24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I address a question to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Are the inventions of this organization, such as sir-o-set, which have a commercial value, given to the world free of charge, nominal or otherwise? If charges are made for the commercial use of any invention or discovery, is there any distinction between charges made in Australia and those levied overseas? Will the Minister ascertain the number of inventions and discoveries of commercial value made by the C.S.I.R.O., giving brief descriptions of them? Does the C.S.I.R.O. take out patents for any of its inventions?
– The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s investigations do lead from time to time to a number of devices which have commercial value. These are generally treated in the following way: The C.S.I.R.O. looks around to find some firm which is in that particular field of industry and which is competent to manufacture the invention which the C.S.I.R.O. has brought into being. As a general rule, the firm patents the device which has been invented in the name of C.S.I.R.O. In other words, the C.S.I.R.O. holds the patent and the firm pays patent fees.
There is a difference between the way in which the machines are marketed overseas and in Australia. Generally with overseas marketing, the firm manufacturing the particular machine is given an exclusive licence by the C.S.I.R.O. for its manufacture and the C.S.I.R.O. receives royalty on the sales of the machine. In Australia, it is not so usual to give an exclusive licence. Wherever possible, the C.S.I.R.O. seeks to make sure, in a case where an exclusive licence for the world is given, that there is a firm in Australia which is capable of manufacturing the machine. If there is, that Australian firm gets the licence and the C.S.I.R.O. receives royalty on the machines sold.
I shall endeavour to obtain for the honorable senator a list of the things which fall into this category. I know of two or three off-hand. One is a new type of machine for treating wool which it is claimed will cut out one process in the transmutation of wool from the sheep’s back to clothing.
– Will the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization state whether that organization has made further investigations into the effects of the drug fibroma on the disease myxomatosis which has been used to destroy rabbits over the past few years? If the C.S.I.R.O. is of the opinion that the drug is detrimental to the incidence of myxomatosis, will the Government make representations in this matter to the State Governments, particularly the New South Wales Government? If it is at all possible, will the C.S.I.R.O. carry out exhaustive tests to clear up any doubts about this matter?
– The position regarding the fibroma virus is that Dr. Shope, its American inventor, was brought to this country by the C.S.I.R.O. and the Governments of Victoria and New South Wales to investigate and report on the use of the fibroma virus in the breeding of tame rabbits. He presented his report. He said that in his view the fibroma virus presented a danger, of an unknown extent, to the spread of myxomatosis in wild rabbits. On the other hand, the C.S.I.R.O., basing its belief on experiments carried out by Dr. Fenner, a virologist employed in the Australian National University, in the spreading of the fibroma virus by vectors and the sort of lesions that the fibroma virus brings up, believes that there is less danger than Dr. Shope indicated there was. The view of the organization was clearly expressed at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in Perth recently, at which all the States and the Commonwealth discussed this problem. At that meeting the C.S.I.R.O. stated that, although it believes the danger is very small indeed, it cannot say that there is absolutely no danger, and therefore in those circumstances it believes that if this virus is to be used at all it must be used with great safeguards. As a result of that, the New South Wales Government has decided not to issue any new permits for the commercial breeding of tame rabbits and to use the safeguards suggested.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that 1,100 tons of Australian wheat and 1 00 tons of Australian oats that were shipped to Calcutta were dumped last week after being condemned by the Indian Food Ministry because the grain had been contaminated by insecticide while the ship was on the way to Calcutta? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the wheat was sold through the Australian Wheat Board or provided as aid? Will the Minister inquire into the circumstances of this happening with the object of preventing future contamination of exports of primary products by substances with toxic properties?
– This question relates to a parcel of wheat which was sold to the Indian Government by the Australian Wheat Board. The Indian Government paid for the wheat and chartered a vessel for its shipment. Portion of the cargo was some agricultural spray which, I am informed, broke loose and entered one of the holds containing the wheat. This wheat was contaminated, and I understand that as a result portion of the cargo was dumped. I want to stress the fact that the Australian Wheat Board has no financial responsibility in this matter. The responsibility rests on the Indian Government and, of course, the shipping company concerned.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the statement which was made in another place by a prominent Government member to the effect that the Commonwealth Government was preparing to recognize Communist China, will the Minister state what Communistcontrolled countries, in addition to Russia, are recognized by the Government? Is there at present any trade prohibition on the export of any material to any of these Communits countries? If so, what are the materials?
– I have no recollection of any member of the Government saying that the Government was prepared to recognize Communist China. In fact, there has been no Government statement to that effect, so that part of the question is inaccurate.
As to the second part of the question relating to what Communist countries are recognized, I ask for that portion to be placed on the notice-paper. I have a very clear view myself but it is better for the question to be answered accurately.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen the statement in this morning’s press to the effect that in the final quarter of the last financial year the gross national product increased by 8 per cent.? What is the reason for this increase in view of the fact that in the first and second quarters of the last financial year there was a respective drop of 2 per cent.? Does the Minister believe that the increase of 8 per cent, in the gross national product, together with the heavy financial commitments facing the Government for developmental projects in the north of Australia, will have an effect on our employment situation? Can the Minister give an assurance that, following the measures which were taken last February to increase interest in private investment, together with the proposed expenditure for development outlined in the Budget, the conditions of over-full employment which existed in 1960, when there were up to eight vacancies in the building industry in Victoria for every unemployed tradesman, will not be allowed to return, because we do not want another inflationary spiral in Australia?
– This question is rather comprehensive, and a complete answer involves a statement of Government economic policy. I have not seen the report to which the honorable senator has referred, but within the last quarter of the last financial year there was a perceptible - even to those who wish that it were not perceptible - increase in activity in the Australian economy. It is true that Government-generated expenditure certainly will promote employment. All the developmental works to be undertaken or assisted by the Commonwealth Government will have the effect of increasing economic activity, thus increasing employment. The fear which seems to be in the honorable senator’s mind is that this activity may go too far. I need only direct his attention to the reference which the Treasurer made to this aspect in the Budget Speech on Tuesday night last.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. Is the Minister aware whether representations have been made, by the Gallipoli Legion of Anzacs, in particular, with reference to the issue of an Anzac medal, sanctioned, I understand, in 1918, the sanction later being withdrawn because of the cost involved and the difficulty of securing records, particularly those of British servicemen who served in that area? As this matter is considered to be of great importance by a large number of servicemen, particularly the Gallipoli Legion of Anzacs, will the Minister inform the Senate whether the Government has taken any action with respect to issuing such a medal? If not, does the Government propose to take such action?
– I am well aware of the representations that have been made as the secretary of the Gallipoli Legion of Anzacs is the secretary of my own re-union committee. I am very familiar with it all. To my knowledge the matter has never been before the Government. I was intrigued to note that there is on the business paper in another place a private member’s bill on this matter. I can say only that as the matter is formally before the Parliament it must in due course come before the Government. To my knowledge it has not been before the Government since I have been a member of the Cabinet.
– I direct a ques tion to the Minister for Civil Aviation following his reply to a question asked by Senator Vincent yesterday afternoon. In answering that question the Minister said that he hoped that jet aircraft would be on the internal Australian air routes by 1964.
Will Victoria be able to participate in this traffic by having within that State the proposed jet airport at Tullamarine?
– I take considerable pleasure in answering the first question asked by Senator Cormack since his reappearance in this chamber. Victoria’s participation in jet traffic on the domestic routes does not necessarily depend upon the construction of an airport at Tullamarine. As I said in answer to the question asked by Senator Vincent yesterday, the domestic operators are now considering which particular aircraft shall replace their present fleet. The domestic operators will be ordering and commissioning their new aircraft quite soon. I would expect the aircraft to be in operation by the second half of 1964. It is anticipated that the jet aircraft which will be chosen will service Melbourne on the domestic routes whether or not the Tullamarine airport is finished.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. Following interrogatories asked of him in the Senate on the 1st and 17th May last, has he yet received a reply from the Prime Minister on the subject of stopping the practice by some Ministers of sending letters in reply to representations made by senators on behalf of constituents to members of the House of Representatives in whose divisions those constituents live?
– I reply to Senator McClelland’s maiden effort by saying that I shall be asking leave of the Senate to make a statement on that matter at the conclusion of question time to-day.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise or his department taken any action to declare the drug thalidomide a prohibited import?
– As I undertook to do yesterday, I have conferred with the Minister for Health and plans are now in hand to declare the drug thalidomine a prohibited import.
– I preface a question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Treasurer, by saying that in previous years there has been some difficulty in obtaining additional copies of the Budget Papers immediately after presentation of the Budget, apparently because the number of copies supplied to the Senate by the Treasury is severely limited. Will the Minister confer with the Treasurer to see whether sufficient copies can be made available to the Senate this year to avoid this unnecessary inconvenience?
– It has not been my experience that there has been a scarcity of these papers in the past. If there is difficulty this year, I shall certainly confer with the Treasurer to ensure that honorable senators have the papers as quickly as possible.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral been directed to the recent announcement by the South African Government that it is installing a new frequency modulation broadcasting service for the Bantu people of that country, including Zulus, Hottentots, Tebeles and Basutos? Will the Minister re-examine the Australian decision to abolish frequency modulation broadcasting and take action to give Australian listeners an interference-free system comparable with that being made available to these native peoples?
– I pay tribute to Senator Hannan for the frequency with which he raises the subject of frequency modulation in this chamber. I was not aware of the action proposed to be taken by the South African Government to bring this type of entertainment to its people. I shall certainly direct the PostmasterGeneral’s attention to the matter raised by Senator Hannan. I do not know whether the South African Government’s action will help in any way to solve the technical difficulties facing the Postmaster-General in relation to this matter.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport any information as to the total annual cost of shipping freights paid by Australian primary producers and traders to overseas shipping lines on both exports and imports? Is it a fact that Australia suffers grave trading disadvantages because of the enormous sums of money paid to overseas shipping lines for freights? Is it also a fact that Australia is the only major trading nation in the world which has no ships trading overseas? Is the Minister aware of the growing body of public opinion in favour of the establishment of a Commonwealth overseas shipping line which would build, man and run Australian ships? In view of the challenge to Australia’s trading position raised by the European Common Market problem, will the Minister give urgent consideration to this proposal?
– The question of overseas shipping falls within the administration not of the Minister for Shipping and Transport but of the Minister for Trade. I shall be pleased to direct this question to him so that a considered answer may be given to the honorable senator. I might by way of interim answer, however, indicate to the honorable senator that to believe that the replacement of the present privatelyowned shipping by a nationally-owned line would necessarily reduce costs to the Australian economy is entirely fallacious. If the honorable senator cares to have a look at comparative shipping costs, he will find that the Australian coastal shipping costs impose a far greater burden on the Australian economy than do those of the overseas shipping lines.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer direct the attention of his colleague to the growing tendency on the part of Commonwealth valuers to differ from State valuers in valuing estate assets, thus adding to the existing irritant of two death duties the irritant of two different valuations of assets? Will the Minister have the position examined with a view to directing Commonwealth assessors to adopt State Government valuations in all cases unless there is a substantial reason to differ?
– I am not informed on the situation myself. I shall be pleased to comply with the request and direct the matter to the attention of the Treasurer.
– I direct a question without notice to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. I want to know whether the Government’s attention has been directed to the statement reported in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ of Tuesday, in which the Ambassador of West Germany, Doctor H. Muhlenfeld, said: “ Australia has nothing to attract migrants from West Germany.”? He further stated that “ there was plenty of work in West Germany, wages were good and prospects for the future bright. For the young West German the only advantage in migrating to Australia is that he would avoid 18 months compulsory army training.” In the interests of the future migration programme can the Government inform the West German authorities at what period it can be expected there will be plenty of work in Australia; when it can be expected that wages in Australia can be described as “ good “ in comparison with West German wages; and when it is expected that prospects for the future will be bright in Australia? In view of the unfavourable conditions for workers in Australia compared with those of West Germany will future screening of migrants ensure that immigrants are not those who seek only to migrate to Australia in order to dodge national obligations in their own country?
– The question really divides itself into two parts, the first of which I should like to answer at once. I refer to the prospects in Australia. There is no need for us to provide information for any overseas country about the great prospects for the development of Australia, the conditions of employment, wages or the Standard of living in Australia. It is recognized throughout the world that the standard of living in Australia is as high as that anywhere. As for the developmental prospects, the provisions of the Budget, when put into operation, will ensure an enormous amount of developmental work in Australia. The prospects for development are undoubted. There is no need for us to convince anybody of them. People have only to look at the facts for themselves. I have not seen the statement in the Adelaide press referred to by Senator Cavanagh, but J think that his question warrants an answer from the Minister himself. If the Senator will be good enough to put it on the noticepaper I shall ask the Minister to answer it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Can the Minister inform me how many tenders were received by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the supply of a one-watt very high frequency television translator unit? Has the board decided on what make it intends to acquire? If a decision has been made, what was the total price? Can the Minister intimate how long the VHF translator experimental programme is likely to take? If the use of translators on commercial stations is to be permitted, is each translator to be counted as a second station or only as a relay unit?
– Where was this to be installed?
– It was to be purchased for the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
– As a pilot study?
– For experimental purposes.
– I am sorry that I cannot answer the question raised by Senator Branson. Obviously this was a pilot study. I do not know the result, but I shall ask the Postmaster-General to supply the information if Senator Branson will put his question on notice.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that recently Mr. Bury, as Minister Assisting the Treasurer, made a statement in which he expressed an opinion contrary to the official opinion of the Government on the likely effect on Australian trade of Great Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community? Did Mr. Bury express his opinion in a speech made at a dinner? If so, will the Leader of the Government table in this chamber the text of the speech made by Mr. Bury?
– The answer to the first part of the question is “ Yes “. The answer to the second part is that I understand Mr. Bury did not have a prepared speech. He spoke from notes.
– The Prime Minister obtained the text of the speech.
– Yes. Mr. Bury reconstructed his notes and gave them to the Prime Minister. I am not prepared to give an undertaking that the speech will be tabled in the Senate.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport noted a press report to the effect that the British Government is drafting legislation to make compulsory the use of front seat safety belts in motor vehicles, and that it proposes to introduce the legislation as soon as possible? Is the Minister aware that, as at 30th June this year, there were 29,567 Commonwealth-owned motor vehicles on register, excluding defence service vehicles? Does the Minister agree that if the Commonwealth Government were to issue an instruction that all those vehicles were to be equipped with front seat safety belts forthwith, valuable lives would be saved and the private sector of the motor industry would be given a magnificent piece of leadership towards the universal use of safety belts in Australia?
– I have seen the press reference to the action taken in the United Kingdom. I know that the question of the use of safety belts has been considered from time to time in a general way by my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, but I do not know whether he has given specific attention to the question of fitting them to Commonwealth vehicles. I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to my colleague and obtain a full answer.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he will cause a review to be made of the operation of the airlines agreement, one effect of which, last Sunday, was to oblige patrons of TransAustralian Airlines to fly from Launceston to Melbourne in a Friendship aircraft, with its cramped seating accommodation, while T.A.A.’s competitor was able to fly its patrons, from the same airport and at the same time, in a Viscount aircraft owned by T.A.A., with the seating accommodation only partly filled? In order to assure the public that the airlines agreement does not provide for entirely one-way traffic in favour of T.A.A.’s competitors, will the Minister ensure that obvious anomalies such as the one I have mentioned are minimized?
– I should not think that the airlines agreement would impose the kind of restriction on TransAustralia Airlines that is suggested by the honorable senator’s question. In working out flight operations, the airlines themselves decide such matters as the types of aircraft to be used on some specific services. I think the honorable senator will acknowledge that it is only reasonable and correct that they should be able to do so. The circumstances surrounding the particular incident mentioned by the honorable senator may well have been that T.A.A., in assessing the number of passengers available, considered that a Friendship aircraft was suitable for the flight. On the question of the general application of the airlines agreement legislation to the domestic airline operators of this country, I point out that I have been Minister for Civil Aviation for nearly six years and that each year at about this time the Opposition tries its hardest, directly and by implication, to show that this downtrodden government airline is being “ done in the eye”. Yet, in each successive year it has been my pleasure to present to the Parliament a report from T.A.A. indicating continued progress. That will be the position again this year.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether he is aware that the Premier of South Australia told the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly yesterday that rail standardization in South Australia has been postponed indefinitely. Was Sir Thomas Playford correct in making that statement? Is the Minister further aware that the assistant manager of the Broken Hill Associated Smelters at Port Pirie said on 8th August that the fate of Port Pirie during the next few months could hinge on the urgent need to standardize rail gauges? When making that statement he was referring to the fact that lead prices were now at the lowest level at which they had been for years and that this constituted a threat to the lead export industry, and he stressed the need for the economy which rail standardization would bring to that industry.
– I am not closely informed at this moment as to the stage at which the negotiations between the Commonwealth and South Australia with respect to rail standardization stand. At the moment, I have no first hand knowledge of what has happened since the hearing of the case which was brought by the South Australian Government against the Commonwealth Government. But I do say to the honorable senator that the Commonwealth Government gives increasing evidence of the fact that it retains an interest in South Australia’s rail transport. Honorable senators will recall that, in the Budget Speech which he delivered the night before last, the Treasurer pointed out that something like £1,300,000 was being provided for the purchase of locomotives and, 1 think, rolling stock.- Certainly, provision is being made for locomotives.
– We passed that act six months ago.
– I know; and this financial provision is being made pursuant to that act. Honorable senators will recall that negotiations with respect to rail standardization were held up by virtue of the fact that the South Australia Government brought an action against the Commonwealth Government. I do not know what has happened since then, but I shall find out and let the honorable senator know.
– I address a question to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. In view of the enormous quantities of recently developed poisons which are being used as insecticides, weedicides and so on in Australian agriculture, I ask whether any research is being carried out by the Commonwealth or any of its agencies into the amount of poisonous residues in food consumed by the public and their effect on consumers.
– I am not aware of any specific research being carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial
Research Organization into poisonous residues. I shall make inquiries and let the honorable senator know by letter.
– I ask the
Minister for Civil Aviation whether he will give the Senate some explanation as to what is being aimed at in the scheme for rationalization of airlines in Australia. Will he also indicate whether this scheme is being directed in any way by his department and whether it is meant to provide the best possible service with the lowest possible overhead expenditure? Is he aware that under this scheme at least two planes on two days have been taken off the run between Adelaide and Sydney with the result that on Mondays and Tuesdays there is no afternoon plane at all between those two’ cities at the present time.
– The honorable senator sets me a task in asking me at question time to detail what the policy of rationalization has achieved. She, more than most honorable senators, will remember the great number of bills that have been introduced and the great amount of time that both houses of the Parliament have given to the development of the rationalization scheme over the last five years.
The purpose of this scheme, of course, is to provide the best possible service and the most economical service possible, maintaining two airlines on the trunk routes of Australia. I think that has been achieved; and it should not be assumed that because an airline curtails or withdraws a service, such action necessarily flows as a result of rationalization. Far from it! The airlines are competitive business enterprises supplying services to meet a demand. The honorable senator refers specifically to two Adelaide services. Yes, I can give her the answer to that. It was only with great regret that they were withdrawn, and they were withdrawn because there was not sufficient patronage to sustain them.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services aware of the plight of many women aged between 50 and 60 years who are married to age pensioners and who receive no social service payments similar to those received by the wives of invalid pensioners? Is it a fact that the only way in which these women can receive financial assistance from the Government is to register for employment and, in the event of no job being available, they may receive a partial unemployment benefit payment? Will the Minister confer with his colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, to discover how many jobs are available to Women in this age group and the categories of such jobs? Does the Minister consider it reasonable to expect elderly women, after so many years absence from business or industry, to re-enter it in competition with younger women? What is the estimated cost of extending the payment of a wife’s allowance to the wives of age pensioners in the 50 to 60 age group?
– I would not claim to have a detailed knowledge of the particular set of circumstances to which Senator Tangney alludes, but I would have no doubt that my colleague, the Minister for Social Services, with his wide experience, would have considered wives in that particular category. I point out to Senator Tangney, who asks what that particular benefit would cost, that the Treasurer stated in his Budget Speech that the normal increase in the cost of age, invalid and widows’ pensions this year will be not less than £13,000,000. The normal increase in social service benefits for those three categories alone, without any increase in benefits, is not less than £13,000,000. The Treasurer also mentioned in his Budget Speech that whereas in 1949-50 the total payments from the National Welfare Fund absorbed not less than 47.7 per cent, of the total revenue which the Government of Australia obtained from income tax, last year they increased to 68 per cent; and in the current year it is estimated that of the total collections made from the people of Australia by way of income tax not less than 72 per cent, will be applied to meeting payments made from the National Welfare Fund.
– I ask the
Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is a fact that Trans-Australia Airlines books accommodation for its crews staying in
Hobart overnight at Hobart’s most expensive hotel, some 14 miles from the airport whilst more modern and more reasonable accommodation is now available within 2 or 3 miles of the airport. Is that one of th; reasons why the dividend paid annually by Trans-Australia Airlines into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which represents the taxpayers share of the profit, is much less than the dividend its competitor pays to its shareholders?
– I will answer the last part of the question first. It is a fact that Ansett Transport Industries Limited, which embraces a whole complex of activities generally associated with transport, pays a dividend rather larger than that paid by Trans-Australia Airlines, which operates almost exclusively an air transport service. In reply to the other part of the question I must tell the honorable senator that it is a matter of management and administration of which I am not aware. It is the concern of the Australian National Airlines Commission. I have no doubt that the honorable senator’s question will be followed up by the executives of T.A.A. who, I have found from experience, are rather avid readers of “ Hansard “.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, relates to the matter raised earlier by Senator Scott. Has the attention of the Minister been directed to an article by the finance editor in yesterday’s Adelaide “ Advertiser “, headed “ Gross National Product Rise Lowest Since The War “? It reads -
The Gross National Product, or value of total production of goods and services produced in Australia, rose by only £72,000,000 or slightly less than I per cent, to £7,327,000,000 in 1961-62.
This is the smallest increase shown since the war, and is less than one-fifth of the rise of £361,000,000 in 1960-61 and only about onetenth of the increase shown two years ago.
In view of the fact that the same finance editor, in a review of the Budget proposals published in the same newspaper, describes the Budget as “ a weak mixture for growth “, does the Minister believe that there is any ground for the fear of over-full employment expressed by Senator Scott?
– I confess that 1 have not seen the comments that were published in the Adelaide journal to which the honorable senator referred. No doubt I will get around to reading them in time. I thought I answered Senator Scott’s question in very restrained tones. I did not attempt to make any political capital out of the quotation that had been brought to my notice. Therefore, I am rather surprised that Senator Ridley, from South Australia, should have attempted to make political capital out of what appeared in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “. I can answer him only in general terms at question-time. If he reposes any hope in the prospect of beating up a public opinion that the economy is not recovering quite steadily and quite well, he is reposing hope in something that will not materialize. There is plenty of evidence that the Australian economy is now moving forward at a steady pace. That is best shown by facts which the Opposition, even by interjection, cannot break down, namely that our external position is as good as it has ever been and comparatively as good as that of almost any other country, and that our internal costs position has been held.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it a fact that for many years the Commonwealth Government has maintained - and rightly so - a ban on the export of merino sheep suitable for breeding purposes? Has that ban been lifted either in theory or in practice in recent months? Have any merino sheep been exported from Australia to Soviet Russia, South America or any other country in recent months?
– The ban on the export of merino rams is still in existence. I understand that a small number have been exported to New Zealand and that New Zealand has placed a ban on their re-export. I am not quite sure of the number, but it is only small. Also, within the last two or three years a small number went to an experimental station in England and another small shipment went to a research station in South Africa. As far as I know, those are the only exports that have been made from Australia in recent years.
– I ask the
Minister for Civil Aviation a question. In view of his answer to the question asked by my colleague Senator Ridley, can the Minister inform me why his party is not contesting a by-election in Victoria so that the people could have an opportunity to support his views?
– I am delighted to answer the question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I answer him in the hard practical terms of the politician, with which he himself is quite familiar. The reason is that the Australian Labour Party, unfortunately but nonetheless truthfully, won the Batman seat by a substantial majority some months ago. For the remainder of the term of office of this Parliament-
– This is a new practice; but go on. This is most interesting.
– I hope you find it so. For the remainder of the term of office of this Parliament, namely about two and a half years-
– Or less.
– Or perhaps more - we feel that we should not put a candidate into the field in view of the fact that the electoral boundaries will be altered, and as we plan to make an impact on the new electorate, we are reserving our fire.
– I have heard many answers, but this is a really good one.
– This is a perfectly practical answer. What is taking the Deputy Leader of the Opposition aback is that I am putting this to him as a political consideration. At this time there is no practical political point in our contesting the seat.
– It is a blue-ribbon Labour seat.
– Yes, it is. But Senator Kennelly should not read into my statement any weakening of the Liberal Party’s resolve to take on the Labour Party at every opportunity that is offered.
– At every opportunity other than this one.
– Yes, for the reasons stated.
– Will the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization tell me when the organization’s laboratory in Townsville will be completed? Have any steps been taken to purchase land for farm and pasture experimentation? Will scientists capable of tropical plant propagation be sought from overseas countries?
– At the moment I cannot say when the laboratory at Townsville will be completed, but the C.S.I.R.O. is in the process of obtaining land from the Townsville University College on which to build the laboratory. It should be started and, one would hope, completed in this financial year. As to the second part of the question relating to land for an experimental farm the answer is that land has been acquired to the extent that an option has been taken over an area in the vicinity. The question of the source from which scientists are recruited to carry out plant experimentation is one which I should leave to the head of the division in the sure knowledge that he would obtain the best scientists available, either from overseas or in Australia.
– Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate consider having the sittings of the Senate and, if possible, the Parliament so arranged that the Senate and the House of Representatives will not be sitting in the period in which the Commonwealth Games will be held in Perth? If we can obtain early notice of the programme of sittings we will be able to make our own arrangements to enjoy the Games and to attend the functions which have been arranged in relation to them.
– The Parliament will not be sitting while the Games are being held in Perth provided it can finish its business before the Games commence. I am sure that I shall have the great cooperation of Senator Cooke in reaching that desired objective. As I understand the position, we are aiming to finish the business of both Houses of Parliament prior to the commencement of the Games so that members will be able to attend them. Whether we can do so will depend on the trend of events in the Parliament and the manner in which we dispose of our business.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry relates to what is regarded as a most important meeting of representatives of the Australian woolgrowing industry which was held recently and which, I understand, endorsed certain important recommendations of the committee of inquiry into wool marketing. Has the Minister for Primary Industry or the Government yet considered the decisions reached by the wool-growing interests at that meeting? Will the Government state what it proposes to do about them? If the Government approves what has been done by the wool-growing interests following that meeting does it propose to introduce legislation to implement the meeting’s recommendations?
– Subsequent to the tabling of the report of the committee of inquiry into wool marketing two of the major growers’ organizations met both independently and collectively to consider one of the recommendations flowing from the committee’s report relating to the formation of an overall wool authority. They have agreed in principle to this proposal and have discussed it with the Minister for Primary Industry, who has undertaken to place the proposals before the Government and if endorsed to bring down legislation during this sessional period to meet the growers’ requests on this aspect.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation give the Senate some idea of the duties and functions to be performed by Mr. Justice Spicer in the new appointment which the Minister announced on 20th July last? Does the appointment of this learned judge give promise of early finality on such questions as the better coordination of the air timetables of both major domestic operators to give a wider service to the travelling public?
- Mr. Justice Spicer was appointed recently to the position of arbitrator. No doubt all honorable senators are aware of the way in which the rationalization machinery works. Timetables and related matters are considered first by a rationalization committee which consists of the co-ordinator, who is the Director-General of Civil Aviation, and a representative of each airline. When agreement cannot be reached between the two airlines a decision is made by the arbitrator. Mr. Justice Spicer’s position is analagous, I think, to that of an appeal court. When either party is not satisfied with the decision given by the co-ordinator it may take its case on appeal to Mr. Justice Spicer. Such matters would include, but not necessarily so, time-tabling and the co-ordination of time-tables, and it is possible, though not likely, I should think, that a question of this nature would go as far as Mr. Justice Spicer. Rather bigger and more basic questions as to routes and to frequencies, instead of time-tables, are those which, on experience, have been more difficult to solve than have been questions relating to timetables.
– Will the Minister for Health assure the Senate that the finances of the medical benefits and hospital funds are in a satisfactory state of solvency? I ask this question having in mind the opinions which he expressed publicly about the high cost of medicine in Australia and the general financial set-up in services as between the Government and the paying public.
– Yes, I can assure the honorable senator that the reserves of the medical benefits organizations are substantial. They are under Government scrutiny at all times to ensure that reserves are adequate to meet any emergency which may eventuate. My references to the cost of the scheme have not been directed to medical benefits funds, which operate under Commonwealth legislation. They have been directed to the Government’s direct participation in the scheme through other avenues, and have no reference to medical benefits funds.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Territories read page 2606 of the “ Hansard “ of the
Legislative Council of the Northern Territory of 2nd April, 1962, in which the Director of Mines, Mr. Adams, implies that as Supply is never granted before August or September, towards the end of the dry season, the Department of Works cannot commence new road works in the Territory before the end of the following wet season? Can the Government take any action to make funds available to the Northern Territory Administration in time for work to be commenced at the beginning of the dry season in the financial year in which the funds are voted? The present system seems to delay the commencement of road works for an unduly long period, and road construction must play an important part in the Government’s policy of rapid development of the Northern Territory.
– I saw the statement referred to because the honorable senator directed my attention- to it. It is not correct to suggest that funds for new works in the Northern Territory are not provided until August or September each financial year. As honorable senators know a Supply Act is passed in the autumn session each year and covers expenditure commencing on 1st July. The existing financial arrangements ensure that there is no break at the end of the financial year in the continuity of work or the commencement of new work.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, in relation to the setting up of the Australian Wool Marketing Authority. Statistics show that there are 100,000 woolgrowers producing ten bales or more who claim membership of three federal organizations, namely, the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council with a membership of 25,000, the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation with 43,000 members, and the Australian Primary Producers Union with 25,000 members. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Australian Primary Producers’ Union is to be given representation on the wool marketing authority in proportion to its membership? If not, will he inform me of the Government’s intention?
– As I understand the position, the Australian Primary Producers Union has not at this point of time been represented officially in the talks that have taken place between the two major woolgrowing organizations - I use the term “major” advisedly on this occasion - and the Minister for Primary Industry about the setting-up of the wool authority. I am not in a position to say what the Government’s thinking is as to the personnel of the authority. My understanding is that the two industrial organizations to which I have referred have made proposals to the Minister, and as far as I know no provision has been made for representatives of the Australian Primary Producers Union. I may be wrong. I shall bring the matters raised by Senator Cooke to the notice of my colleague and let the honorable senator know what the Government’s thinking is on the matter.
– Yesterday Senator Hannan asked me a question without notice and I replied that I would obtain some information for him about the arrest in Melbourne of a Chinese named Mak Kung who claimed he was a refugee from Communist China and had entered Australia as a stowaway eight years ago. Mr. Downer made a full statement in the press yesterday. If that satisfies the honorable senator, I shall not proceed to obtain further information for him.
– by leave - I lay on the table the following paper -
National Radiation Advisory Committee - Report to the Prime Minister on a detailed assessment of fall-out in Australia.
I propose to make a very short statement on this matter. This report by the National Radiation Advisory Committee is the outcome of a detailed assessment of fall-out in Australia from all nuclear weapons tests conducted prior to September, 1961. Although by nature complex and technical, the facts are presented simply and in lay language. For the benefit of those initiated in this field, a detailed review of the scientific data on fallout levels in Australia is appended to the report.
The publication of this report is opportune. It is reassuring to learn from it that the committee has come to the conclusion that all fall-out over Australia from all nuclear weapons tests conducted prior to September, 1961, will result in a negligible addition to the natural background radiation to which we have always been exposed. The committee goes on to emphasise that the risks to the Australian population from this fall-out are insignificant in comparison with the normal hazards of everyday life.
I draw the attention of honorable senators to the exacting nature of the measurements which must be made to provide reliable information on these very low levels of radioactivity in our environment. Such measurements must be repeated for a variety of materials and for many specimens of these materials. Obviously, the collection and analysis of these data is a slow process and useful statements cannot be made on a day-to-day basis. The committee stresses this difficulty in its references to the nuclear weapons tests conducted by the Soviet Union in late 1961 and more recently by the United States. Comprehensive scientific data are not yet available on fall-out from these tests, and definite conclusions cannot be drawn for Australia. The committee did believe, however, that brief reference to these tests was necessary and appropriate, and on the basis of the limited information available for the Soviet tests, it expects that fall-out here will be no more significant than that from all nuclear weapons tests conducted prior to September, 1961. The United States tests are still in progress and naturally final conclusions cannot be drawn.
The committee is of the opinion that the present programme for monitoring fall-out over Australia is adequate; it is comparable in scope to those being carried out in the United Kingdom and the United States. Indeed, the Australian data have contributed very significantly to world knowledge on fall-out levels.
– Mr. President, I move -
That the paper be printed.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I lay on the table a report by a Special Advisory Authority on Linoleum.
The authority’s recommendation that no urgent temporary action be taken has been accepted by the Government. The question of the industry’s normal protective needs has been referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report.
– by leave - Several honorable senators have criticized the practice which has been adopted by some Ministers and their departments of informing members of the House of Representatives, at the same time as senators, of decisions taken on representations made by senators on behalf of particular persons. It has been decided that this practice will cease. In the future, copies of such correspondence with senators will not be sent to any one else.
Where an honorable senator or a member of the House of Representatives approaches a Minister or a department on an essentially personal matter affecting an elector, the decision will be conveyed only to the senator or member making the representations. It follows, of course, that where representations are made by more than one senator or member, advice of the decision will be sent to each of them. However, where the decision in an individual case involves some new general rule there is clearly justification for this to be made public, though without disclosure of any information about the name or personal circumstances of an individual elector.
Sitting suspended from 12.18 to 2.15 p.m.
– I move -
At the outset I desire to thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate for arranging to have the sitting suspended for lunch slightly earlier than usual. I do not know whether he thought that I might take as long on this as I do on other things, but the thought was a nice one and we can always be appreciative of a nice thought. I think we all must be very concerned with the growing number of informal votes cast at Senate elections. The system of proportional representation now used was introduced in 1949, and I believe it was designed to make this House more representative of the people than it was after the 1946 elections, when there were only three senators in Opposition. I do not think any one wants to get to the position where the Senate would not truly represent the electorate generally. I agree that the system of proportional representation has given, particularly to the main parties, an opportunity at least to have a fairer representation according to the number of their supporters in the various States. No one can gainsay that the system has brought to this House a fair representation of the political thought of the people of this nation. However, I believe it has also led to the casting of a tremendously high percentage of informal votes at elections for senators.
I take first of all the figures for the last general election, in 1961. I trust that Mr. President and honorable senators will not be bored with the figures, but I have to quote them in order to prove my case for the appointment of a committee to investigate the position. In New South Wales, last time, the percentage of informal votes was 12,75. The number of informal votes cast was 260,445. The informal votes for the Senate in that State were five times more than the number of informal votes cast in the House of Representatives election. In Victoria the informal vote was 10.7 per cent., or 162,398 votes. This was four and a half times as big as the informal vote for the House of Representatives, which I shall give later. In Queensland the figures were 8.53 per cent, and a total of 66,798 votes. That was over three times more informal votes than in the House of Representatives election. In South Australia the percentage was 5.64 and the total 28,284. One can congratulate the people of South Australia on their percentage of informal votes being less than that in other States.
– They are far more intelligent than people in other States.
– I had better not go on. I shall leave that. It is not my intention to make a political speech on that aspect. I will deal with these questions as they come.
– What were the figures for the House of Representatives?
– In South Australia the percentage was 3.12. In Western Australia the percentage of informal votes in the Senate election was 9.99 with a total of 36,437 votes, which was over three times the number of informal votes cast for the House of Representatives. In Tasmania where this Hare-Clark proportional representation system originated, I understand, the percentage was 9.98 and the total 17,725. Again, this was three times more than the number of informal votes cast in the House of Representatives election. It is rather interesting to note that in New South Wales where the number of informal votes was 260,445, the quota for election of a senator was 297,000. There were only five candidates seeking election to the Senate for New South Wales at that time. Had there been an extraordinary vacancy in that State - as unfortunately does occur from time to time - the informal vote would have been larger than the quota.
I have given honorable senators the percentages and total figures to support my case for the holding of an inquiry. I now proceed to give the figures for the House of Representatives. The overall percentage of informal votes for all States in the House of Representatives election was 2.57 as against 10.62 per cent, in the Senate election. The percentages for the individual States were as follows: - New South Wales, 2.42 per cent.; Victoria, 2.28 per cent.; Queensland, 2.71 per cent. South Australia - it cannot claim to have the lowest percentage of informal votes cast in the House of Representative elections - had a percentage of 3.12 informal votes. In Western Australia it was 3.221 and in Tasmania 3.2.
– Victoria has the most intelligent voters.
– That may be so. I am not arguing about that. I am merely stating the facts disclosed by the figures.
– Is there any relationship between the number of informal votes cast for House of Representatives elections and the number of candidates?
– I should think there would be. In my opinion, that is one of the main reasons why there is such a large number of informal votes at Senate elections.
Having regard to the number of political parties there are, it is no exaggeration to say that if there were a double dissolution there could be 40 candidates for the Senate in New South Wales and Victoria. However small their membership may be at the moment, some of the newer political parties are growing in Victoria. Those parties would be eligible, under the electoral system, to present a team of six candidates. If there are 40 candidates on the ballot-paper, the elector is required to mark his paper from 1 to 39. He is allowed to miss the fortieth. The numbering must be consecutive, from 1 to 39. At an ordinary general election, there might be eighteen or twenty candidates for the Senate. I have not gone to the trouble of ascertaining the number of candidates who presented themselves for election on the last occasion, but of course there are always at least twelve from the major parties. In addition, there are new parties such as the Republican Party in Victoria and the
Douglas Credit Party, and there is usually a host of independent candidates. I have seen the time in Victoria when there was a Country Party Senate team and also a Liberal Party Senate team. I have not seen that occur in recent years, but it would be extremely unwise to say that it could not happen again.
– It has happened in Western Australia.
– Yes. I think it happened at the 1958 election but not, if 1 remember correctly, at the last election.
– Yes, last year, too.
– That proves that it is possible for a great number of candidates to present themselves.
I hope honorable senators will pardon me for again referring to the figures, but I shall do so to show why it is necessary to appoint a committee to investigate the position. The best way to ascertain the reason for the large number of informal votes is to consider the facts. In New South Wales in 1958, 12.46 per cent, of the votes cast for Senate candidates were informal, and 2.80 per cent, of the votes cast for candidates for the House of Representatives were informal. In Victoria, the figures were 9.89 and 2.44 respectively; in Queensland, 7.17 and 3.02; in South Australia, 7.74 and 3.30; in Western Australia, 9.40 and 3.57; and in Tasmania, 11.21 and 4.07. The percentage of informal votes for the Senate for the whole of Australia was 10.29, and for the House of Representatives, 2.87. I recognize that there are reasons for the high percentage of informal votes in Tasmania. The people of that State vote at State elections under the Hare-Clark system. They elect the members of their Legislative Assembly on the basis of the Commonwealth divisions. There are seven members to a division, and the law provides that a vote is formal if the voter states his preferences by placing the figures one, two and three on the ballotpaper. Because of the different methods of electing candidates in Tasmania, there is a reason for the relatively high proportion of informal votes.
Some people contend that electors deliberately vote informally at Senate elections because they believe that the Senate is an obsolete chamber.
– They are anxious to see it abolished.
– That may be so, but I do not think that is the main reason for the large number of informal votes. If honorable senators study the whole of the electorates, particularly those in Victoria, they will see the pattern of informal voting. Informal votes are not peculiar to any one section of the people. There is a large percentage of informal voting throughout the community. I do not say that each electorate in Victoria shows exactly the same degree of informality in voting for the Senate, but looking at the overall picture there does not seem to be very much difference between the electorates so far as informal voting is concerned.
I believe that one of the reasons for the relatively large proportion of informal votes lies in the conditions under which voting is carried out. This applies particularly to elderly people. They find that they have to mark a ballot-paper with numbers from one to twenty. There may be an even greater number of candidates. In many cases, there is a light in the middle of the hall and the voter’s back is to it when he is marking his paper. He has to go into a little cubicle to record his vote, and it is quite likely that, in attempting to follow the wishes of his party, he is obliged to jump from group A to group C, and then back to group B and group D. The system lends itself to informal voting.
I am not one of those who believe that in many instances there is a deliberate intention to vote informally. I suppose every member of this chamber has acted as a scrutineer at elections. I have done so at various elections over a great number of years. I believe that 99 per cent, of the people who go into the polling booths do so with the intention of casting a formal vote. In the larger centres, I think it is common, on walking into a polling booth when the presiding officer is busy answering queries, to find one or two Senate ballot-papers left in the booth. I can say from personal experience that that has happened. If this chamber is to play its part and enjoy the respect of the people outside, it is essential that a satisfactory method of electing representatives to the Senate be evolved. In submitting this proposal, I am not seeking to gain party political advantage, Had
I been after such advantage, I would not have suggested that there be four government representatives on the proposed committee as against three from the other parties. I am simply seeking to give people an opportunity of casting a formal vote more easily.
As I have said, I do not believe that the figures I have cited are any indication whatever that that number of people had no desire to cast a formal vote for the Senate. I believe that the fact that people have no option but to mark their ballot papers from 1 to 20, when perhaps only five candidates are to be elected, is the main reason for the high percentage of informal votes. I think that is borne out by the fact that where you have only three or four, perhaps sometimes five and certainly very rarely six candidates for the House of Representatives, very few voters, comparatively, experience difficulty in casting a formal vote. The only occasions on which there might be six candidates would be odd times when both a Country Party candidate and a Liberal Party candidate stand for election, as occurred in the electorate of McMillan in Victoria. It would seem that the great multiplicity of candidates is the main cause of the difficulty, and I admit that we cannot avoid having large numbers of candidates standing for election if they desire to do so. I hope, however, that if the committee which I have proposed is appointed it will be able to devise some means of casting votes formally without requiring the electors to perform what is to some of them the difficult task of voting for all candidates.
After giving this matter a great deal of thought, I have come to the conclusion that informal voting is the result of honest error. I do not think it is wilful. In my opinion, the young people of this country are not taking the interest in political affairs that they did in years gone by - I do not blame them altogether for that - but that could be one cause of informal voting, although I suppose the proportion of informal votes attributable to this cause would be very small. I have pointed out what I think could happen if we were unfortunate or fortunate enough - whichever way you look at it- to have a double dissolution. Certainly we could expect a great multiplicity of informal votes.
– Would you be in favour of a double dissolution with the present system of voting?
– No. I have attempted to lift the debate to a higher plane than Senator Branson desires. If he wants to make a party political football of the issue, that is solely his responsibility. What amazed me when I was studying the position was the fact that the percentage of informal votes in 1953, when an election was held for the Senate only, was very small. The percentage of informal votes in the various States at that election were 3.96 per cent, in New South Wales, 5.61 per cent, in Victoria, 2.64 per cent, in Queensland, 4.87 per cent, in South Australia, 7.19 per cent, in Western Australia, and 5.09 per cent, in Tasmania. The percentage of informal votes to the total votes cast at that election was only 4.56. It would appear to me, after studying those figures, that the fact that two ballot-papers must be filled in does have some relation to the percentage of informal votes.
I have religiously refrained from suggesting what I think ought to be done. The place to make that suggestion is before the proposed committee, if this proposal is adopted and a committee appointed. At this stage my purpose is simply to point out the facts as disclosed by the official returns. I repeat that the percentage of informal votes in 1961, when an election was held for both Houses of the Parliament, was 10.62 compared with only 4.56 in 1953 when an election was held for the Senate only. This difference of over 6 per cent, must give us all food for thought. If this House is to live, it should truly reflect the party political views of the people as at the date of an election. After all, that is as much as any one could possibly desire. In my opinion, this chamber will be brought into disrepute unless something is done - if it can be done - to improve the present system. I do not think the formation of this committee, whoever is appointed to work on it, will be of advantage to the one party or the other. I believe that we should strive for a method of voting that will enable every person, be he young, old or in between, to vote formally.
Another question that I believe this committee could look into is the deposits. I am not advocating a greatly increased deposit; but in 1902 provision for a deposit of £25 was written into the Commonwealth Electoral Act to stop frivolous nominations. I understand that that was the reason for requiring deposits. The amount is still £25. In Great Britain it is £150. That position could be investigated along with the other matters I have mentioned.
I do not think any political party organization would be happy if we always had Senate elections on different dates from the House of Representatives elections. As one who has had some experience in a political party at election times, I recognize that. All I want to do is take away what I believe is a blot on this institution. We should make voting as simple as possible, so long as we ascertain the wish of the people.
Under some systems in the United States of America the electors press a button. I do not want this committee, if the Government graciously agrees to its appointment, to be sent to the United States, although many people who go overseas from this country bring back far less information than this committee would bring back. I am not opposed to people going on trips overseas. I have no desire to go to the United States and I am certain that members of the committee would not have that desire. They could get all the information they wanted from the libraries in Australia. If the Senate is to live, it should be representative of the people. Voting for the Senate should not be, as it is to-day, so complex that no one can stand up in this chamber and honestly support the present system.
I thank the Government for giving me this early opportunity to state the facts. I have religiously refrained from saying what electoral reforms I believe should be carried out because I do not think this is the time to state my beliefs in that regard. I hope that this committee will be appointed and that every senator and all political parties will be satisfied with its report. I trust that as a result of the committee’s work the people will have a method of electing senators that will not allow 12 per cent, or more of informal votes to be cast in the most populous State, as has happened in the past.
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak later.
Debate (on motion by Senator Spooner) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 8th August (vide page 76), on the following paper tabled by Senator Spooner: -
Report of the Committee on Teaching Costs of Medical Hospitals to the Australian Universities Commission, dated 6th October, 1961.
And on the motion by Senator Anderson -
That the paper be printed.
– Mr. President, sometimes people find it necessary to preface their remarks with a trite saying. The wheels of time inevitably turn. Days turn to weeks; weeks turn to months; and months turn to years. That is inevitable. But it also appears to be inevitable that successive Menzies Governments will never change. Their approach has always been dilatory and their attitude has always been procrastinating. Occasionally they have done some good; more often they have done harm to the nation and its people.
If there is one thing for which Australia may be grateful in some small measure to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his successive governments, it is the interest that they have taken in tertiary education. Admittedly, the approach was belated. In the first three years of the Menzies Government’s reign £55,000,000 was provided for this purpose. In the next three years £105,000,000 was provided. The medical section of tertiary education is now under consideration.
The Government has always avoided fundamental issues. That is true of education. I do not know whether that is because of the brilliance of the Prime Minister or because he travels with his head in the clouds. For some reason, unknown to me but probably known to members of the Government, he has never faced fundamental issues. On this occasion we are talking about a particular phase of tertiary education in which great success could be achieved by adopting a fundamental approach. Education is a multi-structured phenomenon. The foundations are laid in primary and secondary education and success and ultimate service to the community depend upon proper foundations being laid in our children. Yet the Government has never faced that issue.
The people of Australia and various organizations - not only those associated with this side of the chamber, but parents’ organizations, teachers’ unions, university staff organization, graziers’ organizations and trade unions- have demanded that the Commonwealth Government take an interest in primary and secondary education. But on each occasion when that demand has been made the Prime Minister has avoided the issue. As recently as April, I960, 3,000 people representing practically all types of organizations met in the Leichhardt Stadium, not seeking a fight but seeking educational rights for children. They put to the Government that an inquiry should be held into primary and secondary education but the Government has never shown one iota of interest in this matter. Here we have a proposal to spend £3,600,000- one-half of which will be provided by the Commonwealth and one-half by at least five States - to provide for socalled clinical teaching during the last three years of the course in medicine. What is the use of that? Many of the men and women who could become successful practitioners ultimately, who could render worthwhile service to the community and who could make a real contribution to the welfare of their country, may be deprived of the opportunity to pursue their studies in the last three years of the course simply because the foundational element was not there.
We claim to have a national approach. We have a national responsibility which has been entrusted to us under the Constitution, but when we look at the whole picture we find that of the so-called modern nations Australia spends the least on education. The future survival of this country, the happiness of its people, its productivity and the utilization of the talents with which certain individuals have been endowed, depend in no small measure upon suitable opportunities in the field of education. All we, as the National Parliament, do is to enter the field in the final stages.
On repeated occasions I have sought an inquiry into primary and secondary educa tion. With the exception of Western Australia, where the Government has endeavoured to give a measure of clinical teaching in the third year and where the time allotted to that phase is being increased, clinical teaching in the other States is confined to the fourth, fifth and sixth years. But no real investigation has been made into this subject. Certain individuals and the senates or councils of certain universities in certain States have done a measure of research into university failures. We cannot deal with the paper now before us unless we deal with the question of failures. I do not think that the whole blame for failures lies at the feet of the university staff. I know that many students go to the university not academically equipped or intellectually qualified to absorb a university education. But do not forget that in Australia, as well as in other parts of the world, when a child matriculates - I suppose some teenagers would not be particularly pleased with my reference to them as children, but they are little more than that when they leave secondary school - and undertakes a course of study in medicine or in any other field, that child’s parents who, after all, still have certain rights, have a reasonable expectation that if the child works reasonably hard he will obtain a degree. Some persons may refer to exceptional cases. I know as well as does anyone else that there are exceptional cases, but generally the parents make economic sacrifices to give their children a university education, irrespective of the increasing number of facilities which have been provided for a greater number of children.
At this point I pay a measure of tribute to the Government for having increased the number of scholarships and the financial allowances, but that action is not in proportion to the number of children seeking tertiary education or in proportion to the number of graduates that Australia needs, whether in medicine or in any other field of scientific endeavour, or even in the field of the humanities or so-called cultural subjects. The limitations imposed on the granting of financial assistance means that the vast majority of parents of those who win scholarships to the universities must make economic sacrifices.
Here is another field of investigation. Before the student attains the so-called crowning glory of success in tertiary education by obtaining a degree and ultimately rendering service to the community, a sympathetic and closer investigation should be made into the number of failures, not with a view to facilitating passes, not with a view to lowering standards, but with a view to saving the wastage of time by boys and girls and with a view to saving the heart-burning of parents and avoiding the economic sacrifices that they must make. A number of features are wrapped up in failures in medicine as in other faculties and in every field of endeavour in tertiary education. As I said previously, I believe that many students go to the university not academically equipped or intellectually qualified to absorb a university education. 1 will not concede that the percentage is other than small. Some students fail simply because they are not prepared to work but, by and large, the days of the idle students have gone. Of necessity they seek success.
The staff-student ratio in all fields of tertiary education in Australia is little less than appalling. We have over-crowded class rooms and even have examples of students not seeing the lecturer at all even though they are in full-time attendance at the university. They hear only the broadcast of lectures. I read recently that the staff of the Australian National University, 1 think it was, was anxious to avoid having part-time students. I agree with the staff. Greater facilities should be provided, if at all practicable, for full-time students. I do not know what you were like at school, Mr. Deputy President, but I believe that students are the same the world over. They need a measure of supervision because they do not have the responsibility of senators, who do not need supervision. When students are required to sit in a room distant from the lecturer they are inclined to become neglectful and to yarn among themselves. Then they miss something which may be vital to their learning. Some people say that the students should exhibit a greater sense of responsibility, but there is not the closeness of association which is so eminently desirable, when students and their lecturers, professors and tutors are separated.
Many persons whose opinions are more authoritative than mine agree with me that the quality of lecturing is not all that could be desired. Whether you obtained first or second class honours, and whether you possess brilliance of mind and earned extraordinary academic achievements, that does not of necessity give you the right or the ability to impart knowledge. The Australian Universities Commission has stated that at present 60,000 students attend our universities. It is estimated that by 1965 the number will have risen to 95,000. If we judge that figure by previous conservative estimates by the commission we can say that the total probably will be well over 100,000. Those students must absorb knowledge from lecturers, but little or nothing is being done to ensure that lecturers and university staffs in general are capable of imparting knowledge. I make it clear that I am not seeking to lower the academic standard of university staff. I am seeking to emphasize the responsibility to develop the capability of imparting knowledge. I suggest that the universities, and in turn the Government, should emphasize the necessity for, and the desirability of, finding ways of training university staff. Whether the staff should attend educational institutions to learn a method of imparting knowledge, or whether the training should take place within the precincts of universities is something for some one more authoritative than I am to advise. The fundamental years are the primary and the secondary years of the course.
I know it was almost sacrilegious, but I did make a suggestion at one time that if first-year university students were not measuring up to the standard required, a report should be sent to their parents. We can imagine how such a suggestion would be received at a meeting of the senate of a university. The suggestion would be regarded as sacrilegious. These boys and girls are regarded as autonomous men and women and it would be departing from tradition to do what I suggested. However, we are living in a practical age when it is costly to have children at a university. By and large not many students have their fees paid or receive a monetary allowance.
Here again we have another concrete example of the dilatory approach of successive Liberal, anti-Labour regimes. This has been evident for a long time and it is no use Government supporters getting up subsequently and saying that nothing was done before the present Government came into office. The late Ben Chifley recognized the need for tertiary education. He saw the need to have graduates in every field of endeavour to serve this nation and its people. He devised the system of university scholarships, but he had the massive task entrusted to him of transferring men and women from a war-time occupation to a peace-time calling. He had to see to their rehabilitation, their transference to their old jobs and so on. In 1949, when a new regime came into office the task of rehabilitation was practically finished. The new regime should have faced issues such as we are dealing with to-day. For many years past other countries - the United States of America, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and others - have been devoting more and more attention to the field of education, although not necessarily the field of tertiary education.
No one is so bad that you cannot pay him a measure of commendation. For this paper that has been tabled, and for many other benefits students are grateful to the Government, but no one can deny the dilatoriness of the Government. Even the reflexes of an animal would have been much quicker. The committee found that while the clinical institutions in our teaching hospitals have always been of a high standard, clinical teaching facilities generally have been inadequate. It went on to say -
The commission believes that acceptance of the recommendations-
I am quite honest in these things and as always I pay a measure of tribute to the Government for the benefits it has given - in the report will go a long way towards remedying a situation which is becoming grave.
The present unsatisfactory position is becoming increasingly serious as student numbers mount and technological procedures increase continually in number and complexity.
No one can quarrel with the personnel of the committee that was appointed. They were not only brilliant men, but were associated with hospital administration and the training of medical students. Each and every one of them had his place in the medical world and the world of hospital administration. I think that they tried extraordinarily hard within the limits imposed upon them by the Government to do a particularly good job. That is evident when one considers the report.
Senator Anderson has been interested in hospital administration for many years and he was particularly interesting to listen to. The committee sent out several questionnaires. It is evident from the first one that they were of the opinion that the sky was the limit. They sought everything. When brought back to reality they submitted a further questionnaire, but again they sought to obtain a little more than the Government had entrusted the committee with the responsibility of giving. Finally a third questionnaire was submitted. The committee’s recommendations are very wellbased and I think, in the light of the emergency and urgency that existed, it has provided adequately for the immediate needs of the years 1961, 1962 and 1963.
We have a national Parliament and a socalled national Government in power by the goodwill - I would not say the grace, because it did not espouse them - of Communist preferences; but this national Government did not take the lead in this matter. State Ministers met the Prime Minister and asked for a measure of assistance. The cost of hospital administration and the teaching of students was becoming too burdensome and the States asked the Prime Minister to develop two concepts. One was hospital services and the other was the training of medical students. I understand that the Prime Minister readily agreed to do this, but he was not the initiator of the movement. I pay him the tribute that he did accept the idea willingly. For that we are grateful, and I think all students are grateful. I know that the governments of all States- which have medical schools are grateful. I think that Tasmania is the only State that does not have a medical school. The Prime Minister said in effect that the Commonwealth and States Hospital Agreement could be regarded as being quite separate from this matter, and something had to be done for teaching hospitals particularly in view of the findings of the committee. The terms of reference of the committee were as follows: -
The committee paid due regard to previous investigations which had taken place. Many investigations have been conducted in Australia. Sir Herbert Schlink has been interested always in investigations into hospital administration. He is a gynaecologist connected with the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Professor Bruce Mayes, Dr. Sir William Morrow and Dr. McEachern have all conducted inquiries into hospital administration, deficiencies in medical teaching, and similar problems. Their reports were available to the committee, which paid due regard to them. The committee stated -
Medicine is an exacting discipline and recent rapid advances in medical science have made the training of a doctor to-day more complicated, time consuming and expensive than ever before.
Possibly some medical students of earlier days will be grateful that they did their training before those complications arose. The report continued -
Especially, the medical course involves practical work at aM stages, for the good doctor must be a practical man. Practical work in turn demands adequate specialist staff, accommodation and teaching facilities in our hospital clinical schools.
By and large, the committee based its recommendations on the last sentence of that passage. It recommended better provision for specialist staff, accommodation and teaching facilities, but it recommended provision also for increased amenities and facilities for students. The committee’s final questionnaire enumerated specific items, wrapping them up under two headings, recurring costs and non-recurring costs. 1 think that the committee was reasonably wise in its approach. It realized the urgent nature of the task facing it and the need to provide something reasonably adequate to meet immediate requirements. The committee did provide for the costs of a dean’s office staff, not for the clinical year only After all. the dean of the faculty of medi- cine, like the dean of any other faculty, accepts responsibility for all years.
The committee referred to the cleaning of students’ quarters and the general areas used by students. 1 do not know that medical students are any less clean than other students or any other section of the population, but 1 do know that they are no more clean. I can say that from experience, having seen them in action, but at least they are no worse than other groups of similar age.
The committee has provided for clinical supervision. We must face this issue ultimately. Although there has been a change in the trend of medical practice and an elaboration of the drugs available, on a technical investigation of methods utilized we find - this accords with world opinion - that overall there has been very little change in the basic methods of teaching medical students, whether they be in the first year or the last year. Some minor changes have been adopted. Greater time has been given to particular subjects. But we find still that a minimum of time is devoted to preventive medicine and industrial medicine, which must in the process of time become of increasing importance.
Preventive medicine has been visualized as the ultimate aim of all medical practitioners of worthwhile standard. Industrial medicine, in the light of technological progress, must assume a role of ever-increasing importance and the Commonwealth and State governments are paying a little more regard to this particular field of medicine. My own party has not been blameless in this regard, but over the years the importance of this subject has been recognized by all.
As we go round modern factories, we note that they are well lit and that machines are comparatively well placed, but there are still in existence old factories and foundries, enterprises of long-standing and possibly of some historic significance, in which nothing has been done to improve conditions. The lighting is comparatively poor and the machines are badly placed. An investigation of accidents has shown that almost 100 per cent, are avoidable. They are not always due to unsuitable positioning of machines or to unsatisfactory lighting. There is always a factor of human carelessness. But this is all part and parcel of the field of industrial medicine. There are no facilities for extra teaching, during the last three years of the course, in these particular fields. All that has been sought because of the urgent demand is the meeting of immediate needs.
I suggest that in the light of this report the Government, in its graciousness - which is not often characteristic of the Government, 1 might add - might give further consideration immediately to appointing another committee to look into the whole field of medical education and the deficiencies in it. Certain universities in Australia are now interested in reconstructing medical education. Clinical supervision is becoming more important and, inevitably, increasing demands are being made on the time of visiting specialists. Over the years that I have known the practice of professional men, I suppose no profession has given more willingly and gladly of its valuable time to the training of its successors than has the medical profession. Honoraries have gone to hospitals two or three afternoons a week, week after week. In their younger days, they have treated out-patients. Subsequently, if they were surgeons doing operations, they have looked after in-patients and, if physicians, they have visited their wards. They have done this gladly. Some one of mercenary mind might suggest that they were building up their practices by making contact with students and residents. They could possibly have done that with less effort. I never knew of an honorary who refused to come when called, not only in his regular hours but also in any emergency. For that, members of visiting staffs are entitled to all credit.
Now a demand is being made for more full-time clinical teachers. In the great public hospitals - teaching hospitals as we term them here for practical purposes - more and more full-time clinical teachers will have to be employed. They will have to be competent, with a capacity to impart knowledge, and they must have a right to beds, because without these they are useless. The committee has recognized that responsibility. It mentioned the need for more teaching registrars. This is, in effect, a subdivision of clinical teaching.
The committee assessed the part of the time of nurses directly attributable to the teaching of medical students as 1 per cent. of their time, but it noted that it was likely that this was an underestimate of the time involved. Certain factors enter into this matter as you, Mr. Acting Deputy President, will know from your long association with hospitals. The time occupied might depend upon the attractiveness of the nurses in the wards. It could increase if they were more attractive. I know that as a student what interested me was the wealth of clinical material available in a ward, but 1 have seen students - I must admit that I was envious of them - who spent much more time in a particular ward than the wealth of clinical materia! justified. When I went in there seeking knowledge all I saw was an attractive, living, anatomical exhibit clothed in the garb of nurses. So perhaps that cost figure may have to be increased. When I was a resident at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in Sydney the story was that that hospital had the most attractive nurses in Australia. I think that that perhaps Still applies, despite the fact that Senator Anderson is wedded to the Royal North Shore Hospital. That cost could quite easily go up, depending upon the attractiveness of the nurses. The committee admits that it possibly put the figure too low.
The committee then speaks in terms of the costs of departments, more particularly pathology, bacteriology and biochemistry. Ultimately in the changing world of science - I am not saying that we will have to do this - quite possibly greater regard will have to be paid to the field of biophysics. However, let us accept this as the committee did. These all represent an increase in costs. The committee agrees that you have to have ward laboratories and students have to go out and do the work themselves - make urine tests, undertake macroscopic or microscopic blood tests, and so on. There is an extra call made on the radiological department. An experienced practitioner may say that he does not need another X-ray on a particular fracture. He knows from experience how the treatment is progressing, but he may, for the purpose of education of the student, decide to have another X-ray to show the process of bone growth, or ossification as it is termed. Similarly in the field of biochemistry, blood counts, and the estimation of renal and liver efficiency. These are matters that have to be demonstrated in a practical way to students if they are to become efficient doctors.
I have heard many people laugh at the practice of medicine and talk about doctors as charlatans. At least the skill that they do possess is necessary. I do not want to be tied to an actual figure, but to sum it up I say that of all sick people possibly 80 per cent, would have got well with nature’s help, 10 per cent, through luck and 9 per cent, through medical skill while the other 1 per cent. died. At least doctors were essential for the 9 per cent.
The committee allowed 15 per cent, for costs of anaesthetics. In these figures, 5 per cent, is allowed for radiology and 50 per cent, for medical libraries. All these percentages are arbitrary, and the committee admits it. Here we find that the only hospital that came in for a measure of commendation in respect of the provision of a library for medical students was the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children. It will receive a total of £4,500, I think, from the State and the Commonwealth.
The committee spoke of clinical photography, cleaning, meal services, light, power and telephones. It referred also to expenses incurred in relation to out-patients brought in for teaching purposes. The committee subsequently agreed to include a sixteenth item - operating theatres. I do not know why the committee agreed to that only subsequently; it should have been one of the first things included. If there is ever a menace to the field of medical service, it is incompetent surgeons - not necessarily incompetent in the field of operating. That is a technical job which any one trained to do it can do, some with a greater measure of skill or dexterity than others. I am speaking rather on the question of diagnosis, seeing the patient, going into the theatre and seeing the operative result. Even a mis-diagnosis has its educational value. This should have been one of the first items included, but at least the committee did rectify the omission. Consequently it must admit a measure of responsibility for the cost of the operating theatre at a hospital.
When we realize the work the committee has done we cannot be other than grateful. However, there is an unfortunate feature to which the committee referred. It said that apparently it could not help those who had helped themselves. In other words, the more callous the disregard, the more inequitable the approach of a hospital, the more it will be helped. I am not saying whether such an approach would be malicious or otherwise. It might have been made necessary by lack of finance. Almost every teaching hospital is short of finance. We will not accept the responsibility in this field of service just as we will not accept the responsibility to provide increasing facilities in the field of education. So we find that the committee discovered that those who helped themselves could not be helped. It was tied down. The Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in Sydney is to get £73,000, the Mater Hospital in Brisbane, which provided adequate accommodation for students in their resident days - as you know, this has become a compulsory feature and a worthwhile one - received £3,000. As a token, I think, the hospital was paid for a photographic unit that it had purchased, but in reference to that hospital the committee said that because the student quarters were satisfactory it could not help. The accommodation met all demands.
Until the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s unit for children is functioning next year, the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children is probably the best hospital for children in the southern hemisphere. It is to receive £73,000. Other hospitals- and I do not refer to the provision of facilities and amenities for the new medical schools associated with the Monash University and the University of New South Wales, but to other places - will recive £6,000, £7,000 or £8,000. That is why I think this should be only an interim approach. This is a big question. Healthy, educated people are the only people likely to survive in a world disaster. When we are approaching this particular problem we should not think that, because men are travelling in space, and because physics, biophysics, chemistry and biochemistry are becoming of increasing importance, and tremendous sums of money are being devoted to their study, science has all the answers. After all, it is not much use knowing how to manufacture a hydrogen bomb in order to deal out death unless we have people who possess the knowledge of how to live with it. In establishing an aristocracy of science, engineering or technology it should not be thought that a long history of learning means of necessity that you are entering the kingdom of wisdom. People can guide the scientists. The scientists alone apparently do not know all the answers. The engineers have not found the solution; people who move in the field of general knowledge may be the men and women who can provide it.
Ail credit should be given to the Australian Universities Commission. Credit is also due to the Government, despite its dilatory approach and its procrastination. We welcome the action that the Government has taken. The clinical hospitals will be grateful for it. Nevertheless, we should accept it merely as an interim approach to a really big problem. The Government would receive commendation from the Opposition and gratitude from clinical hospitals, medical students, educational authorities and the parents of the children of Australia if it were to regard education as a fundamental right of every Australian.
– I am somewhat hesitant to follow Senator Dittmer on this subject. I am glad that, in his characteristic way, he has congratulated the Government on what it is doing for students, the parents of students and the public generally. It was indeed gratifying to hear him do so. I love his change of heart and I hope it will continue. Although I am sure he needs no assurance from me, I nevertheless assure him that this is only the beginning of the action the Government proposes to take so far as university education is concerned.
I shall not attempt to traverse the ground covered by Senator Dittmer. The question of whether we are interested in secondary education or tertiary education is not before the Senate at the moment. 1 join with Senator Dittmer in paying a tribute to the honorary medical practitioners who do so much in our teaching hospitals and elsewhere for medical students. On a previous occasion I had something to say on this matter and I shall not repeat what I said then. I emphasize that we owe a great debt of gratitude to the honoraries who give so much of their valuable time to teaching and training medical students.
We have before us the report of the Committee on Teaching Costs of Medical Hospitals. I do not intend to deal with many of the matters to which it refers. It is expressed in far better language than I could employ, and honorable senators may read it for themselves. However, there are two matters in it which have caught my imagination. One is the reference to clinical photography, which is so important, as Senator Dittmer has said, and the other is the reference to medical records of patients. I am glad to see that the committee spent a great deal of time in trying to elucidate the problems associated with that matter.
We know that the universities of Australia offer facilities for students in various faculties, such as the faculties of arts, science, engineering, medicine, and so on. Some years ago the Government appointed a committee to inquire into the activities of Australian universities. As a result of its findings, the Government has made monetary grants to the States to enable them to improve and extend their university facilities, and in some instances, to make it possible for the various faculties to give even better service. I do not want any one to misunderstand me when I say that. I think that the universities do their utmost, in all faculties, to provide the best possible training for students.
The matter that we are discussing to-day is concerned with only one aspect of university activity, namely the training of medical students. Tied up with that training is the provision of instruction at teaching hospitals. The Government, in its wisdom, recently referred the matter of teaching costs of medical hospitals to the Australian Universities Commission, and appointed a committee to advise the commission. Honorable senators have now had an opportunity to read the committee’s report, which is clear and concise.
The aim of the universities, irrespective of where they may be, is to ensu’e that their medical graduates are well equipped to serve the public as general practitioners. I should think that the general practitioner is the very keystone of the medical profession. As Senator Dittmer has said, the general practitioner must be a practical man and an understanding man. In addition, he must be a family man. His skill in diagnosing and in preventing sickness and disease adds to the general well-being of the people of Australia. The better our general practitioners are, the fewer specialists we require.
The committee unanimously arrived at the firm conclusion that the sum of £625 was a reasonable amount to be allocated for the training of a clinical student at an Australian teaching hospital. Having settled that matter, it proceeded to inquire into the capital investment, if I may use that term, required to improve the practical training of medical students, lt visited approximately 40 hospitals and seven universities. Certainly, its scope was limited by the amount of money likely to be available, but we must never let our zeal and enthusiasm run away with our sense of sound business practice. The report contains the committee’s views of the position at the various teaching hospitals. I want to deal with this aspect from the South Australian angle, because I represent that State.
The committee paid particular attention to the training of the general medical practitioner. It stated that the standard of accommodation and facilities at the teaching hospitals varied greatly. That is only to be expected, having regard to the fact that the hospitals have been built over a period of time and that few of them were designed as teaching hospitals. We have seen how the hospitals of Australia have grown. If it is desired to improve these hospitals to provide teaching facilities, money is needed to modify them. Even so, these older institutions are not entirely satisfactory for clinical teaching, and if they are to conform to modern standards, the older hospitals will require greater monetary help. The committee considered whether it would be advisable to construct new clinical teaching ‘hospitals in preference to renovating existing buildings, and the two important factors that entered into its consideration were time and finance. I think time was the essence of the con tract because it was desired that something be done to provide better facilities within three years.
The clinical teaching resources and the relevant proposals of universities and teaching hospitals were examined by and reported upon by an able committee. The proposals of which the committee approved were listed in its recommendations, and each State is dealt with separately in the report, the amount of money to be allocated being set out in the appropriation division. I said earlier that I was interested in South Australia. In 1961, the Royal Adelaide Hospital provided facilities for 131 students for 33 weeks, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital provided facilities for 60 students for 33 weeks, the Adelaide Children’s Hospital provided facilities for nine students for 33 weeks and the Queen Victoria Maternity Hospital provided facilities for 28 students for 33 weeks. Briefly, the Royal Adelaide Hospital is described as an aggregation of buildings of various ages, some of them very old and unsuitable for teaching purposes. I can testify to that. But they do serve their purpose as units in a hospital. Recently, a new wing was constructed, and I think it will be occupied before very long. It will contain 480 beds and will do much to improve the service at that hospital. It embodies students’ wards and laboratories, but the fact that this new wing has been constructed by the State will mean that South Australia will receive less money than it might have received otherwise. I might have something to say about that later. The important point is that this institution has very wisely made available facilities for students of mental health.
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is of recent construction. It is a particularly fine hospital. It was built solely at the expense of the State. It provides facilities for the training of students, and, because the State has done such a good job there, the committee has made no recommendation for monetary assistance. The Royal Adelaide Hospital has units for clinical teaching, for surgery and for medicine and, whilst it is not comparable with more adequate units elsewhere, no requests have been made for improvements during this triennium. I emphasize the fact that no requests have been made because that does have some bearing on some of the criticism which we receive in South Australia. As the amount of money available to the committee was limited, and as no request was made, perhaps it can be said that the committee did right in not recommending any financial assistance. At this hospital the Verco lecture room requires air conditioning, and provision should be made for the installation of projection and sound equipment. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital provides good facilities for clinical teaching and for instruction in surgery, medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology. As the committee says, it needs very little assistance, but I submit that the committee could meet a proportion of the cost of a special laboratory and that of installing a projector in the obstetrics lecture theatre.
The Queen Victoria Maternity Hospital is an old institution which has played a very important part in treating many people in South Australia. Together with the modern Queen Elizabeth Hospital, it gives instruction in obstetrics. Here again the South Australian Government has plans for extensive rebuilding and for the construction of clinical teaching units for obstetrics and child health. Provision is also being made for tutorial and student ward laboratories. Here I should like to make known the fact that at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital it is proposed to build a new wing ten stories high. One floor of that new wing will be devoted entirely to units for clinical teaching and instruction in child health. Other facilities proposed in the new building are student facilities, a museum, a lecture room, an observation room and tutorial rooms. I mention these matters to emphasize the fact that there is a feeling that because some States have done a good job in providing certain equipment and facilities, the committee might be inclined to overlook what they have done and perhaps for that reason has allocated to them a little less than they feel they should have received. They base their argument on these grounds: If £5,000,000 had been distributed, South Australia’s allocation on a population basis would have been about £500,000; but, on the basis of the number of students in the medical faculties, South Australia would have received a little more than £500,000. The last time I spoke on this subject I mentioned the amount of money that has been allocated to South Australia. I will not repeat it. Being an Australian, I think we can put that argument aside for the time being on ‘this important question. I am delighted with what is being done in Australia as a whole. However, I hope that the student population basis will be used in future allocations of this money.
We know that the Commonwealth makes tax reimbursements to the States. Sometimes I wonder whether we as senators should be satisfied with the giving of special purpose grants to the States. I realize that again I am on dangerous ground. The States are thankful for those grants; but in the overall view is it quite right that special purpose grants should be given to the States by the Commonwealth? I think it would be better if the Commonwealth gave a general purpose grant and left the manner of spending it to the States. There is a feeling that by giving these special purpose grants and earmarking sums of money for specific purposes the Commonwealth is interfering directly with the functions of the States. Perhaps this is an academic argument. I am not entering into it at present. All I am saying is that I am glad that the Commonwealth Government is making money available to the universities. It will set them on an even keel and enable them to provide good training for our medical students. Then we can go into this other question that I have raised - whether the Commonwealth should make special purpose grants or whether when the State Premiers submit their requirements a general purpose grant should be given and the States allowed to do their own jobs.
I have much pleasure in supporting the recommendations of this committee. It was headed by a very brilliant man. I have already spoken about the members of the committee. They are men who have given a lifetime of service in the medical world and elsewhere. In my opinion the Government has proceeded along the correct lines in accepting this report. I will not go into the questions that Senator Dittmer raised about the method of teaching and the number of failures. I have spoken on those matters previously.
I hope that in future when professors and lecturers are appointed to faculties in the universities they will have some teaching qualifications. Perhaps that is more necessary in the early years of a student’s university course. With the ability to teach added to the academic qualifications that so many of our professors, lecturers and tutors have, I believe that we would not have a 35 per cent, failure rate of first and second year students in the various faculties of our universities. Because the Commonwealth Government has provided money and in the future will provide more money for universities, we as senators become directly interested in how that money is spent. It is up to us to see that the best results are achieved. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion.
. - Mr. President, it was not my original intention to speak on this matter; but having read “ Hansard “ and having heard the debate to-day I believe that honorable senators have been rather dazzled by the scintillating names of the members of the committee and have accepted the report in its entirety without any critical analysis of it. I am surprised that honorable senators have stood up and said, in effect, “ Because we had some brilliant men on this committee this report must be accepted “. Certainly, they are brilliant men. The scope of this report is limited. If I were to receive the same latitude that was extended to Senator Dittmer I could go on to speak about primary, secondary and tertiary education, but the report does not deal at all with these matters. It is concerned with a very limited field of medicine. The inquiry was not, as he stated, originated by three Ministers of Health. It was originated by a conference of Ministers of Health in 1956. The matter was brought up again in 1957, 1958 and 1959. The 1959 conference decided that three Ministers of Health should approach the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) because we could never get the federal Minister for Health to meet the State Ministers of Health. I must say that I am surprised that the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) is not here listening to this debate on a matter that affects vitally his portfolio. He may have some adequate excuse. Over the years it has appeared that federal Ministers for Health - I am referring to past Ministers for Health and I am not picking on the present Minister personally - have been too scared to attend, or for some reason have failed to attend, conferences of Ministers of Health at which they would have learnt about these matters. Had they attended, there would not have been the dilatory approach to which Senator Dittmer referred.
There are several objections to this report, but so far no one has objected to it. That is why I rose to speak. The first point concerns the personnel. They are brilliant men but biased. Would this chamber set up a select committee to investigate the Budget, for example, and choose only senators from this side of the chamber? We know what their finding would be. Or would the chamber choose senators only from the Government side? Again we know what the opinion would be, yet that is what has happened in the appointment of this committee. They are all brilliant men interested in teaching hospitals and wanting improvements. Naturally, they presented a unanimous report demanding that further amounts of money be spent by the Commonwealth Government.
I do not object to that, but I object strongly to the fact that there was not one general practitioner on the committee. Senator Mattner and the Prime Minister have praised general practitioners. Why was there not one on the committee? There is not one word in the report about general practice, which is the backbone of all medicine. Senator Mattner said that the teaching hospitals are the originating area for genera] practitioners. Therefore, my first objection to this report is that no general practitioner was appointed to the committee. Extra expense in respect of the final clinical years of teaching might well have been involved if a general practitioner had been on the committee. We must have, as the college of general practitioners is striving to obtain in Australia, a new discipline - general practice. One of the ways in which we are trying to obtain it is to make all medical personnel, either in the undergraduate years as students or in the post-graduate years as residents, undertake general practice. That will cost additional money, but there is not one word about it in the report although the signatories to the report must have known that the college of general practitioners is fighting hard to have the principle incorporated in the system which has been evolved in relation to the final three years as an undergraduate.
This lack of teaching of general practice means that people go into the medical world with no concept whatsoever of what general practice means. They are taught only how to treat a body in a hospital. That has nothing whatever to do with general practice, which relates to treating a patient in his own environment, in his own society and even in his own home. We must have teaching of general practice. The lack of reference to that aspect is the worst feature of this report. I do not think honorable senators have read it analytically. They have accepted it and have said: “This is wonderful. All these brilliant men have said that we must have additional funds.”
I do not deny that additional funds are necessary. I was Minister for Health in Tasmania at one time, and although my State did not have a teaching hospital we supported other States in their request for additional finance. But it is not good enough to teach people to be pseudophysicians or pseudo-surgeons without teaching them how to do general practice. That is one of the worst features of the English system. In my practice I had an Englishman as a partner. He was a brilliant surgeon but until he came to Australia he had never seen a patient in the patient’s own home. He was surprised that Australian doctors went out to see patients. He did not understand that when you told a husband that his wife had to go into hospital the husband had to find some one to look after the children, or that when you went to a poor home and knew that the patient needed a certain diet you did not stress too much that the patient should drink plenty of orange juice, because many people cannot afford orange juice. My strongest objection to this report is that medical students are not taught general practice.
I take another objection to the report because of the insinuation contained in one section of it. No other honorable senator seems to have noticed these words -
To some extent extra cost is due to higher standards of medical and nursing care.
I resent that statement because it is fallacious. I am on the board of management of a general hospital and I can say that the statement is not true. Just because a patient is in a teaching hospital does not mean that the doctor in charge spends more time with that patient or gives the patient more attention or more care than he would receive in any other hospital. I regard that statement as another slap at general practitioners and general practice. The patient does not receive a higher standard of medical or nursing care in a teaching hospital. The standard of nursing care is the same whether a patient is in Orange Base Hospital, Canberra Community Hospital, Launceston General Hospital or the Royal Melbourne Hospital. The same remarks apply to the medical staff. 1 doubt whether men in teaching hospitals are more skilled than men in others because of the amount of work offering. Take Canberra, for instance. 1 would say that a surgeon in Canberra is as skilled as a surgeon at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, although the latter probably commands a much higher fee than does the former.
One of the reasons for the increased costs in these clinical schools is that the students are being taught to investigate their patients. This is done thoroughly up to the moment the patient dies, and even then post-mortems are carried out. I think they continue to investigate the patients after discharge by taking blood samples and so on. This adds considerably to the cost of pathology, biochemistry and so on. By doing all this the students certainly are being taught. I must add that the resident of to-day who may have completed his course only one year knows far more than Senator Dittmer and I know about the various tests that are employed these days. But this method of teaching is the death of clinical medicine.
To-day illnesses are not diagnosed as they were in our day with a stethoscope and by listening to the case history. These days, when testing a person for a coronary condition you make trans-aminized tests and take electro-cardiographs. In our day we were taught to do the job without going to those lengths, and we knew whether a person had a coronary condition. To-day you do not say that a person has a coronary until you have taken a couple of electrocardiographs. One of my relatives is in hospital at present. She complained bitterly to me because on her first day in hospital an electro-cardiograph was taken. The hospital authorities were not satisfied because it did not prove anything, so they took another electro-cardiograph the next day. On the third day they wanted to take another electro-cardiograph and she objected because she had heard my statements previously that to the physician the electro-cardiograph is a source of high income. To-day these specialists take several electro-cardiographs whereas in the old days the general practitioner would tell the patient whether he had a coronary simply by using his stethoscope and by knowing the case history. So I take exception to this report on the ground that it encourages doctors to be specialists. It has in mind only specialization and has paid no thought to general practice.
Another ground of objection is the £625 which the committee has given as a reasonable annual figure for the training of a clinical student in a teaching hospital. That figure is unrealistic. The members of the committee have admitted that fact themselves, but everyone concerned has said “ They have asked for £625 so we must give them £625 “. No one has analysed this report. The members of the committee have said that they do not know how to assess this cost and apparently have taken a figure out of the hat. I hope that the Government will not accept this report until it has been submitted to a firm of cost accountants for analysis. This scintillating committee, the membership of which is given on page 2 of the report, is comprised apparently solely of professional men. One member, Mr. L. B. Hamilton, has no initials after his name. He may be an accountant. This figure of £625 seems to have been plucked out of the air. Let us remember that the proposal is to grant £3,000,000-odd for one small segment of education - the last three years in the medical course - when we need to spend millions of pounds on university education as a whole. That is why I ask why we should continue giving it to the hospitals. I think that they should receive some assistance, but not the amount which has been mentioned until it has been proved that the amount sought is the correct amount. To me, £625 drawn out of the hat is mystical, and the Government should not accept it until it has been analysed by reliable cost accountants.
Senator Mattner stated that universities could fail, just as the man on the land could fail if he had a failure rate of 30 per cent.
The failure rate in second year medicine is 60 per cent., but this is not due to the students themselves. I disagree with Senator Dittmer’s remarks, and intended to raise this matter during the Budget debate. Only 3 per cent, of failures are due to the indolence or laziness of the students. That fact has been brought out in reports. It is not the fault of these young boys and girls that they, fail; it is the fault solely of the universities. Universities set a matriculation standard which is practically the same in each State. If a student passes that standard he is regarded as fit to enter the university and to study whatever subject he wishes to study. But we in this country have not enough brains to solve the problem of the failure rate in the first year of any subject, whether it be in the field of medicine, science or engineering, but especially in the field of medicine. We know the answer to the problem. There is a difference between a boy at school and a boy at university. A boy is taught at school but he has to learn at university. There is a vast difference. When he goes to the university he has to do the job for himself. We know that, and the universities know that, but what do they do about it? They say; “ There is our standard. Pass it and you can come to the university “. A boy is not mature at sixteen, seventeen or eighteen years of age and he does not understand what is going on. University life is a new and wonderful life, the best years of his life, but no one tells him that he will not be taught but must learn. Surely the schools could keep these young people for an additional year.
I disagree entirely with the subjects taught in the first year. It is a discipline that did not help me very much. The fact that 1 had to dissect frogs and rabbits never helped me when it came to dissecting the human body; they seemed to be somewhat different. The same thing applies to chemistry and physics. The law that MA equals V somehow has never yet come into my sphere as a general practitioner. Of course, if I had been studying medicine associated with flights into space it might be different. Nevertheless these subjects must be taken at school and sat for at the matriculation examination because they are devised by the university. It is the university’s responsibility and the university should have enough brains- amongst its personnel to devise a scheme of study for the final year at school. Whether the students are taught half the subjects and allowed to learn the other half for themselves instead of having everything put on their plate is a matter that can be considered. If what I suggest were done we would not have the great failure rate in the first year as is the case to-day.
The great failure rate in first and second year medicine is not just due to the fact that the boy is lazy and will not work. I do not believe that for one moment. Authorities say that only 3 per cent, of failures are due to that. This failure rate is due to the fact that we have not got the accommodation for the students. It is pathetic, regrettable and exceedingly difficult for the young of this generation to know that although they might be brilliant and get to the university they are not even given a chance. Some could become excellent general practitioners but they do not get the opportunity.
In Melbourne there are 300 applicants for first year medicine but only 200 can be taken. Where do the other 100 go? They take on other courses with the result that we are getting short of doctors. In the second year the university deliberately fails students because there are not enough bodies in the anatomy school for them. Melbourne has a quota of, I think, 160 second year students. I am not quite certain of the number. Even though a student does get into the second year he might be failed because there are not enough bodies for the students to work on; it is not because he is unintelligent. I do not know what effect it must have on the young people of Australia to know that they are capable of matriculating but are not able to go to the university. Other nations take science religiously. They believe in science and are so far ahead of Us that it is time we looked at our universities in the proper light. What I am saying may not have much to do with this report, but unless we can get people into the first, second and third years there will not be any in the fourth, fifth and sixth years - the years with which this report deals.
The other objection to this report is that it is presented to the Prime Minister by the chairman of the Universities Commission. As chairman he agrees wholeheartedly with the report. He did not even analyse it himself. In effect he said, “ Yes, it is a good report.” I agree that it is a good report except for one or two things in it. Surely when the committee talks about the urgency of buildings, the chairman of the commission should have made a suggestion that would remedy this situation, I apologize for getting on to parochial matters, but apparently the Senate is a place where we can use the handle of the parochial pump. We have no medical school in Tasmania. The chairman of the commission knows that we have plenty of accommodation available. We have hospitals equipped with the things that Senator Mattner was talking about - things that hospitals in other States have not got. Our hospitals are very well equipped and could be turned into training schools for the training of fourth, fifth and sixth year students.
I was chairman of a select committee which inquired into the reason why we did not have a medical school in Tasmania. Tired old men came to us from the University of Tasmania. They told us that they were putting up new buildings, that they were introducing physics and chemistry and asked us not to talk about a medical school as they had too much on their plate. They said, in effect, “ We cannot possibly deal with another matter”. I believe that these tired old gentlemen went to the Universities Commission and said, “ Leave us out for three years.” The result is that we are three years further behind. I believe the commission will consider Tasmania’s medical school in its next threeyear plan, but, of course, it will take another three years for it to be implemented.
One cannot help feeling that we are not tackling this problem at all. This report deals with a small section of the whole problem of tertiary education and of medical education. It is good as far as it goes. The States will accept it. Every one will be happy. Honorable senators have read out portions of the report that affect their own States and have told us what they are going to get. It is a good thing, but it is a mere bagatelle in comparison with the amount of money that has to be spent if we want to have firstclass scientific education. They have thousands of science students in Russia, and the future of this world depends on science. If we are not going to keep up with Russia we will never be able to fight a war with her at any time, and for the rest of our lives we will be a satellite of the United States of America. Whether that is a good thing or not, I do not know.
Surely we can do something for ourselves; and one of the ways we can do so is by furthering tertiary education. I wish to speak on this subject later, but let me say now that tertiary education is a fundamental right. As Senator Dittmer said, it is the fundamental right of every boy and girl in this country. University education should be free as is the case in the University of Western Australia. No one should have to pay anything for their university education, because in the end the Commonwealth gains by it if university education is free to every one. I have a boy who is 21 years of age. He is at the university and is a tax deduction for me. His medical course takes six or seven years. Once he becomes 22 he will be no longer a tax deduction. It seems rather absurd, but we have such anomalies. Everything should be done to help these boys. At present we are not educating them; we are not teaching them the difference between school and university. We make it impossible for them to get through. It is entirely our fault. We sit here and say, “ Well, it doesn’t concern us very much. We have our degrees and we have our senatorial seats and are happy for the rest of our lives, or for six years at least! “
A complete inquiry into tertiary education would be far more beneficial and effective than this simple inquiry that affects the last three years of medical education. It is only a medical education that is involved in this report. Quotas are applied in the faculty of law and in almost every other faculty in our universities. It is horrifying to know how many students try to get in and cannot. We could take 50 into the University of Tasmania straight away if a medical school were established there, but we cannot get the State Government to move. I do not say this with scorn, but the Australian Labour Party has never been advocates of the medical profession. We cannot find enough in our
Budgets for the pensioners yet we talk about spending £400,000,000 to nationalize medicine. Nevertheless, we have got to do something for our universities.
I do not quite know the procedure of the Senate, but I presume I am supporting this motion because this report in its small microscopic way will help the medical schools to do something.
– I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 4.25 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - I point out to honorable senators that the statement I am about to read is in the terms being used in the House of Representatives to-night by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Consequently, where the words “ I “ and “ me “ are used they refer to the Prime Minister and not to me. The statement reads as follows: -
In my four weeks’ absence abroad I conducted close discussions on the Common Market problem in both the United Kingdom and the United States. I did this by way of following up the invaluable work done by Mr. McEwen in the course of his strenuous and far-reaching journey.
In London, I had a series of talks with the Prime Minister and with Lord Home, Mr. Butler, Mr. Sandys and Mr. Heath. In Washington, President Kennedy, Mr. Rusk, Mr. Harriman and Mr. Ball all found considerable time for an examination of our mutual problems. I was able to leave each place with a strong feeling that Australia’s case was not only understood but was receiving very close consideration.
I felt that this was important, because it must always be remembered that in the negotiations now proceeding on Great Britain’s application to accede to the Treaty of Rome and become a member of the
European Economic Community we are not a party principal and must therefore do what we can to impress our views, directly and indirectly, upon the actual negotiators and upon those whose views may influence their ultimate decisions.
Just as I arrived in England, an announcement was made by the press that an agreement had been arrived at in relation to “ hard manufactures “, under which existing Commonwealth preferences were to be “phased out” by 1970, when the Common Market arrangements are designed to reach maturity. Although the exports of both New Zealand and Australia in this field are intrinsically limited, Mr. Marshall, of New Zealand, and I had a discussion and issued a joint statement in which we said that British entry should not be on terms which resulted in critical damage to our economies and the impairment of Commonwealth relations. We recalled that the British Government had repeatedly given assurances that it would not feel able to join unless Commonwealth interests were safeguarded. We said that these assurances were of vital importance in the current negotiations.
We said that, notwithstanding this, neither Australia nor New Zealand could be indifferent to some recent developments in the negotiations. Although no doubt the outcome of this week’s discussion on industrial products would come under examination at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, it none the less represented a disturbing development. It fell far short of providing adequate safeguards for Commonwealth trade in the products concerned. Even more important, of course, it must not under any circumstances be taken as a pattern for the type of settlement which might be reached on other products of even greater concern to Australia and New Zealand. This statement attracted considerable public attention.
I then pursued the matter of the nature of any “ agreement “ between Great Britain and The Six. Discussions with British Ministers made it clear that, until the meeting of Prime Ministers was held, all such arrangements as that announced in relation to “ hard manufactures “ would be tentative only; that they were not binding; that they represented what Great Britain and The Six felt was a feasible basis of agreement; and that when finally the ground had been covered there would emerge a package of such feasible arrangements which the Prime Ministers would be able to discuss without prejudice and without prior commitment.
The second question, that of the phasing out of preferential arrangements by 1970, was, of course, vastly important, and occupied much of my time. This phasing out principle has been referred to in many official messages and records as “ decalage “, a French word meaning “ a shifting of the zero “ or what we would call for the present purpose a gradual reduction to the point of extinction. When in London I noted with interest that the “ Times “ printed it “ décollage “, meaning in one sense a beheading. We have made it clear that to dispose of the Commonwealth issue by steady reduction of our existing arrangements without in some other way preserving our market opportunities, until termination in 1970, would be grievously unsatisfactory to us. It is true that our curren trade treaty with Great Britain has a terminating or terminable date; that our current meat agreement is for a term of years; that the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement runs until 1969; and so on. But the point which we have been making is that, whatever the dates may be, there has for very many years been an expectation and intention that preferential arrangements of an appropriate kind would continue, just as it has been contemplated that a British preferential tariff on British goods passing into Australia would continue.
We have not been blindly obstinate or unreasonable in our advocacy. We have, in fact, recognized throughout that the present members of the Common Market were not likely in 1962 - whatever might have been the position when the Treaty of Rome was in process of negotiation - to accept the entry of a Great Britain carrying with her the existing structure of Commonwealth preferences. We have therefore proposed and sought some alternative course which would secure for us the substance of maintained and expanded access to an enlarged European Common Market while not requiring the continuance of the strict letter of what I will call “ the old law “.
Without going into burdensome detail, I may illustrate our approach by two examples. For some commodities we suggested that we should be given, on the basis of our trade with Great Britain, “ comparable outlets “ into the enlarged European Common Market. This means that we should be given a preferential tariff quota which would apply to the whole of that market, but be based upon the normal amount of our existing sales to Great Britain, plus an agreed factor of normal growth. In the result, each European country of The Six would enjoy the same cost advantage as Great Britain, up to a point where the total imports of that commodity from Australia reached the agreed quota. After that, our exports of that commodity would have to meet the common external tariff.
In some other commodities we felt that the right answer was to make world agreements, pending the negotiation of which our current rights should continue. There were and are many variations on these two themes which involve technical procedures which I could not hope to cover in a statement which is designed to explain the issues broadly and concisely.
With these preliminaries, I now proceed to explain, as objectively as possible, the nature of the two great problems which engaged my attention. The first involved some examination of what I will call the political issues involved for Great Britain and the Commonwealth. Although, as we know, political issues embrace economic issues very closely, I am here using the expression “ political “ as distinguishing such matters as foreign policy and the concerting of external policies, and putting the economic issues, somewhat artificially, in a separate category.
This distinction is by no means precise, since there are in and under the Treaty of Rome provisions which could limit the normal political and legislative discretion of a British Parliament in relation to economic and social matters. But, in spite of some confusion and overlapping of ideas, the making of the broad distinction will facilitate the presentation of the record to the House. I will begin with the political considerations.
The British Cabinet clearly is impressed by what it believes to be the political ad vantages for Great Britain, Europe, and the Western World which would flow from British membership of the European Economic Community. Mr. Macmillan made this clear in our discussions. I think it fair to say that his views on this matter seem to be fully shared by President Kennedy.
The basis of this belief is a feeling that the old balance of power policy - with Great Britain standing outside Europe - is no longer possible in modern circumstances and has been falsified twice in this century; that the measure of European co-operation already achieved under the Treaty of Rome is already notable, and will grow more rapidly with British participation; that Great Britain, as a member of the European Economic Community could exercise substantial influence in the direction of outward looking policies and positive resistance to the Cummunist menace.
We understand and respect these views, but we have never assumed nor offered to sit in judgment on them. They clearly involve a choice, a most historic and farreaching choice, to be made by Great Britain herself. If the choice is made in favour of entry, the political effect upon Australia and other Commonwealth countries,, indeed upon the Commonwealth itself, will materially depend upon the nature of the political arrangements which develop inside the extended European Economic Community.
Primarily, the Treaty of Rome provides for permanent close economic association between its members, with, for example, common agricultural policies, a free movement of people and capital, the harmonization of social policies, and the creation of institutions such as an assembly, a council, a commission - an executive body - a court, and a European Investment Bank.
The political implications of the economic association are visible, but not easy to define. But, as I pointed out to this House a year ago, the preamble to the Treaty of Rome stated that the signatories were “ determined to establish the foundations of an ever closer union among European peoples “.
The British Government has given much thought to this great question; it sees world advantages in involving Great Britain in European political associations of a permanent kind. We have never questioned the sincerity of its view, or the possibility of those advantages. Indeed, in a joint statement by President Kennedy and myself - to which I will direct attention at a later stage - we said that we both “ recognized that European unity could contribute substantially to the strength of the free world “.
From a Commonwealth point of view, I have taken every opportunity to point out that a great deal turns upon the nature of the proposed political - including constitutional - association. This question has given rise to much political debate both in and out of the British Parliament. There is a wide range of possibilities, from regular conferences of leaders and Ministers at one end of the scale - an ad hoc rather than a structural association - to a full-blooded European Federation at the other.
I gathered in Whitehall that Great Britain does not contemplate the creation ot supra-national institutions of government, with their consequential clear modifications of political sovereignty. There would appear to be some division of opinion among The Six themselves on this matter. But it does seem that, to take a single example, the right, under the treaty, to the free movement of workers between the member states can readily generate political pressures for organic political association. Many Europeans have already moved from one member state to another. Subject to the power of national histories and traditions and prejudices - a power which can easily be under-estimated - national lines will tend to become blurred. If these processes now going on under the treaty operated to reduce the possibilities of intraWestern European wars, such as the two great and devastating wars of this century, a great thing would have been done for world peace. Whether those processes would be accelerated ‘ and strengthened by British entry into the European Economic Community presents a great current problem of statesmanship.
What we have sought to make clear is that if Great Britain went in, and if in the course of time the extended European Economic Community became a European political community with the structure of a federation, the nature of the present Commonwealth would be clearly and materially changed. For, as we know, a federation distributes sovereignty between the central or federal authority and the member states. The sovereign powers of the member states are diminished, the powers subtracted being handed over to the central or federal authority. In short, if Great Britain eventually became a member state in a European federation, she would no longer be sovereign as the other Commonwealth countries are. The Commonwealth would have ceased to be an association of sovereign and fully selfgoverning states.
That such a consequence could be regarded by British statesmen, contemplating the importance of European integration, as, on balance, acceptable, I would not deny. But it would be in our opinion wrong to pretend that, in that event, the nature and structure of the Commonwealth had not been changed.
Throughout my journey and my conversations, I felt most acutely the pressure of these considerations. The question in my mind took shape somewhat as follows: “After all, the Commonwealth has sustained many changes since the last war. Only some of its members remain within the direct allegiance to the Throne. It cannot be said that we have an allembracing community of political institutions or democratic processes, or of the rule of law as we know it. Should our deep desire to preserve what we can, be allowed to stand in the way of a new European conception embracing some 300,000,000 British and European people, getting rid of their old local hostilities and forming themselves into’ an integrated power devoted to true peace and determined to resist aggression? “
I believe that we, as a not unimportant member of the Commonwealth, would answer that question, as I have tried to answer it in England myself, by saying that United Kingdom membership of an actual European federation, involving the great change in the Commonwealth to which I have referred, would be a mistake. I do not say that it is contemplated - I am sure that it is not - but nobody can confidently foretell the effect of those pressures of the future which I mentioned a few minutes ago.
It is possible to contemplate with approval a close co-ordination of high political policies between Great Britain and the European Economic Community. It would, as we see it, be an unhappy thing to contemplate the absorption of Great Britain into an organic European federal union. But, I repeat, these decisions are not ours to make. All we can do is to state our views as we hold them and as we are entitled and bound to express them, and trust to the accumulated wisdom and experience of Great Britain, as the centre of the Commonwealth, to come to sound conclusions.
It is on the economic aspects of British entry into the Common Market that it would not be right to dogmatize about the views of the Government of the United Kingdom. There are those who believe strongly that for Britain to have duty-free entry into a home market of 300,000,000 people with relatively high living standards would mean salvation and growth for British manufacturing industry in total. When questioned about the possible damage to British industry by duty-free goods from Europe, their answer is that this challenge will be met by increased efficiency in Britain, an efficiency compelled by the new circumstances. On the other hand, there are competent people who think that the economic arguments for going in or staying out are fairly evenly balanced. This is a view which I found more widely held than I had expected. So much was this the case that I found myself tending more and more to the belief that the dynamic element in the Common Market movement is the conviction of political advantage; almost of political necessity in the cause of world security; and that the economic results are accepted by some as the necessary condition of political association.
Once again, I made it clear that we are not sitting in judgment on Great Britain’s own economic views. It is for her to balance the possible gains in Europe against the possible losses in Commonwealth trade, which has in the past, of course, been vastly more important to her. Our task is not to oppose Britain’s entry on economic grounds, which affect her, and which call for her judgment; it is to do all we can, by hard work and persuasion, to ensure that the terms finally agreed to by The Six do the minimum of damage to the present and anticipated pattern of Commonwealth trade, and of Australian trade in particular.
I am not in a position at present to expound the present state of the Brussels negotiations. They are clearly far from complete. I anticipate that fairly soon we will be officially and fully informed. Until then, it would merely confuse the problem for me to introduce speculation into what is intended to be an objective narrative. But whatever the outcome of the negotiations may be, whatever outline of tentative arrangements may be presented to the Prime Ministers next month, the utlimate decision, when all the arguments have been heard, will be that of Great Britain, over whom, except for such current and binding agreements as now exist, no meeting of Prime Ministers can exercise a veto.
I mention these truisms because they are too frequently forgotten. Although one is frequently asked for a categorical “ Yes “ or “ No “ to the question “ Are you in favour of Britain entering the European Community?” no such answer is as yet possible. The position is still confused. Very able Australian officials have for a year, both in London and Europe, and recently in Washington, presented to their opposite numbers facts, arguments, and proposals in relation to a long list of Australian commodities. The permanent head of our Department of Trade, Dr. Westerman, whose ability, knowledge, and immense industry deserve great praise, made a long exposition of Australia’s approach to the Council of Deputies at Brussels. My colleague, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), this year pursued a powerful advocacy on the ministerial level in all three areas. I myself followed the matter up as well as I could in the journey which gives rise to this report. All these things have been done in no spirit of hostility. We know that the British Government has set out to secure terms which give reasonable protection to Commonwealth interests. We have a high regard for their chief negotiator, Mr. Heath, who has at all times been accessible to our views and has, as we know, been presenting the case for Commonwealth trade to the European negotiators.
It is certain that when we meet in September we cannot be presented with a complete package of possible arrangements. But it was anticipated, when I left London, that enough progress would have been made to enable useful discussion on some important items to occur, and the relevant principles to be debated. Both in London and Washington, I. encountered some opinions, courteously but firmly expressed, that the Australian Government was overstating its case, and that the damage to Australian trade was likely to be comparatively minor. 1 know, from an unhappy recent experience, that this view is entertained by some thoughtful people in Australia. I therefore took, and now take again, the opportunity of answering these opinions.
In the first place, nobody is yet in a position to know what the terms of British entry will be. If she were to enter on the existing terms of the Treaty of Rome, with its objectives of internal free trade, a common external tariff, and a common agricultural policy, our preferences would before long be terminated, and replaced by preferences in Great Britain to European products. In addition, our access to the enlarged Common Market would be restricted by the array of protective devices used to support the common agricultural policy. In such an event, blows would be struck in due or undue course against our exports of such important commodities as - to take a few examples - sugar, metallic lead, dairy products, meat, dried fruits, and canned fruits.
Should the terms of the Treaty of Rome be modified in the interests of Commonwealth trade, the degree of impact upon our export trade will depend upon the nature and extent of the modifications. As we do not know what, if any, modifications may be arrived at between Great Britain and The Six, who - not we - are the negotiators, we must, as prudent people, assess the possible losses to us on the basis of the Treaty of Rome as it stands; any departure from it in our direction will be so much saved. I have not tried to deal with the purely financial implications of the Treaty of Rome. They were very clearly explained by the Treasurer. Mr. Holt, in this House on 22nd August, 1961, in a speech which all students of the Common Market problem should study. But there is another consideration which Mr.
McEwen repeatedly explained, and to which 1 devoted a good deal of my time. A general economic survey which looks at national totals, divorced from consideration of particular industries, regions, and communities of men and women, can be most misleading. Percentages, as we know, can frequently be misleading. Much of Australia’s productive development has been related to the long established pattern of Commonwealth trade, and designed to satisfy markets which form part of that pattern. In many cases, entire communities have grown up around export industries of this kind. In many cases, such industries cannot be confident of finding alternative markets quickly, or in some cases, at all. I will illustrate. In 1960-61, our exports of metallic lead (pig and bullion) totalled £15,800,000. Great Britain took £10,600,000 of this, duty free. Behind this export, we have developed in Australia great smelters, notably at Port Pirie, whose efficiency is of world standard. We also export substantial qualtities of concentrates. The Common Market contemplates a common external tariff of about 9 per cent, on metal. It is not difficult to see that, if our exports of lead are to be subject to this tariff, Australia could, upon British entry, lose the bulk of her export of metallic lead; her lead smelters could become uneconomic; while, ironically enough, as the Common Market will freely import lead concentrates, the reduction (and perhaps disappearance) of lead smelting in Australia could be accompanied by the creation of new smelters in Europe. It would be difficult to persuade communities like Broken Hill and Port Pirie that the problems thus presented for their industries, their regions, and their people, are minor ones.
Take dairy farming and the export of butter. In 1961-62, for which we have complete figures, Australia exported to the United Kingdom just under £20,000,000 worth of butter, out of our total export of £23,500,000. It entered the United Kingdom duty free, whereas European butter pays a duty of 15s. a hundredweight. Should Great Britain go into the Common Market on the terms of the Treaty of Rome, Australian butter would be subject to variable levies and possibly quantitative restrictions, while European butter would have free access. Is the problem thus presented, in economic, industrial, and human terms, a minor one?
Take the sugar industry - a great industry which gives life and significance to large coastal areas in Queensland and the north of New South Wales. In 1961-62, for which also we have complete figures, Australia exported £18,300,000 worth to the United Kingdom, none to the European Economic Community and £14,800,000 elsewhere. Our exports to the United Kingdom are mainly at a negotiated price under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. On the remainder of our exports to the United Kingdom we receive the world price plus a preference which is of the order of £3 15s. sterling a ton. Surely this is a measure of trade so closely related to the development and peopling of our North that its protection assumes major proportions.
Dried vine fruits have provided the foundation, in specially irrigated areas, of large settlements, particularly of exservicemen, in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. In 1961-62 we exported to the United Kingdom no less than £5,000,000 worth, out of a total export of £9,500,000. Our product entered the United Kingdom duty free. The application of the terms of the Treaty of Rome, with a proposed common external tariff of 8 per cent., could strike a crippling blow at industries which support entire communities, and to which an assured export is economically vital.
Canned deciduous fruits and canned pineapple also have great regional significance. In 1961 we exported to the United Kingdom, duty free, nearly £11,000,000 worth, a nominal amount to the European Economic Community and under £1,000,000 elsewhere. The proposed Common Market external tariff is 25 per cent. It is therefore clear that practically the whole of this export trade is involved in the negotiations now going on.
I have said nothing about our large export trade in wheat and meat, to which our negotiators have been directing close attention. These products need a special presentation, and I will not expand what should be the reasonable limits of a statement like the present one in order to do what my colleague, the Minister for Trade, can do with greater knowledge and authority. But the illustrations I have given will, I hope, convince the House that it has not been for small considerations that we have been conducting negotiations and offering advocacy on an unprecedented scale, including the facilitation of investigations on the spot by leading members of the Opposition.
We are realists, but that is not to say that we are pessimists. We attach great value to the expressed determination of the United Kingdom Government to protect Commonwealth interests. We believe that the powerful and influential United States of America understands our lawful interests and national ambitions, and the importance of a Commonwealth growing in political and economic strength and significance.
I am not conscious of any exaggeration in our case. If, indeed, I had not thought that the possible impact upon Australia was, and is, a matter of very substantial importance to our own growth and prosperity, I do not think I should have so warmly approved of my colleague’s strenuous journey or undertaken a similar one myself.
There is one other aspect of the economic argument which deserves special mention. I have had a good deal to say about our primary export industries, which are of vital importance to our balances of trade and payments, and whose volume of export trade is so important for their unit costs of production. We must, at our peril, do what we can to keep those costs from rising in a world in which the terms of trade are by no means favorable to us. But our manufacturing industry, the steady growth of which is needed for an increase in our population and full employment, has great interests in the Common Market negotiations. This comes about in two ways.
First, our export earnings serve materially to determine our capacity to import. Most of our imports are not those of finished consumer goods, but those of plant and materials for local manufacture. In this way, the protection of the export markets of our primary products is essential to our manufacturing growth.
Second, the accession of Great Britain to the European Common Market is thought, as I have said, to be likely, through the creation of a vast home market, to increase manufacturing efficiency and reduce manufacturing costs in the extended European community. This must be expected to increase its competitive capacity in its exports to Australia. This in turn will affect the capacity of Australian manufacturing to meet competition from overseas, and may well give rise to acute tariff problems which in their turn will, or may, create cost problems in the rural industries.
I am not assuming to answer these problems in advance. What I do want to make clear is that it would be an error to think that the Common Market problem is of interest to limited sections of the people. In reality, it touches the Australian economy at many points, and must be the concern of us all.
When I flew over to the United States of America, my principal objectives were to discuss with the President, the Secretary of State, Mr. Dean Rusk, and Mr. Averell Harriman, some of the problems of SouthEast Asia, and also - with the addition of Mr. Assistant Secretary Ball and other leading officials - the problem of British entry into the Common Market. I am happy to say that, over a period of three days in Washington, I was given a great deal of time and had the fullest opportunity to develop the views of the Australian Government.
In particular, honorable members may be interested to know that I found President Kennedy, with whom I had enjoyed most useful talks fourteen months earlier, not only friendly but uncommonly well informed on Australia’s special interests in the Common Market negotiations. He gave me hours of his time, as did the principal members of his Administration.
Assisted by the reports of my colleague, the Minister for Trade, who had done invaluable work a little earlier in Washington, I came to the conclusion that it would not be useful for me to rehearse the arguments justifying the principle of the preferential trade system of the Commonwealth which was first given comprehensive form at Ottawa, in 1932, and to which the United States has always expressed objecton. Deeply attached though we are to the Commonwealth pattern of trade, I felt that nothing was to be gained by pursuing what might be called doctrinal arguments about an issue on which my colleague, speaking with great knowledge and authority, had deserved success, but had not been able to achieve it. My own approach, therefore, took two forms.
The first was to say that, in the interests of practical satisfaction for both Australia and the United States of America, we should agree to avoid conflicting theories or argument about particular phrases or words, and find out whether, in a purely practical and pragmatic way, we could consider American and Australian interests in particular commodities to the end result that we might do our best, jointly and severally, to preserve our competitive status in the markets of an extended European area, and, in the case of Australia, maintain and expand access for our goods to Britain and Europe.
The second was to make it clear that should The Six insist upon terms of entry which involved the disappearance of Commonwealth preferences by 1970 without some other provisions for preserving our market opportunities, the Government of Great Britain would be confronted by a most difficult choice - whether to go into Europe on terms which would invite opposition in other Commonwealth countries, or to terminate the negotiations and stay out of Europe. My argument was that, should Great Britain be confronted by such a dilemma, the United States of America itself would be, though not a party principal in the negotiations, the witness of a conflict of interests on a matter in which, as I believed, it wanted to see Great Britain go into Europe, but did not desire to have a conflict of Commonwealth interests.
After my Washington discussions, which I thought particularly helpful, a joint communique was agreed upon. Though honorable members have no doubt seen its terms as published, with the concurrence of the House, I shall incorporate the relevant portions of it in “ Hansard “, so that I may direct attention to some of its terms. They are as follows:
President Kennedy expressed his strong belief in the importance of the Commonwealth as a source of stability and strength for the free world. At the same time both leaders recognized that
European unity could contribute substantially to the strength of the free world.
They reviewed therefore the implications for the trade of their two nations of the possible accession of the United Kingdom to the European Economic Community. lt was agreed that, in this event, the United States and Australia would, as great suppliers to Britain and Europe, face problems in endeavouring to maintain and expand access for their goods.
The Prime Minister offered the view that it would be a grave misfortune if, after the negotiations, it turned out that the conditions laid down for Britain’s entry were unacceptable to Commonwealth countries on the ground that they damaged Commonwealth trade and expansion.
The President and Prime Minister took note of the fact that with respect to certain articles and commodities Australia’s historic terms of access are different from those of the United States. They recognize, however, that Australia competed with the United States in the United Kingdom market with respect to only a relatively small number of these items, though the items themselves are by no means small in importance. They agreed that, with respect to these items, technical discussions would be held between the two Governments in an effort to reconcile the trading interests of both nations.
With respect to the great bulk of articles and commodities they noted that, as non-members of the European Economic Community, their countries faced essentially the same problems, and they joined in hoping that the community would pursue liberal trading policies. President Kennedy pointed out that under the trade expansion legislation now pending before the Congress the United States Government should strive, through reciprocal agreements, to bring about a general reduction of trade barriers for the benefit of all. Moreover, both leaders agreed that, with respect to a number of key primary products, the problems raised by the expansion of the Common Market might be best solved through international arrangements.
During the course of their interviews the President expressed his warm interest in Australia and his understanding of Australia’s needs in terms of development and growth, recognizing the problems of particular regions as well as industries.
Both he and the Prime Minister were agreed that the problems for the United States and Australia arising out of Britain’s proposed entry should be approached not on any basis of theory or the use of particular words but upon a practical basis, examining commodities one by one, having in mind the protection of the interests of both countries.
As a result of their discussions the President and the Prime Minister were encouraged to believe that satisfactory solutions will be found to those problems faced by their two countries “.
I thought our talks and this joint message quite valuable. The atmosphere of our relations with our powerful friends in
America is of material and continuing importance. It is therefore significant that the document records that “ President Kennedy expressed his strong belief in the importance of the Commonwealth as a source of stability and strength for the free world “.
I can assure the House that this is no mere form of words. The President’s knowledge of Commonwealth problems is quite remarkable. His interest in Australia in particular is quite unfeigned. I am sure that he is our friend.
Again, “ It was agreed that, in the event “ - of Great Britain acceding to the European Economic Community - “the United States and Australia would, as great suppliers to Britain and Europe, face problems in endeavouring to maintain and expand access for their goods “.
I attached importance to this as a recognition that Australia is an expanding country with a great need for economic growth, and that we should be able to look forward to expanding our export trade to the European area.
And further, “They agreed that, with respect to these items “ - that is, those in which Australia competed with the United States in the United Kingdom market - “technical discussions would be held between the two governments in an effort to reconcile the trading interests of both nations “.
This paragraph arose from my proposal that Dr. Westerman, our chief official negotiator, should return to Washington to have commodity by commodity discussions, “not on any basis of theory” - as a later paragraph of the communique puts it - “ or the use of particular words, but upon a practical basis, examining commodities one by one, having in mind the protection of the interests of both countries “.
Pursuant to this arrangement, Dr. Westerman returned to Washington. On his return to Australia, he was able to report some most useful talks, which have greatly assisted Mr. McEwen and myself in subsequent communications with British Ministers. I will make a further reference to this before I conclude in a few moments.
Honorable members will observe in the communique our joint hope that the European Economic Community will pursue [SENATE.] European Common Market. 1 1 6 Australia and the liberal trading policies. This is important. Australia has for years past been carrying out active policies for the development of new markets and an increased export trade. This has been done through a much enlarged trade commissioner service, trade missions, trade ships, the Export Payments Insurance Corporation, special tax measures designed to encourage export, banking arrangements in aid of rural development, beef roads assistance and aid to the provision of improved coal exports ports and facilities. But the British and European markets remain very important for most export industries, and are quite vital for some. It thus gave me satisfaction when President Kennedy approved this paragraph -
During the course of their interviews the President expressed his warm interest in Australia and his understanding of Australia’s needs in terms of development and growth, recognizing the problems of particular regions as well as industries.
And finally, on the personal initiative of the President himself, the final words were added -
As a result of their discussions the President and the Prime Minister were encouraged to believe that satisfactory solutions will be found to those problems faced by their two countries.
I have already referred to the arrangement made for further official talks in Washington. These occurred, most usefully, and my colleague, Mr. McEwen, and 1 have had personal reports on them by Dr. Westerman. Even more importantly, I have in the last few days learned from the American Administration of its deep satisfaction with these talks, their co-operative spirit and their fruitfulness. 1 conclude by saying that, in this matter, which transcends normal party differences, we shall continue to do all in our power to influence decisions in directions which we believe will be good for Australia and for the Commonwealth and therefore enhance, in the words which I have quoted, “ the importance of the Commonwealth as a source of stability and strength for the free world “. 1 lay on the table the following paper: -
Common Market Negotiations - Statement by the Prime Minister dated 9th August, 1962. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize payment to the States of grants totalling £12,500,000 in this financial year. At the Premiers’ Conference held in conjunction with the recent Loan Council meeting, the Commonwealth indicated that, in addition to supporting the borrowing programme for State works and housing of £250,000,000 adopted by the Loan Council for 1962-63, it would be willing to make available a special non-repayable interest-free grant of £12,500,000 to the States for expenditure on employment-giving activities. These amounts are additional to the financial assistance grants paid to the States under the States Grants Acts of 1959 and 1962.
It will be recalled that the Commonwealth paid to the States in 1961-62 a nonrepayable grant of £10,000,000 which was intended to provide finance for employmentgiving activities, mainly in the works field. In making the present offer of further assistance in 1962-63, the Commonwealth wished to assist the States to continue these activities in this financial year. We expect this grant to have a beneficial impact on employment.
The Commonwealth was also influenced by this in suggesting a form of distribution of the total grant between States which proved acceptable to all States. The amounts to be paid to each State are shown in the schedule to the bill, and are as follows: -
In suggesting this distribution the Commonwealth had in mind the employment situation in Queensland, in particular, but considered that in Tasmania also there was some cause for special consideration on this account. Both these States, therefore, are to receive larger amounts than would have been the case had the total grant been distributed among States solely in the same proportions as the works and housing programmes.
I may mention that some State Premiers indicated at the conference that their budgetary problems were likely to be more difficult in 1962-63 than they were last year. As a result, the Commonwealth, while emphasizing that the overall purpose of the grants was to stimulate employment, made it clear that in pursuing that general objective the States were at the same time free to utilize any part of the grants which they saw fit to assist their budgets in the present year.
In view of the purpose of the grants, the Government is anxious that the States should be able to commence to draw upon them as soon as possible. I would, therefore, in commending the bill to honorable senators, express the hope that the legislation might be dealt with as expeditiously as possible.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
– I have received a letter from Senator McKellar requesting his discharge from further attendance on the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator McKellar be discharged from attendance as a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, and that Senator DrakeBrockman be appointed in his stead.
– I have received a letter from Senator Drake-Brockman requesting his discharge from further attendance on the Public Works Committee.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Drake-Brockman be discharged from attendance as a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and that Senator Prowse be appointed in his stead.
– I have received a letter from Senator Wright requesting his discharge from further attendance on the Standing Orders Committee.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Wright be discharged from attendance on the Standing Orders Committee, and that Senator Cormack be appointed in his stead.
– I have received letters from Senators Buttfield and Scott requesting their discharge from further attendance on the Printing Committee.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That Senators Buttfield and Scott be discharged from attendance on the Printing Committee, and that Senators Breen, Sherrington and Sir Walter Cooper be appointed to fill the vacancies on the committee.
– J have received letters from Senators Anderson and Hannan requesting their discharge from further attendance on the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to-
That Senators Anderson and Hannan be discharged from attendance on the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications, and that Senators Laught, Lillico and Sir Walter Cooper be appointed to fill the vacancies on the committee.
– I have received a letter from Senator Marriott requesting his discharge from further attendance on the Joint Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Marriott be discharged from attendance on the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee, and that Senator Hannan be appointed in his stead.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senators Breen and Maher be appointed to fill the vacancies now existing on the Library Committee.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Marriott be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the House Committee.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I make no apology for detaining the Senate by speaking to the motion for the adjournment. The subject I wish to discuss is of great importance, particularly to people in the country, since it deals with country television services. I feel as frustrated as do the country people concerned.
– You look it, too.
– I am quite frustrated in my efforts to get something definite from the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in respect of television for country areas of Western Australia.
The country people of Western Australia, who have loyally supported this Government, feel that they have been let down very badly so far as television is concerned, and I do not blame them for thinking so. Personally, I believe they have had a raw deal. For the last four years I have been constantly pressing their case, but on most occasions I have met with evasion and vagueness so far as the department is concerned. I wish to say, Sir, that I absolve Senator Wade, who represents the PostmasterGeneral in the Senate, from any criticism that I make, because he has always been most courteous in his replies and has answered questions to the best of the knowledge he could be expected to have of some of the technical details.
I think that the country people are more entitled to this amenity than are the city people. Yet, in my State there are two city television stations. Applications have been called for a third one, although there is not one country television station operating there. I am very unhappy about this matter and am deeply concerned at the Government’s treatment of these country people. Recently, the Government announced that, under the fourth phase of its programme, applications for licences would be called in Western Australia for the areas of Bunbury, Albany, Katanning and York-Northam. It is significant that the areas of Geraldton and Kalgoorlie were, and are, to be left out. The people of Geraldton and Kalgoorlie are not terribly happy- with their treatment, and I do not think they will take it lying down. Frankly, I do not blame them. So far as Albany, Katanning and York-Northam are concerned, there have been no applications for licences, and I can understand that because with the density of population there an initiating station would not be a profitable commercial proposition. The Minister did say in answer to a question that a national station will be provided in those areas, but I do not think that is good enough. The residents of these areas should have the same choice as city dwellers have. They should have the choice of listening to either a national station or a commercial station. I support that assertion by stating that it is generally accepted that the surveys which have been undertaken have shown that 88 per cent, of the viewers in Australia watch the commercial television programmes and only 12 per cent, view the national programmes. I repeat that the people of these areas are just as much entitled as are city dwellers to have the opportunity of viewing a commercial programme, although I do not say that it need necessarily be a programme televised from an initiating station.
The York-Northam area could be adequately covered by translators. For a cost of £100,000, translators could be installed to cover an area extending as far east as Merredin, as far south as Quairading, as far north as Wyalkatchem and Trayning and as far west as the York-Northam area. The £100,000 to meet the cost of these translators does not concern the Government because the Government will not be asked to contribute one penny towards financing the scheme.
– What would be the cost?
– £100,000 to install four translators which would give adequate coverage to the area I have described.
– That is £25,000 for each translator?
– The cost would be £25,000 for each translator. There are certain business interests in Western Australia who are prepared already to go ahead and provide this service on the condition that the Government grant permission for the use of translators, and always provided that this service is not to be taken as a second or originating station. I believe that these interests already have an application with the department for permission to go ahead with the service. Although these translators are not to be initiating stations, they will give service to an area that cannot expect to receive commercial television for many years to come because the population density there is not sufficient to support such a station. These translator units to which I have referred could be purchased and landed in Australia by March of next year. If the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Minister could only shake off their very unreasonable prejudice against the use of translators, some country people could have television in these areas by this time next year instead of having to wait for some years in most cases and apparently indefinitely in other cases.
Kalgoorlie and Geraldton are in a different category because it would be a very expensive proposition to extend the translator service to those areas. Therefore I ask the Government and the Minister to investigate the Pye package station which is produced by the Pye company. I mention the Pye because that is one company which I do know produces package stations. These are small, self-contained stations which are ideal for covering small areas where there is a high density of population. I am thinking now of the towns of Kalgoorlie, Boulder and Geraldton. The cost of a package station landed in Australia is £50,000. That is a very reasonable figure and again it would not concern the Government because private enterprise would be prepared to erect these stations in these areas, again on the condition that they are not to be regarded as initiating stations.
I feel that I should say to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) and the Postal Department that I am not going to be very impressed if they come back to me with the answer, “ We have done a remarkable job because, in the very near future, 90 per cent, of the population of Australia will be receiving television coverage.” It would be very cold comfort to the 10 per cent., who to-day number 1,000,000, to know that 90 per cent, of the people are receiving television and they are not. I repeat that these people need and are entitled to the same amenities as city dwellers enjoy. If private enterprise is prepared to provide the service the Government would be very foolish not to change its attitude towards relay, repeater and translator stations. I suggest that the Government will have to have a very convincing explanation as to why it took five years to call tenders for a pilot 1-watt very high frequency translator unit with which to carry out experiments. It is four years now since I first suggested that this step should be taken. For four years we have been asking the Government to investigate the question of translators with a view to installing them in areas such as those to which I refer in Western Australia where the density of population is not high enough to warrant the installation of an initiating station.
– You seem to be very disturbed about all this.
– I have been very disturbed about it for four years I think this question should have been looked at much earlier.
– If you intend to follow it up, are you going to follow it up with just words, or are you going to do the things that matter?
– Just listen for a moment and you will hear what I intend to do. If the Government’s opposition to these units and the package stations is based on the fact that the picture is not up to the same high standard as that of the 100 per cent, efficient television station, would riot a slightly lower standard for the interim period be better than no television at all? As there is no large sum involved, and as no Government money is to be used, why cannot the Government sanction the use of these units to provide an interim service until the perfect service can be given?
I feel that I should tell the PostmasterGeneral and the Government that I am not going to let up in my endeavours to help these people. Until such time as I am satisfied, I intend to pursue this matter, and I would pose certain questions which I hope the Minister in this place will ask his colleague to answer. What has the Government got against the use of translators, repeaters or relay stations by private enterprise at no cost to the Government? If the Government’s policy is to class such stations as second stations, will it reconsider its policy so far as isolated areas are concerned? If the Government’s opposition to these units and package stations is that they will not give a high-quality picture - and here I commend the Government for having given such a high standard to the rest of Australia - could not a slightly inferior picture be permitted during the interim period? Until such time as a satisfactory solution to this problem has been evolved and there is some assurance that these people will have a television service in the near future, I shall continue to ask questions on every possible occasion; and I warn the Senate that I shall speak on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate whenever I have sufficient material to warrant my doing so.
.- Mr. President, while you were reading letters announcing the resignations from various committees of certain members of the Government, there were interjections from the other side of the Senate which may or may not have been recorded in “ Hansard “ and which were heard by people who were listening to the debate. I take this opportunity to say to members of the Australian Labour Party that they should not treat this matter as though senators on the Government side were resigning from committees because of some dissatisfaction. We believe that Government senators should have a wide experience and should not remain members of one committee all their political lives. It is far better for our parties, the people and the Parliament for us to go from committee to committee. In order to do that we must resign from committees. This is a new Senate, so we have rotated, as it were. Some of us who have had experience on one committee have moved to another. If members of the Labour Party think that is bad, it shows the dull thinking of that party and it is no wonder that it is still in opposition. I say that to the four or five of them who are left in the Senate at about ten minutes past nine to-night.
.- Mr. President, with some diffidence, I join in the general proposition advanced by Senator Branson. My State of Victoria is not directly interested in the use of translators. Being a small, compact and well-developed State and the hub of the Commonwealth, Victoria does not have a great deal of use for them. However, from the viewpoint of the Western Australian television viewer, the general argument propounded by Senator Branson seems to me. as a spectator, to be unanswerable. It is true, as the engineers point out. that these small and cheap translators cause some degradation of the picture. It is not as good a picture as an original transmission gives. But. as Senator Branson pointed out, surely half a loaf of bread is better than no bread at all. A translator certainly can give at least three.quarters of a loaf, as it were, provided it is operating in the circumstances and under the conditions for which it was designed. The circumstances set out by Senator Branson seem to parallel the conditions that caused the American engineers to develop this rather clever type of relay or repeater.
– They are two different things.
– A repeater is not exactly the same as a translator. I used the words in a generic sense. The translator is a cheap instrument - the cost has been given to us by Senator Branson - and it seems to be designed to meet circumstances in which it is economically impossible to run an independent station.
If I may say so from the obscurity of the third row back in the Senate, there does not appear to be any real reason why the engineers of the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Australian Broadcasting Commission have not tried out this method of television transmission in Western Australia already. Without going into the matter in great detail, Mr. President, I should like to give formal support to the proposition so ably advanced by Senator Branson.
– Mr. President, I have listened with a good deal of interest to what Senator Branson and Senator Hannan have said on this matter. I acknowledge the repeated advocacy by Senator Branson, in particular, for the extension of television to country areas. However, I must confess that I am somewhat at a disadvantage in replying to these propositions for, unlike my learned colleagues, I have no technical knowledge of television. Therefore, I must confine my contribution to matters of general policy. 1 want to make one or two points that I believe are worth putting before the Senate again. The first point I emphasize is that the Government, right from its first contact with television, has maintained a policy of extending television to rural areas as quickly as possible. It is true that the Government’s basic policy was to do the greatest good for the greatest number and for that reason the capital cities received the first licences that were made available.
Whether or not Senator Branson is impressed by the oft-repeated statement I am about to make I do not know; but I remind him again that when phase 4 has been completed 91 per cent, of the people in this country will have a television service available to them. Having regard to the short space of time for which we have been in the television field and the vast areas in this continent, I am sure that that is a record of which any government could be proud. I also suggest, with great respect to the points that the honorable senator has made, that no other country has had such difficulties to contend with in the extension of television services.
The second important point I make is that the Government’s policy makes provision for independent interested parties to provide services in their own interests. That policy has been supported on every bench on this side of the chamber and it succeeded until quite recently when no applications were received for licences for two areas in Western Australia - Katanning-Albany and Northam- York. An application was received for a licence in the Bunbury area, which is in the same phase.
In answer to a question asked by Senator Branson earlier to-day, I said that the Government’s firm policy was to establish commercial stations in those three areas. Senator Branson claimed, quite rightly, that the people in those areas and all other rural areas are entitled to the same facilities as people in the cities have. We all support that. He referred to the overwhelming majority of people who watch the commercial stations. That may be so. I impress on him again the Government determination to bring television to those areas. That is the policy that the Government is pursuing.
In view of his remarks about the use of translator systems to bring television to those areas, I should like to ask Senator Branson why interested parties did not submit offers to provide services in the Katanning-Albany and Northam- York areas. If the capital cost is as small, relatively speaking, as the figures Senator Branson gave suggest, there should be people who would be prepared to provide services in those areas.
Having said that, I want to relieve the honorable senator’s mind about what he termed “ departmental prejudice against translators “. I can assure faim that there is no prejudice in the Postmaster-General’s Department against the use of translators. I remind him that we have a particularly high standard of transmission in Australia and the Government is determined to maintain that standard if it can do so. It may well be that the translator system is the only effective means of providing television in those areas. I do not know about that. I assure the honorable senator that the department is investigating these matters very thoroughly. I remind him of portion of the speech on the Estimates and Budget
Papers, which was read in this chamber on Tuesday of this week, so that he will realize that people in the outback places have a better prospect of getting television to-day than ever before. The extract from that speech reads -
Provision of £4,175,000 is being made for expansion of television and broadcasting services, compared with £2,847,000 last year.
– For Kalgoorlie?
– Will you please listen?
The extract continues -
Practically the whole increase of £1,328,000 is for the establishment of national television stations in provincial and country areas.
If that does not encompass the needs of the areas to which Senator Branson referred so eloquently, I will be surprised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 August 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19620809_senate_24_s22/>.