23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister “McMuIlin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have received an expression of thanks from Mrs. Williams and family for the resolution of sympathy passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of her brother, the late Mr. T. F. Timson, M.B.E., M.P.
– I should like to ask a few questions which, although they fall to some extent within the domain of the Minister representing the Minister for Health, I Will direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate as this seems to be a matter over which the Government as a whole has a direct responsibility. Did the Minister notice a press statement a few weeks ago that Australia was a paradise for pill pedlars? Did the Minister read the statement made by Mr. T. A. C. Griffiths, president of the New South Wales Institute of Hospital Administration, that the drug bills of Sydney hospitals have risen 20 per cent, in the last two years despite the fact that there has been little increase in the cost of drugs? Is it a fact that there is a national tendency to live on drugs and that the cost of operating the Government’s pharmaceutical benefits scheme is mounting at a colossal rate? Is it a fact that it is estimated that this year 32,000,000 prescriptions will be written? Is it a fact, as reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 7th November last, that hundreds of aboriginal children in New South Wales are suffering from malnutrition and that thousands of vitamin pills are being administered to them? Is it not a fact that malnutrition amongst the aborigines is caused by faulty diet? Did the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization at one time study the diet of aborigines? Because of deterioration df health and the resultant economic waste brought about by lack of knowledge of what constitutes a proper diet and the growth of the pill and potion habit, will the Government consider the establishment, under the control of the C.S.I.R.O., of a department devoted wholly to the study of diet and the pill and potion taking habit of our people so that the health of the nation may be placed on a sound scientific base?
-I commence my reply by saying that I will undoubtedly take advantage of ministerial privilege by asking that the question be placed on the noticepaper, because nobody could be expected to answer offhand all the queries raised by the honorable senator. The question is a good one. Iti stating his question the honorable senator exhibited some facetiousness, but the question undoubtedly contained some good material.
I have not read the press statement to which Senator Brown referred. Like everybody else, I have my thoughts about the number of pills that people take on various occasions, and from time to time I wonder about my own weaknesses in that direction. We have to differentiate, of course, between patent medicines and pills and drugs prescribed by members of the medical profession. Senator Brown’s questions about the increased cost of drugs and the possibility of offsetting malnutrition by better prescriptions or better supervision of diet are, I think, worth consideration. Having made those few comments, I ask for the questions to be put on notice so that we can obtain answers from the Minister for Health and give them the thought that they warrant.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Is he able to inform the Senate of the outcome of the important talks that were held a few weeks ago between senior officials of the Department of Trade and the Department of Primary Industry and a trade mission from Formosa with the object of opening up promising new markets for Australian wool, wheat, beef and dairy cattle in Nationalist China?
– I knew that such talks were going on, but I am sorry to say that I have no information about the results that were obtained. If Senator Wardlaw will put his question on notice, I shall obtain such information as is available from the Department of Trade.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health by stating that, according to press reports of statements by the various State health authorities, the disease hepatitis is assuming serious proportions throughout Australia. Hepatitis is recognized as a virus disease, characterized by serious symptoms and consequent ill health, and even causing death. What action has been taken by the Commonwealth health authorities to counter the disease? Are efforts being made to separate the virus which causes hepatitis? Should separation be achieved, would this not be an important step towards developing a vaccine to provide immunity from attack?
– I had the opportunity quite recently of discussing with Dr. Donald Cameron the increase in the number of hepatitis cases. He assured me that at present no vaccine is available, as the virus has not been isolated. He told me further that personal hygiene is the most useful mode of prevention in the present state of medical knowledge, since it is believed that the virus responsible for the disease is harboured in the bowel. Washing of hands before eating and after going to the toilet is most important. Children require training in this regard, and adults should remember to be careful, especially when handling food.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. He will recall that a levy was imposed on coal for the purpose of building up a fund to cover the expenses involved in initiating the practice of stowage in the pits of northern New South Wales. I understand that the fund is about to be closed, that no further action is to be taken on this problem and that the money is to be disbursed. Has the Minister decided on what shall be done with the fund. Will the money be returned to the owners or will it be used for the purpose of developing the coal-mining industry?
– Senator Arnold’s information is apparently ahead of mine. As I understand the position, the levy was agreed upon and certain experiments were carried out. The rate of the levy was reduced but the levy is still continuing at the reduced rate even though there is not an immediate programme of work ahead. Rightly or wrongly, I sense throughout the coal industry a decline of enthusiasm for stowage experiments and a situation revealing that the experiments do not produce coal at an economic rate. I have heard nothing as yet to the effect that the levy is to be discontinued or that experiments will cease. I think that the matter has reached an interesting stage when every one concerned is thinking about what is the best thing to do.
– Who owns the money?
– The money is paid by the colliery proprietors.
– Who owns it now?
– That is a legal question. I think it belongs to the colliery proprietors, as they have paid it and it has not been used for the purpose for which it was levied. I should think it would have to go back to them, but if the honorable senator wants a definite answer, I ask him to place the question on the notice-paper.
– My question to the Minister for National Development relates to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. I understand that the authority is disposing of approximately thirty-six prefabricated homes - or it may already have disposed of them - which originally cost £3,000 each, being two bedroom and three bedroom units, at Tantangara, near Cooma, as they are not now required. I ask the Minister: Are these buildings being sold by private treaty, or by auction? Have other Commonwealth departments been alerted so that if any works projects are contemplated where residences are necessary these buildings could be acquired with the prospect of effecting a substantial saving of Commonwealth funds?
– I think that Senator Anderson is misinformed; the cottages are not the property of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. I remember the circumstances concerning them. These cottages, if that is the correct description of them - they are residences - were erected by the contractor for the Tantangara dam project. When work on the dam was finished, there was no further need for the residences, and in the ordinary course of events the contractor was then in the position of having to dispose of them. This is a situation which does not occur frequently on the Snowy Mountains project. It is not a matter for the Snowy Mountains Authority. It is a matter for the contractor, Utah Australia Limited and Brown and Root Sudamericana Limited (Joint Venture), to sell to the best advantage. The Snowy Mountains Authority and any other contractor on the scheme would have a right to buy the residences if they so desired.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. My attention has been drawn to the fact that the recently-developed township of Leigh Creek, in South Australia, is served by a railway siding known as Telford. The Minister will understand that this creates confusion for business people in Adelaide who consign goods and freight to Leigh Creek. Will the Minister ask his colleague in another place, to consider changing the name of the railway siding to that of Leigh Creek, with a view to avoiding confusion and to give the siding a name which more closely indentifies it with the township that it serves?
– I know that the Minister for Shipping and Transport is aware that confusion sometimes arises because of the fact that the railway station for Leigh Creek is known as Telford. However, I think that the question of changing the name is one in which the State authorities would be more interested than the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. It is within my recollection that in recent years in South Australia, because of confusion that arose from the similar names of two towns - one called Stirling and the other, Stirling North, which were separated by many miles - a proposal was made that the name of one of them, I think that of Stirling North, should be altered. However, as I recall it, the proposal was resisted by all parties which had an interest in the matter on the ground that because the town had been known by that name for so many years there was a sentimental attachment to it. I shall take the matter up with the Minister for Shipping and Transport, but I repeat that I believe the changing’ of the name is more a matter for the State authorities than for the Commonwealth.
– The railway line to Leigh Creek is run by the Commonwealth, of course.
– My question also is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Perhaps I will be permitted to make the question plain by prefacing it with a few relevant remarks. The Minister is aware, of course, that overseas ships trading interstate on the Australian coast have to obtain a licence to carry passengers or freight. At the present time, owing to various reasons, principally economic, the previously good fleet of passenger-carrying ships which operated on the Australian coast, has been reduced to one ship, the “ Kanimbla “. It is now quite easy for overseas ships trading interstate to obtain a licence, but the shipowners are prohibited from advertising the sailing times of their ships. Consequently, the fact that licences are readily granted is of little value to them. Will the Minister confer with his colleague and see whether that anomaly can be removed, so that the owners of overseas ships which carry passengers interstate will be allowed to advertise sailing dates?
– Earlier this week, Senator Marriott asked me a question somewhat similar to that just asked by Senator Kendall. I said then that I would make inquiries about the situation. It is true that, as a result of the decrease in the number of Australian passenger vessels operating on the Australian coast, licences are more readily available, first, to British registered ships and then, if no British registered ships are available, to ships of other flags. The department is aware of the circumstances described by Senator Kendall and discussions are at this moment proceeding with the interested parties to see whether an arrangement that will be more convenient to the public can be worked out.
– I address to the Minister for Customs and Excise a question relating to film censorship. Apart from the classification of films as being suitable for general, adolescent or adult exhibition, what are the main reasons for which films are censored? Is the chief reason for censoring films the need to protect young Australians from demoralizing influences? Since Australia, after some one and a half centuries, unhappily experienced recently its first case of kidnapping, which proved to be fatal, will the Minister say whether films depicting crime and violence are considered by the censors to be suitable for general exhibition? Will the Government ban the importation of such films into Australia and perhaps thus open the way for Australian film producers to produce film entertainment of a positive, pleasant and cultural type?
– The classification of films is undertaken by the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board for four States pursuant to legislation passed by those States. Unfortunately, although this work is done by the board, I believe there is still a great deal to be done by the States concerned in policing the exhibition of films once the board has classified them as being suitable, for general exhibition or suitable for children and so forth.
I note the honorable senator’s reference to the occurrence in Australia for the first time of the crime of kidnapping. The Com*monwealth Film Censorship Board has always been alert to new types of crime and new methods employed by criminals as depicted in films and has deleted such scenes in case they should be imitated in Australia. There has been a considerable tightening up of censorship procedures in regard to films depicting the crime of kidnapping. There is a great deal more in the honorable senator’s question to which I should like to reply after further consideration. It is most important that those other aspects of the matter should be dealt with. If the honorable senator places her question on the notice-paper, I shall get a considered answer for her.
– I address a supplementary question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it not a fact that hone of the States referred to by him has passed any legislation to police the exhibition of films or to make effective the decisions; of the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board? Is it not a fact that those decisions’ are completely ignored by the State governments? Is it not also a fact that the parents of children who view these pictures take very little notice of the classifications that are made by the board so that the classifications are, for all practical purposes, quite valueless?
– I think the honorable senator has summed up very well the answer to the question he asks. I do not think it is right to say that the State authorities have not legislative power to deal with this matter if they so wish. I believe some of them have that power. Some States have passed regulations which require the Commonwealth classification to be included in any advertisement for the films. No excuse can be made for parents who see the classification in the advertisement for the film and who do not guide their children accordingly. In some States not even that requirement exists and therefore the parent has not an opportunity to see what the classification is. As I said earlier, the States could do a lot more than they are doing. I feel that, as the honorable senator suggests, although this work is done at the request of the States it may just as well not be done except, of course, that in classifying a film we cut out a great number of scenes depicting violence and that sort of thing. I think that answers the honorable senator’s question.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen an article in the “ West Australian “ of 8th November, 1960, which states that Western Australia is getting an unfair aviation deal by the use of piston-engined DC6B aircraft instead of prop-jet Electras? Is it a fact, as stated in the same newspaper, that the increasing use of DC6B aircraft is partly due to the cross-charter agreement reached by the major internal airlines earlier this year, and partly due to the high profitability of these aircraft on the Perth run? Is it not a fact that the decision to import Electras was made because it was recognized that there was a need for suitable medium-range aircraft on the longer routes, particularly the route to Perth, with ability to fly above bad weather, thus obviating the need for aircraft flying between Adelaide and Perth to. land at Kalgoorlie for refuelling, as has been the case in more than 20 per cent, of these flights this year?
– I have seen the article referred to. Prior to its publication I had an interview with the gentleman who wrote it. I regret very much that he did not publish some statements made in that interview which placed the matter in an entirely different light. Coming immediately to the questions asked by Senator Tangney, I suggest that she avoid making the error of relying on a false premise, as did the author of the article.
– That is why I asked the question.
– Exactly. It is quite wrong to say that the Electra aircraft were bought for use particularly on the longer runs. What the Government said at the time was that it was looking for an aircraft which could operate on ‘the longer runs as well as on the shorter runs, and that an aircraft of that type would be of particular advantage on ‘the longer runs, including the Perth run. It was never intended or stated that aircraft should be bought for any particular run. We emphasized that our first need was to buy aircraft of a type which would cater for all the runs within the Australian air pattern. That is why the Electra aircraft were purchased. The crosscharter negotiations had nothing to do with the situation. Indeed, if the cross-charter deal has had any effect on the east-west run, it has had the effect of reducing the DC6B capacity which is available for that run, because of the adaptability of this type of aircraft to the New Guinea trunk route, on which both the airlines concerned are now operating.
Turning to the third point raised by’ Senator Tangney and referred to in the article, I should like to make it perfectly clear that in Australia we regard a 68 per cent, load factor as desirable. Incidentally, that figure is accepted by the airlines. The load factor on the Perth route is the lowest of the load factors on the trunk routes in Australia. During three weeks, the most recent of which was the week ended 21st October, the load factors on the Perth route were 57 per cent., 49 per cent, and 51 per cent. Despite that, one-third of the aircraft, services to Western Australia is performed; by Electra aircraft. 1 am very sorry that the feature article did not refer in any way to that very pertinent point. I made it quite clear to the gentleman who wrote the article: that that was the fact of the matter. H& asked me whether he could use those figures: and I told him that he. could.. When he got back to his office, in order to be perfectlysure, he telephoned me and asked me again whether he could use the figures and I said! “ Yes “. It is a matter of mystery to me - although on reflection it is not so mysterious - that the figures were not used. I do not think their omission is entirely unconnected with the reign of terror which exists within the “West Australian” newspaper office, of which the honorable senator would be as much aware as is any other honorable senator.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether the statement which he has just made in reply to my question will be given to the press as a ministerial statement? I feel that as a ministerial statement it could not be suppressed. I believe that its publication would do a good deal to correct wrong impressions that might be gained from the article to which I have referred.
– I propose to take other action in respect of which I will ask for the co-operation of the “ West Australian “ and patiently await the result.
– I direct a question without notice to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has recently issued 26 new television licences for country areas in Australia? Is it a fact that all those licences have been granted to areas in the eastern half of Australia? In view of the growing importance of Western Australia and South Australia, will the Government consider increasing the number of licences to 30 and giving two licences each to Western Australia and South Australia, thus avoiding what is popularly called in financial circles the need for those two very important States to perform a takeover of the balance of Australia?
– The solution of this problem is not as easy as would appear from Senator Scott’s question. I ask him to remember that great technical, as well as commercial, issues are involved in it. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board took a lengthy period to make the public inquiries which it is called upon to make by the provisions of the legislation under which it operates. When the decision to issue country television licences was made, part of that decision was that there had to be a public inquiry into the technical aspects and also into the eligibility and desirability of the various applicants. It was known at the time that the completion of those inquiries would take a good deal of time. We did not think the inquiries would take as long as they actually did. But we had to make a start somewhere. First, applications were called in the eastern States. It would have been impracticable to inquire into the position in all States concurrently. The task of the board, as far as the granting of the licences is concerned, is finished in the eastern States; but its work is by no means finished at this stage. All that has happened so far is that a determination has been made as to which companies will be granted licences. The board still has a good deal of work to do in sorting out with the successful companies their shareholding arrangements and the details of the terms and conditions under which they will operate.
We all have a great regard for Western Australia and South Australia, and those States may rest assured that the Government will proceed with the provision of television in their country areas as soon as it is possible to do so. I do not think it is fair to say that they have been neglected in not being included in the early decision because it would be impossible to deal with all of Austrafia at the one time. I am sure that the board will get on with the job for those States as soon as it possibly can.
– I wish to ask a question which is supplementary to that asked by Senator Scott. Will the Minister inform the Senate approximately when the next phase will commence, embracing the construction and establishment of television stations in country areas in South Australia and Western Australia?
– I do not think it is possible for any one to give that information at this stage. The job has to be done properly. Arrangements in respect of the licences that have been already granted must be adequately finalized having regard to the importance of the matter and the technical considerations and commercial arrangements that have yet to be completed. I do not think that anybody can say how long the board will take to do those things. All we can say is that the board will go ahead as quickly as possible and will then give consideration to the other States. When it turns to those States it must follow a certain procedure. Under the terms of the act adequate publicity must be given so that anybody interested may apply for a licence. There must be adequate inquiry and preparation on the technical level.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will the Minister give detailed information concerning a report appearing in to-day’s press which intimates that a conference is pending between Commonwealth and State representatives in order to frame uniform company law to be made operative throughout the Commonwealth?
– I am afraid that Senator Sandford has me somewhat at a disadvantage. I was under the impression that a number of conferences had already been held. I thought that agreement had been substantially reached. I thought that some of the States had actually reached the stage at which legislation had been introduced. My recollection was that a further conference is to be held in Hobart in February next and that it will be in the nature of a tidying-up conference to exchange views on the experience gained by the States on the matters in respect of which they have already reached agreement.
– I address a question without notice to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I invite his attention to the fact that the Estimates for the year commencing on 1st July, 1960, are still under consideration in this chamber. Is it not a fact that the effect of this is that final parliamentary approval for the details of the expenditure of many millions of pounds of public money is still withheld? Is it not also a fact that the House of Representatives completed consideration of the Estimates on 13th October last and that although this chamber proceeded on the next sitting day to consider the Estimates, it is still uncertain when we will finish consideration of them, including those relating to capital works and services? In view of the long delay in dealing with these matters, will the Minister give very careful consideration to devising ways, means and methods by which the Estimates may in future be discussed in this place concurrently, or nearly concurrently, with discussions taking place in the House of Representatives?
– All I can say is that I will consider Senator Laught’s suggestion. Expressing an opinion off the cuff, it seems to me that to adopt his suggestion would be impractical in terms of parliamentary procedure, because the Appropriation Bill must be passed by the House of Representatives before it is sent here for our consideration. I think it would create difficulty if honorable senators were to discuss in committee the contents of a bill that may still conceivably be rejected or amended by the House of Representatives before it is officially sent to us. However, I will give some thought to the matters raised by the honorable senator. I should point out to him that though the mills of God grind slowly in the legislative field, and it takes a long time for bills to go through the Parliament, the Government has supply until 30th November for its normal services. Therefore the normal processes of government are not being delayed. The requisite money is provided in the supply bills and work is proceeding.
– My questionis directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation and relates to the city terminal building used by Trans-Australia Airlines in Phillipstreet, Sydney. I preface my question by saying that as a direct result of greatly increased air travel in recent years this terminal has become inadequate from the point of view of size and the availability of amenities, such as refreshments, for air travellers. I ask the Minister whether plans have been drawn up for improving this terminal. I understand that some plans have been made. If I am correct in this belief, will the Minister say when it is expected that work on improving the terminal will commence?
– I am very much aware that for some time Trans-Australia Airlines has been greatly inconvenienced by the fact that its city terminal premises in Sydney have not been adequate. T.A.A. is now negotiating for the lease, if I remember correctly, of two properties adjoining its city office so that it may provide more accommodation for the convenience of the public and its staff.
– And for peaceful picketers!
– That is a matter with which Senator Ormonde is more familiar than I am. Differences of the kind suggested by the honorable senator’s interjection do not exist on my side of politics. I understand that the architect will have available plans for the additions to the terminal early in the new year.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the .Treasurer, upon notice -
Having regard to the report of the Commonwealth Statistician that the average weekly earnings in Australia now amount to approximately £22, what is a comparable figure in the United Kingdom, Australia’s main export market?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
Particulars of average weekly earnings in the United Kingdom as available from the results of any inquiry made by the Ministry of Labour in April, 1960, are not comparable with those for Australia as published by the Commonwealth Statistician. The latter series relates to all employees, both adults and juniors, and includes salary earners as well as wage-earners, while the former relates to manual workers only, particulars for adult and junior males :being shown separately, but not combined. Comparable figures on this basis for Australia are not available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Minister for the Interior has furnished the following reply: -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion toy Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time. The Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Act, which this bill proposes to amend, provides that a tax, known as the stevedoring industry charge, shall be paid by stevedoring employers on the man-hours worked by registered waterside workers employed by them. This charge, which now stands at 2s. 6d. per man-hour is collected monthly by the Taxation Department and paid to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. Virtually the whole of the income of the authority is derived from this charge. The authority is responsible for the payment to waterside workers of attendance money and for payments in relation to their annual leave, sick leave and statutory holidays. It also incurs expenditure in connexion with its regulatory and administrative functions but the payments to waterside .workers which I have mentioned absorb most of its funds.
The stevedoring employees some time ago pointed out to my colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service that among 22,000 registered waterside workers were nearly 200, distributed among six ports, who were permanently employed on weekly hiring. The employers submitted that for a number of reasons they should not be required to continue paying the levy on the man-hours worked by these permanent men. The work performed by the permanent employees sometimes goes beyond that which is normally done by waterside workers. They are paid at a weekly, as distinct from an hourly rate. They work a 40-hour week. Once allotted by the Stevedoring Industry Authority to an employer they stay with him more or less indefinitely. No attendance money is paid to these men and their annual leave, sick leave and holiday pay are paid by their employers. The balance of the authority’s functions bear only very indirectly >on the employment of permanent waterside workers.
It is clear, therefore, that the responsibility of the authority in relation to these waterside workers in terms of financial cost is really only marginal and in fact the employers in having to pay the charge are paying, and have been paying for years, a tax for which they receive practically nothing in return. In particular, they are paying twice for their employees’ annual leave, sick leave and holiday pay and are paying for the cost of attendance money which their permanent employees never receive.
The Government has, therefore, decided to exempt the stevedoring employers from payment of the charge in respect of their permanent employees and in respect of whom the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority is under no obligation to pay attendance money and annual sick and statutory holiday leave entitlements and the purpose of this bill is to enable that to be done. I might add that this concession will relate to only a fraction of 1 per cent, of the waterside labour force and will be equivalent to a reduction of £40,000 in a total collection of about £3,750,000. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 9th November (vide page 1475).
Department of External Affairs.
Proposed Vote, £2,943,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of External Affairs.
Proposed Vote, £2,158,300.
International Development and Relief.
Proposed Vote, £5,552,500.
Economic Assistance to Support Defence Programmes South-East Asia Treaty Organization Member Countries.
Proposed Vote, £650,000.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of Labour and National Service.
Proposed Vote, £2,497,000.
Post Discharge Re-settlement Training.
Proposed Vote, £1,000.
Ordered to be considered together.
– I refer to Division No. 401 - Administrative - sub-division 3, item 03 - “ Ministry of Labour Advisory Council - Expenses, £1 1,000 “. Last year, of the vote of £12,400, only £1,374 was expended. Will the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) inform me whether the present Ministry of Labour Advisory Council is the same council - as I think it is - that was established some years ago, composed of representatives of employers’ organizations and the trade union movement, per medium of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and also possibly representatives of other bodies? My understanding of the position is that the council has not served any useful purpose since the trade union movement decided to withdraw from it. I might say in passing - again assuming that the present council is the one that was established some years ago - that the trade union movement withdrew from the council because of the use that was being made, of its decisions by members of the Government both in this chamber and in another place. I would like the Minister to inform me why, as only £1,374 of last year’s vote of £12,400 was expended, an appropriation of £11,000 is sought for this year.
I refer now to Division No. 402 - Public Service Arbitrator’s office - item 01 - “ Salaries and Payments in the Nature of Salary, £12,600”. The proposed vote includes provision for temporary and casual employees and a minor item referring to extra duty pay, for which the provision is £100. On referring to page 200 of this bill - “ Schedule of Salaries and Allowances “ - I notice that the amount of £10,700 for salaries and allowances in relation to the Public Service Arbitrator’s office does not include the salary of the. Public Service Arbitrator, although it does include the salary of the Assistant to the Public Service Arbitrator. It must therefore be assumed that the total cost of salaries and payments in the nature of salary for the Public Service Arbitrator’s Office is much in excess of the proposed vote of £12,600 for item 01 of Division No. 402. Prior to the operation of the Public Service Arbitration Act 1952, any determination made by the Public Service Arbitrator became law provided it was not disallowed by this Parliament within a certain period. The 1952 legislation I have mentioned altered that position by providing that an appeal might be made against determinations by the Public Service Arbitrator to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, now the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The following passage appears in Section VII. - “ Remuneration and Conditions of Employment “ - of the annual report of the Public Service Board for 1959-60: -
The Board has previously reported the existence of a number of claims for general marginal increases, certain of which, on the application of the associations concerned, had been referred to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Claims were also before the Commission on reference affecting “ white collar “ workers in industry.
Subsequent to this, claims by the A.C.T.U. in relation to the margins of employees under the Metal Trades Award were also referred to the Commission. With the concurrence of the other unions involved in the marginal references the Metal Trades case was heard first, the hearing commencing in August, 1959. On 27th November, 1959, the Commission handed down its decision, the general effect of which was that margins in Part T. of the Metal Trades Award were increased by 28 per cent.
When handing down the decision the President of the Commission said - “ I now wish to refer shortly to cases concerning the Commonwealth Public Service which are before the Commission but which cannot by reason of the Statute come before this bench. For that reason I must speak in this regard for myself as President of this Commission charged amongst other things with constituting benches and fixing times and places of hearing. The Commonwealth Public Service Board, subject to the process under the Public Service Arbitration Act, can fix wages for its employees and performs its functions in a field in which conferences with a view to conciliation have always been encouraged.”
It appears to me that, since the introduction of the 1952 legislation I have mentioned, the Public Service Arbitrator merely rubber stamps decisions made by the arbitration tribunal. Whilst I do not canvass the merits of the case, I do not agree with the idea that decisions affecting public servants should be in line with decisions affecting many groups of industrial workers. The two sections of the community have completely different functions. Yet an appeal may be made from a decision of the Arbitrator when a party considers that the determination is out of line with a decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Therefore, the Arbitrator, in making his determinations, merely rubber stamps the decisions of the arbitration tribunal. In those circumstances, I feel, the Public Service Arbitrator’s office is a very expensive rubber stamp to maintain at the expense of the taxpayers of Australia.
– I notice, Sir, that the department concerned still rejoices in the name, “ Department of Labour and National Service “. I wonder whether there is any significance in the second part of that name. We have no national service, as such, in Australia - regrettably, I am afraid, yet that is one of the facts of life. I am interested to know why the department still retains this part of its name. Of course, there may be some departmental activity going on, of which we are not aware, that has some connexion with the function of national service. If that is the case, I should be very grateful if the Minister for Customs and Excise will inform me what activities by this department are regarded as national service. If the department has completed its administrative activities relating to its function of national service, I suggest that that part of its name be dropped, being no longer of any significance.
.- Naturally, the Department of Labour and National Service performs a number of activities in connexion with the maintenance of industrial peace. I presume that one of its activities is to advise the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) or other persons concerned of industrial conditions which are unjust or which do not contribute to the effective working of any particular section of Commonwealth employees. I read recently in a publication of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia that representatives of the Government - I presume they were officials of the Department of Labour and National Service - were having talks with the federal council of the federation regarding pensions for the members of that Union. I was interested, because the matter of pensions for waterfront employees was originally brought forward by the industrial group in the federation. Mr. Jim Healy, who has to face re-election very shortly, has decided to seize his opponents’ policy and is seeking the assistance of the department in providing himself with a good election cry. We shall not worry about that. If the people in the Waterside Workers Federation who deserve pensions get them, we shall be quite happy and will let Mr. Healy have his election cry.
I wish to refer to the conditions relating to workers’ compensation which are endured by a number of employees of the Commonwealth at the present time. I think that the workers’ compensation law for Commonwealth employees is very unsatisfactory and that the Department of Labour and National Service ought to inquire into it with the object of improving it. The workers’ compensation law affecting Commonwealth employees is infinitely inferior to the law that is applicable to employees of the Victorian Government. The Victorian law, for which credit must be given to the Cain Labour Government which was in office some years ago, though not perfect, is nevertheless a good law and provides for very much better conditions than those that the Commonwealth offers to its employees.
– In what respect is the Victorian law better than the Commonwealth law?
– In almost every respect. The Victorian law obviates the unnecessary and disgraceful delays which frequently occur in the payment of compensation to injured Commonwealth employees. An employee of the Victorian Government who is hurt receives sustenance almost from the time he is hurt, whereas Commonwealth employees must suffer lengthy delays before they receive assistance.
– Is that a matter for the amendment of the law or for improvement of its administration?
– I should say that if the Department of Labour and National Service is really concerned to preserve industrial peace, it should prepare a statement on the deficiencies of the Common wealth workers’ compensation law and present it to the Government, with the object of having improved legislation introduced. If such legislation were introduced, I think that every member of the Senate would vote for it. I cannot understand why there has been so much delay in placing the Commonwealth compensation law on a proper basis.
The only other matter to which 1 want to refer is one that was mentioned last night by Senator Ridley. The honorable senator referred to remarks that I had made concerning the union membership of Mr. Chamberlain. I raise the matter now because the Department of Labour and National Service frequently has to negotiate with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and, naturally, it is essential that the members of the executive of the A.C.T.U. should be unionists. One would think that that would be elementary. Senator Ridley said last night -
So, irrespective of whether Senator Vincent or Senator McManus believes Joe Chamberlain is a unionist, certainly the executive of the A.C.T.U. accepted him as a unionist. In addition, the conference of trade unionists, held every two years, accepts him as a trade unionist.
I ask Senator Ridley: How can a man be accepted as a unionist if he is not a member of a union?
The fact that the A.C.T.U., or the biennial conference of that body, allowed him to appear under the impression that he was a unionist, does not make him a unionist. Let me give the facts, which I have obtained from the relevant union. Senator Ridley has been the secretary of a union -
– I was also a member of the A.C.T.U. executive at the time that the matter you are speaking about was raised.
– I am glad of that, because Senator Ridley will know that the A.C.T.U. does not decide the eligibility of a man to belong to a union. The union decides it. If there is any doubt, or if a dispute arises on the question, it might go to a court; but the A.C.T.U. does not decide whether a man is a unionist or not. I have been to the secretary of the State branch of the Clerks Union and also to a member of the federal council of that union, and they have told me that this matter has been a sore point with the union for years. While the union covers persons such as those who work in the offices of the Australian Labour Party, Mr. Chamberlain consistently refuses to join the union covering his calling.
– He was in another union, though, was he not?
– Wait a moment. Mr. Chamberlain was a tramway employee when he became secretary of the Western Australian branch of the Australian Labour Party. He did what every one of us does, and as I did when I became an assistant secretary of the A.L.P. My union - the Teachers Federation - wanted me to remain a member, and I am still a financial member of that union; but I also joined the Clerks Union, the union covering my calling. I pay contributions to two unions. Mr. Chamberlain did the same thing. However, the secretary of the Western Australian branch of the union has informed me that in about 1950 there was big trouble in the union caused by an attempt by the Communist group to take over. In the middle of the struggle, Mr. Chamberlain, whose vote would have been valuable in helping to keep the Communists out, resigned from the union without explanation.
From that time on he. was not a unionist. He sat on the executive of the A.C.T.U. He stood for election and was elected to represent the trade union movement at the conference of the International Labour Organization. He attended the biennial conferences to which Senator Ridley referred, and he was not a member of a trade union. The rules of the Labour Party have always provided that in order to be a member of the party a person has to join the union that covers his calling. Yet, Mr. Chamberlain is still not a member of a union.
– Probably nobody would have him.
– I wish Senator Vincent would let me deal with this matter.
After the I.L.O. conference, I spoke to Mr. Shortell, a member of the executive of the A.C.T.U. I said, “How does it happen that a man who is not a member of a trade union can have his expenses paid to represent Australian trade unionists abroad? “ Mr. Shortell defended Mr. Chamberlain, just as Senator Ridley did. He said, “That could not happen. He is a member of a union.” Apparently, he discussed the matter with Mr. Monk, who also would not believe that Mr. Chamberlain was not a unionist. They found out the facts, and Mr. Shortell came back and apologized. He said: “ I am sorry. He has been on our executive for years, he has been to the I.L.O., and he is not a member of a union.”
Senator Ridley said ; and this is the most remarkable statement I have ever heard made by a member of the Labour Party - that he is a unionist because the executive of the A.C.T.U. accepted him. I ask Senator Ridley: Of what union was he a member?
– Do not bring politics into it.
– Well, I have asked Senator Ridley and the honorable senator has said that Mr. Chamberlain is a unionist. I have asked him to state the name of the union of which Mr. Chamberlain is a member, and Senator Ridley is dumb.
After Mr. Monk and Mr. Shortell had told Mr. Chamberlain that he could not be a member of the executive of the A.C.T.U. unless he was a unionist, he took the first available aeroplane back to the west. What did he do? He did not join the union covering his calling. He did not pay money, as most of us do. He has two friends, one of whom, I understand, is the secretary of the engine-drivers union and the other the secretary of the timber workers, union and he has since announced that he is an honorary member of the engine-drivers union and an honorary member of the timber workers union. I know Mr. Chamberlain. He may chop off heads, but he does not chop wood. Whatever engine he drives, I can tell honorable senators that the one he is driving in the A.L.P. he has put completely off the rails.
– I rise to a point of order. It is very rarely that I do so. Will you kindly inform me, Mr. Chairman, what proposed appropriation we are discussing at the present time?
– Order! As far as I can gather, Senator McManus is discussing union activities. As the Department of Labour and National Service is closely associated with industry generally, I rule that he rs in order.
– I- am pointing out, Mr. Chairman, that it is not possible for the Department of Labour and National Service to negotiate with the A.C.T.U. unless it is sure that the officers of that body with whom it is negotiating are members of trade unions. I am sure Senator Benn will agree with me when I say that that must be done.
– Mr. Chamberlain frequently exercises his right to tell other people what they should do. He takes a firm stand against people who he says have - shall I use the term - ratted on Labour principles. In relation to what principle could a man rat more than the principle that a person should belong to the union which covers his calling? What section of the Labour Party in Australia does not say that, for a man to be a member of the party, he must be a member of the union that covers his calling?
– You do not seem to like him, Frank.
– I suggest that the honorable senator should read some of the things that Mr. Chamberlain has sard about me. But I do nol mind them. Some one said that I should not attack him in his absence. I sat in a court in Melbourne and heard him refer to a long list of people as being rate, but none of them was present.
– He has apologized for that.
– Yes. He explained that he was trapped - that he was asked about the Queensland fellows first and he said they were rats, and that naturally he had to say that Kim Beazley, Senator Cooke and so on were rats. If you read the transscript, you will fmd that he was not asked about the Queensland fellows first.
– I rise to a point of order.
– You cannot take it.
– I can take it. Can you, Mr. Chairman, connect the latest remarks of Senator McManus with anything appearing under the proposed votes we are now discussing?
– Order! The only portion of Senator McManus’s speech which is out of order is the last part. His refer ence to court activities is definitely out of order.
– I shall conclude by pointing out once again that Mr. Chamberlain, the federal president of the Australian Labour Party, sat on the A.C.T.U. for years without being a unionist, that he stood for selection as a delegate to a conference of the I.L.O. and had his expenses paid without being a unionist, and that he has participated in negotiations-
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired. *
– I should like to deal with some of the matters that have been raised before the list gets too long. Senator Vincent referred to the use of the term “ Department of Labour and National Service”. The department is responsible for national man-power planning, the maintenance of full employment, the national service training scheme, and planning for the use of man-power in times of emergency. The present title for the department was adopted when the national service training scheme was introduced, and it is still considered to be appropriate.
Senator Ridley referred to Division No. 402 ; Public Service Arbitrator’s Office. As he pointed out, the salary of the Public Service Abritrator is not provided for in that division. Provision for a salary of ?5,900 has already been made in the Public Service Arbitration Act. That sum should be added to the proposed appropriation in order to obtain the total cost of maintaining the Public Service Arbitrator’s office. The honorable senator also asked me about the significance of the item “ Ministry of Labour Advisory Council - Expenses “ which appears in Division No. 401, particularly as this body has ceased to operate. I am informed that the proposed sum includes provision for the rounding off of the expenses of the council. Provision for this body has been made in the Estimates this year because the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) believes its work is important and is hopeful of resuscitating it. If he is successful, provision will have been made for it.
asked whether the department was interested in industrial peace. I point out that during the time that Mr. Harold Holt and Mr. McMahon have administered this portfolio there has been a very good record of industrial peace in Australia. I believe a great deal of the credit must go to the department for the negotiations that have been conducted with various bodies and for the establishment of the public relations which have brought about industrial peace. Senator McManus made his point in regard to the other matter he raised, and I do not think his remarks call for any reply from me.
– I note that the Department of Labour and National Service is seeking an appropriation this year of the sum of £2,497,000. It will be noted that that is approximately £57,000 more than was expended last year. On occasions I ask questions about unemployment in Queensland. Invariably I am furnished with replies which set out the number of employees in various parts of the State, but those replies never satisfy me wholly. There is always the thought in my mind that the figures supplied by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Mc Mahon) are incorrect. Nevertheless, I accept them, because it is the standard practice of the department to calculate the number of unemployed persons in a certain way and, after collaborating with the Department of Social Services to some degree to ascertain the number of persons who are in receipt of unemployment benefit or who have lodged applications for the benefit and will receive it in due course, to furnish that information to the Minister. I should like to see the appointment of a select committee of the Senate to ascertain the exact procedure followed by the Department of Labour and National Service in calculating every month the number of persons unemployed. If I were allowed to enter an office of the department, it would not take me more than ten minutes or a quarter of an hour to find out exactly what method is followed, for the simple reason that I did this class of work many years ago. When I ask questions about the number of unemployed, in the hope of gaining employment for unemployed workers of Queensland, I am always informed that it is not the function of the Commonwealth Government to provide employment for unemployed workers. It is stressed that it is the function of State governments to do their best to provide this employment.
– That is not right.
– That is what I am always told.
– Why then do we have the Commonwealth Employment Office?
– I am pleased to hear that from the Minister who is in charge of these estimates because that is my question. He has officers of the department sitting beside him and he will be told what to tell me in a minute or two. I am told that the Commonwealth Government’s duty is to provide the State governments with funds to allow them to engage in public works to absorb the unemployed, and that there the Commonwealth’s duty to unemployed workers ceases. That is the information that is always supplied to me and, as a very simple person, I have always wondered why it is not also the Commonwealth’s function to see that unemployed workers are employed, especially in view of the economic aspect. Under the Social Services Act, the Commonwealth Government is required to provide unemployment benefit. Incidentally, the benefit now being provided is out of all relation to present living costs. Why does the Government continue to pay these sums instead of providing only a few thousand pounds, or perhaps a few hundred thousand pounds, for the purpose of giving fulltime employment and so increasing the productivity of the Commonwealth? It is a matter of passing the buck. The Commonwealth passes the buck to the States. When members of State parliaments raise the unemployment question, they are always told that the Commonwealth does not provide sufficient funds for the States to relieve unemployment to the extent which they would wish. So unemployed workers, especially those in Queensland, are in a cleft stick. It is not the function of the Commonwealth Government to provide them with work. The State governments say that they do not get enough money from the Commonwealth for the capital works needed to absorb the unemployed. It is a sorry state of affairs for the unemployed.
This department is dithering about and interesting itself in matters other than providing work for the unemployed. Production committees were established. This department was one of those called in to advise the Government about the establishment of some kind of advisory board on the question of production. 1 do not know that the department can do any more than collect statistical information and pass it out, coloured perhaps to suit its own purposes. A Government supporter a little while ago raised a very important matter. There is no national service now. That part of the title of this department should be deleted.
I intend to tell the people of the Commonwealth what it costs the Government in salaries paid to officers of this department who engage in what is a national hoax, because they do not engage the labour that they claim to engage. I shall tell the Senate how the department operates. In the Ingham district of north Queensland there are two sugar mills, and there is an office of the department in the town, manned by an employment officer and his staff. Ordinarily they do not engage any labour. Certainly, men are registered in the office as being unemployed. They must be registered in order to qualify for unemployment benefit. But the figures are so arranged as to show at the end of the year that the office has engaged every hand working at the mills, whereas it does not engage one, and it claims the total number of hands employed in the mills as a credit on the engagement side. In the harvesting sector of the sugar industry, the office does not engage one cane cutter, because all the cane cutters have to be signed on at the mills. The men recruit and fill their own gangs and get them signed on, but the department claims credit for the engagement of every hand. A similar practice is followed with public works. The office might find a hotel yardman and have him engaged, and it might find an odd female employee, but officers do not go out into the industries and ascertain actual vacancies. Upon asking questions, we find that the department has vacancies recorded on its books. I have been informed that they collect particulars of the vacancies shown on their books from the pages of the daily press. Whether or not that is true, I do not know, but if it is the department is practising a double hoax and it is time that the Senate put its foot down and appointed a select committee to investigate the department from beginning to end, because, as I shall now show, this is a very costly hoax.
– Are you suggesting that this position applies elsewhere than in Queensland?
– I have stated my suggestion. That is a very reasonable question, but I am limited to a quarter of an hour and I shall answer the question later if I have the opportunity. This Department of Labour and National Service has a secretary, whose salary is £5,500; six assistant secretaries, whose salaries will amount to £21,170 this year, sixty-four executives and senior administrative officers, whose salaries will amount to £150,360; 568 employment officers, whose salaries will amount to £763,390; 52 industrial relations officers, whose salaries will amount to £86,700; and 95 professional, technical and research officers and librarians, whose salaries will amount to £150,560. This is in the Department of Labour and National Service in a country where there is no national service. It is a department the chief function of which should be the finding of employment for the unemployed workers of the Commonwealth. In addition, there are 22 catering officers, whose salaries will amount to £32,990. I do not know what are their duties or functions; probably they are to make the morning tea in some of the big offices. There are also 282 clerks and inspectors, whose salaries will total £343,970; 168 typists and machinists, whose salaries will total £121,150, and 165 assistants, whose salaries will total £120,370. The total salaries bill of those officers is £1,796,560. Let us match that with the real work that the department is supposed to do, which is to find work for the workless in the community. I should like to find out exactly how many jobs the department has filled of its own accord and by its own efforts, by ascertaining where there are vacancies and finding the men to fill them. I can provide the department with an unemployed labour force in Queensland at present that is willing to fill from 4,000 to 5,000 vacancies. This number includes both men and women. It is interesting to note that in Queensland at present a very serious effort is being made in certain towns by one of the Services to gain recruits. In those cities and towns the unemployment position is very bad, so one of the Services comes along to them and tries to recruit members. It endeavours to increase its strength by recruiting unemployed workers in those areas. Is that the position, Mr. Chairman? I leave it to the Minister to answer that question.
There are other appropriations for this department, but 1 do not propose to discuss all of them. A while ago, in giving a reply, the Minister said that there is peace in industry and much of the credit for that peace can be given to the department because of its public relations activities. My comment on that statement is that it is foolish. I know that the department has not the authority to engage in public relations to any extent. If the department sends one of its officers into any industrial establishment in Australia, the occupier of the premises can refuse to see him because the department has no constitutional backing in that field. It has no right to send an officer into any premises. I know that to be true, because I made the discovery myself. The Minister says that there is industrial peace because of the activities of this department in cultivating public relations with industrialists and unions.
– What do you think is the cause of the great industrial peace? You tell me.
– Hire purchase.
– I would not say that we have industrial peace. We have more industrial dissatisfaction and discontent in Australia than we have ever had before. The workers have become so financially embroiled with hire-purchase companies, in acquiring motor vehicles, washing machines and other articles, that they are not in a position to go on strike; they just cannot afford to do so. Furthermore, it is becoming old-fashioned for workers to go on strike. JUst as Summit conferences are held to deal with more important problems on the international level, the workers are prepared to confer on industrial matters.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I should like the Minister to direct his attention to Division No. 401, sub-division 3, item 05, “ Fares, travelling expenses and allowances to workers - Advances £13,000”. No comparable item appeared in last year’s appropriation bill and I believe that the committee would like an explanation of that item.
The other matter which I wish to mention is one to which Senator McManus referred indirectly this morning. On Tuesday of this week, in answer to a question, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr.. McMahon) told me that he understood that -
The subject is the provision of a pension plan for ageing waterside workers. The Minister’s answer continued -
The Government has not been involved in these exchanges.
My question was prompted by the fact that there came into my possession circular No. 607 of the Sydney branch of the Waterside Workers Federation, which was issued about four or five weeks ago. That circular states -
Federal council will continue this week. . . Principal issue with the shipowners must be the question of industrial pensions. Last year a lot of time was given co this argument when for the first time the owners were prepared to talk about conditions for a pension. In these official conferences
This is the sentence to which I wish particular attention to bc given - and in off the record talks, in which a Federal Government representative was also involved, it was indicated that a scheme, less than that put forward by the Waterside Workers Federation and along the lines of the British or New Zealand schemes could be obtained.
I am surprised to find in that printed circular a direct statement that a Federal Government representative was involved in both the official and off-the-record talks, if that is not the fact. I ask the Minister to ensure that we are given from the department both the official and off-the-record information on this matter, because I regard it as a serious matter if erroneous information has been given in answer to a specific question.
I am not uninterested in Senator Benn’s reference to the general cost and effectiveness of the department. I would willingly support the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the department. I would also willingly support a request for the reduction of this department’s vote, if I thought such a request would be carried,, in order to indicate my displeasure with the policies that this department pursues. They are policies which in no way make for effective industrial relations. I refer particularly to recent exchanges between the department and the Australian Council of Trade Unions on the subject of- compulsory political levies. As that matter will come up for discussion under a bill, I make no more than a passing reference to it. However, I would support anything which would indicate my disagreement with the general policy of the department in that respect. I won id certainly support the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the department in view of the allegations that have been made by an honorable senator who I believe has some insight into the way in which such a department is organized.
– I should like to make a brief reference to the matter with which Senator Benn has dealt. Because of the seasonal conditions which obtain in Queensland more than in any other State, at certain times there is chronic unemployment and very good men are unable to obtain employment. I know that there are some administrative difficulties in this matter, but many districts in Queensland are screaming out for development and the local authorities are quite capable of undertaking work of a nature which would be of great benefit to the districts concerned and to the State. They would be able to carry out that work if they had a little more money. Honorable senators know very well that under our present financial arrangements local authorities are starved of funds. I believe that those financial arrangements will have to be reviewed.
A little more money should be made available and earmarked for certain works for the relief of unemployment caused by seasonal conditions, and as I have said, the local authorities are capable of carrying out the work which should be done. Under present conditions the Government pays men when they are out of work. I believe that with a little more money, with some show of human feeling on the part of the Government, and with closer liaison between the Commonwealth and the people whose responsibility it is to carry out this work, the unemployment problem could be dealt with much more effectively than it is at the present time.
.- Mr. Chairman, I desire some information on one or two matters. First, I refer to Division No. 401, sub-division 2, item 09 - “ Court controlled- ballots, £2,000 “. At the bottom of page 75 of the bill there is a note indicating that this item was previously in Division No. 216, under the Attorney-General’s Department. I should like to know why that item has been transferred from the Attorney-General’s Department to the Department of Labour and National Service. I should also like the Minister to tell me the number of courtcontrolled ballots conducted in the financial year 1959-60. As provision is made for amounts which are recovered from trade unions to be paid to the department, can the Minister tell me the amount of money that has been collected from the various unions which have requested courtcontrolled ballots and paid to the department?
Other matters about which I should like some information are referred to on page 200 of the bill. I should like to know something about the number of employment officers in the department. In 1959-60 there were 558 such officers, but in 1960-61 there are 568 - an increase of ten. Senator Benn sought information on the duties that some of those officers perform. I can speak only about the officers stationed in Tasmania. I found them most co-operative and helpful in providing information relating to awards and other industrial matters. However, I know that they do not prosecute when there has been a breach of a federal award. They endeavour to settle pending disputes by negotiation and they request the employers to comply with the terms of the award controlling their industry. It has always been my firm belief that we will never get very far with the employing class by making requests. It has been my experience that an employer must be prosecuted if he does not abide by an award just as a criminal who commits an offence must be prosecuted. The employers in most cases must be educated just as the criminal must be educated. I think that more prosecutions should be launched against employers for breaches of awards than have been launched in the past by the Department of Labour and National Service.
I should like the Minister to tell me why the number of clerks and inspectors employed in the department has been reduced by 32 this year. I also see that the number of typists and machinists employed has been reduced by eight and the number of assistants employed has been reduced by ninteen. That is a reduction of 59 employees in the classifications that I have referred to. I should like to know whether those reductions have been brought about by dismissals resulting from mechanization or automation in the department. I should like to know whether the department is doing anything to offset the effect that mechanization and automation are having on industry generally throughout the Commonwealth. If one looks at the waterfront, at timber mills, jam factories or heavy industries one will find that following the introduction of mechanization and automation the number of employees in many industries has been reduced. Quite a number of jobs are now highly mechanized. If we go into offices we see that the work force has been reduced because machines have replaced employees. We realize that these things must happen. T personally do not object to mechanization and automation in industry - in the main it makes for improved working conditions - but I believe that the Government should do all in its power to cushion the effect of mechanization on employees. Let us look at the building industry. I know that to-day certain glues are used to bond wood to concrete or plaster. That could not be done a few years ago. Other means had to be adopted to fasten wood to concrete or plaster. I should like the Minister to give me some information on the matters that T have raised.
I am very sorry that Senator McManus left the chamber before I could deal with the point that he raised this morning. Tt is not very often that I am able to agree with any view expressed by Senator McManus or the Australian Democratic Labour Party, but on this occasion I can agree with him. The matter he raised related to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act.
– I thought you were going to refer to Joe Chamberlain.
– Senator McManus did not attack me in relation to any statement that I have made about Mr. Chamberlain. I leave the subject of Mr. Chamberlain to the person whom Senator McManus attempted to draw into the debate. I deprecate Senator McManus’s use of this chamber as a forum for attacking a person against whom he is conducting a personal vendetta.
I join with Senator McManus in making a most emphatic protest against the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. The provisions of the act are a disgrace to the Commonwealth, particularly when they are compared with provisions contained in workers’ compensation legislation in the States. I will confine my remarks to the Tasmanian act, because I happen to know that act reasonably well. 1 worked in industry in Tasmania and I was an official of an organization there that represents employees who have the highest accident rate in that State. I am fairly conversant with the act because of the number of claims under it with which 1 have been associated. In the case of death the amount paid to an employee’s next-of-kin under the Commonwealth act is £1,000 less than is paid under similar circumstances under the Tasmanian act. The position is absolutely ludicrous. A considerable number of people working in Tasmania are covered by the Commonwealth act. If my memory serves me correctly, under the Commonwealth act the dependants of a deceased employee receive £3,000 and under the Tasmanian act, £4,000. You can imagine the situation of two men working side by side, one covered by the Commonwealth act and the other by the provisions of a State workers’ compensation act. Both men are killed. The widow of one man receives £3,000 and the widow of the other receives £4,000. There are also in the act provisions relating to dependent children, but I am more concerned about those relating to widows. At some stage in the not-far-distant future I hope that the Federal Government will amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act to bring it into line with the best State act within the Commonwealth. If such a bill is brought in by the Government, it will have my support.
In reply to a previous speaker, Senator Henty said that there was industrial peace in Australia. He would be correct if he were basing his statement on the number of strikes that have taken place during the past few months compared with those that took place a few years previously. However, it is not always necessary to have strikes to prove that there is industrial unrest. Employees can be dissatisfied with the conditions of an award or a determination without necessarily resorting to direct industrial action. The amount of industrial unrest in existence to-day is as great, or even greater, than over the past few years. One has only to go around the factories to hear the growls of employees about working conditions - particularly those that apply under federal awards. There are growls because this Government saw fit to intervene in the last basic wage claim. The Government has boasted that it went to the Arbitration Commission and presented evidence which prevented any increase from being granted as a result of the claim that was presented by the metal trades unions, supported by the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I am interested in the questions relating to workers’ compensation that have been raised by a number of honorable senators, and I undertake to bring their remarks to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon).
Senator Poke referred to the activities of the Commonwealth Employment Service. I was glad to hear him say that he felt that the officers of that service in Tasmania had looked for work for people who approached them. I think that that applies to all the States, but I am sure that that is the position in Tasmania.
– I was referring to inspectors.
– I thought you said that you did not agree that in Tasmania the Commonwealth Employment Service does not assist people who were unemployed.
– I did not mention unemployment.
– I understood you to say that you thought that the officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Tasmania did a good job.
– I was speaking of inspectors supervising federal awards.
– I misunderstood the honorable senator. I think that the Commonwealth Employment Service does a very good job in Tasmania. In saying that, I speak as an employer. When I required additional employees for my business, I always approached the Commonwealth Employment Service, and it always found people to fill the vacant positions. This Government is, of course, very eager to see that anybody who is out of a job will be helped into a job.
Let me turn to the point that Senator Benn raised. The Department has advised me that the Commonwealth Employment Service does not claim credit for any vacancy that is not filled as a result of the activities of its officers. It only records cases in which an employer has notified the existence of a vacancy in his establishment and in which the organization provided a man to fill the vacancy. Unless an employer has approached an office of the Commonwealth Employment Service requesting that men be sent to him to fill vacancies in his staff, and unless the employment office has sent the necessary men to him, the transaction is not recorded. The figures published show the actual number of men placed through the activity of the employment offices.
Senator Wright referred to an answer given to him by the Minister in which the Minister said -
Senator Wright then quoted from a circular issued by the Waterside Workers Federation which said the opposite to that. Senator Wright can believe whichever side he likes. Personally I believe the Minister.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Sirring suspended from 1.2 to 2.15 p.m.
Department of Primary Industry.
Proposed Vote, £2,012,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Primary Industry.
Proposed Vote, £797,000.
Bounties and Subsidies.
Proposed Vote, £13,500,000.
Reconstruction and Rehabilitation.
Proposed Vote, £1,794,000.
Ordered to be considered together.
.- I refer to Division No. 341- Administrative - and Division No. 343 - Division of Agricultural Economics. Can the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) give me any information concerning the proposal that was made in this chamber recently to appoint a committee to inquire into all phases of the wool industry, with a view to that industry being extricated from the doldrums into which it has fallen?
The second matter to which I refer relates to the production of butter, milk, cheese and other primary products. When an honorable senator asked a question today concerning the report on the Australian dairy industry that has been furnished by the Dairy Industry Committee of Inquiry, he was asked to place the question on the notice-paper. Will the Minister inform me whether the committee’s recommendations have been adopted by the Government and, if they have, when it is intended to start to reduce gradually the subsidies, amounting to £13,500,000 a year, that are payable to the dairy industry? I remind the Minister that every time the subsidy on butter is reduced, the consumers have to pay more for that commodity. This applies also, in a lesser degree, to cheese, but it does not apply to whole milk. Due to the control that has been exercised over a period of years in capital cities in relation to whole milk, the price of this commodity has been forced up to such an extent that it is now profitable for the dairy farmers to produce more whole milk. It is more advantageous to them to produce more rather than less the quantity of whole milk needed by the cities, for which they get a good price. The remainder of their production is used for the manufacture of cheese and other byproducts, and ice-cream. I point out that every reduction of the subsidy will result in increased prices of some of the byproducts of milk, not necessarily of whole milk itself. In turn, this will accentuate the inflationary spiral and ultimately will result in a lower consumption of these commodities in Australia.
I have mentioned these two matters in order to give the Minister an idea of the way in which my mind is working on this subject, and I should be glad if he will answer the questions I have asked.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [2.18]. - I should like to ask the Minister for Customs and Excise several questions concerning Division No. 638 - Department of Primary Industry. Item 12 refers to wheat research and item 13 to tobacco research. I want to deal with Item 14 - “Other research services, £11,000”. The proposed vote for this year is more than £5,000 less than the amount that was voted last year. I should like to be informed what these other research services are, and why less money is being provided for them this year than last year. Are we to infer that some aspects of research are being discontinued, or is provision for these activities made elsewhere in the Estimates?
I should also like to refer to the items “ Grasshoppers - Grant towards cost of control measures “, and “ Fruit-fly research “ listed after item 18, and for which no provision is being made this year; in previous years provision has been made for these grants. I imagine that grasshoppers and fruit-fly create big problems in many districts, and I should like to know why money towards the cost of control measures is not being provided this year.
– I shall not discuss the bounty payable to dairy farmers, because a report on the Australian dairy industry has just been furnished by the Dairy Industry Committee of Inquiry. In view of that fact, I think we need’ hardly embark on a discussion of that matter.
I should like to refer to Division No. 343 - Division of Agricultural Economics - for which the proposed vote this year is greater than the amount that was appropriated last year. In view of the importance of the work that the Division of Agricultural Economics performs in the interest of the welfare of our primary industries, it is essential that its activities should be continued and enlarged wherever possible. I shall not at present elaborate concerning the work that is performed by this division, but I should like to pay a tribute to it for its activities in the interests of the primary producers of Australia.
– I refer to Division No. 682 - War Service
Land Settlement - and I particularly want to mention a matter that has been raised previously in this chamber by Senator Lillico, which should engage the attention of the committee during our consideration of the Second Schedule to the Appropriation Bill. I am directing my attention to expenditures under Division No. 682 for the development of the Montagu swamp project at Smithton in Tasmania. This project was undertaken by the Commonwealth, I think, in 1950. It was then estimated that the whole area of 37,144 acres could be developed at a cost of about £1,750,000 to provide some 265 farms which were expected to cost, together with buildings, some £6,685 per farm. After the project was undertaken - the immediate work carried out was the direct responsibility of the Tasmanian Government and it was supervised by officers of the department we are considering - actually 5,927 acres of land were developed at a cost of £2,278,000, resulting in the provision of 48 farms at a cost per farm of £47,458. That figure of £47,458 per farm must be compared with the estimated cost of about £7,000 per farm. It seems to me that the committee is entitled to an explanation of that inordinate expenditure and to be informed whether detailed inquiries have been conducted by the Commonwealth department concerned.
Undue reliance cannot be placed on the estimated rate of progress to be achieved over the years. The development of this scheme was expected, at the outset, to cover a period of eight or ten years. Anybody who failed to foresee the huge rise in costs that has taken place in recent years could be acquitted of responsibility, but I suppose that some increase of costs could have been anticipated at the outset of the scheme. My theme is that when it costs £47,458 to develop a farm of about 130 acres, or an average cost of about £390 an acre, we are reaching a stage of extravagance in land development which, to my way of thinking, must be justified by those who administer the expenditure.
– In which area are the farms situated?
– The far north-west of Tasmania. I am concerned to know the basis of honesty on which expenditure of that kind could be continued for any length of time. I want to know from the Minister whether or not the department has instituted an inquiry specifically for the purpose of reporting on the justification for this expenditure year after year. It is hard to believe that expenditure that is so disproportionate to the estimated cost could be consistent with honest administration. I believe that we are bound to inquire into the integrity of the expenditure, in the first place.
Passing from that issue and proceeding to the question of ordinary competence in expenditure, it seems to me that the department has an obligation to ascertain the officers on whom responsibility for such a lack of proportion between the actual cost and the estimated cost directly lies. I ask the Minister to tell the committee what inquiry has been made, what examination of the problem has been undertaken, and whether or not any officer has been thought to be culpable so far as efficiency of estimation and the exercise of judgment over expenditure are concerned. To my way of thinking, the development of land at a cost of almost £400 an acre involves such a terrific waste of money, on present economic values, that the departmental head concerned carries a heavy onus to justify expenditure of those dimensions.
– I think that perhaps the Senate should be given another side of the picture than that painted by Senator Wright. The Montagu Swamp area was chosen by the Tasmanian Government as an area that would be suitable for the settlement of ex-servicemen and, for that matter, of other persons who wished to go on the land and who were eligible to apply for land under the land settlement scheme. The original project covered approximately 37,000 acres. There were signs that this area, on the north-west coast of Tasmania, could be developed into first-class close settlement farms. It has a tremendous depth of very rich soil. The soil is equal to, if not better than, that of the Mowbray Swamp, which is not very far distant and which has proved to be a very fine farming area. The farmers there are as prosperous as are any other farmers of Tasmania.
– What is the value per acre of the Mowbray Swamp land?
– The whole of -the Mowbray Swamp area ‘has been developed separately. I do not know whether the cost has been calculated to cover the whole of the development. Senator Wright has claimed that only 5.927 acres of the Montagu Swamp land has been developed. He has said that the ultimate objective is 48 farms and that each farm will cost £47,458. I point out, however, that the principles which apply to the development of building sites, for instance, also apply in this instance. A person who wishes to open up land for use as building sites first of all has to clear the land. Then he has to construct roads and provide for kerbing, guttering, drainage and all the other facilities that will be needed to serve the whole area. That is what has happened in the Montagu Swamp area. Tremendous expense has been involved in drainage. The drainage system in the area is a very efficient one. Over the whole area of between 37,000 and 40,000 acres, the water table has been lowered to about 15 ft. below the surface, which will make it possible for all the land eventually to be cultivated. At the moment, the construction of access roads and the clearing programme have been concerned with only about 6,000 acres. The remainder of the land has been rolled - the ti-tree scrub has been knocked down and the drains have been extended to cover a greater area than that mentioned by Senator Wright.
– The honorable senator spoke of the remainder of the area. What is the remainder’.’
– It is the difference between the area of 6,000 acres that has been turned into farms and the total area of 37,000 acres which, according to the original project, is to be developed for use as farm land.
– That land has been Tolled and treated?
– Not treated. It : has been rolled. I may say that in rolling it, great difficulties were encountered. When the rollers were used to knock the scrub down the ti-tree was driven into the sticky, gluey soil, which made the clearing a very difficult proposition.
The position as I see it is that, although the War Service Land Settlement Division has chosen only the area of about 6,000 acres that I have mentioned, there is still great potential for future settlers in the -area. Whether that settlement is under taken by the War Service Land Settlement Division, by the State’s land settlement scheme, or by private farmers, the ground work has been laid by the War Service Land Settlement Division in making this firstclass land available for future development. To say that the farms are costing about £390 an acre is to exaggerate the position because it attributes the whole of the cost of the project to the farms that are now being developed. In fairness to the Tasmanian authorities, I think it should be said that an asset has been created where one previously did not exist. The Montagu Swamp was previously a huge basin of ti-tree scrub. For most of the winter the area was covered with water and in the summer-time the level of the water fell to only a few feet below the surface. The drainage scheme of the War Service Land Settlement Division has been responsible for the whole of the basin being drained in a very effective way. In the long run, the division will have established a very valuable asset.
The settlers who are there already are finding that the carrying capacity of the land is beyond their expectations. This land is capable of carrying up to two dairy cattle per acre, which of course is a very high carrying capacity. Because of the compactness of these farms, this area can become a source of great revenue to Tasmania as a whole and to the individual settlers in particular. It is appropriate that this matter should be raised at this juncture, because the report of the committee which recently investigated dairy farming throughout Australia stressed the need for compact and efficient farms. The farms that are being established by the War Service Land Settlement Division in the Montagu Swamp area are ideal units. These farms, which are of from 100 to 150 acres, are capable of carrying 150 dairy cows and dry cattle, and of providing an opportunity for some mixed farming. The Tasmanian Government and the War Service Land Settlement Division should be given the credit for having changed quite useless land into valuable land and for having done the ground work for future development. I am quite certain that over a long period the overall cost will be reduced to economic proportions.
I believe that the present incumbents of these farms should not be charged the full capital cost. I would join with Senator Wright in any move to write down the cost to the individual farmers. We must view these projects on a State or national level. Most of the arable land or grazing land in other parts of Tasmania has been taken up over the past century or more. If the War Service Land Settlement Division had gone into other areas, it would have had to purchase developed blocks at fairly high prices. Instead, a new area, which previously was almost inaccessible, has been opened up. The Marrawah area, too, was opened up by the War Service Land Settlement Division.
Although the figures that have been produced by Senator Wright seem rather awesome, the committee should know that it should be possible for the farmers to pay £300 an acre and for some adjustment to be made in the long run. This area has become a valuable asset. Dishonest administration or gross maladministration is not present in this case.
– Do you agree with the cost of £300 an acre?
– The overall cost includes the drainage system for the whole area, access roads, fencing, buildings and other things. When all is said and done, if you erect a house worth £5,000 on a 100 acre farm, it affects the cost considerably. In addition, dairy buildings, barns, tractors and various other items have been supplied to the farmers. The figures placed before us should be examined very carefully; otherwise the committee could get a very wrong impression of the overall plan. I should like Senator Wright to take a longer view of the scheme because, as I said earlier, any plan to turn useless land into valuable first-class dairying land should be commended. I think the honorable senator will find that the economics of this scheme are not as bad as he has tried to tell the committee.
– I do not doubt for a moment that the Montagu Swamp area will eventually be an asset to Tasmania. I agree with Senator O’Byrne when he says that the War Service Land Settlement Division has turned a useless area into what eventually will be productive farm land. But there is a limit to the cost of these things. For my part - I have had a little to do with land development - I cer tainly would not like to have to try to justify the extraordinary expenditure that has been incurred in the Montagu Swamp area. It is true that most of the money to be spent has been spent, but in my opinion the serious feature of this project is that .the cost of it must be prejudicial to any future schemes for land development. In Tasmania we have reached the stage in many cases where it is beyond the capacity of the ordinary individual to go on to a property that needs to be developed and to bring it up to a state of reasonable production. That is because of the capital outlay involved. It may well be that, as in New Zealand, we shall have to depend more and more upon government assistance for land development.
I have discussed the development of thisarea with practical men who live in the vicinity and who have had a good deal to do with land development. They are all. of the opinion that, if the scheme had been undertaken by men who had the necessary experience and who had some idea of thebest way in which to expend the money, a. very different story could be told. Senator O’Byrne spoke about drainage. A large drain was put through the area at the outset, but I agree with a lot of people whocontend that the drain is just about twice as wide as it should have been.
– It would not have dropped the water table had it not been of that width and depth.
– These people say itwould have done so. Every time I have gone to this area the whole of the floor of” the drain has not been taken up by water. I repeat that the people to whom I have spoken contend that the drain is twice aswide as it should have been and that for that reason a lot more effort will be needed to clear it. This country was covered, in the main, with light scrub. Instead of waiting for a year or two until the drain had’ done its work, those responsible put bulldozers and other heavy machinery straight into the mud. The standing joke in that locality is that for many months the peopleemployed there spent most of their timepulling out this heavy machinery after it became stuck in the mud. That may well’ be the reason why ‘the development of this area has cost very much more than it should’ have. I have heard it said, too - and I’ quite believe it - that any suggestion that was made by practical mem who had had experience with this country to the people in. charge of the project as- to how they should proceed was greeted with the greatest hostility. No notice was taken of their advice. When I was in the Tasmanian Parliament, we established another committee and did our utmost to see that it was composed of practical men who had had something to do with this sort of work. It is the State Government’s responsibility to see that it gets practical men with some experience.
– Was not the same thing done in other places that were successful?
– The honorable senator can tell stories about other places, but the expenditure on the development of Montagu Swamp has been so preposterous that this Parliament is entitled, to some explanation. I have heard the matter discussed frequently. I do not think that the tremendous expenditure can be justified. It has been due to the operations of people who know nothing about land development. One practical man has said that he would have cleared, ploughed and grassed the country for the interest on the cost of machinery that was used in the development. Without wishing to take up too much time, I do say that some explanation should be forthcoming. If what has happened at Montagu Swamp is to be the yard-stick by which future development will be measured, any State or Commonwealth government would be justified in looking askance and saying that it could not be expected to go on with rural development. I disagree entirely with Senator O’Byrne. I believe that the development could have been accomplished by practical men for less than half the money that it has cost.
– You just said that it could be done for the interest on the expenditure.
– I was repeating anopinion that I heard expressed. Any one who tries to justify the expenditure incurred on Montagu Swamp has had nothing to do with land development and knows, nothing, about it.
– I should like to intervene in the1 debate to answer the questions that have been raised so far. I should like to deal first1 with Montagu Swamp. An important principle, at which the committee should look, is involved. This area of land in the far north-west of Tasmania has the greatest potential for development of any undeveloped land left in Tasmania. I believe that it will be a great area and an important source of the future foodstuffs of the Commonwealth. It is well served by a good port and is a compact area of fertile land. As Senator O’Byrne said, the farms are of a size that the Dairy Industry Committee of Inquiry has reported as being ideal. So much for the district.
Let us get down to the proposal itself. Let me first dispose of Senator O’Byrne’s statement as to the cost of drainage. It is quite true, as he said, that the big maindrain will service the whole area. Its cost was £125,600. Dividing that amongst the 48 farms, the total area which is a little less than 6,000 acres, we find that the drain has been responsible for an added cost of £2,617 for each farm. One cannot for a minute suggest that the drain has been responsible for adding any more than £2,617 to the cost of a farm.
– What is the average size, of a farm?
– From about 120 to 150 acres.
– Between 100 and 150 acres.
– Yes. Having disposed of the cost of the main drain, let me say that roads are not included in the cost at all. The only roads included in the cost are the roads actually in the farms. There is no cost for tractors. So the picture in relation to costs that has been painted to the committee is not authentic. If the honorable senator, in relation to a very serious matter, purports to give a picture, he should see that he does not paint a picture that is completely wrong. He did not have one detail correct.
– You should be defending the department.
– I deal in facts, not infancy.
– You are doublecrossing the department; Why do you not: defend it?
– He is the mouthpiece of whatever he represents, with no mind of his own. 1 am giving the Senate the facts. I dispute the honorable senator’s statements, because they are entirely untrue.
– They are not untrue.
– 1 repeat, for the information of the honorable senator, that the cost of the drain amounted to only £2,617 per farm; that no road costs at all were included, as he said they were; and that no tractor cost was included, as he said it was. Further, a great part of the additional area of 37,000 acres, about which I asked him, has not been rolled at all, although he says it has been. Having dealt with those matters, which are important, let me deal with the position from the beginning, as I see it. I have already said that this will be a great area. This was stated by Senator Wright and Senator Lillico. No one disputes that it is a great and fertile district. The original act provided that the Commonwealth Government would approve of areas submitted to it by the State and that the State would subdivide and develop land in the approved projects. There is the great weakness. The Commonwealth approves the projects, and the State subdivides and develops the land in the approved projects. That is where a tremendous waste of money is taking place. It is unquestionably in the Slate’s administration. I make no excuse whatever for the enormous waste of money that has occurred on this project. The amount that will be written off the cost of these farms will be in the region of £300 an acre.
– The Tasmanian Minister said it would be £340 an acre.
– Probably he is closer to the mark than I am. Between £300 and £340 an acre will have to be written off to allow these farms to be economically rented to the settlers.
– What would be the value after that was written off?
– About £125 an acre.
– Who bears the cost?
– Who bears the cost of everything in government? The taxpayer! The taxpayers, whether State or Federal, will bear the cost of the project. I do not dispute that a large area still has to be developed under closer settlement methods and that the drain to which I have referred services that area. This area will eventually become a great asset to the State. I hope that when the other area of about 30,000 acres is developed, the developing authority will listen to practical men, such as Senator Lillico, who says that farmers should go on to the land and develop it themselves, as they did in the Britton’s Swamp and the other swamps in this area which have been developed. Practical men developed those areas at a cost far less than the cost of developing this area.
In 1950 the appropriate Minister of this Government went to a great deal of trouble to have the proposal investigated. He directed the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to report upon the soil and he enlisted the aid of a very distinguished drainage expert from South Australia who approved of the area from the drainage point of view. The Commonwealth Government took every opportunity to establish that if the area was properly developed it would be an economic proposition for the State. So I make no bones about saying that the Tasmanian Government, the developing authority, is the authority which must bear the brunt of the criticism about the development of this area.
– How long have you known about this? How long has this project been going on?
– Since 1950.
– Why have we not been told about it before?
– You have heard about it over and over again, but if it was not in Queensland you would not know where it was. I am telling you about it now.
– If Senator Wright had not raised the matter you would have kept silent about it.
– I have not been silent about it. I have raised it before and the Liberal Party in Tasmania has also raised it with the State Government over and over again because it is a matter for the State Government. That is the point I am making. The Tasmanian Government is the developing authority, not the Commonwealth Government.
asked what steps had been taken to set up an inquiry into this project. Officers of the Department of Primary Industry have made inquiries. They have gone to the extent of intervening wherever possible. I do not know whether they had the authority to intervene to the extent they did. The act gives the State Government the responsibility of subdividing and developing; the Commonwealth merely has to approve the project. In 1957 a line was drawn and the Commonwealth said, “The Commonwealth is not prepared to go beyond this point. The area of 5,797 acres must be developed, and no more.”
There are some extenuating circumstances in the development of this area by the State authority. In 1956 there was a very wet season in that area and in 1957 there was a comparatively wet season. For fifteen months nobody could get near the area. I was interested to learn that during that long period the staff was kept on and the machinery was kept there, awaiting the abatement of the floods and rains. An ordinary employer would have seen that the staff was sent to other areas’ and given other work to do. The position now is that some of the machinery has been sold. About £50,000 was obtained from the sale of machinery, following intervention by the Commonwealth. Also, in one category of the staff alone a reduction has been made from sixteen fitters to four fitters. The £50,000 received from the sale of the machinery has been credited to the cost of the project. Far greater reliance is now being placed upon private enterprise contracts in doing the work. That is a direct result of further intervention by the Commonwealth.
I believe that I have given the committee a fair and unbiased account of this project. The experience is a sad and sorry one. If it has the effect, which Senator Lillico says it may have, of deterring any further land development in Tasmania by the Commonwealth, this project should not be used as the example giving rise to the decision, because other areas have been developed very successfully. I should not like this project to be used as an example of land development. I think I have covered the position in regard to this project.
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin raised two points. She asked me what the “ Other research services “ were. I am advised that under the Commonwealth extension grant, the Commonwealth has agreed to contribute up to £1 for every £1 provided by industry for research projects submitted by the industry, up to an amount of £50,000 in any one year. The reason for the reduction this year is that the projects submitted by the industry this year do not require a matching contribution by the Commonwealth in excess of £11,000. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin also asked about the Commonwealth grant for the treatment of fruit fly and grasshoppers. In the matter of fruit fly research, the Commonwealth has been contributing towards the cost of a control and eradication research programme carried out under the direction of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. That was a three-year programme covering biological control with the liberation in Australia of parasites, fruit fly biology, fruit fly control and eradication studies. The final contribution was made in 1959-60. In regard to grasshoppers, 1959-60 was the final year of the agreement under which the Commonwealth contributed to control measures for grasshopper plagues in northern New South Wales. Any further sums will come with the recommendation from the Australian Agricultural Council, which at the moment has not submitted any further requests in respect of these two items. I think I have covered the questions that have been asked up to date.
.- Honorable senators on the Government side have taken the opportunity to make a scurrilous attack on the department which administers war service land settlement in Tasmania. They have cast very grave reflections on the Tasmanian Parliament, including the Legislative Council, of which Senator Lillico was a member for a number of years, and which each year voted the appropriation of the money to be expended on this project. I have often heard people like Senator Lillico making brash statements, after the event, about what they would have done. I remember one very experienced potato farmer from the northwest coast of Tasmania who claimed that he could put a surveyed road down the west coast and he was bogged down near the Pine River–
– Order! I do not know what this has to do with the proposed votes under consideration. Members of the committee will have to confine their remarks to those votes.
– I am referring to the Department of Primary Industry, which administers the expenditure of £1,500.000 on war service land settlement. This matter was raised by Senator Wright. It deals with a project in Tasmania which up until a few years ago was administered by the State Government in conjunction with the Commonwealth Government and is now being administered by the Tasmanian Government. In considering the attack that has been made on the Tasmanian Government we must remember that the AuditorGeneral has a responsibility in connexion with the expenditure of this money. Each year various departments are criticized by the Auditor-General in his report, but so far no mention has been made of any investigation of this project by the AuditorGeneral of the State or the Federal AuditorGeneral. According to Senator Wright each of the 265 farms was expected to cost £6,685. He now says that the 48 farms will cost £47,000-
– -Yes, if only the 48 farms are developed they will cost £47,000 each. Senator Henty is only endeavouring to confuse the issue by saying that drainage and clearing work is related only to those 48 farms because in fact that work is intended ultimately to enable the whole area to be developed. Senator Henty said that two roads have been built. The internal roads were constructed by the same equipment as was used for the construction of the access roads. The same tractors and bulldozers were used. I saw them doing the work. I do not know where the Minister got his advice. I will make it my business to contact the Premier of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Minister concerned with this project with a view to obtaining exact figures, which I will produce in this chamber at the appropriate time to show that this attack that has been made on a Labour government in Tasmania is a miserable attempt to obtain some political advantage.
– lt would be nice if you had the facts for a change.
– I will have them.
– You should have had them now.
– The Minister has not got the facts and Senator Wright tried to distort the issue for political purposes.. The Minister was dishonest in not mentioning that the houses that are being built on these properties are a big factor in the total expenditure involved. The Government has endeavoured to imply that money has been dishonestly mis-applied in relation to this undertaking.
– The honorable senator came here with a lot of statements that are not true and he does not like being put in. his place.
– I referred to roads. My statement on that subject was the only one that the Minister contradicted.
– The roads were built by the State Government.
– They were built with the equipment that was on this property. I do not know who allocated the expenses of operating it, but the same equipment was used and charges must have been adjusted after the work had been done.
– The State Government made the roads.
– The State Government may have put through the main road to Marrawah but the internal roads between the properties are very expensive. Those roads had to be surfaced with gravel and made suitable for all-weather use in that particular type of country. Although it has been a long drawn out procedure to’ bring this undertaking to its present stage of completion, I refute the charges that have been made by Government supporters that there has been dishonesty or misappropriation of funds in connexion with this matter. At the first opportunity I will place the real facts before honorable senators.
– I rise to order. No accusation was made that there had been: any misappropriation of funds. J. nsk-.
Senator O’Byrne to withdraw his reference to misappropriation of funds.
– I will not withdraw my remark. Senator Wright said that there had been misappropriation of funds. He said that it was difficult to believe that the expenditure had been honestly made. I took a note of what he said.
– Senator O’Byrne has claimed that Government supporters made accusations of dishonesty. I said that the facts warranted a stringent inquiry into whether dishonesty was the explanation. The honorable senator should accuse me, not others.
– I ask that Senator O’Byrne withdraw his accusation so far as it applies to me. I should like him to exclude me from any reference to honorable senators on this side of the chamber having stated that there had been dishonesty or misappropriation of funds.
– I did not say that the Minister had made that statement. I said that it had been made by Government supporters.
– I have not asked Senator O’Byrne to decide this matter. I have asked the Temporary Chairman to decide it.
Senator Henty claims that he has been misrepresented. I ask Senator O’Byrne to clarify this matter insofar as it relates to an accusation made against Senator Henty.
– I did not specifically refer to Senator Henty. My remarks were connected with the statement that implied that there had been dishonesty. If Senator Henty did not mean to support the statement, which was made from the other side of the chamber, I withdraw any reference that I may have made to him.
– I refer to Division No. 638 under the Department of Primary Industry, item 06, where an appropriation of £20,000 is sought for pearl shell surveys. Last year the Government appropriated £24,000 for this purpose and spent £18,360. As honorable senators will be aware, the survey of Australia’s pearl shell resources extends from south of Onslow round the north of Aus tralia almost to Cooktown. The survey covers more than twenty areas that have been defined by the Government and in which surveys have been carried out.
Production of pearl shell in Australia two years ago reached the pre-war record of more than 2,000 tons but in view of the fact that world consumption has since greatly decreased I wonder why it is necessary to continue this survey. At present the pearling industry in Australia is over producing in excess of 800 tons of shell, and the surplus is unsaleable in Europe and America. Some producers who commenced pearling at the beginning of this season have not been able to sell all of their shell. I understand that one or two producers have not been able to make any sales at all. Despite this situation the Government, under an agreement made with the Japanese Government has permitted the Japanese pearling fleet to come down into Australian waters and fish for shell this year. The Government is well aware that there is a surplus of pearl shell on the world’s markets. Nevertheless, the Japanese have been permitted to take out more shell this year than last year. According to a newspaper report, Broome’s pearling fleet, which numbered 26 luggers this year, will be cut by half next year. We know that Darwin’s pearling fleet, which numbered fifteen or sixteen vessels two or three years ago, now comprises only two vessels. If the Japanese are permitted continually to increase their production of shell from Australian waters, our pearling fleet will be tied up. If it is tied up, why is the Government seeking £20,000 to expend on a survey of the pearling beds of Australia? We know full well that the whole purpose of this survey was to protect the pearling beds of Australia and to ensure that they would not be over-fished. At this moment, only half the number of vessels are working, compared with two or three years ago, and next year, in all probability, we will be working only half the vessels we are working this year. Yet the expense of this survey is allowed to continue. Are we carrying out the survey so that the Japanese can find out where our shell beds are located and then fish for the shell, financed by their Government, while pearl shelters in Australia go bankrupt? I have taken the opportunity to say a few words on this subject in order to find out the intention of the Minister for Primary Industry in regard to the pearl shell industry of Australia.
I should like also to refer to the air beef subsidy, which is dealt with in Division No. 638. In 1959-60, £7,110 was appropriated for this purpose and £7,092 was actually spent. No amount is provided in this year’s estimates. We know that the air beef subsidy originated a few years ago, the Commonwealth Government providing onethird of the amount and the Western Australian Government providing two-thirds. The beef was flown from Wyndham. Later the Labour Government of Western Australia, in its wisdom, decided to discontinue its portion of the subsidy. The inquiries I have made indicate that the Commonwealth Government decided to continue paying its portion of the subsidy in order to help the air beef scheme to get into production and continue in production. It was said at the time the subsidy was introduced that unless a subsidy was paid, the abattoirs would have to close down.
Apparently the Commonwealth Government has decided now to discontinue paying a subsidy, and no doubt it has very good reasons for so doing. However, the air beef scheme offers a means of securing beef supplies. Beef is in short supply in the metropolitan areas of Australia and also on overseas markets. I understand that air transport is one of the cheapest methods of transport in the far north-west of Australia, taking into consideration the cost of building and maintaining roads and railways and taking account of the cost of subsidizing air freights from certain outback areas. Some figures issued a few months ago disclosed, I think, that when all the facts are taken into consideration air transport is about one-third of the cost of either road or rail transport. I am sorry, therefore, to see that this subsidy is to be discontinued. I suggest that the Minister for Primary Industry make a survey of the outback areas of the north to ascertain the transport facilities that can be provided at the cheapest cost to the Commonwealth. Any transport facilities provided to service the north of Australia - particularly the outback areas - will be a charge on the taxpayers of Australia, so that the smaller the charge the better it is for the taxpayers. One of the best forms of transport for outback areas is air transport. I therefore ask the Minister why money for the air beef scheme has not been provided in the estimates this year.
– The purpose of the pearl-shell survey is to see how much shell has been taken. I understand that the position is fluid and that an item of this kind may not appear in next year’s Estimates.
The Commonwealth Government naturally does not give subsidies unless they are warranted. When the first request was made for a subsidy for the air beef scheme, an examination of all the factors involved, including the price of beef, showed quite clearly that a subsidy was warranted. As Senator Scott has said, the Commonwealth continued paying a subsidy long after the State of Western Australia ceased to do so. 1 think that an examination of the position to-day, having regard to the price of beef, would disclose that a subsidy is not warranted. However, no request has been made for such a subsidy. That being so, I take it that the people concerned are quite satisfied.
– I should like to make one further suggestion about the pearl-shell survey. The Minister has said that the purpose of the survey, which is costing £20,000, is to find out the amount of shell that is being taken from the pearling beds of Australia this year and how much was taken last year. If the Minister will provide me with four or five stamps, I will get that information by writing to the various people who are pearling in these areas.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed Vote, £93,868,000.
– The proposed vote for the Repatriation Department is £93,000,000, which is a lot of money. I desire to ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) about people who went to the war, suffered no injuries at all, generally speaking, but at a later date had heart attacks. These people can obtain no redress under the Repatriation Act. They receive no benefits other than the general benefits applicable to all ex-servicemen. I admit that some of them are aged between 55 and 64, when people in civilian life suffer from coronary thrombosis or coronary occlusions, but the Repatriation Act makes no provision for poor fellows who have been to the war and who later suffer heart attacks, probably brought on by their war service. I think there are one or two exceptions, but in those cases there must be a record of some disability on the ex-serviceman’s file. I have asked the Minister questions about this matter before. 1 am concerned about men who have been to the war and who in later life suffer a heart attack that may keep them away from their employment for eighteen months or two years. Some are not able to go back to work at all. The Repatriation Department does not do anything about the matter. It simply knocks back an applicant, saying, “You are not entitled to repatriation benefits “. The poor fellow is then forced to accept an invalid pension, if he is under 60 years of age, and if he is over 60 years he receives the service pension. There are no other benefits at all for these poor beggars. It is because of this that I am asking the Minister for Repatriation - I have made this request many times before - to give consideration to the provision of a benefit for men who have been to a war and are so afflicted. I contend that no matter in what capacity such men have served they should become eligible to receive a repatriation benefit immediately they are disabled by heart troubles, particularly the ones I have mentioned.
I should like the Minister to inform me whether any steps have been taken to improve the lot of these men who are receiving only invalid or service pensions which are inadequate. It is a shame that their applications for repatriation benefits are knocked back time and again and the men are told that their disability is not attributable to their service. Surely advantage could be taken of some provision of the repatriation legislation to remove these cases from the civilian sphere. I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to ensuring that these chaps are given a dinkum go.
– I refer to Division No. 673 - Repatriation Benefits, item 03 - “ Main tenance of departmental institutions, £7,466,000”. Can the Minister inform the committee whether any progress has been made towards constructing a new psychiatric ward or sanatorium at Springbank hospital in South Australia? I know that the Minister has been active in this matter for a number of years and on one occasion provision for this work was made in the Estimates, but so far the building has not been commenced. Is the Minister able to say when steps will be taken to fulfil this long-standing need at the Springbank hospital? I point out that the existing facilities at the hospital for the treatment of psychiatric cases are not of the best, but they could perhaps be used as a rehabilitation centre if a new ward were built.
I support the remarks that have been made by Senator O’Flaherty in relation to heart attacks. As the Minister is aware, we have raised this matter on numerous occasions. The difficulty is to overcome the opinions of medical men who had very little experience in World War I. and no experience in World War II., and whose reputation is at stake. If they say that an ex-serviceman’s heart trouble is due to his civil occupation, we can get no further. I know of a most distressing case. One of the most brilliant lads in my own unit went away before he was eighteen years of age. When he was 53 years of age, his health deteriorated and, unfortunately, he was buried the other day. When his health deteriorated at the age of 53 years the Repatriation Department said that he was suffering from premature senile decay, and we could not get any benefit for him. Surely his war service contributed to his condition.
I know the interest that the Minister takes in heart cases and in ex-servicemen who are mentally sick. I hope that he will be able to give me some information concerning the proposed construction of a sanatorium at Springbank hospital.
.- An amount of more than £97,000,000 is being provided for repatriation this year. In itself, that is a fairly large sum, but when compared with the total Budget of £1.700,000,000 it is not very much to provide for the men who, in conjunction with the allied forces, saved this country.
I support entirely the remarks that have been made by Senator 0’Flaherty and Senator Mattner, and I should like to emphasize that ex-service personnel in their advancing years, no matter where and when they served, must be affected adversely as a result of their war service.
This brings me to the vexatious question of the onus of proof. It may be said that I raise this subject whenever I speak on repatriation matters. I have continually emphasized to the best of my ability the need to settle this contentious matter. I make it clear that in saying that in practice the onus-of-proof provision does not work in favour of applicants, I am not casting any reflection on the personnel of the Repatriation Department or the tribunals. But I can prove my assertion about the onus-of-proof provision. As a matter of fact, unless the position is remedied I myself will become a nervous wreck in dealing with the numerous cases that are placed before me.
On every occasion that this matter has been raised, the Minister has said complacently that returned servicemen’s organizations throughout the country are quite satisfied with the working of the onusofproof provision. That is not so. I come into contact with quite a number of exservicemen’s organizations, and from the conversations I have had with their officers I know very well that the onus-of-proof provision is definitely not working to the satisfaction of ex-service personnel. Let me repeat the particulars of a case that comes readily to my mind. It concerns a lady whose husband served in the Australian Imperial Force about 40 years ago. He had no repatriation entitlement, and when he died she applied for a war widow’s pension. She went through the onerous procedure of applying to the Repatriation Board, then to the Repatriation Commission, and finally to the War Pensions Appeal Tribunal. Her application was rejected. She received the ordinary stereotyped letter saying that the decision was final unless she could bring forward further proof. It is ridiculous to ask a lady whose husband served over 40 years ago to try to find additional evidence to support her claim for a war widow’s pension.
I stated during the debate on the Repatriation Bill 1960 on 7th September last that the onus-of-proof provision was not operating adequately in favour of exservicemen. At the time, our proceedings were being broadcast. Subsequently, I received a letter from a person in South Australia who said that I could use it, if I wished, to support my claims in regard to the onusofproof provision. However, I shall not mention his name. When I spoke in September, I stressed the fact that the onusofproof provision definitely is not working to the advantage of applicants for pensions. I should like the Minister to pay particular attention to the contents of the letter that I am about to read. It is as follows: -
Last evening, 7th September, I listened with interest to your comments on the bill before the Senate on repatriation, in particular the points made regarding the onus of proof clause and the obtaining by an appellant of evidence that may assist him in an appeal to a tribunal. 1 am enclosing copies of two letters I addressed to the commission in Adelaide concerning an appeal of mine and I hope it will be of assistance to you in drawing the attention of the reluctant Minister to facts and not fallacies. Previously I have heard this same Minister ask that specific cases be referred to him and not generalizations; yet last evening you were castigated for doing just what he has asked. Seems to me you can’t win no matter what you do. 1 want to read the whole of the letter because it also refers to the obtaining of evidence. It continues -
To complete the matter re the enclosed letters I point out that I was not handed a transcript of the evidence to be placed before the appeal tribunal until 20 minutes before the actual hearing and I was asked to hand it back before entering the appeal rooms.
I hope that the Minister has noted that passage -
Just how one is supposed to digest the details which run into 6 foolscap pages (in my case) in 20 minutes I do not know and I was most interested to hear the Minister say last night that if an appellant is not satisfied with the summary of the evidence to be placed before the appeal tribunal then he may have access to his personal files. How can this be done if the transcript of evidence is not handed to an appellant until just before the hearing, as in my case, despite my letters (enclosed) to the commission.
I also point out that following the dismissal of my appeal I rang the commission-
I want the Minister to take particular notice of this part of the letter, too - asking if I might be advised as to the reason the appeal had been dismissed and was told that no such reason is allowed to be conveyed to the appellant.
Order! I do not think that, the lengthy letter which the honorable senator is reading is really pertinent to the estimates before the committee. I ask the honorable senator to return to the bill.
– It has a bearing.
– Order! The fact that somebody outside the committee has written a letter does not mean that that letter may form a part of the debate on the votes we are considering. I do not think that that could be suggested by any stretch of the imagination. I again ask the honorable senator to come back to the bill.
– Do you mean to say, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the onus-of-proof provision has nothing to do with the Repatriation Department?
– I do not know whether the onus-of-proof provision is pertinent to the proposed votes now before the committee. I am saying that the honorable senator’s comments are wide of the bill, and I ask him to come back to it.
– 1 can only assume that you have heard more than you wanted to hear.
– Order! I resent that remark and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it.
– I want the honorable senator to understand clearly that I am trying to conduct the debate in the proper way. It does not matter very much to me personally what he says.
– Very well. The correspondent to whom I have referred stated that he was not able to secure from the commission the reason for the rejection of his appeal. Yet, as I have said, on each occasion that questions on this subject have been asked in the Parliament, the Minister invariably has stated that the reason for the rejection of an appeal could be obtained on application to the commission. Here, we have a specific case in which the person concerned was told in unequivocal language that the reason for the rejection of his appeal could not be given.
The letter from which I have read contains much more interesting comment, but as you do not want to hear it, Mr. Tem porary Chairman, and have ruled me out of order, I shall have to leave it for another occasion. I emphasize that in regard to applications for war pensions or repatriation benefits generally, delays still occur. The Minister stated, during the discussion of the Repatriation Department in September last, that another appeal board either had been or was to be appointed in order to expedite the hearing of appeals. I do not wish to discuss the details of a question that I asked in the Senate some time ago and the answer I received, except to say that in my question I asked the Minister to state the time lag between the application for a war pension or repatriation benefits and the actual granting of the pension or benefits, having in mind a case in. which an applicant was obliged to go before three bodies - the commission, an entitlement appeal tribunal, and an assessment appeal tribunal. I was informed that the average time lag was not less than nine months.
Senator O’Flaherty has already emphasized how wrong it is that people in their advancing years, who served during a time of war and who now find that they have illnesses, the early symptoms of which they had disregarded in years gone by, are not entitled to repatriation benefits. In the case of a person who lodges an application and then finds that he is obliged to take his application through to the final stage of appeal, there is an average time lag of more than nine months. The Minister may say that the number of applications is increasing with the years and that it is very difficult to keep up with the flood of applications to the Repatriation Commission. But I say that something should be done. Tn the case of material damage that is caused by the war no effort is spared to repair the damage, but when human damage is caused - and such damage is becoming increasingly evident as the years go by - the old cry of “ We have not got the money “ goes up.
I suggest that every ex-service man or woman should be entitled to medical treatment in repatriation hospitals. Questions that have been asked in this place on numerous occasions have elicited the information that there is nearly always accommodation to spare at repatriation hospitals in the various States. The full use of such accommodation, by ex-service people would help to relieve the acute shortage of accommodation in civil hospitals. But, leaving aside that consideration, I contend that exservice men and women are justly entitled to the best hospital and medical treatment that we can afford. Consider for a moment the hardships that some of them endured.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
[3.45]. - Senator O’Flaherty, Senator Mattner and Senator Sandford all dealt with the matter of whether or not certain disabilities were due to war service. With one exception, the Repatriation Act deals throughout with people who are suffering from war caused disabilities. The exception is in respect of people who are suffering from tuberculosis. Under section 37 of the act, if a man who has served in a theatre of war subsequently develops tuberculosis, he automatically receives a war pension and treatment. The difficulty mentioned by Senator O’Flaherty, Senator Sandford and Senator Mattner is, to a large extent, being overcome by the legislation that was passed a few weeks ago.
– It is not being entirely overcome. We want it to be overcome entirely.
– I cannot hear what the honorable senator is saying. Unler the recent repatriation legislation, we made provision for a person who has served in a theatre of war, and who conforms to the requirements of the means test for an age or invalid pension, to receive a service pension at the age of 60 years or if he is permanently unemployed. A female who was a member of the forces can receive the service pension now at the age of 55 years instead of 60 years.
The Repatriation Act provides for the treatment in hospital of persons whose disabilities are due to war service. It also provides that a war widow may receive full hospital benefits. She may go to a repatriation hospital and receive full medical treatment, out-patient treatment, treatment for the eyes, dental treatment and all the other various forms of treatment. A totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman also may receive full treatment for disabilities that are not due to war service. He may go to a repatriation hospital and have the same treatment for those disabilities as he may have for war caused disabilities.
– Are you referring to the war widow?
– To the war widow and to an ex-serviceman who is totally and permanently incapacitated.
– That does not apply to the widows of all ex-servicemen?
– No. Senator Sandford. - That is the vital point.
– Let me finish what I was about to say. The next group who are eligible for free medical treatment are those persons who are in receipt of a 100 per cent. pension. They may enter a repatriation hospital and receive treatment for non-war caused disabilities.
A few weeks ago legislation was introduced to cover the service pensioner. He now receives the same treatment for nonwar caused disabilities as does the 100 per cent. rate pensioner, the war widow, the special rate pensioner, the T.P.I. pensioner and nurses who served in the 1914-18 war. All of that group is entitled to treatment for disabilities that are not due to war service. The department could take only a certain number into its hospitals. It could not bring in every one, because it just could not provide the accommodation that would be required. But we have made provision for hospital treatment for that hard core of pensioners. Twenty-five thousand service pensioners are now entitled to treatment in repatriation hospitals, and everything that goes with it, in respect of incapacities that are not due to war service. I think that clears up the point raised by Senator O’Flaherty.
– It does not. You are talking about something else altogether.
– You want free hospitalization for all ex-members of the forces?
– Well, why did not Labour make provision for that when it had the opportunity?
– Two wrongs do not make a right.
– This Government has made greater provision for these persons than was made by the previous government.
– These people are much older now than when we were in office.
Order! I ask the honorable senator to allow the Minister to proceed with his answer.
– He is not giving an answer.
– -I am giving you an answer that you do not like. Twenty-five thousand more persons are now entitled to the benefit of hospital treatment than was the case three months ago. That represents a considerable extension of the benefits that are provided by the department to former members of the forces. Naturally, we cannot take in everybody unless, as apparently the Opposition suggests, we introduce a more or less general health scheme. If we did so, no extra benefits would be available to exservicemen and ex-service women. We are extending these benefits in stages. If we find that we can take more people into the hospitals, we will take in another group. Those who may now get treatment in the repatriation hospitals are in indigent circumstances. If they were not in such circumstances, they could not draw a service pension. The group that is entitled to hospital treatment includes members of the forces who fought overseas in a battle area. If ex-servicemen have not satisfied that requirement, they cannot obtain a service pension. Moreover, ex-servicemen can get a service pension only if they conform to the social services means test.
Senator Mattner referred to the establishment of a psychiatric ward at Springbank. This project has passed the planning stage, and it was hoped that it would be possible to go on with the work this year. It will cost £183,000. Included in the works programme for this year is the project at Hobart which is to cost £262,000 and which has been commenced. But we cannot complete it in the one year. We are hoping that the work in Hobart will be finished this year, or perhaps early next year. Then we can give thought to the psychiatric ward at Springbank, South Australia. We cannot push on with ali these things at the same time. We must have some awareness of the state of the economy and the finance that we can get. This project has not been forgotten and I hope that we shall be able to get it completed in the near future.
Senator Sandford mentioned the onus of proof. 1 am certainly not going into that matter to-day. He knows my opinions and thoughts on it. I differ from him entirely, but that will make no difference to what he will say in the future. As a result of my personal experience overseas in the early part of the year, I know that neither America nor any other country has as generous repatriation benefits as we have in Australia. No other country has the same generous provisions for appeals to tribunals. When I mentioned to overseas authorities that there were three separate statutory bodies or tribunals which had nothing to do with the department and which gave decisions binding upon the Government and involving the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money, I was told that those other countries had nothing like that and that they took the view that some control must be exercised over expenditure of the taxpayers’ money. Our assessment and entitlement tribunals make their own decisions. Not all of the cases that go before them succeed. We do not expect them to succeed. Almost every man whose application is turned down by the board appeals to the commission and then to a tribunal. The department and I encourage them to make these appeals so that they will have all the facilities possible for obtaining a pension. I do not know about the letter that Senator Sandford received. If he received only one from the whole of Australia after the speech he made on the last Repatriation Bill, he had a very poor response.
– The Minister glossed over the questions asked without really touching upon them at all. I asked whether there was any possibility of providing for the widows of ex-servicemen who die from heart attacks and that kind of thing. The Minister rose and, nicely, quietly and smugly, dealt with war widows. I was not referring to them at all. I was concerned about the widow of an ex-serviceman who was not entitled to a repatriation pension of any kind. There is no provision at all for her. She is given some other kind of pension altogether.
The other point I raised was in relation to men who suffered heart attacks. The Minister, nicely, quietly and kindly, said that the Government had extended the operation of service pensions. Of course, it has, but that does not cover the chap about whom I am talking. A man over 60 may, subject to the means test, receive a service pension. If he has heart trouble or any other kind of trouble, of which there is no medical record during his war service, he is not entitled to any benefit under the Repatriation Act. That is the chap I want the Minister to consider. If the Minister cannot find some hole in the act through which he can drive a wagon, I guarantee that I can find some means of providing a benefit for such a man before he reaches 60 years of age. I point out to the Minister that many more cases of coronary troubles have occurred since the last war than occurred after World War I. Most ex-servicemen of World War I. are well over 60 years of age. Because of the operation of the means test, some of them may not be entitled to a service pension. If they die, their widows are left without any chance of relief. Under the Repatriation Act they are not war widows but widows of returned soldiers.
Most ex-servicemen of World War II. are under 60 years of age but there is now more coronary trouble amongst people under 60 in Australia than ever there was before. Ex-servicemen suffer from it more than do ordinary civilians. The Minister smugly said that the application of the service pension had been extended. However, the service pension does not apply to these men because they are under 60 years of age, and they cannot get any redress. I ask the Minister to consider the provision of medical attention for any persons who have had war service and who have a vascular disease. Otherwise, they may expend hundreds of pounds on doctors and hospital treatment. As has been stated before, war service makes a difference to the resistance to disease that an individual may have later in life. It is now fifteen years since the end of World War II.
Some of these men were at war for three, four or five years before that. So, in some cases, almost twenty years since their war service began, while they are still under 60 years of age and not entitled to a service pension-
– They receive a service pension if they conform with the means test or are permanently unemployable, even if they are only 30 years of age.
– Why did the Minister not say that before?
– I told you that they qualified if they were permanently unemployable.
– Provided they comply with the means test?
– There must be some standard.
– A service pension is not sufficient for a man who is indigent and is suffering a disability. Because it is not sufficient, I ask for reconsideration of the position. I suggest that he should qualify for a war pension instead of a service pension and so receive decent remuneration to tide him over. The fact that he can get a service pension if he can prove that he is unemployable is not sufficient. He still has to pass the means test. If he should shuffle off this mortal coil, his widow would not be properly provided for. Under the Repatriation Act the widow of such a man should be entitled to conditions equal to those of a war widow.
.- 1 do not wish to delay the committee for any great length of time on these votes. I know that they must be passed. The Government has the numbers, but we have the logic. While it has the numbers, it does not matter what we think.
I wish to emphasize a few points. First, I want to refer to a statement made by the Minister for Repatriation in reply to what has been said by honorable senators on this side of the chamber. In regard to the hospital and medical treatment of exservice personnel, he adopts the cowardly attitude of sheltering behind the question, “ Why did not your Government extend the scope of benefits when it was in power?”
As Senator O’Flaherty has said, the exservicemen who served in the Second World
War are twenty years older than they were at the beginning of the war. Throughout the period the Labour Party governed this country, we were engaged in war and the return from a war-time economy to a peace-time economy. That was a colossal task. In any case, I repeat that no matter what was done in the past, we have to look to the future. These men - this human wreckage from the war - should be looked after to the best of our ability. The fact that something was not done fifteen or twenty years ago is no excuse for not doing it to-day.
Reference has been made to the onusofproof provision in the act and the tribunals before which service personnel have to go. The Minister has said that during his trip overseas he investigated repatriation conditions in other countries and found that conditions here are infinitely better than those in any other country. How long was he overseas? Only a few weeks. In that short period of time he was away from Australia could he gain the information to convince himself beyond any reasonable doubt that conditions overseas are incomparably worse than they are here?
– Of course I could.
– Do not interrupt. You should know that interjecting is unparliamentary. The most vexatious repatriation question in Australia to-day, as I have mentioned before and will continue to mention, is the onus-of-proof provision. I repeat that in practice the onus of proof rests wholly and solely on the applicant. The Minister says that repatriation conditions in this country are incomparably better than those in any other country to which he went. I assume he went to Great Britain and ascertained the position there in regard to the onus of proof of repatriation entitlement. In Great Britain an applicant may appeal to a court of law. Wc have been advocating the granting of that right for years, but the Government has refused to concede it.
I have spoken previously on this matter and I do not want to delay the committee unduly. T ask the Minister to consider seriously the very important points that have been raised. They involve the lives of men and women who have served this country in war. Those ex-service personnel are justly entitled to the best hospital and medical treatment that this country can give them, without any strings attached, lt is no use for the responsible Minister to shelter behind the nebulous statement that ex-servicemen’s organizations are satisfied with the onus-of-proof provision in particular and repatriation services in general, when he must know that in fact there is an enormous amount of avoidable suffering among ex-service personnel in the community to-day. The community has a responsibility to correct that position. That rectification can and should be done through the Repatriation Department.
– I wish to ask the Minister a similar question to the questions I have asked Ministers in charge of other departments on the matter of temporary and casual employees. I assume that in the Repatriation Department there are more ex-service employees than civilian employees. It is one department which I assume would give preference of employment to returned servicemen. Therefore, I should like to know how many temporary employees there are in the department, how many of the temporary and permanent employees are ex-servicemen, and how many are not.
– What are you going to do with the information when you find out?
– I am just trying to find out the proportion of temporary employees to permanent employees. I look upon this as part of the general facade of the whole Public Service in which there are hundreds and hundreds of temporary employees who do not seem to have any chance of ever becoming permanent employees. I should like to know how many of the temporary employees in the Repatriation Department have all the qualifications for permanent employment and have not been appointed permanently. Will the Miniser tell me how many of them have fulfilled, since they have taken up their employment, the educational requirements for permanent employment in the department and have not been appointed permanently? I suggest to the Minister that something should be done in this matter. After a man has given, say, ten years’ satisfactory service to the department and has fulfilled the necessary educational requirements, he should automatically become a permanent employee.
I have in mind some employees who have been told that there is no chance of their being appointed to permanent positions in the department for at least another two or three years. One chap I know has given fourteen years’ service to the department. Surely to goodness no position in any government department is so difficult to fill that a man has to serve sixteen years as a temporary employee before he can become a permanent employee! I should like the whole matter to be clarified in the interests of returned servicemen who, at mature ages, have gone back to school at a time when it is difficult to study, have concentrated on their studies and obtained the necessary educational qualifications, and after that struggle have, been told that they have no chance of permanent appointment to the department for some years.
The second question I should like to ask is whether the Minister can tell me how men, who have been on pensions in respect of war-caused disabilities for some years and whose condition shows no improvement, can be deprived of their pensions although they have not been before any board to prove that there has been any improvement in their condition or any change in the circumstances under which the pensions were originally granted. I do not want the Minister to think that I am carping on this matter because the Repatriation Department is one to which I have paid tribute on many occasions in this chamber. I believe that the officers of the department are honestly trying to do a good job for ex-servicemen and their dependants. However, these are questions of principle and, if possible, I should like the Minister to give me answers to them.
– I wish to raise a matter under Division No. 680, War Service Homes Division, under War and Repatriation Services. I wish to ask the Minister whether–
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! That Division has already been dealt with under the appropriation for the Department of National Development.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland - Minister for Repatriation) [4.14]. - I should like to answer the questions asked by Senator Tangney. In the central and branch office of the department there are 1,719 permanent employees and in institutions there are 1,996 permanent employees, a total of 3,715. In the central and branch offices there are 811 temporary and casual employees and in institutions there are 3,303 temporary and casual employees, a total of 4,114. In the institutions there is always a large turn-over of staff. For instance, generally nurses do not stay for many years, although some of them do. Naturally you cannot give a permanent position to a person who does not want a permanent position.
– What about those who do?
– The Public Service Board deals with the employment of personnel. This has nothing to do with my department. I cannot give exact figures, but I would say that about 98 per cent. of the male staff in the Repatriation Department are returned soldiers.
A pension is not taken away from a person until a medical examination has been made. Many pensioners receive callup notices for examination but do not attend. If they do not attend within a certain period the pension is suspended. Suppose a manis in receipt of a pension for a leg wound. His wound may heal and his leg may be as good as ever it was. If a man’s pension is suspended he may appeal to an assessment appeal tribunal, which may order that the pension continue to be paid to him.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Social Services.
Proposed Vote, £3,829,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Social Services.
Proposed Vote, £1,730,000.
War and Repatriation Services - Department of Social Services.
Proposed Vote, £16,000.
Ordered to be considered together.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 639, item 03, which refers to the grant for the housekeeper service. The amount sought this year is £13,740. The amount granted last year was £13.916. This is a very worthwhile grant and one that could be extended if sufficient money were available. The grant assists mothers who are ill and who are forced to obtain housekeepers to look after their families. I think that the value obtained by the Government and the community from this grant is out of all proportion to the amount spent. I regret that this year the Government proposes to spend less on this service than it spent last year.
Item 04 of the same division relates to the assistance provided to approved organizations to build homes for the aged. The homes for the aged scheme is an excellent one. It has provided a great deal of comfort to many old people but there is one facet of the scheme about which I am not very happy. Some organizations that build homes for the aged require aged persons to provide £1,000 to ensure continued occupancy of their home. Aged persons who provide this money merely acquire the right to live in the home. When they die no payment is made to their estate and the organization benefits. If they die within a week or two of going into the home their relatives have no claim on the home. I believe that several organizations that are building homes for the aged operate on that system. These organizations invite aged people to subscribe a certain amount for a home unit which entitles them to occupy the home during their lifetime. These organizations obtain not only £1,000 from aged persons for the home but also the Commonwealth grant of £2,000, making a total of £3,000. I should be interested to know the extent to which this practice is indulged in. I should also like to know whether the estates of such aged persons benefit in any way upon their death. I know that this kind of transaction is largely a gamble. An aged person who obtains such a home may live for many years, but he may not. I do not believe that this practice is quite ethical. A good many people cannot find £1,000 for this purpose. A person with £1,000 can always obtain shelter somewhere. The real purpose behind the homes for the aged scheme is to provide shelter for those who cannot provide it for themselves. This practice should be investigated thoroughly before further grants are made to the organizations concerned. I do not know how many organizations are indulging in the practice but I do not think these grants were intended to help organizations to build up their assets in this way, even though they are housing old people temporarily. I am not suggesting that the organizations look for old crocks in the hope that they will die within a few weeks, but various interpretations could be placed on the ethics of this practice.
– Many people are disappointed when they buy annuities.
– Buying an annuity is a voluntary personal action and no government grant is involved.
Item 01 of Division No. 639 refers to compassionate allowances paid under special circumstances. This year an amount of £111,375 is sought for this purpose. The amount expended under this heading has remained fairly constant ait more than £100,000 annually for several years. If expenditure under this heading is to exceed £100,000 each year surely something more definite could be said about it than that it covers compassionate allowances. Is there something about these compassionate allowances that should make them a special classification of social services? If more than £100,000 is required for this purpose each year it seems to me that the payments should come within a special category of social services.
– Senator Tangney referred to expenditure on compassionate allowances. The expenditure in this connexion last year was approximately £109,000 and this year the Government is seeking for this purpose approximately £111,000. The people whose need of social service assistance has been neglected so far are the wives of invalid pensioners who are not themselves eligible for the pension. We know that quite a number of these people are compelled to live on their husband’s pension plus their allowance of 35s. a week. That means that the couple must live on a total income of £6 15s. a week. I do not think that it is just to expect a married couple to live on £6 15s. a week. The Social Services Act passed earlier this year provided for concessions to be granted to women over 50 years of age whose husbands had been in prison for six months or longer. I do not quarrel with that provision but I think that a woman who is forced to devote all her dme to looking after her invalid husband is in a worse plight than are some women whose husbands are in prison. I feel that something should be done to alleviate the distress of these people. A number of them in South Australia have come to me and have said that I could use their names at any time if I desired to do so, but I am not going to do that sort of thing. I have visited the homes of these people. I will not say that the conditions under which they are living are deplorable, but they could not be very much worse, although we are living in prosperous times.
I ask the Minister to consider increasing the allowance for wives. I do not think that such an increase would cost ‘the Australian taxpayers a great deal of money. Perhaps the Minister would like to tell us how many women are receiving a wife’s allowance and how much it would cost the nation to increase the allowance. If we had that information, we could gauge the effect on the economy of this country if the allowance were increased.
[4.27]. - Senator Tangney asked about the housekeeper service grant. The expenditure in 1959-60 comprised Commonwealth grants to four States. New South Wales received £5,900, Victoria £4,100, Western Australia £1,000 and Tasmania £500. Two organizations in Queensland shared £2,200 and an allowance was made to a family into which quadruplets had been born. The provision for 1960-61 is less than the expenditure for 1959-60 because the allowance paid to the quadruplets ceases early in 1960-61.
Senator Tangney also mentioned that some aged persons pay £1,000 to obtain a home built under the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act.
– Some pay more.
– I am informed that this is a matter which rests entirely with the people concerned. The Government does not desire to take any action in the matter. In any case, an additional home is being provided for an aged person. Even though the occupier of a home does pay £1,000, he or she is not forced to do so. The people who go into these homes are not forced to pay anything.
– They must pay in order to get in.
– That has not been my experience. In Queensland some hundreds of homes are being built and people do not pay to get into them. If a person desires to pay £1,000 in order to get a home, that is a matter between that person and the organization concerned. The fact is that extra homes are being built in this way. I admit that a person paying this amount does take a risk, but if he dies within six months the organization is no better off, except that it is able to provide another home for people who need a home. My personal view is that this is a very good scheme. It enables an organization to obtain more money and thus obtain the subsidy from the Commonwealth.
The matter of compassionate allowances was1 raised. The rates of compassionate allowances are identical with the rates of the appropriate benefits under the Social Services Act. The amount sought for 1960- 61 is higher than the expenditure for 1959-60 as it is necesary to provide for the full annual cost of increased rates granted to beneficiaries in October, 1959.
Senator Drury mentioned the allowances paid to wives. These matters are all considered at Budget time, in the same way as my own department considers repatriation payments. I frequently would like to provide certain benefits but I am unable to do so. These benefits are considered with other benefits. It is just not possible to go on increasing every item, but that does not mean that the matter has not been considered. These things are always carefully considered, and the Government does what it can, but it has to put first things first.
– I think the Minister misunderstood the purpose of my query. I admit that in the case of many homes for the aged that are being erected with the assistance of the supplementary grant paid by the Government, no payment is made by the person occupying the home. I do not think there are any homes in my State where a payment is required, but I know that some organizations are building home units and that they require the person who will occupy a home unit to subscribe a certain amount of money, in many cases £1,000.
The Government subsidizes that amount by providing £2,000, and a home unit is available. 1 should like to know whether, on the death of the person occupying the home, the organization gets the benefit, not only of the £1,000, but also of the £2,000 supplied by the Government. I should like to know also whether the next person to go into the home has to pay another £1,000.
I know that the War Widows’ Guild is doing a very good job in Victoria. It is building some home units under this system. The guild has some homes at Carolinestreet, South Yarra, for which war widows have had to make a payment as a necessary condition of their tenancy. The guild has also built blocks of flats in other parts of Melbourne. Where payments such as this are made, I should like to know who holds the deeds of the property. Was it the intention of the Government, when it commenced this supplementary assistance scheme, that this sort of thing should happen - that a person should have to pay a certain amount before he or she obtained a home?
– In many cases it is a donation in perpetuity to the church or the organization.
– That is what I am trying to find out. I do not think that was the intention of the Government when this legislation was passed. I think that money was made available by the Commonwealth Government on the basis of a subsidy of £2 for £1 in order to provide homes for people who could not provide for themselves. If a person has £1,000 or £2,000 to spare, he or she is not exactly destitute. I should like to know how many of these organizations do pursue this policy of requiring a person to pay up to a couple of thousand pounds for accommodation.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of the Interior, £5,779,000; Miscellaneous Services - Department of the Interior, £123,600; Civil Defence, £300,000; War and Repatriation Services - Department of the Interior, £330,000; Australian War Memorial, £95,500; Australian Capital Territory, £4,881,000- agreed to.
Department of Territories.
Proposed Vote, £354,000.
Proposed Vote, £6,822,000.
Proposed Vote, £32,000.
Papua and New Guinea.
Proposed Vote, £14,647,000.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
Proposed Vote, £54,900.
Proposed Vote, £100.
Department of Works.
Proposed Vote, £4,289,000.
Ordered to be considered together.
– 1 refer to Papua and New Guinea. I am very pleased indeed to see that it is proposed that £14,647,000 shall be spent in the Territory this financial year. A sum of £2,000,000 is to be spent on education, which is a very important factor in New Guinea at the present time. Until recently the schools in the Goroka valley could accommodate only 30 children. This information was conveyed to the natives and promptly applications were received from 300 children. When we asked the children in these schools what was their favourite subject invariably they replied that it was English. There is not the slighest doubt that we will receive very good value for the money that is being provided for education.
I come now to the laudable provision of £2,400,000 for health purposes. We saw the natives being trained in first aid. The native boys were not taught this subject in English because they would be moving amongst natives speaking some 500 dialects. Consequently they were taught medical terms in pidgin English. I think that that is a common sense approach to the matter.
The amount of £1,400,000 is being provided for agriculture, stock, fisheries and forestry. Some of us had a look at the experimental farm that is situated 8 miles from Port Moresby. We saw experiments conducted with cattle, particularly the shorthorn and Angus breeds. It was quite obvious that although good quality cattle of these breeds were taken there, their condition had deteriorated rapidly.
The progeny of the pure bred stock were a very poor type - poor in condition - and were continually getting out of the sun and into the water whenever they could. We also saw some of the first cross - that is, the progeny of the pure breds and zebu bulls - and their progeny, although only half the age, were almost twice the size of the pure bred British stock. They walked and fed in the sun, and were doing very well indeed. Here again, I think it has been wise to make an allocation of £1,400,000.
One factor that is exercising the minds of many people in New Guinea is that when their children reach a certain age, they find it necessary to send them to Australia to complete their schooling. This entails very great expense. The difficulties and expense that we people in Australia face, particularly the country people, regarding the education of our children, pale into insignificance compared with the difficulties and expense that are incurred by people in New Guinea in sending their children to Australia to attend school. Furthermore, the parents may see the children only once in twelve months. I think that the department should take notice of this matter. The people in New Guinea should be given more assistance towards the education of their children than they are receiving at the present time.
There is another aspect of this matter. Although native teachers are being trained, we were told while in New Guinea that the native people themselves are not very keen on their children being taught by native teachers. It is hard to say whether they think that greater kudos attaches to their children being taught by teachers of European extraction, or that they receive better education from them. I believe that even if there were secondary schools of a sufficiently high standard established in New Guinea, most of the people would continue to send their children over here to school in order to get them used to Australian conditions.
There are many other aspects of this matter to which I should like to direct attention, but I shall content myself with the remarks I have made, in the hope that eventually we will have an opportunity to discuss them on the motion for the printing of a ministerial statement on Australian policy in Papua and New Guinea, which is on the business paper.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Second Schedule agreed to.
Postponed clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Postponed First Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 4.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 November 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19601110_senate_23_s18/>.