24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Will the Minister arrange for the tabling of the submissions made to a sub-committee of Cabinet by the Australian Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council as to the form of legislation to deal with restrictive trade practices? Will the Minister indicate, in broad terms at this stage, the differences between such submissions and the proposals circulated by the Commonwealth Attorney-General? Will he, at a later stage, indicate these differences with more particularity?
The Australian Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council is a group which primarily advises the Minister for Trade on problems relating to Australian manufacturing industries. Its advice is sought and received on a confidential basis. That being the case, I do not think it would be in keeping with that atmosphere for its proceedings to be made public. Indeed, on this occasion the discussions were informal in nature. No written submission was made by the council to the Government. It was a round table discussion on problems which are likely to arise in connexion with this proposed legislation and was similar to other discussions which the AttorneyGeneral has held with other interested groups.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that the 13th Pacific Area Travel Association conference will be held in Sydney early next year? Has any invitation been extended to the Commonwealth Government respecting representation of it at government level? In view of the value to Australia of such conferences will the Minister institute inquiries about such representations?
– I have some recollection in the back of my mind that .there is to be such a conference early next year in Sydney and that there have been discussions about it because of the importance of such a conference. I shall have to ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question about Commonwealth representation at the conference. I have a recollection that the Commonwealth helps the Australian association financially and I believe that it would leave representation to that association. However, if the honorable senator will put the question on notice I will have the point cleared up.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether oil refineries in Australia are working to their full capacity refining motor spirit? Is their policy governed by the amount of residual oil that they can market?
This is a very big question which is difficult to answer without notice. In Australia, we ‘have benefited very materially from the programme which has resulted in the building of oil refineries. From memory about £250,000,000 has been invested in the petroleum refinery industry in Australia, and this has probably saved Australia about £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 a year in foreign exchange. This is a very big programme which is still in its transitional stage. I think it is correct to say that the refining capacity in Australia is sufficient to meet all our requirements. The refineries are owned by different companies in different parts of Australia. It is the aim of the companies to reduce the production of residual oil so far as possible, if only for the very good reason that the production of refined products is more profitable than the production of residual oil. There is a big production of residual oil and very great competition between the oil companies to quit this fuel. This results in lower prices, to the disadvantage of coal. It has to be remembered that the competition is not so much with coal as between the various refineries to quit the residual oil, despite the fact that the companies are exporting more than £20,000,000 worth of this product annually.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs. Is the regular session of the General Assembly of United Nations scheduled to open to-day? Is it true to say that the financial structure of the United Nations has been critically weakened by the failure of some nations to pay their assessed share of the organization’s major peace-keeping operations in the Middle East and the Congo? Is it true that both the Soviet bloc nations and France have failed to meet their assessments, despite a ruling from the International Court of Justice? Will the Minister at an early date make a statement showing the arrears of all member nations of contributions to peace-keeping activities since, the United Nations Emergency Force in the Middle East began its operations in 1956?
– Yes, it is true to say that the financial position of the United Nations has been rendered more difficult in recent years by the failure of certain members to pay their dues. In answer to the second part of the question, I can say it is true that Soviet bloc nations and France have refused to pay their share of the operations of keeping peace in the Congo and other places. I shall bring to the notice of the Acting Minister for External Affairs the honorable senator’s request that a statement be made showing all the arrears and the areas of operations in respect of which those arrears have been incurred.
– I preface a question to you, Mr. President, by saying that although during my twenty-five years in both Federal and State parliaments I have been accused of many things, I have never been accused of voting on both sides of the chamber at once. 1 refer you, Sir, to a copy of the Senate “ Hansard “ dated 12th September, 1963. On page 551 of that issue of “ Hansard “ the division list for the amendment submitted by Senator Wright to the International Organization (Privileges and Immunities) Bill 1963 shows me as having voted both for and against the amendment. I am certain, Sir, that you will see that a correction is made.
– I shall attend to that matter and see that the error is corrected, although I should think that it has already been corrected.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister. Was the Prime Minister correctly reported as stating at the dinner of the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales in Sydney last Thursday that the submissions regarding restrictive trade practices submitted to the Government by the Australian Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council were “ the most balanced, reasonable and impressive ideas on this matter that I have yet heard “? Did the Prime Minister have in mind, when he made that statement, the proposals circulated by the Commonwealth Attorney-General? If he did not, will he state his view of the council’s submissions at the round table discussions in relation to those proposals?
– Not having been present at the function I cannot comment on the accuracy of the newspaper report. I attended the meeting with the council. It was a very good meeting and very good submissions were made. In my judgment they were not very far apart from the Attorney-General’s ideas, which he arrived at as a result of the experience he has gained.
– Senator Sir Walter Cooper informed me that he was seeking information to enable him to make a comparison of telephone services in Australia and New Zealand, and I have been able to obtain some information for him. In Australia, one dwelling in three has a telephone service. A connexion fee of £A6 4s. applies in New Zealand, compared with a fee of £10 in Australia. In the large New Zealand cities the annual rental for a residence service is £A19 7s. 6d., but local calls are not charged for. In Sydney and Melbourne, the annual rental for a residence service is £14 12s. 6d., and local calls are charged for at 4d. each. Lower rentals apply in other Australian capital cities. It may also be of interest to the honorable senator to know that the number of subscriber services estimated to be connected in Australia during the 1963-64 financial year is 181,000.
– 1 address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the concern of many reputable’ citizens and organizations throughout Australia regarding the introduction of decimal currency and the names and sizes of coins to be used, will the Minister undertake to have a discussion with his Cabinet colleagues with the object of having a final decision made on this important matter? Will he ensure that the people of Australia are notified of this decision wilh the least possible delay?
– I shall keep Senator Fitzgerald’s views in mind.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is it not a fact that the Broadcasting and Television Act requires television licensees to make the greatest practical use of Australians in the presentation of programmes? Is not the percentage of Australian content in a company’s application for a television licence a matter which weighs heavily with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in deciding the successful applicant? Did not the successful applicant for channel 0 in Melbourne, Austarama Television Proprietary Limited,’ whose chairman is Mr. R.
Ansett, swear on oath to the board that, if successful, the company would provide 58 per cent. Australian content in its first year, rising to about 65 per cent, in its third year? Did not the Australian Broadcasting Control Board state, in deciding in Mr. Ansett’s favour, that these proposals were “ realistic and economically practicable “? Did the Postmaster-General state, as reported in the Melbourne “ Herald “ of 12th September, 1963, that metropolitan television stations would be required to increase their Australian content to 45 per cent, as from next year? Did the PostmasterGeneral say that new stations, such as channel 0 in Melbourne, would be exempted from the 45 per cent. Australian content provision for three years and that this was fair and reasonable, and that channel 0 should only be required to reach 50 per cent, in five years? If this is so, does it not make arrant nonsense of an applicant’s promise to provide 58 per cent. Australian content in its programmes; and what is the sense of the board taking notice of promises regarding Australian content? Is the Minister’s statement to be regarded as a proleptic alibi for any failure by Austarama Television Proprietary Limited to live up to its sworn undertaking?
– The answer to the first and second parts of the question is, “ Yes “. I am not aware that Mr. Ansett swore on oath that he would provide a 58 per cent, content of Australian talent, rising to 65 per cent, in three years. I shall check the matter and ascertain whether the assertion by the honorable senator is correct. The answer to the third part of the question again is, “ Yes “. I am not sufficiently well informed to know how I should answer the part of the honorable senator’s question in which he asked whether the Postmaster-General’s statement of a few days ago did not make arrant nonsense of the applicant’s promise to provide 58 per cent. Australian content in its programmes. I think it should! be said, in support of the recommendations which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board made to the Government, that all stations have proved that in the early years of operation they have had great difficulty in organizing their programmes to provide the Australian content desired by the Government. It is true to say that all stations are endeavouring to increase the Australian content of their programmes. My analysis of the Postmaster-General’s statement would be something like this: History indicates that it is not practicable for the licensee of channel 0 to achieve such a high Australian content in the first year; he sets the figure as an objective; a gradual increase’ must be obtained. I think that that would be the normal interpretation of the statement. 1 shall discuss the matter with the Postmaster-General and if what I have said is not in accordance with his views ] shall let the honorable senator know what the Minister is thinking.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. ] lake note of the welcome news in the Budget of relief from the incidence of estate duty, and I ask the Minister whether consideration has been given to corresponding adjustments of gift duty. If not, will the maintenance of gift duty at ils present level not create an anomaly? Will the Minister consider the matter and, if such an adjustment is not to be made, let us have the reasons?
– Yes. I shall take an early opportunity to refer the question asked by Senator Wright to my colleague and provide the honorable senator wilh a considered reply.
ACQUISITION of LAND for THE DEPARTMENT of THE ARMY.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior a question which 1 preface by stating that the Department of the Army is, I understand, requesting the Minister for the Interior to acquire 1,000 square miles of the country adjacent to Rockhampton. Will the Minister for the Interior visit this productive area of 1,000 square miles adjacent to Rockhampton before agreeing to acquire it for the Department of the Army? To assist the Minister for the Interior reasonably to reject any request from the Ar.my for acquisition of this chosen site, will he ascertain the number of cattle presently grazed on the area, the average number of beef and store cattle turned off the area annually during the past three years, and the number of timber workers, including saw-mill hands, who gain employment in handling and processing the timber obtained in the area? Will the Minister for the Interior also visit the districts between Cairns and Mossman and Mossman and Cooktown to see whether a suitable area can be found there for the purposes of the Army, which could, with great advantage to itself, carry out pioneering development work on an area selected?
– The honorable senator has directed the question to mc, as representative of the Minister for the Interior in this place. In this matter, the Minister for the Interior is merely the agent for the Minister for the Army.
– He is the only Minister with power of acquisition.
– I emphasize !h;U he is acting as the agent for the Minister for the Army. The Minister for the Inferior would have no jurisdiction whatsoever-
– Yes, he is the only Minister with such jurisdiction
– I thought you sought information; I am trying to give it to you.
– Not on that question: it is a question of law.
– I. a.m not evading the honorable senator’s question. I am trying to help him, if he will just bear with me for a moment or two. I emphasize that the Minister for the Interior is merely the agent or instrument of the Minister for the Army, and the Minister for the Interior would not be competent - and it would be quite outside his jurisdiction - to undertake the survey which the honorable senator suggests should be undertaken. If the honorable senator would like me to ask my colleague, Senator Henty, who represents the Minister for the Army in the Senate, to treat the balance of the question as being on notice I am sure he would take it up with the Minister for the Army. Having said that, in spite of the fact that the honorable senator shakes his head, I can assure him that the Government, if it does proceed with this acquisition, will have made a very thorough examination of this area and any alternative areas. By and large, T think it is true to say that the people of Australia are to-day so exercising their minds with respect to the defence of this country that they are prepared to make sacrifices in order to provide areas so that our forces may be adequately trained to meet any situation that may arise. bloat.
– In view of the statement issued b’y the Minister for Primary Industry to the effect that a Dr. Johns from New Zealand is coming to Australia to examine the bloat problem, can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry inform the Senate of the approximate date of arrival of Dr. Johns?
– Having a real personal interest in the bloat problem, I was interested to learn from the Minister for Primary Industry that Dr. Johns was coming from New Zealand to study this problem in Australia and, because of the seasonal requirements for the study of bloat, I asked him when it was expected that Dr. Johns would arrive here. I have been informed that Dr. Johns’s itinerary has not yet been completed but that a committee which is organizing his tour is due to meet early this week in Canberra and we may have some definite information very soon on the date of his visit. sheep.
– I address a question to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. In view of the tremendous importance of wool as Australia’s No. 1 export income earner, and in view of thi fact that the C.S.I.R.O. at its research station in the Australian Capital Territory has carried out experiments which have proved that by means of a system known as set stocking improved pastures in the Territory are capable of carrying up to eight sheep to the acre all the year round, will the Minister consider making a statement in the Senate on the trials that have been carried out by the organization so that those engaged in the sheep industry throughout Australia will be enabled with such information to increase Australia’s carrying capacity threefold or fourfold?
– I would have no reluctance at all in making a statement. 1 am quite certain that the Commonwealth
Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, in the ordinary course of its business, would make a statement about the experiments that have been carried out in the Australian Capital Territory and that from that statement and any publications which the organization may issue could be drawn full lessons about grazing sheep to the best advantage in the Territory. However, the conclusions to be drawn from those experiments would not necessarily apply beyond a limited area of country having a certain rainfall. I suggest rather that the results of the many experiments which have been carried out by the C.S.I.R.O. in this field in many different parts of Australia could be obtained from its publications, which we are happy at all times to send to any organization that asks for them and which I think are of great value to the primary producers of Australia.
– I ask the Minister representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs whether he has seen an article in to-day’s issue of the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ in which Mr. Douglas Wilkie, an American journalist, writing about an alteration in American defence policy, said -
America’s future strategy will rest on Polaris submarine fleets in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, backed up almost certainly by a request for missile launching sites in Australia.
In view of this article, will the Minister, in order to inform other countries, announce the Government’s attitude to the establishment of foreign launching sites in Australia?
– If I heard the honorable senator correctly, he described Mr. Douglas Wilkie as being an American journalist. Mr. Douglas Wilkie is a journalist who is employed by the Melbourne “ Herald “ group. He is an Australian writer. I have not read the article. Whatever it was, it emanates solely from the imagination of a particular Australian journalist who has no specific access to official sources either here or in the United States. Therefore, 1 do not think it merits the importance that the honorable senator attaches to it.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, concerns the deciduous fruits export development plan which has been presented to the Minister for Primary Industry with the support of fruit-growers and most of the canning industry. Can the Minister tell us what steps have been taken to implement the plan? Is he aware that the industry in the Mumimbidgee irrigation area is pressing strongly for its implementation? Will the Government deal with it urgently in order to avert what, according to the interim report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, appears to be an inevitable sizeable carry-over of unsold stocks at the end of this year as well as serious disposal problems for increasing exportable surpluses in the future?
– I do know something of the deciduous, fruits export development plan, but I am not up to date on the present position. I suggest that the honorable senator place his question on the notice-paper. I shall then ask my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, to supply an answer.
– I ask the Minister representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs whether this Government has yet received any advice that an apology has been tendered by the Indonesian Government to the British Government for incidents of violence involving the British Embassy yesterday. If that information has not yet come to hand, will the Minister keep in mind the lively expectation of this House that an apology will be made and commensurate recompense paid? I ask him also whether similar incidents involving the Australian Embassy have occurred.
– I do not believe that the Australian Government has received an apology from the Indonesian Government for the mob attacks by Indonesians on the British Embassy at Djakarta, nor would J know whether the United Kingdom Government had received such an apology. An apology for this incident would bc a matter between the United Kingdom Government and the Indonesian Government, although quite clearly the Australian Government would greatly deplore such activities, not only against the United Kingdom Embassy but also against the Malayan Embassy, which houses the representatives of another member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The matter of an apology and compensation for damage caused in the attacks is something for the countries concerned and is not one directly for the Australian Government. I know of no incident1; involving attacks on the Australian Embassy in Djakarta. As the Australian Government we would expect that the Indonesian Government would protect Australian property against such attacks.
I might comment that the occurrence of such mob attacks on the envoys of foreign countries seeking to do their du y in representing their nations underlines the importance of the diplomatic privileges and immunities we discussed in the Senate only recently, designed to ensure that such envoys will not be subjected to official pressure of some kind.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health, ls it a fact that according to the last annual report of the Director-General of Health the cost of pharmaceutical benefits to Australian taxpayers under the national health scheme was £40,800,000 hist financial year? Also, is it a fact that of this amount £24,500,000 was distributed among drug manufacturers operating in Australia? In view of the Minister’s answer to me last week, which stated that of 114 drug manufacturers operating in Australia 66 are controlled by overseas interests, what action has the Government taken to investigate the reasonableness or otherwise of the charges made by these companies and the amount of taxpayers’ funds which they involve and which is finding its way overseas? If nothing has been done to date, will the Minister order a public inquiry into the structural organization, business ramifications and profits of these drug companies?
– The figure set down in the report of the Director-General of Health for 1962-63 and quoted by the honorable senator is correct, lt is also correct that some £24,500,000 has been spent on drugs supplied by firms most of which have their head-quarters overseas and subsidiaries in Australia. As I said recently, the Government is continually discussing drug prices with the manufacturers and wholesalers. I remind the honorable senator, who may have the idea that the Government has not met this situation, that in 1962-63 our expenditure on pharmaceutical benefits was some £3,000,000 under the Budget provision. We budgeted to provide for the rise in costs that has been evident over the past two or three years, but because of the activities of the Department of Health in this field we were able to keep expenditure about £3,000,000 below the estimate. That indicates that the Government is taking a very lively interest in this matter and is greatly concerned to get drugs at the lowest possible prices.
The honorable senator asked whether I was prepared to indicate the action which the Government is taking to reduce further the expenditure on this costly item in the national health scheme. I am not prepared to tell the Senate in detail what we are doing; but we are taking a very lively interest in this matter. I say without fear of contradiction that the next twelve months will reveal savings at least equal to those of last year; and we might even improve on that achievement.
– Will the Minister for National Development give the Senate the latest information on the treatment plant at Rum Jungle? I have read a statement in the press to the effect that the Government’s plant at Rum Jungle will treat copper ores from adjacent mines. Does this represent a change in the Government’s policy of keeping the mine in full production of uranium, or will that production be reduced?
This can hardly be regarded as a change of policy. Over the years, the plant at Rum Jungle has treated copper which was contained in the uranium ore taken from the mine. The plant is available to treat copper, but the copper reserves formerly available to the Rum Jungle organization are no longer there. So it was thought that it would be a good idea to make it known that the plant is available and that the Rum Jungle organization is prepared to deal on a commercial basis with any copper ore that might be produced. There is no variation in the general policy of keeping the Rum Jungle plant operating and stock-piling the concentrate.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen an advertisement in the “ West Australian “ which stated that Trans-Australia Airlines flights would leave Perth airport fifteen minutes earlier each day? Does this mean that flight schedules elsewhere have been adjusted to fit in with the earlier arrival times of Trans-Australia Airlines aircraft? Does the earlier departure from Perth mean that travellers will spend a longer time at other airports waiting for connecting nights? Does the earlier arrival time in Melbourne mean that persons going there for business purposes will have longer to wait for commercial houses to open? What will be the effect, or the advantage to air travellers, of the earlier departure times and the earlier arrival times?
– Frankly, I do not know what the effect will be at other airports along the route from Perth, and whether connecting or near-connecting services will be adjusted to meet the earlier departure times from Perth. I was not aware of the change until I read the announcement in a newspaper to-day, whereupon I set an inquiry on foot to see just what the effect would be. Senator Cant has asked what the advantages or disadvantages will be. I suppose some persons will consider it an advantage to depart from the airport in Perth fifteen minutes earlier, as in many cases they will get to sleep fifteen minutes earlier, but this might be cancelled out if there are to be longer waiting times at airports en route. T do not know what the effect will be, but I will obtain the information for the honorable senator.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade a question arising from a news item published to-day’ concerning sales of Canadian wheat to Communist countries. Will the Minister inform the Senate how the quantities of wheat involved in the Canadian sales compare with the sales effected by Canada in the past year or two? Do the terms of the Canadian sales compare with the terms of Australian sales? If not, what are the principal differences?
I think. I should ask the honorable senator to place the question on notice. 1 listened to the news item this morning and discussed it wilh some of my colleagues. However, as this is a very big transaction ) do not think it would be right for me to make comparisons with other contracts when my recollection may he at fault.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport and is supplementary to questions on this subject that I asked earlier in the year. In view of the Government’s ‘s decision to proceed with the Broke.i Hill .o Port Pirie standardization project an J the current 1963-64 expenditure of £1,680.000 on works between Port Pirie and Cockburn, is the Minister in a position to advise as to any consultations with the South Australian and New South Wales Stale governments and the Silverton Tramway Company to ensure that standardization works proceed on this privatelyowned link with the New South Wales section of standard-gauge railway? Is it intended that the Silverton Tramway Company will continue to operate this section of railway upon conversion to standard gauge?
– T do not know the status of any negotiation;, that may have taken, place between the Commonwealth and the South Australian and New South Wales State governments. AH I can say to the honorable senator is that I will make an early inquiry of my colleague and get him to provide whatever information he can make available, particularly in respect of whatever negotiations nave taken place and if possible, the proposed arrangement for the operation of the Silverton Tramway Company’s section of the line.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Has the commercial television station in Toowoomba been operating since July last year? Was the national station in that city due to commence operation early this year? If it was, will the Minister make a full inquiry into the causes of delay which has deprived the residents of the area of the facilities to which they are entitled by virtue of their payment of the full television licence-fee? What other national television stations are behind in their construction schedules?
– Speaking generally, no national television stations are behind in their schedules. The Postmaster-General’s Department has its plans well in hand to implement the services at or near the projected dates. I do not think it is true to say that Toowoomba is being penalized .it this stage because the national station is not in operation. I shall discuss this question with the Postmaster-General and, if he has any information of which I am not in possession. I shall convey it to the honorable senator.
– My question ls directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is the Minister aware that at the Adelaide airport this morning were displayed for sale at the newspaper stall the Adelaide “ Advertiser “, which is known as the mouthpiece of the Liberal Party, and the “ News Weekly “, which is known as the mouthpiece of the Australian Democratic Labour Party? As the only newspapers on display were the publications of two antiLabour political parties, will the Minister take steps to see that the publication of the Australian Labour Party - the party with the majority support of Australian electors - is displayed in future?
– The short answer is. No; I will not. The conduct of this concession at the Adelaide airport is a matter of ordinary commercial business and negotiation between the concession holder, his suppliers and the public. Quite obviously, if there is no demand for the newspaper mentioned by the honorable senator the concession holder cannot be expected to stock it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. When the Department of Civil Aviation leases premises to private enterprise for the conduct of cafes, &c., at the various aerodromes, does it have any say as to the prices that will be charged? Is there anything in such a lease to say that the prices shall be in keeping with normal charges? I refer particularly to the charge for a cup of tea or coffee. Last week a Commonwealth driver was charged1s. 3d. for a cup of tea - without milk. Are such premises leased in accordance with the normal practice under which a person with a certain amount of money tenders for the concession and is then able to charge what he likes?
– The leases provide that retail prices charged by the concession holders shall be subject to the approval of the Department of Civil Aviation. If the honorable senator has a complaint about the price of tea - I assume from his question that he is lodging a complaint - I shall make inquiries and see whether the approved prices are being exceeded and, if not, what reasons have led to approval of the prices charged.
(Question No. 39.)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
It appears that the material purchased by Mr.W. B. Cameron was of pure nylon but the store selling the material had “ coined “ their own name for it, i.e. “ Nylo-Woolene “, and the docket for the sale to Mr. Cameron described the material as “ wool “.
(Question No. 48.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the interior, upon notice -
Melbourne there is one registered motor vehicle to every three or less of the population in that city, docs not the Minister believe that modern day thinking should insist on ample parking space, if needed, within the basement areas?
– The Minister for (he Interior has furnished the following reply: -
(Question No. 63.)
Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has furnished the following answers: -
(Question No. 67.)
asked the Minis ter representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers: -
(Question No. 72.)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will the Postmaster-General give favorable consideration to having a post-free mail bag placed at each post office for the purpose of transporting taxation returns to the various taxation processing offices in order to place country residents in the same favorable position as city residents in respect of postal charges?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer: -
The Postmaster-General regrets that he is unable to give favorable consideration to having a post-free mail bag placed at each post office for the purpose of transporting taxation returns to the various taxation offices.
With very few exceptions, full rales of postage arc payable on ail postal articles. The few exceptions are covered by the postal legislation and relate to such items as material for the use of the blind, petitions to the Governor-General or State Governors and official correspondence of the Post Office. Consequently, postal articles addressed to the Taxation Branch must bear full postage irrespective of whether they are posted by country or city residents.
– by leave - I wish to advise the Senate that during the absence overseas of the Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General, Sir Garfield Barwick, who is representing the Commonwealth at the celebrations marking the establishment of Malaysia and will then lead the Australian delegation to the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, will act as Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works, Mr. Freeth, will act as Attorney-General.
Debate resumed from 12th September (vide page 516), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
– The purpose of the bill before the Senate, which seeks to amend the Repatriation Act, is to give effect to the Budget proposal to make certain alterations in the rates of pension payable to some categories of exservicemen and to war widows. In addition, machinery amendments of the act also are proposed. The bill provides for an increase of 10s. a week in the rate of pension for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen and double amputees, as well as an increase of 7s. 6d. a week in the class B rate for tuberculosis sufferers. There is to be an increase of 7s. 6d. a week in the domestic allowance payable to war widows over 50 years of age who have dependent children, and an increase of 10s. a week for those who receive special rates of pension, in line with the increase of 10s. a week that is to he given to single age and invalid pensioners. A series of education allowances is provided.
At the cutset, I wish to assure the Senate that we on this side of the chamber always are prepared to accept our full responsibility in repatriation matters. Over the years, there has been a measure of co-operation in having increases in the rates of pension, and improvements in other concessions that are made to ex-servicemen, approved by the Parliament as soon as possible after the introduction of the Budget, so that the benefit can be made available to exservicemen at the earliest practicable date. However, on this occasion we feel obliged to point out in the strongest possible terms the shortcomings of this bill. The Government has failed to adjust pension rates so that the purchasing power of pensions might be preserved, and it has failed also to provide adequate opportunity to discuss fully the new feature, which it has introduced, of discriminating between single and married pensioners. This principle should be thoroughly explained by the Government. Perhaps the Government feels that there is party political advantage to be derived from providing an increase of pension to the majority of pensioners. It may take the view that the married pensioner, whose wife has been in receipt of allowances, has been doing all right; but I submit that it is not a desirable practice to discriminate in the rates of pension. If a married man has suffered disabilities as a result of his war service, and those disabilities are assessed as 100 per cent., he should be entitled to the full pension. The same comment applies to service pensioners. Repatriation pensioners are in a different position from the ordinary recipients of social service benefits and should be entitled to the full rate applicable to their disabilities.
For the purpose of illustrating some of the shortcomings of this bill, I wish to refer to the 47th annual report of the national executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. The report states -
In presenting the 1963 plan, the National Executive made every endeavour to reconcile the needs of war and service pensioners with the economic standards of the present day Australian community. All factors that bear on the community’s economic structure have come into this analysis. The facts clearly reveal that the pension levels have lost value over the ten-year period under review and while other benefits have meant an increase in total repatriation expenditure, this does not give the direct assistance that war and service pensioners require.
Later the report states -
The plan does not seek the full restoration of the values that applied in 1951-52, but requests in each case the increase that is felt to be the minimum figure required to give those who served and their dependants reasonably adequate compensation for the disabilities arising out of war service.
The national executive of the Returned Servicemen’s League has prepared a very interesting scale of tables to support its request. To assist in comparing the figures, it has made a comparison between current economic levels and the pension rates now payable, and those of 1950-51. In 1950-51, the average male earnings amounted to £11 lis. a week. The pension rate was £3 10s. a week, or 30.33 per cent of the average male earnings. This year, when the average male earnings amount to £23 9s. a week, the pension rate is £5 15s. Based of the 1950-51 percentage, it should be £7 2s. 3d.
Ever since 1950-51 there have been constant appeals from people interested in the welfare of ex-servicemen that the rates of pension should be sufficiently high to provide reasonably adequate compensation for the disabilities suffered by those who served their country in war. In 1950-51, the wife’s allowance was £1 10s. 6d. a week, or 13.2 per cent, of the average male earnings. If her allowance were to be adjusted so that it would represent 13.2 per cent, of average male earnings to-day, it would now be £3 ls. lOd. a week. The allowance of lis. 6d. a week for children in 1950-51, or 5 per cent, of the average male earnings, would now be £1 3s. 6d. a week. In the measure before us, only in the 100 per cent, pension has the Government reached a commensurate rate of increase.
The position in respect of the war widow’s rate of pension is anomalous. In 1950-51, the war widow received £3 10s. a week, or 30.3 per cent, of the average male earnings. If she were receiving a similar percentage to-day, she would be entitled to £7 2s. 3d. a week. The domestic allowance, which equalled 13.85 per cent, of average male earnings in the base year, should now be £3 5s.
– What is the pamphlet from which you are reading? It would assist us all if wc had copies and could follow this in print.
– If is the 47th annual report of the national executive of the R.S.L. I understand that copies have been circulated to honorable senators. Copies are available, but 1 have not at my disposal sufficient to make one available to the honorable senator. The league is always conscious of the importance of maintaining the effective level of pension payments and of ensuring that their value is not dissipated. Provision has been made this year, in accordance with the R.S.L. plan, for an increase to the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner. His pension of £8 15s. in 1950-51 was 75.75 per cent, of average male earnings. On the same basis, his pension should now be £17 15s. 3d. Under the bill before us, the rate will be £13 15s. This is actually the amount claimed by the executive of the league under its plan. The rate for widowed mothers, which was 19.48 per cent, of the 1950-51 base, should now be £4 Ils. 4d. The league has been asking for £4.
The Minister claimed, in the secondreading speech, that the present repatriation set-up is the product of many years of development by successive governments and that it is soundly based in principle. He said that it has kept pace with changing circumstances and with developments in medical science. According to the table to which I have referred, that statement is not borne out in fact. Payments to war pensioners of various kinds have not kept pace with changing circumstances. The Opposition proposes, during the committee stage, to move an amendment which will give the Senate an opportunity thoroughly to review the Repatriation Act. The Opposition believes that a review of the act and its shortcomings is overdue and we will move for the appointment of a joint committee on repatriation.
– Where does this suggestion originate? Has it been put up before?
– Yes, in the House of Representatives.
– In previous years?
– It has been proposed not by the league, in particular, but by the Opposition’s repatriation committee. The suggestion emanates from that committee. It is not made for political purposes. There is a precedent in the appointment of a parliamentary committee to examine the Repatriation Act in 1943. As a result of quite important recommendations by that committee, the act was brought up to date. We believe that, after a lapse of twenty years, only good can come from another review of the act.
– Why is this proposed by way of an amendment to a bill which gives effect to the Budget proposals on repatriation rather than by a motion in the ordinary way?
– A bill providing for amendments to the Repatriation Act is before the Senate. The Budget outlined some improvements that we have striven to obtain, ft is the prerogative of the Senate continually to press for improvement in legislation of any kind. I would go so far as to say that Senator Wright has been one of the strongest protagonists on cither side for Senate surveillance of legislation.
– I am grateful to you for the compliment; I am not indicating any other attitude now, but I think that you will agree on reflection that there is something in my comment.
– I assure the Senate that the proposal is brought forward in good faith. Certain provisions, to which I shall refer later, should be amended. This can best be achieved by having a wellconsidered report on the whole of the act. We seek the acceptance of cancer as a warcaused disability. We have previously sought a similar amendment. We shall also propose an amendment in relation to onus of proof, which has long been a subject of dispute. Legal opinions have been produced to show that the onus of proof provision has not been properly interpreted and that it has not been applied in spirit.
I should like to assure the Senate that we are not critical of the Repatriation Department and its officers. They are at a disadvantage in that they are obliged to conform to the act. Because of the effluxion of over twenty years since a parliamentary committee reviewed the act, we strongly believe that much good could come out of another such examination. A joint parliamentary committee could well make recommendations that would make the task of the repatriation officers easier and more smoothly running and achieve the objective of many people who have the welfare of ex-servicemen at heart. I should like to illustrate the need for such a review. In its annual report for 1962-63, the Repatriation Commission has pointed out the type of change that is continually taking place and to which effect is often given by means of regulation. Under the heading of “ General Summary “, at page 3 of the commission’s report the following statement appears: -
There were no changes this year in the rates of pensions and allowances as a result of the 1962 Budget, but a number of amendments were made to the Act and Regulations to remove some anomalies and provide additional assistance to ex-servicemen and their dependents. Sections 29 and 78 of the Repatriation Act were amended to provide a uniform commencing date for the payment of war pensions, irrespective of whether a claim for pension is accepted in the first instance by a Repatriation Board or as a result of an appeal to the Commission or War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal provided there is no undue delay by the claimant.
I believe that that is a recent provision. It relates to applicants for war service pensions whose original applications have not been granted by a board because the onus of proof has been placed on them but who, after a further attempt to obtain justice, have had their applications granted. This recent provision allows pensions to be paid to them retrospectively as if they had been successful in their original application.
– Is there no restriction &s to time?
– The words used are - to provide a uniform commencing date for the payment of war pensions, irrespective of whether a claim for pension is accepted in the first instance by a Repatriation Board or as a result of an appeal to the Commission or War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, provided there is no undue delay by the claimant.
That is the only proviso. In its report, the commission also directs attention to the fact that a funeral grant of £10 in respect of a deceased service pensioner who does not qualify for a higher rate of funeral benefit has been provided. That grant; in itself, will fill a great need in many cases of deceased pensioners whose wives are faced with relatively high funeral costs. Most of us have contact with people in poor circumstances. I, myself, am associated with an aged people’s organization in which calls are often made for assistance in respect of some one who has died. Invariably, the minimum cost of a funeral is £60. This grant of £10 will be additional to other social service payments that may be payable to pensioners. It will be a great help to the people concerned.
According to the report of the commission, there has been a continuation of the increased demand in recent years for in-patient treatment at repatriation general hospitals and, at certain times during the the year, the number of admissions has exceeded the normal operating capacity of some hospitals. It is stated -
As a result, additional wards have been opened and the Commission is now planning to have two new wards constructed at the Repatriation General Hospital, Springbank, where the position has been most acute.
I believe that planning up till about 1975, which is expected to be a peak year for claims on the Repatriation Department, should be reviewed with a view to the Parliament itself acting in these matters. Instead of such matters being the subject of, perhaps, a recommendation from some small committee of inquiry within the department, the Parliament should interest itself in them. The Parliament should review the whole of the Repatriation Act, inquire into the availability of funds, and make recommendations to meet these needs which are still growing.
In its report, the commission refers also to the review that was made of psychiatric services which, in my view, are most important. This review has been completed and the resultant report and recommendations are being studied. According to the commission’s report -
The report reviews existing policies and facilities, forecasts future treatment levels, and outlines a plan for reshaping the department’s services in the light of modern trends.
I believe this is a very desirable activity. The report continues -
It forecasts increasing activity in the future, with an expected 25 per cent, greater out-patient load by 1975; the in-patient load at the Repatriation general hospitals is expected to reach a peak by 1975 with ‘a 20 per cent. ‘increase “on i961 figures.
It is my firmly held view that the psychiatric side of the treatment of exservicemen has been somewhat overlooked. It is an important service for ex-servicemen who have developed neuroses over the years which have culminated in their becoming very seriously ill mentally. Certainly, psychiatric services have been neglected in the community generally, apart from ex-servicemen. J commend the Repatriation Department for the review that it is making of its psychiatric services. However, I consider that this is a matter which could be thoroughly investigated by a joint parliamentary committee. The commission’s report contains the following statement: -
Hie load at mental hospitals is expected to rise at an increasing raw, due to the anticipated influx of patients in these institutions in the 1970’s as a large segment of the cx-service population reaches the 60-70 age group. It is estimated that there will be a 70 per cent, increase over the 1961 figure, though earlier diagnosis of mental illness and improved methods of treatment could have an important bearing on this estimate.
So the recommendations involve considerable expansion in the department’s psychiatric services which will be costly both as to capital and operating expenses. According to the report -
An important limiting factor in their implementation is the present acute shortage of trained medical and other staff in this field.
Here we might well apply the undoubted ability of many senators in considering how far repatriation hospitals or government departments should, by means of scholarships, encourage the training of medical personnel in the universities and give them an incentive lo come into government departments. In Tasmania, at the present time, hospitals are experiencing great difficulty in obtaining staff for hospitals - not particularly the repatriation hospitals, but also other hospitals - because they just cannot compete with the. higher salaries being paid in other cities. In other cities there are greater opportunities for doctors to specialize or, perhaps, to be honoraries in big hospitals and have their own private practice. Also, other advantages which doctors have in other States are not available in the smaller States and cities. This matter needs to be thoroughly investigated. The records show that quite a number of ex-service personnel in the 60 to 70 years age group need, psychiatric services.
I have illustrated the constant attention that is being given to these matters by the Repatriation Department. Of necessity, the department is circumscribed by the availability of funds and technicians, lt has to rely on Government action from year to year to have its plans adopted. The Parliament should be made thoroughly aware, by means of a comprehensive and searching review, of the problems which confront the department. That review could best be achieved by appointing a joint select committee.
The onus of proof has been the subject of constant argument and expression of views. As I mentioned earlier, we intend to move, an amendment to the relevant section - section 47 - which is one of the most contentious clauses of the act. We still lack a clear-cut and unequivocal interpretation of that section. 1 have before me learned opinions on this subject that have been quoted in another place. In 1956, Mr. Joske, now Mr. Justice Joske, laid down four rules for the guidance of repatriation medical officers and entitlement appeal tribunals. He said -
There is a presumption that the claim is to be allowed even though the claimant calls no evidence.
It is for those opposing the claim to produce evidence to establish that the claim should fail. Unless this evidence is produced the claim must succeed.
– That is the presumption?
– He believes that there must be a presumption on the part of the Repatriation Commission that the claim will succeed, unless it is able to prove that it cannot succeed. He said further -
A finding that the claimant has not satisfied the tribunal thai: his claim should succeed is a bad and inadmissible finding.
But officers who have comprised the tribunals traditionally have taken the view of which Mr. Justice Joske complains. The Opposition believes that the Parliament should set out an unequivocal plan to which these officers should work. This was Mr. Justice Joske’s fourth point -
Unless the tribunal finds that the evidence establishes that the claim should not bc allowed, the tribunal must allow the claim.
Every honorable senator has taken up the case of an ex-serviceman who has been unsuccessful in his claim or who has needed assistance in presenting it. We all have found the interpretation of the onusofproof clause to be the rock upon which we have perished. In 1952 Dr. Evatt expressed this opinion -
Unless it is proved by the Repatriation Commission that the war service could not have contributed to the claimant’s disability, then the presumption must be made in favour of the claimant . . . There is no other way in which the relevant section can be read.
According to these opinions, the onus should be on the department and it should have to prove that the claim should not be allowed.
In its report for 1962-63, the Repatriation Commission stated that 40,204 claims were dealt with by the repatriation boards and that 19,399 were accepted. That was in acceptance rate of 48 per cent. That means that 20,805 were rejected. It is quite possible that included in the claims dealt with were claims which had previously been rejected and in relation to which, the exservicemen’s health having deteriorated after a few years, further applications were made. Then the Repatriation Commission dealt with the cases which the boards had rejected. The commission itself dealt with 14,232 claims, 2,141 of which it accepted. That was an acceptance rate of 15 per cent. Some of those which were rejected were considered by the entitlement appeal tribunals. The entitlement appeal tribunals dealt with 9,165 applications, 1,552 of which they accepted. That was an acceptance rate of 16 per cent.
The point I am making is that the 15 per cent, which the Repatriation Commission dealt with and accepted obviously must have been rejected b’y a previous tribunal. Apparently the applicants did not submit strong enough cases to have their claims accepted. In other words, the onus of proof was not on the boards to prove that the applicant was not entitled to a pension. Evidently the case submitted in the first place did not convince the board. That being so, the applicant was placed in the position of having to come back a second time and then, with the onus of proof -till upon him, was able to convince the relevant tribunal that his claim should bs accepted. The facts I have mentioned are sufficient to highlight the importance of an unequi vocal ruling on the responsibility of the repatriation boards and the Repatriation Commission in relation to the highly controversial onus of proof. We hope that our amendment will receive some support from honorable senators. If this amendment is not accepted now the onus of proof provisions could be thoroughly investigated by a select committee later.
Another amendment proposed by the Opposition relates to section 37 of the principal act, and provides for cancer to be accepted as a war-caused disability. This matter has been debated frequently in the Senate and I have often referred to the difficulty of defining cancer. I understand that there are 250 known kinds of malignant neoplasms which are generally called cancers. The medical profession is unable to say precisely the causes of the majority of these malignancies. Opinions differ from one medical officer to another on the factors that contribute to particular forms of cancer.
– Is there any general medical opinion that cancer is more probably the result of war causes than not?
– There are opinions. I understand that the British Ministry of Pensions Medical Officers’ Manual contains a strong opinion on that point. But research is continually being directed towards discovering the causes of cancer. It is believed that in the case of some cancers, there is a long period between the pre-cancerous beginning that may lead to malignant changes and the appearance of the first symptoms. No medical opinion would exclude the possibility of this process of cancerous growth commencing during a period of war service. In previous debates I have cited oases of servicemen of the First World War who were exposed to gas attacks. The lungs and stomach muscles were subjected to extreme conditions during fits of coughing, and such paroxysms consequential on gas attacks may or may not have initiated lesions starting off the cycle that shows itself in cancer later in life. But the real question in relation to acceptance of cancer as warcaused lies in whether the conditions undergone during war service come within the provisions of the Repatriation Act. That is the view taken by the Repatriation Department. ‘ ‘
– Does not that require some cause or connexion?
– Yes, but there is no clear declaration concerning the beginning of the cancerous conditions - whether the unusual conditions that prevail in war time, and exposure to those conditions, do or do not cause cancer. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) said recently that 50 per cent, of claims by persons that cancer was due to war causes were accepted.
– They would be cases where there was some evidence that there had been violence or impact or something which could possibly cause cancer.
– I think that is a logical explanation of the decisions in those cases; but is medical knowledge advanced sufficiently to enable doctors to draw the line between the 50 per cent, of claimants whose claims are accepted and the 50 per cent, whose claims are rejected? We believe that in the interests of basic human justice it should be acknowledged that a doubt does exist. This has been admitted by many eminent medical men, and according to the spirit of the Repatriation Act the burden of proof should rest on the department. The department takes rather a narrow view in rejecting the claims of persons who genuinely believe that their malignant condition is war-caused.
The fact that so many new claims are being received and are being accepted makes it obvious that not all those who have left their claims to this period after war service are simply looking for something for nothing. According to medical opinion and the procedure of the Repatriation Department the disabilities of many claimants are still being accepted as caused by war service. This principle could be applied to a bigger proportion of persons who believe that their cancerous condition is war caused but they find proof difficult because their medical records might not show that they were subjected to violence or exposure to certain conditions.
Medical records are not always complete, as many honorable senators know. Senator Wright had experience in the desert and he would be conversant with the equipment the British forces had in the early days of the Second World War. The Australian soldiers had wide hats which were an asset in the desert, as direct sunlight can cause a higher proportion of skin cancers than would otherwise be the case, just as it does in Queensland where that form of cancer is more common than it is in New South Wales, Victoria or Tasmania.
– Such cancers are identifiable.
– Not necessarily. For example, I had what was known as the Barcoo rot which bit deeply into the flesh and muscles of one hand. I have often looked at the scar and thought that it could be a weak spot for the entrance of cancer virus, or whatever the cause may be, in later life, although there is nothing to say that it would be so. Living in the desert could itself create a set of conditions in the skin leading to a malignancy, yet there would be nothing in the medical records to show that the person concerned had been exposed to direct sunlight in the desert resulting in a skin cancer or a more deeply seated cancerous growth. It is not known how deeply the sun’s rays penetrate. This matter has never been cleared up completely and something should be done in that direction, in the interests of justice for the ex-servicemen.
The Opposition also wants to direct attention to medical benefits for the wives of war pensioners receiving the special rate of pension. Medical expenses are a tremendous problem for the average citizen in these days. This applies even more so to people on fixed or very small incomes. I mentioned earlier that, over the years the value of even the T.P.I, pension has dropped when compared with the average male earnings. In addition to this, some pensioners now have to contribute to medical benefits funds to ensure full protection for their wives and families. We should, by parliamentary action, provide for medical benefits for the dependants of T.P.I, pensioners.
We propose also to move an amendment to bring within the terms of the act the old, burnt-out diggers of the Boer War and 1914-18 war so that they may be relieved of the burdens of age and sickness. By this amendment it is proposed that these people will get the best possible medical treatment, regardless of whether their disability is war caused. There was a time in Australia when all medical services were free to every one in the community, but this Government saw fit to adopt a different approach. We now find that medical benefit funds have sprung up throughout the country and have become, relatively, very costly to the contributors. The Government will have to look at this problem before very long because, in my view, the medical benefits funds are building too many big, impressivelooking buildings. With their excess funds they should be providing greater benefits or decreasing the rate of contribution. But that is another matter. The Opposition believes that special concessions should be given to men who are well on in years. I suppose that by now the youngest of the First World War veterans are well into their sixties, and of course those from the Boer War are very old men. The number of these veterans is decreasing and their welfare is a responsibility that the Government and people of Australia could well shoulder.
Honorable senators on this side of the chamber always applaud increases which bring a greater measure of justice to exservicemen. We approach these debates with a constructive and conciliatory attitude. We have no desire to delay the early payment of the proposed pension increases. As a matter of fact, I believe that whenever such increases are granted they should be made retrospective to the beginning of the financial year. In allocating funds to provide for the increases a calculation is made of the amount that will be required for the remainder of the ensuing Vear, but I believe that the Government is sheltering behind a technicality when it says that the increased payments cannot begin until the necessary legislation has been passed. That, also, is a matter that I do not want to enlarge upon at the moment.
I have given an outline of the Opposition’s views on the Budget proposals as incorporated in this bill, and I have given an indication of the amendments that we propose to move at the committee stage. I shall leave it to my colleagues to refer to other parts of the bill in more detail.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [5.0]. - I am very pleased to have the opportunity to say a few words on this bill, the purpose of which is to give effect to proposals which stem from the Budget. These proposals must be passed by Parliament before they can be given effect. The Budget which was recently introduced is very sound, and I should like to preface my remarks on this bill by reading a statement made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) when presenting the Budget. He said -
The past year was one of strong continuous growth which seems likely to continue. Concurrently with that growth, we have achieved a gratifying stability of consumer goods prices. This is of particular importance to those having to live on fixed incomes, among whom are a substantial number of repatriation pensioners, notably those receiving the special rate of war pension, most war widows, and service pensioners. The benefit of stable prices for this group needs no emphasis.
Those remarks, I think, are very appropriate. Conditions over the last few years have been far better for those living on pensions 01 other fixed incomes than were the years of inflation when, each year, money could buy less than it had bought in the year before. In 1962-63 purchasing power was practically static.
In speaking to this legislation I. intend to direct the attention of the Senate to a long-range and continuing improvement in repatriation benefits and to the alterations which will be effected to various sections of the act upon the passing of this bill. The Budget provides for the year 1963-64 an appropriation for repatriation of £120,500,000. That sum is to cover all benefits, hospitalization, and everything of that type. When I look back over the years I recall that in the first year that this Government came into power the total appropriation for repatriation purposes was £27,750,000. For the coming year the appropriation for repatriation pensions alone is £90,500,000, whereas in 1950 it was £19,000,000. The total appropriation for repatriation announced in this year’s Budget is £12,800,000 more than last year’s figure. These figures show to what a tremendous extent pensions and general benefits have increased during the last thirteen years. Not only have pensions increased but also many new benefits have been brought in during that period. In reading through the report of the Repatriation Commission I noticed that 730,000 persons are recipients of pensions and allowances. That is an extraordinarily large number compared with the number of pensioners in other countries.
I propose to deal first with the increase in the special rate pension or, as it is called, the T.P.I, pension - the pension for totally and permanently incapacitated people. The special rate has been increased by 10s. a week from £13 5s. to £13 15s. for a single man. In the case of a married pensioner the wife receives an allowance of £1 15s. 6d., thus giving the couple a minimum amount of £15 10s. 6d. I use the word “ minimum “ advisedly because that is the least that a married man and his wife can receive. Actually, the special rate married pensioner with no other income would not receive less than £17 10s. a week. That is because the artificial ceilings that were applicable - especially to the T.P.I, pensioner and the man in receipt of a 100 per cent, pension - were done away with some years ago. These men now can receive more in pension than would be the case were the ceiling rates of some years ago still applying.
Senator O’Byrne said that there should not be two rates of pension. There are not two rates of pension. The special rate of £13 15s. provided under this bill is on the same terms as benefits paid under the social services legislation. The war pensioner is being treated on exactly the same basis as the civil pensioner or the man in receipt of superannuation. His pension is treated as income. Just as a married couple, subject to a means test, may receive £17 10s. in income so an ex-serviceman receiving the special rate pension is entitled to receive an amount of £17 10s. The money to pay the pension comes from revenue and is not contributed by anybody other than the general body of taxpayers. The war pension to which a man is entitled, plus the social services pension to which he is also entitled, make his income the amount that I have stated.
Allied to this improvement in the lot of the T.P.I, pensioner is the effect of the repeal of section 91a of the act, which dealt with ceiling limits. This enables a large number of war pensioners to receive social service pensions in addition to their war pensions. I know that many exservicemen who do not qualify under that provision are strongly against it, but it must be remembered that they have other sources of income which enable them to earn more than the £17 10s. a week which I ha vo mentioned.
Another item which must, be considered in relation to the married pensioner is the removal of the time limit applicable to war pensions payable to wives and children. In the case of a wife it applies to a marriage after 30th June, 1938, and in Che case of children to those born after that date. The time limit was removed also in the case of adopted children or stepchildren of a war pensioner. These items have a continuing effect and must be borne in mind when the present legislation is being considered. I should like to make it quite clear that I am not saying that the T.P.I. pensioner is not entitled to this consideration. On the contrary, I have always maintained that the man or the woman who is totally disabled due to war service should receive the greatest consideration and assistance possible. I think that the present Government has kept its promise to totally and permanently incapacitated men and women, and the proposed legislation to increase their pensions is a further indication of that. It should be noted that £13 15s. is the amount that an individual will receive.
– Is that 10s. increase restricted to the single T.P.I, pensioner?
– It is for all.
– There is no discrimination?
There is no discrimination at all. They all receive the full amount. There are, however, other payments which are made to those in receipt of the special rate pension. An amount of £2 10s. a week is paid by way of a recreational transport allowance to those who are able to travel only a short distance with the aid of crutches or a stick. In addition, an attendant’s allowance is payable if it is necessary for a special rate pensioner to have an attendant to look after him. That amounts to £3 5s. a week. Each child under sixteen years of age receives 13s. 9d. If the children are of school age, in addition to the 13s. 9d. a week they receive amounts ranging from 19s. to £3 3s. a week for education assistance if they are living at home, and from £3 3s. to £4 J 7s. 96. if they are living away from home. If the children are over sixteen years of age. and are receiving a professional or higher education they receive £4 15s. a week if living at home and £7 7s. 6d. a week if living away from home. In addition to that, the pensioner receives full medical and hospital benefits for all disabilities, whether war-caused or otherwise.
Early in the financial year 1950-51, it was decided that totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, such as those who had had both legs amputated below the knee and those who were paralysed from the waist down, would be provided with motor cars free of charge, together with £120 a year for running expenses and general upkeep. The first recipients of motor cars had them replaced by new ones some years ago. The provision of motor cars to such ex-servicemen made a tremendous difference to their lives. It is true that not all ex-servicemen receive additional benefits of this kind, but a considerable number do receive them. It must be remembered that the benefits to which I have referred are payable to exservicemen in addition to child endowment. Taken together, they increase the family income considerably. lt is proposed under the bill to increase the class B rate of pension that is payable to sufferers from tuberculosis who may be able to do only light or intermittent work and who may not have recovered fully from their illness. They are to receive an increase of 7s. 6d. a week, to bring the rate of pension to £9 1 5s. a week. It is proposed also to increase the medical sustenance rate by 10s. a week. As honorable senators may be aware, if an ex-service pensioner enters hospital he goes on to medical sustenance after three weeks. At present, after an ex-serviceman is discharged from hospital and is obliged to rest, he is paid £13 15s. a week while he is convalescent. This provision was introduced about 18 months ago. Originally, only the 100 per cent, rate was the maximum rate for convalescence, so that the new provision has improved the position of ex-servicemen generally.
I wish to say a few words in regard to the general rate, or 100 per cent, rate, war pensioner. A 100 per cent, rate war pensioner who has disabilities, whether war-caused or not, is entitled to full hospital benefits, as is the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman. Because of the removal of the ceiling limits, a 100 per cent, rate war pensioner who has disabilities, not attributable to war service, which prevent him from working, may qualify for a service pension in addition to his war pension. Thus, he may receive £5 15s. a week, plus the wife’s allowance of £1 15s. 6d. a week, making a total of £7 10s. 6d. If he has three children, he is entitled to 13s. 9d. a week for each of them, or £2 ls. 3d. in all. His total war pension is therefore £9 Ils. 9d. In addition, he may have a service pension for himself of £6 9s. 9d. a week, £3 a week for his wife, 15s. a week for the first child and 2s. 6d. each for the second and third children, making a total service pension of £10 9s. 9d., and a grand total for the family of £20 ls. 6d. The ex-serviceman also would be entitled to free medical treatment for disabilities not due to war service. Here again, we see the great benefit which exservicemen derive from the removal of the ceiling limits.
If the wife of the 100 per cent, rate pensioner to whom I have referred was over 60 years of age, she could receive a part age pension instead of the wife’s allowance of £3 a week. I mention these matters to indicate the far-reaching effects on the rates of pension of the removal of the ceiling limits. I am sure that honorable senators will realize the advantage of the proposal in the Budget to extend the period of payment of allowances to the children of ex-servicemen. This will enable such children to continue their education for a longer period than previously.
I want to refer now to the service pensioner who is permanently unemployable. If he has children who are eligible for the children’s allowance he receives 10s. a week in respect of the second and subsequent children. It is proposed in this bill to increase the amount by 5s. a week, making it 15s. a week for each child. It is further proposed that each child who is a fulltime student will be eligible to receive the allowance to 31st December of the year in which he attains eighteen years of age. The increase also is applicable to the child who leaves school at sixteen years of age. In future, such a child will be entitled to the allowance until the end of the year in which he attains the age of sixteen years.
– But there must be many pensioners whose children have already reached 16 years of age.
– Then, why take into account the children’s allowances in considering the real benefit that is given to exservicemen?
– If there are children, the family income is increased. The payment of 15s. in respect of each of those children is of very great assistance. Previously, it ceased upon a child’s reaching sixteen years of age. Now it continues to the end of the year in which the child becomes sixteen. This makes a great difference. For instance, in the case of a child who reaches sixteen years of age in February; the payment continues thereafter for ten months. A single service pensioner, who now receives £5 5s., will receive an extra 10s., bringing his rate to £5 15s. a week. Those single service pensioners who qualify for the supplementary assistance of 10s., will receive £6 5s. a week.
I should like to say a few words about the position of a war widow. In the early part of this Government’s term of office, the legislation contained a very dangerous provision which could be used by persons with a grudge against a war widow. A war widow’s pension could be cancelled if misconduct were alleged against her. Representatives of war widows came to see me about this provision and we decided to remove it because it was very unfair. War widows greatly appreciated this action. The war widow’s pension will remain at £5 15s. a week, but the domestic allowance will be raised from £3 2s. 6d. to £3 10s. Those war widows who qualify for the domestic allowance, numbering 35,000 of a total of 38,000, will receive £9 5s. a week. Domestic allowance is payable to widows who are over the age of 50 years, or who have a child or children under the age of sixteen years, or who are permanently unemployable. Additional benefits avail able to war widows include free medical, dental and hospital treatment for themselves and their children. They receive £1 19s. for the first child and £1 7s. 6d. for second and subsequent children. Education allowances range from 19s. f.jr children aged from twelve to fourteen years, to £3 3s. for children aged from sixteen to eighteen years living at home and £4 17s. 6d. for such children living away from home. For children undertaking professional courses, the allowance is £4 15s. when living at home and £7 7s. 6d. when away from home. The combination of all those benefits with the pension makes quite a reasonable sum.
– What is received by a war widow who has no children and who does not receive a domestic allowance?
– £5 15s. a week. No means test is applicable. I consider that the proposed repatriation pension increases are fair, considering the absence of inflation during the past financial year. The benefits are well spread and apply to those who are in the greatest need, namely the T.P.I, pensioner, the 100 per cent, pensioner, the war widow and the service pensioner.
I should like to say a few words about the application of the principle relating to the benefit of doubt. A member who believes that he has a disability which is due to war service first makes a claim to a repatriation board, which consists of three members, all of them returned men. They have access to his files, they examine his claim, and they decide whether his disability is linked to war service. If the board does not accept his claim, he is then able to apply to the Repatriation Commission, which consists of four members, all of whom are returned men. If the commission rejects his claim, he has a final right of appeal to a tribunal, which is a statutory body consisting of three members, all of whom are returned soldiers. One is elected from a panel of names submitted by a servicemen’s organization and the chairman must be a man of legal experience. The tribunal has nothing at all to do with the Government or the department. Unless further evidence can he produced, the tribunal’s decision is finally binding.
When a board does not accept a claim, the applicant is advised. He is furnished with a form of appeal and told that it would be to his advantage to appeal to the commission. Similarly, when the commission rejects a claim, the applicant is supplied with a form of appeal and is encouraged to. appeal to a tribunal. This procedure produces scores of appeals which otherwise probably would never be made. Last year, of 40,204 applications to the boards, 19,399 were accepted. This has happened 45 years after the war of 1914- 1 8 and nearly twenty years after the war of 1939-45. This shows that the claims must be thoroughly examined. There is no doubt in my mind that successful appellants from the board to the tribunal and the commission have been given the benefit of the doubt. In the last financial year, 12,123 cases were processed by the assessment tribunal and 6,470 - over 50 per cent. - were allowed. That is a big proportion. I have always advised exservicemen’s organizations that their members would do much worse if they had to appeal to a judge instead of to the present tribunals.
Finally, I should like to say that, over the years, the ex-serviceman and his dependants have continued to receive the attention of the Repatriation Commission which is composed of men who have been specially selected for their knowledge of the problems of the ex-serviceman and their sympathetic understanding of his problems. They are continually examining, under the direction of the Minister, all phases of repatriation in order to see where it is possible to effect an improvement. The provisions of this legislation are designed to make further improvements in the pensions and other benefits payable to all pensioners. I consider that they are very reasonable and desirable improvements. I have much pleasure in supporting the legislation.
– The Opposition, of course, supports this bill. We have no quarrel with the improved payments and conditions which it is proposed to give to the repatriated exserviceman. It has always been said that such a bill as this should not bc treated in a party political manner. I do not think that, in this Senate or in another . place, , this legislation has been treated as a political football. From time to time, honorable senators and members have submitted that when increased benefits arc to be made available under a bill of this nature, such benefits should be made payable retrospectively to the first day of the financial year. As this has not been done it has been necessary to appeal to the sympathies of honorable senators in order to expedite passage of the measure. Both Government and Opposition senators have been prepared to curtail debate with the object of passing the bill and having the relevant benefits paid as soon as possible. I want to express my high regard for officers of the Repatriation Department with whom we often come into contact. Nobody could truthfully say that their sympathy is not with the individual pensioner. They are always anxious to deal with claims as expeditiously as possible and to give every assistance necessary to enable applications to be successful.
I agree that this bill is good as far as it goes. I also agree that Australian repatriation benefits compare favorably with those of any other country in the world. However, I think that there are anomalies which should receive the attention of the Government. It is with the objective of correcting them that the Opposition has foreshadowed certain amendments to the bill. I think it would be beneficial to exservicemen in relation to repatriation matters generally if a committee were appointed as proposed by the Opposition. It is all very well to say that the tribunals and the commission which deal with these matters apply themselves assiduously to the job. I agree that they do. But it is idle to say that there are not aspects of their functioning which have been brought before the Parliament from time to time and to which the Government has failed to attend. No approach to these matters has been made by a joint parliamentary committee. Nothing has been done about them because of party indecision and because the Government has not been prepared to accept the opinion of the majority.
These matters have been raised many times on this side of the Senate by Senator Critchley, Senator O’Byrne, Senator Sandford and myself. The Government has tried to vindicate .the. existing situation by saying that everything was being done in a fair and proper manner and expeditiously. In its annual report for 1962-63 the Repatriation Commission has dealt with the subject which is mentioned in the amendment foreshadowed by the Opposition. An all-party parliamentary committee should have been appointed to inquire into this matter years ago. If the report of the commission is correct, the argument that has been put forward on this side of the chamber must be warranted. At page 22, the report reads as follows: -
TIME TAKEN TO PROCESS CLAIMS FOR REPATRIATION BENEFITS.
The department has recently been conducting an intensive review into the time taken to process the various forms of an application for repatriation benefits from time of receipt until the final decision by the determining authority. The aim was to reduce this as far as practicable in all branches without affecting standards, for example, the extent of the medical examinations including specialist consultations carried out for each claimant in relation to an entitlement claim.
By introducing an effective series of statistical returns which emphasised areas where action to reduce delays was required, it has been possible to improve procedures and significantly reduce the time taken to process these claims without a reduction in investigation standards. For example, the average time taken to determine a claim for service pension has been reduced from a Commonwealth average of 56 to 19 days.
A reduction from 56 days to nineteen days! As the former Minister for Repatriation, Senator Sir Walter Cooper, has said, it is nearly twenty years since the last war finished and it is 45 years since the First World War finished. It has been consistently argued in this chamber that there has been inordinate delay in the processing of claims. It has always been denied by the Government that that was the case. I suppose honorable senators can remember persons who have died in the process of trying to establish claims which have been admitted after their death.
Silling suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting the Opposition’s proposed amendment in relation to the appointment of a joint committee on repatriation was under discussion. I had pointed out that, although the Government has denied that over the years there have been delays in finalizing claims, this year’s report of the Repatriation Commission shows that it has been able to reduce the average time taken to determine claims from 56 days to nineteen days. I should like the Minister to give us some idea of the maximum and minimum times for determining claims. I am quite sure that there have been inordinate delays, even though probably they have not been unnecessarily long in view of the procedures which have had to be followed. I am eager to learn from the Minister whether the hastening of the determination of appeals has made it easier for any section of the repatriation administration to reject a claim.
There are other features of repatriation administration which I think justify the appointment of a joint committee. The appointment of such a committee would not be an innovation. A similar committee was appointed in 1943. We must give great credit to that committee, because great benefits have flowed from its activities. AH too often we come into this Senate with individual cases in which not so much has an ex-serviceman been unjustly treated as the act has not been interpreted in the manner in which the Parliament intended. To obtain conclusive proof that an anomaly needs to be corrected often requires too much study on the part of a member of the Parliament, but a joint parliamentary committee could ascertain the facts. A joint committee could only improve the situation; it could not damage the administration of the department or do any harm to applicants. The Government would not need to be afraid of the findings of a committee because it would be a joint committee. Such a committee could keep the Parliament properly informed and could make non-party decisions. The amendment should be considered on non-party lines. A joint committee would be an acquisition to the Parliament and certainly would be of great benefit in repatriation administration. It certainly would be of benefit to the ex-servicemen.
Included in the Opposition’s amendment is one which relates to pulmonary tuberculosis and cancer. When Senator O’Byrne was making quite a good submission in support of this proposal, he was crossexamined by supporters of the Government in relation to information which it was quite impossible to mention offhand. He mentioned the information that had brought the need for the amendment to light when the Labour Party was considering the act. The Minister may be fully equipped in this respect - 1 doubt it - but ] am quite sure a joint committee would be able to bring forward definite evidence in support or rejection of an amendment of the act.
I believe that the two amendments with which I have just dealt can be justified. The onus of proof would still operate. I am quite satisfied that there can be a progressive deterioration of the condition of an ex-serviceman who has served in the sun in the Middle East and who has contracted skin cancer. Very little is known about cancer. Stomach ulcers and other internal ulcers could cause an imbalance in a man’s health and could lead to cancer. It would be impossible to be conclusive about such matters without a thorough investigation. I believe that the appointment of a joint committee would be of great help in determining such matters.
Now I come to section 47 of the principal act, which has always been a bone of contention. The act has been amended on divers occasions in an effort lo clarify the onus of proof, but in my opinion the position has never been satisfactorily clarified. The Opposition proposes that after subsection (I.) the following sub-section should bc added: -
CIA.) Tn all cases a doubt shall be deemed to exist where the origin of any disability cannot bc properly determined or where authoritative medical opinion conflicts as to the origin of the disability.
Ex-servicemen who have applied for a pension have expressed great dissatisfaction with this aspect of the repatriation, legislation. Even ex-servicemen who have been granted pensions agree that, in spite of all the efforts that have been made so to word the act that any doubt shall be given to the applicant, it is still incumbent upon the applicant to prove that his injury, disability or illness has been brought about by war service. We all know of cases in. which persons have exhausted their right of claim to a repatriation board, to the commission and to an entitlement appeal tribunal and have been told that they must get further medical evidence.
Very often a doubt exists amongst prominent medical men about the origin of an ex-serviceman’s condition. I know of one case in which prominent and respected medical men said that a man’s condition was brought about by war service and that it had progressively deteriorated. Unfortunately he got into conflict with the board. He was tackled about his drinking habits; he worked for a brewery. He told the chairman that he had six or seven schooners a day, but he expressed the thought that the chairman had had a couple of bottles of whisky a day judging by the look of his face. He was thoroughly castigated and was put out of the court for the time being. He has found it very difficult to overcome the attitude of the board as a consequence. But, as I said earlier, he has a very sound case because the medical evidence is that his condition of health arose from war service and that it had progressively deteriorated. When he went into the services he was an athletic man and was in good health. He would bc one of thousands of men who have presented medical opinions and have had their claims rejected by repatriation boards. Medical men may give different opinions, but in practice the onus is placed on the applicant to prove that the disability was war caused. This should be a matter for judicial decision. Has it been proved that he did not suffer the disability as a result of war service? Has he given sufficient proof of his disability? I think the amendment proposed by the Opposition should improve the situation.
I have in my hand a letter from the Returned Servicemen’s League in Western Australia submitted by Mr. W. Webb on behalf of the National Executive. Mr. Webb has appeared consistently as an advocate for ex-servicemen who have eagerly sought his services. The letter states -
The National Executive of the R.S.L. requests that section 47 be amended by inserting the following paragraph immediately following clause (b) sub-section (1) - “ In all cases a doubt shall be deemed to exist where the origin of any disability cannot be properly determined or where authoritative medical opinion conflicts usto the origin of the disability “.
Section 47, as at present constituted, clearly states that the onus of proof for a claim rests with the determining authority, and that the applicant shall be given the benefit of any doubtthat exists in his case.
In analysing these benefits the questions that immediately come to mind are: -
What evidence must the determining authority provideto properly discharge the onus of proof, and
What constitutes a “ doubt “.
In the R.S.L.’s view there is increasing evidence that the determining authorities themselves do not adopt a common approach to these questions, and therefore it is necessary to introduce an amendment to Section 47 that will more clearly define the determining authorities’ responsibility in interpreting the section.
In examining question No. 1, above, it is the League’s view that war service cannot be disregarded as the cause of an ailment or as a contributing factor to an ailment, unless the determining authority shows quite clearly where the complaint originated and what factors influenced its development. Atthe present time this is not done. Repatriation doctors tend to recommend a;against applications, under broad general headings: “ Origin considered long post-war “, “ Constitutional and post-war “, “ Degenerative conditions associated with age of applicant “, and so on.
To an increasing extent, repatriation doctors ignore the evidence of a man’s service, even though it may have been extremely arduous. Judging from cases on the League’s files there seems to be a growing tendencyto reject an application if association with war service cannot be proved. In simple terms, the onus of proof is being placed on the applicant. Furthermore, if a condition is normal in a man of a given age, then the application may berejected on those very grounds rather than a close examination made of the conditions of his service to ascertain if the severe nature of such service could have caused or contributed to the complaint. Again we state that the onus of proof can only be completely discharged if the origin of the complaint is quite clearly demonstrated.
In the second question mentioned above, it becomes increasingly important that a “ doubt “ be more clearly defined. In the League’s view if there is a difference between two bodies of medical opinion, then a doubt should be deemed to exist.
We have on record a number of cases where Authoritative medical opinion has expressed the view that war service could have been a contributing factor. A further medical opinion has denied this, and the result has been rejection of the application. Furthermore, the various determining authorities have a different conception of what constitutes a doubt, so at present an applicant’s case may well he determined in his favour by one tribunal, and against him by another.
In the League’s view, every effort should be made to establish a common basis for decision in matters that affect so very greatly,the well-being of an ex-serviceman or an ex-serviceman’s dependants.
To achieve this therefore, the League recommends an amendmentto Section 47.
That is not a decision of the league in Western Australia. It was submitted by Mr. Webb, but the national executive made the request, and it is in close contact with many cases. . 1 have had cases submitted to me and 1 have felt that the onus of proof was not properly discharged by the determining authority although excellent cases were advanced on behalf of the applicants. These men are frustrated. They want to know what they can do. I know of cases of men who are on a 100 per cent. pension. ‘ They cannot get the special rate T.P.I. pension because they are not totally incapacitated as a result of war service. Nevertheless,they are suffering from a disability. A person who suffers a partial disability that is accepted by the Repatriation Department and continues to carry on for 40 years is more vulnerable to deterioration in health after he has concluded his war service. His lowered resistance to post-war deterioration in health puts him at a disability compared with a man who is fit. He may deteriorate progressively.
The onus of proof has always been a bone of contention. Senatr Sir Walter Cooper said that the record of appeals allowed this year was fairly good, but it is not so good when you analyse the figures. At 13th June, 1962, outstanding claims totalled 6,379. During the year, claims lodged totalled 40,374, a total of: 46,753 with those outstanding. The number accepted totalled 19,399 and 20.805 were rejected. At 12th June, 1963, 6,549 claims were outstanding.
When you come to appeals to the Repatriation Commission you find that at 1 3th June, 1962, 1,700 were outstanding and 15,091 were lodged during the year, a total of 16,791. During the year, 2,141 claims were accepted and 12,091 were rejected. The number outstanding at 12th June, 1963, was 2,559, about 400 more than at June the previous year. The number of rejections is terrific. Although these people all had their cases heard by the initial tribunals and one can assume that full consideration was givento their claims before they were rejected, nevertheless 2,141 appeals were granted. The point made by Sir Walter Cooper is quite a legitimate one. He said that the sending out of application forms encouraged people to appeal, but surely we can assume that a man who appeals genuinely believes that he has grounds for an appeal. Unless there is evidence to justify an appeal a man should not be encouraged to seek further medical evidence or to build up another case only to be rejected again. Is it good policy to encourage a man to appeal if he has not evidence to support his case?
If 15,091 appeals were lodged, a tremendous amount of work must have been done in the interim. Yet, of that number, 12,091 were rejected! I suggest that in at least 50 per cent, of the 12,091 rejected cases there must have been considerable doubt about the onus of proof. I am not able to say whether the tribunal satisfactorily discharged the onus of proof, but at least there must have been some doubt.
As we go through the list we find that the number of rejections represents a high percentage of the number of acceptances. No doubt many appellants struggle on hoping that at some stage their case will be accepted. It may be that an exserviceman has never been told by the determining authority that the onus of proof has been discharged. No tribunal has ever said to him, “ You did not get this disability during the war “, or “ You received this disability in quite different circumstances “ thereby stating the origin, time or cause of the complaint. If such a statement were made by a tribunal the appellant would be faced with the task of proving that it was wrong, and he would not be able to do so.
For that reason I suggest that a different interpretation should be placed upon the onus of proof clause by the report tribunals. The fact makes it quite clear where the onus of proving that complaint was not war caused lies. In many cases that have been brought to my attention persons who have been battling along trying to get a pension have reached a stage where, because of a deterioration in their health, they have become incapable of presenting a case to the department. Officials of the Repatriation Department help such people so far as they can, but they do not provide ‘them’ with advocates of sufficient capacity to ensure adequate representation before the tribunals. Something should be done to provide competent advocates for applicants and appellants. The tribunals would then be faced with better presented cases and applicants and appellants would have greater chance of success.
I should like now to refer to psychiatric treatment. In the most recent report of the Repatriation Commission quite a long section is devoted to a review of departmental psychiatric services. Such a review is a move in the right direction. In the course of that section the report states -
During the year the survey was completed and a long-range plan to re-organize the department’s psychiatric services was submitted to the Commission. This is based on a comprehensive study of the psychiatric facilities available to ex-servicemen in Australia and overseas, taking into consideration such aspects as eligibility, bedloads, treatment trends, and the adequacy of existing facilities for treatment of departmental psychiatric patients.
In line with the earlier general forecast of future treatment needs, the report anticipates a rising eligible population requiring psychiatric treatment until after 1975, with an increasing need for both in-patient and out-patient treatment.
One defect in the department’s psychiatric services which has been emphasized is the severe shortage of competent professional staff, including psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers. These shortages tend to be general in the community, but the Commission is reviewing possible ways of meeting this problem as it applies to Repatriation psychiatric services.
The report proposes a closer integration of departmental psychiatric services, co-ordinated centrally. A psychiatric division in each State Branch would be supervised by a specialist psychiatrist and operated by a team comprising psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers in co-operation with an effective physical medicine and rehabilitation service. It is believed that the closer integration of the various psychiatric units will provide a more uniform and effective approach to treatment.
In line with current thinking of the various mental health authorities in Australia and overseas, a main objective of the recommendations is the treatment of as many patients as possible at out-patient level and their return to the community as quickly as possible.
It appears that the commission has given serious thought to this subject, and it is one that has been given serious consideration by the Parliament for many years. However, this is a problem that has never been satisfactorily resolved. We should look at this problem, particularly in relation to persons suffering from war neurosis, which is an almost indefinable disability and one that is very hard to establish before a tribunal. In this case, again, onus of proof is a very important factor. The applicant is at a disadvantage to start with. How often have honorable senators heard it said, “ You cannot take much notice of that fellow; he is a bit crackers anyway “? How is the onus of proof to be resolved in cases in which the applicant claims to have pains in the back, sees faces at the window, or wants to walk through a wall? He genuinely suffers these delusions, but how can he prove this to a repatriation tribunal? There should be some authority to look after this man and to see that his case is properly presented. He should be out of the ring altogether. The onus should be upon the repatriation tribunals to prove that his disability is not in any way related to war service. Even if honorable senators opposite talk until doomsday they will not convince anybody that the tribunals are, in fact, accepting the onus of proving that disabilities are caused by other than war service. We know that there are notations placed on files that further proof is needed. Who is to supply that proof? The applicant, of course.
For these reasons I suggest that the amendments proposed by the Opposition are justified. A parliamentary select committee on repatriation could not damage the Parliament in any way; it could only improve the position of the ex-serviceman. If there is nothing lo be feared and if honorable senators opposite are genuine in their boasted concern for the welfare of cx-servicemen, then surely the only answer is the establishment of a non-party parliamentary committee. The committee could analyse statistics and report to the Parliament so that we could consider the entire matter wilh some knowledge and make the necessary amendments to the act.
I conclude by saying again that I have the greatest confidence in the Repatriation Department and its officers. Nevertheless, they are restricted by the terms of the act. The position is thoroughly unsatisfactory and needs correction by Parliament.
– During my ten years in this Parliament we have discussed a repatriation bill, I think every year, because each year in its Budget the Liberal-Country Parly Government has considered repatriation. I do not want to criticize the Returned Servicemen’s League because of its attitude to the “ Four Corners “ programme. The Government has listened to representations from that worthwhile ex-servicemen’s organization and also from the War Widows Guild of Australia, Legacy - of which I am a member - and other organizations which put a case to the Government for an amendment of the act in order to cure anomalies. Because the Government has dealt with these matters every year for eleven years to my knowledge, 1 will not repeat the details of the benefits given to ex-service men and women and widows by this legislation. Other honorable senators have already detailed those to us.
Each year the Labour Party, having no responsibility for revenue and expenditure, criticizes the Government for not paying out more money. Honorable senators opposite have no definite ideas, but say merely that social service pensions and repatriation benefits should be more generous. That is all they say; they do not tell us from where the money is to come. As an ex-serviceman and a member of the R.S.L. I realize that it is difficult - almost embarrassing - to get up in the National Parliament and praise the Government for doing everything it should do. I realize that there are war widows and widows of ex-servicemen who, with a little extra help, could be made more secure economically. I am not trying to speak with pathos, but there are men of the 1914-18 war still in hospital whose lives could, perhaps, be made more enjoyable with greater assistance from the Government. I believe that sincerely, but I do not believe that it does any one any good for people in the National Parliament to get up year after year and complain about the government that is in office. Opposition members are completely insincere when, with no responsibility, they try to pretend - and I emphasize the word “ pretend “ - that they want greater benefits for ex-service men and women. The ex-servicemen and women know that the Opposition is insincere in its request for these added benefits. I shall come back to that point a little later.
I praise the Government for considering each year, prior to the introduction of the Budget, the requests put to it, not only by the Returned Servicemen’s League . .the
Legion of Ex-servicemen and Women, the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association and the Rats of Tobruk Association, but also by members of the Opposition’s ex-servicemen’s committee and members of the Government’s exservicemen’s committee. I know that these matters are considered by a sub-committee of the Cabinet as well as by the Minister for Repatriation, and I praise the Government for giving real and sincere thought to these representations. That is democracy in action.
I have been a member of this chamber for a little over ten years, and each year the Parliament has increased repatriation benefits and widened their scope, making more people eligible to obtain them. There has been a period of thirteen years of expansion in this field. I praise the Government because during that period it has legislated to clear up anomalies in the act in respect of repatriation benefits. All the anomalies are not yet eradicated, but the path that has been followed makes me hope that the Government will attend to further anomalies next year. However, many people in Australia, do not understand - and the Labour Party has not the moral fibre to recognize and publicize this - that the hard cold fact of finance enters into this matter. In two days’ time the Opposition will criticize the Government for not increasing pensions and social service benefits further. It will also criticize the Government for a lag in telephone installations as well as for not spending enough money on defence. The Opposition’s knowledge and interest in defence are infinitesimal. Honorable senators opposite say these things because some one writes a speech for them to read in this Parliament. In addition, honorable senators opposite will say that the Government is not spending enough on developmental projects in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland. They will criticize us for not making more money available to the States, and to the War Service Homes Division for housing. Then, when the next item comes up for discussion, they will say that the Government should have reduced income tax or granted more- liberal sales tax concessions than have been granted in the Budget. They want us to give more and to take less. That shows the utter lack of responsibility of the possible alternative government in Australia. It appears that the people of Australia fully appreciate this situation.
I think that the great majority of exservicemen will agree with me when I make the categorical statement that Australia is the most generous country in the world to its ex-servicemen and women. I defy any person to argue that point with me. Wo have high rates of pension. We have amazing hospital and medical benefits, not only for ex-servicemen and women but also for the widows and children of exservicemen. What is more, if an exserviceman goes into a repatriation hospital for treatment of a war-caused disability, he is paid to go there. He receives free hospital treatment, and the best medical specialists attend him. No other country provides such treatment. Although there are some ex-servicemen and some widows of ex-servicemen who would want more help from the Government, I sincerely believe that the majority of ex-servicemen and widows of ex-servicemen are happy with what the Government has provided. Without wishing to bring party politics into the discussion, may I say that this Government has a far more generous and realistic record in this respect than had the Australian Labour Party in 1949. Honorable senators may remember that the attitude of the Labour Party to ex-servicemen and women was epitomised, in 1945 or 1946, by “Smith’s Weekly” in the phrase, “Whom caucus wishes to destroy it first makes Minister for Repatriation”. The Labour Party lost two Ministers for Repatriation at general elections. The newspaper was right.
– It went broke.
– It went broke, but the Liberal Party came into power. We have had as Minister for Repatriation our great and famous colleague, Senator Sir Walter Cooper. He held the portfolio for a record term. Some time ago, having been in Parliament since 1928, he decided to retire from the Ministry and allow a younger man to take office. We now have Mr. Swartz as Minister for Repatriation. He is an honoured guest at ex-service functions and gatherings of the Returned Servicemen’s League throughout Australia. He is carrying on the work which Senator
Sir Walter Cooper did previously. The members of the Opposition try to deride our record in the field of repatriation, but they are batting on a dead wicket. They are not sincere.
– What happened to Mr. Osborne?
– He was Minister for Repatriation and then became Minister for Air. If my memory serves me correctly, he was not Minister for Repatriation when he was defeated. He was Minister for Air at that time. Senator Sir Walter Cooper’s record as Minister for Repatriation will take a lifetime to beat. Year by year, he was able to visit every State for the annual federal conference of the Returned Servicemen’s League, and in each State he was an honoured and popular guest. That had never happened previously in the history of Australia. So, I say to the members of the Labour Party: “ Do not be hypocritical. Do not try to kow-tow lo the R.S.L. in an attempt to win votes, because the exservicemen will not have a bar of you. They think you are insincere and do not believe that you would ever implement some of the proposals you make in criticizing the Government.” The ex-servicemen do not believe in the Labour Party’s policy, nor do they think that the party would implement it. The members of the Opposition should not crawl to the ex-servicemen in an attempt to gain their votes. They will not achieve political promotion in that way.
Each year this Government considers all aspects of the welfare of ex-servicemen and women and their dependants. It decides what it should do, not to win votes or for purposes of political expedience, but solely out of a desire to do the right thing by people who deserve support from the country. I see Senator Turnbull is grinning. 1 should like to hear him speak on this subject. During the ten years I have been in this Parliament, the Government’s history in regard to repatriation has been one of continual review. The opinions of the Labour Party have been considered. Anomalies which have been pointed out to the Government have been removed. Frankly, I think there are several more yet to be ironed out, but everything cannot be done in one budget. The great thing is that, in practically every budget during the last thirteen years, not only has there been provision for increased payments and benefits, but also the range of repatriation benefits has been widened so that more and more people have come within the scope of the benefits. In almost every year there have been more beneficiaries under the Repatriation Act than there were in the previous year.
No government which had adopted the policy which this Government has adopted in repatriation matters should be ashamed or should be accused of inefficiency. It is well to remind the people of Australia that repatriation benefits, which are the responsibility of this Government, are costing the Consolidated Revenue Fund - that is, the taxpayers, not the members of the Government - £122,500,000 a year. The amount to be provided this year is £12.800,000 more than that: provided last year, because of the provisions contained in the bill that we are now discussing. The Opposition has no responsibility and, judging from the speeches 1 have heard to-night, it has given no thought to the matter. The Government has a responsibility to nearly 10,000,000 Australians, when it considers amounts to be paid to beneficiaries under the Repatriation Act and the expenditure to be incurred thereby, lt must consider the money to be expended on defence and on social services. Next week we shall be told that we have not increased social service benefits enough.
We are a young nation which is rapidly expanding. We have great latent resources, the existence of which has only recently been established. We must spend taxpayers’ money on development. We have .many young people, and even aged people, wanting to buy homes. They want to become what Mr. Dedman, a Labour minister, called “ little capitalists “. They want to own homes rather than to pay exorbitant rents to landlords. So we must grant money and pass legislation to allow lending institutions to provide money to enable these people to establish homes. The Government has done wonderful work in regard to university education, but the cry that we hear, and the plea that we read in the circulars and pamphlets we all receive are for the Government to provide more money for secondary and primary education.
– What has that to do with repatriation?
– If you had a clue about this, you would know that one of the responsibilities of the Government is to decide equitable repatriation benefits in the light of its other responsibilities. The Opposition says that the Government has not done enough for this, that and the other, forgetting - quite cleverly, politically - the other responsibilities of a national government. The Government has to consider all aspects of economic life. During the debate on the estimates, the Opposition will attempt to chastise the Government, saying that it should reduce taxation. One very important factor is that we must, as far as possible, minimize taxation of young people who have to provide funds to purchase a home. I do not think that any senator would really oppose that point of view.
The Minister put the position very well, when he said, as reported at page 748 of *’ Hansard “-
There have been increases in pensions and we have a gratifying stability of costs. Benefits will now follow the reduction in sales tax. I believe, quite sincerely, that in this bill the Government is doing a very good job for those who are entitled to repatriation benefits. Mr. Haylen, a Labour member of another place, is reported on page 781 of “ Hansard “ as saying -
I remind the Minister that Opposition members agreed to hurry on the debate with pleasure because the bill contains some good provisions.
Coming from Mr. Haylen, the admission that the bill contains some good provisions is praise indeed. I shall not deal with the Opposition’s amendment, which I think is very silly.
– Are you going to prove that it is silly?
– No, I do not want to delay the passing of the bill. The sooner we get it through, the sooner the very wise provisions of the bill will become law and the sooner the recipients will get the benefits of the bill. Those people do not want the Parliament to fool around and delay payment of the increases.
– What do you think you are doing now?
– I have been speaking for not more than 20 minutes.
– That is too long.
– In your estimation, perhaps. The Returned Servicemen’s League and other organizations of exservicemen will applaud the Government, as will those who will benefit by the bill. Tens of thousands of ex-servicemen would be absolutely ashamed if the Parliament appointed a select committee to examine the provisions of the legislation. I support the bill and oppose the amendment.
.- I do not intend to delay the Senate, but I welcome the opportunity to make a few remarks on the most important subject of repatriation. I do not intend to deal at length with the increased benefits which have been mentioned in the Budget, because there are one or two other matters of importance on which I want to make a contribution to the debate. I was rather amazed that during the whole half-hour for which Senator Marriott addressed the Senate he hardly mentioned repatriation. He went all over the field of other matters covered in the Budget, including even housing and education. Then he descended to the depths by endeavouring to make out that we on this side of the chamber are trying to make party political capital out of this repatriation measure. We have never treated repatriation legislation in that way. We are endeavouring to assist the Government to solve many of the problems which still confront not only the Government but also the nation as a whole in regard to our obligations to ex-servicemen.
I resent very much Senator Marriott’s statement that senators on this, side of the chamber are not sincere. I claim to be infinitely more sincere on these matters than he ever has been or ever will be. He was very proud to quote a Labour member in another place as having said that some benefit had been given by the Government. It would be idle to deny that fact. But does he not realize that there is still room for improvement? The honorable senator claimed that the Government was paying much more now than had ever been paid before in repatriation benefits. Such an argument is an old trick of Government supporters. We know that in actual money the Government is paying more than previously; but it is necessary to have regard to money values. And it is necessary also to consider the percentage of the pension in relation to the purchasing power of money. Let us consider the special fate pension which is usually referred to as the totally and permanently incapacitated rate. Under this legislation, it is proposed to increase the T.P.f. rate from £13 5s. a week to £13 15s. a week, an increase of 10s. a week. That increase, to the great majority of T.P.I, pensioners, is purely and simply a myth because the ceiling rate applicable to their repatriation and social service benefits remains at £17 10s. a week. The great majority of the T.P.I, pensioners are in receipt of certain social service payments over and above their repatriation pension of £13 5s. which brings them to the ceiling rate of £17 10s. Here we have the myth. When the pension of such ex-servicemen is increased from £13 5s. a week to £13 15s. a week, the extra 10s. a week will be deducted from their social service payments because the ceiling rate will remain the same. I have previously advocated in this place and I shall continue to advocate that the T.P.I, rate should be increased to the ceiling rate. This would save an enormous amount of expenditure on administration and would have the result that any increases given to these pensioners would be real instead of fanciful as they are at the present time.
Senator Marriott alleged that the Opposition was indulging in party politics in this debate. He claimed that the Returned Servicemen’s League had no time for the Australian Labour Party and would not believe what we on this side of the chamber said. He said that the league had no faith in the Labour Party. Then he cited the Labour Government’s action in regard to ex-servicemen in 1945. I remind him that it was the Labour Government, about that lime, that made provision for many of the benefits now available to ex-servicemen under the general rehabilitation scheme. The Labour Government laid the basis of the finest rehabilitation scheme in the world, lt .provided for all sorts of benefits which were greatly appreciated by tens of thousands of ex-servicemen after they left the various services.
Let us consider the pensions proposed in the bill. Admittedly, in money, they are higher than they used to be. But let us consider their value compared with pension values a few years ago. It can be proved conclusively that repatriation pensions, as a percentage of average male earnings, have decreased. In 1951-52, average male earnings were £11 lis. a week and the T.P.I, rate of £8 15s. a week was roughly 75 per cent, of those earnings. Average male earnings are now £23 9s. a week; so, even with the increase of 10s. a week to £13 15s. a week, the T.P.I, pension will represent only 58.9 per cent, of those earnings. So the T.P.I, pension, as a percentage of average male earnings, has fallen by 16.8 per cent, since 1951-52. Consequently, it is misleading and dishonest for Government supporters to claim credit for the fact that ex-servicemen are receiving more money now than they did before.
Honorable senators opposite should remember what the present Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said during the general election campaign in 1949, when he was Leader of the Opposition. I would have praised him for what he said had he honoured his promise. He said, and rightly so, that we have a sacred obligation and a proud responsibility to ex-service personnel. That is so. If the Government, with the help and encouragement of the Opposition, can give greater assistance, not only in money value but also in various other ways which 1 shall enumerate, to ex-servicemen then it will do a service to men who, as we all know, were promised the world at the time of their enlistment during the First World War or the Second World War. Speaking during the general election campaign in 1949, the present Prime Minister said, “ We will maintain the purchasing power of pensions”. The figures that I have cited prove conclusively that the value of pensions has decreased, even since 1951-52.
Service pensioners who are permanently unemployable are to receive a 5s. increase in the benefit in respect of the second and subsequent children under sixteen years of age, but the 100 per cent, rate pensioner is to receive no increase at all. Here, again, the benefit as a percentage of average male earnings has dropped considerably since 1951-52. Never at any time has the Opposition tried to prevent or even to delay the passage of a repatriation measure through this Parliament, particularly one that makes available some benefit to the recipients of war pensions. We must not regard this bill as a matter of party politics. We must look at it as a measure designed further to assist ex-servicemen who are entitled to repatriation benefits. I must pay a tribute to the personnel of the Repatriation Department. I have received the utmost courtesy and consideration from every member of the department with whom I have had to deal. I have had extensive dealings with the department. Of course, members of the department’s staff must act within the law. We proffer our advice in an effort to improve the law. As Senator Marriott said, we do so year after year, but we must plug these matters year after year. We do not deny that the Government improves the repatriation legislation a little each year, but surely we can tell the Government where it can further improve the administration of the Repatriation Department.
It is not only in terms of money that exservicemen desperately need attention. Increases in pensions are important, but there are many other repatriation benefits that are vitally important and which are becoming increasingly important as the years pass. I refer generally to hospital treatment and medical treatment. In this connexion I refer to the vexatious, cumbersome and trying section 47 - the onus of proof provision - which has been mentioned before and which doubtless will be mentioned again. I admit that I have dealt with this subject from year to year, but this provision must be properly interpreted and applied.
Let me state at this point that the report of the Repatriation Commission for 1962-63 makes it clear that we must give greater consideration to the granting of war pensions, particularly to ex-servicemen who unfortunately have not repatriation entitlements at the present time. There are thousands of men in this category. Although they have been discharged from the military forces and have not previously bothered the Repatriation Department, some disability has cropped up in later years and, because they do not possess a repatriation entitlement, they are not eligible for a war pension or hospital and medical treatment. The total number of war pensions in force as at 30th June, 1963, was 671,215. The number as at 30th June, 1962, was approximately 1,000 less than that. Those figures indicate that the need for granting pensions is continually growing.
Before I move on to the onus of proof provision itself I wish to mention the subject of delays. I believe that all responsible, right-thinking people are concerned about the inordinate delays that are occasioned in the hearing of appeals. I am not suggesting that an easy solution can be found to the problem, but at least a very definite approach should be made to streamlining the hearing of appeals or, if necessary, setting up more tribunals to deal with them. As at 12th June, 1963, 6,549 claims received by repatriation boards and the Commission were outstanding. Quite likely many of those applications have been delayed for a long period. The total number of appeals before the Repatriation Commission for action last year was 16,791. The number determined included 2,141 which were accepted and 12,091 which were rejected. As at 30th June, 1963, the total number of appeals awaiting action before entitlement appeal tribunals in respect of the 1914-18 war was 3,724. Of the number heard, 351 were allowed and 2,094 were disallowed. In respect of the 1939 war, the total number of appeals before the tribunals for action was 9,118. Of the number heard 1,000 were allowed and 4,966 were disallowed. These figures indicate that the majority of appeals to these tribunals are rejected.
That brings us to the reason for the rejection. The reason is to be found in the vexatious and troublesome onus of proof. Who among us can deny that war service, even if it does not actually cause the disability from which an ex-serviceman may suffer, has been a contributing factor? Unfortunately, we cannot get anybody to interpret properly the meaning of the onusofproof clause. Eminent legal authorities have given opinions on this subject. In 1956 Mr. Joske, Q.C., laid down four rules for the guidance of repatriation medical officers and entitlement appeal tribunals. He said -
There is a presumption that the claim-
That is, the claim for a pension - is to be allowed even though the claimant calls no evidence.
It is for those opposing the claim to produce evidence to establish that the claim should fail. Unless this evidence is produced the claim must succeed.
In 1952 the right honorable Dr. Evatt said in relation to the onus of proof-
– What are you reading from?
– I am reading from “ Hansard “. It is available to you.
– I thought I had read this myself.
– Dr. Evatt said -
Unless it is proved by the Repatriation Commission that the war service could not have contributed to the claimant’s disability, then the presumption must be made in favour of the claimant. There is no other way in which the relevant section can be read.
That is where we must pin our faith. I know that this argument has been going on for years. Perhaps some honorable senator will ask: “ Didn’t you have an opportunity to do this in years gone by? This Government has done quite a lot in the repatriation field.” For God’s sake let us get this onus of proof clear. An applicant for a war pension must get medical evidence and other forms of evidence to support his claim. It is quite false to say that in practice the onus of proof rests on the department.
– I suggest that not many people would be bound to say that, because you put the onus of proof on the department, if there is no evidence from the claimant the claimant is entitled to succeed.
– I am not suggesting for one moment that a claimant should not place a case before the tribunal, but at present the onus of proof rests fairly and squarely on the claimant. A claimant has to produce medical evidence to substantiate his claim. I am not blaming the tribunals, because they can act only as they interpret the legislation; but a claimant whose application is rejected receives only a curt reply to the effect that his evidence has been considered and that it is not held that his disabilities are due to war service. No explanation is given. The applicant has to place his claim before the commission and unfortunately, in many cases, the applicants are subjected virtually to a third degree examination. They are asked .questions such as, “ Who mows the lawn at your place? “ To any intelligent person, that sounds like a trick question asked to try to make the claimant make a blunder.
I have personal knowledge of hundreds of cases, particularly of ex-servicemen of the First World War, and I suppose that other honorable senators have had the same experience. In the evening of their lives these veterans are driven to desperation in their endeavour to get what they consider to be justice from the Repatriation Department. Some of these cases would make anybody cry. The claimants go from appeal to appeal without getting satisfaction. The delays undermine their health. Many applications are supported by eminent medical men to show that if the disability has not been caused by war service at least it has been aggravated by war service. But hundreds of these cases have been rejected.
– Has not the Repatriation Department published a legal opinion explaining the basis on which it acts in relation to interpretation of the onusofproof provision? I fancy that I have read an opinion by the Solicitor-General.
– The Labour Government endeavoured to rectify this matter in 1947, but the onus of proof has always been a problem. I thought the intention of the Parliament was - and still is - that the onus of proof rested with the Repatriation Department and not with the claimant. In actual fact, it does not rest with the department now. Who will say that some of the disabilities suffered by exservicemen of the 1914-18 war were not at least aggravated by war service? That war was a living hell. The servicemen sometimes spent days, even weeks, ankle-and knee-deep in filthy, slushy mud existing on subsistence rations and infested by vermin. Iron foundries were floating round in the air and, at the explosion point, many of these men saw their friends blown to pieces. It was a hideous, nightmare experience.
Who will say with any degree of certainty that these experiences did not affect their health in their later years?
Recently, it was suggested to me that everybody who participated in the 1914-18 war should get some form of pension payment even if they are not suffering from an apparent disability. I say that everybody who served in the South African war or the First World War should be given hospital and medical attention free. This is something that is owed to them by the community. Compensation has already been made for any materia’ damage caused in war, but when we come to human suffering we haggle even over hospital treatment. If the Government gave to every ex-service man and woman from the 1914-18 war free hospital and medical treatment in repatriation hospitals the States would bc relieved of pressure on hospital accommodation. The cost would be negligible in a budget of more than £2,000,000,000.
Why quibble over hospital treatment for men and women who served in the First World War? They are entitled to this attention. I put this matter above party politics as something that should be considered by every responsible government. I do not want to delay the passage of this legislation. I could have submitted details of individual cases to substantiate what 1 have said, but I content myself with speaking in general terms. By accepting the amendments to be proposed by the Opposition the Government will have nothing, to lose and everything to gain. The appointment of a select committee was ridiculed by Senator Marriott as being silly. All amendments that we propose are supported by the Returned Servicemen’s League, yet Senator Marriott, who claims to be a member of the league and who has suggested that we are endeavouring to make political capital of repatriation matters, had the audacity to stand up and say that the appointment of a select committee would be silly. Can the appointment of a committee do any harm? A Labour Government appointed a select committee on repatriation in 1943. That committee brought down a very valuable report which enabled the government at that time to improve many aspects of repatriation. I emphasize that as the years go on repatriation problems are becoming more serious and must continue to do so as the returned men of the various wars become older. What in the name of goodness is the Government’s objection to accepting the proposal to appoint a nonparty select committee of both Houses? The appointment of such a committee would not delay the proposed increases. In fact, it would not cause any delay at all. It could only do some good for our repatriation structure generally. The committee could investigate all aspects of repatriation and recommend improvements where necessary. I suggest that the Government should accept our proposal to appoint a select committee. I am sure that it will find that it has everything to gain and nothing to lose.
In addition to the appointment of a select committee the amendments proposed by the Opposition relate to the granting of hospital and medical treatment to members of the forces of the 1914-18 and Boer wars. I do not want to repeat what I have just said about that, but these people are becoming increasingly needful of special hospitalization and medical treatment. This is true not only of those who have established repatriation entitlement but of tens of thousands who, on their discharge from the forces, never bothered the Repatriation Department. I have never bad one penny’ from the department. If any disability befell me to-morrow I would not have a repatriation entitlement. I have received no repatriation treatment whatever, but who could say that my experiences during the war could not have contributed to whatever ailment may befall me at some future time?
Another very important matter, which has been raised before, is the acceptance of cancer as a war-caused disability. This proposal has been approved by the R.S.L. and has been advocated by numerous other organizations. I believe that it has the support of many individual members of both parties. As we all know, the most eminent medical men in the world have not the slightest idea of what causes cancer. It could be caused by something that happened during war service. War service involves hard living, extreme discomfort, the eating of unusual food, and many other abnormal conditions. Any number of the things that happen to a person in those circumstances could induce cancer in later years. As I say, medical authorities of the highest calibre have no idea of what causes cancer. That being so, can the medical profession conceivably say that cancer in an exserviceman was not caused by something that happened during his war service? I do not want to speak at greater length on this subject, but I appeal to honorable senators opposite to put these amendments above party politics when they come before the committee for consideration. The appointment of a select committee cannot do anything but good, and even if it does no good at all it cannot do any harm. It will at least give members on both sides of the Parliament an opportunity to investigate this complex matter of repatriation - a matter which is becoming more complex every day. The Parliament will have the benefit of advice from the committee, which will have power to consult various authorities in the way that select committees usually do. It will be able to submit to the Parliament invaluable information in regard to repatriation matters generally.
The other amendments that will be proposed should also undoubtedly be accepted by the Government. I refer particularly to those relating to medical treatment for exservicemen of the 1914-18 war and Boer War, medical benefits for wives of T.P.I. pensioners and other disabled ex-servicemen. There is a crying need for greater care and attention to be given to these women. There are thousands of women who have been suffering greatly for many years in looking after their T.P.I, husbands. They have saved the Government thousands of pounds in hospital treatment by looking after their husbands at home. Had it not been for their attention, the pensioners would have had to be admitted to repatriation hospitals. More consideration should be given to T.P.I, pensioners and, at least, medical benefits should be given to the wives. There is an obligation on the Government of this country to do something for these women because they have had a very harassing and trying time.
I hope that the Government will consider these matters on their merits, look at them without bias, and not regard them from a party point of view. If the Government can improve any aspect of repatriation in any way it will have the whole-hearted support of the Opposition. I ask honorable senators opposite to raise themselves above party politics. I am sure that if the amendments are considered with impartiality, Government supporters will, in the interests of the people, accept them as a whole.
– I do not think any one could deny Senator Sandford’s interest in this bill. Since I have been in this chamber I have heard him on many occasions speaking as he has done to-night. But listening to honorable senators opposite one gets the feeling that there must be something seriously defective in our present repatriation system. Senator Sandford compared the purchasing power of the pension to-day with what it was in 1952, and he mentioned a figure of, I think, 18 per cent. He amazed me when he took the 1952 figures and used the term “ average male earnings “. From where did he get this term? It is something new in this context. When members of the Labour Party talk in this chamber about social services they generally refer to the basic wage, but to-night in discussing repatriation the honorable senator used the term “ average male earnings “. I want to paint a picture a little different from that painted by Senator Sandford by comparing repatriation benefits with the basic wage. In 1949, when the basic wage was £6 9s., the pension for totally and permanently incapacitated persons was £5 6s., or 82 per cent, of the basic wage. The proposed T.P.I, pension rate of £13 15s. is 95 per cent, of the basic wage. If we add the wife’s allowance of £1 15s. 6d. the total is £15 10s. 6d. These figures give a different picture from that painted by Senator Sandford.
Take the case of a married pensioner with two children, one fourteen years of age and the other twelve years of age. The education allowance for those children in 1949 brought the pensioner’s income to £8 9s. a week. To-day a man, his wife and two children of that age receive by way of pension and education allowance an amount of £22 17s. 6d. a week. Is that the kind of information that Senator Sandford gave us? He spoke of the average male earnings and he took the year 1952 to suit the case he was attempting to make.
Senator Sandford dealt also with war widows. In 1949 a war widow received £3 7s. 6d. a week, which included a domestic allowance. To-day she receives £9 5s.. A widow with two children of twelve and fourteen years of age in 1949 received £5 18s. 6d., whereas to-day she receives £14 19s. 3d. In reply to that the Labour Party will say, “ Oh, yes, but it is no good reading out those figures, because the value of money has changed “. The pension of a widow plus her domestic allowance to-day is 174 per cent, greater than it was in 1949, but the basic wage has increased by only 123 per cent, over the basic wage in 1949. The Government has therefore improved the pensions of the two types of people I have mentioned.
Senator Sandford dealt also with the onusofproof provision about which there has been a good deal of discussion in this debate. Senator Cooke read a letter from Mr. Webb, the secretary of the Returned Servicemen’s League in Western Australia. In that letter Mr. Webb placed before Senator Cooke some of his views. Senator Sandford said that because a certain exserviceman went to the war he should be automatically entitled to a pension. The argument he used was that the exserviceman must have contacted something during his period of service which would now entitle him to a pension. I think that an ex-serviceman who has been through the conditions that prevailed in the war, has been in the front line and in the thick of things is entitled to everything that he can get. He was ready to fight for his country and to risk his health. Because of his readiness to serve, his family suffered, and if he has a war-caused disability he should be compensated for it. However, on the matter of onus of proof there are many opinions as to what is right and what is wrong.
As I mentioned earlier. Senator Cooke read a letter from the Secretary of the R.S.L. in Western Australia. I have a submission by an advocate of the Victorian branch of the R.S.L. which gives a totally different view from that expressed in the letter read out by Senator Cooke. This leads one to think that there are many differences of opinion on this very controversial matter. The writer of this article begins by saying that the onus of proof and benefit of the doubt are phrases often used whenever ex-servicemen and women discuss claims with the Repatriation Department, but that very little is known generally of how these factors work. He then went on -
In all cases the doubt must be in the minds of the determining authority, and not in the mind of the ex-serviceman.
It is thought by many ex-servicemen that if the cause of condition is not known by the M.O.’s, that automatically the claim should be allowed as being due to war service under the benefit of doubt provision. This, however, is not so.
Although the cause of a condition is not known, the course that the condition takes, such as the time it takes to develop the treatment, and residual effects, are well known to the medical profession, and, therefore, they can give an authoritative opinion as to its relationship to war service.
Senator Sandford said that he had seen war service but was not entitled to a pension. He stated that if anything were to go wrong with him, he should automatically be given a pension because of his war service. The man who wrote this article deals with that point of view. He says -
Many 1914-18 War diggers are of the opinion that, because they served in gas areas in France, any chest condition that they subsequently develop must be due to the whiffs of gas that they certainly had during service.
The medical opinion here is, that if there is no record of hospitalization for gas, or that there is no record of any effects showing up within a few years of the exposure, a chest condition developing in later life is not related to service.
– That probably is a bit questionable.
– That is another opinion.
– Quite so. It is only an observation of fact.
– I would point out that bronchitis is very prevalent among men over 50 years of age, even though they did not go to the war. The same applies to the effects of injuries where there is no evidence of treatment during service. The position may be as Senator Wright says, but this is another opinion. Honorable senators opposite are expressing an opinion as to the way this provision should be interpreted. The ex-serviceman concludes by saying -
So that the provisions of benefit of doubt clauses may be applied fully, the opinion of the Federal Attorney-General was sought by the
Repatriation Commission for clarification, and the findings, among other things, were that where there were several inferences and one of them was in favour of the ex-serviceman, even if the inference was not as strong as the other inference the decision must be given to the appellant.
The Labour Party has expressed a point of view. Surely there must also be arguments on the other side. This is a controversial matter. The Minister for Repatriation has watched the position carefully over the years and I am sure he will continue to do so in the years to come. I cannot see why the Labour Party should propose to move an amendment in the terms that have been foreshadowed.
As has been stated earlier in the debate, the discussion of a repatriation bill each year involves a review of the many aspects of repatriation. It enables us to express views and to make suggestions for the improvement of the repatriation system. I do not think we should lose sight of (he ultimate aim of repatriation In reviewing the system, we need to know what our objective is. In this respect, I have noted some points which I think should be considered. It is generally agreed, I think, that the purpose of a repatriation system should be to compensate those who have suffered as a result of war service. The system must make adequate, provision for the dependants of ex-servicemen who have died as a result of their war service. Suitable financial compensation by way of pensions and allowances must be provided for the war-incapacitated. In certain, circumstances, the repatriation system must make provision for the dependants of exservicemen. It should provide for medical treatment of war-caused disabilities and for financial payments to be made to the immediate dependants of ex-servicemen who dic as a result of war service.
In my opinion, a proper system of repatriation benefits should include benefits which are not directly related to warcaused disabilities but which take into account the stresses of wai and the needs and financial circumstances of exservicemen and their dependants I agree with the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) that the real test of any repatriation system is whether it provides adequate compensation and care for those who have suffered as a result of war service. I believe that our ex-servicemen and women, and also their dependants, will say that, when our present system is viewed as a whole, it is a very good one. Despite the fact that in some instances there are anomalies, I believe that the system works very well. I am not alone in saying that. I have in front of me a publication issued by the World Veterans Federation, an organization which includes 153 associations of veterans and war victims in 48 countries, with a combined membership of more than 20,000,000 people. A perusal of this publication reveals that the repatriation system in Australia is far superior to that of any other country. This is high praise indeed.
I wish to join other honorable senators who have paid a tribute to the men responsible for administering the Repatriation Department. Many honorable senators have spoken of the courtesy they have received from officers of the department. During my term in this Parliament I have received similar courtesy and have been looked after very well. I also wish to join Senator Marriott in paying a tribute to my Australian Country Party colleague, Senator Sir Walter Cooper, who for eleven years was Minister for Repatriation in this Parliament. He did a great job for exservicemen. The officers of the Repatriation Department have displayed foresight and have looked to the future. I think we all realize that the peak period for repatriation benefits is yet to come. In fact, I understand that the departmental officers are looking to the years between 1970 and 1974 as the peak years for repatriation, and that they have plans well in hand to cater for that period. I pay a tribute to the senior officers for the way in which they go about the country and inform ex-servicemen of the benefits that are available to them. When they meet ex-servicemen who are entitled to benefits, such as pensions, they go to great trouble to inform them of their rights.
In this debate, the Labour Party has done no more than contend that the rates are not high enough. It has put forward a series of suggestions for variation of benefits. Some honorable senators opposite have referred to the pension plan proposed by the Returned Servicemen’s League and have stated that the league did a great deal of work before it placed the plan before the Government. It was suggested that the league had asked, not for as much as it was entitled to ask, taking 1952 as the base year, but for what it thought was a fair thing. Perhaps the league did as the Opposition has suggested. In any event, I congratulate the league on its efforts. I believe that it has done a great deal for ex-servicemen. In fact, I think that some of the benefits which are covered by this bill would not have been included if it had not been for the representations of this organization.
Recently, .1 was disgusted to see a television show which, I thought, was derogatory of the Returned Servicemen’s League. While 1 do not wish to labour the point, I believe that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should broadcast many more programmes of a controversial nature. I disagree with the policy of an organization that presents programmes with an objective of pure sensationalism. To my mind, controversial programmes are programmes which present both sides of a question. In this instance, that was not done. 1 recall my days as an officer of a country branch of the R.S.L., when 1 often travelled miles several nights a week to attend to branch business. I recall many occasions on which we conducted functions to obtain money for welfare purposes. In Western Australia last year, the State branch spent about £12,000 on the welfare of dependants of members. Surely this side of the work of the league should also have been shown on the programme.
– Is it too late now?
– I do not know about that. These are some of my views on repatriation. Many more aspects could be dealt with. The Government has done a good job in looking after ex-servicemen. I support the bill and oppose the amendment.
– I endorse the sentiments that have been expressed by other Opposition senators. We support the provisions of the bill, such as they are, but we suggest that they are only budgetary provisions and do not deal with major matters which we ought to consider in relation to the Repatriation Act.
The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) said that the purpose of the bill was to give effect to the Government’s Budget proposals in relation to repatriation. He indicated the adjustments that were to be made and he said that the Government regarded the Repatriation Act as evolutionary. We agree that it is evolutionary, but we suggest that its evolution is too retarded. The amendments that we shall propose in the committee stage should be considered from the point of view of the people whom we are trying to benefit. We must have regard to the spirit and intention of the legislation in relation to onus of proof. The intention is to do justice to persons who serve their country on active service and otherwise rather than to dismiss their claims with a legalistic interpretation of the provision. I simply , say at this stage that we must modify any legalistic interpretation in order to give effect to the intention to benefit ex-servicemen.
The Labour Opposition suggests that there should be a review of repatriation legislation similar to that which was conducted in 1942 by a joint all-party committee. At that stage, the Parliament faced a situation which was imposed by the war that was then in progress. There had not then been any important amendments to the legislation since about 1929 or 1930. Some small amendments had been made in 1936. There was growing misunderstanding on the question of onus of proof, and this matter was the subject of recommendations by the committee. We must take heed of the recommendations by exservicemen’s organizations in relation to this matter. We know that Ministers who hold the repatriation portfolio attend national congresses of the Returned Servicemen’s League. The Government acknowledges that the league is a very important body and says that its representations are heeded. We must have regard to what the league is asking the Government to do, particularly in relation to section 47, and also in regard to acceptance of cancer as a warcaused disability.
There is some misunderstanding as to the extent of the benefits proposed by the bill. It is said that the Budget provides for an increased expenditure of nearly £13,000,000 on repatriation services, the total cost of which will be nearly £120,000,000 this year. But in fact, as the
Minister pointed out, that additional expenditure reflects a projected increase in the number of pensioners and in the average percentage rate payable in respect of incapacity. The proposals that we are now considering will involve an expenditure of £2,173,000 in a full year and £1,581,000 in 1963-64.
We acknowledge that the increases in pension rates are good, so far as they go. My main criticism is of the application of the means test to pensioners who may receive a part T.P.I, pension, supplemented by the service pension, in such a way as to deprive them of the additional 10s. In 1960, the Government made some modification of the means test, but one of the most irritating things to ex-servicemen is the application of the means test to pensions. I can see no reason why the submission of the R.S.L. on this matter should not have been supported. The Labour Opposition in this regard is merely reiterating the point of view of the league. When the Budget was announced, the national president of the league, Sir Raymond Huish, was reported as having said -
It was ironic, however, that many T.P.I, pensioners who also received a part service pension would get an additional 10s. for the T.P.I. pension and lose it from the service pension.
I can see no justification for this. Broadly, we support the bill as it is a measure to improve the conditions of ex-servicemen.
Representations for acceptance of cancer as a war-caused disability and for a more liberal application of the onusofproof provision have been going on for many years. The R.S.L., at annual congresses, has stressed the need for these reforms. In this chamber and elsewhere we have heard constant reiteration of the need for further consideration of these matters. The Government should not be content merely with legal interpretations. Even before the inquiry in 1942, to which I referred earlier, there was a good deal of contention about the question of onus of proof. I think it is safe to say that in applications to repatriation authorities, regard has to be made to the climate in which application is made. One must have regard to the factor of public pressure. There is an urgent demand by ex-servicemen’s organizations that something be done about section 47.
Shortly after the last war there was a period in which more justice was probably done to ex-servicemen in relation to their applications to various tribunals than at any other time. The public climate was such that tribunals were prepared to give more sympathetic consideration to applications. Many ex-servicemen, whose applications were rejected in the first instance, found that upon appealing to a tribunal they received some degree of justice. I agree with the statement by Senator Drake-Brockman that the man who has served his country on active service is entitled to all he can get. Rendering that service often imposes a great strain and a great hardship on men who did not avail themselves of medical attention while in the field or resting at a base. So, in considering the representations which are made by people who feel aggrieved about the existing situation we have to examine the matter in an entirely practical light.
I have in mind the sort of approach adopted by the Returned Servicemen’s League which, I think, is the only sensible approach. It has been explained not only in submissions to Labour senators but also in submissions to all members of the Parliament by the league. A letter has been sent by the league to all members of this Parliament concerning the present position in relation to section 47 of the Repatriation Act. This letter follows a decision of the national executive of the league which has adduced evidence to show that in the absence of a clear definition of “ doubt “ in section 47 an ex-service man or woman could have an application rejected by one authority and approved by another. This has happened frequently when an application which has been rejected by a board has been approved, on appeal, by another authority. Figures which I shall later seek leave to have incorporated in “ Hansard “ indicate that of the great number of applications made for repatriation benefits to the various tribunals almost half are rejected, but as the repatriation legislation is progressively amended many of them are granted. This is an aspect of the matter which we must examine. The opinions that I am expressing are not just the sentiments of the Opposition but the sentiments of people whose job it is to protect exservicemen. 1 have here a letter which was sent to me and a copy of which, so far as I am aware, has been sent to every other senator and every member of the House of Representatives by the Returned Servicemen’s League during August. My letter was sent to me on 15th August. It requested that the Parliament should consider an amendment to section 47 of the Repatriation Act, which relates to the onus of proof. The State president of the South Australian branch of the league states in this letter - lt is apparent (hat the framers of this Section were of one mind to ensure that where any doubt existed a grateful country would resolve it in the interests of the ex-service man or woman concerned. In practice this does not necessarily happen; and because, this is so, the obvious intentions of the Section are defeated.
In order to remedy this situation the league has sought an amendment of the repatriation legislation which the Opposition will attempt to introduce in this chamber. I think that I should read more of this letter, because it puts forward the point of view that I have mentioned, lt contains the following statement: -
In the opinion of the League the insertion of this paragraph would at once define a “ doubt “ because it seems reasonable to assume that in the absence of absolute proof that a given condition is not caused by or contributed to by war service, the determining authority may properly conclude that it could have been, and in such circumstances the framers of the Section clearly intended that the ex-serviceman should be given the benefit of the doubt.
The League has on its files records of rejected applications which seem to indicate an increasing tendency to refuse claims where there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond doubt that the condition upon which they were based was in fact duc to war service. 1 do not know whether the position mentioned in the last sentence still exists to-day. As I said before, I believe from my own experience that just after the last war many applicants to the repatriation tribunals were dealt with much more speedily and justly because of what we might call a “ post-war psychology “. At the present time, members of the Parliament have referred to them many difficult cases in which they try to assist an ex-serviceman to prosecute a claim for a repatriation benefit in respect of a war-caused disability. We find in many such cases concerning ex-servicemen of the First World War that there is no chance of their obtaining the supporting evidence that they have been told to get from a medical officer who attended them at the time the disability was caused or from some one else in their unit. I know also from my own experience that many ex-servicemen who were engaged on active service in campaigns and landings, like the average Australian, would not attempt to complain about what they had suffered during the war but got out of the service as quickly as they could when the war was over. It is necessary to have regard to the difficulties of such people. Most of them who now want to receive some consideration for war-caused disabilities are between the ages of 40 and 50 years, lt is not sufficient, in the interests of these people, to try to analyse the situation within a legal framework. I suggest that when we go into such matters we should not be hide-bound by terminology. We should look at the over-riding concept, having regard to the spirit of repatriation legislation. We pride ourselves not only upon having the finest repatriation system in the world - it has slipped a bit - but also on the submissions in respect of our system which we were requested to make to governments of other countries following the First World War.
I forgot to mention at the beginning of my remarks that I wish to commend the officers of the Repatriation Commission. 1 have received great assistance from them. But I suggest that they are influenced not only by governments but also by the sort of climate that is created by over-riding policies of finance. I think the letter to which I have referred can be summed up in a paragraph in which the president of the South Australian branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League, Mr. Eastick, said -
The league is of the opinion that neither of these objections can be sustained. If a condition is truly of “ unknown “ origin there is obviously a complete lack of scientific knowledge as to how it began, and any claim to which a scientific finding of this nature applies must fail because there is no evidence one way or another. If a condition is found to be of “ uncertain “ origin, then the implication is that qualified opinion differs, in which case a doubt has been created. lt is in order to more clearly define this doubt that the league directs your attention to the amendment we have put forward for consideration by Parliamentarians.
The Opposition’s proposals are in accordance with the amendment suggested in this letter. They result from careful consideration which Opposition senators have given to this matter over the years, and they represent the views of people who are concerned with the welfare of ex-servicemen. As I said earlier, the Opposition’s main suggestion is that this is a proper time at which to have a review of repatriation matters. The Minister for Repatriation has said that the Government keeps pace with changing circumstances and has regard to the need progressively to amend the legislation. But we all ought to recognize that there should bc a re-appraisal of the two main proposals that have been submitted by the Returned Servicemen’s League and other ex-servicemen’s organizations. I refer to the onus of proof and the proposal in regard to cancer. We should not be bound by submissions such as those which were made by Senator Marriott because, as I understood them, he would have argued in support of the Government’s proposals, whatever they might have been, on the basis of available finance. 1 note that the previous Minister for Repatriation, when addressing the 1961 National Congress of the R.S.L., said -
I am not for a moment suggesting that the rising cost should have any effect on discharging the responsibility.
He was referring to the claims that had been made by the league. He continued -
Hie Australian people, through their governments, have accepted obligations to our exservice.men and their dependants and it is, I think, much to the people’s credit that they have never grudged the cost.
J believe that the people, of Australia recognize and fully accept the obligations which they have to ex-servicemen and exservicewomen. If the Government accepted the Opposition’s amendment in relation to the onus of proof - it has been suggested that to do so would result in unlimited claims - the people of Australia would not object. It has been stated in many places that there are very few ex-servicemen and exservicewomen who have not suffered as a result of their war service. At congresses of the league the previous Minister for Repatriation and the present Minister have referred to the Government’s consideration of proposals that have been submitted by the R.S.L. 1 want to know why almost annually the Government rejects the main requests that we make.
Senator DrakeBrockman endeavoured to make a point of the proposed pension plan. He wanted to know why we had approached this matter on the basis of average weekly earnings and had not related pensions to the. basic wage. Although it was not our approach, it seems to me to be a very reasonable one. Obviously the R.S.L. was motivated by what it considered to be real wages in a period of expansion. No doubt it had regard to the. Commonwealth Statistician’s figures which, speaking from memory, showed that the average weekly wage was approximately ?24. If the league had thought of relating the pension to the basic wage, it would have had to analyse that wage and would have had to take account of the fact that the cost of living adjustment was frozen in 1953. lt would have had to take account of the fact that a new system had been adopted for the computation of the cost of living. When we are considering real wages we must take into account the margin component and the fringe benefits. The R.S.L. has put forward this proposal; we are simply restating it.
The last inquiry of any note into every aspect of repatriation benefits was conducted in 1942. Following the submission of the committee’s report in 1943 some amendments were made to the then section 39, which is now section 47. It is true that when that amending legislation was introduced in another place the then Minister for Repatriation - he was a Labour Minister - offered the interpretation which this Government is now advancing, but he pointed out that he would go further than was indicated in the amendments which were then proposed. But the matter has not been satisfactorily settled since then.
It is of no great satisfaction to say. as has been said, that an applicant may go to one authority and have his claim rejected and then approach a second authority and have it approved. The number of claims that are rejected is astonishing. No doubt fewer claims would be rejected if some practical interpretation of the onus-of-proof provision were given. The report of the Repatriation Commission for 1962-63 shows that for that year the commission had before it 16,791 appeals for action. Altogether 2,141 were accepted and 12,091 were rejected. The number of appeals outstanding as at 12th June, 1963, was 2,559. The total number of appeals before the entitlement appeal tribunals for action in respect of all wars was 12,990. The number allowed was 1,369 and the number disallowed was 7,146. A number of cases lapsed. The assessment appeal tribunals had before them for action a total of 16,910 appeals. The number allowed was 5,655 and the number disallowed was 5,337. We submit that the time has arrived to give some sort of definition of onus of proof. If we cannot agree upon the terminology, let us ask the parliamentary draftsman to provide a suitable definition.
I conclude by saying that the stage has been reached where, in respect of our petition for an inquiry into repatriation generally, the Government ought to say, “We will consider the representations not only of the Labour Opposition but also of the R.S.L.”. A committee of inquiry could consider the vexed onus-of-proof provision which causes more frustration and disappointment to ex-servicemen than does any other section of the Repatriation Act. Probably more injustice is done to exservicemen under this provision than is done by the failure to pay adequate pension increases.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– As one who has followed the news coming out of Asia I am deeply concerned that not one Australian newspaper appears to have a journalist stationed in Indonesia.
Australian newspapers have representatives in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur who may go occasionally to Indonesia. I understand that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has a representative in Indonesia and representatives also in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
As I see it, Indonesia at present could be regarded as the cockpit of South-East Asia. It certainly was so at the week-end, and could well continue to be. All reports coming to the Australian press from Indonesia appear to emanate from Australian Associated Press-Reuter. This is a wellknown and world-wide news-gathering organization, but there is a challenge to the Australian newspapers - some of them with over 100 years of continuous publication - to send their own representatives to SouthEast Asia, particularly to Indonesia.
There is hardly any need for me to stress the importance of Indonesia. There are 100,000,000 people there owing an allegiance to one flag and living in 3,000 separate islands to the north of Australia. Most of them are living nearer to north-western Australia than, say, the people of Melbourne or Adelaide do. Also, Australia has a common frontier with Indonesia. It should be remembered also that Indonesia is of great importance to us inasmuch as we have played a big part, through the Colombo Plan, in training Indonesian students. I understand that the number of Colombo Plan students who have come to Australia is greater than that from any other Colombo Plan country. All told, over 1,000 students from Indonesia have trained here, and Australia has spent £1,500,000 on their training. We have granted capital aid of £2,600,000 to Indonesia. These are some of the reasons why this Senate should consider Indonesia important.
I think that an Australian pressman, expressing himself in the Australian idiom, could do a tremendous lot in gathering daytoday news in Indonesia and transmitting it to Australia. It is well known that the television services in Australia - apart from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation service - are sponsored, in the main, by newspapers. An Australian journalist stationed in Indonesia could procure the necessary photographs and news for the education of the Australian people by means of television. It is no good saying that such news gathering could be left to the British, the Dutch or other Europeans. Australia is the only nation of European origin in this area. I consider, with all respect, that the Australian press should regard this as a challenge to send some of its best men to Indonesia and not rely on international organizations for news.
The present practice of basing journalists on Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and occasionally getting them to go to Indonesia to gather news for Australia is not adequate. If the Australian press were to station its own correspondents in Indonesia there is a very good chance that the Indonesian press would station correspondents in Australia. That could do some good through an exchange of culture. It is not that the Australian press has not in the past taken an interest in the development of a comity of nations in Asia, because I recall that one member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery went to Borneo a few years ago to assist the government there lo establish a public relations and radio system. So, in the past, the Australian press in a minor way has played quite a part in the cultural development of these places. At present there is a great challenge to do so.
In conclusion, I point out that already in Australia, and in Canberra especially, great interest is being taken in this matter. I made some inquiries at the Australian National University and found that the university has opened a Faculty of Oriental Studies. There is a professor of Indonesian language and literature and there are as well two senior lecturers and two teachers instructing between 45 and 50 students. About half of them are full-time students. They are engaged in courses in Indonesian and Malayan languages and literature. There are similar classes in Sydney and Melbourne, and at the Royal Australian Air Force station at Point Cook there is a course for Army, Navy and R.A.A.F. personnel and certain officers of the Department of External Affairs. So, already in Australia there is this awareness of Indonesia and there are facilities for learning the Malay and Indonesian languages and literature. I consider that the Australian press at this point could well take up the challenge and play its part in the exercise of making Australia live usefully alongside Indonesia.
Wilh respect, I ask the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton), who assists the Minister for External Affairs, to carry this idea forward with a view to the Australian press being represented in Indonesia by Australian journalists. I do not mean that they should be attached to the Australian Embassy as press attaches, but that working journalists should send factual reports to Australia in a meaningful way, in the Australian idiom, knowing what is required and what is of interest to us about our nearest neighbour to the north.
.- I propose to make an incidental reference to Indonesia, but I rise in particular to make reference to part of an answer that was given to-day at question time by the Minister for the Navy and assistant to the Minister for External Affairs (Senator Gorton). The question concerned incidents of high national importance in Indonesia. I bring to the notice of the Senate that part of the Minister’s answer in which he said that these incidents of violence showed the importance of legislation such as we had before us last week. The Minister was referring to the International Organizations (Privileges and Immunities) Bill.
I think the Minister would be the only person who would be found to suggest that it is necessary to have such special legislation as that to grant protection to international diplomats from violence and riots such as the newspapers reported this morning involving the British Embassy at Djakarta. Of course, when a diplomat comes into a country he is entitled to th: protection of the law of that country without any special provision. Even John Smith, a private citizen going into a country is entitled to invoke the ordinary law of that country as a protection against violence and lawlessness of the type described. But apart from that, a diplomat is entitled to have his country take cognizance of lawlessness as an act of international unfriendliness in which, it might be thought, having regard to the relationship between Her Majesty’s Government of Australia and Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom, this Commonwealth would have an intense, if technically indirect, interest.
The second thing I want to say with regard to this reference is that the ordinary protection of diplomatic envoys, as I mentioned last Thursday by a passing reference, has its basis in the common law as was declared by the British statute of 1705 or 1707, the Diplomatic Privileges Act. I was interested yesterday to confirm my recollection that Peter the Great’s envoy to Britain was set upon by a sheriff’s officer in execution of a judgment for a debt given in the court. The envoy claimed immunity from liability under the ordinary law of the country. To appease Peter the Great the British House of Commons passed the statute declaring the common law. But in no sense does an envoy need a special act to protect him from violence, although the law of this country does concede him a special immunity from ordinary liabilities to which the rest of us are subject. That point, I think, was acknowledged by the Minister last week.
That being acknowledged, my final point is that the legislation that we dealt with last week was of such a novel character as to extend beyond the sphere of ordinary envoys into the realm of international organizations, their officers, emissaries and persons sent by them to attend international conferences. That is completely irrelevant to true diplomatic privilege such as the British Embassy in Indonesia is entitled to.
Mr. President, I rise to make this reference in the hope that an objective and calm statement of the position will serve to clarify the standards which are expected in matters of high international interest. When answers emanate from representatives of Her Majesty’s Australian Government, it is unfortunate if irrelevant references serve to convey an erroneous import.
– I am not at all sure how it is that Senator Laught would wish the Government to ensure that press associations in Australia stationed pressmen in Indonesia and other countries in that area. The case that he made in favour of this, and the case he made to indicate the benefits which could flow to this country from better and more up-to-date reporting by trained journalists from Australia of what was happening on the spot, were very impressive. I can only say that I agree with him about the benefits that would flow. However, I do not know how it is within the purview of the Government to persuade newspaper proprietors to station their reporters in certain areas, although I would be very happy to lend such support as it is possible for the Government to give to the case put forward by the honorable senator.
I am not at all sure either from the speech that Senator Wright has made to the Senate, just what he had in his mind. He did indeed raise by way of a question earlier to-day matters of considerable importance, as he said, and I think he was given answers to the matters of considerable importance that he raised. He asked me if we knew whether the British Government had received an apology from the Indonesian Government, and he was told that we did not have any information on that point. He asked whether the Australian Government would make it clear that it wished the Indonesian Government to apologize to the British Government and to make reparations to it. He was told that it was not the function of one government to require another government to apologize or to make reparations to yet a third government, and that cases of that kind were to be settled between the governments themselves. Indeed, if we were to depart from that approach we could easily find that government A was paying reparations to government B when government B was not even pressing for them. So, clearly, that is a matter between the governments concerned.
asked whether the Australian Government deplored the attacks on the British Embassy, and he was told that the Australian Government did deplore the attacks, both on the British Embassy and the Malaysian Embassy. He asked whether there was any knowledge of an attack on the Australian Embassy and what the attitude of the Australian Government was in that matter. He was told that there was no knowledge of an attack on an Australian Embassy and that the Australian Government firmly expected the Indonesian Government to take such measures as were necessary to prevent such an attack. How the honorable senator could have got more definite or precise answers to the questions he asked on these matters I am afraid I cannot understand. Perhaps later he can say just what kind of answers he would have preferred.
– As to so much of the answer I have made no complaint.
-Well, you did complain. The second part of the honorable senator’s objection was that in commenting on the mob attacks on the two embassies I had stated that this kind of unofficial mob attack on a diplomat seeking to represent his country as an envoy in another country indicated the kind of impediments which could be placed in the way of diplomats and underlined the fact that they needed, in various countries, protection from official acts of governments as well as from unofficial attacks by mobs if they were fully to be able to carry out their duties. At no stage did I make any reference whatever to the legislation that was before the Senate last week. At no stage did I make any reference whatever to people who are not diplomats. This all arises entirely in the mind of the honorable senator. It is true that in the course of a debate last week, on another matter entirely, the privileges of diplomats not being under discussion, some views were expressed that existing privileges and immunities of diplomats were archaic, and some suggestions were made that they went beyond what was required to enable a diplomat to do his duty. Certainly Senator Wright was one of those who said so. But in various quarters there was some disquiet, in varying degrees, as to whether diplomats - not the people who were the subject of the bill - did require the immunities and privileges that they now have. It seemed to me, therefore, appropriate and apposite, in view of the happenings just to our north, to point out that there is a need for such immunities to enable diplomats to carry out their work properly. If my doing that has upset the honorable senator’s susceptibilities I can only regret that his susceptibilities are upset. That is quite different from regretting that I said what I said.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.51 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 September 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1963/19630917_senate_24_s24/>.