will the Minister consider convening a Commonwealth-State conference to discuss this most important matter? If money is not available from other sources, will the Government consider allocating some of the defence vote to road construction in view of the great strategic value of an efficient road system?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable senator refers, tout I am rather surprised that such a statement should have been made by a gentleman occupying the position mentioned because, as a- member of the Victorian Country Roads Board, he should, I think, know of the existence of a survey of primary and secondary roads which was made some three years ago. From that survey was evolved the basic plan that is being followed by the various State road authorities. The provision of finance is a dual responsibility, and it is a matter of record that the Commonwealth Government has made increasing amounts avail-, able for road construction tout, due to a variety of circumstances, the States have not increased their contributions to a similar extent. Encouraged by a recent High Court decision, Victoria and New South Wales have taken action, with good results, to- raise more money, for road building. As
I said, road construction is a dual responsibility, and the Commonwealth has more than adequately played its part.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether he has seen statements in the week-end press to the. effect that Japan is anxious to increase her purchases of lead and zinc from Australia. If so, has the Minister any comment, to make as to the possibility of an increase of exports of those particular commodities to Japan? -
– The only comment I make is that we would very much like to sell more lead and zinc to Japan. A trade mission from Japan arrived in Sydney, I think, during the last few days. I should hope and expect that the companies that have lead and zinc to sell would make proper overtures to that trade mission.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Minister aware that grave concern has been felt for some time by schoolteachers, educationists, parents and citizens at the fact that, owing to the increased demand on our educational facilities arising out of the immigration programme, the States have found it quite impossible, in view of the small amount of money available for educational purposes, to finance education and provide school teachers and! school houses for primary, secondary and technical schools, in a reasonable way? Has the Government received requests from school-teachers’ organizations, parents’ and citizens’ organizations and other bodies interested in a high standard of education to the effect that it review the educational position in Australia and make available more funds for primary, secondary and technical education? Does the Minister agree that such requests are reasonable, in view of the fact that for many years we have been pursuing a vigorous immigration policy which has placed a great strain on our State, denominational and private educational institutions? Will he promise that the matter will be looked into from the federal angle?
– The sincerity of the Commonwealth Government in this matter is surely shown by the fact that this year it is budgeting for an expenditure which will exceed revenue by £115,000,000. The Commonwealth is adopting the policy of providing the State governments with as much money as is available in accordance with the resources of Australia. The Commonwealth having shouldered its responsibility in that way, it is then the responsibility of each State government to decide the manner in which it will spend the funds allocated to it. If the State governments do not provide enough money for education, that is a matter between the State governments and those who believe that more money should be provided for education. With regard to Western Australia, I can only advise the honorable senator to get those people together to see whether they can persuade the Western Australian Government to make more money available for education in that State.
– Can the Minister for Customs and Excise state whether plans are in train to improve the facilities for the handling by customs officers of the luggage of persons arriving in Australia, particularly those arriving by air? What are those plans? Is he having inquiries made overseas to ascertain what is done in other countries? Can he state whether any innovations are likely to be made in South Australia?
– We have been trying to speed up the handling by customs officers of the luggage of persons arriving from overseas, and a plan is in partial operation at the present time at Mascot, the biggest airport handling overseas passengers. We call it “ Operation Supermarket “. It consists of the spreading out of the desks in the reception room. We have speeded1 up to a great extent the acceptance of passengers’ luggage and its clearance through the airport. I am indebted to the honorable senator for a suggestion he made quite recently, namely, that we should go a step further and provide supermarket trolleys at the airport, so that people coming from aeroplanes with coats, small bags, umbrellas and other things could put them on to a small trolley and take them to the spot where their luggage was being examined. That is one suggested innovation which the department is investigating at the present time. There are others which we have in mind. An officer stationed at New York has been asked to investigate what is being done at the New York airport, which I believe is very up to date, to see whether there is any other way in which we can speed up our system, for the convenience of passengers coming from overseas.
– Has the atten– tion of the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration been directed to a press statement this morning in which the Minister for Immigration is reported as having said that of a total of 115,000 immigrants to be brought to Australia this year 36,000 will be British? Is that an accurate report of what the Minister said, or did he say that there would be 36,000 assisted British immigrants and a similar number of full fare-paying immigrants, with the result that British immigrants will account for more than 50 per cent, of the total intended intake?
– Yesterday I heard the Minister for Immigration deliver the speech in question. I think it was wrongly reported. He did say that there would be 38,000 assisted British migrants-
– The number was 35,000.
– He said there would be 35,000 assisted British migrants and that they, with other British migrants, would account for more than 50 per cent, of the total intake.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
In view of the fact that action, long deferred, is now to be taken to rebuild the Repatriation Hospital, Hobart, will the Minister advise - (a) The commencement date of the actual rebuilding;
– A motion was passed in the House of Representatives on 21st August, 1958, that the matter be referred to the Public Works Committee. The committee commenced hearing evidence in Melbourne on 8th September and continued its hearing in Hobart on 27th September. For the information of the honorable senator, I set out the following additional facts: -
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
In view of the proposed increase of 10s. per week to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, is it the intention of the Government to raise the existing ceiling limit of £15 15s. a week?
– It is not proposed to alter the existing limit of income plus pension which applies under the means test and is £15 15s. a week for a married couple. The effect of that limit in relation to married war pensioners receiving pension at the rate for total and permanent incapacity was fully explained in the second-reading speech by the Leader of the Government in the Senate when introducing the Repatriation Bill on 17th September.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories the following question, upon notice -
What form of driver’s licence is necessary to operate a motor vehicle in the Northern Territory or Papua and New Guinea - (a) If the motorist is driving a vehicle registered in either Territory; and (b) if the motorist is driving a vehicle registered in some State or country other than an Australian territory?
– The Minister for Territories has supplied the following answer: -
In the Northern Territory various forms of licences are prescribed under the Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1949-1958. These have regard to the class of vehicle involved and the holder is permitted to drive a vehicle within the class of the particular licence irrespective of whether the vehicle is registered in the Territory or elsewhere. A person temporarily in the Territory who has a current driver’s licence issued to him in another Territory or State or in any country which is party to the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic may use that licenceto drive any vehicle (within the class of the licence) in the Territory without taking out a further licence.
In the Territory of Papua and New Guinea a similar situation exists under the Motor Traffic Ordinance 1950-1955, except that in the case of a visiting motorist any licence which has been issued to him in another Territory, State or country can be used within the Territory for a period of three months only from the date of his entry into the
– On 18th September last, Senator O’Flaherty asked me a question without notice relating to prices paid to dairymen for milk based on butterfat content. The Minister for Primary Industry has advised me as follows: -
I am not aware as to the correctness of the prices quoted in the honorable senator’s question, but I have no reason to doubt them. The position is that the price of milk to the farmer varies considerably between districts and States according to usage.
Farmers supplying milk for liquid consumption in towns and cities receive a higher return than those whose milk is used in the manufacture of cheese or other processed milk products. City milk supplies are the responsibility of the various milk marketing authorities established under State legislation
Theprice of cheese, on the other hand, is subject to a Commonwealth-wide price equalization arrangement conducted by agreement between factories and administered by the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee Limited. Each factory receives the same rate of payment for the cheese it manufactures and it depends on the circumstances of the various factories in regard to manufacturing and other costs as to the rate of payment to suppliers.
There is no overall agreement on price between manufacturers of other processed milk products. Consequently, prices to the farmers for milk would vary according to the policies of the manufacturers themselves or to the force of competition from other factories.
– On 23rd September, Senator O’Byrne asked a question without notice regarding Norwegians employed in the Australian whaling industry. The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer: -
Five Norwegian captain-gunners come to Australia annually for the whaling season. There is no knowledge of them making an agreement with their governments that they will not train others in the art of whale catching. In fact, Australians have been trained by Norwegians.
There are six Australian captain-gunners employed in the industry, and therefore they outnumber the Norwegians engaged. This clearly indicates that there is no organized plan to prevent Australians participating in the whaling industry.
– On 19th August, Senator Wade asked me the following question: -
I preface a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General by saying that no doubt he is aware of the valuable news service being provided by station 3WV Horsham, and 3WL Warrnambool. Will he give consideration to the institution of a midday news broadcast from these stations as such an extension of the service appears to be fully justified?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply: -
The Australian Broadcasting Commission is keenly aware of the importance of its regional news services to country listeners. Indeed, in recent years there has been a significant expansion of the special service for the country, which normally provides two news bulletins a day for regional communities throughout the Commonwealth, in addition to national and State bulletins.
The question of extending the service further by providing an additional news broadcast at midday has not been overlooked, but considerations can be advanced in respect of listeners to stations 3WV and 3WL in Western Victoria which apply equally to all other areas where the Australian Broadcasting Commission has regional stations.
At most regional centres the Australian Broadcasting . Commission employs only one staff journalist who is fully engaged in providing the present service. Any additional commitments at regional stations could not be undertaken without engaging extra staff. Extension of the present activities would have to be carried out on an Australia-wide basis. The cost of such an extension would be substantial and, in the view of the commission, would not ‘be justified.
SenatorHENTY. - On 26th August, Senator Sandford asked me the following question: -
Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy ascertain and inform the Senate of the cost of removing the Royal Australian Naval College from Flinders to Jervis Bay?
The Minister for the Navy has now furnished me with the following information in reply: -
The total capital cost of the transfer of the Royal Australian Naval College from Flinders to Jervis Bay in the current and subsequent financial years, under the various headings, is shown in the following table: -
As against these costs, however, there is a saving of approximately £250,000 over a period of five years at Flinders Naval Depot in the long range accommodation plan for that establishment, due to the transfer of the college to Jervis Bay.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Advance to the Treasurer - Statement for the year 1957-58 of Heads of Expenditure and the amounts charged thereto pursuant to Section 36a of the Audit Act 1901-1957.
This document, which has already been distributed to honorable senators, is the subject of the forty-first report of the Public Accounts Committee, which was tabled last week. The Senate will recall that last year, following a recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee, a new procedure was commenced - that of approving this annual statement in lieu of presenting supplementary appropriation bills.
That the statement be considered in Committee of the Whole.
– As chairman, I present the report of the select committee appointed by the Senate to inquire into and report upon payments to maritime unions. I also present the minutes of evidence taken by the committee. I move -
That the report be printed.
Speaking to the motion briefly, Mr. President, it is a matter of satisfaction to report to the Senate that your committee sat on twelve sitting days and took evidence from some thirty-two persons associated with these indemnity payments to the maritime unions. The committee adopted the procedure of sitting in public and taking evidence on oath, giving to each individual witness the opportunity of applying to have evidence taken in camera, if he preferred to have it taken that way.
In the opinion of the committee, Mr. President, the information afforded to us by that evidence concerns a matter of the gravest public importance, involving, on the one hand, manoeuvres by the unions in relation to ships newly brought to this country and over a period of some two years immediately precedingour inquiry, involving the ships of owners concerned in ‘those new purchases in a loss of something ilke £200,000 or £250,000, on a conservative basis. On the other hand, the immediate subject of our inquiry was a series of payments which had been influenced or extorted by the unions from purchasers of old ships that had been sold off the Australian coast. The payments made to the unions in the course of a period of approximately eighteen months amount to more than £50,000, an average of between £3,500 and £4,000 a ship.
It will be remembered, Mr. President, that this Senate set up the committee after leaving a long opportunity for others to take action, following upon the report of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It will therefore be fair if the Senate will permit me to do so during the briefobservations that I shall make to refer to the report of the A.C.T.U. Your committee has placed on record its view that the A.C.T.U. is deserving of credit for its initiative in taking this course of inquiry to establish the integrity of the trade union movement, for its decision that indemnity payments should cease forthwith, and for its President’s public condemnation of such payments as immoral. But, Mr. President, there were four features of that report which the committee feels should engage the attention of the Parliament. The first was the suppression from the A.C.T.U. committee, on the part of the maritime unions, of any reference to the fact that in respect of one ship, “ Bonalbo “, any indemnity payments was made, although the cheque had been received midway through the A.C.T.U. inquiry and was cashed by the recipient four days after the A.C.T.U. report was made public. Secondly, there was a total absence in that report of any reference to some five lottery tickets, of the value of £100 each, that were purchased by one of these traders in ships and announced as being available for the members of the Maritime Transport Council and himself, under the delightful caption of “ Maritime and Me “. The committee has gone on record as saying, in relation to that -
There can be little doubt that the gift of the tickets was in the nature of an indemnity payment, made for the purpose of influencing easy relations in regard to future ships to be cleared without industrial trouble.
The third aspect of the A.C.T.U. report is that the select committee discovered there was a very mixed reception of the A.C.T.U. report. We have recorded our conclusion in these words -
Lastly, Mr. President, as a feature of the A.C.T.U. report - possibly the most important feature of it - you will remember that the A.C.T.U. ‘s statement of principle in relation to stand-by payments is -
Notwithstanding this accepted practice the Committee- that is, the A.C.T.U. committee - is of the opinion that this method of indemnity payments to unions in Australia should cease forthwith, without interference with the engagement of a stand-by crew in accordance with the principles contained in the sea-faring awards.
The select committee, Mr. President, reports -
Stand-by payments received by the Unions in circumstances similar to that of the ship “ Iron Warrior “ are a blatant subterfuge for indemnity payments. A payment of money to the Unions in such circumstances is therefore as improper as were the preceding indemnity payments and should be similarly regarded.
For that view, the committee sets forth excerpts from the evidence of people experienced in the maritime trades - no lesser persons than Captain J. P. Williams, on the one hand, and Mr. Nicolson, secretary of the National Union of Seamen - the British seamen’s union - on the other hand.
I have thought it proper to mention those matters, and I should now like briefly to refer to the recommendations that the committee makes to the Senate. May T be permitted to say, Mr. President, that as our inquiry extended into matters capable of being considered improprieties or illegalities -
The Committee has adopted methods appropriate to an inquiry by a Parliamentary committee and has endeavoured to give a fair opportunity to all persons interested to present evidence.
But ours was not a judicial proceeding-
And therefore specific notice has not been given to persons of all allegations made affecting them, Counsel have not appeared, and persons affected have not at all times heard evidence affecting them with a chance of refuting it.
In those circumstances, your committee thought - lt would not be proper … to report the commission of illegalities or improprieties by individual persons or bodies.
But, as a general conclusion, the committee records that -
The evidence discloses acts of a highly improper character in the nature of conspiracy, extortion and intimidation.
Statements are made with regard to that. We are also of the opinion that the evidence discloses breaches of the Crimes Act and of those provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which require accuracy in the accounts filed in the court, and we leave it to the proper authorities to consider those recommendations and the appropriate action. If the conclusion is that the present law does not deal with those transactions, we record our opinion that - the law should be amended to prohibit the use of union pressure for the extraction or reception of money in consideration of the unions surrendering or waiving members’ working rights.
It must be remembered that free selection in this industry is no longer the right of the employer. Upon notice from the employer requiring a crew, in terms of the Seamen’s award, “The Union shall inform its members of the employment offering and cause them to proceed to the Shipping Master’s Office for the purpose of engagement “.
Your committee says -
It is a shocking state of the law if the Union entrusted with control and direction of this body of labour is lawfully entitled to demand payment of money for the surrender of men’s work rights, especially in the case of unsafe ships.
We also point out that the Seamen’s Union, in its progress fund and emergency fund has received between March, 1956, and January, 1958, no less a sum than £38,585 12s. 8d., income tax free, by virtue of the conception of the income tax laws which give an exemption in unqualified terms to the income of a trade union. We record -
If receipts such as these are, contrary to our opinion, legitimate income, they have no just claim to exemption from tax, and the income tax laws should be amended to ensure that such payments bear income tax.
We also record our opinion that we accept - the evidence of Mr. Monk, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr. Nicolson . . and Mr. MacDonald . . . that indemnity payments are destructive of trade union integrity and are contrary to sound industrial principles.
Also, as I have said, we condemn the subterfuge of stand-by payments.
Mr. President, having indicated briefly the nature of the report, 1 should like to say how much I have valued the earnest and painstaking co-operation of the colleagues who were good enough to work with me on this committee. We all express our appreciation of the painstaking work of our secretary, Mr. Odgers, and the assistant secretary, Mr.Cumming Thom. We feel satisfied that we ourselves derived great advantage in evaluating the principles that should govern this matter and in having made direct contact with the people who were concerned with the business, both unassisted and unembarrassed by departmental officers. The significance of that remark will appear on perusal of the report. As neither legal assistance nor close cooperation by departmental officers was available to us, the committee was left in the position of making direct contact with those who had conducted these transactions and forming our opinion for consideration of the Senate. In order that that consideration might take place in due time, I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment: -
Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Bill 1958.
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1958.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
Senator HENTY (Tasmania - Minister
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Act, to enable its operation to be extended by proclamation for a period not extending beyond 30th June, 1959, and to allow the bounty to be terminated before that date, should this be desired.
I would explain that the question of further assistance to the industry has been referred to the Tariff Board. Public inquiries have been held, but the board has not yet presented its report. The Government considers it reasonable to extend the benefits of the bounty until such time as it is in a position to examine the recommendations of the Tariff Board; hence the proposal in this bill that the bounty may be extended by proclamation until 30th June, 1959.
The Cellulose Acetate Flake Bouny Act provides for a bounty of10d. per lb. in respect of cellulose acetate flake produced in Australia and sold for use in the manufacture of cellulose acetate rayon yarn in each of the three years ended 30th June, 1958.
Bounty of £99,489 was paid to C.S.R. Chemicals Proprietary Limited on 2,387,737 lb. of flake sold during the year ended 30th June, 1956, rising to £113,258 on 2,718,187 lb. of flake sold in the year ended 30th June, 1957, and then declining slightly to £100,980 on 2,423,534 lb. of flake sold during the year ended 30th June, 1958.
The principle of assistance by bounty to this industry was adopted when the matter was previously considered by the Senate. The proposed amendment would enable the same measure of assistance to be continued until the Tariff Board’s report has been received and considered by the Government. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
SenatorHENTY (Tasmania - Minister for Customs and Excise) [4.10]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Tractor Bounty Act, to enable its operation to be extended by proclamation for a period expiring not later than 30th June, 1959, and to allow the bounty to be terminated before that date, should! this be desired.
The question of further assistance to the industry was referred to the Tariff Board, which has conducted public inquiries on the matter. However, the board has not yet presented its report and therefore the Government considers it reasonable to extend the benefits of the bounty until such time as it is in a position to examine the recommendations of the Tariff Board; hence the proposal in this bill that the bounty may be extended by proclamation until 30th June, 1959.
The Tractor Bounty Act has provided for the payment of bounty on wheel type tractors for the period of nineteen years which ends on 23rd October, 1958. The rates of bounty have been varied1 over the period but, generally speaking, can be said currently to range up to £240 per tractor according to the belt pulley horserpower of the engine and the extent that parts made in Australia are used in the assembly of the tractor.
Bounty payments during the years ended 30th June, 1956, 1957, and 1958 were £55,035, £158,303 and £467,088 respectively, and the bounty claimants have been Howard Auto Cultivators Limited, Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited, and International Harvester Company of Australia Proprietary Limited. The first claim from International Harvester concerned production during the year ended 30th June, 1957.
The principle of assistance to this industry has been accepted on several occasions when the matter was previously before the Senate. The proposed amendment would enable the same measure of assistance as is now current to be continued until the Tariff Board’s report has been received and considered by the Government. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooke) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23rd September (vide page 522), on motion by Senator Henty-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the bill is to consolidate the migration legislation that has been enacted over the years. It retains the best part of some of -the acts and repeals the remainder; for instance, it has been possible to retain in operation some of the provisions of the acts dealing with war precautions.
Before I go on to discuss the bill in detail, let me say that some clauses are open to criticism, not so much for the principle which they embody as for other reasons. There has been a tremendous amount of misrepresentation, both here and in another chamber, of the action that the Opposition has taken in connexion with migration. It has been suggested that, as a party, we stand against migration - even though we introduced it! That suggestion, which has been made quite clearly and trenchantly, arises from a misunderstanding of what Labour really stands for in this matter.
In the first place, the present immigration policy was initiated by Labour when it was in office. The scope of immigration has certainly extended, but I remind honorable senators of the rprinciple which underlay our support of immigration.Itwasthat we should bring in as many immigrants as the economy could possibly absorb, and that principle applies to-day as it did then. It was a question of bringing people here if they could find a niche - if work could be found for them. Given those circumstances, we were willing to take anynumber of immigrants. We have been guided by those principles all the time. Recently, there has been some criticism of theGovernment for bringing in the number of migrants it has brought to thiscountry over the last twelve months or so. This party has no objection to bringing immigrants here provided work can be found for them. If they can be given employment, ifthey can be absorbed into the community and made productive units of our economy, we have no objection to their being broughthere. Unfortunately, the Government has set itself a target and is determined to achieve that target irrespective of whether the people who are brought here can be integrated into the economy of the country. So bad has the position become that I say, without fear of contradication, that an inquiry at any labour exchange in Australia will disclose that the great preponderance of applicants for employment are immigrants. We criticize the Government because of that position, brought about by adding to our work force people for whom no employment can be found.
It has been suggested by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the advisory body set up in connexion with immigration that the Government’s target be achieved by bringing out dependants of those who are already here. In that way, the Government’s target can be achieved and the work force of the country will not be extended unnecessarily. The dependants will make useful citizens while not increasing the army of unemployed. For instance, an immigrant who is already here could be allowed to bring out his girl friend so that he may marry her. We want to see all immigrants absorbed usefully in the economy of the country and the Labour party criticizes the Government’s policy only insofar as it is responsible for swelling the work force with people for whom employment cannot be found. I mention these things so that there will be no confusion about the Labour party’s attitude towards immigration.
The bill itself is principally a consolidating measure. It contains many clauses, but I propose to deal only with two or three of them. I do not think the early immigration legislation is being materially altered by this measure; but I direct “particular attention to the proposed increases in a number of the penalties. Some of the penalties are to be increased to £500. In one case, I think the increase is £1,000. For instance, a shipping company may be fined up to £500 for the first offence against the immigration laws, but, for a second offence, it may be fined up to £1,000. It is also proposed that if an alien enters the country without a permit he may be fined up to £500. That is far too heavy a penalty. I point out that for far more serious offences than merely entering the country without a permit, the penalty provided is only £200. I suggest, that serious consideration be given to providing for a uniform penalty of £200. To expect a person who has just come to the country to be able to find £500 is really expecting the impossible. Another unnecessarily harsh provision is that which requires that an immigrant who may be caught up in the machinery of our immigration system to find two sureties of £500 each before he can be released on bail. That is far too harsh a requirement. I suggest that the amount could be reduced to a much lower figure, having regard to the position in which an alien may find himself, perhaps through no fault of his own.
I am particularly pleased that it is proposed to abolish the dictation test. I have had unpleasant experiences of the way in which the dictation test can work. Many men have come to me, their humble member of Parliament, asking that I help them out of the difficulty in which they find themselves when confronted with the dictation test. I remember one occasion when one immigrant was expected to pass a dictation test of 50 words in Greek. I challenge any honorable senator to beat the department when it wants to impose the dictation test, and I am extremely pleased to see that this obnoxious requirement is to be abolished. The permit system which it is proposed to introduce in its stead, together with the machinery applicable to deportations and charges against immigrants, whether they be alien, or even British, are far more humane than the previous vicious dictation test.
Another pleasing feature is that in this bill it is proposed to return to the system advocated by the Australian Labour party many years ago, namely, that all acts done within the framework of the legislation shall be under the control of the Minister who, in turn, is responsible to Cabinet, and Cabinet, in turn, to Parliament. We commend the Minister for incorporating thai provision in the bill.
The bill includes a number of machinery clauses which relate particularly to seamen and masters of vessels who will be liable to those extraordinary fines that I mentioned earlier. The bill also provides that when an alien - probably a deserter from’ a ship - is found in Australia, the shipping company concerned will now pay part of the cost of taking the deserter to some port at which he may land, not necessarily the port at which he embarked. In the past, we have compelled the shipping companies to take the man away, and have had the spectacle of the man travelling practically all round the world because, owing to the changing scene in other parts of the world, he has become more or less stateless. The Minister is to be commended also for that provision.
The bill also provides that any person who is suspected of being a prohibited immigrant, and who has been arrested, must be brought before a magistrate within 48 hours. We have had the spectacle in the past of men being interned as aliens and kept in prison for periods very much longer than 48 hours. The bill provides that, if it is not possible to bring the alien before a magistrate within 48 hours, he shall be brought before a magistrate as soon as practicable thereafter. That is an escape clause, and I am’ not satisfied with it. Another clause should be inserted in the bill providing that a person shall not be detained for longer than a stated period because, as the law now stands, a man may be kept in prison for any length of time and his only redress is to go to some superior court and have a writ of habeas corpus taken out. I repeat that some time limit should be set because the phrase “ as soon as practicable “ would permit of the detention of a person for three or four weeks. Should the special magistrate or commissioner who usually handles such cases not be available, provision should be made for another magistrate or justice to hear the case within a specified period. I ask the Minister to look again at that particular clause.
An anomaly exists in this bill. In one clause provision is made for the Minister to give notice of deportation to the alien. After receipt of such notice the alien has the right to obtain a solicitor’s advice. However, another clause provides that an alien may be detained and’ questioned and, if he refuses to answer questions, he commits a breach of the law. I fail to see how a person who has been arrested by an officer of the Department of Immigration, without a warrant, and who refuses to answer questions, commits a breach of the law. It is wrong that he should be required to answer questions before obtaining advice from a solicitor or other person.
I have no other criticism to offer. I commend the Minister and the committee associated with him - the committee consisting of members of my own party, and others - in looking into the pros and cons of this bill. Except in regard to the few matters that I have mentioned, the Minister and the committee did a very good job. I know that the bill cannot be altered at this stage, but at some time in the near future it may be appropriate to liberalize a little more the provisions to which I have referred. Otherwise, we do not oppose the measure.
– I welcome the bill and congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) on a magnificent piece of consolidation. I wish to discuss, first, the principle of allowing a great deal of latitude to the Minister. In general, I oppose the giving of any more freedom of action to a Minister or an official than is necessary. I think that, as far as is possible, this Parliament should lay down principles, that departments should adhere to them and that the courts should be the final interpreters. However, I agree that in matters relating to the admission to this country of people from abroad we cannot clearly lay down in an act the whole of our policy. To do so would be very unwise and might cause considerable trouble with certain foreign countries. As everybody knows, we have a limited immigration policy in the sense that we limit the people who can come here.
A little might be said about the device of the dictation test. It worked with reasonable success for a long time. It was proposed originally by Sir Edmund Barton - I believe on the advice of the then Colonial Secretary, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain - in order to avoid giving offence to people within the British Empire, notably people from India. For that reason, it was retained for a long time. I think that this new principle of having merely an entry permit, which we do not have to justify to anybody outside the country - or, indeed, to any one within, unless the Parliament or somebody challenges it - is preferable, because it is more honest. As Senator O’Flaherty said, the dictation test was not used to test a person’s education; the objective was always to find a language that he did not know. There was the well-known case of Mr. Egon Kisch. Knowing that he was a linguist and believing that he could understand almost any modern European language, the department sought for a very rare language and, in doing so, made a great mistake. This is inside knowledge that I have gained. The Minister’s order was that the test should be in Gaelic, but the officer who was to give the test evidently did not know there are two Gaelic languages, one spoken in the highlands of Scotland and one spoken in Ireland. The Minister intended that the test should be in the language spoken in, or, at any rate, laid down as the official language of, Southern Ireland - the language known as Erse - but the official gave the test in Highland Gaelic. The High Court, of course, ruled that that was not a modern language - a really shocking decision, apart from whatever legality there is behind it. However, that was the decision.
Anyhow, we are all glad that the dictation test system is to go. It is no longer necessary. Let us be honest and say that We are refusing to admit people because we, as a people, think it is not desirable that they should come in. I think that that will be accepted by the governments likely to give attention to the matter, notably those in Asia. I was in Asia in 1957, attending the Asian Relations Conference. A committee of that conference, dealing with the question of immigration, agreed that every country had the right to exclude from its shores people whom it did not want and that no country had to give an account of its actions to the people of any other country. One thing the committee did object to, however, was for a country to say in definite words that it excluded people on the ground of nationality or colour. We are avoiding that.
The bill leaves a considerable degree of discretion to the Minister. I am labouring this point a little because the Parliament, particularly the Senate, will have to be vigilant to see that the act is administered according to the principles of British justice. It is possible - it has happened in the past - that a Minister will endeavour to exclude a person because, in his opinion, that person is undesirable. I refer to the well-known Freer case. What happened there was that a woman who came from India to enter Australia was excluded because information had reached the Minister that her activities in this country would be likely to be to the detriment of very good people here. The Minister might have been right in his wish that she should not come here, but we cannot allow it to become a recognized practice that the personal opinion of a Minister, or an official, that a certain person is undesirable shall be a ground for exclusion.
The bill attempts to lay down certain principles, but they are pretty general. ‘ I intend to ask a question when we come to clause 14, which enables a person to be deported; The principles governing exclusmon and deportation are much the same. The machinery for preventing a person from coming in to the country could also be used to deport a person who had previously been allowed to enter. The bill provides that a person can be deported if it appears to the Minister that his conduct has been such that he should not be allowed to remain in Australia. That provision is so general that we have to trust to the general sense of equity and justice of the Minister and the department. Secondly, it is provided that a person can be deported if he is a person who advocates the overthrow by force or violence of the established government of the Commonwealth or of any other civilized country. Those are very general words. I think they are words that a nineteenth century lawyer would find it much easier to interpret than a lawyer of the present day. I understand that similar words have led to very questionable acts in the United States.
There was the famous Prince Kropotkin, a philosophic anarchist, who objected, in particular, to the Government of the Czar. He was not a man of violence. He was not a member of an association that wanted actively to upset a lawful government, but he did think that the Government of the Czar had no right to exist. There may be people to-day who believe that a government such as the one recently established by bloodshed in Hungary has no right lo exist. If a person used words which could be interpreted as advocating the overthrow of that government by force or violence, would that be a legitimate ground for excluding him? I should like the Minister to give us an assurance that the words of the clause will be interpreted in accordance with the general principle established in British countries, even before Australia came into existence, that whilst a person must not deliberately engage in a movement designed to overthrow a foreign government, whether good or bad, he has a perfect right to express his candid opinion of governments which themselves are based on lawlessness and violence.
I have very little else to say, because I think ‘the hill is a good one. Where it has departed from a generally accepted principle, that is because there is no way of stating a principle for excluding intending immigrants or deporting undesirable people who have come into the country. Therefore, 1 am satisfied to leave a measure of discretion to the Minister, but I give the warning that it is the special duty of this chamber, irrespective of politics, to scan any action of the Minister, with regard to permitting people to enter or deporting them, which even seems to be opposed to the general principles of British justice.
.- Any immigration bill is important, because immigration is one of the subjects most vital to our country at the present time. It has been said before, and I say it again, that unless we are prepared to populate and use this country we cannot hope to hold it as a white, civilized community. I think the present bill is one of which all parties will approve. It has been well drawn up and, as a consolidating measure, it will be of the utmost assistance to those who deal with immigration problems. I feel that we should congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) and the department under his administration upon having supplied the very clear, printed notes that accompany the bill and which have made it very easy for me, at any rate, to follow exactly what is intended in the measure.
I wish briefly to compliment the department also upon the work it is doing and the manner in which it is doing it. Of the many government departments with which I, as a senator, have to deal, I would place the Department of Immigration as an equal first, because of the readiness with which it assists members of the Parliament and the 1 humanitarian outlook it adopts towards the problems that are placed before it. Every one must realize that the decisions which have to be made by the Minister and the department are at times very difficult. To many people on the other side of the world who are in unfortunate circumstances Aus tralia: is a, land of promise, and those people wish to come here in far greater numbers than we are prepared to admit them. Therefore, there must be occasions when very difficult problems are placed before the department. We regret the fact that sometimes, because the number of intakes cannot be expanded as some people would wish, such problems should arise. But in my association with the department I have found that its outlook has been humanitarian and that it tries to do the best it can for the greatest number of people. I commend it for the outlook it has adopted under the present Minister and under previous Ministers.
I was pleased to learn from the remarks of Senator O’Flaherty that on the question of migration there now seems to be unanimity amongst the parties represented in this chamber. It was not very long ago that migration was a matter of considerable public controversy. At the Immigration Convention which was held in January last controversial topics were debated and attitudes, both for and against migration were adopted very strongly. The antagonism that was displayed on that occasion by one of the parties seems to have disappeared. I can only hope that the change is the result of a realization of the good work that is being done in regard to migration and not of a realization that an election, at which naturalized migrants will have the right to vote, is shortly to be held.
The party that I represent has always been in favour of migration. We believe that we cannot hold Australia and develop it unless we populate it. Therefore, we have always said that migration should be encouraged even if, as must happen, difficulties are experienced in coping with the entry of migrants into this country. Every one of us is descended from a migrant. If one talks to his father - if he was a migrant - or to one’s grandfather, or if one hears about the experiences of one’s great-grandfather or great-grandmother, one discovers that they came to Australia under much worse conditions and experienced much worse conditions when they got here than are now experienced by migrants. Those men and women who migrated in the early days were an acquisition to this country. They pioneered it and helped to bring it to the stage that it has reached.
The Australian Democratic Labour party supports migration to the maximum extent possible. We believe that, if necessary, we must take risks to increase our population, because we have not the time, with the world in its present state, to populate Australia at our convenience. Let us face the facts. If we are not prepared to take risks and to encounter difficulties to populate this country, within 10, 20 or 30 years we will be forced to accept compulsory migrants of a far different type from those now offering.
The Democratic Labour party strongly supports, naturally, preference to migrants of British stock, because they are the most easily assimilated. But we refuse to associate ourselves in any way with the antagonisms that are expressed against certain types of migrants, particularly those from southern Europe. We have always claimed that the test that should be applied to a migrant is his fitness to become a member of the community, and that there should be no discrimination against any migrant on the ground of his race, his politics, or his religion. I believe implicitly that the Department of Immigration and the Minister have been unjustly condemned by people who have attempted to assert that the department has not done all it could to induce migrants to come to Australia.
I read in the report of the debate in another place that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) expressed disagreement with that point of view. He said that it was a matter of considerable difficulty to get as many British migrants as we would like. He pointed out, first, that Britain did not want to lose them and, secondly, that there was great competition from other Commonwealth countries for British migrants. I should say that, if the comparative figures were .examined, it would be discovered that Australia has a far better record for inducing British migrants to come here than has any other self-governing dominion in enticing British migrants to its shores.
Britain does not wish to lose her people, particularly her skilled tradesmen. She is bringing migrants from Europe and is bringing in negroes from the West Indies, as the recent riots in Britain have demon strated. The. migration of negroes from the West Indies is growing to such a degree that more than 30,000 a year are now entering Great Britain. It is understandable that Britain would prefer to keep her own people, than to be forced to open the door to migrants who already are involving her in very serious difficulties. I support the present Australian policy on immigration. I believe that it is being carried out in the best manner possible.
I strongly support the suggestion made by Senator O’flaherty, which I understand has the approval of the committee which advises the Department of Immigration, that in times of unemployment we should give preference to the migration of families. The only point I wish to make on this aspect of the matter is that I feel it is to be regretted that sometimes families are prevented from being re-united, after one or two of the breadwinners have come to this country, because of a physical disability of perhaps one member of the family. There have been a number of such cases. I appreciate that possibly that form of action is necessary, because the number who can be allowed to enter Australia is restricted; but I, and no doubt other members of the Parliament, know of some sad cases in which families cannot be re-united because of that restriction. I urge the department to do all it can to assist people who are in that very sad position.
Of course, the matter that has aroused most interest in this bill is deportation. I think that everybody will agree that the procedure outlined in the bill represents a. considerable advance. There has been a lot of publicity in regard to deportations recently, because of a particular case which was spot-lighted. I was one of a number of members of Parliament - no doubt there are some in this chamber - who were approached in regard to the Victorian case which received a lot of publicity. I preferred to make my representations privately to the department because I did not think that the publicity that the case was given altogether helped. I felt, too, that it was a little unfair to the department to suggest that it was acting very arbitrarily and dictatorially, because, in my experience, I have found that not to be the case.
I have always believed that if representations are made without unnecessary publicity, probably they will get better results than if they are made in the other way.
In regard to the deportation issue, I commend the decision to remove the dictation test. I think that the test was an unnecessary irritation, and I believe that the decision to say straightforwardly that a person is not eligible to come in is the right one. I remember the case of Egon Kisch, who was given a test in Gaelic. Mr. Kisch was not the only person to whom Gaelic was a difficult language. I remember hearing a trade union secretary deliver an impassioned broadcast address in which he condemned the government for giving Mr. Kisch a dictation test in “ garlic “.’ The removal of the dictation test is, in my opinion, a very great improvement.
In regard to the method if inquiry in the case of a person wishing to appeal against his deportation, there is a particular provision to which I want to refer. It is subclause (7.) of clause 14, and it relates to the reference of the matter to the commissioner. It reads -
The Commissioner shall make a thorough investigation of the matter with respect to which he is required to report-
And I note these words - without regard to legal forms, and shall not be bound by any rules of evidence but may inform himself on any relevant matter in such manner as he thinks fit
The provisions of that sub-clause are causing some concern to migrant organizations, because migrants feel that if their cases are to be heard without regard to legal forms or the rules of evidence they will be seriously hampered in putting their cases forward. There may be a strong reason for the inclusion of those words, but they come as a shock to most of us who would like to feel that, in any inquiry that is being held, regard is had to the usual principles of British justice.
I should also like to hear from the Minister whether, as no rules of evidence and procedure are set out regarding the inquiry, it is open to the migrants concerned to be represented by legal counsel, for obvious reasons.. As honorable senators will appreciate, many migrants would be under a considerable handicap in presenting their cases themselves. If the Minister intends to make clear the reason for that sub-clause, I should be glad if he would also indicate the ideas that the department and the Minister for Immigration have in regard to the procedure that will be adopted, and whether migrants who appear before such inquiries may be represented by counsel.
Another matter on which I commend the bill is that, in the future, prospective deportees are not to be taken to prison during the period when it is being decided whether they are to go away, but that instead they will be taken to places of detention which are to be established. I think that that is most necessary, and I am very pleased that this action has been taken. I also want to raise the matter of the deportation of people who have committed offences punishable by imprisonment for 12 months or more. I should think that there are some offences punishable by imprisonment for twelve months or more, such as stealing a motor car, which would certainly not, in the eyes of most Australians, be as serious as other offences, such as robbery with violence. I note that the relevant clause states that the Minister “ may “ deport the person concerned, which means that the matter is within his discretion, but I should like to know whether, if a person commits one or two offences punishable by imprisonment for twelve months or more, that automatically would mean that he would have to go, or whether the department would consider the nature of the offences. In other words, are grades of offences, as it were, to be considered?
I agree with. Senator McCallum that the bill gives very wide powers to the Minister, but having regard to the fact that migration has a particular influence on our security and on our foreign relations, I do not see how we could control our migration safely unless those powers were given to the Minister. I think the honorable senator raised a good point when he referred to the provision that a person may be deported if he is advocating or acting for the overthrow of a government of any other civilized country. In that respect, I only wish to say that if we were to regard the Soviet Union as a civilized country, probably every new Australian who has lived under Communist rule would be eligible for deportation. If you speak to such people, they leave you in no doubt whatever that they advocate the forcible overthrow of the government of the Soviet Union, and of any other Communist-ruled country. I take it, however, that that is one of the general clauses which will be interpreted by the Minister and the department reasonably, and for that reason I do not think we can offer any further objection to it.
I conclude by saying once again that I commend the bill. In many ways it is a great improvement on the previous legislation. I also commend the work that is being done by the department, and I fully support the statement that was made by the Minister yesterday that Australia must continue with a strong and a vital immigration policy.
– Like other honorable senators who have spoken, Mr. Deputy President, I would first like to congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) and his department on the clarity of this bill. It is a tremendous help to be able to go through the explanatory notes and understand them. As a lay person, I cannot always do that with bills. We seem to be approaching the happy situation in which we are again all in agreement about migration. I was interested to hear Senator O’Flaherty say that the only objection of the Labour party was that we were tending to ‘bring here people for whom we could not find jobs. I think that we have gone through two phases, and that perhaps we are approaching a third phase, in our immigration policy. There was a time when we brought in people because we had plenty of jobs for them. There was no difficulty in placing them. That phase ended some time ago. Then we moved into a phase when we were looking for skilled people and, at the same time, concentration on family migration.
Senator O’Flaherty suggested that we should bring in fiancees and dependent relatives. That is exactly what we are doing. We are bringing in the fiancees of southern Europeans who apply to have them brought in. We have had to cut back on southern Europeans because of the tremendous demand from people here to bring in their friends and relatives. There had to be a balancing of the programme; but we still bring in any fiancees and dependent relatives of that section of the community in respect of whom applications are made. I do not think there is very much disagreement between us on that aspect of the policy.
I have said that perhaps we are approaching the third phase of our immigration policy. I think that we are at a stage when we need to attract more professional and technical people to this country. There is a difficulty in this respect, because, in relation to ….-/./ professions, it has been difficult to decide whether professional men from, say, Europe, could qualify for the relevant professions in Australia. It is particularly gratifying to note that many professional organizations have set about trying to overcome this difficulty. They have established committees to examine the qualifications of professional migrants coming to this country. In some States, committees have been appointed to establish categories in which doctors can practise and to fit them into positions. I only wish that my own State would take a step forward in that direction by assisting doctors to practise their profession without being required to undertake three more years of university training, which it is very difficult for a family man to do.
I was very pleased to learn from Senator O’Flaherty’s remarks that the Labour party has evidently forgotten some of the criticisms it made earlier this year. I think that perhaps the immigration advisory councils and the special committees can claim some credit for this. I recall the time when Dr. Evatt criticized the fact that we allowed foreign language newspapers in this country. We did not ignore that criticism. The Immigration Advisory Council appointed a special committee to look into the matter. The committee found that there was nothing objectionable in those newspapers and that, in fact, they made great contribution towards the assimilation of national groups in the community. By enabling these people to express their opinions, their doubts and fears, in their own newspapers, the department gains an insight into their thoughts generally. Furthermore, the department is enabled to explain to the people, through this medium, what is required of them in the community, and so help them to settle in. The committees that were established by the Immigration Advisory Council have done a tremendous amount of work which has had a positive effect in countering adverse criticism. I recall that, at one time, it was stated that there was a great deal of crime among New Australians. However, the committee presided over by Mr. Justice Dovey pointed out that that was an erroneous impression and that, proportionately, there was less crime committed by new Australians than by other members of the community.
Great credit is due to the Government for setting up bodies such as the Immigration Advisory Council and the Immigration Planning Council to go into all these matters, to examine criticism, and to institute corrective action when needed. In addition, at the Australian Citizenship Convention, which is held each year, the representatives of federal organizations are afforded an opportunity to express their views in relation to the immigration programme. Perhaps of even more importance has been the establishment of good neighbour councils, which have done wonderful work in all States by assisting the assimilation of immigrants in the community.
Returning to the bill before the chamber, I should like to say that I am very pleased that the dictation test is being abolished; it is an objectionable relic of the past. This provision was included in the first immigration legislation to be enacted at the beginning of federation, in order to get rid of some of the Chinese coolies who had come into the country during the goldmining days and had established undesirable minority groups. It is interesting to note that 618 people failed to pass the dictation test in the first year but that, by the fourth year, the number of failures had dropped to 104. I think that the dictation test has served its purpose of preventing undesirable persons being absorbed in the community, but the time has passed when that expedient is needed.
I think we should do everything possible to refute any suggestion that we are perhaps discriminating against any particular race. We do not think that our immigration policy is aimed against any race, but certainly some races think that it is aimed against them. Recently, there was a suggestion that a quota system should be introduced in relation to Asian migrants. It is a pity, I feel, that some of the people who have .criticized the Government are not better informed about its .positive policy in relation to immigration. It is generally realized, I think, that we want to be friendly with our Asian neighbours. If we look back at the development of our immigration policy, we see that year by year the department and the Government have endeavoured to broaden the policy in relation to Asian people by adopting a more humane approach to the subject.
An important clause of the bill provides that professional or high-grade technical people can come into this country if positions are available for them. That is a very broad category; no quota is applied. I wonder how many Asian people will want to come to Australia under that provision? There is a further provision in relation to persons possessing cultural and other attainments. It seems to me that we should aim at further facilitating assimilation. We do not want minority groups composed of people of a similar educational standard. There must be no discrimination in the assimilation of migrants into >the community.
Under the Colombo plan, there are, I think, 2,000 Asian students in Australia, as well as 4,000 full fare-paying students. It is very gratifying to note that many of these students are joining organizations such as the Australian-Asian Association. That association goes out of its way to provide entertainment for Asian people who come to this country and to make them feel .that they are wanted. It is this kind of positive action that will overcome the feeling that we should have a quota. A quota would not solve our problems but would probably add to our difficulties. If there were categories of people trying to come in but were unable to do so because of the operation of a quota, a lot of ill feeling would be caused at the other end. I consider that it is far better to .publicize the Asian people than to impose a quota. It is interesting to note that there are about 11,000 Asian people now living in Australia. I do not think there would be that many Australians living in Asia. It cannot be said that we have not done a great deal towards making Asian people welcome to Australia.
I should like now to say a word about entry permits. I think that a certain difficulty exists in relation to them. It has recently corns to my notice that when a person wishing to sponsor an immigrant submits the necessary papers to the Department of Immigration, .the department, if satisfied, informs the sponsor that as far as it can see the person nominated would be eligible to be admitted as an immigrant, but that he must submit to a test in his own country. Sponsors in Australia tend to regard this advice as an entry permit and they are very disappointed, indeed bitter, when, perhaps for health reasons, delays occur in the country from which the person nominated wishes to emigrate. I think that the department in Australia should stress, when advising sponsors that it is thought that the person nominated will be eligible to enter Australia, that that advice is not an entry permit. I am pleased to hear that the entry permit system will not in any way delay tourists who come to Australia. Their papers will be stamped clearly. As I say, I am glad that there will be no further delay caused to them, because there are already quite enough delays. We must, as far as possible, eliminate the formalities to which they now have to submit.
I should like to direct attention especially to clause 13 (c), under which an immigrant may be deported if, within five years of arrival, he becomes an inmate of a mental hospital. That is a harsh clause. We may bring some one into Australia who has previously had a mental defect. That person will have had to undergo screening, and if the deficiency has not then become apparent, we should perhaps accept responsibility for that fact. Moreover, the act of migrating often imposes great strains. It seems ito me very hard that .a person who breaks down temporarily as a result of coming to this country should be deported from it. One can only hope that the department will not exercise its power harshly, and that these unfortunate people will be treated as humanely in this respect as in every other. I believe that we should accept responsibility for people whom we have brought here after screening.
The only other part of the bill to which I should like to refer is that concerned with emigration. It is very pleasing to see that henceforth it will be much more difficult for a .parent to take a child out of Australia when legal proceedings are pending - perhaps over the custody of the child. We have seen some very sad examples of that in the very recent past. The bill will do much to protect the injured parent against action of that kind.
The emigration of aborigines must also be watched carefully. Irresponsible people will take an aboriginal out of the country and leave him stranded after they have finished using him in a circus or for some other purpose! The aboriginal has no means of support, :and is perhaps unable to get back to Australia unaided. There is a great deal of wrong-thinking in regard to aborigines. I am very much in favour of retaining protective legal provisions. They do not state or imply that aborigines are unsuitable for acceptance as citizens. The minute an aboriginal becomes eligible and, by character and development, shows that he can look after himeslf, he can be removed from the restrictive provisions of State or Federal legislation. It is very necessary to retain the ability to protect him from people who might exploit him and leave him stranded overseas.
I support the bill and again commend the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), the Government and the Department of Immigration upon the humane approach to immigration that has been apparent in the last ten years. Indeed, it is more than ever apparent in this bill. Everything has been done to make easier the lot of people who have come here. This, in turn, should make it easier for our immigration officers overseas to .attract people to Australia and to keep up the flow which is so necessary. I believe that the flow must be maintained even if it is necessary to tighten our belts and suffer a little discomfort at this end. I support the bill because I believe that it will help to keep up that essential flow of immigrants.
.- I support the bill to the extent to which Senator O’Flaherty has described .it as being favorable. The Minister, in moving the second reading, said -
The bill is mainly a machinery measure and not one embodying or foreshadowing any change in immigration policy.
Personally, I think that a change should be made, if you invite people to this country you are under a moral obligation to do the best that you can for them. In my opinion that is not being done. Most immigrants come here to escape unbearable and intolerable conditions in their own country. They wish to improve their living conditions and employment - consistent with the opportunities offering. At present they are not able to do that. I am in constant communication with the representatives of new Australians, and I have heard their complaints. Two weeks ago, Mr. J. Neale, a leading member of the executive of the Federated Clothing Trades Union, told me that the position in the clothing trade was worse now than in 1938. I asked him to put that in writing. He did so. Very briefly, this is what he said -
In 1938, the clothing trade was starting to get back to the sweated industry of the ‘twenties.
I remind honorable senators that in the twenties thousands of new Australians came here, mainly from England. They became unemployed and had no prospect of getting a job. Their position was so desperate that a Mr. Wheeler, a member of the House of Commons at the time, came to Australia and visited various States in order to see the position for himself. His report, upon returning to England, was far from favorable to the Australian Government. Mr. Neale adds -
The advent of the war stabilized the trade, with the result that for the following ten years there was full employment and the policing of outdoor work was relaxed - so much so that with the increased migration the position soon became out of hand. In 19S2, it is estimated, in the vicinity of 10 per cent, of production for retailers came from outdoor workers. Not all of these are individual workers but in a majority of cases family units. This has been encouraged by warehouses and retailers because of the lowering of prices to the legitimate factory, and used to get cheaper making prices from the trade. The outdoor worker has no rent to pay, no insurance, no sick or holiday pay, no registration, no workers’ compensation, but last but by no means least no overtime. Thus they work all the hours they can stand up to.
The following paragraph summarizes the position:- -
The position in the trade to-day is that there are fewer employed in legitimate factories than there were in 1938, even though the population has i increased by 25 per cent, since then. In 1950, it was 122,464 while in 1938 there were 86,092 persons employed in the industry. By 1957-58, the number employed was 77,000.
The union in Victoria and New South Wales isdoing its best to curb this menace by prosecution, but, with fines ranging from £5 to £25, the inducement to get a cheap labour force and to save the highest fine in a week’s production has only encouraged backyard manufacturers to further their inroads into this industry and deprive the employees from earning a livelihood working in legitimate factories. The factories that can compete are those that work under strenuous incentive schemes, thus impairing the health of the employees.
The point I want to make is that, owing to the pressure of unemployment, many of the new Australians in the clothing trade are being forced to work under conditions similar to those which existed prior to 1938. I quite appreciate the Government’s position, but I say that the Government has a moral obligation. Just as one has a moral obligation to do one’s best for those whom one invites into one’s household, so has this Government a moral obligation to those people whom it invites into its national household. It has a moral obligation to see that they are not herded together in hostels, like animals in a paddock, that they are not left to wander about the streets offering their services for the barest minimum repayment, to see that they are not suppressed by the pressure of preventable unemployment. I know this Government says that the legal responsibility for immigrants rests with the State governments, but there is a moral obligation on the Commonwealth Government. It invites thousands of immigrants to some here and, that being so, it should accept some responsibility for seeing to it that those immigrants are reasonably well provided for. It is not beyond the bounds of political or financial possibility to do that.
Although this bill seeks to improve machinery provisions relating to immigration, it contains no provision for finding employment for these people. We all agree that Australia needs developing, and it is as well to remind the Government that there is every possibility of a recurrence of what happened in this country in the 1920’s. It is happening in other countries because governments are not facing up to their responsibilities. It is becoming desperate in those countries, just as it was desperate when I entered this chamber in 1938. At that time, there were approximately 500,000 people on the dole. When war broke out, it was discovered that great improvements could be effected, and they were introduced during a period of war. All I ask is that the Government honour its obligation to do much better for these people whom it is inviting here to protect Australia, to increase Australia’s wealth and to make it a better country than the one they left. The Government is under an obligation to do that, and I trust it will look at the matter in that light and try to do something better than is provided for in the bill.
.- I do not think the bill now before us calls for any debate on rights or wrongs; it humanizes and it streamlines the legislation relating to migration. When one looks at the Minister’s second-reading speech and realizes that it is 57 years since immigration was first introduced, and that the legislation has been altered from time to time, I am sure every honorable senator will agree that it is only right that the act should be amended and introduced to the House in its present form. I congratulate the Minister and the department for their extensive overhaul of the present legislation. One cannot help but feel that the amendments will make for much more humane treatment of immigrants to this country. One greatly needed improvement is the proposed clarification of the Minister’s power to ensure that our immigration policy is in the best interests of the country.
I am particularly pleased to see that it is proposed to abolish the dictation test. We all know that there have been instances in which the use of the dictation test has been criticized. Whether it has served a useful purpose in the past is another matter; I feel that at times it was used unfairly, and I certainly prefer the proposal to issue entry permits. In my opinion, the abolition of the dictation test will eliminate from the minds of immigrants and Australians the doubts which have been held hitherto as to its fairness.
The granting of certificates of exemption was another weakness in that it was doubtful whether the Minister had power to require a person to leave the country once his permit expired. By granting a temporary permit to enter, the Minister’s power to require a person to leave the country upon the expiration of the permit is ensured.
In his second-reading speech, the Minister outlined five provisions by which the liberty of the subject is protected. It is good to see some consideration given to the liberty of the individual because, in a democracy such as ours, that liberty is of paramount importance. I believe that all honorable senators are extremely pleased with the five provisions outlined by the Minister in his second-reading speech. He said -
Section 14a of the present act empowers an officer without warrant to arrest any person reasonably supposed to be a prohibited immigrant offending against this act.
That section refers to a person whose case has not been considered fully and whose deportation has not been ordered by the Minister. In such a. case very early consideration should be given by a judicial officer to the circumstances surrounding the arrest. Accordingly, clause 38 of the bill provides - . . for a person so arrested to be brought within 48 hours, or as soon as practicable afterwards, before a prescribed authority, who must inquire into whether there are reasonable grounds for supposing the person to be a prohibited immigrant.
That is a very wise alteration.
A similar liberalization of the law concerns the arrest of persons reasonably supposed to be those against whom deportation orders have been issued by the Minister. Section 14c of the Immigration Act authorizes an officer, without qualification, to arrest such persons. This bill provides safeguards against the possible misuse of that power. In his second-reading speech the Minister said1 -
Clause 39 provides that individuals so arrested shall be given particulars of the deportation order. Should they claim mistaken identity they can immediately make a statutory declaration to that effect and be taken before an independent authority within 48 hours or as soon as practicable thereafter. If, on inquiry, the prescribed authority is not satisfied that reasonable grounds for the arrest exist, those apprehended are discharged.
All honorable senators will agree that the Minister should be commended for the insertion of that clause. Another safeguard is provided by clause 41 of the bill. The Minister said -
It may be that a person arrested as a deportee will not dispute the question of identity, but will contest the validity of the deportation order. In these circumstances legal questions are involved, and should be .decided by a superior court. Such a hearing can, of course, already be secured by writ of habeas corpus or by injunction. The bill, however, goes further. It ensures that persons arrested must be given all reasonable facilities for obtaining legal advice and taking legal proceedings.
Another excellent feature proposed by this measure was referred to by the Minister when he said -
A fifth example of the humanistic quality of this legislation is the requirement set out in clause 37 that an officer must hold a search warrant in order to search buildings, premises or vehicles for a prohibited immigrant or a deportee, or for documents relating to circumstances in which people would become prohibited immigrants. This is in contrast with section 14b of the existing law whereby an officer can do all these things without a warrant.
The amendments suggested are in keeping with what we consider to be the liberty of the individual, and they should find favour in the hearts and minds of us all, because I am sure we would all wish immigrants in this country to be treated as we ourselves would wish to be treated if we were in their position.
Another humane feature is the proposal that persons awaiting deportation shall be held in detention centres instead of gaols. In his second-reading speech the Minister directed attention to the bad effect that contacts made in gaol can have upon people awaiting deportation. They are forced to associate with undesirable characters who are in gaol as a result of a breach of the law, in some cases of a very serious nature. The Minister stated -
I am happy to say that arrangements are now being made for non-criminal deportees to be accommodated in detention centres, instead of prisons, whilst awaiting shipment. The details have yet to be finalized, but there will be at least two, one in New South Wales, one in Western Australia, and possibly a third in another State.
That is a forward step, one that is in keeping with the human rights of individuals who are not guilty of any serious crime.
The final point to which I wish to refer is the position of immigration agents. I am glad to see that certificates of registration will not be issued now, and that agents will thus be prevented from using such certificates by way of advertising. Cases have arisen in which agents have used certificates for their own benefit, very often to the detriment of immigrants. I know of such cases. By the display of certificates of registration, agents can exert an undue inuence on immigrants or people in Australia sponsoring other immigrants, and extract money from those who do not have a knowledge of the affairs of this country. I congratulate the Minister, and the department, on bringing forward this proposal.
In fact, the whole of the legislation seems to have the unanimous approval of this chamber.
The Department of Immigration has rendered a great service to Australia. I am the Senate representative on the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, and on any occasion on which I have had dealings with the department, I have received the utmost courtesy. The department is playing a noble part in helping to increase Australia’s population. The Minister, like his predecessors, has found great interest and enthusiasm among his officers, and he himself has displayed such energy, initiative and drive that when his term of office has concluded he will have rendered great benefit to Australia.
.- I intervene in this debate only to make one or two short observations. I join with other honorable senators in commending the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), and his department, for their initiative and grasp of the problems associated with immigration. When we look at the period that has elapsed since the original legislation was introduced, and when we remember that the dictation test, for example, was introduced first as a means of limiting the number of Asian immigrants, this legislation is most welcome. If I remember correctly, the dictation test was originally introduced in the colony of Natal in South Africa, to reduce the number of British Indian immigrants to that colony. The test has survived, illogically and anachronistically, for too long in Australia and, therefore, its elimination is something for which we should commend the Minister.
While the Minister has been commended by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, I do not think that our approval should stop at that point. I direct my remarks to something that is perhaps slightly outside the strict ambit of the bill. I refer to a public statement made by the Minister within the last 48 hours at a convention of the political party of which he is a member. He spoke of the need for greater courage and vision in our approach to the immigration programme. I have always held that view myself, and in other party conclaves have ventured the opinion that this problem should be dealt with boldly. It is a matter in which we should take some national risks, and even though national problems may be created as a result, if those problems are inescapable, we should nevertheless seize the opportunity to bring to Australia the greatest possible number of immigrants.
Sirring suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension I had paid m,y small tribute to the Minister for Immigration for bringing down this legislation, which makes a new, logical and modern approach to the problems of migration. It eliminates much that is obsolete. It introduces a strain of logic to our approach to the handling of migration - something which is long overdue and certainly is most desirable. I believe that this legislation, when the facts of it become known, will of itself stimulate interest in migration to this country.
The legislation also shows a maturity of national outlook* which is most commendable. After all, we are a comparatively young nation. When we embarked on this gigantic migration programme it was natural that we should find difficulties and that we should approach it with some diffidence, if not with some national suspicion. By this legislation, we have moved to the stage where we are facing the realities of the situation, and in a bill which I think is even more important than the bill we are discussing now - the Nationality and Citizenship Bill, which amends in a most important particular the prevailing law in relation to citizenship - we are displaying a national maturity that is most commendable.
In commending the Minister for his approach to the task of streamlining and modernizing the machinery. I suggest to the Senate that the Minister’s point of view on the immigration programme generally should find quick acceptance in this chamber. In a statement to a convention of his party, he suggested that we should display a greater degree of courage in our approach to migration than we are displaying at the moment and have displayed in the past. With that I thoroughly agree. It is a view that I have tried to express at every opportunity that has presented itself to me. So important and so vital to this country is a growing and expanding population in view of all the difficult and even dangerous circumstances that surround it - military, international, national, economic and social circumstances - that I think a solution of many of our problems could be a high rate of immigration intake, with an expanding population and the consequences that flow from.it. For that reason, I am disappointed that, despite the growing wealth of this country, we have not done more in regard to immigration.
I do not want to touch on matters that more properly should have been discussed during the Budget debate, but, because I did not mention them then, I feel that I should trespass on the time of the Senate to mention them now. In 1954 the number of migrants admitted to this country, in round figures, was 104,000. In 1955, the number was 130,000; in 1956, 123,000; and in 1957, only 118,000. There will possibly be a slight .fall this year. The official departmental .figures are available only for the quarter from January to March and show that 27,000 have been admitted in that quarter. If we multiply that by four, the number for this year will be more or less the same as for last year, or perhaps slightly less. I feel that if we were to give migration the significance that is its due in our nation and in our economy, it would help us to solve many of our problems. The White Paper which accompanied the Budget discloses that the national income for the year 1955-56 was£4,427,000,000. In 1956-57, it increased to £4,765,000,000, but in 1957-58 it decreased to £4,710,000,000. Because I have definite feelings on the matter, I am disappointed that ‘that increase in the national income has not been paralleled by similar increase in our migrant intake. That is why I plead with the Government particularly for a review of the whole subject and for a re-assessment of the part played by immigration in the national life of Australia.
– It is a very large number compared with what any country has attempted.
– I know it is. Credit is due -to those who have been responsible over the years for our immigrant intake. I have other figures on migration which may be of interest to honorable senators. The Australian intake from 1947 to 1957 was 1,252,000, whereas Canada’s intake of migrants during the same period was 1,599,000. Considering the relative sizes of the two countries, Australia’s effort is extremely creditable. The United States intake during the same period was 2,164,000.
However, I do not think we can merely look at the relative figures. I think we must also look at the part increased population can play in solving the Australian national problem. I do not think 1 speak with undue pessimism when I accent the problems that face this nation to-day. There is the military problem arising from our geographical isolation and the threats that are likely to manifest themselves in this part of the world. There is the problem of international relationships - a problem which has become very acute in Australia during the last fortnight and which exemplifies our tremendous commercial vulnerability. We have the situation of one of the consuming nations in the field of base metals cutting back its imports of Australian base metals. The quantity involved, in comparison with total exports from Australia, is extremely insignificant, yet the national revulsion and national reaction is tremendous. That is only one indication of the extraordinary vulnerability of our economy to fluctuations in world1 demand. Over the years there has been a diversification of our national economic activity and our industries have grown. Our degree of vulnerability is not nearly as great as it was years ago, but a small interruption like this indicates how extraordinarily vulnerable we still are. I have always suggested that a great home consumer market is one of the greatest economic buttresses that any nation can present against wild and dramatic fluctuations in world demand for export commodities.
I know that we speak with enthusiasm and optimism of the possibility of exporting our secondary products to Asian and other countries, but we must face the fact that we are a nation producing at a high cost and with a high wage level. It is not going to be easy for us to find adequate and. suitable markets for our secondary products. We will always find some markets, and we will undoubtedly find more markets than we are now supplying, but if we can sell a greater percentage of our goods to our own people, who will consume them at the wage level at which they are produced, then undoubtedly we will help to decrease our national economic vulnerability. That is why I do not think we can assess the importance of our migration programme merely in terms of migration to other countries, or in relation to other economic national factors which are so often mentioned. I think there are more important considerations which, in the long run, must determine our national point of view. I know it is said that an undue influx of migrants may be a threat to employment, may be a threat to those at present in occupations. I do not think that that is a difficulty that could not be overcome. To-day in Australia we are facing the position that there is a prevailing high level of unemployment. The portents for our being able to eliminate it next year are not very bright. The possibility of a good export trade, even for our primary products, is not particularly illuminating. Next year we may have the same difficulty as we have experienced this year in selling our primary products at a price that will return us the foreign exchange we need.- I know that this year the position has been dependent to some extent upon the American recession and internal affairs in Britain. But I, personally, am not able to visualize any dramatic improvement among our major consumers. For that reason, I feel that we will be as vulnerable next year as we have been this year and that that degree of vulnerability will continue until we are able to buttress ourselves with a tremendous increase in the home consumption of our products and in national population.
I regard our attitude to migration as being one of the great national challenges - a challenge that must be met by every section of the community. Senator Buttfield said that possibly it would provide a challenge to, and some sacrifice by, many sections in the community. I feel it is something which, in the wider national interest, will have to be met. Therefore, when I trespass in this debate by making these general observations, I do it because the Minister who introduced this legislation, having displayed that assiduity, that grasp of the ramifications of the department under his administration, which has emerged in the formulation of this legislation, has recently, in parallel, made a statement regarding the significance of the whole migration programme. His words, his thoughts, his recommendations cannot be completely disregarded. I trust that his colleagues in the Cabinet and in the Government, while they remain such, will have regard to the viewpoint that he has expressed and will face up to the challenge. 1 feel that, having met the challenge, even though we may suffer some temporary disability and some temporary dislocation, in the long run we will have strengthened the economy and have provided a strength of military importance and significance which will have far-reaching effects, not only in Australia, but also in our international relations.
I believe that our opportunities to bring migrants to this country will become increasingly attenuated as day succeeds day. As the roots of those in Europe who are displaced or who are economically dispossessed go down once again, the chances of our getting the type of migrant we want will become more limited. We must seize the opportunity while it is there, because it is a dissipating opportunity. Once we miss the opportunity, there will be no possibility of our being able to do anything about it. If ever boldness should be our friend, and if ever courage should walk hand in hand with the nation, now is the time for that to happen.
I have sufficient confidence in every section of the Australian community to believe that, if the challenge is firmly placed before them and if the part that they should play in accepting it is individually and organizationally fairly and squarely realized, indubitably it will be faced. I trust that, whether it be at the hands of the present Government during this sessional period or next year, or at any other hand, these vital and overriding national considerations will take first place within any sectional or individual interest, and that the nation will be elevated to a position of prime importance and significance in the thinking of our national legislature.
– I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to pay a compliment to the officials of the Department of Immigration. I see in this legislation a culmination of many years of work and study of the nation’s migration problems. On the many occasions on which I have had to approach officials of the department I have been impressed by their interest in their work and in the success of our migration programme. That is of encouragement, not only to the person who goes to the department for assistance, but also to those who are interested in migration generally.
This measure represents a great advance in our migration legislation. As with all legislation, the success of this bill will depend on the way in which it is administered. The legislation that we have had up to date has been rather poor, and it has only been because of the consideration, thought and balance of departmental officials and the Ministers who have administered the department from time to time that we have been able to get along more or less satisfactorily.
One reason why we should be happy about having this measure before us is that migration is becoming much more involved and much more challenging than it was in the past. For some years we enjoyed prosperity. During that time there was a demand for labour. We had an overseas market for our products and we were enabled to establish a fairly stable economy and take in a greater number of migrants than would normally be considered safe. After the last war we wanted more people in this country. The lag in housing and development had to be taken up, and migrants provided the necessary manpower for that work. The migrant then was employed, housed and cared for. He had no worries about employment or housing, and was not a challenge to Australian workmen in the field of employment.
Unfortunately, however, over the last three years that has not been so. I think every member of the Parliament who has been in close contact with the people, particularly the migrants, will know the difficulty that the unskilled migrant is experiencing in obtaining employment. The unskilled migrant is a simple person who is prepared to accept conditions as he finds them here, and to work hard. All he asks of the Government and the nation is that he be provided with the opportunity to work and support his family. Over the last three years I have been approached by migrants from all countries pleading that something be done to ensure that they be absorbed in the work force. When they are not provided with employment, they drift into clubs and various undesirable haunts. Up to the present they have: been in a very, vulnerable situation.
In our efforts to increase our population, migration is second only to increase by natural birth. If we expect migration to be successful, as it has been over the period that we are reviewing with some small pride - the immigrants have been absorbed in the Australian community, and up to three years ago were provided with employment - we have to make employment a part of of the pattern. When Labour first commenced the immigration programme, the balance of employment and unemployment was kept. There is no reason why the balance should not continue to be kept in a developing nation, with so much to do. If a migrant comes to this country and is a satisfactory citizen, he should not at any time represent a challenge to our Australian labour force. It should be possible to absorb migrants easily into employment.
Of course, in connexion with immigration, matters- such as housing and living conditions generally have to be considered. Only to-day, I asked a question in this chamber in regard to education. The Minister representing the Treasurer glibly told the Senate, in effect, “ Well, we provide £115,000,000 for the States, and with them rests the responsibility for distributing it or spending it. If they want to spend more on education, they may do so.” However, as it is the policy of the Federal Government to fix the immigration intake at the maximum that the economy will allow, it has a responsibility to the States and to the educationists who are prepared to take in hand the great task of educating in our language and our ways of life the migrants who come here. It is the task of those people to give migrants the capacity to engage in employment and to be useful in the scheme of national development. All those things have been deteriorating in recent times, until we find that great stress is now placed on the Department of Labour and National Service and the Departments of Education in the States. This position must be looked at. If we were unfortunate enough to experience a period of economic recession and employment declined to the degree that it did previously, so that many migrants were thrown onto the labour market, we no doubt would find that those migrants, and many Australians also, would be prepared to give up a lot to earn a living. I say that this bill is vitally necessary.
It is true that we have brought many migrants to this country, but there has been considerable wastage. A number of excuses has been made for that. I read in the press recently that certain politicians had said that ‘ there was a Communist influence at work which was trying to get people to go back to the Communist-dominated countries from which they had come. Our experience of communism is that most of those people would say that such countries would be the last place, short of hell, that they would want to go to. The real reason for the wastage is, as I have tried to explain, that although migrants have been willing and able to work, work has not been available for them. They have come here, suffered the disabilities of migrants, had a miserable time, and have left only to better their position. There can be no other reason for migrants returning to the countries from which they came. There may be a very small percentage of the people who come here who say, “ I have had the trip to Australia. I am not too keen about the place and I want to get home.” I think it will be found that most of the wastage of migrants is due to the fact that they have not been properly absorbed in the immigration plan, by providing them with employment, education facilities, a home and the like.
Sometimes, we tend to become a little too enthusiastic about immigration. We attempt to place the migrant on a pedestal and at a premium compared with our Australian citizen. That should not be so. I think it is vital, from the point of view of national development, that immigration should continue, but if the Government is to pursue a vigorous immigration policy, it must alter its attitude that 1 per cent, or 2 per cent, of unemployment is not dangerous. If it does so, if the nation continues to develop and employment is provided for migrants, and if the necessary funds are made available for education and so on, I think that the migration programme will continue to be as successful as it has been in the past. I know that the sincere application to duty of the officers of the Department of Immigration has helped considerably. I am sure that the Minister is enthusiastic about immigration, but the Minister and the department alone cannot create the success which we desire and which is possible only by the Government ensuring that migrants, most of whom are unskilled, are absorbed in employment. I think that the key-note of a successful migration scheme is the proper application of the policy of full employment. By “ full employment “ I do not mean 1 per cent, of unemployment; I mean a policy under which everybody capable of working and willing to work is provided with work. If that policy is applied, I think that the number of migrants leaving this country will be very small indeed.
– I do not propose to examine the merits or the demerits of the proposed amendments of the legislation now before us. I have no doubt that they have been considered adequately and that they will serve the purpose that the department wants them to serve. This is an opportunity to say a few words on this most important phase of modern Australian life. I agree with Senator Cooke that the basis of an efficient migration scheme which will operate without friction in the community is full employment. Once there is a permanent level of unemployment, the job of those who seek migrants becomes more and more difficult. I for one cannot see why there should not be full employment in a country such as Australia. Although the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) may say from time to time that there is less unemployment in Australia than in any other country, which may or may not be true, it is of no use telling that to the 65,000 people who are unemployed, or to their families and close friends. They can see evidence that Government policy is no longer a policy of full employment. Even those now in employment are fearful that next week they too might join the ranks of the unemployed.
I think that it is asking a great deal to ask that the Australian worker should remain silent when he is unemployed, knowing that there are migrants coming into the country for whom jobs must be found. I agree, Mr. President, with Senator Byrne that immigration to-day is the life-blood of this community. With it, we can grow great, and without it we may stagnate. Therefore, part and parcel of the immigra tion plan should be preparations here in Australia to make the entry of migrants into the national life of this country smooth and not the cause of any friction at all. That is done, first, by making certain that there is work for migrants to do and, secondly, that there are sufficient houses to house the people who want to start to buy homes for themselves.
As in any community, we see in this community of just under 10,000,000 Australians important national works that are crying out for development. At the same time, we see a government which has allowed unemployment to become a permanent part of the national life for the last three years. I hear Senator Scott making a noise like a walrus.
– Tell me when Labour had full employment.
– The interjection is as intelligent as I would expect from that quarter. If the honorable senator had listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) during his speech on the Budget only last week, he would have found that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), before the Government took office in 1949, said, “ We now have full employment “, and then he went on to say that it was his object to keep full employment in the community. There is no question about that. Full employment was a part of Labour’s policy back in 1944.
– It was not working in 1949, was it?
– You have often said that. It is an argument that is completely dishonest and false. That was the occasion when we took on the Communist movement in Australia and fought it to a standstill. Yet we hear this proCommunist talk. As you know, the subsequent period of relative industrial peace is attributable to the lashing that the Communist party got on the coal-fields by the government of the day. The supporters of the present Government try to make political capital out of the struggle, the conspiracy, by the Communists to take control of the government by strike action. As I say, that conspiracy was destroyed so successfully that there followed a period of relative industrial peace, for which the present Government seeks to take credit to itself. It is well known that one can make a speech off interjections, but I do not wish to take advantage ‘of the futile interjections that have been made during the last couple of minutes.
Returning to the subject of immigration, I emphasize that we have had a condition of full employment in this country in the past, and that state of affairs can again be brought about if this Government is not too weary, figuratively speaking, to put its shoulder to the wheel. I do not know how much employment is provided by the expenditure of about £190,000,000 a year on defence - which is largely wasted - but I do know that if £50,000,000 of that amount were devoted to the construction and maintenance of great national roads, a considerable amount of employment would be provided and an aspect of defence that has been seriously neglected would be. given the attention it warrants. The institution of roads construction as a defence measure would absorb the unskilled labour that is now coming here from Europe, labour which it will be difficult to absorb because there are already about 60,000 people unemployed in this country.
I congratulate the Government on its keenness on immigration. The Minister’s speech was interesting, in that it showed that he is following in the footsteps of former Ministers for Immigration, both Labour and Liberal. It is important to us to have a strong migration policy. However, the Minister should realize that it is unfair to bring migrants to Australia unless jobs are available for them. The Government’s action places persons like myself in an extraordinary position. No member of this chamber is keener on migration than I am; I have advocated it down the years, right from the time I acted as Minister for Immigration during the then Minister’s absence overseas. I have seen the department of Immigration gradually develop into a very efficient administration. We should not forget that it is not so very long ago that the fathers and grandfathers of many members of the community came to Australia to make new homes for themselves. I want a similar opportunity to be afforded to others to come here and to play a part in Australia’s development. Our population of only 10,000,000 people is altogether too few; the sooner the number is doubled the better it will be for our security, both internal and external. The Government must face the facts of the situation. It is giving the Minister and the department an almost impossible task to perform if it does not ensure that jobs are available for the migrants who are brought to this country and that there will be houses available at prices that thrifty migrants will soon be able to afford to pay.
To my mind, there are other great advantages of immigration. During the last twelve months, signs have appeared in the economy similar to those that preceded the country being plunged into depression in the ‘thirties. If we have regard to the decrease in the value of money since 1939, we find that we are not now really getting much more money value for our wool than we received in 1939, when there were over 200,000 persons unemployed. During the last twelve months, there have been serious falls in the prices of our export commodities, which have been badly hit. Indeed, they have been nearly as badly hit as they were in the worst days of the depression. Since 1947, our population has increased by about 2,000,000 people, of whom migrants have accounted for 1,200,000. In consequence, the internal consumer value has increased tremendously. But for that fact - the intensity of the increase in internal consumer value - this country would have been very severely hurt by the fall in the prices of wool and other primary products. In turn, this increase of consumer strength provides a larger internal market for our manufacturers.
I was thrilled only last week to hear how successful has been an industry that I was instrumental in starting in this country, when I was Minister for Supply in the Labour government. I refer to the manufacture of sewing machines at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. That industry is now producing sewing machines for export. The increase in the number of consumers in Australia has enabled manufacturers to develop their respective industries to a stage when they can now export a proportion of their production, something that was thought to be impossible only a few years ago. No longer is our economy affected by the vagaries of export prices for our primary produce.
Senator Byrne referred to Senator Buttfields statement that we shall have to make sacrifices in connexion with the migration programme. So long as there is a condition of full employment in this country, 1 do not think we will have to make any sacrifices in order to sustain a virile immigration programme. There is no reason why every man and woman in this country who wants a job should be idle. The problem to-day is to beat deflation rather than to prevent inflation. As I have said, migrants increase the number of customers purchasing refrigerators and other items needed in the homes. The great textile industries that have developed in this country are depending more and more on our growing population.
Before concluding my remarks, I should like to pay a compliment to the officers in charge of the various migration centres in Europe that I was fortunate to visit earlier this year. We have reason to be proud of the job they are doing. The immigration organization has not been built up in five minutes or, for that matter, in five years. It has been built up over the last ten or twelve years. Competent Australian doctors were attached to every post so that the medical examination would be as complete as possible. When I saw the immigration officials, and the way in which they retained their Australianism it seemed to me that they were among our best representatives overseas. They are for ever exploring new avenues in an attempt to introduce a diversity into our immigration pattern. When I was in Copenhagen, the immigration officer was away in Finland examining some 1,700 Finns who wished to emigrate to Australia. At a recent election in Finland the Communist party polled surprisingly well and anti-Communists have become frightened about what might happen if the Communists attained power. There was formerly small-scale emigration to Canada but there is now an increasing interest in Australia. I noticed only a week or two ago that plane-loads of Finns were arriving. We should be ready to take advantage of any desire which Europeans may have to come to Australia - whether caused by temporary conditions in their homeland or not.
Immigration from Spain has started on a small scale. So far only a handful of Spaniards have come, but they are helping to create a diversity of nationality which is very desirable. There is increased interest on the part of Germans also. In the postwar years Germany’s rapid industrial expansion absorbed all the man-power available, but now things are settling down. The demand for labour is not so great and there is more interest in emigration. Germany can supply the kind of immigrants we want, but however, having taken them from unemployment in their own country, we should not present them with the same problem here. We should be grateful to them for making the effort to come here. This country has developed, not from any especial love for Australia on the part of immigrants, but simply because of their presence here.
It is important that the Government should not jeopardize the immigration movement by an attempt to maintain a permanent measure of unemployment. That is my final plea to the Minister. We want more immigrants, and there is no reason why 1 1 5,000 should be the maximum number who can be brought here in any year. If employment and housing can be provided there is no reason why that number cannot be doubled. In 1949, when Mr. Calwell laid the basis for the 1949-50 intake, we were able to absorb 192,000 immigrants. We have the capacity to absorb that number of immigrants, and there is work here for them to do in making this country great. It is the job of the Minister and of the Government to see that they come to a country which will give them at least the opportunity to labour in honour and dignity.
– I do not wish to canvass the whole field of immigration, which has been very well covered by other speakers. However, I should like to make one or two points concerning the very important consolidating bill before us. I am especially pleased about the amendments which relate to the welfare of children, and I was pleased to hear the closing remarks of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) in that regard. The Minister has dealt wisely with the very difficult problem - for both State and Federal Ministers in recent years - presented by one parent attempting to take a child out of the country without the consent of the other. Such attempts have done a great deal of harm, and I am very pleased that the matter has been dealt with so wisely. That brings me to my point. Child migration has been sadly neglected over the years. I have mentioned this matter in the Senate before, and I propose to mention it again now because it is a field in which I am particularly interested.
My State of Western Australia has received a great proportion of child migrants, and the authorities who have been responsible for the welfare of those migrants have done an excellent job. These children were brought from England and Malta at a time when they needed refuge, but I feel that insufficient thought was given to what would happen when they became sixteen years of age and had to leave the institutions in which they were placed. There is not quite enough liaison between State and Federal officers in this regard. Mr. Young, the Deputy Director of Child Welfare in Western Australia, is doing an excellent job as the representative of the Minister who is responsible for these young people, hut I again urge the Government to assist the Child Welfare Department of that State, the Department of Immigration and the religious bodies which are trying to obtain a hostel for migrant apprentices between the ages of sixteen and eighteen years.
We hear much talk about “ bodgies “ and juvenile delinquency. A proportion of young delinquents have been migrants - while many others have come from homes where they have had the benefit of parents’ help. The proportion of child migrants who have found their way into the police court is no greater than that of ordinary children in the community. They are simply given greater publicity in the newspapers. When one of the migrant lads gets into trouble a newspaper heading draws attention to it. We have been striving during the last couple of years - when the tendency has become marked in the West - to counteract that sort of thing through the courts.
I ask the Minister to assist those who are anxious to establish a migrant hostel for boys between sixteen years and eighteen years of age.- At sixteen they leave the existing institutions and come down to Perth to work. They have never had a penny of their own before, and suddenly find themselves possessed of money. They are only young lads, but begin to believe that they are men. When they receive their first pay they go out and buy a red shirt, “ hot “ socks and so on: The badge of “ bodgyism “ is .upon them. They frequent the milk bars, and though they intend no harm, they are caught up in the wrong groups and begin to deteriorate in character. Quite a few of these young lads have come to my home. I am’ very pleased that they come to .rae with their problems. I am anxious to see established some organization moulded on the lines of Legacy . or Apex, in which older men will take some interest in these boys and -I mention boys because this .problem concerns them mainly. The interest to which I have referred would not involve the expenditure of money or anything of the kind. I urge the Minister to see whether small hostels can be established - one would do to begin with - in the vicinity of their work. They should not be big institutions like those from which the boys have just come, but in the hostels the boys could gradually accustom themselves to living in the community. At eighteen the boys could leave the hostels and make room for other young lads coming on. They would be able to enter the community as responsible citizens. They are very good lads. We are proud of them and I very much regret that more of them are .not coming into the country. Most of our boys’ homes in the west have vacancies for child migrants. Fairbridge .Farm School has always been a very good establishment. We have also the home at Bindoon and the -various church homes. They all have room for more migrant children. I should like to see this aspect of our migration policy given more attention during the coming year. The emphasis should be placed particularly on the after-care of migrant children who have left institutions and gone out into the world to pursue their chosen avocation.
– in reply - I thank honorable senators for their reception of the bill. I have made a number of notes relating to the questions raised during the course df the debate, and I shall certainly convey to the department the very generous praise expressed by honorable senators of the work the department has done in connexion with this bill. It is only fitting that in such cases as this I should pass on to the department the feelings expressed by the Senate.
Senator McManus raised a point in connexion with sub-clause (7.) of clause 14. I point out that this is not an uncommon provision in connexion with such hearings. This sub-clause is similarto a provision contained in the Aliens Deportation Act 1948 and the Arbitration Act. The commissioner must be a judge, or a barrister of five years standing, appointed by the GovernorGeneral. Of course, it will always be possible for persons to be represented by counsel.
As for Senator McCallum’s point in connexion with sub-clause (2.) of clause 14, it is possible, in law, for the provision to be exercised in the way he has suggested, but, in fact, no reasonable Minister would administer it in that way. In essence, it all goes back to the fact that although Parliament gives the Minister a discretionary power he is still ultimately answerable to Parliament itself. I repeat that although it is possible in law for the clause to be implemented in the way Senator McCallum has suggested, I do not think itwould ever in fact be administered in that way.
Senator O’Flaherty raised a number of points. I have taken note of them and will pass them on to the department, although perhaps I should say something now about his reference to penalties. In general, the penalties proposed to be imposed by the bill are the same as those which have existed in the present Immigration Act since . 1902, except that they are revised, taking into account the changed value of money over the past 57 years. Moreover, in every case, the penalties stated are maximum penalties, and the courts will adjust them as required in each particular case. Seldom is the maximum penalty imposed. The courts judge each case on its merits.
Senator Buttfield mentioned the deportation of immigrants. The Immigration Advisory Council recommended to the Minister for Immigration that deportation should take place under clause 13 (c) only in those cases where the disease existed prior to the entry of the immigrant to Australia and in which the immigrant knowingly and deceitfully concealed the existence of the disease in order to gain entry. The Minister has adopted the recommendation , of the council, with the sole qualification that it may occasionally be in the interests of the migrant himself that deportation should proceed. In such cases, the Minister will order the deportation. For instance, it would probably be of benefit to inmates of mental institutions who have no close friends or relatives here to be returned to their relatives in their homeland. I have not the slightest doubt that the humanitarian provisions of clause 13 (c) will meet with the approvalof the people of Australia as a whole, especially as it is in accordance with the views of the Commonwealth health authorities. I think I have answered most of the questions that have been raised in the debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to ask a question relating to clause 14. Paragraph (a) of subclause (2.) seems to me to give the Minister general power to deport if a person’s conduct has been such that he should not be allowed to remain in Australia, whereas paragraph (b) gives the Minister power to deport if the immigrant is a person who advocates the overthrowby force or violence of the established government of any other civilized country. I have pointed out that is it conceivable that such a provision could be used against a person who had expressed the opinion that, for example, a fascist or Communist government had no right to exist. I should like an assurance that there will be no administrative procedures that will ensure that this provision will be interpreted in that way.
SenatorHENTY (Tasmania - Minister for Customs and Excise) [8.55]. - I gave that assurance when replying to the secondreading debate. If the honorable senator refers to “ Hansard “ to-morrow he will see that I have answered that point. He did not happen to be in the chamber when I was replying to the second-reading debate.
.- My attention has been attracted by clause 1.4 and I want to refer also to clause 39. 1notice that although we are not expected to pass these matters without specific reference to them, the Minister was good enough in his second-reading speech to point out expressly that under a bill such as this it has been accepted over the years, here, as in other British countries, that it is for the executive government to decide immigration policy and that the law must provide an -assured means of administering such policies; but always in the background, and sometimes very much in the foreground, is the fact that the executive government has to answer to Parliament for its policies and actions. When it becomes a question as to whether justice has been given to Nim Poo Chu, we do not find political partites in either House of the Parliament very keen to throw out a Budget or destroy a government, or even a Minister. Parliament, through the responsible Minister, is there in the role of protector of those ideals of British justice which we say shall apply even to immigrants. 1 notice that under clause 14, the Minister has indicated a court may surround the person concerned with a measure of protection. As I listened to Senator McCallum and Senator McManus, I thought that the points they raised were deserving of attention and I noticed that the ground could not be implemented if the person whom it was proposed to deport requested a consideration by a commissioner. In such a case, the Minister’s power to make an order is qualified by the fact that the commissioner is required to report, after a thorough investigation, even though it is not in accordance with the legal rules of evidence, that the ground of deportation has been established. When it is realized that the commissioner is either a judge of a federal court, or of a supreme court, or a barrister or solicitor of five years’ standing, there is an indication of a reasonable judicial standard by which the factum will be determined.
But I am interested to know why no reference is made to members of the magistracy as commissioners. First of all, I am a little interested to know how, in view of modern ideas of the federal judicial power, a federal judge can be entrusted with this function as a commissioner. But passing that by as a little technical, why have we gone from supreme court judges to barristers and solicitors, overlooking the officers who are usually employed for this purpose with great reliability - the magistracy. I think
I- detect on the part of the department a little sense of unwillingness to rely upon the magistracy. I should have thought that the magistracy would have been the institution from which these commissioners would come. My second point refers to sub-clause (2.), which reads -
Subject to the next succeeding section, if it appears to the Minister that, in the case of an immigrant who entered Australia . . . not more than five years previously -
his conduct (whether in Australia or elsewhere) has been such that he should not be allowed to remain in Australia . . .
The commissioner is asked to report upon the very vague proposition that the immigrant’s conduct has been such that he should not be allowed to remain in Australia. However, no criterion whatever is given as to what may, in the opinion of the Minister, amount to such misconduct as would justify the exclusion of a person from Australia. I cannot see why the most obvious forms of misconduct should not be specified. Then, by means of a dragnet clause, the Minister could be authorized to issue a prohibition order for any other reason that seemed to him to justify it.
The act would be improved greatly if the actual types of conduct that will be regarded as conduct warranting the exclusion of an immigrant from Australia were specified. In that proposition lies the whole principle as to whether this country is to be ruled by officials according to reasons that seem valid to them, or whether it is to be ruled by an impartial system of law as expressed by Parliament.
I do not intend to vote against the inclusion of this clause, but I wish to express my protest. All honorable senators have a great measure of admiration for the energetic and skilful approach of the Minister. His integrity shines like a light in the darkness. But Ministers come and go, and legislation that we pass may last for a long time. The previous act was in operation for 57 years. As I said earlier, the clause, in its present form’, could be administered in such a way that an immigrant would receive not British justice, but the “ kick-out “ because he was disliked by a minister or one of this officials.
– The clause referred to by Senator Wright provides the only power in this bill whereby a British subject who has entered Australia regularly without any restriction, such as a temporary entry permit, and who has not been convicted of a crime or admitted to an institution, may be deported. Under the existing act, such a person could be given a dictation test at any time within five years after entry and, on failing to pass the test, could be deported. The clause now before us requires that the Minister, if he wishes to deport such a person because of misconduct, must give the immigrant the opportunity to have his case considered by a commissioner. The matter does not rest entirely with the Minister. I understand the point regarding specific types of conduct raised by the honorable senator, but the Minister must convince the commissioner that the conduct of the immigrant is such that he should not be allowed to remain in Australia. The commissioner has to investigate the matter and be satisfied that the charge is sustained. That is the answer to the particular point raised by the honorable senator.
.- When the commission is set up to investigate a case of this nature will the investigation take place in private or in public? I should like the Minister to inform me on that point. In the interests, not only of the person who may be accused under this section of the act, but also of the Minister for Immigration and all concerned, it would be much better if the matter were ventilated in public. Everyone would then know whether the accusation against the accused person - namely, that he was unworthy to remain in Australia - was justified.
– Before the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) replies to the queries that have been raised, I wish to say that I thought I made it quite clear that I recognize the great improvement achieved by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) in giving to the immigrant who is subject to a prohibition order a right of reference to a commission. I wish to go a little further in explanation. I used only one phrase to indicate that in such a reference the commissioner is required statutorily to make a thorough investigation of the matter. The immigrant would then have the right to take out a writ of mandamus against the commissioner and the court would be required to say whether the investigation was thorough. However, no statutory requirement exists that the investigation should take place in public, or that it should be in accordance with the rules of evidence. While I recognize the proposed section as a vast improvement of the existing legislation, it does not satisfy the objection that lies in this clause, that is, that the commissioner must be satisfied that the proposed deportee’s conduct is such as appears to the Minister to make the immigrant a person who should not be allowed to remain in Australia.
What criterion is that upon which anybody in this country, so long as it is to be ruled by law and not by men, should act? The objection is emphasized by the observation that the Minister for Customs and Excise was good enough to make - an observation that has been circulated by the Minister for Immigration in the form of explanatory notes - that this is the only section which allows the deportation within five years from the date of his admission, of a British subject who has not been convicted of a crime. We are not dealing necessarily with aliens, although aliens are included. We know that some of these immigrants have pretty stuffy records in Venezuela or Peru or other parts of the world. That is why the commissioner may rely on other than legal evidence. I do not complain about that, but the commissioner is required only to be satisfied in such a case that the person, in the opinion of the Minister, should not be allowed to remain in Australia. It is so general that I venture to suggest that from ten Ministers you would get ten different opinions on an individual case. I suggest that with a little care and a little purpose on the part of the officers of the department to submit these cases to law so that they will not be the only authority, the position could be made more satisfactory. They are the advisers of the Minister who has not the time to review every case individually. It should not be beyond the capacity of the draftsman and of the officers of the department, if they are purposeful in observing the spirit of the rule of law, to enumerate the eight or nine obvious kinds of misconduct that should warrant deportation, and then add a dragnet clause that could be used for the exceptional case. That would not be completely satisfactory, but it would be infinitely more satisfactory than this very general clause that enables the Minister to base a deportation order simply on the fact that it appears to him that the conduct of a person, since he came to Australia, disallows him from remaining in Australia.
– If you had that dragnet clause, would it not merely put the matter into the same category as the present clause puts it?
– Of course, Senator Byrne and I would use a phrase that would attract a particular line of interpretation that we would know to be a satisfactory safeguard - the ejusdem generis interpretation.
– Why do you not talk English? Then we would understand you.
– It is like our friend Senator Kendall talking about the Plimsoll line to me. I am perhaps sinking at the moment, but I am just asking: Why cannot we, in a machinery bill like this, specify the conduct for which a man can be deported from this country?
– In answer to Senator Sheehan, the procedure will be as the commissioner thinks fit. I shall pass Senator Wright’s comments on to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) and perhaps we can deal with that matter when we are dealing with the legislation another time.
Bill agreed to.
– Unless any other senator wishes to refer to a clause preceding clause 39, I wish to say something on clause 39.
– The question “That the bill stand as printed “ has been resolved. Perhaps you could move for recommital of the bill.
– I do not understand. I was on my feet long before the question was put. Please, Mr. Chairman, I pray that we do not become so eager to do nothing that we deny an honorable senator the right to speak.
– Before you proceed further on that, let me say that I have my obligations and duties in the chair. There are procedures whereby you can get to the point to which you want to get, but you must protect me as well as yourself. I have a clear recollection of putting the question, “ That the bill stand as printed.” I then said, “ All those in favour say ‘ Aye ‘, to the contrary, No ‘; I think the Ayes have it “. It was after that that you stood.
– I wish to disagree with that statement.
– I suggest you take the opportunity to make your remarks on the motion for the third reading of the bill.
– I suggest, with the very greatest respect, that there is a misapprehension on the part of the Chair as to the stage that was reached before my physical rising. However, if I am in order in doing so, I move -
That the bill be recommitted.
– I second the motion.
– Would I be in order in suggesting that, for the sake of free speech and common-sense proceedings, you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, concede Senator Wright’s point that he was trying to attract your attention before you put the question?
– I do not concede that point at all. I did not see Senator Wright until after I had put the question. However, I accept the motion, “ That the bill be recommitted “, so we have got over the impasse.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee (Recommittal):
Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania [9.16].- With very great respect, I say that I think it would do us all good if we studied clause 39 a little. It concerns not deportation, but the arrest of proposed deportees. It is to be noted that where an order for deportation is in force against a person an officer may, without warrant, arrest a person whom he reasonably supposes to be that person. Sub-clause (2) reads -
Where an officer arrests a person in accordance with this’ section, the officer shall forthwith inform the person arrested of the reason for the arrest and shall, if that person so requests, furnish to him, as soon as practicable, particulars of the deportation order.
It is the words “ if that person so requests “ with which I am concerned. It is surely good procedure, where a deportation order warrants an arrest, that the particulars of that deportation order, in writing, should be furnished immediately to the person arrested. Having regard to the illiteracy and langauge difficulties of some migrants, I submit that it is not in accord with our ideas of British justice that we should furnish them with an order only if they so request. However, that is a mere detail.
Sub-clause 3 provides that if a person arrested under this clause claims, within 48 hours after his arrest, that he is not identical with the person mentioned in the order, he has a right to make a statutory declaration to that effect in which event he shall then be brought before a prescribed authority - the prescribed authority being a State or a Supreme Court judge - who can hear the matter and determine whether or not he is the person. Why limit his right to invoke that procedure to a case where he so claims within 48 hours after his arrest? He may know nothing of this provision. He may be illiterate and illinformed. Why limit the time? It may only occur to him 72 hours afterwards. If he is kept in custody, why not give him the right at any time while he is in custody to have the question whether there has been a mistake in identity referred to the prescribed authority? That may be a detail, but anybody who has practised in the criminal jurisdiction, where the liberty of the subject is still a valued idea, knows that there are countless cases where, because persons are over-awed in the presence of authority, they refrain from taking the advantages that the law prescribes.
The real point about this question is in sub-clause (6.) which reads -
A deportee may be kept in such custody as the Minister or an officer directs -
pending deportation, until he is placed on board a vessel for deportation;
The time is unlimited, and the deportee is to be held in the custody of an officer. Subclause (7.) provides - an authorized officer may at any time order the release of a person who is in custody . . .
We know of a case in Hobart where a deportee was kept in the Hobart jail for four weeks, and that three centuries after the passing of the Habeas Corpus Act!
– Apparently habeas corpus does not exist in Tasmania.
– Yes, it does, but not when you have a supine legislature which gives an official a right to imprison indefinitely. In reply to all these representations, the department has found a phrase in one High Court judgment where that vigilant guardian of individual rights, the present Chief Justice, said, almost as an aside, that even though it was indefinite as to duration, after a reasonable time the deportee would be entitled to his discharge on habeas. But who is to decide what is a reasonable time? Let us remember that the Stuart judges were made subject to penalties of up to £500, in the terms of that century, for unreasonably withholding bail or for imposing excessive bail, such were the safe. guards of habeas corpus at that time. Here we are asked to leave it to an assessment by a judge as to what is a reasonable time within which the official must get the deportee on board ship.
I am bound to say that I recognize, from what the department and the Minister have been good enough to convey to me as to the administrative difficulties associated with this matter, that they are faced with practical difficulties and that the people with whom they have to deal are elusive pimpernels. But, notwithstanding that fact, clause 39 (6.) is open to the objection that it should provide that a judicial person shall be authorized, as a matter of jurisdiction, to grant bail with such sureties and upon, such conditions that the deportee may appear from time to .time, in order to ensure that his escape will not be effective and to pre-1 vent him from being held indefinitely even though it be, under the scheme that the Minister suggests now, not in a prison but iri one of the custody houses.
Let me conclude by saying that there is a small matter in sub-clause (2.), another small matter in sub-clause (3.), and in subclause (6.) a major matter, all of which are worthy of the serious consideration of the Senate.
.-I am not clear about the provisions of clause 61. which reads -
Nothing in this Part shall be read as intended to prevent or restrict the operation of any law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth under which -
action may be taken to prevent a child from leaving Australia or being taken or sent out of Australia; or
a person may be punished in respect of the taking or sending of a child out of Australia.
It is well known that in Australia there are parents who are living apart - in some cases, in different States - and that one of the parents has the children. It has happened that one of such parents has decided to leave Australia and by some means or other has gained control of the children and has taken them out of the Commonwealth before the other parent has become fully aware of what has happened.
Clause 61 merely preserves the State laws. I should like a little enlightenment upon what the State laws are. I feel sure that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), who is in charge of the bill, will be able to give me some idea. I am aware of what clause 62 provides, because it is more positive. I have no doubt about how it would operate, but I certainly am confused about the provisions of clause 61.
– I am advised that this provision will not override the State law. The ordinary State law will continue to operate, but this provision becomes an additional safeguard. Under the Statelaw, there is power to make an order to prevent a child from being taken out of the country.
– To my mind, that would be a more satisfactory explanation of the provisions of clause 62. Let us suppose that no proceedings are pending and that no order has been made by the court granting custody of children to one of the parents. Let us suppose, too, that there is a difference between the mother and the father and that the father suddenly (eaves the country with the children. What I am asking is whether this bill seeks to give any protection to the mother, especially where the children are of a tender age - say, under the age of fourteen years.
– No, it does not. You cannot provide for children where no court action has been taken.
.- I wonder whether, in relation to the question that has been raised by Senator Benn, the Minister will confirm or correct my understanding of the situation. I have read clause 61 as indicating that, the Federal Parliament, in clause 62, having made provision to safeguard the custody of children in the cases mentioned, that provision shall not be taken to override and be a substitute for State legislation. 1 understood the Minister to say that the State legislation may be invoked if it is applicable. If it is not applicable, the legislation before us provides an additional safeguard for the parents of children who may he concerned. As I read it, the clause is simply a means of indicating to the courts that they are to look to their authority - not only to this particular provision of the federal act, but to the continued operation of the State legislation, so long as that is effective to authorize the same result. If parents can be protected by the provisions of both the State and the Federal legislation, they will have a double safeguard. As I read clause 61, that is its intention, and I make this comment for correction or confirmation as the Minister sees fit.
– Senator Wright has said what I was trying to say.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23rd September (vide page 523), on motion by Senator Henty-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Australian Labour party has no objection to the speedy passage of this bill. The general canvass of the subject that was made during the debate on the Migration Bill 1958, with which the Senate has just dealt, leaves me with little to say. The Migration Bill has a particular importance in that it determines, as it were, the type of people we shall have in this country in years to come. The Nationality and Citizenship Bill, with which we are dealing, seeks to regulate the conditions under which those people will live in Australia. It has a humane purpose. It attempts to remove some of the disadvantages which the migrant experiences, or which are suffered by those in this country who are naturalized rather than native-born.
I ask the Minister to consider the circumstances of a person who has been outside Australia for more than the period prescribed in the bill and who, therefore, has lost his citizenship. The bill contains a simple provision whereby he merely will make application to the chief officer of the department to regain his rights of citizenship. I am wondering what check will be made in the future regarding criminal acts which normally would destroy the chances of success for a person trying to regain entry to this country. When this bill becomes law, there will be a very simple procedure regarding applications for reentry to Australia. I am a little sensitive on this point, because I think that we should always be careful to make doubly sure that people with criminal records are kept out. It is true that, in a few instances, criminals have slipped under our guard. It is unfair to our police forces to burden them with additional criminals. I should like an assurance from the Minister that we will not be letting our guard down in this respect.
– I wish again to congratulate the Minister on bringing this bill forward. I rise only because there has been a good deal of controversy as to whether a naturalized citizen should stand on exactly the same footing as a native-born citizen. Before this bill was brought in, there was considerable talk on our side of the House. I feel very happy with the bill because I was one of those who always said that we had no right whatever to discriminate between naturalized and native-born citizens. At every welcoming of people to this country that I attended, and at naturalization ceremonies, I was in the habit of saying that there were no second-class citizens of Australia. Then, I suddenly discovered that there were, inasmuch as there was differentiation between the native-born and the naturalized, in that, without a trial and without making him amenable to the laws, a man could be expelled. That is to be wiped out.
Perhaps we shall always feel that there is a slight difference. Honorable senators may recall that St. Paul was arrested arbitrarily and arbitrarily punished after which he said he was a Roman citizen. The chief captain in charge of the gaol became very frightened and asked, “ Are you a Roman citizen? “ He was told, “ Yes ‘*. The captain said, “ With a great sum obtained I this freedom “. St. Paul answered, I suppose with a little natural pride, “ But I was born free “. We must make these people feel that there is no difference, that we have admitted them to complete fellowship with us, and that they cannot be punished except as we can, after a lawful trial.
.- I rise also to commend the fact that this bill removes some of the disabilities under which naturalized citizens have existed. I wish to refer to one matter particularly. We were all pleased when, some time ago, this Government made provision whereby the wives of Australian citizens could be naturalized freely, even though, in some instances, they came from Asiatic countries. The instance that will occur to the minds of most honorable senators is that of Japanese wives of Australian troops who married while they were serving in Japan. I thought that that was a very humanitarian action and entirely justified, but there has come to my notice recently a disturbing fact. The children of an Australian citizen who is married abroad may come to this country for their schooling, but at the end of that period it is possible for them to be deported, even though one of the parents is an Australian citizen. I understand that there have been such instances, or that there is the possibility of such instances occurring in cases where one of the parents is of Asiatic origin and the children are born in Asia. lt appears to me that if the Government says that, on humanitarian grounds, the Asiatic wife of an Australian citizen may come here and be naturalized, it would be natural for it also to say that the children born of that marriage, even in Asia, should also be freely eligible for naturalization, so that they could stay in this country. I put forward that suggestion. I think that it is a natural extension of what the Government has already done. After all, it would affect only an infinitesimal number of people. But I myself feel that most people will admit that the Asiatic wife of an Australian is entitled to be here and to be naturalized, and I should say that the children should be in the same situation.
.- Like other honorable senators Who have spoken, I rise to commend the provision of this bill. From the days of the war I have resented the distinction that has operated between naturalized and Australian-born citizens. If I remember rightly, under the national security regulations there was a category referred to as naturalized aliens of enemy origin. That was a particular category subject to particular disabilities and I thought that whatever men did in the way of war - they fight for one country or another - they would be covered by the certificate of naturalization and that certificate would prevail. I thought that the certificates would be in the same category as Torrens title certificates in relation to land, and that they could be cancelled only if obtained by fraud. I am glad to see certificates of naturalization moving into this category.
I also direct attention to the very small ratio of naturalizations that have taken place to the total number of people who come to this country. Quoting from the statistical bulletin of the department for the month of July, 1958, I find that whilst from 1945 to March of this year 686,781 new citizens have come to Australia, only 133,000 people have been naturalized. If I have read the figures correctly, that would be a rather ‘ disconcerting proportion because citizenship, being a privilege, is something that should, I think, be readily accepted by new Australians. I wonder whether the Minister has any information as to why this rate of application for naturalization is so disproportionate to the total number of people who have come here. I have noticed that the rate is increasing. Whilst it was 1,900 in 1951, it was 41,000 in 1957. All honorable senators who constantly attend naturalization ceremonies are aware that large numbers of new Australians are receiving their citizenship without any trouble. If the Minister would be good enough to explain the reason why the figures are so disproportionate, and what the ratio of new Australians becoming naturalized to the total number of arrivals is likely to be in the future I shall be glad. If there is a lag, is there any way in which the significance of citizenship could be placed before new Australians so that they will be more ready to accept it and apply for it?
I now want to raise another matter that has come under my notice. The Minister stated in his second-reading speech -
The first aim is to make provision in the principal act for the recognition as British subjects under our law of the citizens of new nations of the British Commonwealth. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland has absorbed Southern Rhodesia at present referred to in the principal act. Ghana and the Federation of Malaya have also joined the fellowship of independent nations within the Commonwealth.
I take it from that, that citizens of Malaya, under the Malayan local law, will become British subjects and will be regarded as such under the provisions of this bill.
Recently, a member of the State Parliament for a north Queensland electorate placed in my hand applications for certificates of naturalization by eight or nine residents of Thursday Island. Apparently, some if not all of them were well on in years, of Malayan birth, who had married women born in the Torres Strait islands and they themselves, and their children, had served in the Australian forces during the war. The question I put to the Minister is this: If these persons are still, under the local Malayan law, British citizens, are they then by virtue of the provisions of this bill, accepted as British subjects and, if so, will it be necessary to proceed with these applications for certificates of naturalization? If the Minister would be good enough to favour me with an answer to that question, I shall conclude by commending what I think is a magnificent provision which should assist not merely in attracting further migrants to this country but also in giving to those already here a new and complete conception and realization of . citizenship. And it certainly should attract more to approach the department to go through the procedures for naturalization at a much greater rate than apparently has been the case in the past.
– in reply - I thank the Senate for its reception of the bill. In reply to the question asked by Senator Willesee, I inform him that there is an automatic re-acquisition of citizenship without check at all on the person’s return to this country. We do not now count absence overseas for loss of citizenship, and therefore those who have lost their citizenship before this measure comes into operation will be sympathetically treated. We feel that it is quite a reasonable thing to allow them to come back into Australia without check and to re-apply for Australian citizenship.
I cannot supply an answer off the cuff to the question raised by Senator McManus, but I shall pass it on to the Minister and obtain the information for him.
I inform Senator Byrne that 40 per cent. of eligible aliens apply for naturalization. I do not think that the figures he quoted took into account applications on hand but not processed. The Minister writes a personal letter to every immigrant when be becomes qualified to apply for naturalization. The answer to the honorable senator’s second question is that citizens of Malaya are now recognized as British subjects. The question the honorable senator raised in relation to Thursday Island refers to a complicated position. Malays who came from Crown colonies have always been classified as British subjects. However, some parts of Malaya were not Crown colonies, and I cannot supply an answer on that aspect at the moment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 23rd September (vide page 509), on motion by Senator O’sullivan-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not raise any objection to this bill, the purpose of which is to extend the period within which residents of Cocos Islands may exercise their right to acquire Australian citizenship. The 1955 act made provision for the inhabitants of the islands who were British subjects normally resident there to become Australian citizens as from 23rd November, 1955, the date of the hand-over. I understand that the original agreement provided that they could exercise their right to acquire Australian citizenship within a period of two years from the date of the hand-over. Towards the end of that period, quite a number of these people lodged applications, which have not been finally dealt with, and it has been decided to extend the period within which applications may be made for a further eighteen months. These proceedings were taken to bring the Cocos-Keeling Islands group in lime with other Territories under the control of the Australian Government, so the Opposition has no objection to them. We do not oppose the bill, and we welcome the opportunity given to the people concerned to have an extra period in which to decide whether to acquire Australian citizenship.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 2, which reads -
Leave out the clause and insert the following clause: - “ 2. This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.”.
Clause 2 as printed in the bill, provides that Clause 4 shall come into operation on the day on which the Post and Telegraph Act 1958 comes into operation, and that the remaining clauses shall come into operation on the date that the bill receives the royal assent. The bill to amend the Post and Telegraph Act has not yet been brought before the Parliament; and it would not be possible to do this before the Parliament rises. Consequently, it is necessary to omit from Clause 2 the reference to the Post and Telegraph Act 1958. That is all that the amendment does.
Amendment agreed to
Clause, as amended, agreed to
– I also refer to clause 4, which reads -
Section eleven of the Principal Act is amended by omitting paragraph (a) of sub-section (1.) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: - “(a) the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1958 and the Post and Telegraph Rates Act 1902-1956 extend to the Territory; and “. and move -
Leave out the clause.
Clause 4 was included in the bill as a consequence of the drafting of the proposed Post and Telegraph Act 1958. As the act will not be passed during this sitting of the Parliament it will be necessary to omit clause 4 from the bill. The amendment proposed by the clause was purely formal and no matter of principle is raised by its ommission.
Amendment agreed to.
– I should like the Minister, if he is in a position to do so, to tell me how many applications for Australian citizenship have been made under the principal Act, how many such applications are pending, and how many more applications it is expected will be made pursuant to the extension of the provisions of this bill.
– I am sorry that I am not in a position to supply the information sought by the Leader of the Opposition. I will obtain it and let him have it later.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 25th September (vide page 618), on motion by Senator O’sullivan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure is designed to correct a defect which has been noticed in the principal act of 1955. The purpose of the original act was to enable a valid marriage to be celebrated between an Australian and another person abroad if the marriage were solemnized by a chaplain of the forces, he being a person who was a minister of religion or was authorized to celebrate marriages in Australia in either a State or a Territory. As the Minister has explained, in various places - Territories in particular - a minister of religion who leaves an area to become a chaplain in overseas forces is no longer regarded as a resident of that area. The lex loci, or law of place, provides that if a minister of religion is not so resident he becomes de-registered as a celebrant of marriages. Quite a number of our chaplains fell into that category. Though they were ministers of religion they were not, when they solemnized marriages overseas, so registered in the Territory or State from which they came. The first purpose of the bill is to alter that position. In future, the bill will provide that a marriage of the type which I have indicated will be valid if solemnized by a person who is a chaplain of the forces. Of course, no person will be appointed a chaplain of the forces who is not a minister of religion.
The second provision of the bill is to validate marriages of the type that I have already mentioned which might have been contracted abroad between 1939 and 1957, and from 1957 to date. The Opposition has no objection to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 25th September (vide page 680), on motion by Senator O’Sullivan-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, which seeks to amend the National Health Act, addresses itself to the problem of curing one only of the three great blots that were present in the scheme of medical benefits from the beginning. In many respects, the scheme initiated by the Government was mean, restricted and full of administrative difficulties.
I point out in the first place that before any person in this country who became ill and needed medical attention could acquire a Commonwealth benefit, for which he had contributed in taxation, he had to be privately . insured. If he were not insured privately to recover a particular benefit from a private organization, then not one penny piece of Commonwealth medical benefit was payable to him. That, I repeat, was a dreadful blot upon what was mis-called a national medical benefits scheme. Even after this lapse of some- five years or more after the scheme was initiated, the fact still remains that the scheme does not have national scope or operation. I think it extends, at the most, to something between 60 per cent, and 70 per cent, of our people; and, of course, a scheme cannot be dignified with the name “ national “ when there are from 30 per cent, to 40 per cent, of our people entirely outside its ambit.
Associated with that point is the fact that the obligation to pay a premium, or a subscription, to one of these private organizations amounts in fact to taxation. It is a disguised form of taxation. It is an iniquitous form of taxation, in that it is paid on a flat rate. No matter what the income of the subscriber may be, if he seeks benefits of a particular category, he pays the same rate as does the person who is in receipt of the basic wage. All persons are paying at a flat rate, according to the level of benefit for which they seek to insure. We of the Labour party, the Opposition in this place, have been opposed to that principle from the beginning. We think it is a form of flat taxation that is quite unfair, and quite iniquitous.
The other great blot in the scheme, of course, was the one that this bill now partially seeks to cure. I refer to the fact that it made no provision for the worst cases in the community amongst the sick - those who were chronic sufferers and those who were suffering from pre-existing disabilities at the time they joined the various registered organizations. Of course, quite a number of these private organizations declined to accept their applications for membership. Some of them did so accept those people, but provided that they should be entitled to no benefit for a period of two full years. The unfortunate sufferers, whom I might describe as the most needy and deserving in the community - the chronics and those with disabilities of a nature that would endure for a considerable period - were simply not catered for. I thought that was a dreadful blot upon the scheme, and it is a reflection upon this Government that it has taken so many years before seeking to make some amendment.
I think it will be found, upon proper analysis, that the cost of making the provision that the bill postulates will not be great. No estimates as to cost has been supplied to the Senate, and, if I remember accurately, there was no estimate of cost in the Budget Speech. I make an estimate of my own - more guesswork than one based upon the facts that are known - that it would not reach a very high figure, that it certainly would not run to £1,000,000 a year. I think I would even risk saying it is not likely to run to more than about £500,000 a year to make this perfectly reasonable reform. So the Government has allowed this blot upon what has been mis-called a national health scheme to remain for all these years. I submit that it is a complete reflection upon the Government that is should have so delayed the matter.
When one comes to examine the provisions of the bill, one finds that there are three sets of circumstances in which a registered organization may take a contributor and pass his subscriptions over to what is termed a special account. Once his contributions are passed over to that special account, all payments to him from the fund are debited to that account. Under the scheme envisaged by the bill, the Commonwealth then comes to the aid of that account at the end of a period and makes sure that it balances. So, the scheme now before the Senate is one of subsidy to a specially created fund into which all chronic and persons with pre-existing disabilities prior to joining a registered organization are drafted.
The three conditions under which they may be so transferred are if they were chronic sufferers, if they were suffering from existing disabilities, and if they had overrun the period of entitlement tinder the rules of the organization. For the moment, I leave out the fourth category - those who reach 65 years of age. The registered organization is allowed to take any one falling into those three categories if the registered organization elects to pay them less than what are termed the standard rates, or if it elects to disallow their claims. In those circumstances, it is entitled to transfer the contributor to the special account. The bill contains another clause which enables the Minister to decline to allow an organization to set up a special account unless the rules provide that the contributor whose contribution has been transferred to the special account is not excluded from the standard benefit rate or less.
In the case of hospitals, “ standard rate “ means that a contributor is insured with a registered organization for the sum of 16s. a day. That, with the £1 which the Government contributes by way of a hospital benefit of 8s. a day, and an additional hospital benefit of 12s. a day, will make his total benefit from both Commonwealth and fund £1 16s. a day.
That is a decided encouragement to these registered organizations to alter their rules. Quite a number of them have accepted chronics and persons with prior disabilities, and those persons have already done their two years probationary period; but it is competent at this stage - I submit that is contemplated by the bill - for those registered organizations to alter their rules so that these persons may be entitled to recover only 16s. by way of hospital benefit and, by way of medical benefit, the equivalent only of the Commonwealth benefit itself.
Dealing with the second proposition first, I indicate that that may mean real hardship. I have in my file an account I got during this week. A member of my family, for whom I am responsible, incurred a liability of some eight guineas to a specialist, and was not referred by another doctor. I received Commonwealth benefit of 18s. and fund benefit of £2 5s. Under this proposed provision, if a patient has a chronic illness, the fund may prescribe that it shall pay only an amount equivalent to the Commonwealth benefit so that, using my own case as an example, instead of recovering 18s. from the Commonwealth and £2 5s. from’ the fund, I would receive two amounts of 18s. - in other words, a total benefit of £1 16s. compared with £3 3s. as at present.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we have reached the stage at which a person is recompensed only £2 5s. out of a fee of £8 8s.?
– The £2 5s. represents the fund benefit.
– But the payment is in that proportion?
– I think I stated the position properly and accurately when 1 said that the patient had consulted a doctor,, who had set up as a specialist, without being referred by another medical practitioner. Two classes of benefit are available. Perhaps this is not quite a typical case. Normally, a person is referred to a specialist by another medical practitioner. I do not seek to establish a relationship between fund and Commonwealth benefits from the case to which I have referred, but it enables me to make the point that under this proposed provision the fund may pay only an amount equivalent to the Commonwealth benefit in the case of a patient suffering from a chronic illness. Proposed new section 82e reads -
The Minister shall not approve the establishment of a special account by a registered organization unless, under the rules of the organization -
a special account contributor is not . . . excluded from entitlement to-
standard rate benefit; or
if he is insured for benefits less than standard rate benefit - the benefits for which he is insured, by any rule of the organization relating to the eligibility of a contributor for payment of fund benefit in respect of a chronic illness or a pre-existing ailment or relating to the maximum fund benefit payable in respect of a specified period.
It is clearly contemplated that people suffering from a chronic illness and those with pre-existing ailments who have been accepted by a fund after a probationary period of two years, will now be relegated to the lower level of fund benefit contemplated by proposed new section 82e (c). Any such scheme is very defective indeed.
This bill, when introduced into another place, included a provision that a special account contributor over 65 years of age would not be permitted to insure for more than the standard rate benefit. Let us take the case of a person approaching 65 years of age who wishes to insure for the fullest amount available. The bill previously expressly prohibited that person from insuring for a hospital benefit of more than 16s. a day.
– What reason was given for that?
– That the person was over 65 years of age, and was apparently thought to be susceptible to illness. That is the only possible reason for the provision prohibiting him from insuring for more than standard rate benefits, whiich include a hospital benefit of 16s. a -day. Under pressure by the Labour party in another -place, that provision was repealed. I have no doubt that it was included in the legislation to ensure that the Government would not be liable for a heavy payment to the special account. Nothing could be more derogatory to the rights of individuals than to apply such a prohibition. To the credit of the Government, it vacated the field when its attention was directed to .the anomaly. As I understand the position, a person on attaining 65 years of age is transferred, without his consent, to a special account. In view of the repeal of the provision mentioned in the House of Reperesentatives, a person may take out whatever cover he wishes and his contribution, if he insures for the full benefit, will be transferred to the special account.
– That special account did not exist previously.
– That is correct. It is a provision of this bill.
– But you said that the Government was worried before about having to pay large sums into the special account. It did not exist previously.
– I did not say “ before “. If I did, I stated my position incorrectly. Perhaps the honorable senator has misunderstood me. The special account is being created by the bill. It was not in existence previously.
Returning to the case of a person over 65 years of age, I understand that his contributions, at whatever ..level they are made, <will.be paid tinto the special ..account. If he derives any fund benefit, it will be debited to the account corresponding to the rate of contribution, not at the low level contemplated by proposed new section 82e (c), which’ is an express authorization to a registered fund to reduce benefits in the case of persons suffering from chronic illness and pre-existing ailments, thus depriving the person, as in the case to which I referred, of the difference between £1 16s. and £3 3s.
The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) should -be asked to have another look at the position. Persons suffering from chronic illness and pre-existing ailments, who have served their probationary period of two years, and who are paying the full rate of subscription, are entitled to full benefits, and a prohibition should be placed upon a fund that seeks to reduce the rates to -which -such contributors are entitled. -On the contrary, this provision provides a plain encouragement for the organization »to reduce the amount of benefit.
The objective of this measure in seeking to cover people suffering from chronic illness, those with pre-existing ailments and those who have been in hospital for long periods running beyond their period of entitlement from the fund, is quite worthy. However, one receives complaints, as I have received complaints, from some registered organizations that they have been generous with such contributors and, after short periods, have admitted them to full membership rights. Under this proposal, those organizations are not permitted to transfer to the special account those contributors who have been receiving full benefits. It is only in cases where the organizations have not paid the full benefit that they are permitted to transfer those contributors, to the special account. One organization has written me and pointed out that, in short, the proposal will be of advantage to those funds that have treated very harshly those people suffering from chronic illnesses and pre-existing ailments because they -may be now transferred to the special account, and the payment of the subsidy by the Government will ensure that the fund incurs no loss.
The proposed section of the bill to which I have referred contemplates that people .suffering from chronic illnesses and those with pre-existing ailments may be paid only the standard benefit. The rules of the organizations may be altered to that extent. “ Standard benefit “ is defined as the amount paid by the fund equivalent to that provided by the Commonwealth. Of course, under many of the contracts between patients and organizations the benefit should be very much greater. In addition, hospital benefit of 16s. a day will be allowed. Why should people suffering from a chronic illness or a preexisting ailment be placed in what may be termed the pauper class?
– lt depends on what premium you pay, the same as in any other insurance scheme.
– Let me put the the exact case to the honorable senator. Assume that 1 had a chronic complaint when I joined the fund and that I had survived the two years’ waiting period. During the whole of that two years I paid my contributions to the fund and I received only the Commonwealth benefit; I received no fund benefit at all. Assume that I am insured to the highest level. Under this bill, if my organization wants to get rid of me as a liability, it can make a rule, under the authority of clause 82e (c), to the effect that people who joined when suffering from a chronic illness will in future be paid only the standard rate benefit. Such a rule would cut my hospital benefit down from three guineas a day to 16s. a day. The organization would, of course, reduce my premium to the 1 6s. benefit level, but it would deny me the right to insure for a benefit of three guineas a day. That is what I say is wrong,
I realize that the contract with these organizations is made only from year to year. It is not a long-term contract for more than a year. The organization is able to revise the position from year to year. If the honorable senator is looking for the basis of my argument, he will find it at page 9 or the bill. Clause 82e (c) provides that the Minister shall not approve of the establishment of a special account in any one of these funds unless, under the rules, a special account contributor is not excluded from entitlement to the standard rate benefit. That authorizes the organization to reduce me, in the case that I supposed a moment ago, from the three guineas a day hospital benefit, for which I am prepared to pay, to the 16s. a day hospital benefit, for which I pay a lower premium. But the position is that I do not want to pay a lower premium; I do not want to be treated on the basis that I am a public ward patient. I want to collect three guineas from my fund and £1 from the Commonwealth, and I want a private room. Why should a registered organization be encouraged, as I claim it is under clause 82e (c), to do such a thing?
– You are arguing that they have the right to put you down?
– That is the exact complaint I am making. Let me take the case of, say, an honorable senator who is contributing for full benefits and who was suffering from a chronic complaint when he entered the scheme. He pays the full premium. Let me paraphrase again clause 82e (c). The Minister is not to approve of the establishment of a special account by a registered organization unless., under the rules of the organization, a special account contributor is not excluded from entitlement to the standard rate benefit. He is not to be cut down below the standard rate benefit. The clause says, in effect, that he can be cut down to that level, but.no further.
– What part of the bill was that you read?
– I was paraphrasing clause 82e, paragraph (c).
– The expression “ cutting down “ is a misnomer. In effect, he is being built up.
– In the case I am discussing with Senator Wordsworth, I am assuming that a person with a chronic illness has served his two years, is contributing for full benefits and is receiving full benefits. I say that this bill encourages the society, in order to get the benefit of the special account subsidy from the Commonwealth, to say to the chronic sufferer, “ You are down to the standard rate; we will only accept your contribution for that lower level benefit.” I think that is quite wrong.
– Do you say that an organization can cut an ordinary person down to the standard benefit after he has reached the age of 65 years? Do you go as far as that?
– In that connexion, there was an even worse provision than the one I have already mentioned. The present provision, as I read it, makes it obligatory, once a special account is established, for the organization to transfer everybody over the age of 65 years to that special account. As 1 understand the law now, as set out in the bill, a person over 65 years will still be entitled to go on paying for full benefits, if his only disability is that he is over 65. His premiums will be credited to the special account and he will be entitled to the fund benefits for which he contributes. They will be debited to the special account. If there is a loss in the special account over the period, the Commonwealth will make it up. That is what is in the bill, as I understand it, but I should like the honorable senator to realize what was in the bill when it was introduced in another place. It then provided -
A special account contributor is not permitted to insure for fund benefits in excess of such benefits as may be prescribed from time to time by regulation under this act, being benefits not less than standard rate benefits.
The standard rate hospital benefit would be 16s. a day, which is, of course, the public ward charge level. The Commonwealth benefit is £1 and the fund benefit is 16s. a day. I do not think the honorable senator would be any happier than’ I would be if he were forbidden to insure for any more than that and could only obtain that amount.
– Where is the definition of a standard rate?
– 1 1 is in the bill at the top of page 5.
– I always thought the standard rate was the normal rate.
– The standard rate is clearly defined in clause 9. In relation to medical benefits, if I may paraphrase it, it means an amount equivalent to the Commonwealth medical benefit. In relation to the hospital fund, it means only 16s. a day.
I think the scheme is badly conceived. I think it should be made clear that a chronic sufferer who has weathered his two-year period should not be forced into a special account. The fund, having accepted him as a full contributor at full rates, ought not to be allowed to demote him, taking from him a lesser premium and giving him an insignificant benefit. I do not think that is right. I think the Government should have a look at the whole scheme again. That is a blot that is still there. I would have been exceedingly angry had this bill come to this chamber containing the other provision about people over 65 years of age, but the Government was sensible enough to take that out when the bill was in another place. I hope the Minister will give an assurance that it will be made clear that a person coming into the special account can insure for what amount he likes and can obtain full benefits if he wants them.
The third great blot upon this medical benefits scheme - it has been there from the beginning - is that there is no regulation to provide what fees can be charged. There is nothing to prevent a medical practitioner, or any member of the medical profession, from taking the Commonwealth benefit for himself, leaving the patient no better off. That has been possible under this scheme from the beginning. There have been increases in medical fees. It is quite true that doctors were kept on a low level of fees for too long. They were one of the last sections of the community to raise their charges. I agree that they were entitled to receive more, but I consider the omission I have mentioned to be a very grave blot upon what purports to be a national medical benefits scheme.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I was making the point that, from the initiation of this scheme, doctors were entitled to have the Commonwealth medical benefit added to their fees, thus leaving the patient in no better position. I do not say that that has been done generally, but the fact that it should be possible is a dreadful blot upon the administration of such a scheme. So, the scheme is not national. It has three grave defects. The bill proceeds some little distance towards effecting a cure of one of the blots. I hope we will get from the Attorney-General an assurance that the position I have postulated in regard to chronics, persons with prior disabilities, and people over 65 years of age, is as I have indicated.
– in reply - With all due respect to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), 1 think he has misread proposed section 82e (c). To paraphrase the proposed sub-section, it provides that the Minister shall not approve of the establishment of a special account by a registered organization unless, under the rules of the organization, a special account contributor is not excluded from entitlement. Under that provision, the contributor will be getting something that he was not getting earlier. The sub-section provides that he shall not be excluded, not that he shall be excluded.
– But not be excluded from, what? Will the Minister read on?
– It proceeds to refer to the standard rate benefit, or, if he is insured for benefits less than standard rate benefit, the benefits for which he is insured.
– That is my complaint.
– But this is money which the claimant was not getting earlier; that is the point.
– The claimant does not get this money.
– The beneficiary gets it. Another point to be remembered in regard to what an organization might do to exclude claimants or beneficiaries is that under section 78 of the principal act all amendments of a fund’s rules must be approved by the Minister. So, nothing can be done clandestinely.
To return to the point I was making earlier, the cases in which, under this bill, the standard rate benefit would be payable are those in respect of which currently no benefit is payable. It may be true that only 60 per cent, or 70 per cent, of the people are participating at the present time, but other beneficiaries under the national health scheme are pensioners and repatriation and mental cases, which are estimated to account for a further 15 per cent.
– Have you any idea of the cost of this new benefit?
– I am sure the department has made an estimate. I know it only too well.
– Well, I have not an estimate at the moment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I am not at all happy about the explanation offered by the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) at the second-reading stage in regard to proposed section 82e (c). Let me cite my own personal case, because it is the one that I know best. Although I have been a member of a medical benefit fund almost from its inception, does the proposed sub-section mean that, when I attain the age of 65 years, I shall get a hospital benefit of only 16s. a day in spite of the fact that 1 am contributing some £15 15s. a year under what is known as table 4B? If it does, I shall resign from the fund to-morrow.
– The benefits for which the honorable senator has contributed will continue to be paid.
– May I say to Senator Kendall through you, Mr. President, that a contract with one of these organizations is only from year to year. The organization may renew it on new terms each year, and it is for the contributor to say whether he will accept the terms that are offered. My complaint about the proposed section is that the Minister is not to approve of the establishtment of a special account by one of these organizations unless a special account contributor is not excluded from entitlement to standard rate benefit. In other words, he is given that immediate protection. But why does not the section continue by providing “ or such higher amount as the organization is prepared to accept subscriptions for”?
Let me put to Senator Kendall what I fear may happen. Let us take the case of an organization that has been generous to chronics and has allowed them to get full benefits. If they continue to pay full benefits the fund cannot transfer the chronic to a special account. I direct attention to proposed section 82c(l.)(c). Why should not the chronic to whom I have referred be continued at the higher rate for the higher fund benefits?
I say that proposed section 82e (c) is a direct invitation to the organization to which Senator Kendall belongs to say next year, if he were a chronic, “ We will accept a premium only to give you a fund benefit of 16s. We will take from you only the subscription which is relevant to that low benefit “. They are encouraged to do that. My fear is that many of the organizations concerned will avail themselves of the provision and say to contributors who are chronics, “If we continue to accept your subscriptions for full benefits, we will have to continue paying you full benefits. As you were a chronic when you joined the fund, we are not prepared to let you continue on that base. We will give you standard rate benefits and will take standard rate subscriptions from you “. In that way, a contributor who is a chronic and who is now getting full benefits might find his position not improved but worsened. That is my complaint. I strongly urge the Minister to give an assurance that, in the case of those who turn 65, this interpretation is right. The contribution by a 65-year-old goes automatically to a special account, where one is established, regardless of whether he contributes at a standard rate or the highest rate that the fund can provide. The subscription will go over, and that special account will be debited, not merely with the standard rate benefit, but with the full rate benefit, and the Commonwealth will have to make up any loss on that account at the end of the period. I want an assurance on that point from the Minister.
SenatorO’SULLIVAN (QueenslandVicePresident of the Executive Council and Attorney-General) [10.41]. - I understand the position to be that the standard rate benefit is something which was not granted earlier. We had, formerly, chronically sick who were not acceptable and who got nothing. So to that extent, this is something new and will ameliorate the present conditions. In respect of a person reaching the age of 65 years, I understand the position to be that if the medical benefit fund with which he is insured will continue to accept him, he will continue to enjoy the full benefits, but that does not mean that a medical benefit fund can be compelled to insure somebody who has been chronically ill and who has not been, until this time, a beneficiary under the scheme. We could make an insurance office carry such people. If we did, naturally it would mean that the office would have to increase its premiums to those insured with it, as any ordinary life assurance company would have to do.
This is something which has never been granted until now. Personally, I cannot give any assurance that we will take steps to make a benefit fund insure, for an unlimited amount, someone who was previously ill or chronically ill. I think that to do so would be very unsound.
– I am speaking of those chronically ill people who have been accepted for full benefits, after serving their two-year period.
– They will continue to be paid the full amount, at the rate for which they are contributing.
– Under proposed new section 82e (c) there is, I claim, an encouragement to the fund to transfer those people to a special account, and to decline to accept from them any greater subscriptions than will yield merely the standard hospital benefit of 16s. a day.
– That is not so.
– Then, that flies right in the face of my reading of the proposed section, which says that the Minister is not to approve of the establishment of a special account - unless, under the rules of the organization -
– There would be no incentive in that case, because the Commonwealth would carry them. There would be no drain on the fund.
– I take it that the Commonwealth is concerned to protect its revenues.
– The honorable senator has said that there would be an incentive for the fund to get rid of such people by changing their rate of contribution, and thus reduce the benefit. There would be no incentive for the fund to do that.
– But what is the wish of the chronically ill people? Never mind what the Commonwealth wants to subsidize. It is all very well for the Commonwealth to say, in the case of these chronically ill people, “ We want the fund to pay them at the lower level so that we will be up for a relatively smaller amount in finding the difference for the special account “. That approach overlooks altogether the wishes of the individual regarding the amount for which he wants to insure.
– But before this, the chronically ill person got nothing at all. Now, he is to get the standard rate.
– I think that this is where the confusion arises. Let us take the case of a chronically ill person whom no fund will accept at the moment. We propose to accept him at standard rate benefits, for standard rate premiums. That payment goes over to the special account, the chronically ill person gets a benefit that he has never had before, and the fund does not lose because of him. That is a possible advance, but that does not get over my trouble. I am talking about the case where a chronically ill person has served the two years probationary period. For two years, he has paid his subscription, at high rates, to the fund. If he needed treatment throughout that period, he received no fund benefit; he merely got Commonwealth benefit. He is now to be established with his fund as a full contributor, for full benefit, and he will get it.
My fear is that, on the establishment of a special account, the fund will say to him, “ You came to us as a chronic. We are not prepared to continue with you further, except at standard rates and for standard premiums “. He might be a man who could well afford to pay more than the base rate. He might be a man who did not want to go into a public ward, but wanted to go into a private ward and have the comfort and privacy of a room to himself. As the Minister will appreciate, I am dealing with two different cases. I am not talking about the chronically ill person who has never had something and who is now to get something. I am looking particularly at the position of the chronically ill person after two years as a full member. Under proposed new section 82e (c), I say that the Government is encouraging the fund to toss him out as a full contributor, to take him at a lower level and put him into the special account.
– After such a person as that indicated by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has fulfilled his two-year probationary period, he cannot be put into a special account. He will remain in the ordinary account, provided that he pays the ordinary premiums. He will get special benefits if he insures for them.
– Which provision ensures that he will?
– There is no provision to the contrary.
.- 1 think it is a grand commentary on the understanding of the law that we should have such an acute debate from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), after study of this bill, and such a difference of viewpoint from the AttorneyGeneral (Senator O’Sullivan). That is not surprising, because the draftsmanship of proposed new section 82E is as involved, as tangled, as reversed and as inversed in its contortions as any that Canberra has produced. It is of the type of drafting that has become inveterate in Canberra. Listen to it, Mr. Temporary Chairman -
The Minister shall not approve of the establishment of a special account by a registered organization unless, under the rules of the organization -
a special account contributor is not . . . excluded from entitlement to -
standard rate benefit; or
if he is insured for benefits less than standard rate benefit - the benefits for which he is insured, by any rule of the organization relating to the eligibility of a contributor for payment of fund benefit in respect of a chronic illness or a pre-existing ailment or relating to the maximum fund benefit payable in respect on a specified period.
Mr. Temporary Chairman, life would be better extinct if we are not to be relieved of the pain and torture of trying to understand such a thing. It defies understanding. It is nonsense. “ Shall not approve unless, under the rules of the organization, a special account contributor is not excluded “ - not excluded from something by rule of the organization as to eligibility. And so it goes on through the lanes of Canberra.
To reinforce Senator McKenna’s point, if honorable senators read, not only subparagraph (i) but also sub-paragraph (ii), they will see that the entitlement specified as the minimum preventing exclusion is standard rate benefit, so that if a contributor is insured for benefits less than the standard rate, those are the benefits for which he is insured. The bill does not say that if he is insured for benefits of more than the standard rate, they are to be preserved. It is a shame that laws should be expressed in this unintelligible fashion, leading to the differences of opinion that have been displayed during the long argument here to-night. I must confess that as I approach the thing and attempt to get the meaning of it, it does seem to me that if after the expiration of a year’s contract with a medical benefit organization, the organization wishes to establish a special account and take full advantage of this legislation, then the only thing that it has to show the Minister in order to prevent the Minister from excluding it from this legislation is that the special account contributor is not excluded from the entitlement of the standard benefit rate or less. Therefore, if by contract there has been built up a right to benefit in excess of the standard rate, it does seem to me that there is a possibility that the organization may demote the contributor and qualify for this special account and the benefit from the Government for chronic cases where it says, “ We will provide only the standard benefit rate or less “.
I offer that as a very tentative view because, for myself, I deprecate without qualification legislation which enshrines ideas that all people should be able to read and understand in this confused and involved concatenation of negatives and nexus so as to defy understanding by the healthy and make those for whom the legislation was intended as a benefit despair and prefer to suffer the disease rather than the medical benefit.
– Having listened to two lawyers refer to this matter, as a layman I should like to ask the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) a simple question. Let us say that a person contributes from the age of 60 years at the highest possible rate and that, at 65 years of age, he contracts a chronic complaint, can an organization, under this bill, reduce his benefit to the minimum amount?
– And if not, which clause of the bill prevents that?
– As I understand the position, at the present time a person who has been paying for full benefits for a period of, say, twenty years and who developed a. chronic illness would not be paid anything at all in respect of such illness, but under this measure he will get the standard benefit rate.
.- I have always understood with regard to these non-profit organizations that their justification for building up strength in reserves was that one day they would reach the stage at which they could take in their stride the chronic cases and provide ordinary benefits for them without a loading such as commercial insurance companies necessarily apply. I understand that in some organizations chronic cases have been accepted with two years deferment of benefit on the basis that if the member survives that period of two years and goes without benefit he will then enter into the benefits of the organization. In those cases, they are getting the benefit for chronic illnesses at the present time. It is cases of that kind which, I understand, the argument is focused on. And next year that organization which has graduated into that obligation under this measure will not be prevented - let us maintain the series of negatives - from going into the field of special account unless by virtue of its rules the special account contributor is not excluded from the standard benefit rate or less. If the organization’s rules do not exclude the contributor from the standard benefit rate or less, the organization can place in the special account all its chronic contributors, who by virtue of their contracts acquired entitlement to ordinary benefits, and then accord to them only the standard benefit rate or less. Where is the provision that would prevent that from happening.
– I feel thatI might have answered the question asked by Senator Wordsworth somewhat differently from the way the Minister answered it. The case that the honorable senator put to us was that a contributor of five years’ standing contracted at the end of that period a chronic illness which stayed with him for the rest of his days. From my knowledge of the funds, I would have said, “ You are only concerned about chronics having the chronic disease at the time of first joining the fund “. In the case posed by the honorable senator, I think the patient would be paid for the rest of his life at full rates, whatever he insured for. But I am fearful of another case altogether.
– Cannot the society put him on the lower benefit?
– No, I would think not - not evenunder this bill. I think the measure is intended to deal with cases of people who had a chronic complaint at the time they first joined the fund. They are the ones aimed at. I am not worried about those coming in for the first time, because the special account will cover them. My concern, as I have said repeatedly to-night, is the chronic who joined the private fund and went without benefits for a two-year period, in the whole of that time collecting only Commonwealth benefit and no fund benefit at all, and who now goes on to pay full rates and gets full benefits from the fund. My complaint about this measure is that there is entitlement and encouragement to say to that man, “Go back into the special account category and we will reduce your benefit to standard rate. We will certainly take from you the lower contribution applicable to the standard rate.” I say that is possible. I put this simple proposition to the Minister: What seems to be called for is that there should be protection to prevent one of these funds or organizations which has accepted a chronic at full rates from transferring him to the special account. Why could that not be done?
– Would it not depend on the rules?
– The Government, by this bill, is regulating what shall and shall not go on. It is setting up a special account and saying who shall go into it. Surely it is a corollary of that to say who shall not got into it. I think that the bill is lacking in that it fails to provide that, where a registered organization is giving to a chronically illperson full entitlement to benefits - and is taking from him full contribution for thosebenefits - it is not specifically prevented from transferring him to a special account. I think that the whole matter comes down to that simple proposition.
– The whole discussion seems now to be revolving around the chronic invalid. The question that I asked the Minister had nothing to do with the chronically ill person. I was referring to the person who had paid in at, say, the highest rate - 4B - for hospital benefits over a period of fifteen or twenty years and who, upon reaching the age of 65, had reason to seek benefits. Is he entitled only to what is called the standard rate, the lowest rate, or is he entitled to the full 4B rate of £3 3s. or £4 4s. a day?
– He would get the the full 4B rate.
– For the full 84 days in one- year?
– And similarly in any succeeding year?
SenatorO’Sullivan. - Yes, if the society continues toaccept his contribution.If it were a goodsociety it would probably do so.
– Proposed new section 82c refers to the payment of a fund benefit “ not less than standard rate benefit “. As the standard rate is defined as the lowest benefit, how can the claimant be paid less?
SenatorO’Sullivan.- I think that the minimum payment is6s. That is less than the standard rate.
– I should like to get quite clear the position of the person
Who, at 65 years of age, is transferred to the special account. If he is insured for the higher benefit his contribution is credited to that account. When the benefits are paid to him they will be debited to that account. Does the Commonwealth accept that as the position which it is compelled to subsidize in the special account?
– Quite probably what the honorable senator says is correct.
.- I have listened with no little interest to this argument between three eminent legal gentlemen. Are we, as a Senate, to allow the proposed new section to pass into law in spite of the obvious difference of opinion that exists in regard to its effect? What sort of a law-making body is this if, despite the strictures passed upon the proposed new provision by a Government supporter and the Leader of the Opposition - and their obvious difference of opinion with the Attorney-General and his advisers - we allow it to pass into law? Surely to goodness we are not going to do that. Surely this Government will have the decency to allow the clause to stand over so that it may receive further consideration. It affects the most helpless members of the community - persons whoare chronically ill. They may have contributed for a benefit, yet receive less than they expected. In view of the fact that the Parliament will be dissolved in the very near future one would expect the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) to report progress until every one knew what was being passed. As a responsible representative of the people, I protest against what is happening.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 695).
– In 1956, the principal act fixed a bounty of10d. per lb. on cellulose acetate flake “produced in a factory and used in the manufacture of rayon yarn. A bounty limit of £142,000 per annum was fixed. The term then fixed (expired on 30th June, 1958. The matter has been referred to the Tariff Board, but I understand that its report is not yet available. The bill simply extends the period df bounty determined in 1956 for another year, to 30th June, 1959, unless the operation of the measure is cut short by anterior proclamation. We do not oppose the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through tits remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 696).
– The Opposition supportsthe measure. The present bounty, which has operated over a period of nineteen years, will expire on 23rd October, 1958, unless something is done about it. That bounty has been at a fairly high level. The Tariff Board has been asked to investigate the position and this bill seeks to extend the payment of the bounty to 30th June, 1959. There is also a provision similar to that in the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Bill with which we have already dealt, that the period may be shortenedby earlier proclamation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 25th September (vide page 674), on motion by Senator Spooner-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill seeks authority to make certain payments to South Australia. Western Australia and Tasmania. It is the result of recommendations made by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. As I understand theposition, it is likely that some adjustments will be necessary within a year or two because the commission does not have access to the reports of State auditors and has, therefore, recommended that for this year South Australia be paid £5,250,000, Western Australia £11,100,000, and Tasmania £4,400,000. The commission has taken into consideration a number of features connected with the balancing of State Budgets, and I understand that the States will not be permitted to take advantage of the grants recommended by the commission if, for example, their taxation in some spheres is lower than that of nonclaimant States or if their social service benefit rates are higher than those of nonclaimant States. I do not think anybody in the Senate could go into the matter as thoroughly as this commission has done. So far as I can gather from its reports, the Commission has done a magnificent job. The Opposition has no objection to the bill.
.- When the States grants legislation was before the Senate on a previous’ occasion, I missed the opportunity to mention a matter which is of tremendous importance not only to Tasmania but also to local government bodies throughout the Commonwealth. We are fast reaching the stage when local government bodies will find it impossible to discharge their responsibilties to the residents of their municipalities and shires. Although the Commonwealth is making no specific grants to the States for assistance to shires and municipalities, I submit that the time has arrived when we should be granting more assistance to such authorities not only by raising their quota of loan funds but also by specific grants to them through the States. These bodies have a tremendous burden placed upon them as a result of the Commonwealth Government’s policy.
Earlier to-night, we discussed our immigration legislation. We have only to think a little to realize the tremendous impact the Government’s immigration policy is having on local government administration. To illustrate my point 1 remind the Senate that under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, houses are erected in the various suburbs, and heavy strain is imposed upon local government bodies in providing kerbing and channeling, water supply and other services.
– What percentage of immigrants go to Tasmania?
– We take our proportion in common with the rest of Australia, the only difference being that in Tasmania they have an excellent State in which to live and their prospects for the future are better than those offering in the honorable senator’s State.
The State parliaments now acknowledge the need for a convention of representatives of the Commonwealth and the States as well as local government bodies, and that such a convention should be charged with the responsibility of arriving at a formula designed to give each arm of government revenues adequate to their tasks or at least designed to ensure that available funds shall be shared appropriately between them. The Municipal Association of Tasmania, realizing the very grave responsibilities resting upon the shoulders of local government bodies, conferred with members of this Parliament and placed their case before us. They convinced us that their position was deteriorating year by year as is illustrated by the fact that each year higher rates have to be imposed. In effect, the ratepayers are now paying to shire councils what amounts to a rental on their own properties. This is brought about by the Commonwealth Government’s immigration policy and I feel that on an occasion such as this it is fitting that I should put before the Senate the case presented by the Municipal Association of Tasmania. The land rating system does not, and cannot, measure up to the requirements of modern community living. Property rates must be assisted by either State or Federal revenue.
– That is the proposal contained in this measure.
– The amount of money now being made available to the States is barely sufficient to meet requirements. If I remember rightly, the Premier of South Australia has budgeted this year for a deficit. I am almost certain that the Tasmanian Parliament now has before it the current Budget which just balances. The States, because of their difficulty in balancing their Budgets, and because of the inadequacy of the funds they receive from the Commonwealth, are finding increasing difficulty in assisting the municipalities.
– Those deficits . will be taken into consideration when future grants are being made.
– The point is that the deficits are not being considered now. The municipalities face the problem of raising money by loans. They are allocated a certain amount of money by the Australian
Loan Council, and have to raise additional funds in restricted areas at a certain rate of interest. Many municipalities are practically begging for money from insurance companies, banks and other organizations to enable them to finance their activities. They are not permitted to raise funds within their own municipalities unless for services rendered, but they cannot render services until they have the capital to do so. It is like the dog chasing its tail. Of course, the States are limited to a very great extent in their power to raise additional revenue. Most of the avenues of taxation have been fully explored. The Commonwealth Government, which has the final and fullest taxing powers, a very wide selection of resources, and control of the Commonwealth Bank and the Treasury - and the printing machine, I am reminded - must provide financial assistance to the States.
– The States do not look to the Commonwealth in vain.
– 1 do not know whether the honorable senator is closely in touch with municipal councils in his own State. During the last year or so in Tasmania, one municipality has been taken over by a commission; another’ is on the verge of bankruptcy, and others are hawking their loans in Melbourne and Sydney. They are seeking sufficient finance to carry out local works. The plea I make to the Government is that sufficient money should be released to local governments to enable them to carry out their day-to-day and continuing activities; that additional loan money should be provided to meet the cost of new projects of an essential character, and that a greater share of the petrol tax should bc given to the States to enable work to be carried out on country roads. The present allocation of petrol tax does not nearly meet the requirements of many municipalities. Local government authorities in every State, evidently with the exception of South Australia, are going through difficult times. I have heard it said that great men who have devoted much of their lives to the service of the people are finding the job of administration in local government to-day so frustrating that they are retiring from public life. That is a great pity. We should assist the municipalities to continue their voluntary gratuitous services because they are part of the mosaic of government. If they do a good job, it reflects through the State to the Commonwealth and advances the general well-being and prosperity of the country.
The chairman of the Municipal Association of Tasmania had this to say -
If constitutionally this is not possible - Senator Wright might advise us thereon- s -
– You would not be asked to proffer advice.
– I have seen the honorable senator sitting in his place dumb, as usual. The chairman said -
If constitutionally this is not possible - Senator Wright might advise us thereon - and the Commonwealth remains firm in its stand that local government is a creature of the State, we desire a share for local government of the reimbursement grants released by the Commonwealth to the States. In Tasmania, these have risen over 300 per cent, in the last seven years.
The case I have presented rather sketchily on behalf of the municipal associations is very strong. They are desperately in need of assistance to enable them to see daylight through the darkness of their problems. They are finding it increasingly difficult to finance their activities.
On their behalf I appeal to the Commonwealth Government to have another look at the developments within the municipalities so that they may continue to give the service they have given over the years in such a generous and efficient way.
– In dealing with this bill, I should like to spend a few minutes in entering a protest against the grant that is made to Tasmania each year. We in Tasmania are being fined for doing certain things better than they are done by the non-claimant States. I refer to the provision of educational facilities and State social services. We are being fined because of our educational facilities, which have reached the highest standard of any Australian State. Our present educational system has been in existence for several years. We have area schools, comprehensive schools and what we call modern schools. They are really experiments in education and are being studied by educationists all over Australia, and, in fact, by educationists all over the world. They cost the State a great deal of money. I suppose that we would have - with the exception, perhaps, of Canberra itself - the best set-up schools in Australia. Because of that, we are being fined each year by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I believe it is time that the non-claimant States, which pride themselves on their progress, especially in the industrial field, got to work to raise their standards in the educational and social service fields in order to bring them on to at least a comparable basis with Tasmania. Because they are not doing that, Tasmania is being fined each year by the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
I rose merely to enter a protest at the action of the Commonwealth Grants Commission in fining Tasmania for its progress - if I may put it that way - in the educational and social service fields.
– I propose to address myself with relative brevity to the measure now before the chamber. I think it would be a pity to allow the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s very complete and excellent report to pass with scant attention. The commission has taken the question of grants in recent years right out of the sphere of controversy. It works upon well-defined principles that are now, I think, generally accepted. Senator Cole said that the level of social service expenditure in Tasmania is far higher than that in any other State. I think it is more than 100s. higher than the average in the standard States. The average for the standard States of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria is 377s. 6d., compared with an average for Tasmania of 487s. 2d. That involves a reduction by approximately £1,021,000 of the grant that would otherwise be payable to Tasmania.
I do not think it is fair to the commission to concentrate only on that aspect, because there are other adjustments that are favorable to Tasmania. Consider the question of the severity of taxation. The principle adopted by the commission is, of course, to give as much as will enable the claimant States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania to function at a level not appreciably below that of the standard States, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. A number of adjustments are made in determining the grant. In order to attack the commission, one must controvert that fundamental principle, but if one accepts that principle - and I think there is general acceptance of it - one has to be prepared to accept the commission’s methods. If I may put the position perhaps wrongly, the commission says to the claimant States, “ If you indulge yourselves to a greater extent than the standard States in the matter of social services, then, in accordance with the principle, you must be brought back. However, if, apart from income tax, the level of your taxation is higher than the level in the standard States, you will receive a corresponding benefit”. It is a matter of pros and cons. It is just bad luck that in this particular year the cons outweigh the pros to the extent of something like £721,000. That is a grave disability, but one cannot just pick out a single item and base an argument upon that. There is something to be said for preserving a fairly even standard throughout Australia.
From time to time the commission has met objections - I have made many myself - on the question of the effort required on account of claimancy. Just because a State was a claimant State, it had to make an extra effort to overcome its financial difficulties. First, it had to make some special effort, and secondly, it was penalized in respect of loan losses incurred in past years. Quite a few years ago, the commission abandoned the principle of the effort required on account of claimancy. The report now before us shows that the Commonwealth Treasury, during the year, asked that that test - the effort on account of claimancy - be re-imposed. The matter was argued very extensively and the Commonwealth Treasury’s view was not accepted. I am very pleased to see that in this report the Commonwealth Grants Commission has adhered to the principle that it should completely discard all questions of effort required on account of claimancy.
Down through the years it has made adjustments, even in the matter of social service payments. It has had regard to the relatively greater number of children in a State, to difficulties of terrain, and to the existence of sparsely populated areas. AH those factors are taken into account in determining the standard. In short, a genuine effort is made on the part of the commission to bring every relevant factor into consideration and to make some allowance in respect of each. ] think that Senator Cole was right in drawing attention to the fact that Tasmania leads the other States in social services. It leads’ primarily, I think, because of its very extensive education system. There is great expenditure in Tasmania under the head of education.
– Tasmania has experimented in that field.
– It has pioneered area schools and has conducted some experimentation. There is no doubt about that. Let me quote the comparative figures showing expenditure per head of population in 1956-57, which is the year of review under the method employed by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The sum spent in Tasmania was 256s. 5d.; in Queensland, 161s. 3d.; and in New South Wales, 202s. lid. It will be noted that Tasmania easily has the highest expenditure on education per head of population.
– What are the figures for the other claimant States?
– I shall read them all. They are as follows: - New South Wales, 202s. lid.; Victoria, 196s. 7d.; Queensland, 161s. 3d.; South Australia, 191s. 5d.; Western Australia, 231s. 2d. So Western Australia comes next to Tasmania.
– Do not those figures show that, where you have to distribute these services over a small or sparsely populated area, the cost per capita is obviously greater? That is recognized in the university vote.
– That is a factor which, as I have indicated, the commission takes into account. It has taken all those things into account. But I also submit that the extra expenditure in Tasmania is due, in greatest part, to the level of education that is provided rather than to the fact that there are difficulties of terrain. Tasmania provides educational facilities at an exceedingly high level.
– And to a greater age.
– And to a greater age, as Senator Cole says. It is a pity that something cannot be done in respect of that particular item. That is the great disability so far as Tasmania is concerned.
– If we were to do as you have suggested, would not that be asking other States to pay for a much more advanced system in Tasmania?
– I did not quite catch what you said. Did you suggest that would be an encouragement to them to go ahead?
– Would it be fair to place on the other States and on the general revenue the burden of providing an extraordinary system of education for Tasmania?
– I say to the honorable senator that the claimant States have always felt grateful to the standard States for the readiness with which they have joined in making these grants.
– Queensland is now a potentially mendicant State.
– I realize that, but the standard States, without query, do make a contribution substantially of the order involved in this bill. They do that year after year without question, and the claimant States - I have always preferred to refer to them as the applicant States rather than the claimant States, because they are applicants under section 96 of the Constitution for a grant - are beholden to the rest of Australia for this very substantial help. I feel it is a pity that in relation to education, a field in which Tasmania has pioneered in certain ways - she takes the education of the child to a higher age than do many other States-
– To a higher age than all the other States.
– All the other States? I suggest there ought to be a special subvention for such a State in relation to that one matter. But I would not be prepared, unless I could substitute a better principle for the one that the commission has adopted, to claim that the existing principle was unfair to Tasmania. What i have suggested is a logical extension of the principle and methods adopted by the commission. ‘
– That is, so far as it is special expenditure; but, if, having regard to the smallness of the population, it is necessary expenditure, it would be unfair to debit it.
– That is a factor. You are looking at it, I should say, in relation to social services, from the coldly financial angle. I have no doubt that Western Australia, too, would be able to make out a very good claim for special consideration by reason of the vast distances involved.
– That is illustrated by the fact that the figures for Western Australia are so close to those for Tasmania.
– Yes. I join with Senator Cole in saying that in the field of education in particular something special ought to be done. I do not think we could call upon the Grants Commission to make the adjustment. Rather is it a matter for the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Parliament to look at the question.
– Does not the high expenditure on education in Western Australia flow from completely different causes from those which led to such high expenditure in Tasmania?
– I have no doubt that there are big differences. Whatever they may be, they are not present to my mind at the moment. I have not addressed my mind to them and I should not like to particularize, but I would be very happy if some one were to agree to give a discourse on just what are the practical differences in that field. I hope that some time the Commonwealth will appoint a commission of some kind to inquire info education generally, as distinct from tertiary education. The financial problem in relation to both Tasmania and Western Australia in particular might be looked at. Then all the factors that Senator Byrne now mentions would be the subject of consideration.
I have felt impelled to say what I have said. I have risen to speak more as a compliment to the Commonwealth Grants Commission than for any other reason. I note that the commission has adopted a deficit Budget standard for the year of review, that is 1956-57, which indicates that the States are not in a very happy position financially. The commission, at page 18 of its report, directed attention to the fact that the servicing of loans - by the servicing of loans it meant, of course, the repayments of principal and interest - that the
States have had for developmental purposes constitutes a very heavy burden on State Budgets. The report reads -
Since unremunerative loan expenditure and the consequent debt charges have always been a burden on the budgets of the claimant Slates, and since it is generally agreed that they are an important item in accounting for the high level of special grants, the Commission has this year made a special examination of their incidence in the claimant States.
There is set out a ten-year table showing the results.
Not so long ago I argued in this chamber that a terrific burden had been imposed upon State Budgets by reason of the fact that the Commonwealth gives all the proceeds of the loan market to the States and that, where it helps State works programmes from its own revenue, it does so per medium of loans carrying interest. I directed attention to the fact that during the nine years that this Government has been in office interest charges alone against the States had risen by £56,000,000 a year. Some one might well argue in reply that the claimant States have no grievance- because the Commonwealth Grants Commission, as it indicated at page 18 of its report, took those debt charges into consideration.
– Is not that a legitimate argument?
– It must go further. The point I want to make is that the grant is adjusted having regard to the level of the standard States. The standard States have suffered the full impact of that enormous interest charge. It probably puts them into a deficit position, and that deficit standard is accepted by the Grants Commission for the purpose of fixing the grants for Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia. Then they all are worse off than if the standard States had high Budgets, soaring revenues and the rest. So these adjustments that the Commonwealth Grants Commission makes are only to bring the claimant States up to a standard which is something lower than the standard of the three principal States. As the standards of the three principal States are depressed by high interest charges, the claimant States aTe well down. So that method is not the complete answer. You must carry the matter a point further.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission gives to the claimant States, by way of help towards meeting their loan servicing commitments, an amount that enables them to f unction on an appreciably lower level than that of the standard States which are carrying the full burden of their interest charges. That brings me back to the first comment I made, that in the year of review, 1956-57, the commission adopted a deficit budget standard for the claimant States because the standard States were on a deficit budget basis, whereas if they were relieved of all that burden of interest they would be on a balanced, or even a surplus budget standard. So, it is not the answer to say that the Commonwealth Grants Commission adjusts this matter for Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia.
The only other comment that I wish to make is that in relation to the system that the Commonwealth Grants Commission has adopted in recent years, it has again rejected the proposal of the Commonwealth Treasury that the two parts of the grant should be abolished. The Treasury submitted that there should be only one approach to the amount required for the year, or estimated to be required, and that that should end the matter. It suggested that the grant, once made, should never be adjusted.
– How long is it since the commission divided the grants into two parts? Is it not only about five or six years?
– I think it is longer. I think that it goes back to 1949. The Commonwealth Treasury suggested that that system be abolished. I do not agree with that view, nor did the commission. After all is said and done, we have to face the fact that at the beginning of a year - and these grants would have to be made early in the financial year - it is not possible to foresee trade trends, or droughts or floods. The whole complexion of the finances of a State might change in a year.
– The data would have been compiled before that.
– I am coming to that, as my second point. The data would not be there. You would have to project your mind into the future and hazard an amount as a guess. The commission has firmly set its face against accepting any figures that are are not audited by the AuditorsGeneral of the States. That is why it has cut the grants into two parts. It makes a grant in one year, and after it has been audited two years later it goes back and works on the audited figures to see what the grant should have been. If there is a plus or a minus, that is added to or subtracted from the grant of the year of payment. The second part of the grant is an ad hoc assessment of what might be required for the year in which payment is made. Apparently, the views of the Commonwealth Treasury were not acceptable to the Commonwealth Grants Commission on this occasion in respect of the two important matters of discarding the method of assessing the grant in two parts, and the request of the Treasury regarding the restoration of the “ effort on account of claimancy “ principle which I opposed very strongly over many years. I rejoiced when it was thrown overboard.
I pay a tribute, as usual, to the excellence of the reports that are prepared by the commission. With those comments, I join with my colleagues on this side of the chamber in supporting the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In May of this year, the Public Service Act and the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act were amended by removing the provisions which had applied hitherto and which limited the grant of furlough to permanent and temporary Commonwealth public servants to a maximum of twelve months. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Statistics (Arrangements with
States) Act 1956 in a similar manner. By repealing sub-section (2) of section 14 of this act, former State public servants who have transferred to the Commonwealth Public Service following, the integration of Commonwealth and State statistical services will become eligible for the same furlough entitlement as that afforded to other Commonwealth employees earlier this year.
The amendments to the Commonwealth Public Service Act and the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act also provided that the change in furlough entitlement should be made retrospective to 30th April, 1958, the date on which Cabinet decided to introduce the legislation. It is appropriate that the same date of effect should apply in the case of those officers covered by the Statistics (Arrangements with States) Act 1956, and the bill provides accordingly. I commend this bill to honorable senators.”
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 11.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 September 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1958/19580930_senate_22_s13/>.