24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuliin) took the chair at 3 p.m., anc! read prayers.
– I ask a question of the Minister assisting the Minister for External Affairs. Is it a fact that the United Nations General Assembly is presently debating the question of mainland China’s admission to the United Nations? If so, will the Australian delegation be instructed to support the admission of mainland China to the United Nations?
– I am not sure whether at the moment the United Nations is debating the matter referred to by Senator Cant. If the Australian delegate were to be instructed to support the admission to the United Nations of mainland China, that instruction would be completely different from those that have been given in the past. I imagine that previous instructions not to support mainland China’s admission to the United Nations will be adhered to.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. May I refer to the statement made by the Minister in his high office that he knew a good deal about the Trade Expansion Act of the United States of America? Will the Minister kindly permit me to offer him my warmest congratulations on his great knowledge? Will he be kind enough to tell me whether he agrees with President Kennedy that this is the most important piece of legislation affecting international economics since the passage of that relating to the Marshall Plan? If the Minister does agree, may I most respectfully ask whether he will tell the Australian nation what great national benefits will flow to our primary and secondary industries, and especially whether Australian workers, and their families, too, will enjoy the enduring advantages which President Kennedy says will be won for the United States of America, Canada, Japan, and the countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa?
– I thank Senator Hendrickson for his tribute to my capacity. The Trade Expansion Act is without doubt one of the most important pieces of what I may call commercial legislation that has been passed by the United States Congress. I gave some details about this legislation in a written answer, I think, last week in which I outlined the extent to which the President was authorized to reduce tariffs. The percentages elude me at the moment. but they are very substantial percentages indeed, particularly in those circumstances where America and the Common Market countries between them command 80 per cent. - I think that was the figure - of the total world trade in particular commodities. The beneficial effect of this legislation so far as Australia is concerned remains to be seen. As I see the matter, the Common Market negotiations may well be in two phases, the first being the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the Common Market countries, and the second being the negotiations between the United States and those countries, both inside and outside of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, for the arrangement of reciprocal tariffs which would enable the United States to export to the Common Market. To the extent that those arrangements are made within Gatt, the benefits that the United States will obtain will apply also to other signatories to Gatt.
We come into this situation with a very lively expectation of benefiting from it. First, many of the products that the United States wants to sell to the Common Market countries are products that Australia also wants to sell to these countries. We have a common trading interest. Secondly, I believe the United States desires to see the Australian economy strengthened and developed. I think that is about all the information, off the cuff, that I can give on this very important matter.
– The question involves matters of future policy and expenditure, and for that reason is not one that can be answered now. I will bring it to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service and ask him to provide a reply if he feels he should do so.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Health, by referring to a statement issued this morning by the Minister about the pensioner medical scheme and hospital benefits. The statement appeared to be somewhat confusing. One newspaper has reported that 800,000 people will benefit from what is proposed, and other newspapers have suggested that only those at present receiving medical benefits will enjoy the concessions mentioned by the Minister. Will the Minister explain exactly what the Government proposes to do?
– In reply to Senator Arnold I could not do better than quote from a document that I presented to the State Ministers for Health yesterday on this matter, and then, if necessary, elaborate the statement to some extent. The Commonwealth will pay a benefit of 36s. a day for pensioners enrolled in the pensioner medical service, and their dependants, who are qualified patients in public wards of recognized public hospitals. This benefit will be paid on the condition that no charge is made by the hospitals to any such pensioners who are patients in public wards. Eligibility for this benefit will not depend on a pensioner being insured. Where this benefit is paid, no further Commonwealth benefit will be payable from insurance organizations. The new benefit will be in lieu of the existing payment of 12s. a day which is made by the Commonwealth in respect of uninsured pensioners who receive public hospital treatment, and of any benefits being paid to insured patients in these sections. In short, the new proposals provide for a hospital allowance of 36s. a day for all pensioners with an entitlement card and for their dependants. An entitlement card is available to those pensioners who are not in receipt of a sum of £2 a week over and above their pensions. So the free hospital service that we now propose is available to all of those pensioners who bear entitlement cards.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that of 36 seismic teams at present engaged in matters pertaining to oil search in Australia, 35 are American? Is it also a fact that their findings are interpreted in America rather than in Australia? Are these conditions made necessary because there are not sufficient Australians trained to undertake the task? If these are facts, does the Minister consider that it would be advisable to establish a course in at least one university to begin training within Australia the experts required for this field? If the Minister does consider that the introduction of this course would be advisable, will he undertake to discuss this matter with the Prime Minister with a view to suggesting to the Australian Universities Commission that such a course be established as soon as possible?
– It is true that the majority of seismic teams operating in Australia come from overseas. 1 should not think that the statistics cited by Senator Buttfield are correct, because I know there are two seismic teams within my own department. I know that there is one in the South Australian Mines Department and I know of one other Australian organization. I think that seismic crews from France and Great Britain also are operating. So the field is not predominantly American, as was stated.
This is not one of those problems that lend themselves to any quick solution. I should think it true to say that in most Australian universities at the present time the relevant basic work is done within the curriculum for science degrees. The problem at this stage is not the lack of university training, or the lack of university opportunties, so much as it is the lack of experience. lt is not sufficient merely to turn out a graduate. It is the old story: The years of experience after graduation produce the skills. We can ask ourselves two questions: Are there enough science undergraduates at universities? Will a sufficient number of them be prepared to specialize in this seismic work? The solution of the problem is being assisted by arrangements now being made at universities, but is more likely to be reached as oil discoveries are made and a demand is created in Australia for these specialists.
It may be that to some extent results of surveys are interpreted overseas, but under the subsidy arrangements, all the relevant information is made available to the Government. I should think that the truth is to be found in the statement that interpretation of the work is so important and so skilled that it is done both within Australia and overseas by various organizations. They make their interpretation and then check it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been directed to a statement made by Mr. Justice Chamberlain, a judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia, when sentencing a sixteenyear old youth who had been responsible for the death by shooting of a thirteenyear old boy? A report of the learned judge’s statement was published in most of the daily newspapers. His Honour said -
I cannot avoid the impression that a good deal of the responsibility of this crime and for the dead boy’s fate rests with the people who provide the so-called modern entertainment for boys.
The gun battle from behind rocks has an all-loo familiar ring to people who look at a number of the current television programmes.
No doubt there have always been tales of violence available to young people, but the television set is the first medium which has reached into the home, and it operates on young minds in a way that books have never done.
The conditioning of young minds is an important and sinister process in the dictator countries.
It might be as well if we were to inquire whether our own commercial practices are not leading us in somewhat the same direction.
In view of Mr. Justice Chamberlain’s statement, does the Postmaster-General, i-with power to prohibit such programmes, feel any responsibility for this unfortunate death? Will the Postmaster-General forbid all television programmes which may condition children’s minds to crime or irresponsible acts?
– Far be it from me to comment on the spoken word of the learned judge in this or any other matter. I am quite sure that Mr. Justice Chamberlain made his statement after consideration of all the relevant factors; but I think it is taking rather a narrow view to suggest that the responsibility in this or similar cases rests on the Postmaster-General, or to say that this is just some new facet of entertainment that has been foisted on the young people in the community. For many years now, motion pictures depicting violence have been shown in theatres. The general theme has been that the baddie always pays the penalty and the goodie comes out on top.
This is not something new. It is true that more people have the opportunity to-day of seeing programmes of this kind through the medium of television, and I think we all concede that programmes depicting violence leave much to be desired. However, I will not suggest to the Postmaster-General that he forbid the telecasting of such pictures. As a government we do not work along those lines. We try to get the proper results by negotiation and by co-operation with the parties concerned, and I shall be very happy to follow such a course in this matter. I will ask the PostmasterGeneral to consider this matter and take whatever action he thinks may be necessary to improve the position.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Is the Minister aware of the influx of Spanish immigrants to the Holden migrant camp at Northam in Western Australia and that these migrants have earned favorable comment from local residents because of their readiness to settle in and learn the language and customs of their new country? Is the Minister aware that at present these people have only one English class a week while they are at the camp? Is this the practice at all camps for migrants in Australia? If this is so, will the Minister for Immigration consider the introduction of daily lessons in English to enable the migrants to take their place in the community as soon as possible?
– I understand that the Spanish immigrants in the Holden camp are receiving lessons in English for four hours a week, thanks to the co-operation of the Western Australian Government. These lessons are given at night at the Avondale school, which is almost on the boundary of the camp. There is a shortage of teachers and this is one of the causes of difficulty in providing lessons in the daytime. However, the department is examining the position. If it finds that there are migrants who would like to learn English during the day, in addition to the evening classes, and teachers are available during the daytime, it is prepared to discuss the matter with the Western Australian Department of Education and to try to arrange for the lessons to be conducted. The department has one end in view. The sooner these people are able to speak the English language the sooner they can be placed in employment. That is the desire of all of us.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health and relates to the answer he gave to the question asked by Senator Arnold. Has the Minister seen a report that all State Ministers for Health are bitterly disappointed by the Commonwealth Government’s rejection of their request for increased subsidies for hospital patients and that, as a result, an increase in hospital charges now appears inevitable? Has the Minister had his attention directed to an assertion that only about 10 per cent, of all hospital patients are pensioners? So that there will be no increase in the cost of hospital treatment for all Australians, I ask the Minister whether he will consider requesting the Government to review its decision to make no increase in the benefits for ordinary hospital patients. If he will not do so, will he request the Cabinet at least to extend to civilian widows and their dependent children the proposed new scheme for pensioners?
– I have been asked to comment on a report that the State Ministers for Health were bitterly disappointed by the Commonwealth’s rejection of their request for increased subsidies for hospital patients. If that is a correct appreciation of their attitude, I assure the honorable senator that there was no bitterness displayed in our discussions yesterday. It is true, as is ever the case, that there were points of difference. It is no secret that the State Ministers for Health desired that the ordinary benefit of 8s. a day should be increased. That proposal did not find favour with the Government for the very good reason that the Government has always maintained that its obligations are twofold. The first obligation is to provide assistance for those who are in the greatest need of such assistance - the indigent in the community - and in that category the pensioners and people in similar circumstances are the first ones we think of. Secondly, we have developed a very fine national health insurance scheme which provides adequate cover for hospital charges up to, I think, 96s. a day. We say as a government that to increase the ordinary benefit of 8s. a day automatically would implant in people’s minds the thought that there was no necessity for them to insure themselves against illness. I suggest to honorable senators, to the State Ministers for Health and to all concerned that their interests are best served by the Government persuading every person in the Commonwealth to insure. Instead of receiving 8s. a day, for a subscription of 3s. a week they may provide cover of 56s. a day for themselves and their dependents. I think that degree of cover is a much more attractive proposition than to lift the ordinary rates. If I find that there are any matters in the honorable senator’s question that I have not dealt with, I shall comment on them to him later.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that stoppages in the port of Melbourne between 25th September and 3rd October are reported to have involved waterside workers in a loss of approximately £62,000 in attendance money? In view of the serious effects on the economy as a whole of such dislocation of shipping, can the Minister inform the Senate of the fines that have been imposed on the Waterside Workers Federation for these stoppages?
– I understand that between the dates quoted there were unauthorized stoppages and that those waterside workers who took part in them lost their entitlements to attendance money, amounting to between £58,000 and £60,000. In addition, the Commonwealth Industrial Court imposed a fine of £500 on the Waterside Workers Federation, as distinct from its members, because the court held that the federation was in contempt by ignoring an order of the court.
– Has the Minister representing the Attorney-General seen a report in to-day’s Melbourne “ Sun “, emanating from Canberra, of a statement made by Mr. Carruthers at an advertising conference on Monday of this week? Is the Minister aware that, among other things, Mr. Carruthers stated that only a handful of manufacturers were holding out against the questionable practice of powerful chains, seeking bigger discounts, of playing one manufacturer off against another? Also, is the Minister aware that Mr. Carruthers stated further that there was too much buying power in too few hands? I again ask the Minister this question: Has the Commonwealth Government any intention of seeking by some means or other the necessary power to control the antisocial activities of these avaricious, profithungry monopolies? If it is not able to secure the necessary power in collaboration with the States, will the Government seek this and other necessary powers, by way of referendum, as recommended by the Constitutional Review Committee? Quite a number of questions of this kind have been asked, but we have received only evasive replies. As these matters are causing grave concern throughout the community, I should like a definite statement from the Minister.
– In case anybody should have gathered the impression, from what Senator Sandford has said, that Mr. Carruthers was referring to the whole field of manufacturers in his statement, I should like to make it clear that, although Mr. Carruthers was reported to have said something along the lines suggested by Senator Sandford, he applied his remarks solely to the grocery trade.
– This applies to other fields.
– I should not like anybody to get a wrong impression from what you said. The statement mentioned by Senator Sandford applied solely to the grocery trade. As I read it, the statement related, not to monopolies, but to the fact that there were too few small grocers and too many chain grocery organizations. The question of monopolies did not appear to arise, but, as Senator Sandford has raised the question, I can only refer him to answers that have been given by the AttorneyGeneral on previous occasions. In fact, if he cares to look at “ Hansard “ for last week he will see a reply that was given by the Attorney-General then in connexion with monopolies.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the great importance to the Western world of the statement made by President Kennedy this morning, when can we expect an authoritative statement from the Australian Government in relation to this grave situation that has arisen?
– May I interrupt at this stage to say that, at the conclusion of question-time, I shall be asking for leave to make a statement on that matter?
– I ask the
Minister for National Development whether he has noticed the prices given in tenders submitted by a number of leading oil companies for the supply of petrol to the Sydney County Council. Amoco Australia Proprietary Limited has stated that it will supply super-grade petrol at 2s. 7d. a gallon and standard-grade petrol for 2s. 4ld. a gallon. The price submitted by Mobil Oil Australia - Proprietary Limited was 2s. 8id. a gallon for super-grade petrol and 2s. 6d. a gallon for standard-grade petrol. Total Oil Products (Aust.) Proprietary Limited has written to the Sydney County Council stating that it is prepared to undercut the Amoco tender. Remembering that the prices of petrol in Sydney are 3s. 8d. a gallon for super-grade and 3s. Aid. a gallon for standard-grade, and that in the country areas of Queanbeyan and Canberra the price charged for super-grade petrol is 4s. 3d. a gallon and for standard-grade petrol 3s. Hid. a gallon, and having in mind the profits made by this industry as well as the great discrepancy in prices, I ask the Minister whether the Government will institute a thorough and independent inquiry, in conjunction with the State governments, to determine a just, uniform price for petrol throughout the Commonwealth.
– I did not see the report to which Senator Fitzgerald referred. As 1 understand his question, this seems to me to be a case in which a lower price was quoted for a large quantity of petrol. If that is so, it is a situation with which we are all familiar. If there is a big contract for a large quantity the purchaser always expects to be able to buy at a price lower than the normal retail price. I ask Senator Fitzgerald to remember, when he makes his criticism, the tremendous sums of money that oil companies have invested in Australia, the great stimulus that they have given to Australia’s post-war development, the very great employment opportunities that they are providing throughout Australia and the substantial sums of money that they are investing in the search for oil in Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. In view of the grave concern expressed by farmers’ organizations because of the apparently unrestricted manufacture of margarine in New South Wales, can the Minister say what ingredients are imported for the manufacture of margarine and what duty is payable on them?
– To the best of my knowledge, the ingredients used in the manufacture of margarine in Australia are edible oils - such as peanut oil, coconut oil and other vegetable oils - whale oil and tallow. I know that the duty on vegetable oil is 4s. a gallon, but I do not know offhand the duties on the other two ingredients. The duties are not very significant; they are fairly light. Most of these ingredients are available from sources in Australia; they are not imported at all. The amount of these ingredients that is imported would not be on record.
– In view of the reply of the Leader of the Government to Senator Branson’s question, I ask him whether in his statement he will give some indication of the Government’s views on the sensational statement made by the President of the United States of America in connexion with Cuba and whether that statement could lead Australia into a world war. Would it be reasonable to assume that the making of such a statement, with its far-reaching implications, could be influenced by the pressures from rival Republican and Democrat contenders in the forthcoming congressional elections in the United States? Will those aspects be covered in the statement to be made by the Leader of the Government?
– This is a matter of far-reaching importance. I prefer Senator O’Byrne to hear the statement and then make his own assessment of it.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, relates to a recent editorial in the aviation journal known as the “ Commercial Aviation News “. The editorial comments upon, amongst other things, Australia’s air transport policy and states that the idea of direct competition between a private and a State-owned airline with equal opportunities is brilliant. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether in aviation circles in Australia and overseas the “ Commercial Aviation News “ is considered to be a journal of some repute? Secondly, does he regard the reference to competition with equal opportunities between the two operators as being reasonably correct? With further reference to the journal’s leading article, I ask the Minister whether he accepts the proposition that is postulated in the journal that the airlines jointly are providing necessary competition between airline and railway companies in Australia. I further ask, with reference to the article, whether the Minister regards with satisfaction the statement in the journal about modest profits being made by the airlines. Finally 1 ask: Does the Minister agree with the journal that the joint airline system provides a wide choice for Australian air travellers?
– The “Commercial Aviation News”, as its name implies, is an aviation magazine directed solely to topics of civil aviation. In this respect it is unlike most other aviation magazines which deal with service aircraft and civil aviation operations. The magazine is regarded in its field as being very knowledgeable and, I think, very authoritative. The reference that I saw appeared in a local newspaper. I shall be most interested to see the full text of the editorial when the magazine arrives in Australia. I think we can regard the fact that the two-airline system is spoken of in this manner with some modest satisfaction. As I have said on other occasions in this chamber, whereas when we started out on this trail our efforts were regarded with some doubt in many quarters, there has been a willing acknowledgement of the fact that the Australian system has very much to recommend it. I did not quite understand the reference by the honorable senator to modest profits. The fact is that the two major domestic airlines in Australia have for a number of years operated at a profit. That, of course, is the basis of any successful commercial operation, be it in the field of transport or in any other field. The ability to earn a profit has always been recognized by the Government as the necessary base of any airline policy in Australia.
– My question, which I direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, concerns an anomaly in relation to long-service leave payments for Commonwealth employees. The provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act authorize various approving authorities to pay a Commonwealth employee, whose period of service is at least fifteen years and who ceases to be an employee, threetenths of one month’s full salary for each completed year of service, except where his service is terminated by discharge on account of unsatisfactory conduct. A toorigid application of the disqualification from entitlement because of discharge for unsatisfactory conduct can lead to an injustice and a double penalty being inflicted on an employee who is discharged for unsatisfactory conduct of a minor nature and whose service has been long and otherwise satisfactory. Will the Government consider amending this CRiSlation so that an employee who has become due for leave, but who has not taken it, will not be penalized because of a single misdemeanour committed before his discharge? I make the point that it is possible for a Commonwealth employee to have served for a long period faithfully, not to have taken his leave, and, because of some misdemeanour, to lose all his entitlement.
– I think Senator Bishop’s question deals more with the administration of the act than with the provisions of the act itself. As I have no knowledge of the administration of this legislation, I ask that the question be placed on the notice-paper.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether it is a fact that at the time of his death in January, 1926, Sir Austin Chapman was popularly regarded by the people and the press of Australia as the father of Canberra as the Federal Capital. Is it a fact that the late Sir Austin, who held at times the offices of Minister for Defence, Postmaster-General and Minister for Trade and Customs, led the fight for the selection of Canberra as the site for the National Capital? Is it a fact that with the exception of an insignificant street, there is no memorial in Canberra to this distinguished man? Does the Minister agree that next year - the fiftieth anniversary of the naming of Canberra - would be a suitable time to provide a more suitable and permanent memorial to this man, either by naming a new suburb or a federal institution, for example, after him?
– If priorities are to be granted in the erection of memorials, judging from speeches I have heard in this Senate, Senator Maher would nominate Captain Cook as worthy of first priority.
– Hear, hear!
– Therefore I am very loath to champion the cause of Sir Austin Chapman, worthy as his cause is. All I can say is that I believe the fiftieth anniversary of the naming of Canberra would be an appropriate time to consider this matter, and I shall bring it to the attention of my colleague, the Minister for the Interior.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation: Are repatriation general hospitals in all States being used to their full capacity? If not, what is the average percentage of beds occupied in the past six months? Is it a fact that many totally and permanently incapacitated patients are removed from repatriation general hospitals to class C hospitals, which are privately maintained? What percentage of the cost of treatment in class C hospitals is borne by the department and what percentage is the patient expected to pay? If repatriation general hospitals are not being used to their full capacity, will the Minister consider retaining in those hospitals war pensioners, particularly First World War veterans, who are entitled to a much better standard of hospital accommodation and treatment than is generally provided in class C hospitals, where profit is the main concern of the proprietors?
– The question requires some statistical information which I shall have to obtain from the Minister for Repatriation. Indeed, I would have to go to the Minister for the answer to some of the queries of a more general nature. I take the opportunity, however, of stating that within my own limited personal knowledge, and referring particularly to Hollywood Repatriation Hospital in Perth, in recent months, according to the matron of the hospital, war pensioner patients are comprising an increasing percentage of the patients in repatriation general hospitals.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he is aware that the Minister for Supply, when speaking at the fifth national convention of the Australian Outdoor Advertising Association, said -
A sense of nationhood must be developed in this country. It does not yet exist in any recognizable form. The job that has been done so well in the United States I believe could now usefully find its counterpart in Australia. We in Australia will in the future be thrown more and-‘ more on our own resources, both material and moral.
If this statement conforms to Government thinking, will the Minister take steps to have legislation passed in Australia to control monopolies and restrictive trade practices similar to the anti-trust legislation of the United States?
– I do not know what monopolies and restrictive trade practices have to do with what my colleague said. As I understand the position, my colleague was advancing the view - to which, I think, everybody subscribes - that we should develop a greater sense of the destiny of Australia and a greater sense of the pride and privilege of being Australian citizens. He said that we should all have a real desire to make our contributions in that direction. That seems to me to be a very worthy sentiment to express. It cuts right across those objectives to raise a controversial issue which has no relation to them at all.
– by leave - I propose to make a statement concerning President Kennedy’s statement on Cuba. I shall make the statement in the words which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) used in the other place.
Honorable senators will be aware of President Kennedy’s broadcast in relation to Cuba. It is a declaration of historic importance. He has demonstrated that offensive nuclear weapons are being installed by the Soviet Union in Cuba and that the Americas are therefore being submitted to a very grave threat, at close quarters. The
President has demonstrated the deceit practised by the Soviet Union, and its determination by threat of aggression to terrorize nations whose only wish is for peace.
We commend the President’s statement. Though inevitably dramatic, it was in essence defensive. We appreciate his reference to the vital importance of regional defensive agreements - agreements which are authorized by the United Nations Charter and which are necessary for the common safety of those living within the region. We welcome the readiness of the United States of America to bring the matter promptly before the United Nations.
Both in his broadcast and in a personal communication to me this morning, the President has indicated that he is requesting an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council at which the American Ambassador would present, on behalf of the United States, a resolution calling for the withdrawal of missile bases and other offensive weapons in Cuba under the supervision of United Nations observers. We have instructed our own Ambassador to the United Nations to do all in his power to support the passing of this resolution.
We do not under-estimate the gravity of the situation, a gravity profoundly demonstrated by both the tone and substance of the President’s broadcast. We hope that his statement and the steps to be taken pursuant to it will bring home to the Soviet Union the nature of the consequences which may flow from its overseas policies. Indeed the whole matter will serve to test whether the Soviet Union’s constant advocacy of peace possesses either sincerity or substance.
– by leave - I think it timely that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) addressed a communication to the Parliament on this very important matter. I trust that he will advise the Parliament, and the nation, very promptly of all developments as they occur. We all have a vital interest in knowing what is taking place.
The Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr. Calwell, to-day made a statement on the same subject, which I propose to read to the Senate. Mr. Calwell said -
President Kennedy’s nation-wide broadcast to the American people announcing a naval blockade of Cuba to prevent the landing in that island of certain war materials, and of other steps designed to prevent the construction of nuclear missile sites and air bases which he believes is proceeding, and which could threaten disaster to many cities on the American continent, was couched in language that cannot be misunderstood. The world anxiously awaits the next developments and prays that peace will be preserved.
The President lays the blame for the sudden crisis on Russia’s intrusion into the western hemisphere. The world watches the situation which has developed with horror. The people of the world want peace and are opposed to war, not only because of the wastefulness of war, but also because of the vast amount of human suffering involved and because of its uselessness in settling any issue. No sensible person would wish to see the extension of nuclear bases anywhere. We of the Labour Party are opposed to such extensions whether it be in Cuba or anywhere else.
For my part, I believe the Australian people hope this present crisis will not end in armed conflict but will be resolved peacefully through the United Nations, the seventeenth anniversary of whose birth occurs to-day.
Speaking personally, I hope that Russia will end the crisis by very promptly dismantling the bases that it is causing to be established in Cuba.
– For the information of honorable senators, I propose to lay on the table of the Senate a paper relating to the report of a Select Committee of the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea upon the political development of the Territory.
I ask for leave to make a brief statement on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), on the subject of constitutional reform in Papua and New Guinea.
– The statement is as follows: -
The select committee was appointed in March, 1962. As it says in its report, its establishment was foreshadowed in September, 1961. The House might note that the work of the select committee did not arise from the report of the 1962 United Nations Visiting Mission but was in keeping with a programme of progressive reform which had been promised by the Government to the people of the Territory.
The select committee made its report after a period of intensive inquiry during which it travelled to sixteen centres and nine villages and heard the views of 463 representative persons. Many more expressed their interest in the committee’s work by attending its hearings. The Legislative Council in a unanimous vote approved the report and referred it for the consideration of the Government.
The report is accepted by the Government as a clear and firm expression of the wishes of the majority of the people of the Territory on the next steps that should be taken in their political development.
The report proposes that in place of the present Legislative Council of 37 members there should be a Legislative Council of 65 members, consisting of -
Ten appointed official members.
Forty-four elected from a common roll.
Ten non-indigenous persons elected from the common roll.
The Government has considered the report and the resolution of the Legislative Council and approves the select committee’s recommendations subject only to any adjustments that may be found to be required as the result of a further report from the select committee or to overcome difficulties of drafting. It is anticipated that these adjustments will only concern procedures and the machinery of election and will not affect either the size or structure of the new council.
Because of the varying stages of advancement of the people of the Territory, it may be necessary to work out some special measures for enrolment and methods of voting so that there can be an effective election from the common roll.
Legislation will be required both in this Parliament and in the Legislative Council for the Territory. It is planned to introduce a bill amending the Papua and New Guinea Act in the autumn sittings of Parliament. As the next elections are due to be held in the Territory in March or April, 1964, this will give a period of nearly twelve months during which an intensive educational campaign can be undertaken to ensure that persons unfamiliar with the new procedures will be able to use their votes freely and effectively.
While these changes will substantially increase the share of the Territory people in the legislative processes, the Government believes that it is equally important in the progress towards responsible government that the people should also advance in an understanding of and a share in the executive functions. We want to make the Legislative Council not only a gathering of representatives but an effective part of the structure of government. Therefore, in the new Legislative Council, some of the elected members will be asked to accept office as under-secretaries to be attached to each of the main departments and to under-study the official members. The Government will also consider strengthening the Administrator’s Council, in which some of the elected members are already associated with the Executive.
I do not propose to enter upon a detailed discussion of the proposed reforms as it seems that the appropriate time and place for debate will be on the introduction of the bill to give effect to them. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea - Interim Report of Select Committee appointed to inquire into and report upon the Political Development of the Territory, together with a resolution on the report adopted by the Legislative Council.
– I move -
That the paper be printed.
I ask for leave to make my speech at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 18 th October (vide page 975), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- On behalf of the Opposition, I move the following amendment: -
Leave out all words after “ That “, insert: - “ the Senate condemns the bill because, although it provides for a live per cent, reduction of taxation, it does so on an inequitable flat rate basis which fails to extend an adequate share of the reduction to taxpayers with dependants, and taxpayers with small incomes, and is of opinion that legislation to correct this injustice should be introduced immediately.”.
The bill has for its purpose a reduction of income tax payable by persons by a flat rate of 5 per cent. It will be recalled that a similar bill was introduced in February, 1962, and those persons under the payasyouearn system received a reduction of 15 per cent., in their tax contributions from March, 1962, to June, 1962, inclusive. They then returned to making contributions on the old basis. The Government, in formulating this measure, stated that it was for the purpose of giving a stimulus to the economy because people would have more money to spend. As we know, in the months preceding February, 1962, this Government turned more than the usual number of somersaults it performs in relation to its economic policy. It was making changes faster than one could ever dream they would be made by a government with any sense of responsibility or any respect for itself. Its desire, of course, was to cling to office. The Government did not care what it did.
Every one knows how the economy of the country went to pieces. I do not want to describe all of the changes of policy, and how the Government brought in measure after measure, in the course of a few months saying of each that this would right the economy. Just how successful these measures were can be judged from the fact that even to-day about 75,000 or 80,000 people are unemployed! I hope that there will not be a further rise in the number of unemployed as the result of the loss of purchasing power by the unfortunate people who suffer unemployment, bringing misery to their wives and kiddies; but I do not think that one is justified in facing the future with a tremendous amount of confidence. In a month or so the people will have ceased loosening their pursestrings and spending more for Christmas, and then we shall be confronted by a great body of school-leavers. I sincerely hope that unemployment will not reach last year’s maximum, when 130,000 was the peak figure. Irrespective of politics, one must first look at the plight of the unfortunate people who are unemployed.
Some may wonder why the Opposition has moved the amendment. To understand the reason, one has to study the relevant figures. Originally, the Government gave this concession of 5 per cent, ostensibly to give impetus to the purchasing power of the mass of the people. I do not propose to go into the figures at any length because I would only be repeating what I said when the bill was before the Senate previously. However, it is just as well to get a few relevant figures into our minds. With great respect, I say that I believe this is nothing more than a handout by the Government to its friends. I give the Government full credit for looking after its own friends at all times.
Honorable senators will recall that this Government increased the allowable deduction for life assurance premiums to £400. Anybody who paid that amount in premiums would have to spend nearly £8 a week on life assurance. How can the average person afford to pay that amount? Even if we accept the Government’s statement that the average wage is £20 to £21, could we expect a person to pay out £8 a week from such a salary for life assurance? This concession was only a sop to the insurance companies to enable them to get more business. Only those who are well endowed with this world’s goods could afford to lay out £8 a week in premiums.
I am not forgetting for one moment that we members of Parliament pay about £5 a week into our pension fund. I am glad to have an opportunity to mention that because unfortunately many people think we, or our widows, get our meagre superannuation for nothing. The only good thing about it is that we contribute about £260 a year from our salary and that amount is allowed as a deduction for taxation purposes. But I was referring to the average person. Only an ordinary citizen would be complacent enough to put up with the rotten superannuation scheme that we members of Parliament have, but if parliamentarians do anything for themselves there is an outcry and a howl from outside.
Let us examine some of the statistics that can be applied to this 5 per cent, deduction in income tax which is proposed in the bill. As I said previously, a single person on an income of £800 a year will benefit by £3 10s. and a person on £1,500 will gain £11 6s. a year. But a person who has an income of £20,000 a year will benefit to the extent of £554. In Australia there are not many people earning that amount, thank goodness. I do not know of any other country in the Western world where there has been such a levelling of incomes as there has been in Australia during and since the Second World War. I think that is good for the nation and for the individual too. I would not be against a little further levelling. But to return to the bill, a man with a wife and two children and an income of £800, will get a tax concession of £1 7s. a year, and a similar taxpayer on £1,500 will benefit by £7 10s. Government supporters will say: “ Everybody pays taxes. Why should not everybody get the concession? “ My reply is that this concession was given to increase the purchasing power of the people.
This year, the concession of 5 per cent, will cost the Government £30,000,000 in revenue. Why not give that amount to the people by way of child endowment if the Government wants it to be spent in the community? This Government, or one of the same political colour, introduced child endowment for the first child, but I do not think the rates have been altered for the past ten or eleven years. Speaking from memory, I think the Government could double child endowment payments by an expenditure of about £66,000,000. Why not use the £30,000,000 to be granted by way of this tax concession for the benefit of the mothers of Australia?
The Government has said that it wants to increase purchasing power. In this connexion, I shall cite another interesting table of statistics. Taxpayers with an income ranging from £105 to £700 comprise 35 per cent, of all taxpayers in Australia and they will get 6.8 per cent, of the £30,000,000’ that will go to the taxpayers from this 5 per cent, tax concession. Taxpayers with incomes ranging from £700 to £1,300 comprise 46.8 per cent, of all taxpayers and they will receive 31± per cent, of the £30,000,000. Those on £1,300 to £1,500 form 6.5 per cent, of all taxpayers and they will get 8 per cent, of the £30,000,000. That section of the community includes those who receive almost £30 a week. So 88 per cent, of the taxpayers will get back 46 per cent, of the £30,000,000. That means that 12 per cent, of the taxpayers will get 54 per cent, of the £30,000,000. It is true that they contribute heavily to income tax revenue but when the Government proposes to hand out something that will increase purchasing power, the main thought should be to give the concession to the greatest number of people.
If the Government had given the £30,000,000 to families by way of child endowment, at least it would have given money to the mothers of Australia and the money would have been spent. The average mother spends her child endowment on her kiddies. Like every one else, I am not too happy about paying taxes, but we all have a responsibility to contribute according to our earnings. If the Government is going to give something back to the people it should give the benefits to those who need them.
What will the taxpayers do with the money they get from this concession? I think I remember that on the last occasion a similar matter was being discussed some one said that the 12 per cent, of the people who received 54 per cent, of the rebate would put the money into the banks, whereupon a Minister asked, “ What do you think they will do with it in the banks? “ It is true that at present they cannot do much with it because no one wants it. It would have been far better for all concerned if this rebate had been spread over the mothers of children, who are the best spending media in the community.
The debate on this bill gives us an opportunity to consider the whole taxation field. In considering deductions for dependants, who thinks these days that a wife is worth only £143? Of course, the deduction depends on the income tax bracket in which the taxpayer finds himself. For the person who pays 10s. in the £1, his wife is worth £71 10s., but for the person who pays 2s. in the £1, his wife is worth only about £14. The same is true of the deductions for children. Every one gets up in this chamber and says that it is our aim to make Australia happy and prosperous and to provide standards of living that are unexcelled in the world. If that is so, let us be practical and help the people who are most in need of help.
Let us consider the maximum deduction of £150 for medical expenses. I hope that the Minister and his wife never have to go to hospital. If they do, I hope their stay in hospital will not be a long one, because the maximum deduction of £150 is very small to-day, comparatively speaking. I think that in my State the hospital charge for the ordinary person is about £21 a week. True, he gets something back. I think he is entitled to 8s. a day from the Commonwealth, but he has to pay money to insure. The latest information I have is that if a person has to go into St. Andrew’s Hospital or the Mercy Hospital, it will cost him from £45 to £50 a week. I suggest that if a Victorian member of the Senate were found to be in the Prince Henry’s Hospital or the Royal Melbourne Hospital, unless he had been taken there hurriedly because of an accident, there would be very severe comment. In view of the inflationary spiral that has developed in this country we need to look at these matters and put them in their proper perspective.
Every one is speaking of education to-day. As we know, a young person cannot get a remunerative job unless he has a diploma. The amount that is provided by way of relief in the education field may be sufficient for primary school standards but not for anything else. I am not accusing the Government of this, but surely it does not want the higher grades of education to be open only to those who have money. The whole education structure ought to be looked at. I understand that some few years ago there was an inquiry into taxation. I do not know what results it achieved. Perhaps it was like inquiries into many other things. We all recognize that we have a duty to pay taxes, but I suggest that the taxation scales ought to be uniform. I see nothing wrong with giving greater concessions to persons on incomes between £700 and £1,500 a year, particularly if they have wives and children to keep. It is fantastic that a man whose income is in the higher bracket should be allowed the same deduction - £143 - for his wife as is the man on the lower scale. The process should be levelled out.
I have moved the amendment on behalf of the Opposition because I do not believe that the Government was right in using the argument that the 5 per cent, rebate of tax was designed to give a fillip to purchasing power, and that it had succeeded. Nobody can tell me that young people who are paying £6, £7 or £8 a week off their homes could not be helped further, even though they are getting £20 a week. People in that category are entitled to help. Therefore, I hope that the Senate will favorably consider the amendment I have moved. The Government is in office only because some of Senator Hannan’s great friends, the Communists, put Killen in. We never know what is likely to happen in the game of politics, but if the Minister is in office when the next Budget is being considered I hope he will have a look at the matters I have mentioned. Every one knows that we have to pay taxes to provide for the defence of the country and to keep the services going, but if the Government is in a position to make rebates it should give them to the people who most need them. Is not the idea of taxation that those who receive the largest incomes should pay the most tax? The Government’s idea is that when it makes an income-tax reduction of a flat 5 per cent., 88 per cent, of the people should get only 46 per cent, of the £30,000,000 involved, while 12 per cent, get 54 per cent, of that amount. I hope that the Senate will support the amendment.
– I rise to indicate that I support the bill and reject the proposed amendment. I listened to Senator Kennelly presenting his views, which were also apparently the views of his party. I remind the Senate that very high taxes were imposed during the war period, when a Labour government was in office. Indeed, the income tax rate at that time was higher than for many years. I offer no objection to that; the nation was at War and every possible resource had to be gathered in. When the war was over the then government, realizing that it could not sustain a high war-time rate of income tax in the post-war period, reduced the rate. I cannot say from memory what the actual reduction was, but I think it was 10 per cent. At any rate, it was a most significant reduction, and it was applied right through. That Government applied the very principle which Senator Kennelly is criticizing this Government for applying. So far as I can see, the only rational way to effect a reduction in taxation - we are now considering a bill dealing with the rate of taxation - is the way in which this Government is doing it, and the way in which the Chifley Government did it in the immediate post-war period. It is to apply the reduction overall.
I was interested to hear Senator Kennelly ask where the £30,000,000 being returned to the taxpayers would go. I remind him that, since 1st July, some of this money has been going steadily to those who pay income tax under the pay-as-you-earn system. There is no doubt that those who have been receiving higher take-home pay have been spending the extra money because the economy has been greatly stimulated. I am confident, too, that those who do not come under the payasyouearn system have been making plans for spending the extra money that is to come to them. Indeed, I am sure that some of them have already spent it. I am sure that many people who know that this year, as a result of the honouring of a Budget promise, they will have £100 less to pay by way of income tax, have already spent the money in some useful way. For example, they may have taken holidays, or repaired or improved their homes. I suggest that the good news that income tax is to be reduced by 5 per cent, has already had effects in the directions I have indicated.
This reduction has also given people an incentive to work and earn, and when they are given an incentive to work harder and earn more it is good for the economy. I believe that the reduction has not only given a stimulus to the economy by making more money available for expenditure but has been an incentive to many to earn more. Consequently, the measure under considera tion should be supported. Certainly I believe there is much more that the Government should do to correct anomalies in the laws relating to the assessment of taxation, but at the moment we are considering a bill dealing with the rates of tax which shall apply. I support the continuation of the 5 per cent, reduction. It has already given a great stimulus to the economy, and it will continue to do so. 1 support the bill and oppose the proposed amendment.
– Perhaps I should commence by assuring my friend, Senator Kennelly, who has hopes of migrating from one side of the chamber to the other, that that move will not occur nearly as soon as he seems to believe. I give him my word that we on this side of the chamber will be here at the time of the presentation of the next Budget and that this Government will be introducing it. In fact, his comment reminded me of our former colleague, Sir Arthur Fadden, who used to say that it was characteristic of politics that we were roosters to-day and feather dusters tomorrow. I do not think that is going to happen quite so suddenly as the Labour Party believes. It will have to develop a lot more political plumage before it will be entrusted with the responsibility of the government of this country.
The bill seeks to extend the concession which was introduced last year. I am sure Senator Kennelly will agree that the debate to-day has followed much the same pattern as our previous debates on this matter. However, he did say one or two things that I thought required special comment. One was that this bill was designed to help the political friends of the Government. I have heard this sort of thing for a long time now, but I well remember that in November, 1960, and thereafter Senator Kennelly and other members of the Opposition were beating us about the head and body for stepping in to help those who would not normally be described as the political friends of this Government. I remind the Senate of this incident only to make the point that, when it comes to measures of this kind, this Government consistently takes the view that it should extend favours to no one section of the community but should legislate for the common good of the Australian people.
Senator Kennelly also had something to say about the state of the economy, which is always an interesting subject. A day or two ago, I was intrigued by a statement published in a London journal, the “ Investors Chronicle “. That statement had reference to articles which had been appearing in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and associated publications. It referred in particular to the tactics pursued by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. I should like to read it in full because I think it is something well worth having in “ Hansard “. The comment by this London journal reads - “ Sydney Morning Herald “ publications are going to absurd lengths to denigrate the Australian Government and the state of the economy.
Even if the Australian share of the market continues to be in the doldrums aggravated by the pessimism and bias of the influential “ Sydney Morning Herald’s “ publications on the Government’s achievements in piloting the strong economic recovery this year, there is nothing wrong with Australia’s economic position.
Few countries in the world-
This has particular reference to what my friend Senator Kennelly said - can match Australia’s low level of unemployment, its high and rising pitch of industrial activity, its price stability and the soundness of its balance-of-payment and overseas reserve position.
Overseas investors reading the financial paper published by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ group should remember that its main objective at the moment is to get Mr. Menzies out and its Labour friends in.
The article adds -
To achieve this it goes to absurd lengths to denigrate the Government and the state of the economy alike.
Everything it says on the economic position has to be strongly discounted for political bias.
Perhaps the best recent illustration is that it poured cold water on the August Budget, which was as sound as a bell and just right in the prevailing economic circumstances.
Whereas if it erred at all it was possibly in giving too much stimulus, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ (in line with the Labour view) hammered it for not giving nearly enough.
The article continues -
A few shining examples of the rising economy are -
The upsurge in motor vehicle registrations
Buoyant industrial building and the home building recovery
The increasing hire-purchase debt
The fast-falling unemployment level.
I read that article merely because Senator Kennelly made special reference to the economic measures taken by this Government and to the state of the economy as a whole.
Now I come back to the bill, Mr. President. We are quite familiar with amendments such as the one moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on this occasion. It proceeds on the basis that any reduction in income tax should be made in such a way as to give greater relief to people on low incomes and correspondingly less relief to people in the higher income brackets than the bill proposes. The Labour Party’s approach should be viewed in the light of the principle of progressive taxation which is adopted and widely accepted in Australia. That principle was adopted and practised by the Labour Party when it was in government many years ago.
The 5 per cent. rebate will not disturb that principle. A taxpayer in the higher income groups will still pay a far greater percentage of his income in tax than any other person with a lower level of income. I repeat the example that I gave last March when I was speaking on the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution (Rebate) Bill 1962, because it is a typical example. A person with an income of £5,000, supporting a wife and two children, will pay tax of £1,469 8s. Another taxpayer with similar domestic responsibilities but with an income of only £1,000 will pay only £51 4s. I quote that typical example to indicate that the principle of progressive taxation, which has been adopted by successive governments in Australia, is an equitable one and one that should be retained. The Government rejects the amendment moved by the Opposition.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Kennelly’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 18th October (vide page 1003%
Proposed expenditure - Norfolk Island, £51,000- noted.
Papua and New Guinea
Proposed expenditure, £20,201,000,
– I want to address a few remarks to the estimates for Papua and New Guinea. In particular I wish to deal with the proposed vote of £20,000,000 as a grant to the Administration towards expenses under Division No. 786 - Miscellaneous Services. From what I have heard and read I am not happy with the conditions under which the native population works. In New Guinea native labour is recruited under an agreement system whereby agents seek to obtain natives for work on plantations and in factories. Under this system uneducated natives, who do not know the meaning of time, sign with a thumbprint contracts binding them to serve for two years in employ ment that will keep them away from their wives and families. I do not think that is a satisfactory arrangement. If the natives cannot take their wives and families with them to their place of employment the recruiting agents have no alternative but to endeavour to entice the natives to leave their wives and families behind them. No provision is made for the payment of an allowance in respect of wives and families that natives leave behind them when they go away from their village to take work.
The report to the United Nations concerning the administration of New Guinea discloses that unskilled natives are paid 30s. a lunar month for the first year of service. That payment rises to 35s. a lunar month. In addition the natives obtain their keep. If they are employed on work of a very heavy nature they are paid an additional 130s. a year, or 2s. 6d. a week. If they live under camp conditions they are paid the magnificent sum of ls. 3d. a week extra. It must be conceded that compared with the wages received by Europeans, natives in New Guinea are paid a meagre pittance. It may fee that their requirements and their commitments are not as great as are those of Europeans but we should endeavour to educate the natives in their responsibilities to their families. Some provision should be made for families whose menfolk leave them in order to obtain employment. The report shows that it costs £5 19s. 2d. a week to provide keep for a native employee. That figure takes into consideration the facilities provided, including kindergarten facilities, for those native workers whose families accompany them to their place of employment. But it costs only £71 a year, or £1 7s. 6d. a week, to feed and clothe a single man. The total wage paid to natives employed under agreement represents £2 17s. 6d. a week. There is no provision for a native employee to return home to his wife and family after a period of two months as is found in awards governing the employment of workers in Australia.
The report to which I have referred states that efforts are being made to educate the natives in the operations of the Administration. At page 116 the report deals with the formation of trade unions and reads -
Special attention is being given to such organizations to ensure that they are founded on sound principles and develop along constructive lines, and an officer of the Administration has assisted them in their formative stages. More recently a full-lime Industrial Organizations Officer has been appointed to advise Territory workers on the formation of industrial organizations; to train officers and members of organizations in management and financial procedures and other matters associated with the daily conduct of their affairs; and to assist organizations in the exchange of information and opinions and in the development of unity and good relations between organization members of various districts.
Until indigenous industrial organizations have progressed to the stage where they can engage and instruct their own advocates, arrangements have been made for the Public Solicitor, who already performs the functions of providing legal advice and assistance to the indigenous people, to help them in the preparation and conduct of any industrial claims they may wish to make.
The natives are being assisted to form trade unions by a welfare officer appointed by the Administration. I am wondering whether, in these circumstances, the natives are being paid as much as industry in the Territory can afford to pay. A sound trade union movement is important to the progress and development of the native people of the Territory. The natives are entitled to the benefits of trade unionism and, of course, they must honour their obligations as trade unionists. I think that somebody with a greater knowledge of the true principles of trade unions than that possessed by an Administration welfare officer should be appointed to assist in the organizing of a trade union movement in New Guinea. Under our system not only must justice be done but also it must appear to be done. One is entitled to have suspicions when one sees that the Government appoints not only the organizer of the trade unions but also the advocate for the trade unions. In many cases the advocate for the trade unions would be the person appointed to adjudicate in claims for wage increases for persons employed by the government.
The report shows that the Territory has not been free from industrial disputes, indicating that there is justification for the establishment of a strong trade union movement. The report at page 265 indicates that during the year ended 30th June, 1961, there were 33 complaints involving non-payment of wages. A total of 160 were involved in disputes over delays in the payment of wages; thirteen in disputes over underpayment of wages; 227 in disputes over dissatisfaction with wages; 38 in disputes over non-payment of overtime; and 153 in dis putes over short issues of rations. These latter 153 people included 125 indentured employees who were employed under agreements extending over two years. Not only were these indentured employees taken from their own surroundings, but apparently 125 of them felt so aggrieved at the short supply of rations that they took industrial action. There were 237 people involved in disputes over the nonprovision of accommodation and 23 in disputes over lack of medical care.
In all, there were 1,820 workers in New Guinea who believed that their conditions should be improved in some direction or other. I suggest that these people need a strong trade union movement to protect them and to secure improvements of the conditions which led them to take industrial action. If we want a condition of affairs in which there will be no suspicion that the officer responsible for organizing their industrial relations is biased in his approach, as might be the case if an officer were appointed by the Government, we could approach a responsible organization such as the Australian Council of Trade Unions and ask it to appoint a man from time to time to educate and direct them on trade union organization. That is something that should be considered. The wages of the native population of Papua and New Guinea should be raised to the standard of the wages paid to Europeans doing similar work in the Territory.
.- Referring to the estimate of £20,000,000 for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, I ask the Minister to give us some information about the activities of the Bulolo timber organization, which, I understand, is controlled by a board composed of Commonwealth representatives and of representatives of the Placer Development organization. In the reports on this Territory that are placed before the Parliament from time to time, and in the reports of the United Nations Trusteeship Council, which are published annually, not much reference is made to forestry activities - to expenditure by Australia on forest regeneration and replanting, the training of the native people, and the development of silviculture generally. Very little information is given to the Parliament about the financial status of the company which if operating in the forest areas in the Bulow valley on behalf of its shareholders, one of which is the Commonwealth Government.
The Foot report stated that further development should take place and that subsidiary industries should be established to manufacture wood pulp, using much of the second-grade timber and the waste that is a natural consequence of plywood milling. I should like to know whether the Government by the Placer Development organizamendations of the Foot committee. I should like to know also whether annual reports and balance-sheets are presented to the Parliament by the Placer development organization, so that the taxpayers of Australia can know how successful or otherwise are the operations in the Bulolo valley. It would appear that the company is financed mostly by Canadian capital, although I have noticed that the shares are quoted freely on the Australian stock market. There seems to be a dearth of information on the activities of this industry, which is possibly the largest in the Territory.
– What about copra?
– The copra industry is perhaps more widespread and, in the overall, would return the greatest revenue, but the timber industry would be the largest concentrated industry in the Territory. The potentialities of the timber resources in the Bulolo area are possibly as great as, or greater than, the potentialities of the copra industry. The timber of the rain forests, because of the peculiar nature of the growth of the trees, does not always lend itself to plywoodmilling or to saw-milling but it possibly could be very profitably used for the manufacture of paper pulp and wood pulp generally. If this were done, the industry would assist greatly in the economic development of New Guinea.
There does not seem to be very much information available as to how high the company which administers the timber industry in the Bulolo valley has set its sights, what percentage of its profits it is ploughing back into the area and what returns the Commonwealth itself is obtaining from the company. If the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) has not these figures available now, I would be pleased if he would obtain them from his advisers and give them to the Parliament. Personally I am interested to know how the company is going and whether it is doing the job it was expected to do when these very lucrative timber concessions were granted to it.
Another point I desire to raise concerns the terms of employment in the timber industry. I should like to know whether, as a result of the training given in the school that is operated in connexion with the timber industry, higher wages are now being paid to the natives. On my last visit to New Guinea I noticed how the natives had become proficient in the use of the mechanical equipment associated with the milling of timber. The natives seemed to be as capable as are tractor drivers and operators of mechanical equipment elsewhere. They seem to enjoy their work very much and to work very conscientiously. One would expect that as a result, because of the extra output flowing from their special aptitudes for that type of work, additional payments would be made to them. I should appreciate some information on this matter.
– I should like to make one or two comments and ask a few questions concerning the proposed vote of £20,000,000 in respect of Papua and New Guinea. I should first like to take up some matters in connexion with labour, which was touched upon by Senator Cavanagh. Although I agree with him that it is quite right that the natives should be able to express their dissatisfaction with certain shortcomings in their labour conditions - and I believe there are some - I do not agree with him that they are ready yet for trade unionism. I say that because there would undoubtedly be anomalies if they were to be encouraged to have trade unionism as it exists in Australia. As yet, I do not think that the native is keen enough to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage. He is a spasmodic worker. He will work for a while and earn a little money, and then be quite content to go home, sit down and not work. That is one of the reasons why it would be difficult if he were to be encouraged into trade unionism.
Secondly, there would come a question of wage rates. I think it is far better to continue with the present system whereby it is compulsory for an employer to give a native employee medical attention, housing, clothing and, in particular, food. Because of the requirement to provide food the native is, I think, being trained into better dietary habits. While these conditions are imposed upon employers, there is a chance to educate the native on what is an allround diet for himself. If he were put on to trade union conditions, with straightout wages, he would be likely to revert to his original starchy diet, and possibly gamble or drink his money away.
I do agree, though, that the indentured labour system presents one of the great problems of labour in New Guinea. It would be very much better if the Government could increase its attempts to encourage the use of contract labour. Let me give one example. At one of the outposts in the highlands, where an airstrip was being built with contract labour, it was found that the natives had been carrying empty receptacles for holding the loads that they were supposed to be carrying, thinking that the Government was going to pay their wages anyhow, and that the less weight they carried the better it would be for them. Obviously, it will be better if they learn that they will be paid at the end of the job and that it is up to them to do a fair day’s work. They will then develop, perhaps, to the stage where they will be ready for trade unionism. This sort of thing indicates that they are not yet ready for it.
I think it would be helpful if there was some sort of employment bureau in the highlands. On several occasions natives came up to us, on airstrips or in the streets, and asked whether we could give them work. Apparently, they are now coming in from villages, looking for work. There seems to be a need in the highlands to give them a little more assistance in finding employment. It would help to reduce the need for indentured labour if there were some means of finding work for the natives when they asked for it.
I should like to speak again about European officers of the Territory’s Administration. On many occasions I have spoken in praise of their work. Undoubtedly, they are doing a magnificent job, but there is a great deal of unrest at present because they are worried about their future and wondering just what sort of security they have. I think that something has been done in recent weeks to give them a greater feeling of security and I should like the Minister to say just what it is. There is a good deal of wastage amongst patrol officers, in the early stages of their employment, I think, for two reasons. The first is that when they marry, in some instances their wives cannot stand the loneliness of outposts. The second is their feeling of insecurity.
I should like to speak about the position of these young wives who go to lonely outposts. In most cases, they settle down very well and do a wonderful job, assisting their husbands. In particular, I was most impressed to see the way in which they are trying to help the women of the villages. They are conducting classes for these women, trying to teach them how to improve their housework, health standards, and baby health knowledge. These young wives are undertaking all sorts of things, and they are helped by the Administration at Port Moresby. Wonderful work is being done, but I think the wives would be grateful for a little more leadership from Port Moresby. For instance, there should be more opportunity for the girls in charge of this welfare work in Port Moresby to visit the outposts and give some form of direction and leadership to the wives who are willing to do the work.
I noticed in some outposts that the Administration had made an attempt to break down the loneliness by sending out games, but I was amused to see that darts had been sent to one young couple. I cannot imagine a husband and wife standing up to play darts for very long. I think that some more useful type of game, to help them pass the lonely hours away, might be1 sent.
– What sort indoor game would you suggest? of
– There are plenty of them. I would even suggest Scrabble, which might improve their brains and help them with their lonely work. I should also like to see some form of deepfreeze unit made available on these outposts. It is very difficult for young wives to keep enough of the foods that they require. With some form of deep-freeze units they could carry sufficient food for many weeks. It is necessary for them to do this, because aircraft do not come in very often. There are refrigerators, but these have not much space for deep-frozen items. I should like to know whether this matter has been looked at and, if not, whether the Minister will look into it.
I also suggest the provision of doityourself carpentry kits. I found in some places that wives had to manage without wardrobes or any other provision for clothes, because it was impossible to fly in the necessary equipment. With a doityourself kit, patrol officers and even wives would be willing to build the basic furniture to help themselves out. It would be a big improvement if there could be an issue of basic furniture to all officers in the Territory. There seems to be a great deal of difficulty when a young officer has to go temporarily to relieve another. He has to pack up his furniture and take it just a few miles. The issue of basic furniture would be a great help to all patrol officers.
There is another point in relation to the cut-off-ness of these officers. I understand that there are about 250 of them in the Territory. Those who are at outposts feel cut-off from the centre of administration. They receive only condensed press statements from the Minister. If they could be given the full statements that we as members of the Parliament receive,’ or if they could read the various statements made in the Parliament by the Minister, it would be a great help to them. They would feel more in touch with what is going on. They would know what the Minister was planning to do or what had been done. I ask the Minister to consider sending such statements to each officer.
Another anomaly in the highlands applies to the cost of getting goods into that area. One person told me that when £80 worth of groceries was imported from Australia, the people concerned had to pay £25 extra to a customs agent at Madang to handle the goods. That is an enormous addition to the cost of the goods. In addition, they have to pay freight. I know there is an allowance for freight but it does not meet the requirements.
– Was the honorable senator referring to a customs agent’s fee?
– Yes, it cost £25 to have an agent handle £80 worth of goods and get them to the people.
– That would be customs duty, sales tax and everything else?
– I do not know, but the additional cost is high. Another anomaly applies to imported long-playing records bought in Australia. These longplaying records are a great boon to people living in lonely outposts. Although the records are bought from Australia at the retail price including sales tax, the purchaser in the Territory has to pay 9s. duty on each record. It seems unfair that the people should have to pay a duty over and above the retail price and sales tax.
– That is a separate customs duty.
– I think that in this case I might be addressing my remarks more to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories than to the Minister for Customs and Excise.
– It is a separate customs duty in New Guinea and has nothing to do with Australian customs and excise.
– I turn now to coffee, which is one of the most important products in New Guinea. Certainly, it is being developed for the benefit of the natives as a cash crop. The seller obtains 4s. 5d. per lb. for unroasted coffee in Sydney, yet the buyers pay 12s. per lb. for it. There seems to be an enormous difference between the return to the producer and the price paid by the purchaser. Would it be possible to have that corrected?
– That happens in Australia?
– Yes. I would also like to see some effort made to increase the consumption of coffee. Would the Government consider a promotion scheme which would be helpful to producers of coffee in New Guinea?
– They do not have a surplus, do they?
– I do not understand the honorable senator. I found another anomaly in regard to education. Teachers are often switched from one school to another in the middle of the year. This is distressing and disturbing for both students and teachers. They would like to be left at a school until the end of the school year. Would that be possible?
– Senator Cavanagh expressed some suspicions about labour conditions in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Those conditions are controlled by legislation which is continually under review. Under agreements, the indigenous people are paid a cash wage and are provided with food and accommodation, clothing, transport and medical attention. The wages and conditions are related to the needs of the people and have regard to the capacity of the economy of the Territory. Many native workers are paid above the minimum wage, and as their skills advance more and more of them will benefit in that way.
The record shows a steady improvement in conditions, as anybody would agree after visiting the Territory over a period of years. It is a characteristic of the development of the Territory that the standard of living enjoyed by the native population, including wages and labour conditions, is improved as the economy advances. I am reliably informed that sometimes these improvements anticipate an economic advance and do not always follow as a result of advances that have been made.
Senator Cavanagh also referred to the organization of trade unions in the Territory. He expressed some doubt whether trade unionism was being permitted to develop as he thought it should be. No doubt the honorable senator has read the reports on the Territory which contain generous references to this matter. A year ago a party of trade unionists from Australia, headed by Mr. Albert Monk, visited the Territory of Papua and New Guinea to study this matter. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) made a statement on this matter in another place on 15th August, 1961, and said -
Over the past two years, we have seen and encouraged the first signs among the indigenous workers of an awakening interest in trade unions. We have also seen signs of a stronger interest in expressing their own views on wages and conditions of employment. In fact some of them have already joined in collective negotiations with employers and concluded industrial agreements covering wages and various conditions of work in four urban areas. Arrangements have also been agreed to by employers and workers in Madang for joint consultation between them to be held regularly. At the same time, the spokesmen of the native workers have made it clear that they want to develop their unions in their own way and separate from any Australian trade unions. I understand that Australian trade unionists who have visited the Territory to familiarize themselves with the situation came to the conclusion that it was desirable that they should develop their unions in their own way and not be bound by Australian experience.
That was the considered view of the delegation led by no less a union leader than Mr. Monk. It should not be thought, however, that there is any feeling that trade unionism does not require some assistance. I am informed that the Public Solicitor who gives legal advice and assistance to industrial organizations is an official who is professionally independent of the Administration in this matter. The Public Solicitor is available to those native people who are interested in the formation and activities of trade unions. In the report on the Territory of New Guinea for 1960-61 there is a reference to trade unions and it states in part -
Special attention is being given to such organizations to ensure that they are founded on sound principles and develop along constructive lines, and an officer of the Administration has assisted them in their formative stages. More recently a full-time Industrial Organizations Officer has been appointed to advise Territory workers on the formation of industrial organizations; to train officers and members of organizations in management and financial procedures and other matters associated with the daily conduct of their affairs; and to assist organizations in the exchange of information and opinions and in the development of unity and good relations between organization members of various districts.
I am aware that Senator Cavanagh made reference to this particular passage, but I cite it as a very strong pointer to the fact that the development of trade unions within the Territory, coupled with the other matters I have mentioned, far from being hindered is in fact being assisted.
asked about the timber resources in New Guinea. I have a note which refers to the activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Through its Division of Forest Products, the C.S.I.R.O. has continued to give valued technical advice on forestry matters, including identification of wood samples and determination of uses of various species. Forestry stations and research centres and offices are established at Bulolo, Wau and Lae in the Morobe district, at Goroka in the eastern highlands district, and at Keravat in the New Britain district. The honorable senator also wanted to know something about the operations of Commonwealth-New Guinea Timbers Limited in the Bulolo Valley. I inform him that 51 per cent. of the company is Commonwealth-owned and 49 per cent. is owned by private shareholders, the main shareholders being Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited and the Placer Development interests. It is one of the few major enterprises in the Territory. It has tariff assistance on the entry of plywood into Australia to help marketing on the Australian market. Scientific investigation of pulpmaking has been going on for some years. No annual reports are presented to the Parliament. While the company is very largely a private one, the Commonwealth has two directors who watch Commonwealth interests and, of course, reports are made by the directors to the Government.
Senator O’Byrne also inquired about rates of pay in the timber industry in the Bulolo Valley. It is true that wages are increasing as skills advance in this particular industry, but a warning is issued against going too far too fast. We cannot saddle the Territory economy with the wage levels of the developed Australian economy. To do so would work against the progress towards self-government.
asked a number of questions, the most important, I think, being about the steps which have been taken recently to reassure officers of the Administration service as to their security of employment. I propose to read from a speech delivered by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) to the public servants of the Territory a few weeks ago, when he visited the Territory for the specific purpose referred to by the honorable senator. The Minister said -
Addressing myself to your worries about security of service and superannuation let me say at once that, after having discussed the matter with members of your executive in Canberra last week, and being convinced that, rightly or wrongly, there is a considerable anxiety, I have addressed to your president a letter in the following terms: - “ In your discussions with me in Canberra on August 23 and 24, you and your col leagues informed me that there was a feeling of insecurity among expatriate public servants in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. “Having full confidence in the outcome of Australian administration, the Government can see no reason for such feelings. Nevertheless, because the existence of them can adversely affect the efficiency of the service, the Government has considered the position of the people concerned. “ The Government has authorized me to give assurances that -
I think it is obvious that this is a problem to which the Minister and the Government have addressed themselves with considerable sincerity.
Senator Buttfield laid stress on the importance of the provision of food to the natives by way of payment or part payment of wages. I am informed that the practice is that in the urban areas there is a complete cash wage. In the rural areas food is issued. The indentured labour system was terminated about ten years ago, and the only system now in existence is one of agreement between employer and employee. There are no penal restrictions at all. There is an issue of basic furniture. There may not be complete coverage, but as resources permit the issues are made.
Reference was made to the imposition of duty on goods imported into the Territory. My advice is that the Territory is a separate customs area. A Territory resident might lose if he imported goods from Australia, but he would gain if he imported them from elsewhere. Senator Buttfield also referred to the coffee industry. In this respect, the Territory has had a great deal of help. There is in operation in Australia a duty remission section which helps to ensure that the Territory crop is cleared before imports are made from overseas. The Territory producer is certainly not at a disadvantage, so far as prices in Australia are concerned, compared with other producers.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), when speaking earlier to-day on behalf of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), indicated what the future constitution of the Legislative Council in East New Guinea might be. When I say “ East New Guinea “, I include Papua. The Minister stated that there would be a council of 65 members. Ten members would be official members, 44 indigenous members would be elected from a common roll, and ten non-indigenous persons would be elected from the common roll. That was the recommendation of the select committee of the Legislative Council itself. The Government has said that it approves the recommendations of the select committee and that next year it will bring in legislation to give effect to them.
That prompts me to draw attention to the Foot report, as it is known - the report of the mission from the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations - in which it was recommended that there should bc a Parliament of 100 members. The decision of the select committee of the local Legislative Council, which has been approved by the Government, is that there should be a Parliament of 65 members. Ten official members are to be appointed. The Foot committee recommended five. Ten nonindigenous persons are to be elected, whereas the Foot Committee recommended that there should be none. I draw attention to the differences between the proposal now approved by the Government and the recommendations of the Foot committee, and I ask the Minister: Does that mean that the Government has decided to reject the recommendations of the Foot committee?
At this point, may I ask about the stage to which the Foot report has progressed in the United Nations? When I was in New York quite recently, I attended the United Nations, sought out Sir Hugh Foot and found out from him that the report made by his mission had been adopted unanimously by the Trusteeship Council. He said he thought it would receive the unanimous approval of the General Assembly, to which it had next to go. I am not aware of what has happened in the two or three weeks since I saw him, right at the end of September. I ask the Minister whether he can tell us the stage to which the report has progressed before the United Nations.
I should like to ask also whether a decision has been made by the Government on other major recommendations in the Foot report. It was recommended that a survey should be conducted by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development of the economy of east New Guinea. The mission stated that the greatest problem of all was the creating of a single people with a common purpose - that of national unity - and that economic problems, including the very difficult problem of land tenure, were the greatest obstacles to self-government. The purpose of the proposed survey by the International Bank was, first, to get the United Nations interested, and secondly, to secure some cohesion in the economic policies to be followed. I remind the committee that, at page 44 of its report, the mission referred to the efforts that have been made by the Australian Government in the economic field as being diffused, sporadic and uncoordinated. The mission thought that a survey by the bank would facilitate what
Australia was trying to do. The individual activities of Australia were praised by the msision, but it still applied those terms of criticism to what was being done.
I suggest that there would be advantages in adopting this recommendation of the mission. It would be very helpful to Australia in its administration of the Trust Territory if an agency of the United Nations could be persuaded to take an interest in making the survey. That might well lead to some kind of financial support from the United Nations, and, if that were forthcoming, it might accelerate the development of the Territory, or at least relieve Australia of some of the heavy financial burden it now bears. In any event, the most important aspect is to have the United Nations itself join with Australia in the administration of this Territory. I suggest that would strengthen immeasurably the hand of Australia in its control. I ask the Minister whether the Government has made any decision on that recommendation.
– Would you advocate a sort of condominium?
– Not exactly. I am interpreting the first recommendation of the mission as being designed to involve the United Nations in New Guinea with Australia, probably by financial and technical help from its various instrumentalities, and matters of that nature - not necessarily playing any part in the administration of the Trust Territory, but coming in to help. The mere fact that an avenue was opened up there for some kind of assistance, even if only at the economic and technical advice level, would, I think, strengthen Australia’s hand in this Territory. I merely ask the Minister where we have got to on that important recommendation.
Then there was a suggestion in the second recommendation that we should be putting up from New Guinea at least 100 persons annually for university training. The mission considered that they ought to be available. Has the Government made any decision upon that? There is a statement by the Minister as to the present situation of education in the area, but there is no indication in that statement, as I peruse it, that an effort will be made to approach anything like that level of recruiting undergraduates. There is a real dearth of New
Guinea people educated to that level, despite the long association of Australia with New Guinea.
– Do you think the members of the Foot mission would be fully aware of the position there? They recommend 100 under-graduates, but we recently had a massacre involving the killing of 80 natives up there.
– All I say is that 1 have read the report, which I find most interesting and informative. I have read it with very great attention. I have been exceedingly impressed by it. I have regard to the fact that this body visited an enormous number of people. It met 26 local government councils in the nine divisions. It held 33 meetings, mainly public. It devoted itself intensely to its task, and came out with that conclusion. The members of the mission found that when youths reached something like the intermediate or nearmatriculation level they were snapped up, not only by private enterprise, but also by the Administration, and therefore they reached one level and stayed there. Hitherto, there has been no special encouragement to them to go on to the higher forms of education, to the professions and so on. The report says that we should be steering at least 100 of them in that direction each year. All I can say is that the members of the mission have a very high opinion of the intelligence and capacity for learning of these natives. They pay them a very high tribute. It is a rather wonderful performance, considering that before they can be educated they have to master the intricacies of our language, which is a foreign language to them. I express no opinion as to whether that can be done at this stage. I am impressed by the Foot mission’s report. I am merely asking the Minister whether that recommendation has been accepted or rejected.
Does what the Government proposes to do on a political level mean that the third recommendation has been rejected? I have pointed to the differences between what the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea itself proposes - which the Government has accepted - and what the Foot report recommends. It is expected that that report will be passed unanimously, or almost unanimously, by the General Assembly of the United Nations. Australia may be in a very difficult position if, at this stage, she says, “ We are not going on with the recommendation of the United Nations General Assembly if it is any different from this recommendation “. I think it is a serious decision. Summing up, I ask the Minister, first, what stage the report of the Foot committee has reached in the United Nations. Secondly, is what is now proposed in conflict with that report on the political level? Finally, what is the attitude of the Government to the two other recommendations of the Foot committee?
– The position in respect of the report of the Foot committee at the moment is that it has been adopted by the Trusteeship Council. From there it goes to the General Assembly of the United Nations. It is expected that the report will be discussed and dealt with by the General Assembly in about midNovember. In connexion with the first recommendation, namely, the suggested survey by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, informal discussions on that matter took place between the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and the World Bank a year or two ago. It is fair to say that at that time the World Bank displayed no great enthusiasm for going further with the matter. Since the report of the Foot committee has been submitted, however, further soundings of the World Bank have been going on.
The second recommendation of the Foot committee, in respect of the preparation of 100 university students, poses an extreme problem for the Administration. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) will be aware of the announced intention of the Government to establish a university in the Territory by 1966. I refer the honorable senator to a statement on education in Papua and New Guinea made recently by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). It indicates the particular difficulties that are encountered there. It is not altogether germane to the question asked by the honorable senator, but I am sure that he will be interested in it. I refer him to the second paragraph on page 4 of the statement made on 11th October. I understand he has a copy of that statement.
Coming back to the report of the Foot committee and the report submitted recently by the select committee of the Legislative Council, I remind the committee that recently the Minister for Territories made the statement that if there was a difference between the report of the Foot committee and the desires of the people of New Guinea, the desires of the people of New Guinea would come first. That has special relevance to the report of the select committee which has been presented to the Senate only to-day. I am not sure whether time has permitted the Leader of the Opposition to have a look at the report. If not, I am sure that he will find it as fascinating a document as he found the report of the Foot committee. The report expresses the views of the people of New Guinea.
– That is the report presented by the select committee, is it?
– The report presented by the select committee of the Legislative Council. The members of that committee said in their report that they visited sixteen centres and nine villages and heard the views of 463 representative persons. Many more people expressed their interest in the committee’s work by attending its hearings. The Legislative Council in a unanimous vote approved the report and referred it to the Government for consideration.
I am told that one of the most interesting aspects of the committee’s work was that in many villages and settlements that it visited language difficulties precluded many of the people who attended the meetings from speaking. In those villages and settlements care was taken by the committee, after the spokesmen had had their say, to speak through interpreters with the people who were unable to make themselves understood and check on whether the views expressed by the spokesmen were the views held by the people who attended the meetings. The members of the committee went to considerable trouble.
The proposed structure of the Legislative Council is the structure that was recommended by the select committee in turn on the recommendation of the native people themselves. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the ten non-indigenous persons who are to be elected from the common roll. When he gets around to reading the committee’s report, he will find that the recommendation is made at the specific request of the indigenous people who, despite the recommendations of the Foot committee, take the view they still require the assistance and guidance of Australian people who are resident in New Guinea.
Sitting suspended from 5.52 to 8 p.m.
– I want to make a few comments relating to Division No. 786. In particular I want to refer to a matter that was under discussion this afternoon prior to the remarks passed by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge). I refer to the Tripartite Mission on Labour Matters to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea in 1960. Prior to the formation of that mission the Australian Council of Trade Unions had been receiving representations about the need to organize a trade union movement in New Guinea. At the time I was a member of the executive of the A.C.T.U., which supported a proposal to join with the employer organizations and the Government in inquiring into labour conditions in the Territory. That tripartite mission was a very useful body and served a very useful function. I propose briefly to refer to some of the conclusions arrived at by the mission and to ask the Government what it has done about the observations made by the mission. The mission consisted of men such as Mr. A. E. Monk, president of the A.C.T.U., Mr. W. P. Evans, vice-president of the A.C.T.U., Mr. A. M. Simpson, past president of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia and the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce, Mr. H. A. Bland, secretary to the Department of Labour and National Service and Mr. A. L. Blake, treasurer and past president of the Australian Council of Employers Federations. In my view the Government has not paid sufficient attention to the observations made by the mission.
In its report the mission observed that Australia had played a very great part in the development of New Guinea and that its record was a proud one. I support that view. Secondly, the mission observed that the present pace of advancement was not quick enough. The third point made by the commission was that recognition must be given to the attitude of the Europeans. This is something of which we must take particular note. The fourth point dealt with maintaining the morale of the Europeans. In its fifth and sixth points the mission stated that an immediate review should be made of the Territory’s economy. That seems to be the very basis of any development of the Territory. Surely the subject of trade union organization must be related to economic development! I would like to know what has become of the mission’s recommendation that the economy of the Territory should be reviewed.
Another point dealt with by the mission, and which seems to have been to some extent forgotten, concerns the use of pidgin English. The mission pointed out that despite the fact that pidgin was easily learnt, the Government and industry should attempt to teach the people English.
One of the matters on which I would like information is wages. In its report, which was unanimous, the mission stated -
We believe that, to start with, the whole wages policy bearing on the Territory’s Service should be examined. We do not pretend to have made any detailed study ourselves but there is room for feeling that present disparities between the various wage scales cannot be justified.
Dealing with accommodation the mission reported -
We found ourselves wondering whether the stage had not been reached where rather higher standards of accommodation for native workers should bc sought after.
– Instead of the boy house.
– Yes. The mission was comprised of responsible people from both sides of industry. It found that the indentured labour system was bad and meant reduced efficiency and production. The mission recommended that after a lapse of some period of time a further inquiry should be undertaken. This would be a good time for the visit of such a mission, having regard to the trend of events in the world. Now would be a good time for an inquiry to be held into the way in which the trade union movement in the Territory should be organized. The mission in 1960 found that the only organization somewhat resembling a trade union as we know the term in Australia was the workers’ party in Port Moresby, but that organization was only partly concerned with labour conditions. It was in part a welfare party. As I said earlier in my remarks, unless the economy of the Territory is developed to such a stage that it can sustain an organized industrial labour movement, it will bc very difficult to form organizations similar to those that exist in Australia to-day. But this does not mean that the task is impossible. The mission found in 1960 that the people were not ready to accept standard organizations of the type that we have in Australia but that they were trying to perfect organizations of their own. The mission recommended that we should not attempt to impose on the people organizations that they were not yet ready to accept. That may have been the position in September, I960. That may have been the position when the issues of colour and race were not so paramount as they are to-day. Following the situation in the Congo, the changed attitudes towards the colour problem and the position in relation to Indonesia, our outlook has changed. From the point of view of political necessity we must solve this problem of discrimination, even though the problem may not be a substantial one. It is true that the natives themselves appear to recognize that there are differences as to rights between the Europeans and the indigenous people. We must do all we can speedily to reach a solution to these matters.
I suggest that the Government promote a second tripartite mission to New Guinea. That mission should be required to investigate the establishment of a trade union organization in the Territory or, as Senator Cavanagh has suggested, look into the matter of subsidizing a national trade union centre to assist in the formation of appropriate labour organizations. In view of the history surrounding these matters I would settle for the speedy establishment of a second mission similar to the 1960 mission. Will the Minister say whether the Government has considered the report of that mission? Has the Government given any thought to the matters that I have raised to-night? What are the Government’s views on those matters?
Senator TOOHEY (South Australia) r8.10]. - The Senate is indebted to Senator Cavanagh for having raised this matter of trade unionism in New Guinea. In my remarks to-night I hope to be as constructive as were Senator Cavanagh and Senator Bishop, who, I believe, put their case very well. I do not think this is a matter in respect of which we should criticize the Government, but I believe that Senator Bishop sounded a timely note of warning on trade unionism in Papua and New Guinea when he said that what might have appeared to be the position in September, 1960, is definitely not the position to-day. Indonesia has taken over Dutch New Guinea, and the Foot report is very much in our minds. In those circumstances, we have a responsibility to consider this matter, as Senator Bishop has suggested, but in a much more urgent way than has been suggested in some of these reports.
I have before me a copy of the report on New Guinea for 1960-61, in which reference is made to trade unions. It states that there are two organizations of indigenous workers, and names them. It says that these organizations have taken an active interest in the inquiries conducted by the Native Employment Board and have negotiated with employers’ representatives for improved conditions. The report then goes on to give a summary of what the Government is doing to assist in the conduct of these organizations so as to give them some practical means of expression. However, there is nothing in the report that leads me to believe that any urgent action will be taken. There is nothing in the report to lull my fear that there is not a proper appreciation of what might happen in New Guinea in the next five or six years. I repeat the warning sounded by Senator Bishop, but I shall be more specific. Unless some action is taken to organize the workers of Papua and New Guinea within some proper trade union structure, we may find that the matter will be taken out of our hands during the next few years by somebody who will want to organize those workers for vastly different purposes. Do not let us shut our eyes to that possibility. It is a very strong one.
In the march of world events, things are happening very, quickly these days. Nations that are governed by other powers one day are managing their own affairs the next day, so to speak. I feel that there is a grave danger that in the next four or five years, if we do not appoint another committee to examine this problem in the light of present conditions, we shall find ourselves in the position that other people have taken over the management of trade unions in New Guinea, for vastly different purposes from those we have in mind.
It is easy for the Government to say it has no responsibility in the matter - that it is not the Government’s function to promote trade unionism, and that that is something that the workers should look after themselves. However, we must face up to the fact, as pointed out in the report, that the Government has taken some action in the matter. It has taken a step or two along the way towards assisting in the conduct of trade union affairs, but I feel that it has not gone far enough. I do not want what I am saying to be taken as a criticism of the Government, but I want to sound a note of warning. We are faced with a problem which concerns us all, and I hope the Minister will have something to say on the points raised by Senator Bishop and myself.
I should like to direct attention to another matter which has an indirect relationship to the matter under discussion. At the beginning of last week a group of people from various parts of New Guinea visited Canberra. Apparently they were brought here to gather experience that could be useful to them, and useful to the Administration, when they return to their own country. I was amongst those who were privileged to meet them and talk over some of the problems of New Guinea with them. Members from the Government and Opposition sides, as well as officers of the department, had morning tea with these people. The thought that was left in my mind was that some of these people could be used to assist in the promotion of trade union activities. Some of them were very thoughtful people, who had the ability to communicate quite clearly to us what they thought on a lot of matters affecting their own country. They were highly intelligent.
The thought struck me that perhaps the Government would be doing a service to Australia and New Guinea if it were to bring some people of similar ability to
Australia to study trade unionism here and see how it works. Perhaps some officers of the Australian Council of Trade Unions would be able to give those people an idea of how the trade union movement operates in this country. It appears to me that the only other means they have of finding out how trade unions operate is through Government employees in the Territory. I do not say that in any disparaging sense, but I do say that people who have had practical experience of trade union affairs are equipped to pass on their knowledge to others.
I should like the Minister to tell us whether any members of this delegation had a trade union background and, if not, whether he considers it would be advisable in the future for some people to be brought to Australia so that we could assist them in the formation and promotion of their own trade union activities. I hope that the Government will take note of the warning that has been sounded by Senator Bishop, who said that what was the position in 1960 is not the position to-day. To-day the position is more urgent and more desperate. We should meet the present situation by ensuring that the workers of New Guinea have a proper appreciation of the trade union structure and the way trade unions operate, before other people with axes to grind do something about the matter.
– Before I call the next speaker, I should like to refer to the need for the avoidance of repetition in the debate. There are still many items in the Estimates to be dealt with. When a case for certain action has been made out, it would be desirable if the arguments then put forward were not repeated. That would allow the debate to range widely over many subjects.
– I hope that you will not regard what I am about to say as repetition, Mr. Chairman, but I want to endorse the remarks that have been made by some of my colleagues. It is proposed that £20,201,000 shall be spent on this Territory, an increase of some £3,000,000 on the vote for last year. In those circumstances, Mr. Chairman, I suggest there should be some elasticity on your part to allow us to discuss some of the items that are before the Chair.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.May I interrupt? There is no objection to discussing items in the Estimates, but I point out that many honorable senators want to speak on a variety of points. I suggested avoidance of repetition only to allow us to cover as many subjects as possible.
– I am one of those who recognize that the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is the gateway to Australia and is vital to the safety and security of Australia. In view of the development of guided missiles and other weapons, I cannot agree with those who say that this Territory is of no value to Australia. It is most important to us. It is a steppingstone to Australia. In other words, it is Australia’s safety valve. It is most important to our well being. Because of this, I take exception to some of the remarks made by honorable senators opposite in relation to trade unionism. I endorse what my colleagues have said on this subject, for I believe that trade unionism is the medium whereby exploitation of these native people can be abolished. Let us not underestimate the fact that our actions right now may determine the well-being of our people in the very near future.
It is most imperative that our people should know something about the history of New Guinea. It was there that the first Australian life was lost in World War I. As a member of another place, I visited the Territory some years ago and saw in Rabaul a monument erected to the memory of Australians who served in that first engagement of World War I. and who were responsible for driving the Germans from New Guinea, forestalling by a week or so the Japanese, who were on the move because they recognized the value of the area. I was very pleased to find in the office of my former leader, Dr. Evatt, the famous Low cartoon showing William Morris Hughes, as Prime Minister of Australia, at the end of the peace conference table, kicking up a row with a demand that Australia be given the eastern portion of New Guinea. According to the cartoon, Lord Asquith appealed to David Lloyd George, saying, “ Speak to him in Welsh, David. Pacify him. Give him anything.” I believe that the greatest achievement of William Morris Hughes was to secure New Guinea for Australia. We know what would have happened to us in World War II. if the Japanese had held New Guinea. Apart from our own servicemen and the Americans, the great heroes of that period, in that part of the world, were the Fuzzywuzzy Angels, as they were called. I want to say a few words about them tonight.
A great deal of credit must be given to Australia for the development of New Guinea. I do not decry the Administration, because I believe that it has done a fairly good job. The missionaries, too, have done good work, but some of the planters, who occupy positions of trust, have not played their part. The Government ought to be looking at their activities, as New Guinea could become a festering point for this country. Overall, Australia has done a remarkable job for these primitive people, who have the minds of children and the bodies of adults. But the fact is that they are being exploited. They are paid about ls. a day. We have seen reports that some natives are receiving more than that, but these are very few.
When I hear from honorable senators opposite objections to the spread of trade unionism in the Territory, I wonder whom they are representing, because I believe that there has been no greater field for exploitation and investment. This field has been taken advantage of by companies that have operated in New Guinea over a period. I believe that in no other part of the world have greater profits been made. Only in the last year or so have these companies had to pay taxes; that move was long overdue, but the amounts paid are inadequate. I am not unmindful of the fact that Australian servicemen and civil servants in New Guinea are entitled to all the reward that it is possible to give them, but the people who are making huge profits out of New Guinea should be made to pay more.
– Who are they?
– W. R.
Carpenter and Company, Burns Philp and Company Limited, and a host of others I could name if necessary. These people have made huge profits in New Guinea and for a long time they were not taxed in any way. They ought to be looked at. I do not wish to speak at length on this matter, because we must be careful lest some of the statements we make here are used to the detriment of Australia in the United Nations.
I should like the Minister to clear up a few matters. Will he advise what amount is forthcoming at present in taxes from New Guinea, and what amount has been collected since taxation was introduced? I should also like to know what has taken place with regard to Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited. When I was there, Ais company had made millions out of the Territory. It is of no use for the Minister or any one else to say that it has not done so. What has it done about the rubble heap that it has produced in this area? Has the spoil been returned to the ground from which it came? At the time that I was there, nothing along these lines had been done. The place was a complete rubble heap.
– How long is it since you have been there?
– About eight years.
– You had better go again.
– You had better go and have a look at it.
– I am asking what has taken place. When I was in Rabaul, the hospital was paying £100 a month for the right of occupation. The matters that I mention now I raised with the Administrator on my return to Port Moresby, and I also raised them in the Parliament on my return to Australia. This is not the first occasion on which I have made these statements; they have been made before. The land on which the Rabaul hospital stands had been bought for about £1 an acre, but the hospital was paying £100 a month for it.
I should also like to know what has taken place in regard to recruiting of labour. When I was in the Territory, natives who had been recruited at Madang were island-hopped from Wewak, Manus, Kavieng to Rabaul, a distance of hundreds of miles. I took exception to the treatment that was given to them by some of the crews of Mandated Airlines, who of course, objected most strenuously. I believe that the future of our race, indeed of our families, may be determined by the manner in which we treat these natives. Something ought to be done to improve our treatment of them. The treating of copra by primitive heating methods should be abolished. The missionaries and members of the civil service are kind and considerate. They are influenced by the big planters. Let us not under-estimate the native people. They are the important people of New Guinea. The kindness we can show to them to-day may mean in the future that we will hold this country which is so dear and near to us.
– I wish to refer to several matters under the heading of Administration. One of these is taxation. The report by the Government to the United Nations on the Territory of New Guinea states that in 1960-61, revenue from personal tax was’ £107,070 and from income tax and dividend tax £664,763. Corporation taxes amounted to £546,820. This seems to be a large amount of personal tax. It equals approximately one-fifth of the corporation taxes and about one-sixth of the income tax revenue. I understand that the personal tax is the taxation levied per head, and it falls on the indigenous people of New Guinea. It seems to be a heavy tax.
The taxation laws in this respect seem to be distorted in that a feature of the New Guinea tax laws does not apply anywhere else in Australia. This seems to be a serious discrimination against the people of New Guinea. The fact is that the people of New Guinea and of Papua are the only people in the Commonwealth of Australia who are subject to a criminal penalty for failure to pay their tax. If people in Australia do not pay their tax, that is merely a civil matter. But if an indigenous person in New Guinea fails to pay his tax, it is a criminal matter and he is liable to a fine of £50 or imprisonment for six months. From this provision we had the trouble over taxes in recent years. We have seen fit to discriminate against these people and make it a criminal offence to fail to pay taxes.
In my opinion, this matter is closely connected with the question of labour in New Guinea. It makes one wonder whether Australia, as a subscriber to the Convention on the Abolition of Forced Labour, may not be in fact doing indirectly what it does not do directly. This personal tax is imposed on whole families and somebody has to pay it. The maximum is £2 and this may seem to be small, yet in terms of the wages paid in New Guinea it is a heavy tax. If people are compelled to pay such a tax under penalty of a criminal offence, considerable pressure has been brought on them to seek work, and to bind themselves into some kind of contract which otherwise might appear to be voluntary. That matter might be considered under the heading of administration of the labour laws.
Connected with that matter is the status of women in New Guinea which is referred to at page 107 of the report to the United Nations for 1960-61 on the Territory of New Guinea. Under the heading of employment, the report states -
The Public Service of the Territory essentially makes no distinction between the sexes in appointments to the various classified positions but certain positions, e.g. nursing, are traditionally reserved mainly for women. . . ,
The minimum wage rates prescribed by the Native Employment Ordinance and the Administration Servants Ordinance are the same for both men and women.
Does that mean - and this is how it is put by Australia to the United Nations - that in fact there is equal pay for men and women in the Territory?
I turn now to the question of pidgin English. That is referred to at pages 15 and 148 of the same report. It appears that there is still considerable use of pidgin English in the Territory. May we be assured that the Administration is not in any way supporting directly or indirectly the teaching of pidgin English in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea?
The next matter to which I wish to refer is discrimination which is dealt with in the Foot report at pages 81 and 82. This deals specifically with the question of discrimination against the people of New Guinea in relation to liquor, but it suggests that all other forms of discrimination should be removed. The Foot report states at paragraph 247 -
In the opinion of the Mission the time has come to sweep away all survivals of racial discrimination. . . .
May we be informed which forms of discrimination still remain and what steps are being taken to do away with them?
– I do not know that I am qualified to answer the questions, but I shall endeavour to do so as I have taken the place of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) for a few moments. A statement on the question of discrimination is being issued by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). The press release states -
In January 1959, the Minister for Territories directed that the whole of the legislation of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea should be revised so as to remove any form of racial discrimination.
This direction was that, “ unless it can be shown that special provisions are needed to guard the well-being of the people, in defined circumstances, or to respect their own customs, the laws of the Territory shall apply equally to all inhabitants of the Territory “.
The statement adds that there was recognition that regulations contained provisions which, in some form or another, appeared to differentiate between persons on racial grounds, but the report adds -
On closer examination it was found that some of the references to race were incidental. . . .
As the Minister for Civil Aviation has returned to the chamber, I shall refer the other matters to him.
– Senators Bishop and Toohey and, to an extent, Senator Fitzgerald addressed their remarks to the question of labour and labour conditions and trade unionism in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I do not know that there is a great deal I can add to what I said this afternoon. I referred to various reports and statements that had been made by the Minister for Territories in this connexion. I have taken particular note of the specific questions asked by Senator Bishop regarding the outcome of the 1960 mission, if I may so describe it, which visited the Territory. I shall ascertain whether specific answers can be given to his questions.
It is interesting to note, however, that in a statement made in August, 1961, the Minister for Territories referred to employment policy and labour conditions. It is a lengthy statement and I could read it to provide answers to many of the questions posed by the honorable senator, but that would not find a place in a debate of this kind. Having dealt with the evolution of labour conditions, the Minister went on to say -
In the light of these changes I would enlarge the aims of labour policy, as set out in 1956, by adding the following principles: -
To facilitate the growth of industrial organizations and to provide for their legal recognition; to encourage good industrial relations; to provide an orderly method for the determination of wages and terms of employment; to assist in ensuring that the worker has stable employment and that industry has efficient labour; to provide and encourage technical and vocational training directly related to the prospective market for labour; to ensure protection and compensation in respect of all occupational hazards.
That statement, which was made some fifteen or eighteen months after the visit of the mission to which Senator Bishop referred, I think, indicates the way in which the Administration is moving in this connexion. If we add to that the function of the Public Solicitor, who has been specifically designated to assist trade unionists in the solution of their difficulties, I think it will be apparent that a good deal of attention is being devoted to this kind of advancement.
Having said that, I come back again to the statement I made this afternoon, and which I think is of great importance and pertinence to this subject, that the native people themselves have expressed a wish to develop their own trade union organizations against the background of their own upbringing and their own development, in their own way. I do not wish to be critical of Senator Toohey’s approach to this matter, but that seems to me to indicate a conflict with the idea which he injected into the debate. The honorable senator suggested that perhaps native trade union leaders could come to Australia to study the development of trade union activity here. The indigenous people have expressed, of their own volition, a desire to develop the movement in their own way.
Senator Fitzgerald inquired about Bulolo
Gold Dredging Limited. As he will recall from his stay there eight years ago, this is an alluvial mine. The gold is being dredged from a river bed. It is true, as he has said, that while the dredging was going on, and immediately thereafter, there was a good deal of spoil - soil and rubble - thrown up at the site, but I am told that the ordinary action of the river, as is the case with all alluvial workings, has now restored the site to pretty well its natural state.
– I would contest that.
– I have not seen it for two years, but on the last occasion I saw it it seemed to me that the first dredgings had returned to natural river surroundings.
– They were covered with vegetation.
– Yes, I think so. Senator Fitzgerald also inquired about the Rabaul hospital. The hospital is in process of being moved to a new site where new buildings are being erected.
I think it also was Senator Fitzgerald who spoke of the need for an economic survey. Earlier this afternoon, in replying to some questions asked by Senator McKenna, I spoke of the negotiations which had been undertaken with the World Bank and of the present position concerning them. I refer to a statement, made by the Minister in September, 1962, in respect of this matter, which is most pertinent to the points raised by Senator Fitzgerald. The Minister said -
There is sometimes a disposition to think that we solve problems by having an economic survey. The Government is all in favour of economic surveys by experts to help it to see the problems and the opportunities more clearly. Do not let us forget that we still have the job of creating a viable economy. Those who work and produce are even more necessary than those who survey.
The welfare of the people, the raising of their standards of living, the improvement of the capacity of this country to run its own affairs will not come from making reports but from developing its resources, including both the natural resources and the great latent skills of its peoples. The farmer, the planter, the businessman who invest and work here are a potent factor in that phase of advancement.
If I may say so, I think my colleague hit the nail right on the head. It may be that, as a people, we have developed something of a penchant for having reports about this and that, and in the process of having reports made we sometimes overlook the importance of getting on with the actual development. Here, we have a very down to earth and practical Minister, if I may so describe him, saying, “ Let us not overlook the desirability of examining what we have to develop, but in the process do not let us overlook the more important job of getting on with the actual development “.
There was a query, which I think was raised by Senator Murphy, about personal tax. The honorable senator suggested that the aggregate taxes recovered indicated that there was an undue amount levied by way of personal tax. He stated that personal tax returned £107,000; income tax, dividend tax and other taxes levied on individuals returned £664,000, while taxes on corporations returned £546,000. There is a note on the rates of tax which I think is interesting and puts the personal aspect in proper perspective, lt reads -
A maximum rate of £2, together with lower rates, based on ability to pay, to be applied to various villages was fixed by the Personal Tax (Kates) Ordinance 1961. Personal tax is levied on indigenous persons only in respect of areas where there is significant economic activity and where cash incomes are obtainable.
There is a further note as to the exemptions which apply, the procedures for recovery, and the rights of people to appeal. Having regard to the basis of collection of personal income tax, I do not think it can be suggested that personal income tax is out of proportion to the total tax collected.
As to pidgin English, which the honorable senator also mentioned, the policy is to teach English as a common language. It is unavoidable that pidgin English should be used in the meantime, although its extension is not being encouraged.
.- 1 refer to Division 786, relating to the provision of £20,201,000 for the administration of Papua and New Guinea. This afternoon, I spoke of the activities of the Commonwealth and the Placer interests in the development of the Bulolo timber reserves, and I sought information from the Minister concerning the revenue derived by the Commonwealth from those activities. The Minister did not tell me whether the report that was made to the Government is available either to members of the Parliament or to the Parliament. As taxpayers’ funds are involved, I should like to know whether there is any way in which we can find out what is going on there. I should also like to know what part of the Budget or any document that the Parliament has at its disposal discloses what revenue the Commonwealth receives from its 51 per cent, shareholding in Commonwealth-New Guinea Timber Holdings Limited.
– I wish to speak only briefly. What I have to say arises from the Minister’s reply to Senator Toohey’s suggestion that some advantage might be derived from representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions or other people from Australia visiting New Guinea for the purpose of guiding the natives there in the formation of trade unions or, failing that, people of the intellect of those whom Senator Toohey met last week coming to Australia and discussing with the A.C.T.U. the formation of trade unions. The Minister said that to do this would be contrary to the desire expressed by the natives, who stated that they preferred to form their unions in their own way. I do not wish to be controversial about this, but I do wish to sound a note of warning. I have heard it stated in this place that one of the biggest problems in New Guinea is the number of different tribes and the probability that as people gain power in New Guinea they will use that power against members of what ought to be their own race.
Three or four weeks ago I watched a “ Meet the Press “ programme on television, when two natives from New Guinea were being interviewed by members of the press. One of the questions asked was how long these natives thought it would be before the people of New Guinea were sufficiently well educated to govern themselves. After some consultation between themselves, the answer given was, “ Somewhere between ten and twenty years “. One of the pressmen quizzing them asked, “ Do you think it will take that long to bring the native people up to a certain standard of education? “ The reply was that educating the people was not what would take the time, but educating them to become one people. 1 think we can all agree that that is the problem facing New Guinea. I think between 600 and 700 languages are spoken there. If the natives were allowed to form their trade unions in their own way, if they were allowed to form themselves into little groups, covering separate little industries in separate parts of New Guinea, we would still be faced with the problem of educating them into thinking as one people, not as many different tribes. If the Administration feels that there is some value to be gained from allowing the natives to form and conduct their trade unions in their own way, I suggest that it give further consideration to Senator Toohey’s suggestion that the unions be formed in a way similar to that in which they are formed in Australia.
After all, it took some 50 years in Australia to persuade the craft organizations, instead of dealing with their own problems separately, to bring all their difficulties to the one federal organization - the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I suggest that if the Administration allows itself to be swayed by the suggestion put forward by natives that they be allowed to form their own unions in their own way, some injustice may be done to them.
– I do not wish to make this a matter of contention between myself and Senator Ridley, between myself and Senator Toohey, or between myself and any other honorable senator. I merely want to point out that the mission that went to New Guinea reported that in its view the natives themselves wanted this, and, because the natives themselves wanted it, the mission considered it would be preferable for the natives to develop their own trade union organizations in their own way. If I may say so with respect to Senator Ridley, I think it takes the proposition too far to assume that the development will be in a certain direction. What the mission says is that, whatever way it develops, it should be within the determination of the native peoples themselves. The mission goes no further than that. I repeat that I do not want to make this a matter of contention, but it would seem to me to be an altogether unwarranted interference with the affairs of the native people if we interfered with the development of trade union organizations there after the natives have expressed themselves in the way in which they have. Questions of guidance and advice are entirely different. What the mission reported was that, in its view, the natives should develop their own trade union organizations in their own way. I hope that puts the matter in correct perspective. We seem to have been indulging in a lot of repetition about this merely because a simple statement was made, not by me, but by the mission itself. On its face value, I agree with that statement. The mission went there to examine the position, and it has reported upon what it found.
As to the question asked by Senator O’Byrne, I thought I made it clear this afternoon that, because CommonwealthNew Guinea Holdings Limited was largely a private company, the report was not submitted to the Parliament. Senator O’Byrne pursues the point that we have Commonwealth money invested in that company, and he asks where there is a record of what it turns in each year, what its dividends are and how it has fared. That is to be found at page 18 of the Budget Papers. Table IV. contains details of amounts credited to miscellaneous receipts. Included in the list is a dividend paid by Commonwealth-New Guinea Holdings Limited for each of the three years that are recorded.
– I refer to Division No. 786, item 01. I quote from a statement presented by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) on 26th October, 1961, in connexion with a five-year plan for Papua and New Guinea. In that statement he said -
It is planned to build 70 hospitals, the major item being 49 new rural hospitals. This would bring the total number of hospitals to 260. To bring medical services closer to the people we expect that 340 additional medical aid posts will be built, making a total of over 2,000. The number of infant and maternal welfare centres, under both the Administration and the missions, is to be raised from 150 to about 200. . . . The recent commencement made in establishing “ rural health centres “ with local or community assistance will be followed up to bring the total of such centres to twenty. Other targets are to -
Increase the number of pre-school children attending child health clinics from 20 per cent. of the population to about 60 per cent. by 1967.
Increase the number of native women receiving ante-natal care from 20 per cent, of the population to about 60 per cent, by the end of year 1966-67.
Another project is a tuberculosis survey. Three hundred and fifty thousand persons have been surveyed to date for tuberculosis. Four survey teams will operate, each surveying 40,000 to 50,000 people per annum giving a total of approximately 1,250,000 surveyed or resurveyed by 1967.
This is a rather large programme to be undertaken over a five-year period. In existing circumstances, I believe that it should be stepped up somewhat. It is interesting to note the staff that the Minister proposes to administer this large development in health. He went on to say -
Staff targets are to raise the number of doctors from 100 to 180, assistant medical practitioners from eleven to 44- 1 should like some explanation of what is meant by “ assistant medical practitioners “ as distinct from doctors-
European nurses from 220 to 280-
That is an increase of only 60 over a period of five years - indigenous nurses trained in the Territory Medical School from 30 to 550, both male and female, and European medi. al assistants from 170 to 200.
The Minister also said -
This effort will give a proportion of one “ doctor “, including the assistant medical practitioners … for approximately every 10,000 of the population and of one trained member of the medical staff for approximately every 1,750 of the population.
That trained medical staff must include all the indigenous nurses because the Minister expected that there would be 550 of them. At the time of the publication of the statement there were only 30. There is rather a short time in which to train the additional 520 nurses - these are rather illiterate people - who are to be included in the trained medical staff so that there will be one trained member of the medical staff for every 1,750 of the population. There is to be one doctor for every 10,000 of the population. Australian doctors would be very pleased to get a practice with 10,000 potential patients. I should like the Minister to give some explanation of how this programme will be carried out. It is a rather large medical programme over a period of five years, and it . will be a small staff among so many people and in the Territory that comprises Papua and New Guinea.
– The Minister apparently overlooked one question that I asked him earlier. It related to the matter of equal pay for men and women in the Territory. On page 107 of the report made by Australia to the General Assembly of the United Nations on the administration of Papua and New Guinea, this statement appears -
The minimum wage rates prescribed by the Native Employment Ordinance and the Administration Servants Ordinance are the same for both men and women.
Then on page 113 we told the United
Nations this -
Labour legislation does not discriminate against women; the minimum conditions of wages, housing, rations and other benefits are prescribed for all workers, both male and female.
Will the Minister inform me whether that practice, which is said to have existed during the last financial year, is still in operation? Do those statements present a true overall picture? In fact, is there equal pay for men and women in New Guinea? If there is, is that policy working satisfactorily?
– I am informed that the minimum rates for men and women are the same, but the rates above the minimum vary in accordance with skill. I am also informed that the policy is working quite satisfactorily. The assistant medical practitioners are persons at less than matriculation standard. They do a five-year course - formerly it was at the Suva medical school - at the Papuan medical college. They do the full course, but at a level within their academic capacity. In other words, they cannot qualify academically as doctors, but they do a full course and qualify as assistant medical practitioners.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Papua and New Guinea - Capital Works and Services
Proposed expenditure, £405,000.
– I refer to Division No. 991, item 01 - Advance to Administration for loans to ex-servicemen in agricultural enterprises. Last year the appropriation was £587,000 and the expenditure was £551,000. This year the appropriation has been reduced to £367,000. That is a reduction of £184,000 from the expenditure last year. I have always been of the opinion that New Guinea was a developing country and, like most other developing countries, was being developed primarily as a primary producing country. I understood that the agricultural industries would be developed first. It would appear that this kind of industry in the Territory has attracted ex-servicemen. Last year the Government made loans to ex-servicemen in agricultural enterprises totalling £551,000, but for some unknown reason this year the expenditure in this regard is to be reduced by something like one-third.
– The ex-servicemen are already operating in these enterprises. Why keep on paying once they have started?
– If Senator Kendall would listen he would have heard me say that I understood this was a developing country and that it had not reached the stage where there was no more private development for ex-servicemen to move into. The honorable senator says that all the ex-servicemen are established. I would like to know why the proposed expenditure this year has been so considerably reduced.
– Senator Kendall, by interjection, gave the answer to Senator Cant. This is an exservicemen’s scheme. It is not dissimilar from the war service land settlement scheme that operated on the mainland. The ex-servicemen eligible to come under the scheme are now fewer in numbers. Consequently the requirement under this division is less than it was formerly. That is the simple explanation. Just as on the mainland the war service land settlement scheme has come to an end, so this scheme in the Territory, which extends beyond the period covered by that which operated on the mainland, also is tapering off because eligible ex-servicemen are declining in numbers.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditures - Cocos (Keeling) Islands, £40,300; Cocos (Keeling) IslandsCapital Works and Services, £5,000 - noted.
Proposed expenditure, £100.
.- ; Will the Minister for Civil Aviation give the committee some information about the proposed expenditure under Division No. 792 which relates to Christmas Island?
– The amount sought to be appropriated under Division No. 792 is a nominal amount the purpose of which is to get the vote on to the Estimates for the consideration of the Parliament. The expenses of Christmas Island are met from the operation of the Christmas Island Phosphate Commission under article 9 of the Christmas Island Agreement. This estimate is, if I may put the matter this way, a draftsman’s method of getting the vote before the Parliament.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Department of Social Services
Proposed expenditure, £7,596,000.
– I wish to refer first to Division No. 364, subdivision 3 - Other Services. Item 04 covers the provision of £3,000,000 for grants to eligible organizations for the construction of homes for aged persons. In 1961-62 the expenditure under this head was £3,472,514, but this year it is proposed to expend only £3,000,000. In his report for 1961-62 the Director-General of Social Services, dealing with homes for aged persons, states -
During the year there was a greatly accelerated rate of building progress on most projects. This was undoubtedly a major factor in the substantial increase in the amounts paid during 1961-62 which reached £3,472,514 - an increase of 61 per cent, over payments in 1960-61. The expenditure for 1961-62 was approximately double that for either 1958-59 or 1959-60.
In view of that statement it seems more than passing strange that this year we should be budgeting for an amount almost £500,000 less than was actually spent in the financial year just ended. Having regard to the very urgent demand for accommodation of this type, I think some explanation should be forthcoming. I hope that the Minister will be able to explain this apparent discrepancy in the amount sought this year and the amount spent last year, because I know that in South Australia there is a long waiting list of people seeking this kind of home. That list, under present conditions, is never likely to be satisfied. No doubt honorable senators from other States will admit that the position in their States is just as desperate as it is in South Australia. 1 think some explanation is needed as to why there should be such a substantial reduction in the amount sought to be appropriated this year.
I wish to refer also to Division No. 360, subdivision 2 - Administrative Expenses. I refer in particular to the proposed expenditure of £6,200 under item 03, Publicity. Last year an amount of £4,100 was appropriated, of which £4,049 was expended. I take it that the publicity refers in the main to the booklets issued by the Department of Social Services from time to time. Those booklets contain a good deal of very useful information. Members of Parliament find the booklets more than helpful. I have no quarrel with the proposal to spend an extra £2,100 on publicity. Perhaps my only complaint is that the proposed additional provision is not liberal enough.
From time to time during debates in this chamber on matters relating to social services I have directed the attention of honorable senators to what I feel is a very grave weakness in the whole structure of the social services system. I have in mind the number of people in Australia who are not sufficiently aware of the benefits to which they are entitled under existing legislation. I know that the attitude of the Government may well be that it makes this information available through acts of the Commonwealth and it is up to the people themselves to establish their entitlement and, in fact, even to understand their entitlement. The Government may think that disposes of the argument quite conveniently. When I have raised this matter on occasions in the past, that, in general terms, has been the reply given to me. Whether I am unduly stubborn or not, I do not know, but I still hold the opinion very strongly that a large number of people are being deprived of part pensions because of their ignorance of the existing provisions of the act. As a consequence they do not receive the benefits of the legislation that has been brought down for their benefit.
I believe that the Department of Social Services could do much to make these people aware of their entitlement, lt is not an exaggeration to say that in my experience I have come in contact with hundreds of people who have become aware of their entitlement only because some member of Parliament has gone to the trouble to make them aware of it. In many instances they have been able for the first time to obtain a substantial part pension. I have met people who had the idea - I do not know where they obtained it - that if they had £1,000 or £2,000 that amount prohibited them from getting any pension whatsoever. It might be said that people ought to know the various provisions of the act, but we should remember that the whole structure of social services, particularly the working out of the new merged means test, is a highly complicated thing. Many people in the evening of their lives find it almost impossible to work out their entitlement under such a system. I know that the department does do some very good work in the field of publicity. The booklet I have in my hand is an excellent one. It is brought up to date from time to time as amendments are made to existing legislation, but it does not properly cover that group of people who are not aware of their entitlement and as a result are losing many hundreds and thousands of pounds. I think that is a conservative estimate of the amount that is collectively lost each year in Australia by people simply because they are either ignorant of the circumstances or too diffident to make inquiries from the proper source.
I suppose the answer that the Government will give to such a proposition is that we have various social service centres throughout the Commonwealth where inquiries can be made, and where people can find out these things. That is quite true, but I submit, as I have submitted previously that many people, when they go into the busy hive of activity associated with social service centres in the capital cities of Australia, are in conditions which are not conducive for them to find out quietly, and in a way that will be helpful to them, what their entitlement might be. I again make the plea that some special branch be set up separate from sections which determine entitlements and keep records. This section should be set up solely for the purpose of advising people who want information about social service matters. I will be interested in what the Minister has to say about this proposal. I am certain that the statement I have made about people losing hundreds of thousands of pounds cannot be refuted. People are losing this money simply because they are ignorant of their entitlement under the Social Services Act.
– In referring to Division No. 364 I compliment the Government on the good work it is doing in providing homes for aged people. I know that the Labour Government in New South Wales has done its share in this work and that the Commonwealth Government has provided something like £3,500,000 to help the scheme in New South Wales. I was very impressed on one occasion by a speech made by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin on homes for the aged.
Although these homes are meeting a big need, there is often something sad about aged people being taken away from their families. I believe that many people in aged peoples’ homes would prefer to stay with their families if economic circumstances enabled them to do so. I believe in organizing these old age homes but relief might be given to the housing difficulties of the Government if some provision was made to give tax concessions to sons and daughters who are willing to look after their parents in their own homes. Whilst there is a strong argument for organized relief for aged people, here is an equally strong argument on the personal and sentimental side for them to remain with their families. I should like the Minister to give some consideration to providing taxation relief to families who are able and willing to look after their aged parents. I have met many families who would like to do so but are not in the financial position to do so.
Another matter I should like to raise arises out of an experience I had recently when performing certain duties in connexion with another committee of which I am a member. I have been in two or three buildings where various sections of the Department of Social Services are located. I do not think the layout of those buildings is directed towards the comfort of sick people. A few weeks ago I was in a building in Melbourne and I noticed an aged couple. The husband, as he apparently was, was in a wheel-chair and was being wheeled by his wife. I met them about ten past nine in the morning. They were there apparently either to make arrangements for some treatment or matters in connexion with their pension. Actually I do not know what their business was. I saw them first at ten past nine. It was a cold morning and the man was blue with cold. At 10 o’clock I saw them on the next floor. About ten to one I was horrified to see that they were still in the building waiting for assistance. I do not know what had been done for them as I could not check the various places to which they had been. However, they were in the building for five hours without being released. I directed the attention of the heads of the department to the matter and they were rather shocked to know that such a state of affairs existed.
I think it strange that crippled people, particularly those in wheel chairs, should have to finish on the 11th floor of a building in their search for treatment. I should imagine they would be better suited on the ground floor, with those people who are able to walk having to go to the top. I do not know the reason. Possibly the Department of Social Services is so big that it has to think in terms of mass registrations and forget individual cases. It is possible that these people had to register at the front counter on the ground floor and go through the various hoops, finally on the 1 1 th floor getting a cheque for their first week’s social service payment. However, the fact is that they were in the building from 9 a.m. till 12.50 p.m. For all I know, they may have been there for the rest of the afternoon. They were age pensioners, who were after their entitlement. I thought it wrong that they were not cleared out of the building within half an hour or an hour at the most, and that they should have had to go right through the building for their treatment. Better organization should have been available to them.
Will the Minister reply to the suggestion that tax relief be given to sons and daughters who are eager to look after their aged parents, instead of allowing them to go into homes?
– I refer to Division No. 360, in respect of which the proposed appropriation is £247,000, an increase of £28,000 over the expenditure last year. That relates to central administration. Division No. 364 - State Establishments, subdivision 1 - Salaries and Payments in the nature of Salary - shows an expected increase of expenditure of about £60,000. Subdivision 2 - Administrative Expenses - shows that the proposed vote is £61,975 in excess of the expenditure last year. In respect of those three matters, expenditure this year is expected to be about £150,000 more than the expenditure last year. The remaining subdivision is 3 - Other Services, which shows an expected reduction this year of £571,601. So, for some unknown reason we seem to be getting bogged down with administration. We are proposing to expend this year £150,000 more on administration in order to distribute £571,000 less. I hope that the Minister will explain this anomaly. Senator Toohey has referred to a reduction in the amount provided for grants in respect of homes for aged persons. It is anomalous that although the benefits are being reduced, it wil cost more to distribute them.
I desire to raise a matter which is deserving of the Government’s consideration. It has been raised before. I refer to the South Australian Locomotive Enginemen’s Leave Bank Fund, which is a registered fund established by the South Australian branch of the relevant union. Every member of the union pays into the fund each year one day’s pay. The fund was established for the purpose of bridging, in part, the gap now existing between the income provided under sick leave provisions and the income needed by members. Members are entitled to benefits at their graded rate, commencing fourteen days after their entitlement to paid sick leave has cut out. Also, members who are receiving workmen’s compensation may be paid benefits from the fund to bring their weekly payments up to their graded rate, after being in receipt of weekly compensation payments for fourteen days. If they are sick, at the time when they would otherwise go on to social service benefits they are paid at their graded rate for the remainder of the time that they are sick. After they have received compensation for fourteen days, they are paid the difference between the compensation rate and the graded rate.
This fund has been in operation for three-and-a-half years. Each year a balance-sheet has been prepared, and in that period the fund has paid out in benefits £11,203 19s. 6d., including payments to one member, over a period of fourteen months, in excess of £1,000. The only administrative costs of the fund are in respect of stationery, postage and necessary office equipment. These have been met entirely out of bank interest, leaving a surplus from bank interest of £40 6s. to 30th September, 1962. So only benefits to members are paid out of what the men contribute.
Should there be any heavy calls on the fund, there would be a possibility that it could not meet what the members desire it to meet, and they have asked the Government to subsidize it out of social service funds to the extent of what the cost to the Government would be if this fund were not in existence. That is a not unreasonable request. The men pool their contributions. By so doing they save government expenditure and provide deserving cases with a higher income.
Representatives of the fund approached the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), as he was the only Commonwealth Minister from South Australia, and put the case before him in March, 1961. Although we know that it was necessary for Mr. Downer to chase young frauleins from Europe, he has not been able to give an answer to these representations between March, 1961, and November, 1962. Up to the present, he has not replied to the representations. I hope that the Minister in charge of this matter in the Senate will not say that the Government has not heard of the fund, because that would be a serious reflection upon Mr. Downer, who promised the administrators of the fund that he would bring their representations to the notice of the Government. If Mr. Downer has done his job, the Government must have considered the matter and made a decision. I can only take it that the decision was so unfavorable that he would not convey it to the administrators. As a matter of common sense and reason, there is nothing wrong or unjust in asking the Government to pay to the fund the amount that would be drawn from social service funds if this fund were not in existence.
I refer now to a matter I raised in question-time this week. It is a matter to which Senator Tangney has referred over a period, and that is the question of an allowance to the wife of a pensioner. The case I used as an illustration was one in which, in certain circumstances, the only way a couple could continue to exist with an allowance was by the desertion of a wife.
The president of the union with which I am associated in South Australia had reached the age of 65 years. He was then entitled to an age pension. He had been entitled to a war pension from the age of 60 years. He was dismissed from his employment at the age of 65 and made application for the unemployment benefit. He was told he could not get the unemployment benefit as he was eligible for an age pension. His wife was aged 58 years but he could not get a wife’s allowance on an age pension. He thought that the only way he could get a wife’s allowance was to obtain the unemployment benefit, but the Department of Social Services would not grant the benefit to him.
He was in a position where, if he made an application, he could get an age pension for himself but no allowance for his wife. His wife, after 30 years of household duties, was not fit to seek work and was not capable of getting employment for herself. They had to find some means of keeping the home together. As the man could not apply for an age pension he had to seek employment. Now, at 66 years of age, a tottering old man, he has to keep in employment as long as a benevolent employer will give him work because there is no way he can keep his wife if he takes the pension. His failing health suggests that in the near future he will have to resign from his work or be dismissed. He has asked for advice and it appears that the only thing he can do is to desert his wife. As a deserted wife, his spouse can get a widow’s pension. She can make a claim against her husband for maintenance, but she cannot obtain it if the man is on a pension. This family is living happily together but by government policy they are being forced to break up the home to keep themselves in existence. Surely that is an anomaly in the act.
– How do they do that?
– By the husband deserting the wife, the wife can get a widow’s pension while the man is eligible for the age pension. A woman can get a widow’s pension if she is aged over 50 years. A woman can get an allowance if her husband is unemployed, but in this case if the husband is on the age pension, the wife gets no allowance at all. This is obviously an anomaly in the legislation. I would not say the Government has encouraged it, but if it leaves these people nothing else to do under the existing legislation, this is something that the Government should look into urgently. 1 hope these matters will be given serious consideration. The Government might not be able to alter the provisions at this stage but I hope that it will take early action to rectify this injustice.
.- I was interested in the final remarks of Senator Cavanagh because they impinged on a subject I wish to bring before the committee. My submission expresses another point of view. The idea that Senator Cavanagh has put before the committee would indicate a very depraved conception of social duty on the part of a person who was not entitled to a social service benefit unless he deserted a spouse. If there is any member of the community who wishes to qualify under the existing legislation for social service benefits by the desertion of his spouse, then we ought to introduce some legislation to make it an offence on his part to enter on that desertion.
I do not wish to be provocative. I wish to turn to a more constructive point of view on this topic. What I put to the committee is this: There was one pregnant passage in the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). I am not saying it was the only one but it was a pregnant passage for the discerning who have the welfare of social service policy at heart. It was to the effect that the social services expenditure of Australia is now absorbing, I think, 74 per cent, of the yield from personal income tax. That would indicate to anybody who has an idea worth twopence on social services that we will have to get another basis of finance or we shall have to arrest the expansion of social services. There must be a more general effort to contribute to social services if we are going to make them worth while and place them on a responsible basis.
In that spirit, I bring before the attention of the Minister one topic. The Minister will know, or be informed, that last year 9,128 deserted wives received widows’ pensions at a cost to the Commonwealth Government of £2,900,000. I do not understand the Department of Social Services condoning collusive desertions, but I wish to bring before the Minister this point: There is no proper machinery in Australia to make effective the husband’s obligation to support a wife and children whom he deserts. The social services legislation does not give the department, the right, having paid a deserted wife in necessitous circumstances social service benefits, either to recover those social service benefits from the defaulting husband or to enforce any maintenance order that may exist in favour of the wife against the deserted husband. That is costing the Commonwealth Government £2,900,000 a year. Of those 9,128 deserted women, 6,930 had children.
In the State field there should be effective reciprocal legislation to enforce an order made against a deserting husband in one State who has cleared out to another State. This should save the wife and family the expense of having to go, for example, from Hobart to Sydney to appear in a case and then meet legal expenses. Since 1920, in every worthwhile progressive State, there has been legislation to give reciprocity in respect of these maintenance orders as between the States. But what do we find? In archaic Sydney, stagnant with iniquity, magistrates refuse to enforce orders unless the widow appears personally to give evidence. Although an order is made in favour of the children, the magistrate wants to be satisfied, notwithstanding the existence of another State order and the needs of the children at that particular time, regarding maintenance from the deserting husband.
I mention this matter because I believe it is obviously one in which responsibility could be introduced into our social services legislation. I appeal to the committee to support me in pressing on the Minister the need for urgent attention. I see the position as a discredit to the legislation and to the administration. In New Zealand, the home and the progenitor of this kind of legislation, there exists the obvious provision that if the State provides for a deserted wife a social service benefit in the form of a widow’s pension, the department has recourse both to recovery from the deserting husband of the social service benefit and the enforcement of any maintenance order that is made. A similar provision exists under the legislation in the United Kingdom.
– We would not oppose that.
– I am very grateful for your attention and your understanding of the position. I have raised this matter, Sir, because I believe it is one in which we all should be interested. I hope that the legislation will be co-ordinated with that of the States and that the Senate will support any move which may be forthcoming to rationalize the matter and make it effective. If the revenue pays for the succour of a deserted wife and if there is in the Commonwealth the husband who is bound to support that wife, the revenue should be reimbursed any payment that has been made. Having regard to the fact that budgetary provision had to be made last year for £2,900,000 for 9,128 deserted1 wives, this is a matter in which we could render service to the country by insisting that legislation be introduced to remedy the defect and relieve the social services vote accordingly.
– I shall take the opportunity to clear up the points that have been made so far. First, I make the general observation that it is not practicable in an Estimates debate for the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services to undertake to enter into commitments on matters of policy. These matters raised by Senators Wright and Ormonde and other honorable senators would involve amendment of the act, and I can do no more than say they will be considered by the Minister at the appropriate time. It would be quite wrong for me to enter into a debate on policy matters. Indeed, I am not equipped to do so, having regard to the number of portfolios I represent and the ramifications of each portfolio.
Senator Toohey stated that expenditure on publicity was to be higher this year than last year. In round figures, £2,200 is being provided for the cost of leaflets, £2,000 for films, and £2,000 for window displays and so on. This is a convenient point to refer to Senator Toohey’s comment on advertising social service benefits. I remind him that the department issues a series ot leaflets. That is a part of its policy, and the leaflets are distinct from the booklet that is issued. I have in front of me a list showing the distribution of the leaflets. It indicates that a pretty wide field is covered. It is a long list and I shall not go through it now, but Senator Toohey may have a look at it if he feels so inclined. I put the point of view that the provisions of the Social Services Act are much more widely known now than they were a few years ago. The cumulative publicity of the department is making an impact. The distribution of the leaflets, the opening of offices of the department at various places, the issuing of booklets, the pictures and the moving pictures that are shown, all help to make an impact. There is always room for the view that more could be done than is being done. The answer is that there is a pretty effective campaign continuously being conducted to make known the benefits that are available under the act.
Senator Ormonde raised a point concerning taxation. The matter comes under the heading of policy and I think I can do no more than say that it will come before the Minister in due course. The honorable senator also referred to a particular case. I believe it to be true that the department does its utmost to minimize inconvenience to its clients and that it goes a long way in trying to keep the discussions between those entitled to social service benefits and the officers on a confidential basis. I can only say that the case mentioned by the honorable senator must have been an unusual one involving particular circumstances. The only way to treat a case of that nature is by means of an inquiry at the time it arises.
Senator Cavanagh spoke of the increase in expenses in relation to the reduced bene- fits. The big point to remember is that the expenses do not relate only to the payments that are shown on the particular page of the Estimates to which he referred. They relate to the total of social service payments which, for the current year, is some £295,000,000. The administrative and other expenses must be considered in relation to the overall activities of the department. The two cases mentioned by the honorable senator would have been referred to the Minister. I do not propose to comment on either of them because I do not think it would be useful to do so. In the cases referred to representations had been made to Mr. Downer. All Mr. Downer could do would be to convey those representations to the appropriate Minister, who is the Minister for Social Services, and the Minister for Social Services should have replied direct. If there has been no reply, I suggest that Senator Cavanagh ask the people concerned to make a direct approach to the Minister for Social Services.
– First I refer to Division No. 364, subdivision 2, item 03, which relates to postage, telegrams and telephone services. I note that the provision for this item is £56,000 greater than the amount expended last year, and I should like some explanation of it.
I come now to item 08 which relates to commission on benefit payments made by banks and post offices, the appropriation for which is approximately £13,000 less than the amount actually expended last year. I know that in many cases social service benefits are paid out by post offices, but I should like some explanation of the commission paid to banks on benefit payments.
The next matter to which I wish to refer is item 04 of sub-division 3 which relates to grants to eligible organizations under the Aged Persons Homes Act. The appropriation for this item this year is £500,000 less than the amount provided last year. I was under the impression that, because of the advances made by medical science, the expectancy of life has been increasing and that because of this the obligation of the States to provide homes for aged people was increasing rather than decreasing. In the past, it has been the policy of the Director General of Social
Services to pay to organizations that built blocks of homes for aged persons a grant of £2 for every £1 provided by the organization. Many of these organizations obtain their contributions from what are commonly called gifts made to them by prospective occupants of the homes on condition that the prospective occupants are guaranteed life tenancy of the homes they occupy. For instance, in Western Australia, there is an organization called Swan Homes, the chairman of which is the honorable member for Swan, (Mr. Cleaver). That organization erects blocks of homes for aged persons. The gift required from prospective tenants is £600 for single accommodation or £800 for double accommodation. So far, Swan Homes has completed three projects under that system. Under the agreement that was entered into with Swan Homes by the prospective tenants, part of the gift made by the tenant to the organization was refundable under certain circumstances, such as if the tenant was dissatisfied with the accommodation provided. This meant that the Commonwealth was contributing to the organization, by way of subsidy, a certain amount of money over which the organization had no effective control. In other words, if, after the Government had contributed £800 by way of subsidy on a gift of £400 by a tenant, the occupant of the home went out of the accommodation provided, and £200 of the £400 gift was refunded to that person, the Government would have contributed a subsidy of £400 on moneys that actually were not in the hands of the organization.
– I do not follow that. Would you repeat it?
– I am referring to a Government subsidy of £800 paid on a gift of £400 by a prospective tenant. Under the original scheme, a person who vacated the accommodation provided would be entitled to a refund under certain circumstances. This meant that the person would obtain the refund after the Government had paid the subsidy of £2 for £1 on the full £400 provided by the tenant. The effect of this was that the Government had paid a subsidy on money which the organization no longer had because it had been refunded to the person vacating the accommodation. If the organization refunded the full £400, it meant that the Commonwealth was pay ing a subsidy of £800 on £400 which the organization did not in fact have.
– It would only be refunded in certain circumstances.
– That is so.
– And the organization would have to arrange the refund because the original grant or donation would go into bricks and mortar.
– That is so.
– Then the Commonwealth would get the benefit of the asset.
– That is if the Commonwealth does get any benefit from bricks and mortar, and it is questionable whether the Commonwealth Government does have an interest in the accommodation. Some two months ago, the Commonwealth Government came to the conclusion that if not a racket, then something was going on which did not conform to proper practice. It therefore instructed the Director-General of Social Services not to make grants in cases where the prospective tenant of any premises had the right to claim a refund in any circumstances or in cases where the occupant had the right to occupancy for an unlimited period. I suggest that this tightening up of the provisions is the reason for the reduction of £500,000 in the provision for grants this year. Despite the fact that they have received a copy of this instruction from the Director-General of Social Services Swan Homes is still operating under the old system, although, at this time, it is not taking as gifts moneys which are refundable under certain circumstances. No part of any gifts made now is refundable and, before the Director of Social Services will approve of a project, a certificate to that effect must be submitted to him.
– That will get over the difficulty will it not?
– That is only part of the story. There is still the question of the guarantee of accommodation. The Swan Homes organization is still receiving gifts from people on condition that the donors are guaranteed accommodation. That is contrary to the instructions issued by the Director-General of Social Services on 30th August last. I should like the Minister or his advisers to give me some explanation of why approval has been given for a Swan
Homes project which is attracting a subsidy from the Commonwealth contrary to the instructions issued recently. If a supporter of the Commonwealth Government is the chairman of the board of the Swan Homes organization, contrary to the regulations, and is well aware of the difficulties that the Government is facing in financing homes of this type, the Government should have a look at the matter. I would be very pleased if the Minister could give me a satisfactory answer on that question.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [10.11].- I should like to refer to Division No. 364, sub-division 3, item 03 - Housekeeper service - Grant. I have always been very interested in this grant because I feel that it has been of great assistance to families, in which the mothers have been ill and have had to spend long periods in hospital, for housekeepers to come into the homes and care for the families. I notice that this year’s appropriation is to be less than last year’s appropriation. That surprises me. I would be interested to hear from the Minister the reasons for that reduction. I should also like to be told how the amount of the grant is divided up amongst the various States. I would be particularly interested to know the amount of money that my own State of Queensland receives.
I should also like to comment on item 04, which has already been commented upon by Senator Cant. I also am very surprised to see that this year’s appropriation for homes for aged persons is £500,000 less than last year’s appropriation. I believe that the work that is being done in the community in this field is of tremendous value to our senior citizens. I would be very sorry if in any year the amount of the grant for this very important work was reduced. I know that many of the excellent homes for the aged in Queensland, which are run by church and charitable organizations, have very long waiting lists of senior citizens who are anxious to become members of these communities under the aged persons’ homes scheme. So, I view with some concern the reduction in this year’s Budget of the amount of money that is appropriated for this purpose.
– I wish to refer to a few matters under the estimates for the Depart ment of Social Services. The administration of this department affects the lives and well-being of almost every Australian family. There are recipients of social service benefits throughout Australia, be they aged or invalid pensioners, people in receipt of unemployment benefit, mothers claiming the maternity allowance, or mothers charged with the care of and responsibility for rearing the younger generation of Australians. One could speak at length on each of these matters, but I desire to make only a few suggestions to the Government. 1 believe that these suggestions are in the interests of the administration of the department and in the interests of the people of Australia generally.
The first item to which I wish to refer comes under Division No. 364, subdivision 2, item 01 - Travelling and subsistence. An amount of £103,000 has been set aside by the Government this year, compared with the expenditure of £100,049 in the last financial year. Only last month, in company with other parliamentarians, I made a tour along the north coast of New South Wales. At two places in particular - Taree and Kempsey - the matter of people who are resident in country areas making applications for social service payments was brought to my attention. I was told that when these people make their applications they are called in for interviews. In some instances they have to travel many miles to the nearest town in which an office of the Department of Social Services is located, for the purpose of being interviewed. Some of these people are in very humble circumstances. They find it difficult to pay the fares to the town and then back to their homes.
I suggest that the Government consider either sending officers of the department to the homes of these applicants for pensions or issuing the applicants with rail warrants or paying the cost of the return fare to and from the office of the Department of Social Services. The Government might want to stipulate a minimum distance of about 5 miles. I believe that this matter concerns a significant section of the community, especially people living in outlying areas. I put that to the Government as a constructive suggestion in the hope that something can be done in this matter.
Another matter that has been discussed this evening - it was raised by my colleague, Senator Cant and by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin - is the homes for the aged. This year the appropriation has been reduced by £500,000. We were hoping that this scheme would have been expanded this financial year. I intended to make a suggestion which has been made at other times by Senator Tangney in this chamber and by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) in another place. The suggestion is that the Government consider amending the Aged Persons Homes Act to enable the Commonwealth subsidy of £2 for £1 to be paid to organizations such as the Sub-normal Children’s Welfare Association and the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association and their affiliated bodies. The payment of the subsidy would enable those organizations to build hostels to accommodate children who are attending sub-normal children’s schools or people attending sheltered workshops for the purpose of receiving rehabilitation treatment.
This matter is very important to a section of the community, namely, people born with an affliction or people who, because of some mishap in their lives, now suffer from an affliction. In the large town of Dubbo in western New South Wales the Sub-normal Children’s Welfare Association is endeavouring to raise money to build a hostel attached to the Westhaven school of sheltered workshops. Whilst it may not be practicable to implement this suggestion in this financial year because of the reduced vote, in the next financial year the Government might consider amending the Aged Persons Homes Act in the manner that I have suggested.
Another section of the community that seems to have been overlooked, as far as social services are concerned, is the civilian widows. I think all honorable senators recently received a book entitled “ Widows in Australia “ written by Miss Jean Aitken Swan. She is an English social worker and has specialized in research. The book was a survey of the conditions of civilian widows living in Australia. The survey was undertaken over about 92 widows with children living in Sydney and about 108 widows living in the Bathurst and Grafton areas in New South Wales. Miss Aitken Swan, who conducted the survey, is well trained in this kind of work. She found that the principal advantages enjoyed by war widows over civilian widows were a larger pension, more generous concessions and allowances and, above all, freedom from a means test, which she said adds dignity to their status. The survey confirmed the conviction of social workers generally that the level of well-being and security fixed by law for civilian widows is too low. If honorable senators read the book to which I have referred they will find that the greatest hardship experienced by a civilian widow is the fact that apart from her pension she is restricted to an income of £3 10s. a week in respect of herself and 10s. a week in respect of each of her children. The survey shows that these widows see the present regulations as an attempt to deny them the right to improve their conditions. I hope that the Government will give consideration to the plight of these people. After all, in many cases they are charged with the important responsibility of rearing young Australian children. Indeed, if the Minister peruses Miss Swan’s book he wa find that about 50,000 young children in Australia are totally dependent on civilian widows.
I have raised these matters in the hope that the Government will pay some regard to them. For the sake of Australia’s welfare and future progress the wants of those who are in need in the community should be given top priority.
– I want to raise one or two further matters under the heading of social services, but first I wish to deal with the matter raised by Senator Cavanagh and referred to by Senator Wright. Senator Cavanagh directed attention to the case of a wife of a pensioner who is herself not entitled to a pension. He adverted - rightly so, I thought - to the very grave disabilities that attend such cases. He stated that where the economics of the situation made it hopeless for such people to continue to try to live on the one pension, in desperation one of the partners may decide technically to desert the other so that each may qualify for a pension - one as a deserted wife and the other as a pensioner. I think Senator Wright over-dramatized the position when he said that that was an invitation by Senator Cavanagh to people to engage in this practice in order to defeat the purpose of the social service legislation.
– Senator Wright did not suggest that Senator Cavanagh was inviting people to do that.
– I did not say that he did. What point is Senator Anderson trying to make? I merely recounted what Senator Wright had said. He said that the instance provided by Senator Cavanagh conjured up a state of affairs in which people would deliberately take action to defeat the social service legislation. 1 think Senator Wright missed the point. It is a point to which I would like the committee to return, namely, the desperate nature of the situation to which Senator Cavanagh was directing attention. I want honorable senators to think for a moment of the plight of two people trying to live in present-day circumstances on ?5 5s. a week. I would like those honorable senators who do not feel that the situation calls for any remedial action to tell me how they would like to try to live on that amount of money.
Senator Wright said ; I do not know whether he raised the matter by way of challenge ; that a vast percentage of the national income was being expended on social welfare. I think that is right. He said also that sooner or later we in this country will have to consider adopting a different method of financing this kind of expenditure. I agree with him. I think that before long we will be directing our thoughts towards some form of national insurance which, without placing such a strain on the national income as the present system does, will adequately cover the field of social services. If we agree on those points and say that there is no great area of disputation, surely that does not prevent Senator Cavanagh or anybody else from directing the attention of the committee to what we believe to be serious anomalies, serious injustices and serious discrepancies in the existing structure of the social services system. That is what we aim to do.
In view of the fact that the Minister for National Development, who is handling the estimates for the Department of Social Services, told us - perhaps with some degree of reason - that he cannot say what is in the mind of the Minister for Social Services, but can give only his personal opinion on these matters, he is placed in a fairly strong position because he can throw cold water on some of the propositions that we put forward, whether they have merit or not, and at the same time he does not need to accept any responsibility in the matter because official responsibility rests with the Minister for Social Services. Be that as it may, the point raised by Senator Cavanagh merits consideration.
I want to deal with another aspect of the matter raised by Senator Cavanagh. I refer to the position of the wife of an invalid pensioner. I believe that the Government did give some consideration to this matter in the last Budget when it increased the allowance paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner from ?1 15s. a week to ?2 7s. 6d. The two people who find themselves in these circumstances still must live on a total income of ?7 12s. 6d. a week. If the wife of an invalid pensioner is herself over 55 years of age it is quite illogical to expect, in our present-day economy, first, that she is employable and secondly, in view of the invalidity of her husband, that she could work even if work were available to her. So the position of the couple concerned, although bettered to some degree at least - I give full credit to the Government for taking a step in the right direction in the 1961 Budget - is not what in all humanity it should be. To the point raised by Senator Cavanagh I add my point relating to the wife of an invalid pensioner who to-day, with her husband, is expected to subsist on a weekly amount of ?7 12s. 6d.
I would like to deal now with the pensioner medical service. I referred to this matter last year. For quite a number of years the position has been that a single pensioner who supplements his pension by more than ?2 a week is excluded from the benefits associated with the pensioner medical service. By the same token, if the income of a pensioner couple exceeds the total pension by more than ?4 a week, the benefits of the pensioner medical service are denied to that couple. I feel that even if we had regard only to the increase in the cost of living since those amounts were last fixed there would be a substantial increase in the amount of permissible income over and above the pension. Consider the case of a single person who has contributed to a superannuation fund during his working years and as a result has reduced his standard of living to the extent of the weekly payments that he has made.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I was referring to anomalies under the pensioner medical service. I had reached the point where I was pointing out that it seems to me to be highly illogical, and in fact highly unjust, that a single pensioner in receipt of superannuation of slightly over £2 a week is denied the provision of the pensioner medical service. In the case of a married couple if a man is entitled to a superannuation payment of slightly over £4 a week, he is excluded from any consideration under the pensioner medical service. I feel that nobody in this Senate can claim with justification that the permissible income of £208 in the case of a married couple, and £104 in the case of a single pensioner should not be increased. It should have been increased some considerable time ago.
Although we should keep in mind the point raised by Senator Wright that we should reshape our thinking on the whole matter of social services at some not too distant time, that should not prevent us from raising points that have substance and merit. I would be interested to see any honorable senator try to show there is no justification in the points I have mentioned about the pensioner medical service. I submit that there is complete justification for a revision of the provisions existing at the present time.
– I wish to raise, under the heading of Administration a matter that seems to me to be fundamental. It concerns the amount of money that will be spent by the Department of Social Services in the future.
It is apparent from the figures in the Budget that a large amount of our national revenue is being expended on the Department of Social Services. One would think, perhaps, that part of the important work of this department would be to provide the Parliament with some figures relating to the future. Changes are occurring in the population of Australia, the death rate, the birth rate, the immigration intake and various other factors which affect the vital statistics of this country. It is apparent that some dramatic changes will take place in the various social service payments in the immediate future. If the present rates of payment are continued, the changes in the various factors I have mentioned will mean a tremendous increase in the expenditure of this department. In view of that it seems to me to be obvious that the department should investigate these matters very closely.
One would think that the Parliament ought to be provided with figures setting out what the future trends are likely to be so that we would know, perhaps, in a graphic way, what the social service payments in the various categories will be in 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980 and so on. Together with this information Parliament should be provided with some extrapolation of the overall gross national product and the estimated national revenue, so that this country can make some intelligent plans for the next fear years. It does not seem sufficient to go on from year to year, dealing with one aspect of social services one year and another aspect the next year, without looking at the overall picture to see what we have to face. We want to provide the utmost in social services. That is something we have accepted as our national responsibility, but we all want to know how we are going to do it.
It is extremely important, for instance, that we should know what our commitments are likely to be for aged persons homes during the next ten years. Using actuarial methods such as are used by insurance companies one could arrive at fairly accurate predictions. We do not expect perfection but, the department should do something about this matter. I should like to be informed whether the matter is being attended to and whether figures can be obtained showing the social service commitments of this country on the basis that the present rates will remain in force.
– My question concerns the housekeeper services for which £13,700 is provided. I should like to know just what this housekeeper service involves, the rate of the grant, to whom it is made and in what circumstances. I should like also to know whether applications for this grant have been made in South Australia or whether the grant does not apply to persons in that State. If it does not, the Minister may be able to give the committee the reason. Is there a lack of housekeepers in South Australia for use in connexion with this service, or is the Government unable to provide such a service in that State? lt is a service that, so far as I know, is not available in South Australia and I should like to know whether the Minister can tell me the reason.
– I wish to speak on Division No. 360 under the heading, Central Administration. A few minutes ago Senator McClelland referred to civilian widows. Although this is a matter of policy I should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to bring it to the notice of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). A civilian widow without children is allowed to earn £3 10s. a week. If she has one child she is allowed to earn an extra 10s. a week. A deserted wife with four or five children can earn in the vicinity of £6 10s. a week which, together with her pension and child endowment gives her an income approaching the present basic wage. This might seem quite an appropriate amount, because we know that some men - not a great number at present - are rearing families on the basic wage. But I believe that those married women who have been deserted, or whose husbands have been taken through death, should be allowed to earn a little more, if they are able. I know that young widows, with one or two children, have had, because of the limit on permissible income, to relinquish reasonably good jobs before the end of the year and take other jobs in the following year. I agree with Senator Wright’s contention that we must have cognisance of the growing expenditure on social services, but if these widows were allowed to earn a little more, no greater expenditure would be incurred. They would still receive only the same amount of pension, but if they could supplement this to a little greater extent, it would be of great assistance to them. I ask the Minister to take the matter up with the Minister for Social Services with a view to civilian widows being allowed to earn a little more without having their pensions reduced.
– In spite of the lateness of the hour, I think that I should make briefly a couple of points. First, I want to refer to the submission by Senator Wright, which was referred to by Senator Toohey and Senator Murphy. It is becoming a very popular motion that the Commonwealth should be more than concerned about its liability for social services. This liability is certainly growing, but I suggest that Australia has lost its position in the world as a welfare state, because many European countries are providing greater services. When considering the huge liability for social services, we must consider them in relation to the economy. We must look at the matter in conjunction with employment figures and health provisions. We note from the report of the Director-General of Social Services that last year we expended nearly £13,000,000 on unemployment benefit and neary £3,000,000 on sickness benefit. Obviously, when talking about a national insurance scheme we must have regard to planning the economy for the operation of the scheme, and to the handicap involved in all sorts of emergency economic policies, which are very costly.
Recently, I have had before me a number of cases relating to young persons suffering from tuberculosis. Those who are purchasing homes find the means test a great burden. I notice from the DirectorGeneral’s report that payments of tuberculosis sufferers are dropping year by year. This year it is expected that 1,717 persons, nearly 400 fewer than last year, will receive £870,000, as compared with an expenditure of £946,000 last year. The rehabilitation figures show that quite a high percentage of these people are being placed in jobs. In the financial year that ended in 1958 there were 145; in 1959, 109; in 1960, 95; in 1961, 73; and in 1962, 54. In view of the fact that the incidence of tuberculosis is becoming lighter and lighter, the Government should consider easing the means test, because the breadwinner who is suffering from this complaint is not helped by having to worry about his wife going out to work and about the application of the means test to his pension.
– Senator Cant referred to commission on benefit payments made by banks and post offices. This is a long-standing arrangement. The department makes great numbers of payments to persons who have not banking facilities and it pays commission to those who cash the cheques. The commissions are small, but there is a great number of payments, mostly to the Post Office, for services rendered.
– I wanted to know about the commission paid to the banks.
– The figures are not kept separately. I have a dissection showing the different types of payment involved: Age and invalid pensions, £144,000; widows’ pensions, £26,000; child endowment, £112,000. I have the rates of commission but I have not the dissection between the Postmaster-General’s Department, savings banks and trading banks.
In regard to homes for the aged, my officers have been good enough to give me a note. It might be best if I read it. The Commonwealth grants subsidies for money which is not encumbered or borrowed. Where a donation is made in return for accommodation and a portion of that money is refundable if the donor ceases to reside in the accommodation provided, this money is not unencumbered and. more importantly, is not matched by a Commonwealth grant. It is permissible for a home to guarantee accommodation but not particular accommodation. Where accommodation is provided in a double unit for a married couple, and subsequently one of the partners passes away, it would be expected that the surviving partner would move to more suitable, single accommodation.
I know from a little experience that the idea is to keep this administration as flexible as possible. The homes are run mostly by charitable or religious organizations. The purpose is to keep the administration flexible in order to give these organizations the opportunity to run the homes in the way that they think best, without letting people turn the arrangement into a real estate transaction, without people undermining the system.
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin referred to the housekeeper service. My answer to the honorable senator will also answer Senator Laught. This service came into existence as a result of an offer made in writing by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the State Premiers in 1951. Four of the States accepted the offer; South Australia did not. The scheme is to assist organizations providing emergency housekeeper services to households where mothers are absent in hospital or are ill at home or are unable to cope with family needs because of an emergency. Grants provided in 1961-62 were -
I do not know that I understood Senator McClelland correctly. He related his remarks to the proposed vote for travelling and subsistence, but I think that was an excuse for a lead-in on more general terms. The provision under item 10 for incidental and other expenses is for travelling expenses of officers of the department. In reply to what I might call the honorable senator’s lead-in, I inform him that the department has some officers travelling around to explain the provisions of the social service legislation as well as providing an information service at regional offices. Senator McClelland spoke of civilian widows and Senator Toohey referred to various pensions. I do not propose to enter upon a debate, but this statement might be of assistance: A wife’s allowance can be paid to an age pensioner whose wife is under 60 years of age if the husband is permanently unfit for work. In those circumstances, the wife would be eligible to receive the wife’s allowance of £2 7s. 6d. a week.
– Is that payment subject to the means test?
– Both would be subject to the means test. Reference was made to the widow’s pension. It must be remembered in those circumstances a widow’s pension is payable to a deserted wife, but not to a deserting wife. If the wife leaves a husband, she is not eligible for a widow’s pension.
In reply to Senator Murphy, I know that demographic studies are maintained in the Department of Social Services and I know from my own knowledge that the department occasionally circulates results of some of those studies. The department has a very effective service which is able to give estimates of trends. From my own knowledge over a limited period of time, 1 know that demography is becoming a world of its own. It is an important part of scholastic and statistical activities.
– I wish to refer to health and medical services, mainly under the heading of Administration. As most people know, persons entitled to the pensioner medical service have a small card which they hand to their doctor to be signed. For the life of me, I cannot understand the principle which makes it necessary for the pensioner to apply to the head office in the capital city of a State when the card has to be renewed or has been lost. In Tasmania, for example, if a card has expired by usage and the owner lives in Launceston, he or she cannot get a new card at the Launceston office, but has to write to Hobart for a new card. I have known of delays in getting a new card extending over two, three and even six weeks. I had to intervene in one case because the pensioner did not have a card and it caused considerable embarrassment to the doctor and the chemist. They had to write out scripts for the pensioner and fill in the pension number later.
There is no reason why the cards cannot be issued at a local office. All that a pensioner need do is to hand in the old card and get a new one. I know the cards have numbers, but surely they could be replaced. I know the arguments in favour of the present system because I have heard them from Hobart. It is said that the cards must be issued centrally. That is not a sound argument to me or to any one else.
I would like to say how much the nation owes a debt of gratitude to this Government for its assistance on a basis of £2 for £1 in the provision of homes for the aged. This is one of the best things the Government has done. We are all getting to a stage of senility, and not in any particular place, and I believe that homes for old people should take precedence even over hospitals. We find that we have to do more and more for the old people.
I suggest to the Government that the grant of £2 for £1 should include the cost of certain types of furniture. I think there is some provision for the grant to cover built-in beds and built-in cupboards to some extent. It is useless having a building if people cannot be accommodated in it because it is not furnished. I am interested in the construction of a new home for the aged and I ask the Government to consider the extension of assistance in this direction. If the grant could cover essential furnishings, it would be helpful.
I now revert to a topic which I have said I will continue to raise even though honorable senators might have tired of hearing it. I refer to mental health which comes under the heading of social services. I thank the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for getting his colleague, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to write to me on this matter. I had a long letter from the Minister on the subject but there was nothing in it really except that he said that over the years it had not been government policy to make the provision I sought. Surely we are requesting a change in government policy. If the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services sought the opinions of the first 100 people he met in the streets, all of them would agree that it is wrong to take pensions away from persons who are in a mental institution.
– Does not the Government give them free hospital services?
– The pensioners get free hospital services.
– So what?
– I shall explain the proposition to the honorable senator, who is so absorbed in what he will say about me later that he cannot even think at this moment. A pensioner entering an ordinary hospital gets free treatment and retains his pension.
– You want a person in a mental hospital to get the pension in addition to free hospital services? What nonsense!
– The poor gentleman is absorbed in his own ideas, but 1 shall explain this matter to him quietly and patiently. When a pensioner goes into an ordinary hospital, he is entitled to retain his pension and he gets free hospital services. But if a pensioner goes into a mental hospital, which is also free, he is not entitled to receive a pension.
– What wisdom!
– lt is not my wisdom. 1 am trying to change it. Anyhow, I think that all other honorable senators appreciate what 1 am talking about and will see that I have made out a case. I do not want to persist, but I think that the Minister for Health, in his slightly different variation of the reason, said that he could not see how a patient in a mental hospital could receive any benefit by way of a pension or medical benefit while the present State laws exist. There again, there is not one Minister for Health in the States who is not prepared to alter any State law that prevents this.
The Minister made the cheap gibe that 1 had tried to get on the bandwagon in relation to this matter. If he had listened to the words of his own leader he would know that I did not try to get on the bandwagon but had in fact started the move, lt will be remembered that while I was speaking, Senator Spooner interjected and pointed out to me that I had been making similar representations to the Chifley Government twelve years ago. So how could I be jumping on the bandwagon? In any event, that is beside the point. One Minister says that the pension should be given only to a certain set of individuals and that if it were given to others the matter would have to be referred to the Master in Lunacy. I maintain that it could still be done for the benefit of the patient. I know that the argument is that you do not want the State government to collect the pension, but surely the man concerned is entitled to some of his pension. He still must have comforts. Because he is in an institution he is not necessarily locked up in a maniacal sheet. He is still a human being. He is sick mentally - that is all. If he is sick in an ordinary hospital, you do not stop payment of his pension. For Heaven’s sake, let us have a humanitarian basis for this proposition. I shall keep on raising it until you are all sick of hearing me talk about it. Surely something can be done. If you do not want to give the man the whole of his pension, then give him some of it, or you can pay it to the hospital, so that it may be used to provide for him comforts such as fruit or any other things that he wants, or his people may use it.
The spouse of a pensioner may need assistance. The Government takes away half the income when he is put in a mental institution. I think that it is completely wrong, and I hope that the Government will have another look at the matter. Simply because that has been the position for trie last ten or twenty years does not necessarily mean that it should be the position for the next twenty years.
– I am told that the cards which are issued to pensioners are taken to doctors who make entries on the cards at the time services are rendered. The cards become filled and are subject to audit. They have to be looked at, and the departmental view is that if they are returned to head office there is readier filing and they are more readily available. The loss of cards occurs only occasionally. For administrative purposes, it is much better to have all the cards in the head office and to deal there with the occasional inquiry that is made, rather than to have to turn to the branch offices on the many occasions on which cards have to be examined.
– Could not a new card be issued in the meantime? Could not the old card be sent down. Then there would be no break in continuity. Let the local office give an interim card.
– I should not care to pursue the matter, but it seems to me that in those circumstances there would be the risk of cards being issued to people who were not eligible to receive them.
In relation to aged persons homes, I omitted to comment earlier on the suggestions from both sides of the chamber that the vote this year has been reduced. That is not so. It must always be remembered that the Estimates are prepared on a cash basis and that amounts are carried forward at the beginning of the year. Votes are agreed to but not fully expended. Further liabilities arise during the year, and votes that have been approved are not fully expended. On the mathematics of the matter, a substantial amount was spent last year. Projects came to crystallization and the cash had to be found. It is estimated that there will not be the same amount of cash required this year. There has been no reduction in the tempo of this scheme. The proposed appropriation indicates the demands that will arise.
In connexion with Senator Turnbull’s hobby-horse, I did more than send a letter to him. I sat down and worked out the reasons. I wrote them down on a piece of paper in case he asked me questions. But it is now five minutes past eleven and I do not propose to discuss the matter at this stage.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditures - Department of Social Services, Capital Works and Services, £ 1 1 7,000; War and Repatriation Services, Department of Social Services, £17,000 - noted.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I rise to discuss a statement that emanated from Senator Turnbull in Brisbane last Thursday. As usual, he attracted considerable notoriety. He stated that the Senate should be abolished and that if he were to put forward a motion to that effect it would fail for want of a seconder. It betokens an ignorance of the very Constitution under which the Senate works to suggest putting before the Senate a motion for the abolition of the Senate. I feel that some reference should be made to the matter to highlight this irresponsible and characteristically mischievous and woefully inexperienced comment. The honorable senator purports to be one of ten senators who represent Tasmania, a State that has a population of about 330,000 people, or one-tenth that of New South Wales. It is the smallest State in the Commonwealth. Yet, it is accorded by the Constitution representation equal to that of New South Wales or any other State of the Commonwealth. Surely that is one of the most’ jealously guarded constitutional securities of the State of Tasmania that was written into the Constitution.
I doubt whether the honorable senator to whom I direct some criticism to-night has read the works of Andrew Inglis Clarke, Sir Edward Braddon or the other great statesmen who attend the constitutional conventions and insisted upon that clause going into the Constitution as the guardian of small States and as the very basis upon which federation was formed. But it is characteristic of Senator Turnbull that he should seek to make mischief. In his character as Treasurer of Tasmania, he so irritated those who conducted the lottery consultation down there that they made arrangements to move across the Strait, where they engaged in an even more prosperous business. Then he attempted to introduce football pools into Tasmania, with disastrous results which led to his exclusion from the State Cabinet.
After a few weeks’ experience in the Senate, we have the suggestion from him that the Senate should be abolished. I am not here to declaim about the perfection of the Senate - far from it - but there are within this chamber senators who, given the opportunities of the constitution - and I should think that they would be especially available to an independent member - are eminently able to advance State interests and, if they wish, to make valuable contributions to our debtates in the national interest. It is not without significance that, on the very day on which Senator Turnbull made this statement in Brisbane, two Tasmanian senators - Senator McKenna and myself - made such contributions as we were able on a subject of no less importance than the unity of Europe and the European Common Market. I wonder when we will hear from Senator Turnbull upon those subjects.
Does it occur to Senator Turnbull that, from Tasmania, we have representation in this Senate that gives us, first, one Minister, the Minister for Customs and Excise, Senator Denham Henty, under whose administration notable improvements and economies have been made in the department over which he presides, and, secondly, the Leader of the Opposition, whose contributions to the Senate debates are listened to with great respect on all sides? We will wait patiently, and with sympathy for his self-professed growing senility, for the time Senator Turnbull can have that said of him in this chamber. In the Opposition, also, two Tasmanian senators have been elected as Whip and Deputy Whip. Then, much more importantly from the point of view of party division in Tasmania’s representation, Senator Cole has the unique distinction of having so far followed his convictions that he left the Australian Labour Party and formed the Australian Democratic Labour Party. He has maintained his position as leader of that party in this Senate for six or seven years now. And he is the leader of a party of significance in this Commonwealth. No Labour man will deny its significance during the last seven or eight years. One would have thought that an independent senator could have taken his place in this Senate and appreciated the opportunities afforded to him to share in its work. Instead, Mr. President, he has been more concerned with attempting to scuttle it. True to his characteristics, he would prefer to scuttle the machinery of which he is now a part, when the remedy for its shortcomings, on his own statement, would be to scuttle himself.
– I do not want to take up the time of the Senate, but now that the question of the abolition of the Senate has been raised I wish to make a few remarks mainly because, last week, I, too, was telephoned by the representative of a Sydney newspaper and asked what were my views on Senator Turnbull’s statement. I told the press representative that I belonged to a party which believed in the abolition of the Senate although I recognized that the Senate did have a State function to perform. My party has come to the conclusion - and it has been re-affirmed in discussions during past years - that the Senate has betrayed that State function to some extent and that that perhaps justifies its abolition.
Senator Turnbull would give the public a false impression - the impression that he would be prepared to move for the abolition of the Senate - but no one else would support him. Let me emphasize that the Senate cannot be abolished merely by a resolution of the Senate. It can be abolished only after the people have voted in a referendum in favour of its abolition. That is provided for in the Constitution. I am surprised that Senator Wright did not make that point. The results of the recent referendum held in connexion with the abolition of the Legislative Council of New South Wales make it obvious that the people of Australia would never agree to the abolition of the Senate, whether that is Labour’s Policy or not. So that the statement by Senator Turnbull that he would move for the abolition of the Senate if only he could get a seconder is not only irresponsible but also misleading. It was obviously made for the sole purpose of gaining publicity with no hope of fulfilment. Therefore, I join with Senator Wright in condemning Senator Turnbull’s statement which is in conflict with the true constitutional position.
– Very little has been said about my statement. Rather have we had a personal attack by a senator who is suffering a little, shall we say, from an attack of hepatitis and had to get rid of this thing off bis liver.
– When I want medical advice, I will go elsewhere.
– I am more than ever convinced that the honorable senator will go elsewhere because I am not a psychiatrist.
– You are his patient.
– I do not know whose patient I am supposed to be, but obviously our paths will not cross in the medical field because I am strictly a general practitioner and know nothing about the torments of the mind.
My statement has been described as mischievous and irresponsible. I should say that some honorable senators, unfortunately, have not got a sense of humour. Certainly, Senator Wright, with his ponderosity, if there is such a word, has no sense of humour. It is obvious that there must be a lot of stupid people in the
Senate who believe that I believe that I could propose a motion and the Senate would be dissolved immediately. Everybody knows that the Senate can be dissolved only after a referendum has been held and that if I proposed a motion for its abolition I would not get a supporter, That is all my statement means.
– Try it on.
– I will try it on. Honorable senators on this side have been here long enough and they have not even tried to get the Constitution altered.
– Why did you not move for the abolition of the Legislative Council of Tasmania?
– You know that no one wants to get rid of the Legislative Council in Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government would not know what to do if the council were dissolved. It is the best friend the Tasmanian Government ever had. Senator Lillico knows that that Government relies on the Legislative Council to defeat legislation which it really does not want to pass. Do not say that we can do without it. The Opposition does not have to wait for me to initiate action for the abolition of the Senate. Honorable senators on this side could themselves initiate it.
Senator Wright pointed out that this is a State House and went on to mention some people who took a prominent part in events at the beginning of federation. I have said that it is no longer a State House because election by the system of proportional representation has completely changed all that. I have been here only a short time and I have heard only one debate when the subject of State rights was mentioned, but I noticed that honorable senators on this side did not vote against the Government when it was a question of the interests of the States coming first. I think that you, Mr. President, wrote an article in the “ Bulletin “ in which you pointed out that it was a State House and in which you mentioned three occasions when senators decided to vote for their States on certain vital issues.
I should like to correct one incorrect statement made by Senator Wright in his personal attack on me. He said that I had been expelled from Cabinet because of the football pools. That is not so. I was expelled from the Tasmanian Labour Party some three or four years after the proposal for the establishment of the football pools was raised. His suggestion or snide implication that I was sacked because I had something to do with football pools is utterly incorrect. He knows that when he starts to think. He is not thinking too well to-night. I think, from the scowl on his face, he is still worrying about that mental health position.
I have not had a chance to debate the question of the European Common Market. When I wanted to speak on it and had my notes ready, the matter was removed from the business-paper. Now a new motion dealing with the subject has appeared on the business-paper. I do not think it has been debated other than on last Thursday. Unfortunately on that day I had to go to Brisbane for a conference for which I was nominated almost twelve months ago. Certainly, nine months ago I knew that I had to attend that conference. It was an important conference. I believe that Senator Wright was not often in this chamber until he was castigated by his party and told to make more appearances. I do not want to hear any one say that I was not present at such and such a time. That is a matter for my conscience and my party, not for Senator Wright’s.
This is only a question of conviction. Some people think that there should be an Upper House in Tasmania; some do not. My personal conviction is that there is no need for a Senate. I am entitled to my own personal conviction.
– Why did you. nominate?
– Yes, why did you come in here?
– I will explain if I am given a chance. There is no need for an Upper House when it operates under the party system that we have. If the Senate were a States House, I would agree that there would be a need for it. When it becomes a party House there is no justification for it because every one in this chamber and every member of the public knows that if this chamber disagreed with the Lower House there would be a double dissolution. In other words, unless this House agrees with the House of Representatives on vital issues, there is an election. In other words again, to make it plainer still, the party in power in the Lower House must be in power in the Upper House. Therefore, why have an Upper House?
– Why did you stand for the Senate?
– There are many reasons why I stood for the Senate. I am an Independent. I am not a member of a party. So that argument does not hold.
Unfortunately, Senator Wright talked about my convictions. Well, I would not have been in this chamber if he had had any principles and convictions of his own. His stature in Tasmania dwindled and was completely shattered by his shilly-shallying and giving the very proof that this House is not needed when he, with one breath, supported Senator Wood against the Government and with the next breath supported the Government. It is because of his lack of conviction and his lack of principle - the things of which he accuses me - that I am in this chamber. Had he stood out, as Senator Wood did, he would have received a greatly increased vote, which probably would have meant that I would not have received sufficient votes to ensure my election to this chamber. That is true, as every one in Tasmania, except Senator Wright, realizes. An advertisement was published in the newspapers asking, “ Do you want a Tasmanian tiger, Independent species or a Tasmanian mouse, party species? “ One figure looked very much like me, I must admit; and the other was quite like Senator Wright. The result was that I was elected.
– I did not want to come into this debate, but I should like to comment on Senator Turnbull’s remarks, the ethical attitude of which is somewhat unusual and even unique in this chamber.
– Did you say “ ethical “?
– I said “ethical”. Here we have a man who has been well versed in politics in his own State for many years, who understands politics as well as any of us do, who has understood the nature of the Senate as a second chamber for many, many years, and who understood the nature of the Senate as a second chamber perfectly well before he nominated for the position of senator. All that, of course, is well known.
He was elected to the Senate and, as soon as possible, he got into print with a statement that the Senate should be abolished because it was not a fit second chamber. Mr. President, the ethics of that attitude are remarkable. We have not seen their like in this chamber for a very long time. It is perfectly obvious that Senator Turnbull has only one course of conduct open to him. If he considers that this chamber should be abolished he should never have come into it. He knew what sort of chamber it was before he came into it. He has no moral right to stay in it for one moment. I am sorry that Senator Turnbull cannot stay in the chamber and take it. I do not believe for a moment that he believes a word of what he said.
I am satisfied that Senator Turnbull is well aware of the significance of this chamber and does not believe for a moment that it should be abolished. He seized an opportunity to get a bit of cheap publicity, which he got and will continue to get. There are plenty of other subjects on which he can get cheap publicity. He can get it by making a few remarks about the use of motor cars by members of the Parliament. That is quite a good subject. I can assure him that he will always get a few lines in the press by talking about that. He can get the biggest headline by talking about the salaries of members of the Parliament. Those are both good subjects on which Senator Turnbull can get some good cheap publicity. I am quite certain that he has not exhausted the supply of publicity that he will get on these subjects. But, Mr. President, as for his sincerity, I do not believe for a moment that he agrees with a word of what he said.
– Mr. President, I want to say a few words on this matter. I do not want to make personal remarks; I want to deal factually with the Senate. From time to time the comment is made that the Senate is not a significant House in a bicameral system. I want to remind honorable senators of one point. Senators on both sides of the chamber, particularly those who have been in government, know that no government introduces legislation that it believes will not be passed by the Senate, unless that legislation involves a vital matter of principle. Many pieces of legislation are conditioned by the fact that in a certain form they would not be passed by the Senate because they might affect some of the States in some’ way and therefore senators from those States would not support the legislation. That is well known to any government long before the legislation comes before the chamber.
I am amazed that a senator from Tasmania, above all, should advocate the abolition of the Senate. Tasmania has only five members in the House of Representatives in a total of 124. The State’s voice would never be heard if it had only those five members of the House of Representatives to speak for it. However, the Constitution lays down that Tasmania, the smallest State in Australia, is entitled to the same representation in this chamber as the more populous States. Senators from that State can make the State’s voice heard in this chamber, as we have done, and put forward the State’s point of view. Senator Turnbull does not faithfully represent Tasmania when he claims that the Senate should be abolished. If the Senate were abolished Tasmania would lose its only protection in the federal system. It would be controlled from Sydney and Melbourne but for the operation of the Senate, which allows the small States to protect their interests. If a referendum were held on the abolition of the Senate it would be interesting to see the result. I and other senators from Tasmania guarantee that such a proposition would not get to first base. As I have said, in coming into this place and urging the abolition of the only protection that Tasmania has, Senator Turnbull is not faithfully representing his State.
– The policy of the Australian Labour Party is to abolish the Senate. Almost 50 per cent, of honorable senators in this place are pledged to carry out that policy. While that policy remains part of the Labour Party’s platform the Opposition will, if the occasion arises, give effect to it. But while the Senate continues to exist we on this side of the chamber will do all in our power to make it work as it should. We are here to see that the Senate functions as it should function. We are here to see that it does a good job on behalf of the people of Australia.
In the past the Senate has done some very estimable things. I have referred to one of them on a previous occasion. That was an action of which we all may be proud. This Senate has done something by way of supervision of delegated legislation of which the people of Australia may be proud. Journals ‘ on public law have described the Senate’s action as a model that might well be emulated by other countries. In many instances the Senate’s work has proved of benefit to the people of Australia and in other ways this chamber has contributed to Australia’s welfare. But on the whole its working has not been sufficiently satisfactory to convince the Australian Labour Party that it should continue in existence. Its future will depend on its functioning in such a way as to convince the people of Australia that it is designed to protect the interests of the smaller States, that it is serving a useful function on behalf of the people of Australia and that it should remain. Either honorable senators on both sides of the chamber will co-operate to make the Senate’s continued existence worth while or it will be abolished.
.- I regret that Senator Turnbull has claimed that the Senate should be abolished. I am sorry to see some honorable senators walk out of the chamber when an attack is made on this Senate. By attacking the Senate honorable senators are devaluing their own chamber. Senator Turnbull is not the first person in this chamber to have claimed that the Senate should be abolished. We have heard the same claim made on several occasions. We have heard it made by honorable senators opposite and I have in mind one honorable senator in particular. Some time ago, after an honorable senator had claimed that this chamber should be abolished, speaking to him later I said: “ Why did you make that statement? You do not believe it “. He replied, “ Of course I do not “. I asked him, “ Why did you make the statement”? He answered, “ To make the headlines “. How silly the press is to allow its leg to be pulled in this way!
In my opinion it is the duty of every honorable senator to make this chamber function in a workmanlike way. I do not support the Labour Party’s viewthat the Senate should be abolished. Members of the Labour Party know that they have no hope of abolishing the Senate. The Labour Government in New South Wales attempted to abolish the Legislative Council of that State, which probably is not as valuable a body as is this Senate, but it met with no success. The people of New South Wales would not stand for the abolition of the Legislative Council. Gallup poll after gallup poll has shown that the people of Australia will not agree to abolish the Senate.
The Senate functions best when vital issues affecting the States are raised. I recall a debate in the Senate about a sugar agreement. A division was called for. I remember Senator McKenna walking into the chamber only to find that some of his supporters were one one side of the chamber and some were on the other side. The representatives of Tasmania and some of the other States had an anti-sugar complex. That was a State issue involving a State product. The same division has occurred in respect of other matters.
When honorable senators make statements of the kind made by Senator Turnbull they are reflecting on themselves and encouraging the idea that senators arc doddering old fools. Looking around this chamber 1 see men who compare more than favourably with those who sit in another place. I see professional men and men who follow other callings. On this side of the chamber we have men of great character and ability. On the Opposition side, too, there are men of character and ability. As Senator Wright has said, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has shown himself to be an untiring worker for the Opposition. He always submits a well-reasoned case in debates in this chamber. His contribution last week on the European Economic Community was indicative of the attention that he gives to the preparation of his speeches in the debates of this place.
There are some acquisitions among the newcomers to this chamber. This year two legal men took their places in the Senate. We also acquired Senator Sherrington from Queensland, who has a wide agricultural experience. If you consider the position for a moment I think you will agree that in this chamber are men and women of character and ability who do justice not just to the Commonwealth but also to their individual States. On many occasions in this Senate we have seen senators standing in defence of their State. At times Tasmanian senators talk so much about Tasmania that those of us who come from other States are prone to wonder whether States other than Tasmania exist. It must be said to the credit of South Australian senators that they talk so much about the waters of the Murray River that at times I am almost intoxicated. Those are occasions when we do find that honorable senators are prepared to fight for their States. I think that generally honorable senators have fought for the particular requirements of their respective States.
I do not say these few words in order to attack Senator Turnbull. He is entitled to his view. But I believe that we as senators should come into this chamber with the intention to do our best. If we consider that the chamber is not as good as we thought it was before we came here we should do our best to lift it to the standard to which we think it should be lifted. Instead of running it down let us talk about the advantages of it. If honorable senators want to bring about a change in the Parliament and want to abolish one House, what could be better than to abolish the House of Representatives, which has twice as many members as the Senate receiving, in the aggregate, twice as much pay as honorable senators.
I am one of those who believe that this is a chamber where the debates are of a very high standard in comparison with another chamber. Above all, the Senate is a dignified chamber. I believe that Parliament should be a place of dignity and not a place for larrikinism. I do not believe I have seen an instance of larrikinism in this chamber since I came here in 1949. As one who has always been prepared to stand up and fight for whatever is right, I think that the Senate is a worth-while chamber. It is there, when required, to stand up for the worth-while rights and principles of a State on any particular occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 October 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19621023_senate_24_s22/>.