23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. ls it a fact that about a fortnight ago one of Ansett-A.N.A.’s delivery wagons overturned on the northern New South Wales highway, near the Queensland border? Is .it also a fact that when the van was examined in the course of salvage operations it was found to be full of air mail J consigned to northern parts of Queensland?
– I am not aware of the occurrence described by the honorable senator. I will bring his complaint to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral.
– My question to the Minister for the Navy is prompted by a statement attributed to Mr. Calvert, the film actor, of “ Sea Fox “ fame. Mr. Calvert is alleged to have criticized the port authorities because he could not get a clearance, or certificate of seaworthiness, for his boat. Has the Navy been reimbursed to any degree for the expense incurred in rescuing this gentleman only a few weeks ago?
– If “Sea Fox” is being held at Darwin until it is considered to be in a fit condition to go to sea it is being so held by the department of my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who has the responsibility of seeing that all vessels leaving Australian ports are in a seaworthy condition. It is true that the Navy did rescue this vessel some time ago - I have forgotten exactly when - complete with Mr. Calvert, a bo’sun, two singers and a chimpanzee. Apart from a certain amount of amusement which was gained by the crew of the -tug “ Emu “, the rescuing agent, neither the Navy nor the Commonwealth has been reimbursed. Nor, indeed, has reimbursement been sought, since we were offering assistance to distressed mariners. If I remember rightly - and I think I do - one of the conditions laid down by Mr. Calvert before he submitted to rescue was that the Commonwealth Government would not charge him for a tow by its tug. It was decided to agree to this because the crew of the tug was tired of waiting for “ Sea Fox “ to get to port, and it would have been far more expensive merely to sail around the vessel in circles until it either sank or arrived at its destination.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior by pointing out that the Public Works Committee of this Parliament has been fighting ever since 1916 for the retention of the lakes scheme in the plan for Canberra’s development. In 1951, when a suggestion was made that the lakes scheme be dropped, the Public Works Committee insisted that it should be retained. In view of the fact that the “ Canberra Times “ of yesterday’s date stated that the Public Works Committee had suggested that the lakes scheme should -be ‘dropped from the plan, I ask the Minister whether he will make a statement with the object of neutralizing the press statement .to which I have referred.
– I shall be pleased to bring to the notice of the Minister for the Interior the report in the “ Canberra Times “ referring to this matter. I shall ask the Minister to let me have a statement which I -may give to the honorable senator.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. By way of preface, I point out that reports from South Australia indicate that “ Milford Crouch “, a small South Australian trading vessel of about 100 tons, was lost in Spencer’s Gulf, in South Australian waters, yesterday. Has the Minister any details of this catastrophe to report to the Senate? In particular, can he indicate whether Commonwealth aid, especially air-sea rescue work, has been possible? Will the Minister ensure that a full and searching inquiry into this tragic happening is made?
– I am aware of the incident to which the honorable senator refers. The vessel “ Milford Crouch “ capsized at 4.45 p.m. yesterday, in sight of another vessel, the “ Hawk “, owned by the same people, Crouch and Company, off Gibbon Point, on the western shore of Spencer’s Gulf, opposite Wallaroo. The “ Hawk “ picked up one boy of a crew of six and continued the search until dark. The Deputy Director of Navigation was advised at 10 p.m. and he alerted shipping. He advised the Harbour Master at Wallaroo and arranged for a search by the Royal Australian Air Force to be conducted at daylight this morning. The Harbour Master, aircraft, and the vessels “ Lake Sorell “ and “ Pioneer Star “ have been searching since daylight. The vessels “ Lake Illawarra “, “Claire Crouch” and “Stormbird “ also were proceeding to the area. The Harbour Master searched close inshore where wreckage was sighted by aircraft.
A further report which reached me just as I entered the chamber is to the effect that the Harbour Master at Wallaroo had reported that, in conjunction with the aircraft, he had searched the area where the ship sank among a lot of wreckage, such as hatches, &c, approximately four miles south of Franklin Harbour, but could find no trace of any survivors. The Harbour Master and the ships “Pioneer Star”, “Lake Illawarra “ and “ Lake Sorell “ have now broken off the search. The aircraft is still searching where the ship was last seen floating upside down. “ Claire Crouch “ is still searching. There are many people on the beach where wreckage is being washed up, but they have not yet found any more survivors.
– I ask the acting Leader of the Government in the Senate whether I am correctly informed that the Government has announced a decision to introduce legislation making it mandatory for certain public works proposals costing more than a certain figure to be referred to the Public Works Committee.
– Yes, the Government has recently reviewed the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act, and has decided to introduce an amendment to make it mandatory for works estimated to cost more than £250,000 to be referred to the Public Works Committee. The act will be further amended to enable any work, irrespective of cost, to be referred to the committee by resolution of the House. There will be provision for some exceptions, such as certain defence works, and there will be provision also for the Parliament to accept a motion that a particular work should not be referred. It is also proposed to give the committee power to review its own report on a particular subject within a certain time.
– I ask a supplementary question. I understood the Minister to say that it will be competent for the House, by resolution, to refer to the committee works estimated to cost less than £250,000. Will he give consideration to a proposal that it be competent, not only for the House of Representatives, but also for the Senate, by resolution, to refer any such work to the committee?
– Yes, I shall be pleased to discuss the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Works.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. What would be the approximate, estimated cost of constructing in (a) Australian shipyards and (b) overseas, a typical vessel which, by reason of tonnage, refrigeration facilities, and other necessary equipment, would be suitable for transporting Australian primary products abroad?
– If one takes a line through the Tariff Board’s recommended protection, one sees that there is an average difference of 33i per cent, between the cost of building a vessel in Australia and the cost of building a vessel in a British yard. Costs at other yards vary, but continental costs are generally in line with British costs. The answer, in short, is that the cost in Australia is 33i per cent, more than costs overseas.
– I asked the Minister whether he could give me the approximate cost of constructing a typical vessel with all the necessary facilities.
– I should rather have notice of the question than have a stab at the answer. I should prefer to have a look at what the honorable senator calls a typical vessel, with refrigeration and the other equipment that goes with it.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether it is a fact that the Australian Government subsidy of 33i per cent, of the cost of ships built in Australia would bring the cost to people having ships built down to the level of the cost of ships built overseas. Is it a fact that, to counteract this, the United Kingdom Government applies a reinvestment clause, whereby a company wishing to build a ship can put aside sums of money for periods of up to five years so that it can take advantage of capital that it is getting out of the industry to build ships, and that this provision is not available in Australia?
– Yes, it is a fact that the 33+ per cent, subsidy paid by the Australian Government is designed to bring the cost of a ship built in Australia into line with the cost of a similar ship built in a British yard, lt is also true that since, I think, 1953 the English taxation laws have provided for a re-investment allowance of the nature referred to by the honorable senator. I am not too sure of the actual details. I think that he is probably overstating the case when he refers to a period of five years.
– I desire to direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that recently the Minister assured the Senate that on long distance flights there would be no change, or little change, in the high standards of meals and services given to passengers by Trans Australia Airlines, but that unnecessary frills would be abolished on short nights? Are the flights from Perth to Melbourne, Perth to Canberra, Perth to Sydney, and Perth to Brisbane regarded as long distance flights or short distance flights? In the event of such flights being regarded as long distance flights, is the Minister aware of the drastic restrictions brought into force this week on these routes, including the non-provision of even an early morning cup of tea to overnight passengers disembarking at Melbourne or of a hot breakfast to passengers who are continuing their flights from Melbourne to other capital cities? Is air sickness regarded by the Minister as one of the frills to be curtailed? Otherwise, can he give any explanation of, or the saving proposed to be effected by, the issue of half-size bags to unfortunate passengers thus afflicted? Is the Minister aware that such bags, also, are no longer provided with a reinforced water proof lining? How long does the Minister consider it will take such austerities to recoup the airlines their expenditure on Electras and other jet planes?
– My understanding is that the provision of meals on longer flights remains unaltered. Perth-Melbourne would be regarded as a long flight; MelbourneCanberra would, 1 assume, not be regarded by the airlines as a long flight. I am interested in the honorable senator’s statement concerning the inability of passengers - on Tuesday morning, I think it was - to get hot coffee at Melbourne.
– Even by paying for it.
– Yes, that is right; you have to pay for everything. The new arrangements were not brought into force until Monday morning and I should think that the restaurant people - the cafeteria arrangements; call them what you will - at Melbourne were not sufficiently alert to be able to provide hot coffee for travellers arriving from Perth, as is the case at Adelaide where at much earlier hours of the morning hot coffee is available to travellers - in that case, not at their own cost, I think.
As to the series of questions about bags provided for air sickness, I can only say to the honorable senator that among the multitude of things to which I have to direct my attention, the provision of bags for air sickness is not one; it is something that the airlines themselves work out. I shall certainly refer the question to them and ask to be informed of the reason for the change.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has his attention been drawn to the adverse criticism which appeared in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ of 27th October concerning Australian Embassy officials in Tokyo? The press report stated that a Mr. Menz, a passenger on “ Changsha “, which was beached by a tidal wave, complained that the embassy officials did nothing to help Australian passengers after they arrived in Tokyo.
– No, I have not seen the account referred to, but I say at once that I am extremely surprised to hear that such criticism was levelled at the officers in the Tokyo Embassy in any circumstances. It has been my own experience that these officers are always most helpful to all Australians travelling overseas, and in the particular circumstances - that of the persons concerned being the survivors of a wreck - I would have expected that special attention would have been extended to those people. I shall be pleased to refer the matter to my colleague who is acting for the Minister for External Affairs and to ask him to give me some information about it.
– As some of the evidence which has been published and parts of the report of the royal commission which inquired into the boycott by wool buyers of wool sales at Goulburn would indicate that there is a wider implication than merely a local boycott so that the matter is of interest to the woolgrowing industry as a whole, will the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry endeavour to obtain copies of the full report of the royal commission and make them available to honorable senators?
– I understand that the full report referred to by the honorable senator was ordered to be printed by the New South Wales Parliament on 29th September. When copies are available, they will be placed in the Library for the information of any honorable senator who is interested.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether he will consider having the excellent contour model of the Canberra lakes scheme, which is now on display in King’s Hall, alined correctly with the map behind it so that the scheme might be more easily understood by viewers.
– I join with the honorable senator in stating that the contour model of the Canberra lakes scheme on display in King’s Hall is an excellent one and I also agree that, as it is placed at present, it is most difficult to get a proper orientation of the buildings and the lakes when endeavouring to study it in conjunction with the- map- behind it. As it is placed’ at present, one gains the impression that Parliament House, the lakes and the Australian War Memorial’ are situated’ irc line with Black Mountain, whereas it is evident, when one looks over the actual ground from the front of Parliament House, that Parliament House, the lakes and the War Memorial will line up with Mount Ainslie. It would certainly be better if the model were turned around so that the true outlook from the front of Parliament House might be illustrated.
– I desire to address a supplementary question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I can quite understand that- in his desire to inform the Senate of the tragic loss of the “ Milford Crouch “ he overlooked the last portion of my question, and I invite him to reply to it now. It was: Will the Minister ensure that a full and searching inquiry into the loss of the “Milford Crouch” will be made?
– I regret I overlooked that aspect of the question. The “ Milford Crouch “, being an intra-state vessel - it was registered in South Australia - will come within the marine jurisdiction of that State. A marine inquiry invariably follows a casualty of this sort.
– Will the Minister for Customs and Excise inform the Senate of the present duties charged upon imports of artificial synthetics which are in competition with wool?
– There is a variety of these synthetics. I shall be pleased to have a paper prepared on this subject and I shall make it available to members of the Senate.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. It follows a question that I asked recently in the Senate after I had read a statement to the effect that tobacco production in Australia had increased by approximately 100’ per cent, over the last two or three years. I understand that the percentage of Australiangrown tobacco which must be used, in conjunction with imported tobacco in manufactured tobacco products has been increased, and I think that may be the reason for the rapid increase in the growth of the Australian tobacco industry. Can the Minister give me figures of the percentage of Australian tobacco that has to be used in the manufacture of Australian cigarettes and tobacco, before a reduction in the import duties on overseas tobacco is granted?
– When the honorable senator asked his question on the last occasion I informed him that I would get the specific details that he required. I now have them. The percentages of Australian leaf which have been prescribed for incorporation in manufactured tobacco products to enable the manufacturer to qualify for the concessional rates of duty on imported leaf content are -
The duty concession on the imported leaf, which is given if this percentage of Australian leaf is put into the tobacco leaf, is ls. 6d. per lb. for manufactured tobacco, and ls. 5d. per lb. in the case of cigarettes. The increasing percentage required has undoubtedly had an effect on the market for Australian tobacco.
asked the Minister representing, the Minister for the Interior,, upon notice -
As work has commenced on the building of a new post office for the Hobart suburb of Sandy Bay, will the Minister recommend to the Commonwealth Bank Board that it purchase the old post office building in order to provide adequate Commonwealth Bank facilities- in this area of growing commercial and residential importance?
– The Minister for the Interior has furnished the following reply: -
The provision of adequate Commonwealth Bank facilities in any particular locality is the direct concern of the bank itself. It is, however, the practice of my department to inform the Bank Premises Department of the Commonwealth Bank of any Commonwealth properties which become surplus and are available for purchase. Details of the old post office property at Sandy Bay will be communicated, to the bank authorities at Hobart at an early date to enable inquiries to be undertaken before the property actually becomes available for disposal..
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following replies: - 1 and 2. Basically, translator stations are used to provide a television service to restricted local areas not capable of being served in the normal way. Their use must be co-ordinated with other means of providing television services, and the question of the application of such stations will be considered at the appropriate time.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
In view of the statement of the Minister on 22nd September, 1959, that he proposed making a recommendation to the Government on the effects of the High Court decision in the Hursey case, a possible consequence of which, he said, could be that a person might be deprived of employment for refusing to pay a political levy, and in view of the fact that Parliament has only a few weeks left this year to consider any proposed legislation or other action on this vital issue, will the Minister advise whether the Government has yet arrived at a decision?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has intimated that, as he indicated in his statement of 22nd September, 1959, he will make a recommendation to the Government as soon as he is in a position to do so. As my colleague stated in reply to a question on 20th October, this is a matter of government policy which it would be inappropriate to discuss further at this time. I also refer the honorable senator to other answers on the subject given by the Minister in the House of Representatives, in which he goes into rather more detail concerning the intricate legal points raised, and describes the arrangements that he has made for conferences of officers to discuss them.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The Minister for Social Services has informed me that he would prefer these questions to be addressed to the Attorney-General, but that he will bring the matters raised in the honorable senator’s two questions to the notice of his colleague, the Attorney-General. The Minister adds -
The honorable senator doubtless has in mind the United Kingdom and New Zealand legislation under which the Crown can, in certain circumstances, recoup itself from deserting husbands, for payments made by it to deserted wives. The Commonwealth has no such power and, in any case, our social service legislation is somewhat different in other respects. Here a deserted wife may receive maintenance from her husband up to the limit of the permissible income before her rate of widow’s pension is reduced. If the Crown were to recoup itself for amounts of pension paid that would not otherwise have been paid, the amount recouped would, in general, be only the amount by which the rate of maintenance payable exceeded the permissible income. This amount would be only a small portion of the £4,000,000 per annum referred to by the honorable senator.
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– I now furnish the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Insofar as the legitimate trade is concerned, control is based on physical checks and records of all drug transactions required to be kept by licensed importers, wholesalers, &c, of narcotic drugs. Statistical information prepared from these sources is supplied to the United Nations, which receives similar material from all other parties to the Drug Conventions. A study of this information by the United Nations Drug Supervisory Body enables it to set world manufacturing levels for narcotics and to detect possible diversions of drug consignments into illicit traffic.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers: -
I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact that Radio Australia is practically the only radio link that people have in the outback districts, particularly in the north-west of Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Is it also a fact that Radio Australia thus gives a very necessary amenity to those whose work is hard and whose entertainments are few? Is the Minister aware that over recent weeks Radio Australia has discontinued the practice of giving acceptances for race meetings held in thesouthern States?
In view of the approaching events to take placein Melbourne during the first week in November, events considered of sufficient importance towarrant at times the adjournment of the National’ Parliament and the massing of the Fleet in Port Phillip Bay, will the Minister consider restoring to the people of the outback the opportunity tohave some foreknowledge of these and other items of sporting interest and the same regular sporting services that are given to the public of the metropolitan areas who already have many avenues of information open to them in the sporting field?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:-
The Radio Australia transmissions are intended for listeners overseas, but they can be heard in the northern part of Australia. Domestic shortwave services emanating from Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth are intended to serve north-west Australia and the Northern Territory. The Radio Australia programmes are planned to meet the needs of listeners ‘overseas and a considerable number of these transmissions are in foreign languages, including Indonesian, Mandarin and Thai.
Some sporting programmes on Radio Australia have recently been discontinued because they were of no interest to the listeners for whom these transmissions are intended.
I am informed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission that arrangements have already been made so that information prior to, during and after the events referred to will be read at slow speed on Radio Australia between “6.30 p.m. on Monday, 2nd November, and 6.45 p.m. on Tuesday, 3rd November.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Science and Industry Research Act, I lay on the table the following paper: -
Science and Industry Research Act - Eleventh Annual Report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, for year 1958-59.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 11.30 a.m.
– I wish to inform the Senate that the Honorable Roland Michener, Q.C., M.P., Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, is within the precincts of the chamber. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the Senate beside the President’s chair.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, heart (Mr. Michener thereupon -entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.)
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the ‘bill ‘be ‘now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the raising of loan moneys totalling £36,080,000 for financial assistance to the States for housing. In accordance with the requests of .the States, and approval of the Australian Loan Council, the amount of £36,080,000 will be allocated as ‘follows: -
The provision of this amount in 1959-60, for which approval is now being sought, represents a small increase of £270,000 over the amount advanced to the States in 1958- 59. Advances .to .the States will be made in accordance with conditions laid down in the Housing -Agreement Act 1956.
In accordance with the agreement authorized by that act, the amount of £36,080,000 to be advanced to the States in 1959-60 will be used for two separate purposes. It is expected that £25,246,000 will be used by the States for their own housing programmes. The remaining £10,834,000 will be allocated to the home builders’ account set up “in the various States for distribution to building societies and other approved lending institutions for the erection or purchase of homes for private ownership.
In 1958-59, the sums provided for these two purposes were £25,057,000 and £10,753,000 respectively. In accordance with provisions of the agreement, the minimum that could be made available by each State to building societies and other approved institutions in 1959-60 was 30 per cent, of the Loan Council allocation. The. minimum percentage was 20 per cent, for 1956-57 and 1957-58, but increased to 30 per cent, for 1958-59, 1959-60 and 1960-61.
The terms of the Housing Agreement require that an amount specified by the Commonwealth, but not exceeding in any year 5 per cent, of the moneys made available for State housing programmes, be set aside in each State for the erection of dwellings for allotment to serving members of the defence forces. The Commonwealth makes supplementary advances of an equal amount, for the same purpose. These supplementary advances are met from the respective votes of the service departments and are additional, therefore, to the loan moneys to be raised in pursuance of this bill: The estimated amount to be set aside by the- States for the housing of serving members of the forces in 1959-60 is £1,0.74,000, as compared with £1,194,048 set aside in 1-958-59.
Supplementary advances being made by the Commonwealth from revenue, funds, to match the. allocations by the States, result in a substantial increase in the number of houses erected by the State housing authorities. In 1958-59, State housing authorities commenced 9,889 dwellings with funds made available under the Housing Agreement; in the same year 9,317 dwellings were completed. These figures include dwellings built for serving members of the forces. The number of houses provided for the services as part of the 1958-59 programme was 750. Arrangements are in hand for more than 650 to be provided in the current financial year.
During 1958-59 a total of 278 institutions received funds from the home builders’ account. In that year a total of 3,323 new houses were commenced and a total of 3,965 houses- were, completed or purchased; the latter represents nearly 30 per cent, of the total completions of dwellings financed from agreement moneys.
It is expected that some 290 institutions will be drawing funds from the home builders’ account in 1959-60 as compared with 175 in 1956-57, 187 in 1957-58 and 278 in 1958-59. The increase in the number of institutions participating in this scheme is almost entirely due to formation of new co-operative terminating building societies but three new permanent societies have been granted allocations. As well as utilizing all moneys available in New South Wales and Victoria in each year to date, building societies of the co-operative terminating type are taking up the bulk of the money in Queensland and nearly half of it in Western Australia.
Other institutions to benefit by allocations from the home builders’ account are permanent building societies, the State Bank of South Australia, the Rural and Industries Bank in Western Australia, and the Agricultural Bank of Tasmania.
Surplus moneys are accumulating in the home builders’ account and becoming available for immediate re-lending. The reason for this accumulation is that repayments received from the building societies and other institutions are more than sufficient to meet repayments on the loans made by the Commonwealth Government. In the first three years of this scheme, i.e. to 30th June; 1959, a total of £1,234,343 had become available for re-lending in this way.
In 1958-59, the Commonwealth’s direct financial contribution to housing was £80,000,000; The major components of this were war service homes £35,000,000, and the. housing agreement £37,000,000. The. financial contributions for the current year 1959-60 will be approximately the same as for 1958-59.
In 1958-59 the estimated total investment in new housing was £265,000,000 compared’ with £241,000,000 in 1957-58, representing an increase of 10 per cent.
The high level of investment in new housing in the last financial year is reflected in the figures for housing completions in that year when 84,158 houses and flats were completed. This figure is an all time high, and represented an increase of 12.8 per cent, over the completions figure of 74,585 attained during the financial year 1957-58.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 27th October (vide page 1214).
Department of Customs and Excise.
Proposed Vote, £4,636,000.
.- Amongst the items of general expenses I notice provision for honoraria to members of the Commonwealth Book Censorship Board and the Appeal Censor. I suppose this board deals with the banning of books. The amount proposed to be set aside this year is £500 less than the amount provided last year. I was wondering whether the reduction was due to the splendid efforts of our good friend, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), who took a reasonable attitude to the banning of books. Possibly there are not so many books to ban these days, and not so much work to do as a result of the Minister’s reasonable and sensible attitude. If that is so, I commend him. I should like to know whether or not, if the Minister read a book that he regarded as unsuitable for reading by the general public, he would have power to ban it. I have a reason for asking that question.
If a ship brought a consignment of 1,000 or 100 books would they be seized on the wharf, or allowed to go to various distributors, to be dealt with afterwards by the censor? In the latter event, if the books were banned, would the distributors be stopped from selling them? What is the modus operandi? Are all books examined before going into the hands of importers? If they are banned, what is done with them afterwards? Are they burned, or are they distributed amongst friends who might like to read such books? When a book is banned, people are inclined to approach it in a different way.
I should like to deal with the matter that was raised last evening by our good friend, Senator Armstrong. He spoke of the seizure of motor vehicles which, he said, constituted a problem not only for the present tory or Liberal-Australian Country Party Government, but also for the preceding Labour government. He said that the procedure adopted by the department bore heavily upon innocent people, and he wanted to know whether a new approach to the matter was being developed by the department.
Some time ago, I asked a question in relation to this matter, and more recently I followed it with another question, upon which the Minister said that he had nothing to add to his previous answer. Every honorable senator is interested in this matter because people who are not guilty of any crime suffer unduly. One man told me the other day that, in his opinion, the procedure was a sample of the skulduggery of the Department of Customs and Excise, but I shall not go so far as to agree with that statement, because departmental officers must perform their duty. The Minister and others have said that because we penalize a person who buys stolen goods we should therefore penalize a person who comes into possession of a car the owner of which has not complied with the law by holding it for two years - I think that is the period specified - before disposing of it. These cars are not stolen property, but have been come by honestly. Men and women who buy them innocently are penalized unduly.
Some time ago, I was not permitted to deal with the case of my friend McCallum because it was ruled that the matter was sub judice. I honestly think that the Chair was wrong in preventing me from speaking on the subject. However, I should now like to inform honorable senators that my friend McCallum has not yet received the car back. I believe that it is to be sold about 25th November. He paid £3,000 for it and spent £300 in repairs. I have seen the car when passing the government car pool, and I am afraid it must have deteriorated in the past two or three years. My friend has had to spend more money on the purchase of another, cheaper car, and, of course, he has not had the use of his Cadillac all this time. He was mulct in a sum of at least £3,500, I think, because unfortunately he met a villain in Sydney who persuaded him to buy the Cadillac. As to the man who sold the car to him, I understand that he was prosecuted by the Department of Customs and Excise and fined a small sum of money; , I do not know the exact amount. The innocent party has lost £3,500; he may get back a few hundreds when the car is sold. He has suffered agony of mind. Likewise, his wife has suffered agony of mind. The man bought the car to please his wife - we all like to please our wives - and now he has lost both his money and the car. The Department of Customs and Excise took the car from him and for over two years he has been deprived of the use of it. My argument is this: Surely some method can be found whereby innocent people can be saved the misery and the expense that are involved when a car is seized by the department. 1 remember Senator Wright speaking on this subject. I have forgotten the solution of the problem that he advanced, but I know that at the time I thought it was a very sensible one. Possibly the honorable senator suggested that the matter should be left in the hands of the State and that a paper or some other authority should be issued before the car could be sold so as to safeguard an innocent person. Perhaps Senator Wright will have a word to say on this matter later. 1 hope that something can be done about it. 1 do not say this now for Mr. McCallum, because he has gone through the whole gamut of Customs House procedure and the car will be sold. There are times ahead of us when other cars doubtless will be sold by villains to innocent people and those innocent people will have to suffer. The villain in this case, a man named Shay - an American - will go scot free. 1 understand that a number of secondhand cars were sold by him. The stooge was a man who said that his name was Luke; afterwards, we found that there was another Luke. After the man Luke saw Mr. McCallum, the papers were passed over.
– He was the lurk man.
– Some honorable senators may smile. I remind them that this is a serious matter which deserves the consideration of both sides of the chamber. It is not a political matter. It is a matter of common justice and fairness being extended to people who are unfortunate enough to become victims of villains. I have the papers before me. Mr. McCallum’s lawyers made representations to the department and ultimately they issued a writ against the department seeking a stay of proceedings. Subsequently the solicitors, after receiving a letter from the Minister, got in touch with the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Brisbane, who advised them that if they could persuade Mr. McCallum to withdraw the writ the department would deal with the matter in the ordinary way - as it is doing.
This man has to face the position that his car will be sold. We do not know what will be the final outcome of the matter. I know that the Minister will be fair. Let me say quite frankly that I have every faith in him and believe that after the sale he will do the right thing by Mr. McCallum. So that every honorable senator will know the position in regard to this particular case, should something similar happen again, I should like to read a part of a letter that wa9 addressed by the solicitors to the Minister. It is as follows: - . . at the time of purchasing he had no practicable means of ascertaining that there had been or was likely to have been any such breach. He is now in the position that he has been penalized to the extent of thousands of pounds because of an offence committed by other persons. Our client unfortunately has no chance of obtaining any pecuniary redress from the vendor of the vehicle.
Mr. McCallum went so far as to approach certain lawyers in Sydney to make investigations on his behalf into the possibility of regaining from the seller of the car the sum of £3,000, but the vendor was a man of straw, and men of straw do not have much money usually, as far as I know.
In reading through these papers I found that the original Luke changed into some other Luke. The second Luke took the cheque that was made out to him for £3,000; he was another man altogether. This is what my friend stated in his affidavit -
I have subsequently ascertained from my bankers that the cheque for Three thousand pounds (£3,000) which as aforesaid I gave to A. D. Luke in payment of the said car, was subsequently credited to the account in the name of “Warren View “ of which account D. A. Shay and B. Shay are the proprietors. My said cheque bore an endorsement as follows: - “Please pay to the credit of D. A. Shay (Sgd.) A. D. Luke (Sgd.) D. A. Shay”
So this D. A. Shay is a mysterious gentleman. I understand that he is an American and that he got out of the matter altogether. My friend also stated in his affidavit -
I am the Plaintiff in Action Number 28 of 1958 in the Queensland Registry in the High Court of Australia in which Action ALBERT EDWARD GRIFFIN Collector of Customs for the State of Queensland is the Defendant.
The said Action relates to a Cadillac Motor Car which is or was my property and which was seized for alleged offences against the Customs Regulations in respect of a declaration made in obtaining a Licence to import the said motor car.
I purchased the said motor car for the sum of THREE THOUSAND POUNDS (£3,000) in Sydney in the State of N.S.W. in the month of April, 1956, under circumstances as set out in the following paragraphs of .this my Declaration. 1 first saw the car on display for sale at premises of Bridge Motors Pty. Ltd. at 823 Princes Highway, Tempe, Sydney, in the State of N.S.W. I then, at the said premises had an interview with a man named Murphy whom I verily believe is a salesman in the employ of the said Bridge Motors Pty. Ltd.
At the interview aforesaid or at subsequent interview which I had with Murphy I was informed by Murphy that the said motor vehicle was clear of all liability for Customs Duties and I had produced to me Customs Duty receipts as follows: -
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I intervene merely to enable the honorable senator to conclude his remarks.
.- 1 thank the Minister for his courtesy. Particulars of the receipts were then given. The affidavit continued -
During one of the interviews I had with the said Murphy he introduced a man to me as “ Mr. Luke “ owner of the Cadillac motor car which I was then contemplating purchasing. This man I was so introduced to as Luke took part in the negotiations concerning the sale of the car and when I finally decided to purchase the car Murphy suggested I might make the cheque payable to “ A. D. Luke “. I drew the cheque accordingly and handed it to the man introduced to me as aforesaid as “Mr. Luke”. 1 shall not detain the committee any longer. All I want to say in conclusion is that j believe that in this matter a grave injustice has been done. This man has been treated most unfairly. This kind of thing has been going on for years. I am not blaming the Government; I am not blaming Senator Henty; and I am not blaming the department. We have been experiencing these troubles for years. Senator Henty has shown ability in his dealings with various matters relating to his department, and surely it is time he and the other members of the Cabinet, as sensible men, did something to solve this problem. Surely it should be possible, where injustice can be proved, to return the car to the person who has been wronged. Why should it be possible for any man who buys a car in the circumstances I have outlined to be placed in the position in which my friend Mr. McCallum was placed in this instance?
– Last night, Senator Willesee ‘referred to ‘the setting aside of £30,000 for the refund of duty in certain circumstances. He asked why there has been a reduction this year as compared with the amount expended last year. The position is that the ‘main items responsible for the expenditure last year are not likely to be repeated this year. For instance, this year it is not likely that there will be any claims for a refund of primage duty on oil fuel used in locomotives by State railway authorities or for a refund of duty incorrectly paid on insulators for spark plugs. For that reason, the amount has been reduced to £30,000 this year.
Senator Cooke referred to the temporary officers in the Department of Customs and Excise. I can only say to him that the conditions of employment of officers in the Department of Customs and Excise are set out in the Public Service Act and Regulations. Temporary officers cannot be given permanent status unless they comply with those conditions. If any of our temporary officers can comply with the requirements set out in the Public Service Act and Regulations, I shall be only too happy to appoint them as permanent officers.
Senator Armstrong referred to the delay in the clearing of a certain ship.
– I told you the reasons for the delay.
– I have tried to ascertain just what were the circumstances in that case, but so far have been unable to obtain any information relating to it. I can assure the honorable senator, however, that my department is taking every possible step to clear vessels with a minimum of delay. It has even gone so far as to send customs officers by air to meet ships at a half-way point, especially if they were carrying troops, or large numbers of passengers, so that those ships and their passengers might be cleared before entering the port of destination. I repeat that we are taking every possible step to avoid delay in the clearing of ships and their passengers. It seems to me that the case referred to by the honorable senator must have occurred -many years ago for I can find no particulars relating to it.
I point out to the honorable senator, too, that a ship cannot be cleared until it complies with both immigration and health regulations. Very often, when there has been delay in clearing a ship because of immigration or health reasons, the Department of Customs and Excise is blamed for that delay. It might well be that the Department of Customs and Excise was not responsible for the delay in the case mentioned by the honorable senator. Of course, I cannot say for sure because I have been unable to ascertain just what were the circumstances in that case.
I come now to the seizure of cars. This matter was referred to by both Senator Armstrong and Senator Brown, and I thought Senator Armstrong dealt with it very soundly. He said that this had been a problem confronting all governments for many years, and he hoped that we were close to seeing the end of it. Most of the trouble over the last few years has been due to what one might justly describe as a racket engaged in by certain American citizens. They have induced American G.I.’s who were coming to live in Australia to import cars in their names and sign forged documents. Over the last two or three years, 1 have had the task of clearing up this matter, and I am happy to tell the Senate that it is coming to an end now. We are amending the regulations to deal with this practice, and I can only hope that we shall be successful. Of course, there are certain shrewd people in the world who will find ways of defeating any regulation one cares to promulgate, but I am confidently hoping that we are nearly at the end of the trouble.
– Have the Americans in question been punished?
– The Americans in question got away from us. They are now back in America. I think that when they felt the hot breath on their necks they realized that the Department of Customs and Excise was getting on to these things, and they left the country.
– Did they clear out their bank accounts before they went?
– I think the honorable senator can rest assured that they did that.
Senator Brown is not correct in saying that a car will be seized if it is sold within two years after importation into the country. That two-year provision has nothing to do with a case such as the one outlined by him. The honorable senator is thinking of the conditions under which an import licence may be granted. For instance, any person who is coming to Australia to live here permanently is allowed to bring a motor car with him if he has owned and used that car overseas for eighteen months and is prepared to sign a bond that he will not dispose of it in Australia within two years after bringing it in. That is an entirely different matter from the one mentioned by Senator Brown.
I have already set out clearly the procedure adopted by the Department of Customs and Excise in all these cases. I pointed out that the law must be allowed to take its normal course. The fault in the case mentioned by Senator Brown rests with nobody other than Mr. McCallum himself. He asked his solicitors to take out a writ against the Commonwealth Government. Until that writ was either enforced by the court or withdrawn by Mr. McCallum, the Department of Customs and Excise was powerless to move.
– What was the reason for the seizure?
– The car was improperly imported into Australia. This matter could have been settled at any time over the last two or three years, and 1 felt that the person concerned only did himself damage by taking no steps to have the writ either enforced or withdrawn. We did not ask him to withdraw it. He chose to have the matter decided by the court, and in those circumstances the department was powerless to act. It was only when he decided to withdraw the writ that the department was able to take the normal steps required by the Customs Act. I have also pointed out that in all cases in which cars have been brought into the country improperly they will be disposed of at public auction properly advertised in Australia.
– They showed me the clearance from the Department of Customs and Excise.
– I have repeatedly made statements in the Senate during the last three years in which I have asked people to contact the department before they purchased luxury American cars. Knowing full well all that has been going on, the position in regard to import licensing, and the fact that luxury American cars are not available in Australia, I have asked them to make sure that the cars have been cleared before they purchase them.
– I understand that Senator Brown said that the people produced a clearance from the Department of Customs and Excise. Is there any truth in that?
– No, I would not think he approached the department.
– The numbers were on the papers which I had here.
– I understand that the information given to the purchaser was given to him by the seller, or agent. At no time was that information checked with the Department of Customs and Excise, although repeatedly I have asked people to do so. One man rang the department and gave the engine number and registration number of the car. The department told him that the car was clear. Some weeks later, after he had been given that information, it was found that the car was not in the clear, and it was seized. When the man established that he had obtained the information from the department, I said that the car must be returned to him because we had given the information to him and he had accepted it in good faith. He established his bona fides to the satisfaction of the Collector of Customs. In that case the car was returned to the person concerned.
– In the case I mentioned the department did not seize the car for over twelve months.
– I do not know when it was seized, but I have just told you what happens when people come to the department. I recall that a man in Western Australia brought out a car. He was in Perth for seven months, during which period he could have contacted the department at any time. Seven months after he arrived in Perth he brought out a car without an import licence, and then he wondered why it was seized.
– He won it at the races!
– He needed only to go to the customs office during those seven months he was in Perth to find out what the position was. He no doubt walked past the customs office dozens of times, and he could have asked whether he was entitled to bring this car into Australia, but he never did.
I want to say to the honorable senator that I made a clear statement to the Senate of the procedure that I have indicated again to-day. If a car is sold at public auction and the man from whom it was seized could establish the fact that he was a bona fide purchaser and could not obtain redress from the person from whom he had purchased it, I would be prepared to look at the position from a ministerial level and make the necessary refund of the money less the expenses of the auction.
– I did not mention that fact because 1 did not think it was right to disclose a private conversation I had with you. I could have told the chamber that, but I did not mention it.
– I think I made clear, in my statements to the Senate, the procedure that I would follow. The procedure I outline is being followed in every instance.
– I should like to deal with two items. The first is “ Payment to PostmasterGeneral’s Department for services rendered (collection of duty on goods imported through the parcels post) “ under General Expenses. Last year the appropriation for that item was £60,000 and the expenditure was £60,000. This year the proposed vote is again £60,000. Either it is a case of very good budgeting, or there is something else at work. Is this £60,000 just a round sum that is voted annually irrespective of whether that is the amount involved?
Item 13 deals with the training of staff. I am not querying the amount of the vote, £1,600; what I am querying is whether the training of staff involves training in the actual custom regulations only - they would be very intricate - or whether it also involves training staff in how to deal with the public, and how to cultivate a tactful approach to travellers. I should like to state at the outset that I have received nothing but courtesy from customs officials in all ports where I have had occasion to come in contact with them, but I do feel that at times some members of the staff are inclined, perhaps, not to accept the word of travellers, and to be a little overzealous in their duty in that they regard all travellers’ as potential - I will not say liars, but you know what I mean.
In this regard I should like to bring to the notice of the Minister a particular case. I have not the full details, but only those that were published in the press. A young couple came to Australia some months ago. They had been recently married, and according to the custom in their own country the bride always had a dozen of everything - a dozen sheets, a dozen pillow cases and a dozen towels, and 24 of these items if she could afford them. During the time of her engagement she had collected these new items of equipment for her new home. The customs officials in Fremantle would not believe that anybody could want so much stuff for her own use. They thought that the goods might be sold. Although the young woman informed the authorities that it really was a very good custom in her own country for a bride to have these household items in her glory-box in such numbers, she was still charged £90 duty. AH the husband and the wife could muster was £50, and the customs people took £30 of that sum. This young couple managed to have the £90 reduced to £30, but they could not get their goods and chattels for three months. That seems to me a little tough! This young couple could not possibly have used all the sheets, towels and other articles during the brief period in which they had been married. If they had been able to use them they could have got them into the country free of charge, but having been married just recently, they could not possibly have used all these things beforehand. Because they had not used them they were to be charged £90 in duty.
That is not the way, Mr. Chairman, to encourage young people to come out here to settle in a new home. I believe the dispute is still going on between this young couple and the Department of Customs and Excise in regard to the £30. I think it is a bit tough when the department takes 60 per cent, of the total sum possessed by a young couple coming out here to settle in Australia as payment of duty on things that a bride likes to collect during her engagement days as part and parcel of the equipment for her new home. I should like to ask the Minister what really is the position in such a case. It looks to me as if the customs officials doubted the word of the young couple and formed the idea that they intended to sell these things. I can assure the Minister that they would not want to sell them unless they were up against it because the husband could not get a job.
– I invite the attention of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) to an act which he is called upon to administer, namely, the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act. I refer to this year’s report of the Tariff Board, on page 11 of which the board has some important things to say about the structure of this act. It should be remembered by the committee that the act is designed, among other things, to safeguard Australian manufacturers against overseas competitors who export goods to Australia under conditions that may cause detriment to Australian industry. Besides dealing with dumping, this act deals with overseas subsidies that might result in detriment to Australian industry and with the importation of goods into Australia under such conditions as to cause, or threaten to cause, serious injury to the producers in Australia of like or directly competitive goods.
The committee should understand that the Tariff Board must report on these matters before the Minister for Customs and Excise decides whether or not to take any action under this anti-dumping legislation. The Tariff Board in its report has invited our attention to the deficiencies of the act. The legislation was passed in 1921, and between then and 1956 it was amended from time to time. The board complained, with great respect and tolerance, that it had dealt with cases of alleged dumping and had faced the problem of reconciling what appeared to be the intention of the legislature and the mandatory, but deficient, provisions of the act. I invite the attention of the Minister to those comments. The board went into the problem thoroughly. lt was stated that immediate research is required, as well as an investigation of what is happening in other countries. It is particularly difficult for the Tariff Board to ascertain the costs of production in other countries, especially in countries where there is a socialist system in force, because in those countries there are all sorts of supports, props and stays to industry. 1 regard it as urgent for the Minister and his department to pay careful heed to what the Tariff Board has said in its report.
I desire to carry the matter further by putting a specific question to the Minister. He may recall that he referred to the Tariff Board the question of the manufacture of paper boards. The Tariff Board was asked to say whether paper boards from New Zealand should be gazetted under section 4 of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act. The Tariff Board went into the question, and came to a very interesting conclusion. Its report was completed on 27th February last. Its findings were as follows: -
I understand that it is the policy of the Government, as a rule,, to give effect to Tariff Board reports. I should like to know whether the Government has given effect to that report. If it has not done so, I should like the- Minister to say whether it is the intention of the Government to give effect to it. If that is not the intention, will he be good enough to give the reasons why effect has not been given to the report?
Finally, I ask the Minister to be good enough to make some observations of a general nature as to his understanding of the way in which the anti-dumping legislation is working at the moment, and to say whether he has any suggestions to make to the committee regarding ways in which the legislation could be made more effective.
– Would the Minister be good enough to give some explanation of the threatened closure- of one of the factories of the Masonite Corporation? I understand that one of the production units of the corporation is about to close down.
– One of the matters raised, during this discussion was book censorship, to which Senator Brown referred. The honorable senator asked why the honorarium to the Literature Censorship Board had been reduced this year. Last year, the board undertook the arduous job of going through the then existing list of books the importation of which was prohibited. It was a- wide and comprehensive list, which had grown to large proportions over a number of years. I asked the board to undertake the task of recommending which books- should be taken off the list. The members of the board, most of whom are associated- with universities, spent a great deal of their long leave on the task. They receive only a very meagre honorarium. I thought that as they had taken some hundreds of books from the list of prohibited imports into Australia and had presented me with- a list- of only about 127 books - I speak from- memory; - they should be reimbursed for the time spent, amounting to many weeks, on the job* The Government agreed to increase the honorarium by £500, to be split up among the members of the board. They undertook a big task and did it well, and I am indebted to them for it:
asked why the payment to the Postmaster-General’s Department for services rendered is set down at £60,000 this year. Last year the amount paid for services rendered was reduced to £60,000 because beer stamps’ were no longer sold through post offices and the work done for us by the department was therefore reduced. The payment for services rendered this year has been assessed again at £60,000. I believe that this is one of the things that the committee which is inquiring into Post Office affairs should investigate. We should find out whether the Post Office is charging enough, or too much, for its services. I understand that the matter is under consideration. Meanwhile, a nominal sum of £60,000, the same as last year, is being provided.
Senator Tangney also referred’ to a young couple who came to Australia with a great quantity of household goods, including numbers of sheets and so forth. As the honorable senator knows, I always hesitate to deal with individual cases here, because I have found that in this place we hear only one side of the story. That is the position to-day; I have heard only the honorable senator’s account of what took place. I do not doubt one word of what she told me.
– lt was all in the papers.
– I do not doubt that it was in the papers, if that is what the honorable senator -is going on, bless her innocence! However, I think it is wise to hear the department’s side of the story. Generally, I can say that household effects are not free of duty unless ‘they have been used for twelve months. That is the law. The honorable senator will agree that if we gave every one an open go to bring in large quantities of household goods, the concession would be open to abuse.
– Is not the Minister interested in romance?
– We are dealing with some things in the broad. The honorable senator may be an expert in matters of romance, but the Government must look at these things in perspective. We have no option but to collect the duty payable on large quantities of household goods. Our duty is to protect the Australian industry. lt must be remembered that goods of this class are made in Australia. Their manufacture provides employment for our people, and my task is to collect the duty prescribed in respect of them. As the honorable senator herself said, in this case the duty was first assessed at £90. Upon re-examination it was reduced to £30. I think that is an example of the reasonable and fair treatment given in cases where people bring to Australia huge quantities of pillow cases, sheets and the like. The customs officers deal with each case in a sympathetic and reasonable manner.
Senator Laught has raised a most interesting problem. To discuss it in detail would take me some little time. I read with great interest the annual report of the Tariff Board on the subject of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act. The department has already had this matter under close examination. The Tariff
Board has had difficulty in assessing, in respect of such countries as operate under the socialist system, the fair domestic value referred to in the act. We are examining a number of sections of the act and hope shortly to be able to present to the Senate amending legislation which will give additional protection to Australian industry. I am sure that every honorable senator agrees that in these days of rapid transport we must be able to move quickly and take emergency action. At present, it is difficult to establish the grounds upon which the Minister may take such action - it takes a great deal of time. I should like to see authority given in the act which would enable us to move quickly. The particular matter could be referred to the Tariff Board or some other authority. If the action taken were shown to be justified the duties collected would be retained. If not, they would be refunded.
I assure the honorable senator that every matter raised in the Tariff Board’s annual report is being closely studied. A new Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Bill will come before the Senate for approval before very long. I am hopeful that it will give greater satisfaction than does the present act.
The honorable senator then referred to a particular case of a somewhat difficult kind - the importation from New Zealand of paper boards. The department has believed all along, and so do I, that there is not a great deal of justification for applying the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act in this case. After considerable pressure from the people concerned, the department referred this matter to the Tariff Board. The board reported that the importation of paper boards was acting to the detriment of Australian industry, and that we would be acting correctly if we invoked the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act.
After considering the matter closely, the Government decided that it would not adopt the Tariff Board’s suggestion. It had very good reasons for coming to that conclusion. I have been under attack for some months from the managing director of Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited. I propose to quote from the annual report of the company because it demonstrates a failure to realize the full implications of the situation. The Tariff Board upholds the view of the department when it says that all we have to decide, under the present act, is whether detriment is being done to the industry - even if it is only notional detriment.
Australia is a signatory to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. We undertake, before imposing dumping duties, to assure ourselves that material injury is being done to the particular industry. Therefore, when this matter came up for consideration, I had to advise the Government that this industry was suffering no material injury or detriment and that I could not recommend the adoption of the Tariff Board’s recommendation. I was guided by certain facts. The company’s report, in describing the highlight of 1958-59, contains the following comment: -
Sales - Highest yet achieved, being 269,248 tons which is 7% more than last year’s figure of 250,577 tons.
Production - Overall the Company worked a greater proportion of total capacity than ever before and all machines worked continuously seven days per week for the latter part of the year.
Profit- Net profit of £2,224,000 (last year £2,108,489) equal to 9.5% (9.4%) on stockholders’ funds.
I had these things in mind in making my recommendation, and also the fact that Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd., and the other Australian company in the field, share between them 94.6 per cent, of the Australian market. They enjoy that proportion of the market behind a protective tariff wall, yet they complain about the much smaller quantity which is coming in from New Zealand - only 0.7 per cent, of the total requirements of the Australian trade. The company’s report contains a comment on the Government’s decision, and I propose to quote it because it is of interest, and this a matter that should be cleared up. The following appears: -
In his statement to the House the Minister said that, in spite of the Board’s findings, the Government was satisfied that the extent of detriment was not sufficient to occasion serious hardship; that if dumping duties were imposed and New Zealand suppliers excluded from the market, it was conceivable that New Zealand’s small share of the market might go to other overseas suppliers.
This means that the Commonwealth Government does not regard a loss of sales of £270,000 as being detrimental and requires proof that no other country would dump similar goods. . . .
I did not make any suggestion to the effect that proof would be required that no other country would dump goods. European suppliers are sending goods to Australia - to the limited extent permissible under import licensing controls - at prices which have never been challenged or regarded as other than fair domestic prices. Therefore, there was no question of dumping. It was feasible to suggest that the business lost to New Zealand would go to European countries which were quoting similar prices. New Zealand had been meeting that competition. Therefore, A.P.M. may not have got £1 of benefit from the discouragement of the New Zealand product. I feel that the Government was properly advised and that a proper decision was made in not accepting this particular report.
– Does it happen often that the Government declines to accept reports of the board?
– There are occasions when reports of the Tariff Board are not accepted. The board is an advisory body. Senator Laught asked about the policy of the Government in cases in which material injury was being done. At all times, of course, we shall protect Australian industry.
I shall mention one or two other matters which should be of interest to honorable senators. In 1957-58, 83 per cent, of the total Australian requirements were met by Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited. Other manufacturers supplied 1 1 .6 per cent, of our requirements, so that a total of 94.6 per cent, of Australian requirements was met by Australian manufacturers. I think it is relevant to remember that New Zealand is a good customer of Australia. In 1958-59, New Zealand purchased from us goods valued at £49,597,000.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I intervene merely to allow the Minister to finish his interesting discourse.
– I thank the honorable senator. Although New Zealand purchased from us goods to the value of £49,597,000 in 1958-59, we purchased from New Zealand goods valued at only £12,481,000. I considered that as New Zealand was such a minor supplier of paper board to overseas markets, the position should be left as it was. All countries indulge in the practice of granting concessions for the purpose of gaining export markets. 1 think that Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited, with its small but steadily increasing export trade, is not unaware of this practice of selling commodities overseas at prices lower than those that obtain when those commodities are sold at home.
– I should like the Minister to say whether consideration has been given to reducing the excise on spirituous liquors, and in particular beer. As honorable senators know, beer is the Australian national drink. I agree with that wise saying of Queen Victoria that the British people should have cheap ale and good ale. In Australia, however, as a result of the little horror budget a few years ago the excise on this national drink was increased rather steeply. At that time, the Government explained that the increase had been decided on as a kind of corrective of inflation.
– I rise to order. I rather think that the honorable senator is dealing with a matter that was discussed during the debate on the Estimates and Budget Papers, and which has been concluded, although at this stage I am not quite sure of the item to which he is referring.
– I am referring to Division No. 281 - Administrative. I want to know whether the Administration has considered this matter since the extortionate rate of excise was placed on the Australian national drink.
– Speaking again to the point of order, may I say that the rate of excise on commodities is a matter of Government policy. We are dealing with the administrative expenses of the Department of Customs and Excise. I submit that the honorable senator is out of order in referring to a matter that was dealt with and disposed of in the debate on the Estimates and Budget Papers.
Senator Cooke must link his remarks with an item in the estimates that we are now considering. Does the honorable senator wish to speak to the point of order? If so, I shall allow him to do so before I rule.
– I am not speaking oi matters covered by the Budget. During this debate we have heard a discussion of Government policy in relation to such things as hardboard and motor cars. I submit that the matter to which I wish to refer is as much the concern of the Administration as are those matters. I should imagine that the Government would be able to obtain information as to the incidence of excise from the statistical data gathered by excise officers and investigating officers. In the course of my remarks, I shall ask the Minister to state the amount that is extracted by means of excise. I want to convince honorable senators and the people of Australia that the objective of the customs people should be not only to extract revenue-
The honorable senator may not canvass the whole question. He may speak to the point of order.
– I rise to order. I appeal to all concerned not to insist on debating the point of order. We do not want a repetition of the farcical position that we had during the debate on the Estimates a few years ago. Fortunately, by the exercise of common sense we were then able to get round the difficulty. Considerable latitude has been allowed during this debate, and I think that every honorable senator appreciates that concession. During the debate of the estimates of the departments of which Senator Paltridge was in charge, when honorable senators put questions to him he promised to note “their remarks and to hand them on to the relevant Ministers. Honorable senators were not then made to relate their remarks to particular items. I suggest that such an approach lends itself to fruitful debate.
I know, Sir, of your good sense, and I feel that if an honorable senator transgresses beyond reasonable grounds you will bring him back to the bill. I appreciate that there is no obligation on the Minister to answer questions that are asked during the debate, but I suggest that matters should be allowed to continue as they have been until now. So far, we have had a very good debate. If we start to raise points of order, we shall succeed only iti restricting debate. That, I think, is something that should be obviated if possible.
– I suggest that each honorable senator who speaks should link his remarks with a particular item. That should not be very difficult to do. Honorable senators can relate their remarks to the subjects of salaries and payment in the nature of salaries and general expenses of the department, and I so rule. If we follow that procedure, reasonable latitude will be allowable. If an honorable senator gets too far away from the vote before the committee I shall bring him back to it.
– Thank you, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I shall link my remarks to Division No. 281 - Administrative - with particular reference to the schedule of salaries and allowances. I accept the objection of the Minister to Government policy being canvassed. I understand that a deputation of the United Licensed Victuallers Association waited on the Government in the expectation that, in accordance with promises held out by the Government, some revision of excise duties would be made. The association actually presented a case. Will the Minister be kind enough to say what amount of money has been collected by the Government in excise since this extraordinary Budget was introduced? It was said that the provisions were not for the purpose of raising revenue, but for making a temporary adjustment in Australian economic conditions. Has the Government consulted anybody outside the members of Cabinet with a view to ascertaining the statistics and determining, justly and in a manner divorced from political policy and prejudice, whether a fair amount of excise is being collected from the Australian worker for every glass of beer he drinks? Can the department submit to the Government a report on the reasonableness or unreasonableness of the excise on beer, which I say is extortionate? Are there any officers in the department who can do that? In customs and tariff matters, there is provision for appeal. The Government cannot go stone mad and impose high charges on the public and on industry; as it appears to do in. relation to excise. When a complaint is made, the Government says, “We. do not want to talk to you. Go away.
We will not negotiate.” In most other matters there is some medium of appeal. Cases may be put to the Tariff Board. There is generally a right of appeal to some authority against excessive imposts, but in this instance it appears that there is no appeal.
Excise on beer is an indirect tax on every worker. Beer is one of the few commodities he is able to buy without having to resort to hire purchase. If it gets much dearer, he may have to use hire purchase, as he has been forced to use it in the purchase of so many other commodities. Getting away from the humour of the matter, does the Government propose to take advice from anybody outside the Ministry on this extortionate charge? When the Government introduced the little horror Budget, it said that additional charges were designed to correct the existing economic position, to halt inflation - which the Government now says it has in hand - and to draw off some of the excess spending power of the public. Is this additional charge applied on Kathleen Mavourneen terms? Can the Minister give any assurance that it will be reviewed? Will he arrange for his officers to make a review and report which can be presented to the Parliament, or is the Parliament in the position where it cannot even discuss the policy of the Government? Will some opportunity be given to the Senate to discuss this matter on a broad and open basis?
– I take the Minister away from the palatable subject of beer and turn to a more interesting and important question relating to the Tariff Board. I should like the Minister to comment on one aspect of Tariff Board procedure that has- been exercising my mind. I refer to cases wherein the Government, either in toto or in part, rejects the advice of the board. I have heard it said that it is sometimes difficult to ascertain with reasonable promptitude the Government’s, d’ecision and the reasons for its rejection, either partly or in toto, of advice of the board. Would the Government care to give consideration, in cases where it does not accept the advice of the board, to tabling, with celerity, full and adequate reasons for rejection, so that all concerned; may as soon as possible learn the views of the Government? As Tariff
Board reports are public property, the reasons for the rejection of a recommendation of the board should also be made public as soon as possible.
Another aspect of Tariff Board procedure to which I direct attention concerns the matter of delays. I have heard it said that in far too many cases there are inordinate delays by the board in the submission of reports. I do not wish it to be felt that I am criticizing the board for this. I have the utmost respect for this very fine body of impartial experts, who do such a tremendously important job in relation to our economy. Any criticism I have might be directed to those responsible either for placing a problem before the board or for ensuring that there are enough members of the board to make a report. Would the Minister give us some details of the numbers of reports now outstanding and not completed, stating how long the matters have been before the board? This would give the Senate an opportunity of studying what merit there is in the accusations that on occasions the Tariff Board does not present its reports with sufficient celerity.
.- I wish to mention one or two questions that arise from a study of the Tariff Board’s latest annual report, but Before referring to those. I should like to comment upon some observations, of my colleagues, Senator Laught and Senator Vincent. For my part, I think it would be a sad day if ever we came to regard it. as axiomatic that a recommendation of the Tariff Board had to be accepted, either by the Government or by the Parliament. I think we must retain here the right of final judgment. I join in asking that, the Government make known its reasons for any rejection of a recommendation. I think it would be found that usually the Minister responsible for the decision of rejection makes some sort of a statement to the Parliament within a reasonable time after the decision is made. We have drifted into this position because of the confidence we have learned to put in the Tariff Board, which has, in a remarkable degree, over 30 or 40 years built up a reputation for complete integrity and balanced judgment. In the field of tariff, that is a considerable achievement by those concerned.
I believe that there should be a comprehensive re-assessment of the degree to which the tariff, as a whole, is affecting, with either advantage or disadvantage, the Australian economy. To my knowledge, no such comprehensive re-assessment has been undertaken since about 1929 or 1930. Within the last two years I was encouraged by the corridor communications to which one has access here, to think that the Government was on the brink of reestablishing an inquiry of that nature to reassess tariffs. This is particularly important, at this stage of the country’s economic life,- when- the primary industries, which ar& so largely dependent on export markets, have to sustain added costs which are, in a remarkable degree, the product of the tariff itself apart from, other influences within the country. When we are building up a twolevel economy such as we have with the industrial world on the top floor and the agricultural world in the basement, it is most important, where we assess that that gap has to exist, that we decide whether we shall bridge it by export bounties or by some revision of tariff as well as in other ways. I content myself with that brief statement of the problem, in dealing with this proposed vote.
The other problem I mention - from my point of view, it is. an old friend, but we fail to attract very much interest in it - is the anxiety I feel that the Australian import licensing system, which had its genesis in an emergency situation arising from the balance of payments position, is being used as a second wall of defence to those who grow behind the tariff wall. I mention it only briefly on this occasion. 1 am prompted- partly by the very welcome presence of Senator Spooner who represents the Minister for Trade here, and I do not wish to discomfort him by suggesting as a warning that when the proposed vote for that department comes forward for consideration this matter might receive full consideration.
I am delighted to see that the Tariff Board, in its annual report for 1958-59 - not in one place only, but in several passages - has referred to this very theme, stating- that the import licensing system is not, as we know, in any real sense parliamentary. The level of our imports is fixed by an edict issued from the Cabinet room. lt is not made the subject of a submission to Parliament, lt is not the subject of parliamentary enactment, as the tariff always is. We do not alter the tariff except by act of Parliament. The whole system of import licensing commits to the officials in the Department of Trade the right to discriminate between one importer and another, and the right to exercise a judgment to refuse or to sanction imports in relation to any individual consignment. That sort of a system is very, very different from the basis of the system’ of tariffs. At page 6 of its report, the Tariff Board, after stating that the ceiling for imports has been raised from £800,000,000 to £850,000,000, makes this pregnant statement -
But clearly, in the next decade the import needs of industry and the requirements of a growing population will reach a higher level than the present ceiling of £850,000,000.
And then the report refers to the incidental protection to many local industries from the licensing system, and adds this statement -
Nevertheless, although in the course of the year the Board held inquiries into 47 subjects, it should be noted that these inquiries provided no apparent support for the contention that the protection afforded by import licensing had fostered-
I want honorable senators to take particular notice of this phrase - uneconomic growth in industry generally.
The Tariff Board is not saying there that these inquiries do not provide evidence that the licensing system is setting up an additional wall of tariff. What it is saying is that the degree to which import licensing provides protection is little evidence that there is being fostered an uneconomic growth in industry generally. That, I hope, is made clear by a subsequent statement in the report. At page 7 the board stated -
The restriction of imports has meant that for some years many Australian industries have been sheltered to a degree from competition with overseas producers.
As I intend to be making just a preliminary casual reference to this, I go to later passages of the report. At pages 18 and 39. it is stated -
In some inquiries conducted by the Board during the year, local producers sought tariff protection claiming that, although they were not experiencing competition from imports at present, they expected to be seriously affected by a drastic increase in imports in the future.
The board then makes this comment, which to me seems to be a somewhat anxious observation -
Although at times witnesses have exaggerated the extent of this protection,
The board is there referring to the protection given by import licensing - it is only prudent that manufacturers who have sound grounds for fearing an increase in competition, in the absence of import restrictions, should approach the Board, in harmony with government policy, for a review of the existing tariff rates.
The board goes on to say that it has been assisted in its inquiries by the fact that the Department of Trade has been good enough to make available to it information that comes to that department confidentially in connexion with import licensing. In the final paragraph of Chapter 4 the board states -
Where it can be demonstrated by industry and/or from information available to the Board that these representations are based on real probability rather than unsupported fears, and that in the absence of import restrictions serious damage would be caused to our economic and efficient industry, the Board does not hesitate to recommend the duties which it considers will be necessary if the present restrictions on imports were removed.
Those references are sufficient when they are added to the remarks of, I think, an agricultural member of the board, Mr. Kelly, who has now retired. He was quite emphatic that he considered that import licensing was being used as an additional tariff. These observations of the board are quite sufficient to alert us to the need to see that import licensing, together with its many other evils, is not being used as an additional tariff. It is not at all equipped for that purpose. One of the things that are being invoked is the creation of a pressure group of industries whose existence will be threatened if we get back on to the basis which was the objective of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, whereby imports and exports could flow between the countries based solely upon customs duties as we then knew them, and not be subject to arbitrary government restrictions such as import licensing. I believe in the interests of freedom of trade and healthiness of trade - a sound economy is the basis of trade - that we should take those observations of the board into thoughtful consideration and see to it that we have a sufficient study of the problem to ensure that when the necessity for import restrictions disappears, we will then only have as a protection to the Australian industries a parliamentary tariff on a revenue basis for the purpose of protecting efficient and economic industries in this country. 1 do believe that there is not a more important subject than that, because if honorable senators will read the magazines and journals of the chambers of manufactures in this country they will see that those groups are using every pressure for the continuance of import licensing, now that they have come to notice that it is capable of giving them a protection without having to take the risk of establishing their position before a body such as the Tariff Board that scrutinizes their costs and recommends in favour of their cases only if they can show an efficient and economic industry which is deserving of customs protection.
– I should like to refer to the provision of £60,000 for payment to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for services rendered. I notice that the amount is the same as that appropriated last year. Can the Minister say for how many years it has stood at £60,000?
– That question has been answered by me already. The honorable senator will find all the information he wants in “ Hansard “ to-morrow. I do not wish to traverse that ground again.
Senator Cooke alleged that this Government had made certain promises to members of certain organizations controlling the production and sale of liquor. I deny such allegations emphatically. At no time has the Government promised, at the time of considering its Budget, that there would be any reductions in any direction. I do not want the Senate to be under any misapprehension as a result of the statement made in Melbourne by a responsible officer of one association that I had given an indication that certain reductions would be made. I denied that flatly at the time, and the following day the officer of the association concerned denied that he had attributed such a promise to me. At no time has any promise been made to anybody that special consideration would be given when the Government was framing its Budget.
If Senator Cooke really wants to be a friend then I suggest that he go to Melbourne and endeavour to settle the present beer strike there for, so long as they are not selling beer in Melbourne I am not happy. The revenues of the country are seriously affected when the person who wants a drink cannot get it, when the person who sells liquor cannot get it to sell and when the manufacturer cannot sell his product to the retailer.
Senator Vincent referred to the Tariff Board. I am sorry that I cannot answer him. I can only ask him to mention those matters again when the Department of Trade is being discussed. All Tariff Board reports go to the Minister for Trade. The Department of Customs and Excise deals only with questions relating to the classification of goods.
I was most interested to hear the points raised by Senator Wright. Both the Government and the Tariff Board are cognizant of some of the difficulties mentioned by him. It is interesting to note, however, that the protection on over 1,000 items was reduced in one sweep when the British Trade Agreement was reviewed. Where British industry once had 124- per cent, protection on those items, it now enjoys only 7i per cent. This has had the good effect of keeping Australian business and industry on its toes in meeting competition from imported goods. Honorable senators will have noticed from the more recent reports of the Tariff Board that there has been a trend towards reducing the duty on certain goods as Australian industries have become more efficient and reduced their costs. In all cases where the Tariff Board considers it warranted after reviewing an industry, it has recommended a reduction in the protective tariff.
Import licensing has been mentioned. I think every honorable senator would be pleased to see it abolished, but I must point out that I have studied this matter closely for several years now. During that time, I have asked members of many organizations to suggest a better system. I can only say that competent critics, men who should be in a position to offer something constructive, have been unable to suggest anything which would be better than the principles upon which the present system operates.
It ;is interesting ‘to note that in addition to increasing to £850,000,000 the value of permissible imports, the replacement list has been greatly increased. From memory, I think that of that £850,000,000 worth, goods to the value of £400,000,000 may be imported without restriction. The application of the replacement system means that trade is being chanelled into the efficient Australian industries. This is a healthy trend. Under this system, those who are able to sell goods may replace them. No longer do they require to hold an import licence as a draw card. Efficient businesses and industries are now able to replace goods as they sell them. This means that the efficient industry with sound organization and distribution methods is able to satisfy the goodwill it has built up.
– What determines the efficiency or inefficiency of a trader?
– Let me give an example of what I mean. Scotch whisky, for instance, is now on the replacement list. Because of efficient sales and distribution methods, good Scotch whisky is coming into its own and the lesser known brands are disappearing from the trade. Because these firms had a licence and could import Scotch whisky they could go along and get orders for other goods to keep them in business; but they are no longer able to do so under the replacement system. I think that is a most healthy sign. Added to ;that the ceiling is being continually lifted. Half the items previously involved are no longer subject to import licensing at all. The system of working on a replacement basis is a great improvement on the old system and I can do nothing else but commend the Minister for Trade and the Department of Trade for the way the position has been handled.
I know that the import licensing system is obnoxious to many people. I have repeatedly asked business people to suggest some better system but I have not yet received any response. They agree with me that it is an obnoxious system which they do not like, but they admit that they cannot find a better one.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Miscellaneous Services - Department of Customs and Excise, £32.700 - agreed to.
Department of Social Services.
Proposed Vote, £3,483,000.
– I address my remarks to Division No. 352 in relation to State establishments. Can the Minister tell me whether the Government proposes to set up an agency in the north-west .portion of Western Australia to enable the people there to claim social services benefits? Some few days ago I asked the Minister where centres at which social service claims could be made are located in Western Australia. He told me that there were no such centres north of the 26th parallel, that claims from the Carnarvon district could be lodged at Geraldton and claims from other portions of the north-west could be lodged at Perth. He went on to say that the claim forms were available at the post offices in the various towns in the north.
I want to tell the Minister that during the winter of 1958, when I was going through the north-west, I made inquiries at the post office in each port in the north for unemployment benefit and sickness benefit forms. I was unable to obtain such forms at any post office. As a result of my inquiries I requested Senator Tangney to ask a .question in the Senate. She did this some twelve months ago, and if my memory is correct, the Minister informed her that an officer would be stationed at Port Hedland. I fail to see anything in the Estimates to indicate that the promise is to be honoured.
The position in the north is so bad that the people just do not know where to get the forms. After making inquiries at the post office in Wyndham, and also at the Roads Board office, I subsequently approached the sergeant of police. I was informed by that gentleman that the forms were unobtainable in the town and also that he did not want them in the town because if people were able to get social service benefits he would have every deadbeat in the north-west in Wyndham. I immediately questioned him as to who should be the judge of who was a deadbeat and who was not. Even though there may be some substance in the sergeant’s remarks, that does not mean that the people lying in hospital, who are entitled to the sickness benefit, are dead-beats. They are entitled to social service benefits. lt seems to me that the Government should consider establishing an office in the north-west, or at least have an officer roaming through the area to facilitate the making of applications for social services by people in that part, particularly in view of the ‘fact that the Government has now extended social service benefits to aboriginal natives. In Western Australia, we have approximately 22,000 natives, 14,000 of whom live north of the twentysixth parallel. As honorable senators well know, the natives are, in the main, illiterate and will not be able to fill in forms. They will have no guidance in making their applications other than that which they can get from the officers of the State Department of Native Welfare. This is an added reason why the Government should give some consideration to setting up an office in that area. Imagine the position that will arise where there are people who are not familiar with filling in forms and giving details of .employment and that sort of thing.
These forms from the north-west have to be sent to Perth for scrutiny by officers of the department. If those officers find that the forms have not been completed satisfactorily they will need to send the papers back to the north again. That could happen ‘half a dozen times before a person entitled to social service benefits obtained satisfaction from the department. I ask the Minister, particularly in view of the extension of the provisions of the act, whether it is the policy of the Government to give the people living in the north-west the opportunity to make application for benefits under the act. I refer particularly to the native population in that area.
– I agree with the honorable senator that the people living in the outback areas should have every opportunity to obtain the necessary forms with which to make application for social service benefits. I shall take this matter up with the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). The honorable senator will realize that I am’ unable to make a categorical statement on this matter at the moment but I shall discuss the position of the north-west of Western Australia with the Minister at the first opportunity I get.
People living in this area suffer great hardship, particularly in times of illness, and should not have to bear the additional worry of not being able to obtain the forms or get advice from the Department of Social Services. I think all honorable senators have a feeling and understanding for the people living in this outback area who, when .they are ill, very often have to travel many miles >-to get to a hospital. They are subject to a great deal of hardship. I shall certainly discuss with the Minister whether the department can make improvements in this area. I thank the honorable senator for bringing the -matter to the notice of the department, because it is always the wish of the department, whenever possible, to give full and proper service to every citizen .of Australia.
– I know that one or two members of the Opposition wish to address themselves to items under this particular heading. It occurs to me that this might be the right time to suspend the sitting.
– I was about to declare the proposed vote’ agreed to, but as the Leader of the Opposition has indicated that the Opposition senators wish to speak on this vote, I shall suspend the sitting.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
.- The total vote for State Establishments, under Division No. .352, is a little less than £3,500,000. This afternoon I pointed out, in the course of a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), that at present the Government is paying out a sum in excess of £4,000,000 - more than the total administrative cost of the department - to wives who have been deserted or divorced, and towards whose maintenance defaulting husbands make no contribution. That is a very proper expenditure, but from time to time various Ministers have told me that the Government has no power to help wives obtain redress, trace their husbands and so on. On a previous occasion I was assured that if wives could trace their husbands and take legal action they would become eligible for these benefits.
To my mind, that is all wrong. Already, in New Zealand and England - as the Minister himself said to-day - legislation has been passed permitting a wife to claim maintenance from a defaulting husband. If that were done in Australia, the money which it saved the Government could be paid out in benefit to widows. I do not, for a moment, claim that the amount at present allowed to widows is adequate. I have in mind especially widows with dependent children. It is ridiculous that, despite our immense national budget, we are doing so little to help women who are performing a grand job for their country by raising families. The Government has taken out a kind of insurance policy by paying these women anything at all, because it is thus ensuring that, as a result of the immense task of keeping their families going, they will be worn out before their time, and will not live to draw the age pension.
A supplementary pension of 10s. a week is paid to pensioners, living alone, who have no source of income other than their pension. I ask the Minister to consider the giving of a domestic allowance to widows with dependent children. It could be called a supplementary rent allowance, or anything else. The Repatriation Department has already set a very good precedent. It pays a domestic allowance to war widows with children because it realizes the difficult task of bringing up a family unaided - of acting as both mother and father. Widows are not charged less in the shops or anywhere else simply because they are widows. They have only this small sum on which to raise their families and the success with which they do so is a tribute to the way in which they sacrifice their own comforts. Honorable senators know as well as I do that many of these women are never able to buy new clothes; that they must frequent jumble sales in order to keep themselves decently clad. They give up everything to ensure that their children want for nothing.
Some time ago honorable senators were very perturbed about the standard of the butter that we were exporting to Japan, and the dairy farmers were very upset about the decreasing sales of butter within the Commonwealth. I can tell the Senate that one of the reasons for the decline in con sumption is that it is too dear for the average widow, age or invalid pensioner to buy. 1 ask the Minister, in all sincerity, to consider the granting of some form of domestic allowance - even if it is only akin to the 10s. supplementary allowance - to assist widows with children. It would be at least an indication that he had some concern for their welfare. It is not very much to ask. According to the figures given by the Minister this afternoon, only 13,693 women are involved. I am quite certain that the expenditure would not be a strain on the national income.
I want to refer for a moment to the supplementary rent allowance, and to persons who keep house by themselves. Widows are in a peculiar position here. Honorable senators know how difficult it is to rent houses, particularly if one has children. A widow has often to use her meagre savings as a deposit on a dilapidated dwelling which is in constant need of maintenance. She has to pay rates and the like, but she does not receive a supplementary allowance, simply because she is not paying rent in the narrowest sense of the term. That is an injustice which should be speedily remedied.
I should like the Senate to consider the plight of the wives of invalid and age pensioners who are obliged to live on 35s. a week. Can any honorable senator imagine himself, or herself, living on that sum? I invite any one to try it for a time and see how he gets on. I am not so very interested in lifting the means test until we can once more offer basic justice to people who have no means at all; who have to do not just a woman-size job, but a man-size job as well. The fact that very few children of widows find their way into the juvenile courts is a testimonial to the worthwhile job that these women are doing.
I turn now to the unemployment and sickness benefits provided by the department. In my State unemployment benefit is not paid unless the applicant can supply, on the day of the week on which he registered - and must report - the names of at least six employers who have refused him work. He must produce written confirmation. Can any one imagine Mrs. Jones, who has been approached by a woman for washing or cleaning work, delaying her departure for bowls or golf so that she can provide written confirmation that an application for work has been made and refused? It is necessary for the applicant to get six such letters before he can receive the small unemployment allowance. That is surely another matter which should receive the attention of the department. 1 should like to pay a tribute to the officers of the department in my own State. 1 know most of them quite well. They bend over backwards in their efforts to help applicants for social service benefits, but they must abide by the regulations, and by the law as they see it. 1 am certain that nothing but good could result from giving officers a freer hand in interpreting the regulations, and in treating individual cases on their merits.
I do not intend to go further into these matters at the present time, but I shall not rest until something more is done for the women of the community, in keeping with all the high-sounding phrases that are uttered in this chamber and elsewhere. It is easy to speak about these matters, but we do not do very much to translate our words into actions. After all, widows are among the most deserving people of the community. They have in their charge children who, we hope, will grow into worthwhile citizens. But many widows and their children are left at starvation level. At a time when the female basic wage is more than £9 a week, we expect a widow to bring up a child and to pay for rent, light, rates and taxes, repair bills, and everything else, out of about five guineas a week. It may be said that she could go out to work to augment her income, but if she did so she would defeat the very purpose for which the pension was granted. Her main job is to care for her children and to bring them up decently. If she goes to work the children may be left to roam the streets after school, hunting with the pack, becoming bodgies or widgles, and finishing up, perhaps, in the juvenile court.
This afternoon, Senator Cant referred to the promise of the Minister, made to me last year, that an officer of his department might be stationed in the north-west of Western Australia so that claims for unemployment or sickness benefit, maternity allowance and other social service benefits, could be dealt with much more expeditiously. To the present, I have not heard that such an arrangement has been made. We speak a great deal about attracting people to the northern parts of Australia, and of the need to populate our vast empty spaces. We want people to go to those areas, but we do not give them much encouragement to do so. Words are empty things unless they are backed by action by the department. I ask the Minister to see that this matter which, twelve months ago, he so graciously promised would be attended to, is expedited, because there is the spectre of unemployment in my State. People hear a lot about the advantages of life in the north, but when they go there they find that conditions are not so rosy as they expected them to be. They find, for instance, that there are no facilities to enable claims for sickness or unemployment benefit to be expeditiously dealt with and early payment made. I put those points to the Minister and ask that they be considered with as much sincerity as I present them.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators will recall that one of the proposed measures announced in the Budget speech was the introduction of legislation to authorize the issue of a new form of Commonwealth security, to be called seasonal treasury notes, with the object of reducing the large seasonal fluctuations which occur each year in the liquid assets of the banks and the public. This bill seeks authority from the Parliament for the proposed borrowings.
There are several causes which combine to produce the marked changes that occur from one season of the year to another in both public and bank holdings of liquid assets. One is to be found in temporary borrowings by the Commonwealth from the central bank to finance government spending during those months of the financial year when revenue lags behind expenditure. Another arises from the seasonal flow of export proceeds, and a third is related to the advances to growers which are financed through the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank in anticipation of the sale of wheat and other commodities. Normally the combined result of these transactions is a rise in liquidity to a peak during the March quarter of each year, followed by a sharp fall in the ensuing three months.
A few figures will serve to illustrate the changes which occur in holdings, of liquid assets and government securities by the major trading banks. Between June, 1958, and March, 1959, there was an increase in these holdings of £164,000,000, and this was followed by a decrease of £93,000,000 between March and June. In the previous year, the increase between June and March was £119,000,000 and, even though substantial releases from special accounts were made during the June quarter, there was a decrease in that quarter of £124,000,000.
These wide variations in liquidity present uncertainties to the banking system in its management of funds, cause disturbances in the flow of funds in the capital market and, in this and other ways, tend to impede the efficient operation of credit policy. For some years, measures such, as calls to or releases from special account have helped to reduce the magnitude of the seasonal swings in bank liquidity, but these measures are employed primarily to serve general credit policy objectives and to smooth out long-term rather than purely seasonal variations. In- any case, special account action does not directly affect any increase in public; as distinct from bank, liquidity which has already occurred.
We believe that action to reduce the seasonal up-swing and subsequent decline in liquidity would make a useful contribution to the working of our financial system. After examining various alternatives, we came to the conclusion that’ the most suitable form of action would be the public issue of very short-term Commonwealth securities, which would be made available during the period when liquidity was rising seasonally, and be redeemed within the same financial year as liquidity diminished;
Subscriptions to the new securities will withdraw funds temporarily from the public and hence from the banking system. Although subscriptions by the trading banks would have little significant effect on their liquidity or, directly, on the liquidity of the public, we do not propose to prohibit entirely subscriptions by the banks. At the same time, we do not intend that the banks should have unrestricted access to the securities. The amount of notes available to the trading banks will be kept within limits which are reasonable having regard to the amounts subscribed by the public. To the extent that the notes are taken up by the public, these will be largely financed by withdrawals from bank deposits, and the funds available to the banks for shortterm investments will of course be reduced.
The seasonal treasury notes which are to be issued will be freely negotiable bearer securities. As with Commonwealth bonds already on issue, there will be facilities for lodging the notes for safe custody with a trading- bank or savings bank. However, to suit the- convenience of subscribers who would prefer to have their investments in the form of inscribed stock, investors will have- a choice of either- seasonal treasury notes or seasonal inscribed stock. These will be issued on- the same general terms and conditions and will be freely interchangeable, and. in my following remarks my references to seasonal treasury notes will apply equally to seasonal inscribed stock.
Under clause 8 of. the bill, the overall amount of seasonal treasury notes to be issued in any one. year will be determined by the Governor-General in Council. Clause 11 empowers the Treasurer to determine, within this overall limit, the amount and the prices, terms and other conditions of each individual issue. However, this discretion is limited by sub-clause 12 (b), which provides that all: such seasonal securities must mature before the end of the financial year in which they- are issued. It is proposed that issues of seasonal treasury notes will: have a currency of approximately three months. Should it prove desirable in the future to issue seasonal treasury notes with a currency other than three months, the bill, will provide the necessary authority, subject of course to the requirement that the notes must mature in. the same year in; which they are issued. However, as I shall mention later, the terms and conditions of the notes are subject to consultation with the Loan Council, and the present Loan Council approval, is such that the 195.9-60 issue of seasonal treasury notes is to be on a three-month basis, with all securities maturing before the end of June, 1960. Issues of the notes will be made this year on a fortnightly basis.
The notes will be issued at a discount and will be repayable at par on maturity. They will not bear any separate interest as such, but any earnings from holdings of the notes will be taxable, whether these earnings are by virtue of an initial subscription to the notes being held to maturity, or by virtue of purchases and. sales on the market. I shall shortly introduce separate legislation which will include provision to make these earnings fully taxable, but eligible for the 2s. in the £1 taxation rebate applicable to interest on Commonwealth securities under section 160ab of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act.
Under clause 11 of the bill, the Treasurer will be empowered to fix maximum and, minimum subscriptions to the notes. Clause 5 also empowers him, at his discretion; to limit or reject subscriptions from any subscriber or class of subscriber. It is intended that, at least initially, the minimum subscription will be £5,000, and that additional amounts may be subscribed in multiples of £1,000. The minimum subscription has been set at a level designed to avoid disturbance of established channels for small savings and to make the scheme manageable. The amount of £5,000 is actually the same as the maximum permissible holdings of special bonds, which are of course primarily designed to cater for the requirements of small investors. Within the present pattern of interest rates, special bonds carry rates of interest ranging from 4 to 5 per cent., which are considerably greater than the yield at which the seasonal treasury notes are likely to be offered. The rate offered on the notes might normally be expected to be closer to the rate which other marketable Commonwealth securities would yield with approximately the same period to run before maturity.
Holders of the new notes will be entitled to repayment of their investment at par on maturity. In addition, although it is not intended to apply for listing of the securities on the stock exchange, it is expected that a ready market will develop for the notes and that holders wishing to encash their investments before maturity will be able to do so fairly easily through that market. Moreover, the Commonwealth Bank will until further notice stand ready to purchase the notes on a rediscount basis, the precise terms and conditions of which will be determined from time to time. Investments in the notes will therefore have the facility of being readily cashable at any time.
As borrowings by the Commonwealth in accordance with the provisions of this bill will be for purposes other than defence, the issue of seasonal treasury notes is subject to the provisions of the Financial Agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. As I have said, the securities will all mature within the financial year in which they areissued. They will accordingly come within the category of Commonwealth borrowings for temporary purposes, which are covered by the provisions of clause 6 of the Financial Agreement. Under this clause, the terms and conditions of the notes will be subject to any maximum limits decided upon by the Loan- Council from time to time- with regard to- interest, brokerage, discount and other- charges. The Commonwealth therefore took the opportunity at the last meeting of the Loan Council to discuss this borrowing proposal with the States, and received an appropriate approvalin principle. The precise terms of the first issue, of the notes will depend on market conditions then ruling, and the State Premiers will be consulted before approval is given to the actual terms and conditions. These terms and conditions, together with, the opening date of the first issue, will be announced as soon as possible after the passage of this legislation.
The proceeds of the borrowing will be credited to Loan Fund; and clause 6 of the1 bill defines how these proceeds may be used-. They will be available to the Commonwealth only, and will thus not form part of amounts borrowed’ on behalf of the States to finance their’ approved works and housing programmes. Subscriptions to the notes will reduce the amount of temporary finance which the Commonwealth would otherwise have to obtain by the issue of treasurybills to the central bank.
Borrowings under this bill will, by placing the Loan Fund in credit, enable the Loan (Temporary Revenue Deficits) Act 1953 to operate with a smaller issue of treasury-bills than would otherwise be necessary. One of the provisions of that act authorizes the Treasurer to expend moneys in the Loan Fund for the purposes of any appropriation out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, whenever the receipts of the Consolidated Revenue are insufficient to meet expenditure from that fund. Any amounts so expended from Loan Fund must be reimbursed by the Consolidated Revenue Fund before the end of the financial year. Moneys borrowed under the present bill will be used primarily to meet temporary revenue deficits of the type I have just mentioned, or to redeem seasonal treasury notes issued earlier in the year; but clause 6 of the bill will make it possible for the proceeds of the seasonal borrowings also to be applied in appropriate circumstances to the redemption of treasurybills.
Repayment of the notes on maturity will be met mainly from the moneys which, under the Loan (Temporary Revenue Deficits) Act, are repayable from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Loan Fund before the end of the financial year. However, repayments of the notes may also be financed from the proceeds of new issues of the notes or from the issue of treasurybills.
These arrangements may appear somewhat complex, but their effect on the Government’s finances will merely be to substitute temporary borrowings from the public for borrowings from the central bank, during the periods when revenue is lagging, and to repay these borrowings as the lag in revenue is overtaken. At the end of each financial year, there will be no seasonal treasury notes outstanding, and the amount of treasury-bills outstanding will be precisely the same as if there had been no issue of seasonal treasury notes. The effect which the new notes will have on the Government’s finances will thus be entirely of a seasonal nature, and will be limited to the financial year in which they are issued.
I may add that no change is contemplated in the present arrangements for the issue of treasury-bills whether these are issued on behalf of the Commonwealth or of a State government. The interest rateon these treasury-bills, and the so-called “ internal “ treasury-bills in which part of the Commonwealth’s Trust Fund balancesare invested, has remained at 1 per cent, since 1952.
As I have said, the securities will be issued both in the form of bearer securitiesand inscribed stock, and it is desired that facilities provided for other Commonwealth securities under the Inscribed Stock Act should be available to subscribers to seasonalinscribed stock. Clause 17 therefore incorporates the relevant sections of the Inscribed Stock Act which lay down the machinery for inscription and transfer of stock, and the various legal provisions relating to inscribed stock.
Certain sections of the Treasury Bills Act 1914-1940 contain legal provisions relating to treasury bonds, mainly in relation to forging, copying and defacing bonds, and, as it is necessary to have similar restrictions on the misuse of seasonal treasury notes, these provisions are incorporated in the present bill by means of clause 18.
Under clause 23 there will be a power of regulation available. Regulations will soon be promulgated to cover the form of the securities to be issued and various other matters relating to issues of, and dealings in, seasonal treasury notes and seasonal inscribed stock. Where practicable, the regulations under the Inscribed Stock Act will be made to apply as they stand to seasonal treasury notes and seasonal inscribed stock. Some inscribed stock regulations will be applied to the seasonal securities with minor modifications made necessary, for example, because of the new names being given to the securities; but in a few cases where the nature of the new securities makes the Inscribed Stock Regulations inappropriate, new regulations will be issued under the authority of this bill. These will nevertheless have the same general features as the Inscribed Stock Regulations themselves. I believe that the new seasonal treasury notes will facilitate the smooth working of our monetary system. At the same time they will serve as a convenient short-term, gilt-edged security for members of the public, both individuals and institutions, and 1 hope that a wide range of investors will subscribe to them. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 1241).
Department of Social Services.
Proposed Vote, £3,483,000.
– In common with many other honorable senators, I realize that the provision of social services is one of the greatest problems that can face any government, irrespective of its political colour. But I contend that the present Government has never adopted a humane approach to this problem by endeavouring to make adequate social service benefits available to the people. Certainly, I admit, rather grudgingly, that the Government has increased social service benefits from time to time. However, in almost every instance in which social service benefits have been increased, the higher rates have been granted in an endeavour to induce the electors of the Commonwealth to vote for the Government parties. Increases have never been granted by this Government only to relieve the plight of persons who are unfortunate enough to have to depend on social service benefits.
The administrative costs of the Department of Social Services are continually rising. In 1958-59 the expenditure on the administration of this department amounted to £3,215,167, whilst the proposed vote for this financial year is £3,483,000. Quite a lot of the increased amount is accounted for by increases of staff. In the central administration the number of staff has been increased during the last twelve months by five, and the appropriation for salaries and allowances is being increased by £15,000. In the department’s establishments in New South Wales the number of personnel has been increased in the last twelve months by eleven officers, and the appropriation is being increased by about £19,000. In the department’s establishments in Victoria, the number of personnel has been increased by 23 and the appropria tion for salaries and allowances is being increased by about £47,000, which is a considerable amount. In Queensland, the number of employees has been increased by 28, and again there is a rather steep increase of appropriation by some £45,000. In South Australia there has been an increase of 26 in the personnel during the last twelve months and the proposed increase of appropriation for salaries and allowances is £28,000. In Western Australia, the staff has been increased by 16 and the increase of appropriation will be about £21,000, whilst in Tasmania there has been an increase of only two in the number of employees and the appropriation is being increased by about £3,000 to cover their salaries and allowances. I feel that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) should explain to this chamber why there has been such an increase in the number of staff employed in the various offices of the Department of Social Services throughout the Commonwealth.
I add my tribute to the tribute that has been paid by Senator Tangney to the officers of the Department of Social Services, particularly those in my own State. I feel that they have done a particularly good job, within the provisions of the act, in dealing with the problems that have faced them. I should like to say that I have received a considerable degree of co-operation from the officers of the department in Tasmania, and I greatly appreciate the guidance in social service matters that they have given to me on a number of occasions. I do not want the Government to gain the impression, by any stretch of the imagination, that I want it to reduce the administrative staff of the department but, as I said before, I think an explanation is due to honorable senators of why there has been such a sharp increase of the number of administrative officers.
It is unfortunate that on every occasion that the subject of social services is before us for consideration, the Government tries to convince the people and honorable senators on this side of the chamber that it has done a great deal for the pensioners. Concessions in relation to pensions have been granted when the Government parties have been trying to catch a few votes. Unfortunately, many members of the com- munity are suffering a great deal of inconvenience in trying to make ends meet and to balance the family budget on the ‘meagre amount of pension that is handed out by this Government. It cannot take credit for many benefits that are provided to pensioners by the State governments. For instance, in Tasmania pensioners are granted a concession of cheaper tram and bus .fares .during off-peak periods; this Government cannot take any credit for that. There is also provision in Tasmania for pensioners in certain circumstances io obtain free wood. Again, this Government cannot take any credit in that connexion.
Senator Tangney referred to the question of the provision of assistance to deserted wives. I remind the chamber that this Government does not do anything for a deserted wife until a period of six months from ‘the date df desertion has elapsed. The responsibility for doing something for these women, who might have one, two, three, four or six children, is left with the State Government. They receive no benefit -under the ‘Commonwealth’s Social Services Act ‘Until they have ‘been deserted for six months. That .anomaly should be removed. I realize that to do this it may be necessary to amend the Social Services Act, but I submit that it is urgently necessary that something be done for these women. As Senator Tangney has pointed out, many of ‘these deserted wives are unable to go to work because they have children of a school age and under who must be looked after. If such, a woman happens to find employment, it must be such as will enable her to be at home when the young children return from school; otherwise, as Senator Tangney says, these young children will be left to hunt with the pack. I repeat that this is a serious anomaly which should be removed.
Let me deal briefly now with the ‘history of social services. An examination of that history puts this ; Government in a very poor light. I admit that social services were introduced first by a government of a political colour similar to that of the present Government. It was a Nationalist government, and the party from which it was drawn has changed its name many times since then. However, the present Government has done very little to improve the benefits provided. Actually, this Government gets no credit out of my book for having introduced social services. They were introduced by a Nationalist government.
– We do not want any credit out of your book.
– If there was any credit to be had, the honorable senator’s government would take it out of anybody’s book. A Nationalist government introduced social services in 1909.
– What government was that?
– A Nationalist Party government. It later changed its name to the United Australia Party, and then to the Liberal Party, it made no provision for invalid pensions. It was not until a Labour government attained office in 1910 that invalid ..pensions were introduced. For Senator Scott’s benefit, I repeat that invalid pensions were introduced by .a Labour government. In 1912, again under a Labour .government, .maternity allowances were paid to expectant mothers.
Then came a very lean period during which there was no extension of social service benefits. It was not until about 1941 that any move was made by any government to improve social services. Of course, for the greater part of the period between the introduction of maternity allowances in 1912 and the year 1941 a Nationalist or United Australia Party government was in office. In 1941, a Labour government introduced widows’ pensions. During the eight years between 1941 and 1949, the Labour government extended social service benefits greatly.
– The honorable senator does not seem to agree. Let us examine the benefits introduced by the Labour Government during that period. First, I mention civilian widows’ pensions. Then there were sickness and unemployment benefits. Up to this time, any person who became unemployed went on the dole, and, despite the fact that Australia was at war, a Labour government introduced unemployment and sickness benefits. Other benefits introduced by the Labour Government included the funeral benefit of £10 in 1949. That amount of £10:has not been increased since 1949, despite the fact that burial costs have increased considerably, and the value of the Australian £1 has been greatly reduced since that time. We all remember how in 1949 the present Government promised to put value back into the £1. What value has it put back? Why, the £1 is now worth only 3s. or 4s. compared to what it was worth in 1949! It is a crying disgrace that this Government has not seen fit to increase the funeral’ benefit beyond the £10 set in 1949.
Other benefits introduced during the Labour. Government’s term of office were wives’ allowances, children’s allowances and hospital benefits. Labour also introduced pharmaceutical benefits, medical benefits, mental hospital benefits, rehabilitation services and allowances to tuberculosis sufferers. The present Government has increased the payments in connexion with but very few of those benefits. I suggest that this Government has done little or nothing when we rememebr that the value of the £1. has depreciated so greatly since 1949.
Hie CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The- honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to refer to the total expenditure of £3,483,000 for the Department of Social Services. The amount appropriated last year was £3,215,000. First, I should like to remind Senator Poke that at the moment we are not facing an election. For him to make an election speech two or three years before an election is to be held, and not to tell the truth while making that speech, hurts my feelings considerably. He criticized the department and the Government for increasing the number of administrative officers in the department. Next he said he had no fault to find with that. He was having a bit each way.
– I was asking the Minister to explain it.
– I shall answer the honorable senator as I go along. He cannot have a little bit each way. The reason for the increased expenditure is the increase in the number of officers in the department. That increase is made necessary by the fact that we are paying out more money. I remind the honorable senator that the Director-General of Social Services pointed out in his report that the total expenditure on benefits under the Social Services Act in 1958-59 was £221,000,000. That was an increase of some £19,000,000 in that year. In the present year the Government has increased age and invalid pensions by 7s. 6d. a week. The total amount involved in that increase may be £15,000,000 or £20,000,000. Taking into consideration the additional number of people who will be receiving these benefits I believe that the increase in expenditure will be between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000 for this year. More and more people are receiving social’ service’ benefits as the years go by and as a result the expenditure on social services is rising year by year. 1 am not going back to what happened in 1’909, 1931 or 1945, but 1 say to honorable senators opposite that only one political party in Australia has reduced age and invalid pensions, and that is the Australian Labour Party.
I will not carry that matter any further. V rose to obtain some information from the Minister. I wish to refer to social services expenditure for the year 1958-59 as disclosed by the Director-General in his report. The report discloses that the expenditure on social services is increasing each year. The increase in 1958-59 over 1957- 58 was 9.5 per cent. The amount spent on social services in 1957-58 was £201,000,000 and the amount spent in 1958- 59 was £221,000,000. It is interesting, too, to compare the amount the Government is spending on social services expressed as a percentage of the national income, the gross national product and the Commonwealth expenditure from Consolidated Revenue. We find that there has been an increase each year. I do not think the Government can be criticized for meanness regarding social services. For instance, in 1954-55 the expenditure under the Social Services Act was £154,000,000 or 3.7 per cent, of the national income. Last year the amount expended on social services was £221,000,000 or 4.4 per cent, of the national income. In 1954-55 Commonwealth expenditure on social services was 14.4 per cent, of the expenditure from Consolidated Revenue, whereas in 1958-59 it was 17.1 per cent., an increase of almost 3 per cent.
Taking into account the increases in age and invalid pensions, and social services generally, which are contained in the last Budget, will the Minister give me an idea of the social services expenditure compared with the national income, the gross national production and the Commonwealth expenditure from Consolidated Revenue? I think it would be most interesting to have those figures, because they would show that the expenditure on social services is going up year by year. As a Parliament we have a responsibility to the people. I do not think that the present Government can be accused of running away from that responsibility. However, we also have a responsibility to the taxpayers of the community. I should like to know just how far we can go in granting social service benefits.
I know that there is some talk about abolishing the means test, but if we do away with the means test, and provide for social services out of revenue, according to my information there will need to be an increase in income taxation of 20 per cent. That represents a lot of money. While we should like to see the means test abolished, we must realize that the nation can afford to spend only a certain amount on social services. I think it can be truly said that in the past it has been the Government’s policy to increase the revenue of the country, and to increase its prosperity. As we increase the prosperity of the nation then we can give back to the age and invalid pensioners, and the people receiving other social service benefits, a greater amount than they have been able to enjoy in the past.
If honorable senators want to become political, all they have to do is to look back and they will find that in the years when Labour was in office the recipients of social services did not receive the same benefits as they are receiving to-day. I am not talking about pounds, shillings and pence; I am talking about the amount of goods that money could buy in 1949 and the preceding years and comparing it with the amount of goods that can be bought to-day. Because the nation is more prosperous to-day the Government is better able to look after the people who are enjoying social service benefits.
I should be pleased to obtain from the Minister the figures for which I have asked because I am sure that they will be tremendously interesting. I think that in 1949 expenditure on social services was probably only about 10 per cent, of the Commonwealth expenditure from Consolidated Revenue whereas to-day it is over 17 per cent. Within twelve months, I believe, it will rise to about 20 per cent. I think those figures will interest the committee very much.
.- 1 want to join Senator Poke in paying a tribute to the efficiency of the Department of Social Services and the courtesy which members of the Parliament have received from the department. I have been very happy about the treatment I have received from the Social Services branch in Melbourne. I believe that the officers of the department are doing a job of which the country can very well be proud. I am not going to canvass the question of child endowment or the maternity allowance. These matters have been dealt with during the debate on the Estimates and Budget Papers. However, I express the utmost disappointment at the fact that the Government appears to have pushed child endowment entirely into the limbo of forgotten things. If it wants to encourage family life it ought to spend more on child endowment and the maternity allowance.
I want to refer to what appears to me to be a curious anomaly. When people become parents as the result of the birth of a child they receive the maternity allowance, but when people carry out the very humanitarian gesture of adopting a child, the whole expense of that adoption has to be borne by them, although in many cases the community - the State or the Commonwealth - is relieved of the responsibility of maintaining that child. I know that there is great competition to obtain children for adoption at the present time, but not all the people who adopt children are wealthy. The desire of childless couples for children in the home is strong amongst many people who have no great financial resources, and it does them credit that they are prepared to adopt children, and so give them a chance in life, but what is wrong is that when they do adopt children they are often faced with considerable legal expenses, which people, particularly those in the lower wage group, should not be called upon to bear. I have in mind a case that brought this matter forcibly to me recently. It concerns a man who is a leader in the new Australian community to which he belongs. Some time ago there was a tragedy in that community. Both the father and the mother of a family of children died in tragic circumstances. This man is a working man with quite a small wage, and he has a family of his own, yet he thought it was his duty to adopt two of the orphaned children. He told me that the legal expenses incurred by him in connexion with their adoption amounted to a considerable sum. The Government considers it to be a fair thing to give a maternity allowance, and I plead with it to give an adoption allowance. If it chose to examine beforehand the financial and other circumstances of the people concerned, it could do so. I would prefer that it should not, but I would not offer strong objection if it did so. I ask the Government to do something to take from the shoulders of working-class people in genuine cases, the burden of paying large sums of money in legal and other expenses when they do a very fine thing, a very humanitarian thing, by adopting a child and giving it a chance to live with a family instead of in an institution. I hope that the Government will give earnest consideration to this matter, and do something to assist such people. In the case that I have mentioned, where the man adopted two children, I understand that the fees and other expenses were about £60 or £70. That is a very considerable sum for a man with a family, trying to establish himself in a new country and to pay for his home.
– Perhaps that was an unusual case.
– I do not know. He told me that legal fees and other costs amounted to between £60 and £70. Probably not all of that expenditure was due to legal expenses. Frequently, in a case of adoption, the new parents have to provide a wardrobe, a bed and other things for the child. The sum that I have mentioned was too much for the man to have to pay, and I I hope that the Government will consider the granting of an adoption allowance, as well as the maternity allowance.
I am glad that the Government has made provision for a compassionate allowance in cases which do not come entirely under the regulations or the law, and I hope it will continue to do so. There are many of these cases. I hope that the Government will not be niggardly in providing compassionate allowances in special cases. Many new Australians do not qualify for social service benefits at the stage of their greatest need. I hope that the Government will look at their position, remembering that not all the benefits of our migration policy are received by the migrants. This country also gains much from their coming among us. I hope that the Government will be more generous in its treatment of new Australians, and will not insist on the rigid observance of the provisions of the law as to their eligibility for assistance.
– I want to reply briefly to Senator McManus first. I join with other members of the Senate in congratulating the officers of the Department of Social Services on the job they are doing in helping members of the Parliament in the problems that come before them in connexion with social services. I can speak of the Tasmanian officers in particular. They are most helpful. I do not think that Senator McManus need fear that the officers of the department would not exercise a compassionate discretion in genuine cases if that were possible. They are encouraged by the Government to do so in such cases, and they do a good job.
There are many facets of social services work and the officers concerned become expert in the carrying out of their duties. They become expert not only in their handling of the benefits that are available to people, but also in their judgment of character and of the truth of the information that is placed before them. I congratulate them on the discretion that they used in the many cases in which they have to make personal investigations, sometimes involving rather personal questions. Not once since I have been a member of Parliament has any one said to me that an officer of the Social Services Department has investigated a case in an offhand manner, or has been rude, or has acted arbitrarily. I know personally of many cases in which the officers have been of the greatest assistance; and that is how I believe every member of Parliament would want things to be. These officers frequently avail themselves of the opportunity to point out to inquirers any additional social service benefits to which they may be entitled.
Senator Tangney referred to widows and deserted wives and the amount of the widows’ pension. This is not the first time she has done so. The honorable senator has consistently raised this matter over the years. Social services expenditure has to be considered in relation to other expenditure envisaged in the Budget. There must be some balance in these matters. When we look at individual cases, it is easy to find reasons why something more should be done, and to say, “ This is not enough “. Of course, that can be said of any social service payment, and every one will agree; but the Government must have regard to total expenditure, and give as much in individual cases as is possible having regard to all factors and prevailing circumstances.
Senator Tangney was not well versed regarding the facts in one part of her address. She said that a widow with four children and who could not go to work was asked to live on £5 5s. a week. That is not quite right. In addition to the pension of £5 5s. a week, there is a payment of 10s. a week for the two children after the first two. That is an additional £1 a week. There is also child endowment. If she rents her premises, she gets another 10s. a week. That brings the total payment up to £8 15s. a week.
– I did not mention four children.
– I am simply saying that it is not quite right to say that a widow with four children is expected to live on £5 5s. a week.
– I do not think that I mentioned four.
– The honorable senator referred to children. I shall cite the case of a widow with four children by way df illustration. The amount paid in that case, is £8 15s. It is little enough, but it is much more than the amount which the honorable senator left in the mind of the Senate- £5 5s.
I shall pass quickly over Senator Poke’s contribution. In common with Senator Scott, I refuse to go back to 1909 and say which party did this and which party did that. I do not think that it matters a hoot which party did anything. What is needed is that we should do the best that we can while we are charged with the responsibility.
As Senator Scott says, only the best is good enough for this Government. Senator Poke may care to make a political speech, but I ‘propose to pass over it without further comment.
I was interested in the point made by Senator McManus regarding the legal cost of adopting children. I was not aware that the charge was as high as he has indicated. He must have been referring to a special case, because I had thought that the legal expenses would not amount to more than £30. However, be that as it may, the expenses associated with the birth of a baby could hardly be less than £30. In effect, the adopting couple get a baby for what it costs an ordinary married couple - and the foster mother does not have to undergo the ordeal of having it. I do not think that those who adopt children are ill used. However, it is an interesting point, and will certainly be noted for consideration. I think that I have answered most of the matters that have been raised. I shall certainly take note of everything that honorable senators have brought to my attention.
– First, I should like to assure the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) that I was not trying to mislead the Senate by citing the sum of £5 5s. I was merely speaking about the widow’s allowance. What she receives for the children is received by all the other mothers, too, irrespective of income.
I should like to congratulate the department on its low administrative cost. As I have often remarked, I am not an expert with figures, but I have worked out that administrative costs amount to only 1.5 per cent, of overall expenditure. We are getting very good value, as a community, in return for the amount expended on the administration in this department.
I should like to pay a tribute to the Government for its homes for the aged scheme. I believe in always giving credit where it is due, and I must say that this has been a big step forward in the care of aged persons. I should like to see it carried further. Though we should pay due respect to the aged for their pioneering work - believing always that nothing is too good for them - we must not forget the young of ‘the community, especially those who are bereft of parents and are flung into the world at the age of sixteen or so without a stabilizing force to help them along.
If they are the children of war widows they will be able to call upon Legacy for help. If they are the children of civilian widows the Apex clubs throughout Australia will help. Those clubs are doing excellent work. However, orphan children from institutions both in Australia and overseas often have no one to whom they can turn for help. During the last three years I have been trying to get some one interested in the provision of hostels for youths living in the cities. The need is greatest there. I have in mind, for instance, apprentices who come to the cities and begin to draw wages. Often they have not previously had any money to spend and now find themeslves suddenly in possession of wealth. Some of them have never previously owned even a pair of socks. They have lived in .homes where it has always been a case of first in best dressed. The first thing that they do with their wages is to buy a pair of .hot socks and a red shirt and wander abroad seeking company. They find it in milk bars, and later they are sometimes to be seen in the delinquency courts. It would be a very fine thing if the department could assist the organizations which are striving to set up youth hostels. Girls .do not present the same problem as boys. Finance for such hostels could be provided as it was for homes for the aged.
Senator Scott said that the expenditure of £221,000,000 on social services this year could only be described as huge. I remind him that a great deal of it speedily finds its way back into the coffers of the Government. Social service payments are immediately spent by the recipient - they must be if he is to live. The turnover of the business community is increased, and some of the money flows back to the Government through direct and indirect taxation. The fact that one is a pensioner does not exempt him from paying indirect taxes on many articles. Therefore, it is not really a question of the Government spending all this money without prospect of return.. The money is not lost to the Government. It goes into circulation, provides work for people, and does a great deal df good.
I do not care how much we spend on social services, so long as it is not wasted. It is certainly not wasted administratively, for 1 .5 ;per cent is a very low administrative figure. It is certainly not wasted by the pensioners. They cannot afford to waste anything. This expenditure represents money well spent - but there should be more of it so that assistance can be given to cases such as I have mentioned.
I was very pleased to hear Senator McManus mention the legal cost of adopting children. I know from experience that people who have had the privilege of so doing have had to pay £75. The State Supreme Court fees are doubtless very small, but lawyers can charge what they like.
– You must live in the dingo country.
– The people who went to Tasmania in the first place did not think it was dingo country. I shall say no more about that. I first raised this matter of the legal cost of adopting children many years ago. I said at the time that it would be much better if working class parents, in particular, had the money for later use on, say, the children’s education. I indicated that adoption through a State instrumentality, such as the Child Welfare Department, did not involve the payment of high legal fees. Most of the children available from, say, the Child Welfare Department, were wards of the State. Immediately, one of the Sunday newspapers in Sydney - no doubt Senator Sir Walter Cooper will remember it - came out with banner headlines indicating that I had said that children were better off if their parents did not marry. It caused quite a controversy at the time. All I had said was that it would be much better if people, instead of paying high legal fees to private solicitors, were able to arrange for the adoption of children through a State department. The money thus saved could be used later to assist in the children’s education. The point that Senator McManus raised is a very good one. It is Christian charity for people to adopt children. Anybody who attempts to attach a stigma to an adopted child should be prosecuted with the full power of the law.
.- I wish to say something in regard to the
Department of Social Services, for which we are asked to vote the sum of £3,483,000. Being rather curious about the way in which that money was likely to be spent, I had a look at the schedule attached to the bill. I noticed there the number of officers employed by the department and the various titles by which they are known. Like other honorable senators, I have a very great appreciation of the work that is performed by the officers of the Department of Social Services. My association with the department goes back for quite a lengthy period, to the days before I was a member of the Senate. In my previous vocation, it was my lot at various times to make representations to the department on behalf of people who had retired from their employment and had not been lucky enough during their working life to amass sufficient wealth to guarantee them security in their retirement. Sometimes the question whether such people were entitled to social service benefits would arise. I found, on such occasions, that I received a great deal of help from the officers of the department.
We have made our speeches on the Budget, Mr. Chairman, and we have criticized the Government for failing to make available sufficient funds for various purposes. We have also dealt with social services legislation. Therefore, to make a second-reading speech at this stage, or to reiterate comments that were made during those debates, would perhaps strain your indulgence. But in considering the administration of the Department of Social Services and the activities of its officers, there is one matter to which we should give some thought, in view of the statements that were made during the debates I have mentioned and in the light of remarks made in this chamber earlier to-night.
I notice that the department employs investigating officers. We are making provision for the payment of social workers and research officers. I wonder, Mr. Chairman, exactly what duties are performed by those officers. I wonder, too, whether they make recommendations, and to whom they make them. What part do they play, in the final analysis, in assisting the government of the day to determine the rates of social service benefits that shall be payable to the people who are entitled to such benefits.
A few moments ago, Senator Scott spoke of what this Government had done and of what the previous government might have done. He said that a Liberal government, a nationalist government, or a United Australia Party government, whatever its name was in those days - I should say that it was the same kind of government as that in office to-day - had done something in connexion with age pensions. Be that as it may. During the course of my speech on the Budget 1 referred to the fact that it was a Labour government which had introduced other social service benefits, such as widows’ pensions. I said that that government had dealt with the question of tuberculosis and with quite a lot of other social problems.
I again ask whether the Department of Social Services, for which we are proposing to vote £3,483,000 this year, has played a significant part in determining rates of social service benefits by making recommendations to the government of the day. Are the social workers and investigators of the department investigating the requirements of the community in the way of social services? What part did they have, if any, in the decision of the Government to increase the age pension by the miserable sum of 7s. 6d. a week?
– Now, now!
– Honorable senators on this side of the chamber previously expressed the opinion that the increase was a miserable one, and we still hold to that view, in light of the prosperous conditions which exist in this country at the moment. The Australian community is able to enjoy a higher standard of living than most other communities of the world. What is our boast? We say that Australia is safe from communism because of the high standard of living of its people. Very well. Since we have such a high standard of living and since there is general prosperity throughout the country, we of the Australian Labour Party suggest that the recent increase of social service benefits provided only a miserable pittance. We have complained, and rightly so in our opinion, that it appears that the government of the day has forgotten about the need to increase child endowment.
During the course of my remarks on the Social Services Bill 1959 with which the
Senate dealt recently, Senator Scott asked why Labour had not done such-and-such. 1 suggest that no answer to our problems is provided in that way. We on this side of the chamber feel that there is a problem in regard to child endowment. The Labour movement believes that child endowment should be increased. Here we have a department with competent officers - if there are not sufficient officers, others should be appointed - whose duty it should be to investigate problems in the field of social services and bring to the government of the day recommendations for the improvement of benefits. lt will be remembered that Senator Cole and Senator McManus moved amendments to the Social Services Bill. They suggested that the matter of social services should be removed from the field of party politics. They suggested that a certain type of committee might be appointed. What such a committee would know about social services, apart from what somebody else might tell it, I do not know. Here we have a department established at great cost to the community. As Senator Tangney has said, the money that flows through the department goes back into the economy of the country. The officers of this department could do much in the way of making recommendations. Of course, they might make recommendations of which we do not hear. I do not know.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and Senator Paltridge have claimed that the Government showed great generosity. Time and again honorable senators opposite have referred to the Government’s generosity. On what facts do they base such statements? Senator Wardlaw referred to somebody who had, apparently with the aid of a microscope, prepared a regimen providing for the expenditure of about 30s. a week on 21 meals. Has reasoning of that sort led the Government to making such miserable increases in social service benefits? In my experience, as in the experience of honorable senators who have spoken from both sides of the chamber, the officers of this department are efficient. Can the Minister tell me what part the department is playing in urging upon the Treasury, or whatever other authority is responsible, the great need for a radical increase in the amounts paid? Just after the Budget was introduced in another place, a petition containing hundreds of signatures of pensioners was presented in an effort to obtain substantial increases. These were the people whose needs were being met, the Government claimed, by an increase of 7s. 6d. a week. It was said that the Commonwealth basic wage had recently been increased by 15s., and that a married pensioner couple would together receive an increase of 15s. a week. We have to get down to a more scientific basis. Those who are entitled to social service benefits should get a better crack of the whip. We might get somewhere by bringing the efforts and knowledge of the officers of this department to bear on the problem.
– I should like to get back to the bill. We have heard from the Opposition to-night nothing but a repetition of matters that related to the Budget. Consideration of the Budget was ended long ago, as Senator Sheehan reminded us. I want to refer to some of the expenditures proposed under the bill. An honorable senator asked why an increased amount of money was required this year. The additional amount is £268,000. Of that amount, £84,000 represents an increase in salary payments during 1959-60, because there are in this year 27 pay-days instead of the normal 26. An amount of £22,000 is required for extra postage, because there are more social service beneficiaries.
– It goes from one pocket of the Government into another.
– The increase is not the result of higher postage charges. I said that it resulted from an increase in the number of beneficiaries. The honorable senator cannot understand that under the present Government the number of beneficiaries is increasing all the time. It is difficult for him to understand, but perhaps I have now made it plain to him. An amount of £19,000 is involved in extra commission to the Postmaster-General’s Department for payments made on behalf of the Department of Social Services as its agent, because there are more beneficiaries, more people receiving benefits under the social services legislation introduced by this Government. An extra £27,000 is required for additional stationery and office equipment because of the greater number of beneficiaries receiving benefits under this legislation. That covers the bulk of the cash increase.
Now let me refer to the increases in staff that have been criticized by honorable senators opposite. Increases in the staff of State branches are due, first, to decentralization of the work of regional offices. The work has been increasing steadily each year, and there has been a great increase in temporary staff which has been engaged while the department is installing a punchcard system throughout. The department issues nearly 14,000,000 cheques annually, in addition to many millions of cashable orders. These are all to be put through a punch-card system, but in the meantime, during the installation of the system, the temporary staff has been increased. As soon as the system is installed, there will be a decrease in the staff, which is apparently what honorable senators opposite want. That is the information that they have been seeking.
Time is advancing, and I urge honorable senators opposite to address themselves to the bill with which we are dealing. We have had a tremendous amount of repetition of material that we heard in a secondreading debate two or three weeks ago. Surely we do not need to have all that over again. Senator Sheehan did. not say anything in addition to what he said two or three weeks ago. Why does- he not post copies of his former speech as it appears in “ Hansard “, and have, done with it? I know that honorable senators opposite feel a. little perturbed that at election time the Government does not try to get a few votes, as Senator Poke said it did, with promises of increased social service benefits. We have gone to election after election without making any promises at all. As a matter of fact, we have been tackled over and over again because we have made no promises in regard to social services; we have always said that each time the Budget comes along we will look at the position as it is then. We have honoured that undertaking every time. What we have had to compete with is the greatest set of promises and bribes on social services that any Opposition could offer. Election after election has been fought in the face of the Opposition trying to bribe the public with offers ad nauseam of increased social service benefits. What have the people said to the Opposition? They, have told the Opposition quite clearly that they do not believe that it could do what it has promised without an enormous increase in taxation.
– I thought the Minister said a moment ago that only Opposition senators had’ been indulging in secondreading speeches on this proposed vote.
– Obviously honorable senators opposite do not like a taste of their own medicine. I have been sitting here for hours answering questions on the bill. AH right! When honorable senators opposite are given a bit of their own medicine they do not like it; they cannot take it. 1 am going to give them a bit more if there is time to-night. If everybody, is to be allowed to make second-reading speeches and waste the time of the committee, that is O.K. with me. I will remind you of a set of promises that was made by Dr. Evatt, the Leader of the Opposition in another place. He has occupied that position for. about ten years and is likely to occupy it for the next ten. One promise that he made was to abolish the means test. That would cost about £120,000,000. What did the. public of Australia say to him? “ Nonsense “, they said. They would not have a bar of it!
– That is what Menzies offered in 1949.
– In 1949 we offered a social insurance scheme, but never mind about 1949. Let us get back to’ the elections that have since been fought, in which the Opposition has offered social service bribes to the Australian public.
– What percentage of the votes did the Government parties get last time?
– Never mind about the percentage; we got the votes. As Senator Kennelly has said many times, “ Never mind about the trimmings; give me the numbers “. We have come back election after election with increased votes and increased numbers. Honorable senators opposite should not think that they can bribe the people of Australia with promises in relation to social services. I was out in one of the great mining towns during the last election, and I remember talking to some of the underground miners as they came off shift. They said to me, “ We are getting pretty good pay; don’t worry about that. We are not going to have this Dr. Evatt taking it out of our pay envelopes to give away in social services - not us! “ That is the position. The Opposition should know that it does not pull the legs of those people.
I have listened to a lot of second-reading speeches to-night, but this is the first one that I have made myself. Righto! If you will get back to the bill, I will get back to it. If you are going to play politics and make second-reading speeches, brother, I will be with you until the clock goes off.
.- In view of the speech that has just been delivered by the Minister for Customs and Excise, I should like to remind the committee that we are considering a bill for an act -
To grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the service of the year ending on the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and sixty, and to appropriate the Supplies granted by the Parliament for that year. 1 should like to remind the Minister, particularly, that the consideration of the Appropriation Bill each year is one of the occasions on which honorable senators have an opportunity to direct the attention of Ministers to various anomalies and certain aspects of various departments. The Minister for Customs and Excise, no less than the Minister in another place whom he represents, is a bit disinclined to answer questions that are directed to him. He is inclined to become a little bit excited; he is temperamental.
However, the matters to which I wish to direct his attention, connected with social services, are of very great importance in the community, and I trust that the Government will attempt to rectify glaring anomalies that exist throughout Australia to-day. As I see it, the major problem confronting the Department of Social Services - indeed, it faces many other departments of the Government - is that it is being caught out by its own previous actions. Creeping inflation throughout the country is increasing the cost of social services to limits that were undreamed of a few years ago. .An increase of 7s. ‘6d. a week has been granted throughout the range of pensions but what has happened? The various aged persons’ homes, benevolent homes, convalescent homes and the like have increased the weekly amount payable by the inmates by an amount corresponding with the increase of the pension. Therefore, the Government’s intention in granting the increase is being thwarted. The pensioners who are inmates of these various institutions are being required by the institutions to pay an additional amount equal to the increase in order to offset rising costs for food, linen, electric light, rates and other items.
In order to qualify to receive the supplementary rent allowance, a pensioner has to be able to withstand a very rigorous means test, and he must be living alone; he must be caring for himself. A pensioner may possess assets of only a limited value in order to avoid the means test net. What happened when this supplementary pension allowance was introduced? The rent payable by pensioners living in a room or a little hut or in the back part of a cottage, in a host of cases, was increased by an equivalent amount of 10s. a week. As I said at the beginning, the Government is being caught up by its own bootlaces. The very people whom the Government thought it necessary to assist are not obtaining the benefit of the supplementary rent allowance. This is a very important aspect of social services, and I believe that on occasions like this we have every right to direct the attention of the Minister in charge of the bill to such things.
There is another matter that I should like to bring to the attention of the committee. It relates to the cul-de-sac that exists in the arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States concerning certain aspects of social service benefits. I refer particularly to retarded children, who pose a tremendous social problem. One of the greatest aims of the nursing profession is to comfort afflicted people. This section of the community has been disregarded, relatively speaking. Where retarded children have been placed in the care of foster parents, and where they are still being cared for by their own parents, it is true that in the majority of instances those parents have done their best to provide for the welfare of the children within the limit of their resources. But there is urgent need for something more. There is great need for the establishment of hostels or homes in which these slow-learning and mentally retarded children may be grouped and taught in their own little communities. I am advised that slow-learning and mentally retarded children are happiest when mixing among others of their own mental standard, and that when they are reaching maturity it is essential that they mix with similarly afflicted children of their own age group so that they may develop common interests.
– Surely that is a State matter.
– It irritates me to hear such suggestions. It is not solely a State matter; it is a matter for you and for me. It is a deep human problem. It is of no use attempting to pass the buck to the States. They are doing all they can with the limited resources available to them. This Government is the taxing authority, and it should do something. Somewhere along the line some one ought to tackle this most pressing problem. We should not be content simply to sit back and say if is a problem for the States.
Over the years, I have heard Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin refer repeatedly to the importance of geriatrics. She has hammered at this problem for years and years. That, too, might be said to be strictly a State matter, but she won through eventually and I congratulate her upon the wonderful job she has done. She did not look upon it as a State matter. She made it her personal responsibility to stress the needs of the aged, and she has done a great deal of good for them.
The same may be said of slow-learning and mentally retarded children. There is an urgent need for us all to interest ourselves in this problem. I suggest that it is time the Commonwealth Government established a committee of its Department ot Social Services to make a thorough investigation into what is needed for the care and training of slow-learning and mentally retarded children from infancy through to adult age. It is essential that we provide means of training and educating them in an environment in which they can be happy.
Much is being done by voluntary organizations in the various States by way of setting up, for instance, small workshops in which simple tasks are performed with great patience and skill by these unfortunate people. There are many tasks in industry which could be done by these young people if given the training and opportunity. Again I stress the urgent need for wider vision in connexion with this problem, and the importance of appreciating that it is time we tackled in a forthright manner a serious social problem which has been almost completely ignored hitherto.
I come now to a matter to which I have referred on other occasions. It relates to the aged who are on the perimeter of life, those whose bodies are still strong enough to retain life but whose minds are reaching the twilight stage. In many hospitals, these old people are referred to as seniles. They are difficult cases to nurse and, once their minds begin to deteriorate they are placed in mental institutions. It is a most unfitting end for people who have given of their utmost during their lives to be placed in mental institutions to which a certain stigma still attaches.
I emphasize also that once they are placed in these institutions the Department of Social Services withdraws from them age and other pensions. The money is not paid either to relatives of these people or to the States on their behalf; it is retained by the Department of Social Services, which alleges that an adjustment is made through another avenue. I suggest that this matter should be examined thoroughly by the Government.
Another hardship suffered by age pensioners is the withdrawal of free medical services from those who may have a little capital in the bank. This benefit was withdrawn in 1952. I suggest that it would cost little to restore to these aged people what is to them a very valuable and important benefit - free medical services. The fact that they have a little capital should not debar them from free medical services.
I put forward these suggestions in the hope that the Government will realize that spiralling inflation in this country is neutralizing the effect of any increases that have been made in social service payments. The increases are not having the beneficial effect that was expected of them. They are not effecting any improvement in the standard of living of the less fortunate people in the community - the aged, the widowed and others. In many cases, they do not cover the increase in costs brought about by inflation.
Whether the Government has any plan to arrest inflation, I do not know. As yet, it has not given any evidence of it. I do hope that the increased payments made to convalescent homes, benevolent homes, homes for the aged and similar institutions at least will be sufficient to enable those worthy organizations to give some extra comfort to the deserving people who are cared for in those establishments.
– I should like to ask some questions relating to salaries and allowances for officers in central administration and the work of State branches of the department. I should like to know from the Minister why it is that research officers are attached to central administration only. I understand that problems associated with social services are dealt with on a national basis. That being so, I should like to know whether investigations carried out by the research officers take those officers to the various States and whether there is any possibility of obtaining information relating to the results of those investigations. I understand that at the moment an investigation is being made by some authority in New South Wales into the difficulties besetting civilian widows. I should like to know whether these research officers are making any contribution to that investigation and whether the problems of adolescence and matters like that are being investigated. I should also like to know whether the Senate could be made aware, from time to time, of the results of the very valuable research which I feel sure the officers of the department are making into these and associated problems.
– I thank the last two honorable senators for their requests and I shall try to give them the answers which they thoroughly deserve. In reply to Senator Tangney, I state that the research officers in the Central Office receive information which is collected in the States and filtered through to the Central Office. The research officers receive that information, collate it and consider it.
– Do they do any original research themslves?
– No. My information is that they deal entirely with the information that is filtered through from the States.
– Do they make recommendations?
– Yes. The officers of the department are continually making recommendations as the result of this research into all aspects of social services. It is from their recommendations that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) gets much of the information which he places before the Government when the Budget is being prepared. I shall place before the Minister the matters raised by Senator O’Byrne.
– I should like to ask the Minister for some information. At the end of 1948-49-
– Is it in the bill?
– What I have to say is not out of order. The Temporary Chairman is in charge of our proceedings and he will tell me whether I am out of order or not. Having listened to the speech of the Minister I am surprised that the Chair did not ask him to resume his seat. Some ten years ago we started a scheme for retraining people who had certain disabilities. I cannot find in the Estimates any money allotted for the continuance of that retraining programme. Is the department still taking people into these re-training centres? Is the number of people being trained greater than it was? What is the result of the re-training that is part of the social services programme?
– Re-training for what?
– The re-training and rehabilitation of people who have suffered some injury and have had to leave the industry in which they were working. Retraining centres were set up for the purpose of fitting these people for other occupations. A man may lose a leg and not be able any longer to do the work he was doing before. These centres were set up to re-train that type of person, and I was wondering just what progress has been made.
.- Will the Minister tell me whether there is any liaison between the research officers in the Commonwealth departments and the research officers in the States - the secondary social services departments?
– I should like to reply to Senator Arnold. I am advised that there are one or two re-training centres in each State. The honorable senator asked whether the numbers attending the centres were increasing. I am informed that the numbers are about steady and that each of the centres is at the present time working to its maximum capacity.
.- Under the heading of State Establishments there is an item dealing with postage, telegrams and telephone services. Last year the expenditure was £355,392 and the appropriation this year is £377,300. Will the Minister have a dissection made of the amount of £337,300 in order to show the anticipated charges for postage, telegrams and telephone services? Will he also advise the committee what portion of the increased appropriation is due to the increased postal charges introduced in the recent Budget?
I wish to refer also to the item “ Commission on Benefit Payments made by Banks and Post Offices, £300,000”. Last year the expenditure on this item was £281,625. Will the Minister dissect this particular item and inform the committee what banks are involved in these commission payments. The Post Office, of course, is involved. It is quite obvious that many post offices are used for the purposes of disbursing pensions of various kinds. There is bound to be some payment made to the Post Office. I should like the Minister to advise the committee of the commission paid to banks and also to tell the committee which banks are involved in these payments.
– I refer in Division No. 351, Central Administration to the item under General Expenses dealing with publicity - pamphlets and films. I notice that the proposed vote is only £3,000. In view of the valuable research work which the department is apparently carrying out, does not the Minister consider that some increase of this vote is warranted so that the results of the research can be made available to the many organizations and persons who would be interested? These research officers are dealing with problems which affect so many of us.
The next item to which I wish to refer is medical examinations under the heading of General Expenses. The proposed vote is £25,000. When we refer to the schedule which deals with State Establishments we find that there are medical officers attached to them who are being paid as member* of those establishments. Why is the extra £25,000 needed for medical examinations?
– In answer to Senator O’Byrne, I stress that no provision has been made for increased expenditure on individual postage. The sum of £377,300 covers the cost of postage, rent of telephones, telegrams, local and trunk calls, and expenses incidental to postal and telephone services. The additional sum of £21,000 for 1959-60 is made up as follows: The increased volume of cheque postings; mainly for fortnightly pension cheque payments, £10,000; extra postage payments which will arise from the change-over to punched-card systems in Queensland for child endowment, and in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia for pensions, £7,000; increase in miscellaneous postage - forms, correspondence and so on, £4,000; and additional telephone rents and business, £9,400- a total of £30,400, less the cost of accounts paid in June, 1959, for postage incurred in that month - £5,000 - and special non-recurring telephone costs, £3,500, leaving a net total of £21,900.
Reference was also made to item 8 of Division No. 352 - State establishments - “ Commission on Benefit Payments made by Banks and Post Office, £300,000”. This sum is to. be paid to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for the cash payment of age, invalid and widows’ pensions at post offices, and to the department and various banks for the cash payment of child endowment. The rates of commission are: Age and invalid pensions, 7s. per £100; widows’ pensions, 8s. 6d. per £100; child endowment, 6s. 6d. per £100. The payment made to banks for cash payments, as distinct from credits to customers’ accounts, is, for child endowment, 6s. 8d. per £100. As the number of pensioners and endowees- rose in 1958-59, and a further increase is expected in 1959-60, commission payments will involve £18,400 more this year than in 1958-59.
The sum of £25,000, which has been provided under item 7 - Medical Examinations - of Division No. 352, is to meet the cost of examination by Commonwealth medical referees and specialists, of invalid pensioners and claimants for invalid pensions and, in some circumstances, sickness beneficiaries and claimants for sickness benefits. Generally speaking, the fee is £1 lis. 6d. for each examination, but more than that where car travelling, specialists, or extra visits are involved, lt is expected that, owing to the normal increase in the volume of the department’s business, the expenditure for 1959-60 will be a little higher than that for 1958-59.
– I wish to refer to Part XIII. of the Schedule of Salaries and Allowances, and in particular to Division No. 352, State Establishments. I note that provision is made for the employment of vocational counsellors, clerks, a training officer, examiners, senior social workers and medical ancillaries. That service was instituted for the purpose of rehabilitating pensioners who had some prospect of becoming useful in industry and of giving up their invalid pensioner status.
The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) has told us that that department is static - that an even flow in and out is being maintained. I ask him to discuss with his colleague in another place the possibility of undertaking rehabilitation work at a much earlier stage than has been the case hitherto. I have in mind slowlearning and invalid children who have not, as yet, become a charge on the State as invalid pensioners. A good deal of success has been achieved in the rehabilitation of pensioners, but it is suggested that if treatment had been given during childhood a vocation could have been found and the person would never have become an invalid pensioner.
I am reminded of cases of persons who have been invalid pensioners for two or three years and have then lost confidence that they will ever be able to take up again their place in industry in competition with other persons who are fully trained and competent. There is always the fear that the employer will not accept them.
I have in mind the training of slowlearning children by various institutions, and of others by the organization which caters for paraplegics - children who must otherwise become invalid pensioners. That would remedy the present situation, in which invalid pensioners react nervously to any attempt to reintroduce them into industry. I suggest that this would be far preferable to treating them at a later stage, when they have become invalid pensioners.
– Rehabilitation is at present provided, free of cost, to persons receiving, or eligible for, a pension - to persons in receipt of sickness, unemployment and tuberculosis allowances; also to boys and girls of 14 and 15 years of age who, without treatment or training, would be likely to qualify for a pension upon attaining the age of 16.
– I want the age brought back.
– I realize what the honorable senator is seeking, and will bring his suggestion to the notice of the Minister for Social Services.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [10.18]. - Following what has been said by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), and also by Senator Cooke, I should like to mention a matter which is also of great importance. First, let me congratulate those who work in the rehabilitation centres upon their success in both healing and helping people and giving them confidence to undertake whatever occupation they have been trained for.
I have in mind the case of a young wife who may be smitten with poliomyelitis. She may have a young family, but because she is not an invalid pensioner in the accepted sense of the term, and is not herself the breadwinner, she cannot receive free rehabilitation treatment - to which she should have access. She very often has a close association with people who have had a similar illness. Because they have been wage-earners they have been able to receive this wonderful treatment free at our rehabilitation centres. She sees the advances that they make, and the way in which they are able to re-enter their occupations. Such a woman - a wife with a young family, and a husband on a modest income - is unable to receive free treatment at the rehabilitation centres. Often it means she cannot receive it at all, because she simply cannot afford to pay for it herself. I do urge very sincerely that consideration should be given to such a case. The woman may not be the breadwinner in the accepted sense of the word, but she is doing a magnificent and most important job as a wife and mother in the home. I know that such women are now allowed to have treatment at the centres. That is a great step forward, but the treatment is costly and it may be necessary for a woman to remain there for the full period of six months. The cost of treatment during that time may amount to a considerable sum, particularly if she has to come from the country and live in.
I ask that consideration be given to the case of a mother who has suffered the disaster of contracting poliomyelitis and who is making a courageous effort to be rehabilitated, as many such women are. I should like these women to be given the best possible opportunity for free rehabilitation at the centres which are doing such magnificent work for so many people.
.- The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) has now regained his equilibrium, and I promise not to ruffle him again. However, I want to mention certain matters in regard to the Department of Social Services, because I am eager to make the department even more effective than it is at the moment. I am conscious of the great work that it is performing, and I feel that it could do even better work if sufficient funds were made available to enable it to expand its activities.
Included in the officers for whom we are making provision are vocational counsellors, a senior social worker, social workers and medical ancillaries. Unfortunately, in the schedule those officers are lumped together with other officers. It is anticipated that this year there will be 237 officers in that group, as against 223 last year. I know there is only one senior social worker, but I should like the Minister to tell me the number of social workers employed in Victoria. I should also like to know what they do.
In Victoria, the Department of Health administers certain social services. The elderly citizens welfare people also do a lot of social work, and there is a nursing sister attached to the Victorian department - unfortunately, there is only one; I should like to see more - whose duty it is to give advice and assistance. Could the Minister tell me whether the social workers employed by the Department of Social Services visit homes to see the conditions under which people are living, and so on? I should be obliged if the Minister could give me information in the matters I have mentioned.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Miscellaneous Services - Department of Social Services, £2,154,000 - agreed to.
War and Repatriation Services - Miscellaneous - Department of Social Services.
Proposed Vote, £16,000.
– You are going through the items rather quickly, Mr. Chairman. My colleague, Senator Tangney has failed to catch your eye on two occasions. I ask for a little more time to be given for consideration of votes. We are disappointed that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) was not able to reply to the matters raised by Senator Sheehan and other honorable senators on this side of the chamber.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D; Reid). - He has to be quick on his feet.
– 1 know that it is a case of the quick and the dead, but I do not think that is a very good thing in the circumstances.
– I shall see that answers are given in writing.
.- Would it be possible for the proposed vote for the Department of Social Services to be re-committed, Mr. Chairman, so that the Minister might be able to reply to my queries? My long experience of these matters is that the Minister in charge of a department usually has the last say and attempts to satisfy his questioners.
– The vote could only be re-committed at the end of the committee stage, if honorable senators were agreeable to that being done. We are now dealing with the proposed vote of £16,000 in respect of war and repatriation services, Department of Social Services.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Army.
Proposed Vote, £65,554,000.
– I understand that an Army camp is being built at Watsonia, in Victoria. I have been asked to ascertain when that camp will be completed. I understand that there is some difficulty in connexion with rents and other matters. Perhaps the Minister will be able to obtain that information for me.
– I refer to Division No. 501 - Australian Military Forces. Item 2 relates to pay and allowances in the nature of pay for the Citizen Military Forces, including national service trainees and cadets, the proposed vote being £4,144,000. That vote presupposes, Mr. Chairman, that the present system is to be continued for the remainder of the year. No doubt there will be the usual lottery to decide which lads are to receive military training and which are not. I do not know whether the lucky ones are those whose names are drawn out, or whether it is the other way about, but I feel that something more should be done in this matter. If we are to have compulsory military training, or national service training, and if the Army is not capable of taking all the trainees available for training, those not called up for military duty perhaps could be drafted into the civilian defence corps, or something of that kind. I do not think that the present system is at all fair. Some lads are obliged to go into camp and be away from their jobs for a considerable period, in many cases thus missing opportunities in their civilian employment, while other lads have no commitments at all in that regard.
Judging by the amount that is to be made available this year, the present system is to continue. I think that many people will agree when I say that if we are to have military training, all young men should take part in it and that it should not be left to the luck of a lottery barrel to decide who will be trained and who will be left out. Is it envisaged, having regard to the sum to be made available, that those who do not participate in national service training will be absorbed into other forms of training, such as civil defence training, where they may be trained to be of use to the country in an emergency?
Recently, a high-ranking officer of the Citizen Military Forces in Western Australia stated that the business community was not fully co-operating with the authorities in regard to citizen military training. That may be news to people who are wondering whether there is really a defence policy so far as the Army is concerned. There has been a little improvement in the west in the people’s attitude towards defence because of the Navy’s recent decision to use the Leeuwin naval base for training purposes. I believe that the failure of business people in the west to co-operate with the authorities in the release of employees for training in the Citizen Military Forces is the result of the absence of an announcement by the Government of a clear-cut policy on national service training. Can the Minister say whether the maintenance of expenditure for this purpose at very much the same level this year indicates that this system is to continue, or is some revision to be made in the whole defence system, particularly in relation to training?
– It is not expected that the Army camp at Watsonia will be finished before the end of the year. In reply to Senator Tangney, I can only quote the words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when he was asked at a press conference whether he hoped to announce the Government’s new three-year defence plan before Parliament rose for the year. He said -
I certainly intend that it will be determined and announceable sometime in November, because I have to go away at the beginning of December and I want this matter to be fixed before I go.
That is all I can say about it at the moment.
– We have just been handed a booklet entitled “ Explanatory Memorandum on Army Estimates “. It appears to be an excellent little booklet, but I ask the Minister whether we could not have such information in future at least 24 hours before we consider the vote. It is not of very much use now.
– I refer to Division No. 512- Service Dwellings - Rentals. I notice that whereas last year the appropriation was £135,000 and the expenditure £130,998, the proposed vote this year is £190,000. I am seeking some background information in relation to the policy adopted towards dwellings for members of the defence services. I notice a provision for rent, an item under the control of the Department of the Interior, which I have always thought acted as a kind of agent for the other departments in the acquisition and renting of offices and other buildings. The proposed vote for rent under Division No. 520 is £31,000. That, I presume, is for the rent of premises for the defence services. Division No. 529 - Advances to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, provides for a proposed vote of £398,000. I know that 5 per cent, of the money that goes to the States under that agreement is reserved for the provision of accommodation for members of the defence services. I did not know that that provision was made from defence expenditure.
Can the Minister give any general outline of the policy of the Department of the Army in relation to dwellings? I imagine - I should like to be corrected if I am wrong - that most of these dwellings in the capital cities would be of a permanent nature. There would be a fairly good idea of the number of officers and others who would be permanently employed by the Department of the Army in training and administration. Is the Minister able to get a lead from any of these items to permit him to give the Senate some idea of the general policy in relation to the rental, purchase, or acquisition through the Department of the Interior, of the accommodation necessary for members of the defence services?
.- Attention has been directed to Division No. 512 - Service Dwellings - Rentals, and to other proposed appropriations for the housing of married personnel of the services. I should like to refer to those members of the service departments who have been transferred recently from Melbourne to the National Capital. I should like the Minister to explain to the Senate why houses for these people in the new Canberra suburb of Campbell are built on such very small allotments. This locality has the makings of a most attractive suburb, yet the houses are jammed so close together as to make it appear that there has been a serious lack of co-ordination between the Department of the Interior and the other departments. The frontages are limited. The National Capital is, after all, relatively vast in area, and it is not likely to be over-populated in the foreseeable future.
It appears that the service departments have lost an opportunity to insist that the Department of the Interior make available blocks of a more reasonable area so that families of officers of the defence services might have sufficient room for playgrounds at the rear of houses and not merely just enough room for a small driveway for a car. There should be provision, as in the normal suburban home, of space for shrubs and vegetable gardens. I have been very disappointed to note the size of some of the blocks allotted for the erection of quite attractive houses, in some cases costing £6,000 or £7,000. These are completely out of place on pocket-handkerchief allotments.
I hope that the Government will take notice of this situation, now that the shape of the new suburb is becoming evident and, in making further sub-divisions, will try to be a little more generous in the allocation of space, having in view not only the individual comfort of persons transferred to Canberra, but also the prestige of the National Capital. Visitors from other parts of the world will be inclined to infer from the smallness of the areas that we are smallminded. I believe that the Department of the Interior deserves a reprimand on the smallness of the areas allocated.
– Senator Willesee asked about the proposed provision of £190,000 for rentals of service dwellings under Division No. 512. The funds proposed to be provided under this division are required, in places other than South Australia, for the payment of rent by the Army to State housing authorities for houses taken over by the Army under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and in South Australia for reimbursement to the South Australian Housing Trust of the difference between the actual rentals paid and normal rentals of houses occupied under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Expenditure under Division No. 520 is under the control of the Department of the Interior. Tt covers rentals of property in respect of which leases are held on behalf of the Department of the Army. The proposed vote of £31,000 covers the expected expenditure of the Department of the Interior on a normal basis of rental of buildings and sites, &c, in respect of current leases and variations in the year 1959-60.
Expenditure under Division No. 529 - Advances to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement - is under the control of the Department of National Development. Under the provisions of the Housing Agreement Act 1956 each State is required to set aside annually for the erection of dwellings for serving members such a proportion of the advances by the Commonwealth for the purposes of the act as the Commonwealth Minister administering the act may decide, but not exceeding 5 per cent, of the amount made available to the States for the erection of dwellings. For this purpose, the Commonwealth agreed to make advances additional to the principal advances, equal to the amount set aside by the States.
Senator O’Byrne referred to the transfer of defence personnel from Melbourne, and he made certain comments in respect of the size of blocks in Canberra on which houses are built for married servicemen. This is a matter that relates to the Department of the Interior. One could hardly claim that a bigger block should be provided for Army personnel than for civilians. As the blocks provided for servicemen arc identical in size with those provided for civilians throughout Canberra, the Department of the Army should not be reprimanded. The blocks provided for servicemen are neither smaller nor larger than those that have been accepted by the civilian population.
.- I should be glad if Senator Henty, who is representing the Minister for the Army, could give me some information as to the cost of training and equipping a soldier to be placed in the field. I note from the publication containing the Army Estimates that has been circulated that a ceiling of 26,000 has been placed on the standing army and that 22,000 persons are expected to be serving during this financial year. I must say that expenditure by the Army was very neatly budgeted last year, and I congratulate the Department of the Army upon it. Either the budgeting was very accurate or the expenditure was brought up to the anticipated expenditure before the end of the financial year. One way or another, anyhow, it was very good.
On this occasion it appears that the Department of the Army has budgeted, over all, for £2,000,000 less than last year. I should like the Minister to inform me whether it is expected that the strength of the Army will be more or less in 1959-60 than it was in 1958-59, and also, as I have mentioned before, the approximate cost of” training and equipping a soldier under our present training schemes.
I note with some interest that, due to unemployment and the non-availability of positions in other avocations, enlistments in 1958-59 were 3,218, compared with 1,967 in 1957-58. The Minister for the: Army (Mr. Cramer) has commented that this improvement enables the army to be more selective in its acceptance of recruits, I should like to know particulars of the cost of recuitment. including the amount of money that has been spent on advertising, to whom that money has gone, and whether it has been correctly spent by the advertising agencies. I feel that it may be possible to evolve a system under which we shall obtain recruits just as effectively and with much less expense than under the present system. Judging from the anticipated expenditure, I should say that the advertising agencies are charging a pretty handsome fee to obtain a recruitment of 3,000 men in the whole of Australia. The Opposition considers that if the Defence vote is properly expended and we get value for money it is well warranted. I ask the Minister to inform me of the cost of recruiting the 3,000 men odd into the armed forces and. if possible, the expected total cost of training them and equipping them and making them into a unit of the Australian Army.
– I wish to make some remarks concerning Division No. 501. I am rather pleased to note that the Estimates allow for approximately the same number of national servicemen as we had last year. There has been a fear in the minds of quite a number of Australian citizens that the strength of the Citizen Military Forces was to be reduced, because in their view that would be a retrograde step. I must support that view because I think, as they do, that it would be a very retrograde step indeed.
We should remember that it is now some fourteen years since the end of World War II. Consequently, many of the fully trained men that we had when the war ended are now no longer fit for active service. We are in much the same position as we were just prior to the outbreak of World War II. We have lost the trained men from the last war and the only thing we can do now is to train fresh personnel as an insurance against the future. I know that some people have the idea that the day of the infantryman has passed, and also it has been asserted in some quarters that the day of the armoured tank has passed. I am one of those who feel that nothing could be further from the truth, and that just as we needed the infantry in World War II., should a third world war eventuate once again it will be necessary to have some infantry. The same remarks apply to tanks. Only just recently, some of us have been fortunate enough to see some of the modern weapons that we have bought. Indeed, they are most revolutionary compared with those that we have been using up till just recently. In spite of that, we will find once again, I am quite sure, if we are plunged into war - irrespective of whether it is an atomic war or any other type of war - that we will still need the services of the two branches that I have mentioned.
There is another aspect of C.M.F. training which we should not lose sight of, and which is quite apart from the advantages that we get from the military training. We get a better citizen as a result of the discipline to which the youths have to conform during their period of training. To my mind, that in itself is well worth the money that we have allotted for that particular branch of training. I am very pleased that the Estimates provide the same amount as we had last year for that item and I commend the Minister for his wisdom for making an allowance in the manner I have indicated.
– I feel that there are certain items under Division No. 504 - General Services - that require further investigation. I refer particularly to item 9 - “ Concessional postage for servicemen - Payment to PostmasterGeneral’s Department - £138,400 “. The proposed vote for this financial year is the same as the sum that was voted last year, which appears to me to be very coincidental. In answer to a question asked by Senator O’Byrne a moment ago with relation to the size of the allotments on which servicemen’s homes are being built in Canberra, the Minister said that we could not have differentiation between the civilian population and army personnel, yet in this instance we do have differentiation. Nobody in Australia will deny that servicemen serving overseas in war time, or at other times, should be granted concessional postage rates but, when it comes to workers’ compensation, repatriation benefits, and housing, a job in the regular Army is looked upon in the same way as a civilian job. For instance, if a member of the forces is injured in peace time he does not necessarily receive compensation under the Repatriation Act. It has been held that in peace time a member of the regular forces would be paid compensation under the Workers’ Compensation Act in the same way as a civilian employee is compensated. That being so, why should members of the forces at home be granted concessional postage rates for ordinary civilian correspondence? Only the other day I received an ordinary social letter from the wife of a serviceman, and it was posted at the concessional rate. 1 assume that the amount stated here does not include the recent increases, for they would not be known at the time when the Estimates were prepared, and it would seem to me that some explanation of this item is required.
I come now to compensation payable under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. The amount asked for is £107,000. I should like to know from the Minister whether members of the defence forces and employees of the Defence Department and the Department of the Army are insured as civilian workmen are insured under some workers’ compensation act. If so, is any of the money paid out in workers’ compensation recouped from insurance companies?
The next matter to which I wish to refer relates to the training of personnel at other than Australian Army establishments. The amount required for this purpose is £288,500. In my opinion, the amount is fantastic when we realize that men come from overseas to be trained here. For instance, lads come from New Zealand and elsewhere to be trained at the Royal Military College at Duntroon, yet the Government proposes expending £288,500 on the training of personnel at other than Australian Army establishments. I should like some explanation of that.
Then, in item 12, there is provision for payment to the Repatriation Department and others for medical and dental services. I can understand that when soldiers are seriously injured they should be transferred to our large repatriation hospitals where every facility is available, but £576,000 does seem to me to be a very large amount to spend in this way. Every Army camp, irrespective of size, is equipped with a hospital of some kind, and has medical officers and nursing sisters attached to it, yet this huge amount is being paid to the Repatriation Department for the treatment of members of the forces in repatriation hospitals in peace-time.
We on this side would not grudge the spending one penny of the £65,000,000 proposed to be expended on defence if we thought it was being spent wisely, but I am sure all honorable senators have been made aware of examples of wasteful expenditure from time to time, especially towards the end of the financial year. Recently I was told about a wild rush in Western Australia just before the 30th June to buy the best of furniture simply in order to spend the balance of the department’s allocation before 1st July. A responsible person whose name I cannot divulge, but for whose integrity I can vouch, told me that the order was: “ No matter how you spend the money, spend it. We have to get rid of as much as we can before the end of June.” I saw some of the articles of furniture that were purchased, and I know that they were of the very best quality.
I come now to the military camp at Swanbourne, in Western Australia. It is situated in a very fine residential area. The rifle range attached to it is a hazard to nearby residents, and the presence of the camp is retarding the development of the City Beach area. Protests have been made to local authorities in Western Australia with a view to having the barracks moved to some other site where the rifle range would not be a hazard to residents, and where development would not be retarded. I ask that an effort be made to find a more suitable site for this camp.
– Senator Cooke asked about the strength of the regular services. Last year, it was 21,500. This year we expect it to increase to 22,000. He also asked about the average cost of pay and training for each individual. It is £1,200 a year. The cost of recruiting was £310,000.The personnel requirements for 1959-60, as stated by the three services, and on which the recruiting estimates were based, are 1,826 for the Navy as compared with 1,608 in 1958-59; 3,667 for the Army as compared with 3,434 last year, and 1,502 for the Air Force as compared with 1,498 last year.
As to Senator Tangney’s question relating to concessional postage rates, I point out that concessional postage for members of the services has been in operation since World War II. Its purpose is to help the soldier who is away from home in such operational areas as Malaya.
The honorable senator also asked about the payment of compensation. The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act relates only to employees of the Commonwealth. As the Commonwealth’s policy is to carry all its own insurance risks, no insurance company is involved, and no premiums are paid.
As to the payment of the Repatriation Department and others for medical and dental services, the cost of medical service to army personnel in repatriation and civilian hospitals was £396,000.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Item 12 refers to “ Payments to Repatriation Department and others for medical and dental services, £396,000 “. That is comprised of an amount of £343,000 for medical examinations, attendance by area medical officers and civilian practitioners and supplies of medicine; £27,000 for dental services; and £10,000 for miscellaneous services.
.- I wish to raise the question of the continued occupation for defence purposes - I think by the Army, if not by other people as well - of a portion of Royal Park in Melbourne. I know the area well as I used to play sport there many years ago. It is a very valuable area because it is close to the industrial suburb of North Melbourne, and in the days before the war it was used by young people as a playing field.
The war has been over about fourteen years, but the Army is still occupying what was supposed to be temporary premises in one of Melbourne’s biggest parks close to the city. I can appreciate that it is a very convenient site. I understand that it was used - if it is not so used at present - as a recruiting centre, but the primary purpose of the area was its use as a public recreation area. Surely after a period of fourteen years it should be possible for the defence authorities to obtain alternative accommodation. I am not going to refer to Albert Park because Senator Kennelly refers to that matter with great force on occasions, but a similar situation exists there. The position with Albert Park is not as bad as that with Royal Park, which is an area which I feel should have been vacated a long time ago. I see no reason at all why the defence authorities after fourteen years should be still occupying temporary premises in a public park.
– They will not look for any other premises.
– I do not know what the reason is but I make a strong appeal to the Minister to insist that proper accommodation elsewhere be taken over. I point out that the Melbourne City Council is engaged at the present time in a programme of beautification of the remaining area of Royal Park. It is obvious that the council cannot do anything while the Army continues to keep these so-called temporary buildings spread over a very considerable area. In the interests of the citizens of Melbourne I hope that something will be done about this particular area.
I noticed in the memorandum that the Minister has supplied us with that he refers to the construction of new barracks at Watsonia. Watsonia is a fair distance from the city, but I hope that when the barracks are completed the Army will vacate whatever sections of Royal Park it occupies. The Watsonia area is well out of the city. I know that the local municipal council has to provide better road facilities. A considerable sum of money is involved, and I understand that the council has asked another department of the Government to assist it in finding the amount needed to build the necessary roads. As I said before, I hope that Watsonia will relieve the position at Royal Park, I have no hesitation in saying that I think that Royal Park should have been vacated years ago, and in the interests of the citizens of Melbourne it ought to be vacated at the earliest possible moment.
– I should like some information in relation to Division No. 501. We have been told that we have a regular army comprising 22,000 men. However, I am concerned about the 12,000 national service trainees. Apparently the national service staffs number 1,200. I do not suppose the Minister who represents the Minister for the Army here will be able to give the committee this information, but I do hope that something can be done to allay the fear in South Australia, at least, that national service training is to be discontinued. I say that with a great deal of feeling. I am fortified in what I am saying by the reference of the Minister for the Army to the fact that one of the greatest requirements of the Army is the building of homes for permanent military forces. I take it that that refers to at least some of the 12,000 who are on the national service staffs. The permanent buildings would include not only houses but also halls and other buildings on which enormous sums of money would have to be expended.
Public statements have been made in South Australia - not only by civilians - that national service training is to be scrapped. At the same time ,the Minister tells us of the urgent need to have houses built. But what is going to happen to the houses already in existence at Woodside Camp, I think the situation is, to say, the least, rather contradictory. I hope that the public of Australia will soon get an assurance from the right quarters, supported by an authoritative statement, that the national service training scheme is not to be scrapped either this year or in the near future.
Of the 22,000 men that we have in the permanent Army, 660 of them form part of the Pacific Islands Regiment. Adding together the number of the Infantry Brigade group in Australia and the Infantry Battalion group in Malaya, we have 5,406 men. Affiliated with the Infantry Brigade group are the Logistic Support Field Force units which number 1,110. If we add the 660 of the Pacific Islands Regiment we get a total of 7,176. That means that out of the 22,000 in the regular army approximately 15,000 are required to support the 7,000 active military personnel, which includes the 660 members of the Pacific Islands Regiment. The expenditure necessary to maintain this regular Army is, I suppose, rather heavy.
I think the Army has done a good job in increasing the pay rates and improving Conditions of employment. The Government is to be congratulated on what it has done in acting upon the various reports it has received. I go further and say that I hope that the people in high offices in the Army will use all their energies to make the national service training scheme a success and thus produce a scheme in the best interests of the country and in the best interests of the young lads who participate in the scheme.
I regret that, instead of 12,000 national service trainees, we did not have double the number. I think that it is up to those who are in responsible positions in the Army to collect instructors of the highest calibre to give more instruction in the nature of secondary education than orders to right turn and left turn. I am greatly perturbed at what is foreshadowed in South Australia, particularly in relation to the scheme under which houses are being built. It seems strange that whereas certain houses will be transferred to another department, under this item it is proposed to build other houses. It does not make sense to me.
– The Wish of Senator McManus has been granted. As soon as the Watsonia camp is finished, Royal Park will be vacated in its entirety.
– That is quick service.
– You have only to mention these things and we give service with a smile. It is all done for you. It is anticipated that the Watsonia camp will be finished by the end of the year.
National service trainees number 12,000. Senator Mattner asked whether national service training will be continued. I can only refer to the facts that I gave a moment ago and to the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the whole of the defence policy will be reviewed some time in November.
– The statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to which the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) referred provides me with some of the information that I wanted. No doubt Senator Mattner is not unmindful of the fact that the Anzacs were referred to as a ragtime army. But it would appear from the number of trainees that our Army is becoming more ragtime. From time to time, we have assumed that the defence policy of the Government provided that the reduced numbers of trainees would include a nucleus of experts who, if necessary, could be used for the expansion of the service through the instruction of a far greater number of personnel.
The present ragtime position seems to be that the army has scarcely any lines of communication except for those troops engaged outside Australia, who number 1,224 infantrymen. The personnel engaged in connexion with supplies, depots, stores, work-shops, head office training, and works, beat the infantry, not by a short head, but by about 900. This is a considerable margin in view of these small numbers. Perhaps it would be good to have a review of this matter to see whether we can keep some better balance in relation to defence. Then the ragtime situation, as indicated here, might look a bit better.
Can the Minister for Customs and Excise state whether there is a nucleus of trained personnel who could become officers and non-commissioned officers if we were called upon to equip a real army instead of a parody of an army? Could we provide the essential trained persons, as we have had to provide them in previous years, to put the Army onto a war footing? What is the number of trained specialists? Are they classified? Is there any Army outlook on that?
– I should like to ask the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) whether he could give us the number of commissioned officers and the number of other ranks in the Permanent Army at the present time. As he was able to grant the request of Senator McManus so promptly with regard to Royal Park, I should like to ask him whether he can give me any hope of the Army camp at Swanbourne being vacated at some early date in order to make that land available for development of the area by civic authorities.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 502, Civilian Services. On page 6 of the explanatory memorandum it is stated that about 500 civilians are employed in soldier vacancies. Can the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) indicate why civilians are employed in the soldier vacancies? ls it because of a falling-off in recruiting?
– I have a couple of queries. I notice that the matter of assistance to rifle clubs is tucked away.
– We are not down to that item. It is in the next division.
– That is all right as long as we get the opportunity to say something about it. I should like the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) to advise me on item 16, “Defence food research, £14,000”. I note that £27,000 was appropriated in 1958-59 and £20,658 was spent. Then we have item 6, “Rations, £1,855,000”. I am wondering whether we could obtain some information about that in view of the fact that I have drawn the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army to the matter and he has promised to obtain a reply for me. I hope he will do that at an early date. What is the reason for the amount of money on the estimates for research into food? Why has it been reduced? What is involved in the spending of this amount of nearly £2,000,000 on rations? As I said in asking my question the other day, a complaint has been made concerning the food supplied to the chaps who were recently in the operation at Puckapunyal. This subject has evoked a good deal of discussion. The popularity of the Army is not very high among these fellows. Could the Minister give me some explanation in advance of his answer to the question that I asked the other day?
– I can inform Senator Cooke that the total strength of the Army is 21,908. There are 2,659 officers and 19,249 other ranks.
In answer to Senator Tangney, we have no information on Swanbourne. There has never been a request to vacate it.
– That is always being talked about over there.
– That is all that I can say. The item an respect of rations covers the purchase of rations for members of the Australian Regular Army, for the Citizen Military Forces and for cadet training camps, schools and courses of instruction.
– The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) did not answer my query in respect of civilians employed in soldier vacancies. The Minister’s explanatory memorandum speaks of the employment of civilians instead of soldiers. Why has that happened?
– Civilians have been temporarily employed because of the shortage of soldiers in stores depots, workshops and construction squadrons which has resulted, in the main, from the diversion of soldiers to the Regular Army Brigade Group.
– When is the Minister likely to answer my question regarding food research?
– All I can say is that it is proposed that £14,000 shall be spent on defence food research. I must give the honorable senator further details later.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Grants to Rifle Clubs.
Proposed Vote, £35,000.
– The provision of £35,000 towards the expenses of rifle clubs will clear up a doubt which has existed in the minds of persons interested in such clubs. It was feared that the subsidy would not be continued this year; that in some way or other the activities of the clubs were to be curtailed, if not terminated altogether. Can the Minister tell me whether the subsidy is likely to be paid in perpetuity? It would be a tragedy if the rifle clubs were to go, because they do a great deal of voluntary work, and meet most of their expenses. I imagine that whatever system of defence is employed we shall always need the rifleman.
.- In common with Senator Pearson, I am pleased to see that the amount allocated for rifle clubs has been increased. Senator Pearson was apprehensive lest these very active clubs might go into the discard from lack of finance. Can the Minister explain the purpose for which the additional money has been allocated? He might be able to itemize it in some way.
I should have liked a greater amount than a mere £35,000 to be provided. It is not very much when it is spread over the whole of Australia. Rifle shooting is widespread. There are competitions each year in the various States for the Queen’s prize, which formerly we knew as the King’s prize. I do not know whether this sum is intended to provide for trips abroad by riflemen chosen to compete with other riflemen from other Commonwealth countries at Bisley. A separate grant may be made for that purpose.
Can the Minister say whether the smallbore rifle clubs are being supported and, if so, what proportion of the proposed expenditure is to be devoted to that activity? These clubs are growing in number throughout the Commonwealth, and musketry training should be encouraged in every way. I should be glad if the Minister would say something on that aspect.
.- The proposed vote for rifle clubs may not all be in the form of a donation. Part of it may represent rent which the Army has paid to rifle clubs for the use of ranges, some of which were established years ago in localities where no development had taken place. In a locality with which I am well acquainted, considerable development has since taken place, yet the Army still uses the range once or twice a year for both rifle and mortar shooting. It is, in fact, within the bounds of a township, and its use proves very disconcerting to the townspeople.
I know that no provision has been made for the establishment of Army ranges in the vicinity, but it is time that something was submitted to the Ti Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) so that money could be set aside for that purpose. There is ample scope, within the national service training depot, and other localities in the area, for the establishment of such ranges. I have directed attention to the matter now because, as time goes by, suitable land will become very scarce. The people living in the vicinity of the rifle range would be very relieved to know that the Army did not intend to use it again.
– Can the Minister give me any information concerning the provision of financial assistance for the building of access roads to the rifle range at Geraldton? The matter was first taken up by the Honorable Victor Johnson. Representations were later made to the Secretary of the Department of the Army by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Brown) and myself. That was some nine months ago. The possibility of making the necessary money available was to be looked into. Will the Minister be kind enough now to say whether consideration has been given to the matter and, if so, what form the access will take?
– I have no information regarding the access road to the rifle range at Geraldton. I can only refer the matter to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer).
The question of the future of rifle clubs has been raised. This matter has been receiving careful attention from the Commonwealth Government for a considerable time and it is hoped that a full statement on the matter will be made at a very early date. At the moment, I have no firm decision to announce to the committee. Grants to rifle clubs are mainly in respect of prize meetings. A similar grant was made last year but was included in another section of the Estimates. Further details will be given if honorable senators require them.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Health.
Proposed Vote, £1,991,000.
– I refer to Division No. 292- Quarantine. I invite the attention of the Minister to the desirability of federal aid in the fight against fruit fly. During the last twelve years, £2,000,000 has been spent in South Australia on a fruit fly control campaign. That money has been expended from the State Treasury grant. 1 think the time has come for the Federal Government to consider the control of this pest. In to-day’s Adelaide “ Advertiser “, the South Australian Minister for Agriculture is reported to have stated in the House of Assembly yesterday that he hoped that :he Commonwealth would take a more active part in fruit fly control and that the Commonwealth and States would assist in establishing a string of road blocks to protect the south-east corner of Australia, which is comparatively free of fruit fly. Of course, that would take the strain off South Australia and increase the State’s chance of remaining free of fruit fly.
I believe, Sir, that State Ministers of Agriculture will meet in Canberra in midNovember and at that meeting the South Australian Minister will bring this matter forward for discussion. Fruit fly blocks have been established in South Australia along the eastern boundary and also in the far west, at Ceduna. Fruit fly imported from other States have been detected at blocks at Ceduna and near Renmark. I understand that infestation is very bad in New South Wales and that in the Sydney metropolitan area there is scarcely a suburban garden that is completely free of fruit fly. There is a great deal of domestic fruit-growing in South Australia, and of course there are also large fruit-growing blocks on the river Murray. Fortunately, there has been no serious infestation in the State to date.
In my opinion, the combating of the fruit fly menace is a matter that could well be handled by the quarantine section of the Commonwealth Department of Health. At the moment, no vote is provided for that purpose. I have thought it appropriate to invite the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health to the problem as it affects South Australia and, by reference to the newspaper paragraph which I mentioned, to give notice to the department that apparently the South Australian. Minister for Agriculture will bring the matter forward in the near future.
I ask that the Minister consider this matter favorably because I feel that the prevention of fruit fly infestation in South Australia, and also in Victoria which, I understand, is comparatively free of the pest at the moment, may best be handled by means of a Commonwealth plan. I have illustrated how costly it is for a State with comparatively small financial resources, such as South Australia, to conduct an effective campaign without assistance. As I have said, South Australia has spent £2,000,000 in this way in the last twelve years. It is possible that economies :n expenditure of money for the control of fruit fly could be made if the attack were conducted on a co-ordinated, Commonwealthwide basis. I should be pleased if the Minister would bring before his colleague the points I have made.
– I want to ask the Minister a question regarding salaries. I wish to know whether, amongst the salaries for the hundreds of officers whose duties are not specifically detailed, there is included the salary for an expert adviser to the Government on mental diseases. The earlier truculence of the Minister has intimidated me, and I trust he will bear with me. I am not game enough to make a speech, but I should like to associate certain remarks with the question that I have asked. T hope that the answer will be in the affirmative, but T fear that it will be in the negative.
The Minister mentioned earlier that this Government had been returned with increased strength because of its performances, but I know that he is too intelligent to expect us to accept that statement at face value. He knows that it was propaganda, not performance, which returned the Government to the treasury bench. The Minister may say that the subject of my question is not one for the Federal Government. It would have been just too bad if the Chifley Government had said, similarly, that the anti-tuberculosis campaign was not a matter for it. Successive Menzies Governments have claimed great credit for their performances, although their achievements were merely the implementation of plans enunciated by the Chifley Government.
The Menzies Government, through the medium of Sir Earle Page, who was then Minister for Health, as early as 1954 appointed Dr. Stoller to make a comprehensive report on the facilities for the treatment of those suffering from mental diseases. Dr. Stoller made a particularly comprehensive report on the facilities for accommodation, recreational therapy, and administration, and all those features associated with the care of mental patients and the prevention of mental disease. He established that by 1965, as distinct from 1953, an additional 20,000 beds would be required for persons suffering from mental disease. Though Sir Earle Page may have seen a vision splendid in this respect, the performance of his successor has been poor. The Government agreed to give £10,000,000 for a building programme, if the States subscribed £20,000,000, but only a little more than £4,000,000 has been granted by the Commonwealth Government, which means that a total of only £12,000,000 has been spent. That would provide only 3,000 beds, although there was a shortage of 5.000 beds in 1955. So, we have not gone very far towards meeting the shortage.
When we think in terms of performance - that was the word used by the Minister - we remember that this Government has continued to take away the pension from pensioners who are admitted to mental institutions- Honorable senators opposite will, of course, say that previous government did the same thing. The previous Labour Government was faced with the responsibility of transferring 1,000,000 men and women from war-time occupations to peace-time callings, and certainly did not have available very much money for this purpose. The suc ceeding Menzies Governments over a period of ten years have managed to spend about £14,000,000,000. An amount of £4,000,000 for mental hygiene seems to be a very small proportion to allocate for such a particularly important purpose. The Menzies Government did manage to take away at least lOd. a day that previous governments used to allocate to those who were committed to mental institutions so, to say the least, the performance of this Government has not been very creditable. I thought perhaps that the Estimates this year might have provided money for the salary of an expert. This would have betokened a change of heart in those in control of the anti-Labour forces on the treasury bench. This tremendous issue is their responsibility, and these people in the community have a right to consideration. The answer may be that this is the responsibility of the States. A question of national importance is not the responsibility of the States. It is a national responsibility.
– Senator Laught raised the matter of fruit fly control, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Department of Primary Industry. It is proposed to appropriate £12,000 as the Commonwealth’s contribution towards the cost of the control and eradication research programme carried out under the direction of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. This is the final year of the three-year programme covering biological control with the liberation of parasites, also fruit fly biology and studies in control and eradication. This matter is under the control of the Department of Primary Industry. A similar amount has been allocated each year.
– It is at an end now, is it not?
– This is the last year of the three-year period. I am sorry if I scared Senator Dittmer, but I do not believe for a minute that I did. No salaried officer is employed by the Commonwealth for the purpose he mentioned. The Commonwealth contributes towards capital expenditure by the States on approved projects in relation to mental health on the basis of £1 for £3 provided by the States. At present the special appropriations have reached £1,113,300 in New South Wales; £2,137,946 in Victoria; £387,272 in Queensland; £415,199 in South Australia; £108,285 in Western Australia; and £236,072 in Tasmania; the total being £4,398,074.
– I wish to deal with the proposed vote for the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and its relation to civil defence. With other senators and members of the House of Representatives I attended a course at the civil defence school at Mount Macedon two years ago. We were addressed there by a very senior officer of the defence medical services. He stressed the extreme importance of the serum laboratories as a major civil defence project. He said that the serums and other medical supplies produced there were absolutely essential for defence against any form of attack. He also referred to the intense disappointment that was felt by defence medical authorities at the Government’s failure to comply with repeated recommendations that the serum laboratories be decentralized. Serum laboratories exist only at Royal Park, Melbourne. Some time ago it was thought necessary to extend considerably the facilities for producing serum and other necessary supplies. The Government decided to add to the existing buildings. That decision was described to us as tragic in view of possibilities for the future.
I have heard Ministers say that in their view there is no danger of an atomic attack upon Australia. Some have mentioned the astronomical amounts of money needed to do anything adequate in the way of civil defence. But one step that can obviously be taken is the decentralization of certain vital establishments. I cannot imagine anything more vital than the place where we produce serums for dealing with disease and all other kinds of essential medical supplies. I cannot understand why the Government is apparently ignoring the recommendations of authorities who should know, and who urged the decentralization of these laboratories.
Not even an atomic bomb would be needed to destroy at one blow the one place in Australia where these facilities are available. An ordinary bomb would wipe it all out, and there would be no place left from which we could get supplies. That is what we were told. If the Government will not grapple with the question of civil defence generally, at least it could decentralize such places as the serum laboratories. Why could we not have a branch of the laboratories, for example, near Canberra, or in some other place considered appropriate from a defence point of view? I think this is a valid criticism. I have raised the point once or twice before, but apparently nothing has been done. The Government, in providing increased facilities for production has added to existing buildings without facing the future. I hope that the Government will give urgent consideration to what appears to be an elementary precaution for ensuring that vital medical supplies are not cut off at one blow in an emergency.
.- The State health departments make tuberculosis tests at various periods. Not long ago, the Queensland Department of Health was conducting tests of this type on school children in north Queensland. On 8th October, I asked Senator Henty, who represents the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) in this chamber, a question about the matter, as I wished to ascertain his interest in the tests being carried out. In my question, I invited him to make a statement. I asked my question at about 11 a.m. on 8th October, and I observed from the Melbourne press that the Minister for Health made a statement in the House of Representatives at 8 p.m. on that day. So far, I have not received any information at all; my question has not been answered. Surely the Government has nothing to hide about its interest in the tuberculosis tests being carried out by the various State health departments.
I am looking now at Division No. 293 - Health Services, item 7 - “Publicity - Pamphlets - £13,000”. Perhaps the Minister will be so good as to tell me what the pamphlets will contain.
– I have made a note of the matter, Senator Benn, and I shall see that you get an answer to your question at the first opportunity.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Health.
Proposed Vote, £1,186,000.
– I should like to ask the Minister a question. Does he consider reasonably proportionate the proposed vote of £20,000 for item 14 - “Commonwealth Serum Laboratories - Research “? This institution stands almost famous throughout the world for its research work, particularly into antivenines. I point out that the proposed vote for tick eradication in New South Wales is £500,000.
– I refer to Division No. 636, item 1 - “ Medical research (for payment to the credit of the Medical Research Endowment Fund) - £213,500”. I am very interested to see the Commonwealth Government extend medical research in Australia. I should like the Minister to tell me what form the medical research financed by this fund is likely to take in this financial year. What research projects are likely to be embarked on, and the method of drawing from this fund? The officers of the Department of Health, who are very competent, are particularly interested in this research, and I think much research remains to be undertaken.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [11.54]. - I refer to Division No. 636, Item 14 - “ Commonwealth Serum Laboratories - Research - £20,000 “. I notice that both the appropriation and the expenditure on this item in the last financial year was £40,000, and I am wondering why the proposed vote for this financial year is so much less. I should think that research would be carried on continuously on a large scale.
I turn now to item 12 under that division - “ Assistance to Australian Red Cross - Blood Transfusion service - grants to States - £139,065 “. I should like to pay a very sincere tribute to the wonderful work that has been done by the blood transfusion service throughout Australia. The Australian Red Cross Society has done great work and, in the saving of life, the blood transfusion service has performed excellently. I wonder sometimes whether we realize how much the blood bank does to save life in so many cases.
I turn now to item 9 under this division - “ World Health Organization - £113,400”. Is the proposed vote for this financial year for the central part of the World Health Organization? I should like the Minister to inform me of the purposes on which this money will be expended.
– I refer to Division No. 636, item 5, “ Cattle tick eradication and control in New South Wales, Subsidy, £500,000”. A little while ago, Senator Dittmer referred to this proposed vote, which is less than the amount that was expended on this item in the last financial year. Only recently, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) said that in Australia the tick is costing us something like £10,000,000 per year. In view of that statement, I should be glad if the Minister would explain to me the reason for the reduced financial provision in this financial year. It seems to me that an increase is needed, rather than a decrease.
There is a measure of tick control in New South Wales, but it has not proved to be as effective as is necessary, judging from the degree of infection in cattle. At the moment, the tick menace is worse in the northern areas. If we cannot eradicate the ticks there, they will come down through New South Wales into areas conducive to the growth of ticks, and right down into Victoria. This is a vital matter.
– I inform Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin that the proposed vote of £113,400 for the World Health Organization, under Division No. 636, is for Australia’s contribution to the general fund of the organization. As to Senator Cooke’s questions, I shall arrange for answers to be sent to him by letter.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Senate adjourned at 11.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 October 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19591028_senate_23_s16/>.