24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Acting Treasurer: Is it a fact that since Ansett Transport Industries Limited took over Ansett-A.N.A. seven years ago, Ansett Transport Industries Limited has declared profits, before tax, amounting to £5,382,321? Is it a fact that only £192,721 in tax has been paid on those profits, which represents less than 9d. in the £1? Had the current rate of tax of 8s. in the £1 been levied on such profits would it have amounted to £2,300,000? Has the low rate of tax paid been brought about by the accumulated losses of AnsettA.N.A. and one or two other companies taken over by Ansett Transport Industries Limited? Have the accumulated losses used for taxation purposes so far amounted to £2,100,000? Was the profit for this year £1,275,370, the tax £36,395 and the declared dividend 20.5 per cent.? When is it anticipated that the accumulated losses will be exhausted and thus allow the full amount of tax to be collected?
– I cannot confirm or deny, offhand, the figures cited by Senator Cant. They sound very much like a set of figures which I saw published in a newspaper recently; so I do not doubt that they are at least approximately correct. It is true that while profits have been made by this firm over recent years the amount of tax payable has not been great because, in conformity with the taxation laws of this country, certain deductions have been allowed in respect of losses incurred by some of the subsidiary companies. This is a circumstance which does not attach only to the firm mentioned by the honorable senator. The taxation legislation has such an effect on Australian companies generally. Senator Cant asked when the taxation deductions in respect of previous losses would be exhausted. I cannot tell him.
– When is it expected that they will be exhausted?
– I cannot say. That will be a question for decision, finally, by the Commissioner of Taxation. However, I want to emphasize that whatever amount of tax has been charged to and paid by this company it has been so charged and paid because it has been assessed by the Commissioner of Taxation in conformity with the taxation laws of the country.
– Yes, an international grain house has recently purchased about 58,500,000 bushels of Australian wheat and flour, with the option of increasing the purchase to approximately 64,000,000 bushels. This wheat is intended for shipment to eastern Europe and Siberia. The Australian Wheat Board is particularly happy that the coming season, with its promise of a bountiful crop, will end with carry-over stocks at an absolute minimum.
– Recently I addressed a series of questions to the Minister for Health in relation to the Australian Association of Ethical Pharmaceutical Industry. The Minister, not having the desired information, could not reply effectively to me. I have now received a letter from the association-
– Order! The honorable senator is giving information. Will he please ask his question?
– It is necessary for me to preface my question with an explanation. Honorable senators have been allowed to do that hundreds of times, but I am pulled up. I shall now ask the question. With your permission. Mr. President, let me say that I have received a letter from the Australian Association of Ethical
Pharmaceutical Industry. May I also say that the latter states that the Minister has received all the necessary information from the industry. He is now in a position to reply. Will he kindly inform the Senate and the public of Australia on these matters by replying to the questions I asked eight or ten days ago?
– Yes, of course I will. The answer is in the process of being completed and I hope to have it without further delay. The honorable senator will agree that the question was involved. I and other Ministers believe that when senators ask long and involved questions they are entitled to considered replies. Such a reply is being prepared and it will be made available to the honorable senator as soon as it has been completed.
– I address these questions to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General: Is it a fact that the 9 p.m. news service of the British Broadcasting Corporation has been discontinued in Western Australia? Is it a fact that there is now no B.B.C. news service in that State? Can the Minister tell me why Western Australia has been deprived of this news service even though it is broadcast in all other States? Is he aware that there has been a great deal of resentment in Western Australia on the part of British migrants and others who are interested in world news because this service has been discontinued? Will he consult with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board with a view to having the service restored?
– I have no knowledge of the matter that has been raised by Senator Branson. To save time and to expedite a reply I suggest that the honorable senator should accept my assurance that I will discuss the matter with the PostmasterGeneral and ascertain the true position.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen a report in to-day’s issue of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ that Dr. Kurt Kolar, an Austrian zoologist, who arrived in Sydney on Sunday last, hopes that the behaviour pattern of Canberra’s indigenous galahs may provide clues to man’s social evolution? According to the newspaper report, he intends to study the habits of galahs and cockatoos. Will the Minister inform me whether this gentleman proposes to visit the House of Representatives before coming to the Senate?
– I can well understand the interest of members of the Opposition in this inquiry. I share their apprehension concerning the result of it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I preface it by stating that Western Australia has no objection to helping the Geelong Australian rules football team win the premiership-
– Order! The honorable senator is giving information. He should ask his question.
– Has the Minister seen a report published in the “ West Australian “ of 26th September last, headed “Air Lift for W.A. Wool”, in which it was stated that SO bales of wool were to be air-freighted to a Melbourne woollen mill, and that another SO bales were to be air-freighted the following day? Can the Minister inform the Senate how it is possible to buy wool in Western Australia at a price that allows it to be air-freighted to Victoria? How much wool is sent annually from Western Australia to mills in the eastern States? Was the wool referred to in the report bought privately and classed into special lines, or was it bought at auction?
– It is not unusual for woollen mills in the eastern States to purchase wool in Western Australia. A mill in one of the eastern States may be in need of a special type of wool which is not readily available in the eastern States. It may therefore seek to obtain such wool in Western Australia. The consignment is usually sent by sea, or by rail or road transport. In 1962-63, I think that some 14,000 bales of wool came from Western Australia to the eastern States.. It is most unusual for such wool to be air-freighted. However, on the occasion to which the honorable senator has referred there were circumstances which may easily be explained. A consignment of stud sheep had been sent by air to the Perth Royal Show. The airline concerned, rather than return the aircraft empty to the eastern States, accepted a consignment of wool at a greatly reduced rate. The honorable senator seems to be agitated by some aspects of the trade between the eastern and western States of the Commonwealth. He may draw comfort from the fact that Victorian and South Australian secondary industries are contributing to the economy of Western Australia.
– Can the
Leader of the Government in the Senate advise rae of the progress that has been made by the Cabinet or by the Government in dealing with the request of the Macleay River, Clarence River and Richmond River county councils, and the Tweed and Shoalhaven shire councils, for financial aid to enable them to speed up the work of flood mitigation in their respective areas and thus prevent further losses of fertile soil which may be washed into the sea, and further impoverishment of coastal communities? I may say, Mr. President, that during the week I visited one of the areas concerned with Mr. Frank McGuren.
– Order! The honorable senator must ask his question. He should not give information.
– Is the Minister aware that large areas of land are still under water as a result of the last flood which occurred in May this year? In view of the importance of this matter to the national economy, will the Minister endeavour to expedite consideration of the request to which I have referred, so that drainage works may be undertaken and levee banks constructed now, instead of waiting until another flood causes disaster? If that happened, it’ would be necessary to heed pleas for assistance from persons whose land was destroyed by flood waters.
– I am well aware of the problem to which Senator Fitzgerald has referred, and 1 am well acquainted also with the areas in New
South Wales which he has mentioned. The Prime Minister visited the northern coastal areas of New South Wales a couple of months ago, where he obtained evidence of the problem at first hand. He expressed sympathy for those who had been affected by the floods. Subsequently the Premier of New South Wales wrote asking whether the Commonwealth would agree to match the State’s contribution. My recollection is that at present the State matches on a fifty-fifty basis the contribution made by State authorities. The New South Wales request is that the Commonwealth provide an amount similar to that now provided by the State. Recently a deputation of Government members representing that area - most of which is, of course, represented in the Commonwealth Parliament by Government members - had a discussion with the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Treasurer, and at present the matter is under discussion by the Government. I should think that it will not be long before a decision is reached.
– Is the Leader of the Government aware that celebrations will be held in Britain next year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the battles of Mons, the Marne, the Aisne and Ypres in tha First World War? Have any representations been made to the Government to send to those celebrations some veterans of the “ Old Contemptibles “ now living in Australia? If not, or in any case, will the Minister bring this matter before Cabinet for consideration?
– I have heard nothing of this proposal previously. I think that a 50th anniversary is an occasion well worth marking. I will see that the honorable senator’s question is brought to the notice of the Prime Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that over the week-end the Minister announced that the Commonwealth Government had decided to eliminate the present National Health Act requirement that hospital insurance contributors must be transferred to the special account automatically on reaching the age of 65 years? How many persons will receive the advantages of this very fine concession? When is it expected that the concession will come into effect? Is it expected that the enabling legislation will be passed before this sessional period ends?
– The answer to the first question asked by Senator Anderson is, *’ Yes “. I was in a position to announce that the Government had decided that to be over 65 years of age was no longer to be a penalty, and in future a person over 65 years would not be prevented from receiving the full hospital and medical benefits for which he had insured himself. I think that a right and proper decision has been made. The special account fund has certainly served very useful purposes. There is no need for me to remind the Senate that we have been doing a good deal of experimental work, because our national health scheme is the only scheme of its kind in the world. It has many fine features, but naturally we think that every attempt should be made to make it even better. This last decision by the Government will, I think, merit the approval of a great many people. As a matter of fact, 1,000,000 people will benefit from this decision. The honorable senator asked when the legislation will be passed. It is hoped that it will be available for presentation to both Houses of the Parliament during the current sessional period.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise as the representative in this chamber of the Minister for Immigration. Is it a fact that the Minister for Immigration has refused to grant a further permit upon the expiry of the entry permit under which two United States citizens, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Orr, have been residing in Melbourne during the past six months? Is it a fact that Mr. Orr has publicly requested that he be informed of the reason for the Minister’s decision? Is it a fact that the Minister has not, so far, given Mr. Orr any reason for the decision or any opportunity to be heard in answer to such allegations as the Government may be able to make against him? Will the Minister for Customs and Excise give the Senate an assurance that any final decision will be deferred until after the Minister for Immigration has heard and fully considered Mr. Orr’s side of the case? If the Minister for Immigration will not agree to this course, will he act under section 14 of the Migration Act 1958 and give notice of his intention to order the deportation of Mr. and Mrs Orr, specifying the ground of action as required by the section, and so enable Mr. Orr to have a commissioner appointed to investigate the case and report to the Minister whether the ground taken in the notice has been established?
– The answer to the first three questions is, “ Yes “. Mr. and Mrs. Orr, I understand, are United States citizens who came to Australia on visitors’ permits. These permits have expired. In answer to questions in another place this afternoon the Minister for Immigration made it quite clear that Mr. and Mrs. Orr were in Australia on visitors’ permits, that the time had expired, and that he expected them to obey the laws of this country, just as every other country expects visitors to obey its laws.
– The party is over and it is time to go home.
– That is the position. The Minister said also that if the laws of this country were not obeyed voluntarily by Mr. and Mrs. Orr further measures would be considered.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware that a world famous English drug company, Burroughs Wellcome, is prepared to sell a drug, ergometrine maleate, to Indonesia for use in West Irian at £1 5s. per box, whilst the company’s Australian off-shoot charges the Australian Government £2 0s. 6d. per box for the same drug for use in Papua and New Guinea? If so, is this another blatant illustration of the degree to which overseas drug companies are holding to ransom the Australian national health scheme? In view of the Minister’s statement two weeks ago that there are a number of instances of drug prices which appear to be higher than can reasonably be expected, is the Minister at this stage able to tell the Senate what action, if any, is being taken by the Government to bring drug charges to a reasonable level?
– I think it is fair to say at . the outset that the company referred to by the honorable senator bears an honoured name in the drug world. I do not think that point is in question; it is the price for this drug that the honorable senator queries. The drug is used, particularly in eastern countries, during childbirth. The explanation of the difference in the price, though not completely acceptable to me, runs something like this: The Burroughs Wellcome company believes that it has an obligation to make its drugs available in countries with a lower living standard at a price at which they can be purchased. In effect, the company adopts a policy of what I might call equalization. I am not supporting that policy, but I state that by way of explanation. I think it can be argued that there is at least something to be said for the motive which prompts the manufacturer to make some contribution to those who do not enjoy the same high standards of living that we perhaps do. The honorable senator asked whether I was in a position to say what action was being taken by the Government to curb what he called blatant examples of profiteering in Australia. I am not in a position to tell the Senate what the Government proposes to do, but I can assure the honorable senator that in the foreseeable, future all things will be revealed to him, and I am sure that they will’ meet with his commendation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has the Department of Civil Aviation given any consideration to the possibility of Australian operators introducing supersonic jet aircraft in the near or distant future? Are warnings against the development of supersonic aircraft being given at this time at a conference of international air operators? Does the Government agree with those warnings?
– The introduction of supersonic aircraft has been dis cussed at a number of meetings of international operators. Both governments and operators recognize that certain factors have to be watched very closely before this type of aircraft can be put into commission on international routes. Some of these problems which need solution relate not only to the technical development of the aircraft but also to the development of suitable ground facilities, communications, air navigation systems and the like. I assure the honorable senator that all these things are receiving day to day progressive attention by the Department of Civil Aviation in Australia and in conjunction with departments of civil aviation in other Commonwealth countries with which we conduct tripartite international air services. I also assure the honorable senator that our own excellent international operator, Qantas, is right on the ball with any developments in this field and is paying particular regard to the problems that have given rise to what the honorable senator has called the “ warnings “ emanating from the most recent conference of international operators.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is the Minister aware that the Minister for Shipping and Transport is reported in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ of 1st October to have stated that tenders were being called for the first of the air-conditioned steel coaches to operate on the railway service between Maree and Alice Springs? Will the Minister investigate the possibility of having this rolling-stock manufactured in one of Australia’s railway workshops, having in mind the capacity of the South Australian railway workshops to manufacture such rolling-stock? Alternatively, will the Minister endeavour to have this rollingstock manufactured by private industry in Australia?
– The usual procedure followed by Commonwealth Railways is to call tenders for the provision of this type of equipment. The most that 1 can do at the moment is to tell the honorable, senator that, as far as I know, tenders will be called, and that Australian firms1 will be’ given the opportunity to submit tenders.
If the honorable senator will leave the question with me, I shall direct the attention of the Minister particularly to that part of it which relates to placing these orders with Australian manufacturers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs. I preface it by stating that from time to time statements are made by Dr. Soekarno and other leaders of Indonesia to the effect that the policy of confrontation against Malaysia stems partly from the fact that the Manila agreement was departed from. What exactly, in short terms, comprised the Manila agreement? Does the Minister consider that there has been any breach of the conditions reached at the Manila conference, which gave rise at the time to optimism as regards the establishment of Malaysia?
– 1 should like that question to be put on the notice-paper so that a detailed reply may be supplied by the Acting Minister. At this juncture, I would be prepared to say that the operative clause in the Manila agreement, as I understand it, was that the United Nations organization was to discover whether or not popular sentiment in Sarawak and North Borneo favoured the creation of Malaysia. The Secretary-General of the United Nations published a report, after such investigations, indicating the view of the United Nations investigators that public opinion in Sarawak and North Borneo most definitely did favour the creation of Malaysia. i IMMIGRATION.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Minister for Immigration a question which relates to a question asked earlier by Senator Cohen. Unlike Senator Cohen, I do not wish to ask about visitors’ vises. Will the Minister for Immigration give Mr. Harold Orr, an American citizen, the reasons why he is not acceptable as a permanent settler in Australia? Is the Minister acting on a security report? If so, is it from Australian or American security organizations? Will the Minister indicate whether , Mr, Orr’s political activities or opinions are the reason why he is unacceptable for residence in Australia? Will the Minister withhold any further drastic action until such time as Mr. Orr, and individuals and organizations supporting him, can make proper representations to the Minister to ensure that justice shall be done in this case?
– I do not think that the honorable senator need worry for a moment that justice will not bc done. Obedience to Australian laws is the first thing which is called for in this case. The Minister for Immigration has made quite clear, in answer to questions, that he docs not think it in the public interest to give the reasons why he has advised Mr. Orr and Mrs. Orr that their time has expired and that it is time for them to go.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: Is it a fact that at least four companies of world renown own iron ore deposits in the north-west of Western Australia? Is it a fact that they are testing those deposits and also looking for suitable port sites for the exportation of that ore? In view of the fact that large ore carriers are at present being used by competitor countries, could the Minister advise whether it would not be better for the Western Australian Government, in conjunction with the four companies and the Commonwealth Government, to make an all-out effort to find and develop the most suitable deep water port capable of taking ships up to 100,000 tons capacity so that Western Australia and Australia can effectively compete on the world’s -Von ore markets?
Obviously, one of the major costs in the development of these iron ore deposits is the cost of transport which includes transport from the deposits to ports and from ports to places of destination. I would doubt the practicability of finding one port which would adequately service the various iron ore deposits because the distance involved in rail transport would vary from deposit to deposit. I would hazard the view that the development of these deposits will result, ( in. time, in the development’ of a series’ .of several ports on the
Western Australian coast and not in the development of one port only. These deposits, of course, are among the great mineral discoveries and developments in the history of the Commonwealth. A great deal of work is going on. Already, the mining companies have invested very great capital sums. I would hesitate to express, at this stage, too dogmatic a view as to the eventual form of development because possibly the best mining brains in Australia are engaged on this problem at the present time.
– Will the Minister for National Development inform the Senate whether there is any substance in the rumours circulating in the coal industry that the Government is negotiating with oil companies for the purpose of reducing the amount of fuel oil on the market in order to relieve the pressure, on the coal industry? If this is true, when will the Minister be able to give the Senate a report on the negotiations?
It is hardly a case of negotiating. My department is constantly in touch with the oil industry, directing its attention to the need to conserve Australian overseas exchange by importing as small a proportion of refined products as is possible. This necessarily involves a corresponding reduction in the proportion of fuel oil produced.
– Has the Acting Treasurer seen a report of the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited giving its annual comparative index which showed that there was no increase in industrial production in Australia in the last financial year? These figures exclude power production. Has he observed that in the past three years there has been an increase of only 7.7 per cent, or an average of about 2.5 per cent, per annum in industrial production? In view of these figures, which are poor when compared with those of other progressive countries, does not the Minister consider that the Government’s performance provides grounds for serious re-examination’ and that the credit squeeze which the’
Government imposed on the community did the Australian economy a grave disservice? Is the Government prepared to go to the people at an early date in order to give the Australian electors an opportunity to express their views on this disquieting state of affairs?
– I have not seen the report to which Senator O’Byrne has referred but I shall be most interested to look at it. I cannot help but think that what he has put before the Senate by way of information rather than by way of a question has been torn out of its context, having regard to the fact that the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited has always been regarded by most people as a reliable source of information. In view of figures which have appeared in the Budget Papers and various financial statements associated with the Budget, and in view of reports from business and industry on the continued growth in the economy, I am sure that the honorable senator has not presented in an accurate way the information which he has ascribed to the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited. I should be most interested to look at the report. As to the latter part of the honorable senator’s question, all I can say is that a decision in respect of that matter will be made at the appropriate time and announced in the appropriate way.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service whether a large reduction took place in unemployment last month, the number of registered unemployed decreasing to 67,000, which is almost an Australian record, taking into consideration the total number of people employed. Also, is it a fact that to-day’s newspapers predict that there will be a further large reduction in the number of persons registered for employment for the September quarter? Is it a fact that these figures have so astonished members of the Opposition that they have now ceased asking questions on unemployment? Is it also a fact that Opposition senators periodically change from asking ‘questions on unemployment to asking questions on inflation? When does the Minister think he will be getting a barrage of questions from the Opposition on inflation?
– There was a dramatic reduction last month in the number of people registered for employment in Australia - not unemployed but persons registered for employment. 1 have noticed that various newspapers are suggesting that so buoyant is the economy that they expect a further reduction will be announced next month. It has been noticeable to me, as the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service in the Senate, that for some considerable time questions which used to come from Opposition senators as to the number of people registered for employment have ceased. This suggests either that Opposition senators are delighted with the state of the labour market or that they do not wish to direct attention to it. What the reason may bc. I cannot say. Honorable senators opposite do change from time to time, as is their right, from asking questions about the number of registered unemployed to asking questions on other facets of the economy. They have not been asking many questions on any facet of the economy lately, and I suggest that that is likely to be their continued role.
– Will the Minister representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs look at question No. 109 on the notice-paper which was placed there on 18th September and inform me when I am likely to get an answer to it?
– I cannot inform the honorable senator exactly when he is likely to get an answer to that question, but I can inform him that this and other questions have been brought to the attention of the Department of External Affairs by me on more than one occasion and as recently as last week. That is all I can do in this matter. 1 have followed it up and am endeavouring to get an answer as quickly as I can.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, is related to one asked by Senator Scott who indicated - the Minister agreed with him - that lately questions about unemployment had not been asked by Opposition senators as frequently as in the past. Does the Minister recall that during the week before last I asked him to what extent the improved employment figures were the result of the amount of money that had been granted to the States to cure the unemployment situation that had been caused by measures adopted by this Government? I now ask him how much money has been allocated to the States to bring about the present level of employment.
– The honorable senator’s question bears out the point I made earlier. It is not the sort of question to which we had become accustomed. I refer to questions designed to direct attention to and to deprecate the number of people registered for employment. The question seeks some of the reasons for such a dramatic improvement in employment and so it is quite different from the kind of question we have become used to. I do recall Senator Ridley asking the earlier question to which he has just referred. It is not one to which a detailed answer could possibly be given. The amount of money that has been made available to the various States can be ascertained by the honorable senator, because it has been published. That is all I can say.
– I join Senator Kennelly in seeking a reply to a question upon notice. Can the Minister representing the Prime Minister say when I may expect the courtesy of a reply to question No. 96 which was placed on the noticepaper on 12th September? The question relates to the attendance of the Minister for Shipping and Transport at a gathering of the Australian-Croatian Association at Geelong on 6th April and the appalling record of Ante Pavelic, the Croatian terrorist and Quisling leader, whose photograph appeared alongside that of Queen Elizabeth on the platform. As the question* calls for a simple and direct answer from the Minister concerned, I ask when I may expect a reply.
– In view of the fact that a number of comments have been made about the time that is taken in answering questions, I point out to the Senate that I have been in touch with the Prime Minister’s Department and have asked whether the department could expedite replies. The reaction to the request will be in evidence this afternoon.
(Question No. 5.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1, 2, 3 and 5. I have had prepared a statement setting out the names of statutory corporations created by Commonwealth legislation which would appear to come within the ambit of the honorable senator’s question. The statement also shows the Ministers administering the enactments, whether reports are made to Parliament, and which corporations received payments out of Consolidated Revenue Fund during the financial year 1961-62 under their constitutive acts. The statement is appended.
(Question No. 80.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER.The Prime Minister has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6. The Commonwealth has acquired land at North West Cape which has been made available to the United States for construction of the United States Naval Communication Station. Work has already commenced and for normal safety and administrative reasons only authorized persons are permitted on the actual construction sites. After prior arrangements with the authorities concerned persons on legitimate business, including union officials, will have access to the construction sites. The Trades and Labour Council in Perth has now been informed of the arrangements made for such access and this should avoid any further misunderstanding. It was before this that the union representative referred to in the question had arrived at the site unexpectedly. Since then at least one other union official has visited the site under the proper arrangement and I trust there will not be any further difficulties in this regard.
(Question No. 82.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1 and 2. Yes. 3 and 4. I do not agree with the statements made in the honorable senator’s questions. As to the facts, for many years these matters have been under study in the branch of my department in which the position referred to in question 2 is located.
(Question No. 87.)
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the total amount of (a) petrol, (b) diesel oil and (c) lubricating oil used in Australia during the financial year 1962-63?
– The reply is as follows: -
According to information supplied to the Department of National Development by the Australian oil industry, sales of motor spirit in Australia during 1962-63 totalled 1,422,600,000 gallons, and sales of diesel oil, including inland and bunker sales for both automotive distillate and industrial diesel fuel, totalled 522,100,000 gallons. Information as to sales of lubricating oil in Australia in 1962-63 is not yet available.
(Question No. 95.)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The replies are as follows: -
(Question No. 97.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions: -
The Commonwealth Government welcomes visits from heads of friendly States. However, it would not be practicable to issue an invitation which would coincide with -President Lubke’s forthcoming visit to the Asian region.
(Question No. 98.)
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– I now furnish the following reply: -
(Question No. 100.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
(Question No. 101.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice-
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1 and 2. On Thursday, 19th September, the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs saw the Counsellor of the Indonesian embassy in Canberra - in the absence of the Ambassador - and conveyed to him the grave concern of the Australian Government at the events referred to by the honorable senator. On behalf of the Australian Government Sir Arthur Tange requested the Counsellor to convey these views to his government. The Deputy Prime Minister then made a statement on this matter in the House of Representatives on Thursday night. I would direct the honorable senator’s attention to that statement.
(Question No. 102.)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The reply to the questions is as follows: -
Following adverse publicity about the possible ill effects of phenacetin if taken in excess, the National Health and Medical Research Council referred this matter to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. The college’s Therapeutic Advisory Committee examined the question, and the results of the committee’s findings were reported to the National Health and Medical Research Council in May of this year. The outlines of the committee’s report were released by me in the form of a press statement on 4th June 1963. Briefly, the committee does not at present feel justified in recommending the banning of phenacetin or restricting the sale of analgesics. The committee does, however, consider that any one who wishes to take these preparations daily should be warned not to do so except after obtaining medical advice and sanction. The committee noted that since 1953 there had been reports, mainly from Swiss and Scandinavian medical sources, giving evidence of an association between the taking of analgesics containing phenacetin and the occurrence of chronic kidney conditions. It was, however, known ‘ that analgesics containing phenacetin were liable to cause anaemia, with chronic ill-health, if taken in excess, and aspirin taken in a daily dose of 2.5 to 4 grams could cause significant anaemia, especially in women, if long continued. Finally, the committee felt there would be value in a study of a population sample to relate phenacetin intake to renal function. I am pleased to inform the honorable senator that the National Health and Medical Research Council accepted the committee’s suggestion that a survey be undertaken and under the sponsorship of the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians is at present investigating the dangers of the excess use of phenacetin. I have no doubt that the report by the College of Physicians will bo presented to the National Health and Medical Research Council at the earliest possible date, when consideration will be given to the need for further publicity, in the light of the college’s findings.
(Question No. 106.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade has supplied me with the following information: -
The following contracts for the sale of wheat have been reported by the Canadian Wheat Board during the past three years: -
The following contracts for the sale of wheat have been made by the Australian Wheat Board during the past three years: -
A comparison of the terms granted by the Canadian and Australian Wheat Boards respectively is as follows: -
(Question No. 111.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1 and 2. I understand ‘hat the Queensland Peanut Board has installed two electronic machines designed to sort peanuts by colour and has two more on order. These machines will be under test until the end of this year. It is, therefore, not possible at this stage to say what effect the machines will have on the employment of female workers.
(Question No. 113.)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– I now furnish the following replies: -
A new death certificate to be used for stillbirths and neo-natal deaths has been introduced into the Australian Capital Territory and will be introduced into the Northern Territory. In Western Australia a similar certificate is now in use. With these advances, which conform to the principles suggested by the World Health Organization, it is hoped that the remaining States of Australia will soon follow suit.
(Question No. 114.)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The replies are as follows: -
6, 7 and 8. Yes. The Commonwealth X-ray and Radium Laboratory, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission are carrying out investigations concerned with the treatment of cancer. Because the investigations are carried out concurrently with other functions of these organizations, the. , actual contributions in terms of personnel and finance are not available.
Council is acutely aware of the need for this research, and demonstrates its awareness by way of the grants it makes from the Medical Research Endowment Fund to finance cancer research.
(Question No. 119.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice-
– The Minister for Labour and Industry has supplied the following reply: -
The Minister for Labour and National Service has informed me that he and his department are in regular contact with the officers of the A.C.T.U. and that ample opportunities exist for that organization to raise any matters which they might wish the Minister to consider, whether arising out of the biennial congress or otherwise.
(Question No. 122.)
asked the Acting
Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the expenditure of overseas exchange on purchases from the United States of America and Britain, respectively, in each of the last three financial years, of (a) films for theatrical release, and (b) television programme material for both national and commercial use?
– The reply is as follows: -
Statistics of expenditure on purchases of film material fromBritain and the United State’s of America specifically are not available, but statistics are available in respect of such expenditure in the sterling area and the non-sterling area. Expenditure on purchases from Britain and the United States of America would comprise most of the expenditure in the two currency areas mentioned. According to the available statistics, the expenditure of overseas exchange on purchases of film material from the sterling area and the nonsterling area in each of the last three financial years was as follows: -
Films for theatrical release -
(Question No. 126.)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The following replies are furnished: -
(Question No. 127.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
– by leave - I should like to take this opportunity to inform the Senate of the outcome of talks between the British and the Australian civil aviation authorities which took place in Melbourne late in September and early this month.
It is customary because of our close relationships with Britain in the international civil aviation field over a very long period to have regular discussions on ways and means of improving the services which our respective international airlines can offer to people desiring to travel between Australia and Britain. The most important outcome of the discussions on this occasion was an agreement that Qantas Empire Airways Limited and the British Overseas Airways Corporation would operate services between Australia and Britain via Hong Kong commencing in April, 1964.
It will be readily recalled that until this time all air services between Australia and Britain on the Kangaroo route have operated through Singapore. Services will continue to be operated with at least the existing regularity through the important and much valued point of Singapore, but in addition there will be an opportunity for travellers to fly through Hong Kong. Civil aviation authorities and airlines have felt that there is a public demand to travel through Hong Kong to Europe using the opportunity to stop-over in Hong Kong for business and related purposes.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir William Spooner) read a first time.
[3.55]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the raising of loan moneys totalling £49,850,000 for financial assistance to the States for housing. In accordance with the requests of the States, and approval of the Australian Loan Council, the amount of £49,850,000 will be allocated as follows: -
The provision of this amount in 1963-64, for which approval is now being sought, represents an increase of £3,950,000 over the amount originally approved by the Loan Council for 1962-63. Advances to the States of the moneys referred to in this bill will be made under the authority of the Housing Agreement Act, 1961, which provides that the Treasurer may advance moneys in accordance with the new Housing Agreement with each of the six States. The new agreement came into operation as the result of an amendment to the previous agreement of 1956. The new agreement embodied in the Housing Agreement Act, 1961, extended the 1956 Housing Agreement for a further term of five years, subject to certain amendments of a relatively minor nature. The amendments were introduced with the object of making the agreement more useful and workable.
In 1961-62 and 1962-63, the first years of operation of the amended agreement, the Commonwealth advanced £99,000,000 to the States for housing. Of this amount £65,600,000 was made available for the programmes of the State housing authorities, under which 21,230 dwellings were built. £33,400,000 was advanced through the home builders’ account and this allowed the provision of 13,267 dwellings. The supplementary advances from revenue for service housing amounted to £2,800,000. Altogether, the Housing Agreement has made a considerable contribution to the financing of dwelling construction in Australia. Construction of homes under the agreement has provided a relatively stable component in the national housing programme. It is aimed, moreover, at the construction by the State housing authorities of dwellings for families of low or moderate means. The home building which has been financed under the home builders’ arrangement has also been relatively low in cost.
The provision of finance by the Commonwealth under the 1956-1961 Housing Agreement has been most beneficial to State housing schemes and to the development of building societies. The passage of the bill now before the Senate is necessary to ensure that these beneficial arrangements will continue. It is expected that of the total Commonwealth advances of £49,850,000, £32,915,000 will be allotted to the State housing authorities compared with £32,314,000 during 1962-63. In that year the housing authorities commenced 10,825 homes and completed 10,211 homes.
Under the agreement, the States will be required to set aside an amount estimated at £1,280,400 for the housing of members of the defence forces during 1963-64. Supplementary advances will be made by the Commonwealth from revenue funds to match these allocations and, in addition, the Commonwealth and any State may agree, under the terms of the agreement, that either, or both, should make further allocations for the same purpose. In 1962- 63, the total of these further allocations by the Commonwealth was £248,000. In 1963- 64 it is expected to be £300,000. The State allocation for service housing, plus the Commonwealth matching funds, together with the additional funds which are expected to be contributed, should allow the construction of 901 houses, compared with 676 houses provided from those funds during 1962-63.
The total allocation of Commonwealth advances to building societies and other institutions for home ownership during 1963-64 is estimated at £16,935,000, as compared with £16,297,000 last year. In 1962-63, 460 institutions received home builders’ funds under the agreement. During the year 4,657 new houses were commenced and 6,863 houses were completed and purchased from home builders’ funds. The amended agreement will continue to provide a useful measure of Commonwealth support to the building society movement which, by the encouragement of private savings for home ownership, increases the additional funds which are available for housing because of the Housing Agreement. Also, a particular feature arising in the provision of finance to building societies is the operation of the revolving fund principle in the home builders’ account. The advances by the Commonwealth are repaid by the States over a term of 53 years, whereas the building societies repay the States over 31 years or less. Therefore the repayments to the home builders’ account in any one year exceed the. charge on that account to finance repayments to the Commonwealth, the surplus thus arising being available to increase the level of new advances to the societies. The amount accumulating in the account and thus available for re-lending was slightly over £1,000,000 in 1959-60; during 1961-62 it was £1,700,000 and during 1962-63 it was £2,500,000. It should continue to increase in future years.
Because of the increased private savings which are made available for housing as a result of the home builders’ arrangement, and the operation of the revolving fund principle, the allocation of portion of the Commonwealth advances to building societies has the effect of increasing the number of dwellings that are provided under the agreement. Australian building societies already make a sizeable contribution towards the provision of finance for dwelling construction. I hope that these societies will play a larger and larger part in Australian housing.
In conclusion, I should like to look at the question of housing finance from a broader perspective. The Loan Council allocation for works and housing, the amount of the council’s approved borrowing that the States have elected to take in housing advances and the proportion of the housing advances to the total programme are given in the following table: -
Honorable senators will note that the proportion of total loan funds that the States take under the housing agreement has fallen in each of the two years. Over the two year period the total of housing advances has fallen slightly, though it is necessary to bear in mind that the allocations by the Loan Council in 1961-62 and 1962-63 included supplementary allocations in February. The total part played by the housing agreement in housing appears to be relatively stable and falling as a proportion to the State works programmes. We may compare this position with the upward trend in total dwelling construction, which in terms of commencements was 82,470 in 1961-62 and 88,096 in 1963-64.
I now turn briefly to the private sector. The total amount of finance provided for housing by the main private lending institutions - banks and major assurance companies - has moved as follows: -
The general trend in housing finance appears to be one of decreased reliance on government construction and an increased supply of private institutional finance. - I think that this is a healthy trend which I hope will continue. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Fitzgerald) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
A number of- happenings in recent years, both in Australia and overseas, have shown that special provisions are needed to deal with legal problems that can arise out of the commission of crimes on board aircraft. Also, special provisions are needed to protect the safety of passengers and crews and the safety of aircraft themselves, both on the ground and in the air. Accordingly, this bill has been prepared in consultation with my colleague, the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick), to deal with these matters.
The bill contains two principal parts - Part II., which is concerned with the criminal character and consequence of acts done on board aircraft while in flight and Part III, which deals with crimes affecting the aircraft themselves. The bill makes special provision relating to those matters, so far as concerns flights which are not wholly and exclusively intra-state flights. So far as aircraft engaged in such flights are concerned it is proposed to ask the States to pass complementary legislation.
I will deal first with Part II. of the bill, which, as I have said, is concerned with crimes committed on board aircraft in flight. The basic principle of law as recognized by the Chicago convention on international civil aviation which was drawn up in 1944, has been that every country has sovereignty over the airspace above its territory. In Australia, criminal law is primarily a matter within the powers of the States. Thus, if one passenger in an aircraft assaults another whilst the aircraft is flying, for example, above Victoria, he is guilty of an offence against the laws of that State dealing with assaults; and this is so regardless of the nationality of the aircraft. That position remains the same even though the aircraft simply flies over Victoria without, on that particular flight, either landing or taking off in Victoria. This bill does not attempt to alter that position. The powers of the States to deal with offences committed in the airspace above their respective territories will remain unaffected.
There is a need, however, for legislation to deal with crimes that may be committed in the aircraft flying within Australia, and committed in such circumstances that it is difficult or impossible to determine exactly where the acts constituting the offence were committed. This situation can arise particularly when the aircraft is at the time close to a border between two States. There is also a need for legislation to deal with crimes that may be committed over foreign countries or over the high seas in Australian aircraft and certain other aircraft engaged in overseas flights.
Clause 7 of the bill in effect will put in force on board aircraft engaged in any of these flights the criminal law of the Australian Capital Territory. It provides that if a person does something, or omits to do something, while he is on board an aircraft, and the act or omission would be an offence against the criminal law of the Australian Capita] Territory if it took place in the Territory or in a public place in the Territory, then the person is guilty of an offence against this act. He is punishable by the same penalty as if the act had taken place in the Territory. The criminal law of the Territory is, for this purpose, confined to the following: -
In applying these laws of the Australian Capital Territory, clause 7 will apply them as they stand from time to time, that is, future amendments of those laws will automatically apply on board aircraft to which Part II. of the bill applies. I do not think that this need give rise to concern, as any amendments of any law of the Commonwealth in force in the Territory would, of course, be made only by this Parliament and any amendment of the laws ofthe Territory to which I have referred would be made only under the statutory authority granted by this Parliament and the amendments themselves would be subject to scrutiny by the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee and, if necessary, disallowance by the Parliament.
I should explain here the provisions of the bill in relation to certain aircraft flying outside Australia. These are principally aircraft which are registered in Australia or which are foreign aircraft on their way to or from Australia. So far as aircraft registered in Australia are concerned, the bill adopts the view that Australian laws arc in force on board such aircraft whilst they are outside Australia, even if the law of some other country is, by virtue of the aircraft’s presence in or over that country, also in force on board. This jurisdiction of the state of registration has been recognized in an international convention on air law which has just been drawn up at a diplomatic conference held in Tokyo at which Australia was represented. I will refer at a later stage to the provisions of this convention and its relation to the present bill.
Australian law applies on board foreign aircraft, of course, while they are within Australia, but the bill goes further and applies Australian law to them while they are outside Australia when their flights begin or end in Australia. So far as nights beginning in Australia are concerned, it is felt that if there is any doubt as to which law is to be applied - this situation might well arise, for instance, over the high seas - if no other law is applicable or if the authorities administering another applicable law are not willing, or feel themselves unable, to enforce it, there should be an Australian law ready to be applied. It may well be, of course, that the efficacy of our law will depend on finding the offender within Australian territory. So far as flights ending in Australia are concerned, a person who commits an offence while on board the aircraft might very well need to be dealt with in Australia, in the first instance at any rate., and legal provisions to enable this to be done are needed.
I come now to Part III. of the bill, which deals with crimes affecting aircraft. The application of this part is set out in detail in clause 10. Briefly, it will apply to all Australian aircraft that are used principally for certain flights or are actually engaged in those nights. These flights include interstate flights, flights within or to or from a territory and flights outside Australia. It will also apply to any foreign aircraft that is in Australia or is outside Australia on a flight that began in Australia, or is intended to end in Australia. 1 will mention briefly the crimes created by this part of the bill. ; First’’ there is the- “ ‘.’.taking control of an aircraft without lawful’ excuse. Then there is the crime of seizing control of an aircraft whilst there are persons on board or, in other words, the crime of aircraft piracy. This is a crime which has caused particular concern in recent years in the United States and clause 1 1 (3) of the bill was suggested by a provision dealing with the crime in a 1958 amendment of the United States Federal Aviation Act.
Clauses 12 and 13 deal with the crime of destroying an aircraft; attempts to destroy will also automatically be covered by reason of standing provisions of the Crimes Act. Where there are persons on board the aircraft which is destroyed or attempted to be destroyed, the offence will be capital, it being in substance murder or attempted murder.
I mention here that although the question of the retention of the death penalty is a controversial one, it is still retained by the Commonwealth, in the Crimes Act and in certain other Commonwealth laws, and it is retained in all the Commonwealth’s Territories. The inclusion of the death penalty in this bill is in line with existing Commonwealth and Territory provisions. It has seemed inappropriate to deal with the general question of the retention of capital punishment, which can be reserved for some occasion of general revision of the criminal law. I mention, however, that of the States only Queensland has abolished the death penalty completely, although it has virtually been abolished in New South Wales.
Clauses 14 and 15 deal with acts prejudicing the safe operation of aircraft. The penalty is a term of imprisonment but if the act is done with intent to cause death, or with reckless indifference to the safety of life, the offence is punishable by death.
Clauses 17 and 18 deal with a number of offences, which, because they relate to the safety of aircraft, either on the ground or in the air, need to be made the subject of special provision or to carry special penalties.
Clause 19 deals with the problem of what might be called bomb hoaxes. Anonymous messages, particularly telephone messages. to the effect that a bomb has been placed on an aircraft, have caused a good deal of trouble in Australia in recent years. They not only cause expensive inconvenience to aircraft operators and passengers but give rise to anxiety and apprehension, which can reach quite grievous proportions both in the case of passengers and of their relatives and friends. Various steps are being taken to cope with the situation, but it is felt that there should be a sharp increase in the penalty for this type of offence. It is probable that the only offence at present committed by the perpetrator of one of these hoaxes, and then only if a telephone is used, is an offence against the telephone regulations, for which the maximum penalty is £50. Clause 19 provides a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.
Part IV. of the bill contains a number of miscellaneous provisions of a procedural nature which are considered necessary for the proper working of the legislation. These provisions can be examined in more detail in the committee stage of the bill.
Reference was made in the debate in another place to an international convention on offences on board aircraft which was very recently drawn up, and a question on this subject was also addressed to me by an honorable senator. I think, therefore, that it is desirable that I say something about this convention and its relation to the present bill.
The convention was agreed to at an international diplomatic conference convened under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization and held in Tokyo between 20th August and 14th September, 1963. The object of the conference was to consider a draft convention which had been prepared by the Legal Committee of I.C.A.O. on the subject of offences and other acts committed on board aircraft engaged in international flights. Delegates or observers from 57 States and from several international organizations attended the conference. Most major countries were represented, including Great Britain, the United States of America and France. Australia was represented by Mr. K. S. Edmunds, Assistant Secretary (Executive Division)’, Attorney-General’s Department, and Mr. L. R. Edwards,’
Assistant Crown Solicitor (Civil Aviation).
The conference agreed on the terms of the convention and the final act was signed by the representatives of 51 States, including Australia, and 15 of these States, not including Australia, signed the Convention at the conclusion of the conference.
The main provisions of the convention are as follows: -
The convention does not create new offences or impose penalties, and operates only in relation to aircraft registered in contracting States while engaged in flights outside theState of registration.
An official authenticated copy of the convention is not yet available, but an unofficial copy was delivered to the Australian delegates before the conclusion of the conference. Copies of this document are available for distribution to any honorable senators who are interested.
The convention will come into force as between ratifying States 90 days after the deposit of instruments of ratification by twelve States with I.C.A.O. Judging by past experience with other international conventions, it will probably be at least three years before a sufficient number of ratifications is deposited to bring this convention into force. The Government will study the convention at an early date to determine whether it should be signed and ratified by Australia. From a preliminary examination, the convention appears to be a very useful addition to the growing body of conventions on air law matters. Ratification of the convention will not have any significant effect on the Crimes (Aircraft) Bill since the convention expressly preserves the operation of criminal jurisdictions exercised in accordance with domestic law. I refer honorable senators to Article 3 (3).
In the meantime, it is considered desirable, for the reasons given at the beginning of my remarks, that the present bill should be made law, and I commend it to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 26th September (vide page 908).
Proposed expenditure, £5,242,000.
– When we were discussing the estimates before the adjournment of the Senate I told Senator Dittmer that I would comment on various matters raised by him which are concerning the minds of many people in Australia. I propose now to give him a considered statement without extraneous details. The honorable senator referred to the stabilization of doctors’ fees. The stabilization of doctors’, fees .in the interests’ ‘ not only , of “ “contributors to registered medical’ benefit organizations’ but also of the continued success of the voluntary health insurance scheme has been under discussion frequently. However, the Commonwealth Government has no statutory authority to stabilize the fees charged by medical practitioners. Some progress has been made towards the stabilization of these fees by the Australian Medical Association. In May, 1963, the federal assembly of the association resolved as follows: -
I think the adoption of that principle is good inasmuch as no responsible government, as I have said on a previous occasion, would increase its benefit contributions if it were not satisfied that ultimately it would close what is now known as the gap between the fees charged by doctors and the benefits available. The acceptance of that principle by the Australian Medical Association indicates that the members of the association realize that they, as well as the Government, have a responsibility in this field. Since this announcement was made by the federal council of the A.M.A. several State branches have already expressed their acceptance of the principle of stabilization of fees. These include the branches in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
– What about New South Wales?
– The honorable senator implies that New South Wales might have a different point of view. I cannot speak specifically so far as New South Wales is concerned, but my understanding of the viewpoint of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Medical Association is this: The New South Wales State Council of the A.M.A. accepts the principle of stabilization, but there is at least ons section of the organization there which at present is not prepared to accept that viewpoint. I am a. born optimist and ,1 believe that as time goes on we can resolve these differences also. I think it is a matter of understanding each other’s point of view, and I am very hopeful that the New South Wales branch of the A.M.A. ultimately will be able to fall into line with the principles accepted by the other States.
In addition, it is understood that representatives of registered medical benefit organizations have arranged to discuss the stabilization of fees with the Australian Medical Association. This indicates that the issue is exercising the minds of all parties concerned and that they are at least approaching the stage where they are prepared to talk about a solution. While that statement might not be as specific as Senator Dittmer would wish, it- indicates to him and to honorable senators generally that these matters are under active consideration.
Senator Dittmer also spoke of the differential benefits for services by specialists. The Commonwealth medical benefits, as set out in the schedules to the National Health Act, were determined having regard to the degree of skill and experience customarily required to perform each of the medical services listed in those schedules. It was accepted when those benefits were being determined that a number of services, especially the more serious operations, would usually be rendered by specialists, and the benefits for those services were determined accordingly. In a sense, therefore, the present Commonwealth benefits do take account of the greater skill and experience which a specialist brings to bear on a case.
It is most desirable, of course, that every effort should be made to raise the standards of medical practice, but the medical benefits scheme does not necessarily provide the best method of doing so. The scheme and the schedule have had to be adapted to take into account that conditions of medical practice vary widely in Australia. There are many areas in the Commonwealth where specialist medical services are not, unfortunately, readily available. In these areas the general practitioner is called upon to render a wide range of services. If discrimination between specialists and general practitioners were introduced in the payment of Commonwealth medical benefits for other than consultations and visits as at present provided it is more than just a possibility that injustices and anomalies would arise in the payments of benefits.
Senator Dittmer also referred to the registration of specialists. From time to time I have been asked questions on this subject in the Senate. Honorable senators have referred to the variation in the registration of specialists from State to State. The separate registration of specialists, as distinct from their registration as medical practitioners, is a matter for the Stale authorities. The Commonwealth has a limited interest in the matter from the medical benefits aspect, but it would be most confusing if the Commonwealth were to set up its own criteria just for the purposes of medical benefits. However, at a conference in 1961 of chairmen of the Australian Medical Registration Boards, consideration was given to the possibility of adopting a uniform definition of “ specialist “. The General Medical Council of Australia, which was subsequently constituted by the several medical registration boards, has the matter currently under consideration. The matters that have been raised by Senator Dittmer are known to the Australian Medical Association and I am pleased to inform him that the registration of specialists is being actively considered.
– I appreciate the consideration given by the Minister for Health (Senator Wade). When I spoke in this chamber on medical and hospital benefit funds I referred to expenditure of £12,700,000 visualized by the Department of Health as expenditure this year on the medical benefits scheme. Unfortunately, the “ Hansard “ report indicated that I had lumped the two benefits schemes together in the estimate of £12,700,000. The Minister has referred to my references to the registration of specialists and to an Australia-wide register of medical practitioners. It would serve the interests, not only of the medical profession but also of the people, to have an Australiawide register of medical practitioners and, as a corollary, an Australia- wide register of specialists. The responsibility should not be put back on the States, which know that more and more power” is vested in the central Government. After all, Australia’s national health service is amongst the least comprehensive of those services in modern nations, lt provides certain facilities and it provides for certain conditions, but many services that are absolutely essential are completely neglected. There have been no real adjustments over the years since the inauguration of this scheme. It is true that one can have his nose or throat attended to under the scheme, but 1 should be pleased if the Minister would advise mc whether any provision is being made in the estimates for dental care, particularly of children.
The Minister said that the Commonwealth did not intend to increase its contributions for medical benefits if doctors increased their fees. Interestingly enough, since the scheme was inaugurated, irrespective of the decrease in the purchasing power of the £1 under successive governments led by the present Prime Minister, there has been no increase in Commonwealth benefit, other than for a few operations. There has been no increase in the statutory amount payable in respect of visits. Increased benefits have come, by and large, as a result of increased contributions of members. If I am wrong, I hope that the Minister will correct me. The question is: What is to be done to relieve the financial burden on the people and, more particularly, when is it going to be done? There has been no real endeavour by the Government to assist in the provision of spectacles which, in most cases, when prescribed, are regarded as essential.
The Minister will know from his investigation of overseas schemes the many services that are not rendered under our scheme. When the late Sir Earle Page inaugurated the scheme, which was not particularly acceptable to us and not consistent with our approach to mental, dental and optical services, he did visualize it as being beneficent to the people. However, little has been done to improve it since its inauguration. If there has been any improvement, it has come about as a result of increased contributions by the people and not as a result of any really sincere and considerate approach by the Government. I ask the Minister whether any investigation is taking place with a view to extending the services available to the people under medical benefits schemes. What provision is to be made for those persons who cannot afford to be in these schemes and for those who can alford to be but elect not to be? When is the Commonwealth benefit, which comes out of taxation revenue, to be made available to all Australians?
– I listened to the Minister’s reply to Senator Dittmer’s earlier question in relation to the stabilization of medical fees and the instruction of the Australian Medical Association that fees should not be increased unless such increases were actuarially valid. Since May of this year doctors’ fees in Western Australia have been considerably increased. The increase was subsequent to the Arbitration Commission’s decisions to increase margins by 10 per cent, and to grant three weeks’ annu.il leave to workers in industry. The reason given by the Western Australia branch of the Australian Medical Association was that the increase in fees was in anticipation of an increase in costs. Nothing was said about whether the increase was actuarially sound or whether doctors were operating at a profit or a loss at present. The increase was in anticipation of an increase in costs! Let me say that, with the Government’s action in lifting sales tax from foodstuffs generally, there has not been an increase in costs, so the doctors’ foundation for increasing their fees has gone.
I cast my mind back to the time when the Australian Labour Party tried to nationalize medical and health services. This was opposed by doctors, because they wanted freedom of patient-doctor relationship. But in Western Australia this year we find an increase in fees for visits in day time between the hours of 9 and 5 o’clock, and an increase in fees for visits by the patient to the surgery after 8 p.m. There are additional increases in respect of weekends and holidays. The doctors did not want to be nationalized in 1949 but they have now set themselves down almost to nationalizing themselves.
– May I have the last sentence again? Did you say that they were nationalizing themselves now?
– Yes. They will be easier to take over when we become the government next year. I direct the Minister’s attention to the graph that appears in the report of the DirectorGeneral of Health, which shows that in 1962-63 approximately £12,000,000 was paid by the Commonwealth in medical benefits. The fund benefit amounted to approximately £15,000,000 and the contributors paid approximately £16,000,000. Despite this contributors to funds are constantly being asked to contribute more. In Western Australia - other States may speak for themselves - we find that the general practitioner has become nothing more than an agent for the specialists. Whatever one’s complaint, upon going to a general practitioner one is immediately referred to a specialist, whereas in other days he would have been treated by the general practitioner. For the Minister’s benefit, let me say that the Western Australia Workers’ Compensation Board voluntarily keeps a register of specialists. The board asked the British Medical Association, as it then was, to compile the list from its records, for the purpose of assessing costs in workers’ compensation. The board maintains that register of doctors in the metropolitan area of Perth who set themselves, up as specialists in particular branches of medicine. If the Minister wants any information on that matter for his department it can be obtained. It is disturbing to persons who may have an abscess or some slight sickness to find that when they go to the surgery of the general practitioner, instead of treating them, he tells them that it is a job for a specialist. He makes an appointment for them and it might be three or four days before they can see the specialist although the general practitioner may have been able to clear up the condition quickly. I am not in a position to say whether each case requires specialist treatment, but people invariably find that they have to go to a specialist.
One other matter which I want to raise with the Minister concerns hospital benefits. The Minister may be aware that at the beginning of November the Western Australian Government will increase the bed fees at all government hospitals. Large numbers of contributors to hospital benefits funds have contributed to what might be termed the top bracket - the 5 D.C. contribution - costing 8s. 6d. a week. In order to cover the bed fees after they are increased from 1st November the hospital benefits funds have had to create two new brackets for contributors which will be known as 6 D.C. and 7 D.C.
– Those are new tables.
– Yes. As a result, many contributors will be in the position in which I shall find myself. Although I have contributed under table 5 D.C. for over eleven years - the highest table that has been available - if I were to have a sickness after 1st November, I would not be able to claim reimbursement on the highest level until eight weeks had passed. Surely, when the State Liberal Government increases bed fees at its hospitals some consideration should be given to the immediate requirements of people who are prepared to contribute at the highest rate from the date at which the new tables are introduced. I am paying at the highest rate as from 1st October, when the new tables became available. The hospital fees will not be increased until 1st November. Yet I would not be entitled to receive the highest benefit from the fund until eight weeks after the increased bed fee is introduced. That is a position which the Minister should examine. I am not now speaking of pharmaceutical benefits. I think that the Government, under its pharmaceutical benefits scheme, is subsidizing overseas companies. With respect to hospital and medical benefits the Government is subsidizing very heavily. Yet, as a result of government action, people who have been contributing to hospital benefits funds under the highest table find that they may be subject to a heavy impost. Whether the Minister can do anything about this I do not know, but I should like him to ask his department to examine the matter.
– Senator Dittmer raised a query as to whether action will be taken to provide an Australia-wide register of all medical practitioners.
– That was the question that I posed last week.
– It was also one that I did not answer in my reply to-day. I should now like to say that the philosophy of this Government is that all States shall retain their sovereign rights. Senator
Dittmer would know better than I know that each State lays down its own standards for the registration of medical practitioners. Is he suggesting that the Commonwealth Government should take some positive action to bring the State authorities together and say, “ You shall adopt a common standard “? I do not think so. Such an attitude would imply a philosophy which would completely disregard the sovereign rights of the States. We on this side will not be a party to that.
– That is the objective of honorable senators opposite.
– It is not ours. I know that Senator Dittmer is a medical practitioner of some experience. I suggest to him that the medical profession itself should realize that here is an avenue that can be explored with a view to adopting a system which will lead to the standardization of requirements. I believe that that is the right and proper approach to the problem. I think it is fair to say that the medical profession is already thinking along those lines. But the Government does not believe that it should take definite action in order to make such measures mandatory. If the Senate would like me to be a little more specific, may I say that the Government would not oppose any offers by the Australian medical profession to achieve the conformity that Senator Dittmer has suggested. I thought that the honorable senator spoke with two tongues. I felt that last Thursday he stated a very strong case for what the Government was doing concerning the stabilization of doctors’ fees. I should like to quote what he said on 26th September, at page 905 of “ Hansard “.
– This will be good.
– This is good. I thought that this was the statement of a man who had made a considered study of the matter he was talking about. I gave him great credit for being unbiased and big enough to pay a compliment to the Government for the attitude it was taking in his matter. He said - i think it is correct to say that the cost of living has risen by approximately 24.8 per cent.-
I should like to say “ only 24.8 per cent.” but medical fees for general practitioners have risen by 33.3 per cent.
That is to say that they rose by 33.3 per cent, during the same period. Surely, the honorable senator was saying, in effect, “ I believe the Government is right in the stand it takes when it says that if there is an everwidening gap “ - which the figures do not support - “ then at least the medical profession should take some steps to stabilize its fees because they have increased at an even greater rate than the cost of living “. To-day, the honorable senator has adopted a somewhat different view. It was left to no less a person than Senator Cant to give us in very plain, specific terms the policy of the Australian Labour Party in respect of the medical profession. He said, “ It will be easy for us to take them over when we become the Government next year “. Those words indicate only one thing - that the medical profession will be nationalized if and when the Australian Labour Party assumes office.
– You know that it cannot be done.
– It is all very well to say that it cannot be done. There are so many different ways and means of sneaking it in through the back door that it can be done.
– We are not used to your approach.
– I am very sorry if you do not agree with my approach. I merely repeated the words that were proffered to honorable senators by one of your leading spokesmen. He has made his statement in cold, calculated terms. There is no mystery whatever about Labour’s attitude.
– There is no desire or intention to do that.
– They are the words Senator Cant used. The whole subject of stabilization revolves around whether the people who provide a medical service to the community shall be controlled. Of course, this Government will never accept that philosophy. In almost all the dealings we have with these people who contribute to our national health scheme we say: “ We will discuss these problems with you. We will persuade you that you have a responsibility in this field or that field.”
– Did you. discuss the increase in medical fees with ‘them?
– In spite of any criticism you may offer, the simple fact remains that almost from day to day we arc improving our scheme and are making it better for the contributors. I am glad to say that all this is being done without coercion, without direction, without takeovers. Honorable senators opposite may want to persist in discussing stabilization - they are entitled to do so - but they will never erase from my mind the thought so ably expressed by Senator Cant in these words: “ This will make it easy for us to take them over when we become the government “.
Senator Dittmer went further. He asked “ What are you doing to expand the national health scheme? “ He referred to dental care and the provision of spectacles. He was somewhat critical of our scheme in comparison with other schemes in the world.
– In comparison with some other world schemes, not all other schemes.
– I take it that you concede that ours is not the worst scheme in the world.
– No. It would have to be particularly bad to be the worst in the world.
– Well, it is not the worst. That is fine.
– Nor is it the best.
– I would expect that interjection from you. You would like a nationalized scheme such as they have in the United Kingdom and as a result of the introduction of which doctors, dentists and other professional men are coming to this country where they have an opportunity and the freedom to develop their talents. I suggest that you should talk to people who have been patients in the United Kingdom and who have come to this country and have sampled our scheme. I do not want to stand here and of all people criticize those who live in the United Kingdom. But the fact remains that members of the medical profession- and people who have been patients under the United Kingdom scheme pay great tribute to our scheme.
I know of only two dental care schemes in operation iri the Commonwealth of
Nations - one in the United Kingdom and the other in New Zealand. Recently in reply to a question I gave some indication of the cost of the scheme to the taxpayer in the United Kingdom. The New Zealand Government implemented a dental scheme which, because, of the cost involved, it has not been able to take beyond the sixteen-year limit. But a comparison with those schemes is not relevant, because both New Zealand and the United kingdom have only central governments whereas in Australia we have six State governments and one Federal Government. Every State government is operating a scheme which, even if it is not comparable with the New Zealand scheme, is at least making a contribution to the dental care of our people.
The criticism that is offered by our friends of the Opposition would tend to indicate that no dental care is being undertaken in Australia. I point out that a great deal is being done. It may be suggested that the Commonwealth could provide a better service for the people than do the States, but that is open to debate. In the fields of dental care and hospital treatment the States have a wealth of experience and have at their disposal the means to provide a service to the community which no Commonwealth government, at least under a free enterprise system, could offer. If we were to depart from private enterprise and were to nationalize the doctors, I am sure the same criticisms would be offered in this country as have been expressed in other countries where nationalized schemes operate.
I now wish to reply to Senator Cant’s comments about increased hospital charges in Western Australia. I must confess that at this point of time I am not fully informed about what system shall be employed by the benefit funds of Australia in relation to this increase. However, I remind the honorable senator that as recently as May last, when the New South Wales Government had occasion to raise hospital fees, I laid down the principle - I believe it to be a good one - that where a patient had no alternative to paying increased hospital charges imposed by a government or other authority, he should not be at any disadvantage. So in relation at least to New
South Wales 1 laid down the principle that there should be no waiting period but that provision should be made by the benefit societies to transfer those contributors automatically to a higher table. Although 1 am not fully informed about the position in Western Australia, I shall examine it and see whether the same principle can be applied in that State.
.- 1 wish to digress slightly from the matters that have been under discussion and to refer to remarks about quarantine that were made by Senator Drake-Brockman and the Minister for Health on the last day we met. A measure of concern has been expressed by both Senator Drake-Brockman and the Minister about the introduction of exotic diseases into Australia. The thought of such diseases spreading to this country is like a nightmare, because at the present time our economy is largely dependent upon the export of beef, mutton and lamb - particularly beef - to the United States of America, which perhaps is the most punctilious nation in the world in applying animal quarantine. 1 am not quite satisfied with the quarantine measures that have been adopted in New Guinea to avoid the spread of exotic diseases. Smoked meat is being imported by West Irian from Sumatra and Java. Foot and mouth disease is endemic in both those islands. The smoking of meat does not kill the virus or bacillus, or whatever is the causal agent in foot and mouth diseases. This smoked meat is being used as rations for Indonesian troops in West Irian. The introduction of this commodity could cause an epidemic in that area amongst native pigs, which are freely used in barter across the border. A simple meridian of longitude delineates the border between West Irian and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, except for that portion which is delineated by the Fly River. Along the valleys that run at right angles to the border there is a constant traffic in barter pigs. At certain periods there is an organized system of transfer of pigs from one area to another.
If the Minister will bear with me for a moment I shall explore this situation because I think it has grave dangers for Australia which must be recognized by this Parliament and the Administration of our Territory.f I discussed the matter with Mr.
Conroy, the Director of Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries in Papua and New Guinea, and he informed me that he was cognizant of the problem. He was not aware at that particular moment that smoked beef was coming in from Sumatra and Java, in Indonesia. My information came from military intelligence sources. I asked the military intelligence people in Papua and New Guinea about the form of the rations with which Indonesian troops were being supplied. Mr. Conroy said that, the only possible way to provide for effective quarantine against the introduction of exotic diseases was by means of control along the main river systems - the Sepik River in the north and the Fly River in the south.
Any one who has been to Papua and New Guinea, or who has made a reconnaissance of the Territory on the map, will realize that these are vast rivers. It seems to me that it would be impossible to police them with any degree of accuracy, even if an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, for example, occurred in West Irian. It may not be known, but it should be known, that the Dutch took into New Guinea a great number of deer which are susceptible to foot and mouth disease. It is characteristic of deer, of course, that they are pretty free swimming animals. Neither the Fly River nor the Sepik River would prevent the movement of deer across the border. It may be claimed that it is possible to stop the deer from crossing the rivers, but I spoke to a patrol officer who had recently visited the Fly River area and he told me it was common to see deer swimming across the river.
When an outbreak of this nature occurred, say, in Papua, immediately the problem to which the Minister referred and which he made partly clear in the reply that he gave to Senator Drake-Brockman, would arise. The Minister indicated that there is fairly free traffic between the canoe people of the Fly River delta and the Torres Strait Islanders. As we know, the Torres Strait Islands are administered by the Government of Queensland. If an outbreak of disease occurred we would become involved with the concurrent powers of a State and the power which the Commonwealth Government assumes in relation to quarantine. These stepping-stone islands could easily be the means of introducing exotic diseases into Australia. I do not accept for a moment that the Queensland public servants who have been established on the islands are competent to form an opinion regarding an exotic disease, such as Newcastle disease in fowls, for example, or some of the other diseases that may occur in the islands. To my mind, it is clear that the fundamental problem and the weakness in the system of preventing exotic diseases from being introduced to the mainland of Australia lies not in the transport of goods and animals by aircraft or ships, or in the emptying of sullage of one kind or another from ships, but in the means of introduction I have mentioned. I think that reasonable control has been exercised over the introduction of diseases by aircraft and ships. The essential weakness is to be. found in the Fly River and Sepik River areas. I feel that something more must be done than has been done to the present.
It disturbed me to read, in the Minister’s reply to Senator Drake-Brockman’s remarks, the following statement which is reported at page 907 of “Hansard” of 26th September last -
Thursday Island is in constant contact by wireless . . . and the Department of Native Affairs launch visits each island at least once each month. No doubt in an emergency the launch could be diverted to take the quarantine officer to the scene of any suspected disease outbreak.
Those words to my mind pose the fundamental weakness in our quarantine measures. I suggest that in the next twelve months the Ministers who comprise the Australian Agricultural Council and the veterinary officers of the Commonwealth should try, when they meet, to remove this weakness. There is no demonstrable proof, so far as I can discover, that the native animals themselves are incapable of transmitting some of these exotic diseases. I understand that a couple of kangaroos have been shipped to London to see whether they are susceptible to certain exotic diseases. I should be grateful if the Minister would enlarge on the reply he gave to Senator Drake-Brockman’s remarks and pay particular attention to the line of weakness in our quarantine services which I have mentioned.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) to an anomaly concerning patients who are referred to specialist medical practitioners from private or general practitioners. The present situation means that a person virtually has to go to two doctors before he qualifies for full medical benefits. He first must go to his private doctor, who almost habitually sends him to a specialist. If he makes the mistake of going to the specialist first, of course he does not qualify for full medical benefits. Many people make that mistake. I think it is obvious that we are moving into a period when the specialist will prevail. The general practitioner is going out. This must mean, of course, that as the medical practitioners who are capable of referring patients to other doctors become fewer and fewer, there will be fewer people qualifying for full medical benefits, unless it is proposed to build up a real monopoly amongst the general practitioners who remain.
I daresay that Senator Dittmer’s views on the need for a register of specialists is a scientific way of dealing with this matter. However, a great number of people find out only after they have been to Macquariestreet, in Sydney, that they are not fully covered for medical benefits. As honorable senators may know, the trip to Macquariestreet, is the most expensive trip that can be made. It is about three times as expensive as going to a local doctor. When people make the trip to Macquarie-street and find they are not covered for medical benefits it is a great hardship. It could be, of course, that it is necessary to educate the public and make them realize that they must in all cases go first to their general practitioner if they wish to qualify fully for medical benefits. However, I think there is an anomaly in this situation. It should be possible for a specialist to treat a person in the same way that a general practitioner treats him, anl for that person to qualify for medical benefits.
– You may go straight to a specialist and still get benefits.
– No. You do not qualify.
– You qualify, but the benefit is substantially less.
– The person who goes to a specialist’ first does not receive the amount of benefit that he would have received if he had gone first to a general practitioner.
I think that something ought to be done as quickly as possible to generalize doctors’ fees, because they vary greatly. Let me refer to an incident in which I was concerned. I called a doctor to my home at 9.30 o’clock at night. I spoke to him on the telephone. I did not know whether he was a specialist or not. He lived next door to the general practitioner who usually came to my home. He spent, I think, half an hour in my house and smoked two packets of my cigarettes. He certainly brought a bit of comfort to my wife who was suffering from a nervous upset, but when I received the bill it was for five guineas.
– I think that would surprise even Senator Brown. I mentioned this matter to some officials of the Australian Medical Association and they said that I could lodge the account wilh a committee of doctors who would determine its fairness or otherwise. I should like the Minister to inform me whether that is a private committee of doctors or whether the Government has any representation on it.
– In Queensland it is a State board.
– I do not know what the position is in Sydney, but I think the Government ought to do something really big in a matter such as this. Something has to be done about the high cost of medicine. I am not very old - not too old to be in the Senate - but I can remember the time when I could get the best possible medical treatment by paying 2s. a week into a fund. Payments from the fund covered hospital treatment as well as medical treatment. I am referring to a fund that was run in connexion with the miners’ federation when I was working in the coalmining industry. The doctor in the town in which I was living seemed to be doing quite well. He was recognized as one of the top citizens - as he should have been - and occupied a good social position. 1 repeat that the total amount I paid into the fund was 2s. a week. I know that costs have skyrocketed since then. The cost of medicine, has increased , greatly, during, the time that, ..the present Government has been in office. I am not saying that the Government is responsible, but I am saying that it has been in office while this increase in costs has been taking place. It is time the Government did something monumental in an endeavour to take the high costs out of medicine. It costs about £30 a week to go into hospital at present, and that represents a tremendous financial burden to anybody working for a living. It is unfair to a sick person, a great worry to families and, of course, is not justified in any circumstances.
I pass to the subject of rest homes. I know that Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin is interested in rest homes and knows a great deal about them.
– Are you referring to rest homes or nursing homes? There are geriatic homes and there are nursing homes.
– I will lump them together. I know that the Minister will probably say in reply that this is a State matter, but the financing of these homes is not a State matter; it is a Commonwealth matter. In recent months the Government agreed to pay £1 a day towards the costs of each patient in these homes, with the result that new rest homes have been established. The average cost of a bed in Sydney Hospital, the Canberra Community Hospital or any other first-class hospital, is £6 or £7 a day. It is to meet that cost that the hospital funds were established, and payments are made on the basis that hospital accommodation will cost a patient that amount of money. What sort of treatment are patients receiving in hospitals of the nursing home type which are financed on the basis of a contribution of £7 a week from the Government - £1 a day - plus the amount of the age pension which the home takes from a patient when he or she enters. Surely somebody must be robbing somebody. If it costs £30 a week to treat a patient in a public hospital, what sort of treatment are these people in private hospitals receiving when the economy of the hospital is based on an income of £13 a week from each patient? I know that the Minister will reply that the New South Wales Minister for Health, Mr. Sheahan, should have a look at that matter, but the Commonwealth should bring itself up to date and co-operate with the State governments which have these tremendous problems to face, , I am sure that the
Minister will agree with that proposition. The States are facing great problems in the field of public health, particularly in connexion with geriatric homes and what might be termed the fringe hospital institutions that have developed. The Government should not allow a second-class hospital system to develop. If our aged people are to be looked after they should be looked after in decent homes. Most of the people who enter these nursing homes are pensioners.
I now wish to comment on the alacrity with which the Minister seized on a remark, made in passing by Senator Cant, about the nationalization of the medical profession. Senator Cant made a rhetorical statement in answer to a provocative interjection from the other side of the chamber.
– What sort of statement?
– A rhetorical statement. He was not expressing Labour’s policy on public health. Labour’s policy on public health visualizes the private doctor co-operating with any government medical system on much the same principle as we have in the operation of domestic airlines. The Government does not hesitate to justify the socialization of airlines, by which TransAustralia Airlines has been built up alongside a parallel system operated by private enterprise. The Labour Party has that sort of scheme in mind for public health. I think the Minister will agree with me that he misinterpreted the remark of Senator Cant - not deliberately, of course - because he must have read in the press recently that the federal conference of the Labour Party has determined the party’s public health policy. That policy is a public health system which has a place within it for private practice.
The medical profession knows that private enterprise, in the sense that government supporters understand private enterprise, has no place in medicine or in public health. That profession must always be completely ancillary to the major functions of public health. The Government acknowledges this in the national health scheme it has introduced. It is Labour’s policy also to go along with the medical profession, but the medical profession itself will tell you that the day of the private , doctor is coming to an end. This is because * of new drugs, new techniques and the high cost of medicine as we know it to-day. In conclusion, I say again that I think the Minister misinterpreted Senator Cant when he seized upon what was purely a chance remark thought to be an expression of Labour’s policy.
– I am utterly intrigued with the statement by Senator Ormonde about the remark by Senator Cant. With consummate ease he suggests that the declaration by Senator Cant was a rhetorical statement. I may be naive, but when Senator Cant made his remark I thought to myself, “ Surely the cat is out of the bag for the second time “, for the simple reason that the honorable senator at some length described the attempts of a previous Labour government to nationalize the medical profession. I ask Senator Ormonde: How can you brush off that declaration by Senator Cant as just something that has come, as it were, from the clouds? The honorable senator is well-versed and well-informed on the travail that arose on a previous occasion when nationalization was attempted. There can be no doubt in anybody’s mind that he was attempting to paint a picture of what was happening to-day in the medical profession, as he saw it. He said, “ It would make it easier for us to take them when we become the government next year “. The suggestion that I am putting a wrong construction on that is not borne out by the background that Senator Cant produced when he made that statement.
Senator Ormonde spoke about the part that the general practitioner and the specialist each play under the National Health Act. I want to make it quite clear that in this field the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction and has no right to make a specific comment on what part these people shall play. Under our scheme provision is made for the employment of both kinds of services. My personal opinion is that the general practitioner is the backbone of the medical service that the people of this country have enjoyed for so long. In saying that I take nothing away from the specialist who, in his field, provides a service that the general practitioner makes no claim to provide. The general practitioner avails himself of specialist assistance when .he thinks ‘ this is necessary.
The Commonwealth Government realizes that the general practitioner is in a position to know more of the case history, the background and the family circumstances of the individual, and for that reason it has put him in a special category in its national health scheme. The Government has said, in effect, that, because of the special knowledge that he has, he should be the first person to be consulted when a person is ill. It has said to the patient, “If you consult the general practitioner first, we will make a contribution towards his fee “. There is some confusion in the honorable senator’s mind as to the benefits available when a patient consults a specialist. Apparently he has the impression that if a patient goes directly to a specialist the visit attracts no Commonwealth benefit.
– Not as much.
– It does not attract as much and that is the point I am trying to make. We believe that in the first instance the needs of the patient can best be served by consulting his family doctor. - Senator Cant. - Many people have no family doctor.
– The honorable senator is making a lot of statements to-day. I do not know whether he is speaking for the Labour Party, but he is showing a lamentable lack of knowledge of what is happening in the community to-day. I have a family doctor and all the assertions that the honorable senator may make would not prise me from him, and I am not unique. The family doctor is prized highly to-day by a very large section of the community. The Government is determined to encourage the family doctor, the general practitioner, by making it an advantage to the patient to consult him first. We pay the patient a benefit for so doing, and we pay an increased benefit if he is referred by his family doctor to a specialist. If the patient visits a specialist without being referred he receives a Commonwealth benefit of 6s. only, but if he has been referred to the specialist by his family doctor he attracts a Commonwealth benefit of £1. Surely that recognizes two factors: The first is that the family doctor has a most important part to play in the scheme of things, and the second is that the specialist, because of his specialized knowledge, attracts a greater fee than the general practitioner. Those factors indicate that the Government realizes that both the general practitioner and the specialist have a part to play in rendering a medical service to the community.
Senator Ormonde mentioned also that there were anomalies in the medical benefits scheme. I have never said that there were no anomalies in any part of the national health scheme, but I have said, with added conviction from time to time, that these anomalies will gradually be removed. I remind the honorable senator that even this year the Government has provided for pensioners free hospitalization at a level that has never been attempted before. We have increased the benefit for pensioners from 12s. to 36s. a day and provided that they have pensioner entitlement cards we have eliminated the need for them to be insured in order to attract the benefit. Surely that is a recognition of. an anomaly that had to be removed. We have taken similar action in respect of nursing homes. Previously a person did not attract a Commonwealth benefit unless he was insured. We decided to remove that condition and now a patient attracts the benefit whether or not he is insured. As recently as last week we removed an anomaly which placed a penalty on a contributor for being 65 years of age by requiring his automatic transfer to the special account. These changes must be made progressively because we do not know just what effect they will have upon the funds available to meet our overall responsibilities to the people. However, we know that the moves thai we have made will be successful and that the cost can be borne by the Government and by the funds.
Senator Ormonde referred also to a nursing home. I think he called it a rest home, but I presume that he meant a nursing home.
– He mentioned that the nursing home attracted a benefit of only £7 a week, which, with a patient’s pension of £5 5s. a week, made a total of £12 5s., whereas public hospitals rendering a similar service incurred a bed cost of £6 to £7 a day. I do not blame the honorable senator for choosing those figures. He is half right and half wrong. A figure between £6 and £7 is generally accepted by people who have not made a study of the costs in the various States. For instance, in Western Australia - this is not a criticism of that State because most of its large hospitals are teaching hospitals - I understand that the bed charges are the highest in the Commonwealth. That is because of the vast areas that have to be served by the few hospitals, all of which are teaching hospitals. On the other hand, the average daily cost in Queensland is about £5. So there is a wide variation between the two States. I am not suggesting for a moment that there is a difference in the services rendered in the two States; I believe they are similar, but circumstances alter cases.
The suggestion that because the bed cost in a hospital is between £5 and £7 a day, that is a reason for making a similar contribution to a nursing home cannot be substantiated wilh logic because a hospital, as I understand it, is generally required to provide a service to meet any emergency. It must have equipment, facilities and a trained staff so that it can give a service to sick people 24 hours a day. It must be able to care for people whose lives are in danger. The service provided by a hospital cannot be compared with that provided in nursing homes, where the service is of a kind that could be rendered at home if the facilities were available. When honorable senators look at these things they must look at the services being offered and the need which demands a particular type of service. It is not logical to compare the service rendered in a nursing home with that rendered in a hospital.
Senator Cormack raised some very important issues about exotic diseases entering Australia. I know that he is informed on this subject because recently, as he said, he visited New Guinea. He has shown a very lively interest in this matter. I should like to have the opportunity to discuss with my chief veterinary officer the point raised by the honorable senator, because he has been assigned to study this problem, which is a very real one. I am the first to concede that if these exotic diseases did enter Australia they could cripple our primary industries almost overnight. For that reason we have taken a very lively interest in this matter. Quarantine inside West
Irian is not within my jurisdiction, but if I can secure from the honorable senator some information which will throw light on this problem I shall take the matter up.
– I am diverted for the moment from the purpose for which I rose by the course the debate has taken this afternoon. I refer first to the statement by the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) that the Australian Medical Association now generally accepted the principle of the stabilization of doctors’ fees. I concurred very heartily when the Min is’er indicated that no responsible government would grant an increase in medical benefits unless there was some degree of stabilization of fees. When he said that, he was virtually condemning the Government, which introduced the present scheme in 1953 without making the slightest attempt to stabilize or control doctors’ fees. To utter a pious thought that no responsible government would increase its contribution to medical benefits in those circumstances is a sheer waste of our time, when the primary and original sin was launching a scheme - never mind whether there was an increase or not in the basic grant - when there was nothing whatever to prevent the medical profession taking the whole of the benefit to itself andleaving no benefit to the patient at all.
Belatedly, the Government realizes the need for stabilization of fees, and I am happy to know that the A.M.A. recognizes the social obligation to face up to this question. I am hopeful that in the negotiations that are proceeding it will be possible to find a formula which will satisfy the Government and the doctors. It should not be impossible to draw up, today, what would be generally acceptable as a charge for each of the services rendered by the medical profession and then to devise - as one of my colleagues suggested - either a scheme of arbitration for increases or, better still, some formula which would enable the doctors to increase the fees if there were a change in conditions. The evolution of a formula was not beyond the Government’s capacity when it came to dealing with Commonwealth and State financial relations. When the Labour Government was in office this was also the case.
There are elements that could be looked at which would be fair to the doctors, fair to the Government and, above all, fair to the patients. I hope the Government will pursue the negotiations with the medical profession with this in mind. I shall keep in mind the Minister’s comment about the lack of responsibility on the part of a government that would increase its medical benefits contributions without there being stabilization of doctors’ fees, and invite him to cast his mind back and to indicate what he would say of a government which initiated a scheme without any such safeguard being in existence.
Now I want to refer to what has been said by the Minister about an attempt to nationalize the medical profession, arising from a remark made by one of my own colleagues. Let me completely contradict the Minister’s statement in its relation to the Australian Labour Party. It so happens that I was the responsible Minister from June 1946 until Labour ceased to be the Government in 1949, and I think it may be taken that I have a fair perception of what was attempted and what was done. At no time was there an attempt to nationalize the medical profession. At no time was there a thought that it should be done. I want to make those two points completely clear. In a brief statement, let me indicate that all hospital benefits were provided completely free for the great bulk of the people who were treated in public wards of public hospitals. That is a situation that this Government unfortunately has destroyed.
– The people could no! get beds in the hospitals.
Senator McKENNA__ We paid the State governments more than they were ever able to collect from the patients, in return for which they undertook to provide free services in public wards. Secondly, we gave a comparable benefit to private patients in intermediate wards or private wards in public hospitals and in private hospitals. There was no attempt to nationalize the medical profession.
Pharmaceutical benefits were new then and, like every new idea, they were resisted at all stages. Our plan was to have a formulary containing all the things that we were prepared to provide as pharmaceutical benefits, and to require the doctor to write a Commonwealth form if he prescribed from the formulary. When it came to medical benefits, we recognized the trouble that this Government now encounters, and we offered a scheme under which we drew up a complete list of every service a doctor would render. We set’ fees that the profession generally acknowledged to be generous, and our plan was to pay one-half of these to any patient of any doctor who agreed to abide by these fees. That was not acceptable to the medical profession, and about the time that scheme was evolved we went out of office. I repeat that not in any way, by thought or deed, was any attempt made to nationalize (he medical profession directly or indirectly. Let us put that right on the record for a start.
In 1961, the Health Committee of the Australian Labour Party, on which I had the honour to serve, presented to the party’s conference a health policy for the future. It was reviewed and revised as recently as last August. Again, all thought of nationalization is completely rejected in our approach to the subject. So whatever debating points crop up and whatever slip of the tongue anybody may make, the record should be put straight. Senator Cant - I did not discuss this with him - commented at one stage that the doctorpatient relationship had gone, and I think he had in mind that the doctors were getting together in group practice. I take it that that was what he meant when he said they were nationalizing themselves. Accordingly, the doctor-patient relationship is not so acute or so well-preserved to-day as it was even a decade ago. There is an anonymity between doctors in group practice and the patients. If one doctor is not available another takes the patient. There is no doubt that that development is growing rapidly and is working efficiently. Even in my time as Minister for Health I offered to build group centres for doctors as experimental stations to try out the very thing they are doing to-day. The scheme works very well and it is a developing aspect of life in the medical community.
Having said those two things, let me come to what I really rose to speak about. That is the Minister’s recent statement as to the future of the hospital benefits scheme; I was very interested in his statement of last Sunday that he proposed to eliminate the requirement that contributors who are 65 years of age be compulsorily transferred to the special account. I should like to qualify one or two things for me.
Sitting suspended from 5.4S to 8 p.m.
– I should like to add one point to what I said prior to the suspension on the subject of the nationalization of the medical profession. It is a legal impossibility. We ensured that when we asked the people in 1946 to give us power to provide medical services. The terms in which the referendum was put to the people ran like this: “ The provision of medical and dental services but not so as to authorize any form of civil conscription “. There, in our minds, was the plain negation. Further, when the matter was under consideration by the High Court in * 1949 in the pharmaceutical benefits case, the court held that even requiring a doctor to write on a form an item that was contained in the formulary of the Commonwealth amounted to civil conscription. So not only is the law there in the Constitution as a protection to the profession, but also the courts have held this to be valid.
I want to refer to the subject of the Minister’s statement on Sunday. As 1 understand it - I should like the Minister to correct me in due course if I misinterpret the statement - the provision that all persons over 65 who are contributors to a hospital benefit fund shall be transferred to a special account is to be repealed. The special account will now be kept for chronic cases, people with preexisting ailments, and a third class - this is the one that troubles me - a contributor or a dependant who has been more than 84 days in hospital. First, why 84 days? Why should there be such a limit? If the patient is in a private room by himself, the cost will run to 40 guineas a week. After a long stay in hospital, when the financial strain is greatest, the benefit drops to twelve guineas from very close to £42 a week. The amount of twelve guineas a week is made up of £1 a day from the Commonwealth and 16s. a day from the fund. That will represent less than one- third of the total cost, if the patient continues in a private room. I put it to the Minister that if the patient, to meet the financial strain, transfers to a public ward, the amount of twelve guineas will represent not quite half of the charge.
How can one call that a medical scheme that does justice to the intensely sick who have suffered great financial strain? I ask the Minister whether thought has been given to removing that limit of 84 days set by the various funds. Surely there ought to be more consideration for those cases in which there is immense financial strain. In such circumstances the benefit needs to be increased, not decreased.
Am I right in concluding that if a contributor over the age of 65, who henceforth will be treated as an ordinary contributor entitled to the full fund benefit, regardless of hospital costs, or one of his dependants, over-runs the period of 84 days, the other members of the contributor’s family who have not gone to hospital will still be treated as ordinary patients. In other words, they will get the full benefit of the insurance regardless of the hospital cost?
– That is, a contributor’s dependants?
– The contributor or his dependants. The present position is that if a dependant, staying in hospital for more than 84 days, then has recourse to the special account, the contributor and all others who are dependent on him will automatically come under the special account. I understand that that provision now is cancelled but that if a person runs over the 84 days he will come under the special account. That is what I take to be the position from the Minister’s statement. If that is the case, I should like to know how the special account is to be operated. If only one person of a family of five or six is to come under the special account, how is the subscription to be apportioned? Will the whole amount go over? Will the contributor and all his dependants go into the special account at that point? That is a question that is exercising my mind.
The Minister further indicated that broad agreement had been reached about some scheme of marginal financial aid to some of the funds to enable these improvements to be effected. Can he give any indication to the committee of the broad terms of agreement? I realize that many things have to be worked out in detail.
Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [8.6]. - I refer to Division No. 291, subdivision 2, item 05, which relates to health conferences. I notice that a very great increase in the appropriation for these conferences is proposed. The appropriation last year was £1 1,750 and the expenditure was £11,458, but the proposed appropriation is £20,000. I feel sure that every health conference is of tremendous value and I am very pleased that this large appropriation is proposed, but 1 am wondering why there is to be such an increase. Does it mean that we are to have more health conferences, or are we to have larger health conferences? Are these to be conferences only of doctors or may be of other persons working in the field of health? Are there to be international conferences? I should like to know the details of the proposed expenditure.
I refer to Division No. 293, subdivision 2, item 07, Publicity - Pamphlets. On this line, too, a greatly increased appropriation is proposed. Last year the appropriation was £8,000 and the expenditure was £7,990, but this year an appropriation of £30,000 is proposed. I believe that it is tremendously important to have as much wise and informative publicity in the field of health as we possibly can, particularly publicity directed towards prevention of disease and ensuring that children are not exposed to the hazards of accidents such as those that are caused by the taking in their homes of medicines which are not intended for them. We know that these things, unfortunately, happen all too often. I should like to have some details of the proposed increase in expenditure.
I pay tribute to the department for the work that it is doing under the heading “Other Services” in this division. Child health centres are playing an important part in the community, not only in the care and training of children but also in the care and training of people who are looking after children. These centres are setting very high standards for other centres. Coming, as I do, from Queensland, where the aerial medical services have long been known for their wonderful work in outback areas, bringing a mantle of safety to vast and lonely regions, I should like to express approval of the very fine appropriation of £95,000 for these services, which have probably done more than anything else to make it possible for people to live in lonely places. The value of Commonwealth assistance to the Australian Red Cross for the blood transfusion service is something that we can never really assess, because this service brings life to people who might not otherwise recover. Again, this is a very fine work indeed.
I should also like to direct the Minister’s attention to item 5 which relates to hearing aids for school children. The appropriation for this year is £49,000. Last year the appropriation was £40,250 whilst the expenditure was £39,879. Hearing aids for school children are tremendously important. They have enabled children to learn who otherwise would not have been able to do so. People who are concerned about the problem of deafness know what a tremendous advantage it is for children to have the benefit of oral deaf pre-school training. Wonderful work is being done through the oral deaf centre for pre-school children. This work is of tremendous value to the whole future of each child. It is a great thing for these children if they are able to have a hearing aid at a very tender age - long before they actually go to school.
I am wondering whether hearing aids are provided only for school children. It is tremendously important that the very tiny children should have the advantage of these aids; otherwise they may not be able to learn to talk. If the very wee preschool infants are not at present supplied with a free hearing aid I ask the Minister most sincerely to give consideration to supplying such children with these aids because otherwise they might never have the opportunity to learn to speak. This is tremendously important. If the Minister has not yet seen the wonderful work being done at an oral deaf pre-school centre I hope that next time he comes to Brisbane he will give me the opportunity to show him how these children can be taught to speak. However, one of the great advantages lies in their being supplied with a hearing aid at the earliest possible age. 1 should like further particulars on that aspect.
– The Government is entitled to credit for having made available to children the hearing aids to which Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin has referred. The honorable senator might have pursued the subject further and referred to deficiencies in children not only in relation to hearing but also ocular deficiencies which involve the provision of spectacles. After all, some children are born with defective sight, and the defect tends to develop as they grow older. But no provision has been made for assistance in this regard.
I am more particularly interested, in a matter which the Minister for. Health (Senator Wade) mentioned earlier. He said that statements which I made to-day did not agree with those which I made on 26th September in respect of the stabilization of medical fees. I have not changed my attitude on this subject through the years. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has pointed out, the Government is now interested in the stabilization of medical fees in order to protect not only the contributors and the benefits funds but also the Government contribution to those funds. Consequently, it now sees fit to espouse the stabilization of medical fees although when it launched the benefits scheme it did no! have a clue as to whether fees should be stabilized, where the funds should go, or to what financial conditions the contributors should be subject. On 26th September I said that there had been a rise in the cost of living of 24.8 per cent, and that medical fees had risen by 33.3 per cent. Do you recall those figures, Mr. Minister?
– 1 will accept them.
– That is all I want to know. I said that irrespective of the rise in the cost of living and the increased contributions made by the contributors to the various medical benefit funds, there had been no increase in the contributions made by the successive governments led by the present Prime Minister (Sir Robert
Menzies). That does not vitiate my approach to the stabilization of medical fees, but it puts a different complexion on the Minister’s statement, as he will admit if he is as frank and honest as we of the Opposition always are in these matters.
There is another matter to which I wish to refer. I do not know whether there will be a general election shortly. But every one knows that, in the light of present circumstances in this country, when one talks of the complete mobilization of people as State or Commonwealth employees there is a certain reaction. So the Minister siezed on my remarks. Senator Cant then queried the Ministers interpretation of my remarks as meaning that the Australian Labour Party would nationalize the medical profession. It is quite evident to me, as it is to every one on this side of the chamber, that the Minister has not read the Labour Party’s policy as enunciated at the 1963 conference of the party in Perth. Nowhere does the Australian Labour Party in its policy statement suggest that the doctors shall be employees of the Commonwealth Government or of any State Government. We say that there should be a national medical service available to every Australian citizen - man, woman or child. There is nothing wrong with that. That is what the Government with its limited efficiency has sought to establish. If Government supporters try to claim on the hustings that the Labour Party favours compulsion in relation to the services of the medical profession they will find that argument very difficult to establish. Let us be frank on this question. It is interesting to find that the Government is providing for an increase of expenditure on publicity. This suggests that someone learned that the Labour Party intended to sponsor national health publicity programmes. Apparently, the Government intends to borrow that idea from the Labour Party, as it has borrowed other ideas from us, and embark on campaigns to raise the standard of health of the people.
There is another matter with which I wish to deal although honorable senators on either side of the chamber might disagree with what I have to say about it. I do not think that the family doctor has disappeared. Group practice has certainly increased. But there is still an association between individual doctors and families. A* a result of the advent of group practice, or clinical practice, doctors now have a measure of leisure time or time for study that was not available to them under the old system. One honorable senator said he called a doctor from a house two doors down the road, that the doctor came in, charged him five guineas and smoked two packets of cigarettes. I do not know what to say about the two packets of cigarettes, because the senator in question has never offered me or anybody else a cigarette. The doctor must have been a specialist or at least must have regarded himself as being possessed of extraordinary knowledge to warrant his sending in a bill for five guineas for one visit, lt would be most unusual for such a man to visit a house without being referred by a general practioner Will the Minister admit that this was a most unusual case? They are all the questions I am posing at the moment. If there is adequate opportunity to ask further questions, I shall keep the Minister going.
– 1 wish to refer to the subject of quarantine which was mentioned by Senator Cormack prior to the dinner suspension. I took advantage of the suspension to discuss with my officers the points that were raised by the honorable senator. I have not a great deal more to say that is of a positive, constructive nature than I said several days ago in reply to Senator Drake-Brockman. But I do want to make the point that the Government is not complacent about this matter. It realizes as do all honorable senators, regardless of where they sit in this chamber, that our primary industries are vulnerable to exotic diseases. The possible entry of such diseases into Australia is quite removed from party politics in the sense of affecting only the Government or the Opposition; it is a matter of great national import.
Let me furnish further details of the efforts we have been making to meet this challenge. In January last the Director of Veterinary Hygiene visited New Guinea. He was informed at Port Moresby that possibly there could be a trade in smoked deer meat from Merauke. It will be remembered that Senator Cormack spoke at some length about the dangers that would attend the entry of smoked meat into
Papua and New Guinea. The Director of Veterinary Hygiene investigated this problem at Merauke. The local director of veterinary hygiene told him quite definitely that no such trade existed and that for quite obvious reasons it was not likely to exist. Later, the Director of Native Affairs at Thursday Island said that there was no trade in deer meat or any similar commodity between West Irian and the Torres Strait islands.
During his visit to Djakarta, in August last, the Director of Veterinary Hygiene was informed by the Head of the Indonesian veterinary service that any meat or animals imported into West Irian would be free of foot and mouth disease. However, we cannot tell the Indonesians what they must or must not do. During this visit the Indonesians agreed to a close liaison between the chief of the Division of Animal Industry at Port Moresby and the head of the West Irian veterinary service at Kota Bani, especially in regard to the reporting of disease outbreaks. The policy in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is one of vigilance and readiness to meet any threat of exotic disease.
It is true that many Australian veterinarians have not seen cases of foot and mouth disease or of other exotic diseases; but it must be remembered that they are fully trained men who have refreshed their knowledge of these diseases. They could hardly fail to recognize the diseases if they occurred, or at least to suspect their presence. Arrangements have been made for diagnosis in overseas laboratories in respect of the most serious exotic diseases. Action is in hand to hold a seminar on these diseases when two officers who are in Canada attending a school on the subject return to Australia. Naturally, the veterinary officers of Papua and New Guinea and northern Australia will attend the seminar and will be given every opportunity to increase their knowledge of exotic diseases.
Senator Cormack quite properly highlighted the danger that exists because of the presence of a chain of islands between the northern parts of Australia and the areas that we are discussing. I asked the Director of Veterinary Hygiene if this aspect had been considered, having regard to the fact that we are in a position only to appoint postmasters and school teachers as our watchmen in this particular area, under the supervision of a qualified veterinary officer. He told me that the function of the fifteen stock inspectors who have been appointed to the Torres Strait islands is to watch for any abnormal con’dition in animals and report any outbreak immediately by wireless to Thursday Island, where a veterinary officer will be stationed. The inspectors will not be expected to diagnose disease. That will be done by the veterinary officer, who will immediately order and supervise appropriate eradication measures if the occasion arises. Fortunately these islands are well isolated from one another. That fact is worth emphasizing. If an outbreak occurred on one island, it should be possible to recognize the disease very speedily and to contain it in that area. That is not to be taken as indicating a complacent approach to the problem. As I have said previously, the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government are fully alive to the situation and will continue to take whatever action is necessary or may become necessary in the light of changing circumstances.
The raising of such matters in the Parliament must be of real value to the industries concerned. There are many people in our midst who do a lot of constructive thinking in these fields. I repeat that if anybody has a concrete proposal to submit to the Government with a view to strengthening our quarantine service, he has my assurance that we would be delighted to hear of it and to investigate it. The prevention of the spread of such diseases is not a matter for unilateral effort. We need the benefit of the best brains and the concentrated effort of everybody in the community who has some suggestion to proffer in order to safeguard industries that are of such great value to us.
Senator McKenna sought some information about the 84day period that is applicable to special account contributors. He asked whether removal of the limitation had been considered. Whilst I admit that the special account fund has fulfilled a very useful purpose, I believe the time has come when we can and should devise a better method of meeting the needs of those who have a special disability or who are not in the same risk category as people who are not now transferred to special account funds, lt is with that object in view that we are frying to take, and indeed have succeeded in taking, from the special account pensioners, people who are in nursing homes, and now people over 65 years of age.. I believe it is fair to say that we must take these steps progressively, because we have no concrete evidence on which to judge specifically what will be the effect of such transfers upon the ordinary funds of the societies. We have a responsibility to maintain their stability and to make quite sure that the interests of the contributors are protected. I emphasize that we are progresively eliminating from the special account arrangements the features which I think should be eliminated. Ultimately, all such features will be eliminated.
Senator McKenna also sought information concerning the dependants of people who were subject to the special account provisions and details of the arrangements made with the funds concerning any underwriting which the Government had undertaken in this field. The special accounts were introduced to provide fund benefits for pre-existing ailments, and for chronic and maximum benefit cases. Previously, no fund benefit was available in such cases. The total benefit of 36s. a day, although less than the hospital charge, ha? provided substantial assistance. The new range being introduced will permit payment of benefits on the same basis as for ordinary account contributors; that is, the benefits will not be limited to hospital charges if no limitation is provided for in respect of the ordinary account contributors. When maximum benefits - usually after 34 days of hospitalization - are reached, the contributor will, at the -option of the organization, be transferred to the special account and receive total benefits of 36s. a day for hospitalization. In these cases the contributions will be credited to the special account. That is about as far as 1 can go in explaining the matter. Full details of the arrangements that have been made will be presented to the Parliament when the legislation is brought down which, I hope, will be in the very near future.
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin referred to Division No. 291, sub-division 2, item 05, which relates to health conferences. She requested information concerning the increase of £8,542 in the appropriation this year. The item covers fares and travelling expenses of officers and advisory personnel who are called into conference on health matters concerning the Commonwealth. The increase of £8,542 is due to the fact that additional meetings are to be held during 1963-64. It will allow the Central Medical Planning Committee and its sub-committees to resume normal committee functions and activities, lt also will allow for the rejuvenation of me committees and sub-committees of the National Health and Medical Research Council, following a review of the committees and the functions of the committees previously appointed. I should add that the DirectorGeneral of Health is taking a very lively interest in the work of the sub-committees that have been established. Some of them were dormant for a considerable time. He has taken it upon himself to rejuvenate them and to encourage them to do the job they have been appointed to do.
– He must read “ Hansard “.
– Yes, wc do read “ Hansard “. We have budgeted for the increase so that the committees may be in a position to carry out the task that has been allotted to them.
asked for information concerning the proposed increased expenditure of £22,0 JO on publicity. The publicity concerns health service matters. Here again, I expect to receive plaudits from Senator Dittmer. He suggested a little while ago that we were borrowing a policy which apparently was worthy of emulation. The £30,000 being sought for 1963-64 includes a sum of £25.000 which is required for the largescale printing of a booklet which will contain essential data and explain the services available under the national health scheme. The object of the booklet is to ensure that as many people as possible are made aware ot the various forms of assistance available to them under the national health scheme.
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin also sought information concerning additional expenditure on hearing aids. J was particularly interested in her reference to the splendid work that is being done by the acoustic laboratories. If 1 remember correctly, she asked whether the work was confined to school children. She was good enough to invite me to have a look at the Queensland laboratory. I have already seen it, as I have seen the laboratories in the other States. While I was in Western Australia I was told that the laboratory officers there recently had fitted a hearing aid to, I think, a six-weeks old baby. That indicates the degree of dedication and the efficiency of the officers working in this field. The additional expenditure is required for the following purposes-
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [8.36]. - I should like information concerning Division No. 291, subdivision 3 - item 05, sirex wasp control and eradication. I note that an amount of £60,000 was granted in each of the two previous years and that this year it is proposed to vote £90,000. The fact that the vote is to increase in this way seems to indicate that, instead of the sirex wasp being controlled, it is getting out of control. I should like the Minister to let me know the position in this regard. I also refer to Division No. 292 - Quarantine. I note that the provision for incidental and other expenditure was £21,700 last year and that this year the proposed vote is £9,350. I should like . to know the reason for the reduction. I refer also to Division No. 293 - Health Services. Item 06, under “ Other Services “, relates to poliomyelitis vaccine. The appropriation for this item last year was £600,000, and this year it is £475,000. I should like to know whether the reduction indicates that most of the persons to be vaccinated have already been vaccinated and that we are eradicating the disease of polyiomyelitis.
.- 1 direct the attention of the Minister to Division No. 293 - Health Services. Item 06 in subdivision 3 relates to poliomyelitis vaccine, for which the appropriation this year is £475,000, compared with expenditure last year of £599.988. In looking into this matter I ascertained that the possible source of information concerning it was the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission. I find that there is no mention at all of this commission in the report of the DirectorGeneral of Health, yet the chairman of the commission has to make a report to the Minister for Health. If the present procedure is followed each year it would seem that the report of the chairman of the commission will not come before the Parliament until nearly a year has elapsed. This is a matter of concern to those who are interested in health generally, and particularly to those interested in such an important organization as the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. There has been only one report for part of the year 1961-62 - the first year of the commission’s operations - and that report was published in February, 1963. It is reasonable to expect that it will be February, 1964, before we get any information on the activities of the commission in the year we are discussing at present.
The same thing applies to the AuditorGeneral’s report on the Department of Health and its subsidiary, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission. A good explanation of the activities of the commission is given but, unlike the reports of the Auditor-General on most other activities, this one is a year behind. It seems rather unusual for the AuditorGeneral to make a report on activities twelve months late.
I wish to refer now to the annual report of the Director-General of Health in relation to poliomyelitis vaccine. It discloses that in the year 1962-63 the incidence of poliomyelitis in all States was low. It is very good to know that the disease is so well under control. The report goes on to say that only 35 cases were confirmed by the Poliomyelitis Surveillance Committee and that one-third of the cases were in young adults. The report goes on -
Virus isolations were successful in twelve cases only and no Type 2 poliovirus was found. The distribution of isolates was -
Type 1 poliovirus - Nine cases: Victoria six, South Australia two, New South Wales one.
Type 3 poliovirus - Three cases, all in Victoria.
With a total of 35 cases only for the year it would appear that some States are practically free from poliomyelitis. The report continues -
One million doses of each of the three poliovirus types of Sabin vaccine, imported on the recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council, are held at Commonwealth Serum Laboratories for use in any future emergency. . . .
I should like to ask the Minister whether the expenditure shown in the estimates is to pay for the 1,000,000 doses of Sabin vaccine and whether this vaccine could have been produced in our own laboratories which are producing Salk vaccine. According to the report of the DirectorGeneral, the recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council is that children and adults who have had three doses of Salk vaccine should present themselves for a fourth dose at a minimum of one year after the third dose is received. This recommendation was implemented and an average of 31,000 doses of vaccine were issued each week to the States as from January, 1963. It would appear that we have been importing Sabin vaccine and I should like to know whether it is not possible for us to use the capacity of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to develop Sabin vaccine here in Australia instead of importing it.
Finally, I repeat my previous request. I should like the Minister to give me information as to whether he is responsible for reporting to the Parliament the activities of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission and also whether in future it would be possible for the report to be made available at the time we are debating the activities of the Department of Health.
– I should like to make quick reference to the points that have been raised by various honorable senators before they are forgotten. Senator Sir Walter Cooper has asked for an explanation of the increase in the funds made available for the sirex wasp eradication campaign. I think that he rather facetiously suggested that the wasp seemed to be out of control instead of under control. I am happy to assure him that such is not the case. It will be remembered that when the sirex wasp was first discovered in Victoria all the States agreed to form a fighting fund to keep the infestation from spreading beyond Victoria. The Commonwealth saw the wisdom of such an approach and provided £50,000 to match the £50,000 that was provided by the States on an acreage basis - the acreage of forests they had of the particular pine that is subject to sirex infestation.
After nine months of very active work on the sirex wasp it was found that on the mainland the wasp was still confined to the State of Victoria, although it must always be remembered, of course, that Tasmania has been a victim of the sirex wasp for some years now. On the mainland, I repeat, the wasp was confined to Victoria and a very vigorous campaign was undertaken to destroy infested trees. At the end of nine months it was found that the spread was wider than was originally expected and it was suggested that an allout attack should be embarked upon forthwith in an attempt to get the wasp under control as soon as possible. With that object in view the States again approached the Commonwealth and suggested that the fund be increased to £200,000. The Commonwealth agreed to put in an additional sum of money to allow the attacks that were being made on the infestation to be carried out with renewed vigour. The forestry commission in Victoria has done a splendid job in its handling and direction of this campaign. It has not only destroyed many infested trees and pinpointed sources of infestation, but it has also induced the State Government to make it an offence for any landholder to have on his property a pine tree that is infested with sirex wasp. Under existing legislation the landholder must destroy such a tree and do all in his power to remove the menace from his property.
The picture I want to leave in the minds of honorable senators is that very vigorous efforts are being made to control the wasp and there is a good deal of optimism among those working in the field that they are going to succeed.
asked for information about Division No. 292 - Quarantine - sub-division 2, item 08 which deals with incidental and other expenditure. Although there is a decrease in the proposed vote for this year there will be no decrease in the actual expenditure. On the suggestion of the Auditor-General portions of the expenditure have been shown under other items.
Information was also asked for about the decrease in the vote for poliomyelitis vaccine under Division No. 293 - Health Services, subdivision 3, item 06. lt will be remembered that last year the National Health and Medical Research Council recommended that the Government have a stock of 1,000,000 doses of Sabin vaccine in this country to meet any emergency as a result of an outbreak of poliomyelitis. The Government, of course, took the advice of the council on that occasion and expended £100,000 on the purchase of 1,000,000 does of Sabin vaccine. Those doses are held on behalf of the Government in adequate storage at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories.
asked why the report of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission is not in the hands of the Parliament for this discussion on the estimates. I regret that it is not. The department has done all that it can to have the report available to the Parliament for this discussion on the estimates. The financial statements, though completed, are waiting on certification by the Auditor-General, but I give the honorable senator my assurance that they will be available to him in the very near future.
The honorable senator asked also whether the Government intends to use the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to produce Sabin vaccine. I cannot give a short answer to that question because the matter will again be considered in the very near future by the National Health and Medical Research Council. We are acting on the council’s advice in maintaining a supply of Sabin vaccine which is still available on the usual terms and conditions to those who wish to avail themselves of it. Until such time as the council recommends that we change to Sabin vaccine we will remain on Salk. If the council, in its wisdom, recommends that Salk be replaced by Sabin vaccine we will give consideration to the advisability of manufacturing Sabin vaccine in Australia.
– I refer to plant quarantine and I seek some information from the Minister. I refer also to the shortage of cotton seed that now exists. As the Minister knows, there has been a shift of emphasis from quantity to quality in the cotton bounty. This, I believe, is aggravating the position with regard to pure seed of certain varieties. There is a shortage of pure seed in two varieties, namely, Delia Pine Smooth Leaf and Dixie King. I believe that the total available seed in Australia, of either of those varieties is 105 lb., although our requirement is in the vicinity of 50 tons. This has been brought about by the change in the basis of bounty payments. In seeking information I direct the Minister’s attention to the annual report of the Director-General of Health which throws some light on this. The report states -
Considerable interest is being manifested in cotton growing throughout Australia, particularly in New South Wales, and the importation of cotton seed has been carefully controlled for many years to prevent the introduction of damaging insect pests and diseases. It has been the practice to allow new varieties to be introduced as seed in small quantities, up to 5 lb., for growth, after special seed treatment, under official quarantine supervision. By this means the potential cotton industry is safegurded and yet the local growers have the benefit of varieties developed overseas. There have been representations for the bulk importations of cotton seed from the United States of America, but all such applications have been refused because it would involve a serious quarantine risk.
It is the last sentence of that quotation upon which I seek information. From my inquiries I have learned that one company which made representations was Auscott Proprietary Limited, an American business operating at Narrabri. I found that that company faces problems similar to those experienced in Queensland in the procuration of this seed. I was told by the manager of the company that an approach had been made to the department; that the company had offered to take a departmental officer to the United States of America where the seed is grown so that he would be able to bring the seed back to Australia where it could be held under quarantine until the department decided to release it. I am not sure of the outcome of this approach, but I understand it was refused. I want to say right here and now that I do not want to see the effectiveness of plant quarantine broken down, but cotton seed does pose a special .problem. The bounty on cotton is given to boost cotton production in Australia. At the moment 5 lb. of seed can be imported, so I should think it would take three years before sufficient seed were available for a normal planting. I understand that the company operating at Narrabri is in the midst of preparations for the planting of 4,000 acres. The manager of the company told me that the long term policy of the company is to export cotton. What a wonderful thing it would be if that could be done! I have been through as many records relating to cotton seed as I have been able to procure and - the Minister may be able to correct me on this - there is no evidence of any major disease or pest having been introduced from the United States. Again I emphasize that I do not want to break down the effectiveness of the quarantine regulations, but I wonder whether the importation of seed can be accelerated somewhat. For instance, if 5 lb. of seed can be brought in under supervision from one locality, perhaps we could bring in from various localities multiples of 5 lb., still under strict quarantine. I ask the Minister to supply information on that point. I feel that we may lose a grand opportunity to establish the cotton industry on a quality basis unless we can supply sufficient seed. In Queensland the availability of Delia Pine Smooth Leaf seed is only 100 lb., and there is about the same quantity of Dixie King. With the 5 lb. of Delia Pine Smooth Leaf seed that can be imported this year we will have a total of 105 lb. I wonder if there is any way in which, in these circumstances, the supply of seed can be accelerated.
– I have been concerned for some time, and I know the Minister has also, about the development of what may be called the public health apparatus. Within the confines of his philosophy the Minister has been trying to deal with the problems relating to the quality of drugs and the high cost of medicine. I have been wondering whether the Government could do anything about removing high pressure selling methods from the public health affairs. Since the American drug companies and other foreign drug companies moved into Australia - they have come in big numbers - all sorts of new methods of publicizing medical and health matters have been introduced. To my mind this is spoiling the image of a system that should be beyond suspicion. For example, the drug companies-
– Order! To what provision are you relating your remarks?
– I agree with you, Mr. Chairman; I will come back to the point in a moment. I was talking about public health generally and 1 assume that the point I am making comes within the scope of this debate. The American drug houses and other overseas drug houses describe themselves as “ ethical “ drug houses. To me that is a very unethical thing to do because, it implies that other drug houses in Australia are unethical. This is a form of high pressure salesmanship of the worst possible type. I think the Government, as well as looking at this kind of false advertising, should look at companies which arc interested more in the quantity than the quality of their products. Do not forget that if this Government takes action along those lines it will only be following out what the Kennedy Administration has already done in the United Slates of America. This practice was not heard of years ago, but now there are 2,000 drug salesmen knocking on surgery doors and hospital doors and other places any morning.
– The number is about 700.
– That is a conservative estimate. It is high pressure salesmanship, and it is adding to the cost of the Government’s pharmaceutical benefits scheme. For example, the average person who goes to a doctor to-day has prescribed for him or her a box of pills. There may me 100 in the box and 80 of them will not be used. I am told that a charge is made for the total amount and the Government pays. One matron who runs a suburban private hospital in Sydney said drugs worth many pounds were on her shelves. She could have used them for other patients but was not allowed to do so. When a patient left the hospital, the drugs and tablets obtained for that patient were thrown out. This Government would be paying for many drugs that are not being used.
Another side of the public relations aspect of health is most important, because if the people lose confidence in public health administration that is very serious. Anybody would assume that the A.M. A. Medical Benefits Society in Sydney belongs to the Australian Medical Association, but it does not. This Government allows an organization to register a name and makes no check on the truth of its claims. The A.M.A. Medical Benefits Society has only one official representative of the Australian Medical Association on its management, and the Australian Medical Association has no responsibility in it whatever. That association is subjected to the business methods of that organization just as the patients are, yet the general public feels that it is dealing with the Australian Medical Association when it is not doing anything of the kind but is dealing with a private organization.
We of the Australian Labour Party feel very concerned about the financing of public health going continually into private hands and into the hands of people who, on the face of things, appear to be a public or community organization but are really private individuals.
The Government virtually approves of that system by allowing these private organizations to carry on as they do.
Much the same thing applies to hospital benefits. In my view, the hospital benefits organization in New South Wales does not measure up to the standards that a government should demand. This Government is financing that organization also. I am talking, of course, about the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales. I have been surprised that honorable senators from other States have not had complaints about health matters. In matters of public health, I am surprised that South Australia, Western Australia and other places do not seem to have these complaints; we seem to have most of them in New South Wales. I do not know why but it is a fact. I am not criticizing the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales, because I think it has done wonderful work, but I am criticizing the system; it started off in 1930 as the
Hospital Saturday Fund and has continued on the same basis. This fund started on that humble basis and really the basis of the organization has never been changed. That brings me to a matter that I wish the Minister for Health would examine: The Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales to which I have referred is generally considered the official organization. Being a £6,500,000 organization it dwarfs the others in publicity, &c. That is very unfair to other organizations that are working to carry out this Government’s health plan.
I refer, of course, to smaller organizations and particularly the friendly societies. They are the poor relations of the health organization although they have been in public health matters and medical affairs for 100 years or more. Because of this high pressure advertising of their competitors, they are the poor relations of the health scheme to-day. I know some of the friendly societies are in serious financial circumstances because of this. Has the Minister ever noticed what happens in the average chemist shop when a person wants to register in a hospital fund? 1 can assure the Minister that 95 per cent, of these people are shown straight away a book for the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales. The average chemist would not carry books for the other organizations.
In the press to-day, the Minister will see a full page advertisement costing £600 or £700 each announcing new rates which will be struck by the fund. This is only another nail in the coffin of the smaller organizations which the Government is supposed to support because it claims to represent private enterprise and the little man. It is not supporting the little man in public health. I do not know what the Government can do about it, but the big advertisements in the newspapers are only developing further the idea that the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales is a government organization. It should be obligatory on all chemists to have on their counters the application forms of all hospital fund organizations so that people can have a choice and not be pressurized into joining the larger funds. I have generalized to an extent but these are questions related to the general public’s image of public health. They are questions that require an answer.
.- There is a strong belief in the minds of the people that Australia is rapidly becoming a fortune hunting country for overseas manufacturers of drugs. There is a belief that the typical Australian purchasing drugs is overcharged in comparison with the inhabitants of other countries. If we examine the history of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories we discover that they were inaugurated by the late William Morris Hughes when he was Prime Minister of Australia. Since then they have progressed, and much good work has been done. But there is a feeling now that the work that has been carried out over the years, in respect of both actual manufacture and research, has been allowed to diminish - deliberately. I have no evidence to prove that, but I am telling the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) because perhaps he can give me an explanation. I should like the Minister to direct his attention to particular items. I know that last year pharmaceutical benefits for the people generally cost the Commonwealth £28,500,000, and in respect of pensioners the cost was £9,900,000, making a total expenditure of £38,400,000. The sale of drugs in Australia has developed into a big business and it is likely to grow.
I shall be very happy if the Minister will tell me that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories are engaged in research work, that the work is directed, so far as it is possible to direct research work, and that the manufacture by the laboratories of drugs required by the Australian public is an active business. Not so very long ago we heard of an offer being made to the Commonwealth for a take-over, merger, or straight-out purchase of the laboratories, but no definite or positive pronouncement was made on the question. The Commonwealth is still the owner of the laboratories. I have a fairly clear picture of the activities of the laboratories and I know why we are not given a balance-sheet for discussion at this time of the year. Will the Minister be so good as to tell me that the picture that I and many other Australians have of the laboratories as a run-down concern is entirely incorrect?
– That is so.
– I want that to be emphasized. I should like the Minister to tell me how the establishment has flourished. We know that there is a World Health Organization. I should like to know what donations we have made to overseas countries. Have we donated Salk vaccine to countries that are in need of it? Have we donated any drugs to other countries, particularly the backward countries?
– I should like to refer first to quarantine of imported cotton seed. 1 have given a great deal of thought to the subject that Senator Sherrington has raised. One may argue: “ Why has there been a limitation to 5 lb. of seed? If you can adequately quarantine 5 lb., surely you can devise ways and means to quarantine 100 lb., and so develop the industry at a much faster pace “. If we could devise ways and means of efficiently quarantining what I might call bulk imports of seed, we should be very pleased to do it. But we as a ministry have a responsibility to leave this country at least as clean as it was when we took office. That is a policy that I intend to pursue with all the vigour shown by my predecessors. Having said that, I do not want to leave the, impression that we are hide-bound, that we are not prepared to reexamine a policy from time to time.
We have had many requests from people whom we are very pleased to see taking a vigorous interest in developing an industry that will ultimately be of great value to the economy. We can and do effectively and efficiently quarantine small quantities of seed. I think it is proper that we should ask such industries, desirable as they are, to be prepared to proceed at a somewhat more moderate pace rather than run the risk of bringing into the country a disease that could ruin not only established industries but also the cotton industry that we arc endeavouring to establish. The Director of Plant Quarantine informs me that fusarium wilt of cotton is present in the United States of America. It is seed-borne and there is no satisfactory treatment of it. This disease is not present in Australia. I think that Senator Sherrington will concede that we dare not run the risk of introducing wilt that might well damn the cotton industry for future generations. That is why we placed an embargo on bulk importation. It is not that we are not interested in the development of the industry. If we need support for our point of view we find it in the fact that the New South Wales Department of Agriculture endorses wholeheartedly our stand in this matter. That department is vitally interested in the expansion of the industry in New South Wales. Likewise, the Queensland Government supports us in this stand.
The honorable senator referred to 100 lb. of a special seed that is available in Queensland. My officers want to assist the industry as much as they can. On many occasions that I can remember they have gone out of their way to try to locate in this country seed that will help for the time being those who are trying to establish the industry. I should like the honorable senator to assure the persons who have been discussing this problem with him that we believe we have very good reasons for the stand that we take and that while we have great sympathy for their point of view we believe that our responsibility is too great to permit the taking of any risk whatsoever.
Senator Ormonde had something to say about high-pressure selling methods in the drug industry. He referred to ethical products and he suggested that some advertising was unethical. I do not know whether it is generally known, but the term “ ethical “ is applied to those products that are sold only through chemists and that are advertised only to chemists and doctors and not to the general public. That is the category of drugs that is termed ethical.
– It is a word of their own.
– It is an adopted word. It does not signify what we mean by the word. It is confined to a certain type of product. What the honorable senator said about high-pressure selling methods in the drug industry was perfectly true. No one can contradict his suggestion that these result in increased costs to the individual and to the Government. When we multiply the increased costs by the number of persons engaged in this type of selling, the aggregate is considerable. Recently, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) was asked a question on this subject in another place. In reply, he said that the high cost of drugs had been exercising the mind of the Government and that something would be done about it.
– He said about a fortnight ago that he was concerned about the situation, but nothing has been done about it.
– The statement was made a fortnight ago to-day. However, if the honorable senator keeps his ears open for an announcement to-day or to-morrow he may find that his accusation that we have done nothing is not quite just. This is a continuing process.
– Why not make the announcement now?
– We have to go through some formalities. I remind the Senate again that, without any blare of trumpets or waving of flags, we reduced our expenditure on pharmaceutical benefits last year to about £3,000,000 below the estimate. That is not insignificant. As I said recently in this;’ place, this is only a start. I am sure that we can improve on that in the coming year.
Senator Benn made some comments concerning the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and asked me to acknowledge or deny that they are a run-down concern. I welcome his interest in the laboratories because they have played a splendid part in maintaining the health of the nation. I have no hesitation in saying that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories are not a run-down organization but an organization which is being run on progressive, business lines. If I told Opposition senators that last year the laboratories made a profit for the first time, that would not impress them. I believe that they would argue; perhaps quite properly, that the function of the laboratories is not to make profit. They have a much wider responsibility. But having indicated that they have had a successful financial year let me say in support of my contention that this is a progressive organization that, only recently, the chairman of the commission has visited many countries in Europe and the United States of America in order to devise ways and means of offering a better service to the public of Australia through the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. The director has done likewise. To-day, the commission in charge of the laboratories is composed of successful businessmen and successful professional men. I am sure that as time goes on the efforts of these people, individually and collectively, will enable the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to provide the wonderful service that this country dare not be without.
– I thank the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) for addressing himself to the questions that I asked him regarding the changes that he announced on Sunday to the hospital benefits scheme. I thank him, even though his answers leave me little better informed than I was before. The Minister gave very little information, and I warn him that I shall be seeking answers to the questions when the promised legislation is introduced. la the statement which the Minister published he used these words -
An arrangement which would give the funds marginal assistance to make the new provision practicable had been agreed in general terms by the Commonwealth Health Insurance Council. . . .
I take it that that is not some airy-fairy arrangement of which everybody has a different mental conception. Such an arrangement should be in writing even if it is expressed in general terms, and the Minister should be in a position to tell the committee what the arrangement is. If the arrangement has not been reduced to writing and signed by the parties, at least each side would have a clear note of what went on. I find it difficult to understand why the Minister cannot comply with my simple request at this stage to indicate the broad general terms whereby marginal assistance is to be given by the Commonwealth Government to a number of the funds to enable this new idea to be implemented. Surely there should be no great difficulty in that. However, I am not going to pursue the Minister unduly about this subject just now. I certainly will expect the most complete answer when the legislation which he hopes to introduce in the near future is before us.
In relation to hospital benefits, the basic amounts have remained unchanged for the ten years since the scheme was introduced in 1953. The same comment may be made on the basic medical benefits that were introduced in 1953. In the interim, hospital costs have soared and medical charges have soared until the Commonwealth contribution has been reduced to one of insignificance in a scheme that is miscalled a “ national health scheme “. I invite the Minister, when looking at his scheme again, to address himself with great earnestness to increasing the Commonwealth contribution to something that would really be real and which might begin to attract the designation “ national “ to the health scheme which this Government administers.
I now wish to refer to the provision in the rules of medical benefits funds that the benefit payable to a contributor in respect
Of specialist services shall be limited to £30 in any one year. I had personal experience Of a case in which a patient was in hospital for nearly four months. He suffered the disability, after 84 days, of having to continue paying £42 a week of which only £12 J 2s. was refunded at a time when financial stringency was greatest. He was attended throughout the period by a specialist whose charges were reasonable - £3 3s. a consultation. That was not an unduly high charge. The patient’s medical expenses totalled £196 of which only £88 could be recovered from the Commonwealth and the benefits fund. In other words, he recovered far less than half his medical expenses. That was a very poor reimbursement in a case of prolonged, serious and expensive illness. So I ask the Minister to address his mind to the question of persuading the funds to eliminate the relevant provision from their rules because £30 does not go very far in providing specialist attention during a year.
Before the Minister introduces the legislation which is proposed on these matters I should like him to have inquiries made into the cost to the benefits funds of removing the limitation on hospital benefits of 84 days or any other period. Why should there be a limitation? In this modern age, I would take it that if there is prolonged hospitalization it is because it is strictly necessary. Hospitals steer their patients out as rapidly as possible to make room for others. It seems to me that a scheme which deserts the patient at the time of greatest need, after a period of prolonged hospitalization and expense, is entirely wrong. It is possible that a great deal of money may not be involved in the abolition of the existing rule. The relevant statistics may be readily available to the hospital benefits funds. Therefore, I ask the Minister first to examine the hospital benefits funds with a view to eliminating the limitation of 84 days on the payment of fund benefits; and then to examine the limitation of payments in respect of specialist fees to £30 per annum.
– I wish to take up with the Minister for Health the financial provision in Division No. 293 for the purchase and analysis of drugs. I wish to relate my remarks to those of Senator Ormonde and Senator Benn. In the last financial year approximately £40,000,000 was spent on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. According to the Minister’s replies to questions that I have asked from time to time, of that sum approximately £24,000,000 went to the drug manufacturers. Approximately 114 drug manufacturers are operating in Australia, 66 of whom are controlled completely by overseas companies.
I note that the appropriation in 1962-63 for the purchase and analysis of drugs was £8,000, of which £6,921 was spent. In the current financial year provision has been made for only £700 more than was expended in the last financial year. As the Minister himself has said, in many instances the price of drugs appears to be much higher than would reasonably be expected. The public is concerned not only about the excessive prices that are being charged by the drug manufacturers but also about the quality of drugs that are put on the market. Last week a Sydney daily newspaper reported that a Sydney doctor, who of necessity had to remain anonymous, had said that bungled manufacturing had resulted in worthless drugs being sold in Sydney. The report further stated -
Some tablets supposed to be phenobarbitone had been tested and found to be completely devoid of phenobarbitone.
They had been hawked around chemists at 6d. a 100 compared with 1/7 a hundred for tablets made by a reputable firm.
This had happened because the bulk mixture had not been properly mixed and the drug hud been clumped in a few tablets while the others had none of the drug at all.
It is a very serious matter if such drugs are to find their way to the public under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
I suggest that the money would be well spent if the allocation for the purchase and analysis of drugs was raised from £7,650 to £17,650. The doctor mentioned in the report pointed out, as Senator Ormonde has said, that these drug companies are operating with high pressure salesmanship. Senator Ormonde said that some 2,000 medical detailers were hawking their wares around the medical practitioners of Australia. I think the Minister said by way of interjection, that the number was 700.
– It is between 700 and 800.
– Even if there are only between 700 and 800, that is far too many for the Australian public to be paying for. I assume that the financial provision for the purchase and analysis of drugs has to do with the operations of the National Biological Standards Laboratory. I compliment the laboratory upon the excellent work it has done in trying to protect the public against the unscrupulous activity of those who, I say deliberately, are exploiting the community. In its annual report, the laboratory, in the section dealing with antibiotics, said that of 300 samples collected 126 failed in one way or another to measure up to the standards required. This sort of activity on the part of manufacturers obviously must be stopped.
I suggest that the Department of Health might well take cognizance of the thousands of pounds’ worth of drugs that are lying in the cupboards and medicine chests of the people of this country merely because of over-prescription. It may well be that if smaller quantities of drugs of higher quality were prescribed there might be a considerable saving to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. I should like the Minister to ensure that the allocation this year for the purchase and analysis of drugs will be spent in toto to protect the people and to see that they get the fairest possible deal in relation to quality from the drug companies.
Senator O’Byrne pointed out that unfortunately the report of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission for the last financial year has not yet come to hand.
I direct the Minister’s attention to page 3 of the commission’s report for 1961-62, where this statement appears -
The Commission recently supported the emergency application for these protections on penicillin, and the outcome of this has so far been helpful.
The Laboratories are the only basic manufacturers of crystalline insulin in Australia and maintain a plant capable of producing Australia’s requirement of insulin and a surplus for export.
Furthermore, Australia has one of the largest readily available supplies of pancreas glands in the world for the manufacture of insulin!
Despite these facts imports of insulin continue to increase, and in the last financial year imported insulin represented nearly 70% of Australia’s usage.
That is quite an alarming state of affairs. I should like the Minister to explain the present position, and to ascertain whether we are still importing insulin. I should like him also to tell me whether Australia is exporting any insulin and whether an application has been made by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission to the Tariff Board for tariff protection.
I note that expenditure on publicity and pamphlets last year was £7,990 and that this year provision has been made for an expenditure of £30,000. Perhaps the Minister can tell us what is envisaged in this additional expenditure. The question that immediately comes to my mind is: How much of this money will be spent on an anti-smoking campaign? We have been told by the medical profession that there appears to be conclusive evidence that smoking is bad for the heart and contributes to the onset of lung cancer. The Department of Education in New South Wales is embarking on a campaign to dissuade young people from acquiring the habit of smoking. I learnt from a television documentary, which I saw on a national station recently, that some £38,000,000 was spent in the United Kingdom in the last financial year on advertising by English tobacco companies. I do not know the amount that is spent on advertising by tobacco companies in Australia, but I should like to know what proportion, if any, of this sum of £30,000 that is being voted for publicity will be directed by the Government towards an anti-smoking campaign. We have an ironical state of affairs. On thi. one hand, we subsidize the tobacco industry, and on the other hand we advise people not to smoke.
Also, I should like to know whether the Department of Health is investigating the bona fides of the anti-smoking advertisements that we see in the newspapers, hear on the radio and watch on television from time to time. Are these advertisements, in the opinion of the department, legitimate and bona fide? If so, can something be done to subsidize or cultivate activity of this kind? 1 believe the matters I have raised are important, and I hope that the Minister will reply to them according to his ability.
– Senator McKenna referred to a statement I made recently to the effect that people OVer the age of 65 years were to bc eliminated from the special account provisions. He sought positive information concerning the general terms of agreement that had been reached between the Government and the benefit funds, and the machinery involved in implementing this important scheme. He suggested that there must be either an agreement or a signed record of the arrangements that had been made, and that the agreement or the record should be made public at this stage. There has been no signed .agreement, but there is a signed record of the minutes of the conferences that were held. It is on that basis that the legislation will be framed. I suggest to the honorable senator that, with his great experience in the parliamentary field, he would not expect’ a Minister to make known to the Senate at this stage the matters which may or may not be covered by pending legislation. I give him an assurance that when the legislation is produced he, in common with all other honorable senators, will have every right to ask questions and to probe all its clauses. However, until the legislation has been drafted I do not feel at liberty to supply the information he seeks.
I am concerned that on one or two occasions Senator McKenna has made a statement that does not measure up with the facts. He said to-night that the basic hospital and medical contributions made by the Government had remained unchanged since 1953. That is not so. If the honor able senator were to cast his mind back he would realize that increases have been made on several occasions. In January, 1958, the payment of 12s. a day was increased to £1 a day. The special account, which was introduced in 1959, has been underwritten by the Commonwealth Government by from £2,500,000 to £3,000,000 a year. The pensioner benefit was increased to 36s. a day as recently as 1st January of this year. Surely it is not valid to make accusations that are not factual. I believe that the honorable senator does not play the political game in that way. I am not suggesting that he makes such statements intentionally to mislead, but I do suggest that before he makes the statements he should check them. As I have indicated, the Government h.is increased its contribution on three or four separate occasions.
When members of the Opposition get on their feet to discuss hospital and medical benefits they always pull the one pump. They ask: Why does not the Government increase its contribution? They are never so concerned with the contribution which the patient or the individual makes. In other words, they ask: Why do you not increase taxation? Why do you not pay more? They are not concerned - or they do not appear to be concerned - with the way in which the contribution that the contributor is making to-day compares with the contributions he made in 1953 and 1957. Let me give a classic example. So far as medical benefits are concerned, the contributor is making a smaller contribution in 1963 than he was in 1953, when the late Sir Earle Page brought the scheme into being. That is a statistical fact. Yet, honorable senators opposite stand in their places, year in and year out, and ask why the Government does not increase its contribution. I should think they would be more concerned to relieve the individual of the proportion that he has to pay. The inference to be drawn from the remarks of the members of the Opposition is that the individual is paying more and more, whereas the facts reveal that he is paying less.
– Compared with the cost of living.
– Yes, compared with the cost of living he is paying considerably less. Iri actual ‘payments he ‘is paying -a smaller percentage to-day than he was in 1953.
If the welfare of the individual is the concern of honorable senators opposite, why do they insist that the Government must increase its contribution to maintain the status quo? Are they not appreciative of the fact that the funds are in a position to make a greater contribution to-day than they were in 1953, and are in fact doing so? Surely, if the patient is receiving to-day the same percentage of benefits that he received in 1953, that is at least meeting the situation as it arises from time to time, a situation which honorable senators opposite seem to suggest should be met by increased taxation.
I suggest to honorable senators opposite that the ultimate is being achieved and that the interests of the individual are being protected by means other than taxation by the Government. It is true, of course, that some rates of contribution have been increased. That has been accepted quite willingly. At least 90 per cent, of the people in this country to-day are covered by benefits of some description.
– Seventy-one per cent., according to the report of the DirectorGeneral of Health.
– That is true. I am not saying that that figure is incorrect, but to it must be added the pensioners and the people who come under the repatriation provisions. In the final analysis, as nearly as it can be estimated, 90 per cent, of the people are covered.
– -The ones who need it most have not got it.
– That may bc so. It is also true to say that in the 9 per cent, or so of the people who are not covered there are some who might well be in a position to cover all their needs for hospitalization and are not influenced at all by the benefits of insurance. They have adequate resources to meet their particular needs. There arc too, of course, some people who never make provision for themselves. I should like the honorable senator who has interjected to know that no hospital in Australia to my knowledge ever has refused admission to a person who could not afford to look after himself. Again, it may be said: Yes, but you make no contribution. I ask honorable senators opposite whether they are concerned about the welfare of the individual or with making the Government pay. I suggest that if we take this reasoning to its logical conclusion it must bc conceded that in almost every case the welfare of the individual is catered for. It may be catered for under State jurisdiction but it does not really matter so long as the individual has his needs met.
Senator McKenna stressed that there is a limitation on the medical benefits payable. He said, quite properly, that in some instances this limitation imposed a real hardship on persons who have had cosily operations. I should like him to know that the department is currently examining this schedule. Experience during ten years has shown to the department and to the medical profession that there are some anomalies in the schedule that can, should and will be removed.
– Would you be prepared to approach this problem from the same standpoint as the Commissioner of Taxation approaches the taxes paid by rural producers. Their income is averaged, for taxation purposes, over u certain number of years. Are you prepared to consider averaging payments over a number of years?
– That is an interesting suggestion. The funds themselves are bringing new thinking into their approach to many of the problems that face people to-day. As I said earlier to-day the national health scheme has passed through what I call the experimental stage. We have now sufficient evidence and sufficient history to arrive at some firm conclusions. The point the honorable senator raised is typical of some of the thinking that is becoming evident in the administrators of the funds themselves. As the Government is in partnership with the funds in this field the suggestion of the honorable senator might well be worth examining.
Senator McClelland made reference to the peddling to chemists and individuals in parts of Sydney of drugs which he described as worthless. I was interested to hear him say that the letter from which he quoted was anonymous for obvious reasons. He suggested that a doctor had made the accusations. I am amazed that a man with the approach of Senator McClelland to these problems would suggest that this very serious matter was one that would not warrant the use of the name of the man who made the accusations, as an earnest of his bona fides. If the accusations in the letter are true the letter should carry the name of the man who has made them. I believe that the matter is so serious that, rather than hide under a nom de plume, ha should give his name, because he would receive the approbation of all thinking people. I must confess that because it is an anonymous letter I have to treat it with some reserve.
– It is not a letter; it is a newspaper report.
– I do not think, with great respect, that that adds any strength at all to the case you have put. It is going to be more difficult than ever to place any credence on it. However, let us assume that what is stated is factual. There are two fields of responsibility. One is the Stale field and the other is the federal. As the honorable senator knows, the Commonwealth Government has no jurisdiction whatsoever in the State field. The State governments have departments of health and Slate Parliaments legislate on the sale of drugs. They should take a very keen interest in the type of allegation that has been made. That does not absolve the Commonwealth Government from having some interest in this field.. The Government does take a very lively interest in every drug that is added to the free list. During the time that there have been controversies about the side effects and ill effects of various drugs that have caused great suffering in recent times, on not one occasion have I been in the unhappy position of having to admit that any such drug was ever on the schedule of free drugs. That indicates that the analysis that the department subjects these drugs to is efficient and effective.
Having said that, let me say that no analysis can be regarded as perfect; but the department is always on the watch and gives its undivided and expert attention to the problem. It hopes that it will never be in the unhappy position of having to admit that a drug it has added to the free list has had disastrous effects on the community. I suggest to Senator McClelland that if he places any credence on the newspaper report to. which he has referred he would be well advised - though far be it from me to give him advice - to take the matter up without delay with . the State Department of Health. On my part, I shall ask the officers of the Commonwealth Department of Health whether they know anything of this type of thing that is alleged to be taking place.
– I direct my remarks to the subject of administration. I do not desire to engage in polemics with the Minister on a comparison of contributions paid by the Government at the present time with those paid in 1953 when the national health scheme was introduced. However, I suspect that the Minister has overlooked some of the contributions made by taxpayers to the medical funds and friendly societies. It is necessary for a patient to pay more than he receives in benefit, including the Commonwealth Government’s contribution.
I do not know whether the Minister is aware that during the weekend an announcement was made in the Adelaide newspapers that doctors’ fees in Adelaide were to rise this week. It was announced also that fees payable in the Children’s Hospital in Adelaide would rise due to increased running costs mainly resulting from an increase in the price of drugs. The cost of drugs is not reimbursed by the Government or by the hospital benefits funds.
– The cost of drugs is paid to hospitals.
– But the cost is not paid to the patients. I repeat that the hospital is to raise its fees to patients as the result of increased administrative costs last year. One of the reasons for this increase in administrative costs is the increased cost of drugs. This increase in the cost of administration is to be passed on to the patient by way of additional fees. I wonder whether the Minister has taken this matter into consideration.
However, I wish to raise another matter under the heading of administration which has to do with the Government’s contribution to the States. I quote no less an authority than a reply given by the Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, to the member for Adelaide in the State House of Assembly, Mr. Lawn. Sir Thomas revealed that whereas the Chifley Government used to pay lOd. a day to patients in mental hospitals - who suffer from a form of sickness - -there is no provision to-day for the Commonwealth Government to pay anything to State governments for patients in mental hospitals. This is apart from the medical contribution to the patient. Whereas the Labour Government subsidized the States to meet the cost of hospital treatment and the care and attention of the mentally ill, the States are at present not reimbursed for expenditure on inmates of mental hospitals.
At the Enfield Receiving Home in South Australia are wards known as the east wing, which accommodate patients who have been admitted to the institution for a period not exceeding six months. Acutely disturbed patients, who may be subject to cure within six months, are kept in these wards. Under the South Australian act relating to mentally defective persons the maximum time for which a patient can remain at Enfield is six months. If a patient cannot be cured within that period he is sent to a mental hospital. Also at the Enfield Receiving Home is what is known as the west wing, which is reserved for patients who are convalescing before being discharged. At the Parkside Mental Hospital, which is the big mental institution in South Australia, the patients are received at Cleland House. Patients remain in Cleland House for up to six months. Paterson House at the Parkside Mental Hospital is reserved for convalescing patients.
Patients in Cleland House or Paterson House at Parkside, or in the east or west wing at Enfield, are paid medical benefits by the Commonwealth Government and the hospital and medical benefits associations, but if they are transferred to a mental institution they receive no benefit from either the Commonwealth Government or the association. This is a problem that Senator Turnbull has mentioned in this chamber for a considerable time. On information supplied to me by the member for Adelaide in the South Australian House of Assembly, Mr. Lawn, I should like to cite a special case. Perhaps my remarks relate to government policy and I may not be strictly in order in referring to this during this debate, but I believe that the Director-General of Medical Services should have discretionary powers in certain cases. In this field a case arises every so often when discretion should be exercised and the payment of medical benefits by the Commonwealth continued, despite the fact that the patient may have been transferred from a receiving home to a mental institution. I am indebted to Mr. Lawn for supplying me with information relating to a person in his district.
In the case to which I refer a child was an inmate of Cleland House at the Parkside Mental Hospital. As that was classed as a receiving home her parents received hospital benefits. This child was not mentally defective in the sense that it would be necessary to confine her permanently at a mental institution; she was what Dr. Rollison, the South Australian Director-General of Medical Services, described as an acutely disturbed patient who would be cured, possibly, within six months. After she had been in Cleland House for a few weeks her doctor went on annual leave and a doctor from K ward took charge of the patient in Cleland House. K ward is one of the mental wards at the Parkside Mental Hospital. While the doctor from Cleland House was on leave the child formed an attachment to the doctor from K ward and had confidence in him. When the regular doctor from Cleland House returned from leave the doctor from K ward expressed the opinion that the child’s progress would be more rapid if she were kept under his care because he had achieved results because of her faith in him. The parents, who had no financial means, agreed for the sake of the child that she should be transferred to K ward. That meant that the girl was transferred from a receiving home into a mental hospital, although the child’s condition would have justified her remaining in the receiving home. Much to the parents’ surprise, they then lost all hospital benefits.
I submit to the Minister that that is one case - there may be many more from time to time - that should receive special attention. I do not agree with him that mental health should be neglected and should not bc subject to contributions by the Commonwealth. I believe that administration should be much more liberal and that benefits should be given in cases such as the one I have mentioned. Some effort should be made to see whether benefits can be extended to people who, whilst having a right to remain in a receiving home where they would receive benefits, have been transferred to mental institutions.
– 1 have the greatest admiration for the Minister for Health and I believe that he works terribly hard in his department, but I feel very often that in this chamber he tries to justify the most crazy health scheme I know of by putting forward all kinds of figures. I listened to him to-night trying to justify the assertion that the present so-called health scheme is cheaper than the scheme operating in 1953. I am puzzled about how he arrives at his conclusion. In 1953 the scheme still followed the Chifley Labour Government’s plan whereby the Government met one-third of the hospital cost. To-day the Government does not attempt to meet anything like onethird of the cost. Further, everybody is now required to pay on a flat-rate basis. No matter whether a person is earning £10 a week or £.1,000 a week, the contribution is the same. I believe also that the funds as they are administered soak up between 10 per cent, and 12 per cent, of the moneys contributed to them for payment to hospitals. So it is terribly confusing to me when the Minister attempts to justify his remark that the present health scheme is cheaper than the scheme operating in 1953.
– I never said that.
– Then that clears up one point. Perhaps the Minister will agree that the cost is a good deal greater now than it was then.
– Of course it is.
– I am sorry if I misunderstood what the Minister said. I understood that he was conveying to the committee that the ordinary individual pays less for his health services than he did ten years ago. However, if the Minister says that that is not what he meant I am quite prepared to accept his assurance. I am sure that the scheme costs more to-day than it ever did. With great respect to the Minister, I say that while this crazy scheme is in operation people will continue to pay more and more. I do not understand why people come to Australia from other parts of the world to study our health scheme, unless it is because of their morbid curiosity, because no one in his right mind would adopt a scheme such as we have in Australia when there are other national health schemes throughout the world that care for patients much better than it is possible to do under our scheme in Australia. Perhaps those remarks relate to policy and perhaps I am not in order in making them during this debate, but that is an expression of my view on what I thought the Minister was trying to convey.
On the subject of health services in Australia, may 1 say that there is nothing in the Budget to show the expenditure on national health. I looked through the Budget, but. I could find no reference to this expenditure. Presumably we have no national health scheme. Perhaps the Minister for Health will tell me whether there - is provision for some expenditure that gives the Australian people some form of national health scheme.
I believe our contribution to the World Health Organization is a worthy one, but the contribution towards our own medical research in Australia is’ very meagre. We give £227,500 to the World’ Health Organization, but on our own medical research we spend only £318,500. Australia has many health problems. One of them is the administration of a scheme which will provide the people with the best service. If we spent £500,000 next year on a survey to ascertain the best way to look after the health of the people, of Australia, that would be a worthy task. Other health services in Australia require research.
I appreciate the Minister’s interest in the national fitness movement, because this gives tremendous encouragement to the development of leadership in health organizations. The vote for this work is £100,000 and I think that the Minister has done well in providing extra money for this activity. I believe it will be used to the best advantage.
Senator MURPHY (New South Wales) defending the administration of the health scheme in Australia, said in effect that whatever its defects might be it was better than the British national health scheme. He said proof of that was the fact that many doctors were leaving Great Britain and coming to Australia. No doubt the Minister is familiar with the work of Lindsay on the British national health scheme.
– Order! The honorable senator must relate his remarks to the estimates. To what division is he referring?
– To Division No. 291 - Administrative. In his work, published in 1962, Lindsay referred to the question that has been raised by the Minister. Speaking of the Pilkington royal commission, which was set up in 1957, he states at page 179 of his work, “ Socialized Medicine in England and Wales “ -
In its report of I960, the Royal Commission observed that the available statistics gave no ground for supposing that the level of net migration among doctors and dentists is higher than among the population as a whole.
The figures are set out showing the movement of doctors and dentists into and out of England and Wales, and the report demonstrates that there is no substance whatever in what the Minister has asserted as some evidence of failure of the British national health scheme. The same work shows that the medical profession of Great Britain is reasonably satisfied with the service. For the Minister’s information and his recollection, I refer him to page 461 of the document.
I should like to support the remarks made by Senator Arnold about research. The honorable senator raised a very important matter and one that is often overlooked. Many millions of pounds are spent each year in providing for benefits, in dealing with the after-effects of disease and in coping with the problems which arise because there is either no prevention or no easy method of cure of various diseases. When one looks at the tremendous mounting costs, one realizes the importance of what Senator Arnold has mentioned. Last year only £298,500 was spent on medical research and the appropriation for this year is £318,500. That is for all medical research in Australia financed by the
Government. This includes such research as that into the prevention and cure of cancer.
We know from a question that the Minister answered to-day that in the whole of Australia, and in every institution, including those financed by the Commonwealth Government, only £180,000 is spent on research into the prevention and cure of cancer. This is not enough when one looks at the cost to the community of such a disease and the cost to the Commonwealth of endeavouring to treat it. When one thinks of the other diseases, it is apparent that we are not facing up to these problems. A spot test might be made to examine how much is being spent on other matters. Immediately above the item provided for medical research under Division No. 291 there is an item “ Cattle tick eradication and control in N.S.W.- subsidy, £258,500”. Last year the appropriation was £306,000. That is in excess of the whole amount spent by the Commonwealth on medical research. I am well aware of the importance of control and eradication of cattle tick, but when one considers the problem of human health there is something wrong in a comparison of that nature. A much greater sum should be spent on medical research, and perhaps the Minister will give the matter his attention.
I notice that the Department of Health has a research section. When was that section established, what are its functions and in what matters does it conduct research? Is any research contemplated into the organization of hospitals or into the matter mentioned by Senator Arnold - the development of some health scheme more satisfactory than the one we have? Whatever might be done on some day to day and necessarily casual basis by some officers of the Department of Health in the course of their duties, or by the Minister giving his attention to the matter, that cannot be a substitute for a real programme of research by competent persons into the ways in which a health scheme might be improved. Perhaps the Minister would inform mc whether that has been done or whether it is contemplated by the research section or by the department itself.
Will the Minister inform me whether any consideration has been given to the deficiencies in the British pharmacopaeia and whether there is any proposal to alter the use of the pharmacopaeia and to devise or to use some other more satisfactory code, such as the United States pharmacopaeia? Will the Minister inform me on what basis he recommended, earlier this year, the prohibition of importation of a book on painless childbirth? In what section of bis administration was that matter considered and under what powers did he purport to act? What was the course of the matter?
I should like to be informed of the research being done by the Department of Health or by any other department, institution or body under the advice of the department, into poisonous residues of pesticides or weedicides on food. I should like also to know what has been done by the Department of Health in connexion with the recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council that an investigation be made into aspects of the labelling and advertising of certain insecticides and pesticides produced for household use, which in the opinion of the council appear to be false and misleading. Has the department commenced any such investigation? If an investigation has been completed, what are the results? On a number of occasions, the Minister has remarked on a comparison of costs of the Australian health scheme and the British health scheme. Will he inform the committee of the latest figures and the factors which made them up?
– The Minister will not be unhappy to know that for the present I am still dealing with medical benefits. I am directing my remarks to the subject of pensioners. I have not yet got to hospital benefits, pharmaceutical benefits, standardization of drugs, or the Australian Association of Ethical Pharmaceutical Industry. The Minister referred to a statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that there had been no basic change in the Commonwealth contributions for medical and hospital benefits since 1953. I do not think that the Minister implied that the Leader of the Opposition was dishonest. I do not know whether he intended to imply that the Leader of the Opposition was not completely frank or that he just did not know. To us, because of our complete knowledge of the set-up, it was quite clear that what the Leader of the Opposition really meant - I am certain that the Minister must have grasped this- if he had been really interested and had been listening intently - was that the 6s. contribution by the Commonwealth for a medical visit to a general practitioner had not been altered for ten years and that the basic contribution of 8s. in respect of hospitalization had not been altered. Surely the Minister did not think that the Leader of the Opposition did not know that a pensioner got 12s. in those days, that there had been an alteration to provide that where contributions attracted a benefit of between 6s. and 16s. a day, an amount of 12s. was paid, that where the contribution attracted over 16s. a day an amount of £1 was paid, and that comparatively recently the amount had been increased to £1 16s. a day. Surely the Minister knew that the Leader of the Opposition knew those things.
May I suggest to the Minister that these variations do not alter the correctness of the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that the basic approach has not been altered. In the State from which I come, there is still a contribution of 8s. a day for persons in public hospitals, other than pensioners, for whom 12s. a day is paid. An amount of 8s. a day is still paid for each patient in Queensland public hospitals because under a Labour government Queensland refused to depart from the system of free hospitalization, even when subjected to duress by the anti-Labour government in Canberra. That should clear up the matter of the correctness of the approach of the Leader of the Opposition. 1 should like to question the Minister as to the activities that have been embarked on by his officers or himself in seeking to extend medical benefits to people who are really in need of them. I refer to pensioners who have an income of more than £2 a week in excess of the pension. Will the Minister tell me when the last approach was made to the then British Medical Association, now the Australian Medical Association, to accept these people for pensioner medical benefits? What steps are now proposed? Does the Minister realize that last year the average number of visits under the pensioner medical service was nine? Does the Minister realize that medical services are not confined entirely to visits, that they could entail operations and other services, and that these could cost quite a large amount of money to people least able to bear that financial burden?
Does the Minister realize that because of the degenerative processes that take place in the condition of organs with advancing years, these nine visits would probably be visits by the doctor to the home rather than visits by the pensioner to the surgery which, even if visits only were involved, could cost from £9 9s. to £13 13s. a year, and that if operations were entailed they could cost much more? What is the Minister or his staff doing about this at the present time? If nothing is being done, when do they propose to approach the Australian Medical Association with a view to having these people included in the medical benefits scheme for pensioners? I know that the Minister will say that the majority of pensioners are provided for and that £5,000,000 will be expended this year for this purpose. Irrespective of whether or not the majority of pensioners are provided for, what is the position of the minority who are not provided for?
The CHAIRMAN (Senator McKellar).Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Chairman having reported accordingly)
Question on Notice.
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.
– It is not my intention to keep the Senate for any length of time, but I am a bit perturbed about some questions which have been asked in the Senate and to which no reply has been received, particularly one in which I am very interested. I think that a question which was addressed to the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) involved considerable research. However, on 18th September I directed a question to the Leader oi the Government in the Senate (Sir William Spooner), who represents the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), which read as follows: -
I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Is it still the Government’s policy that only non-strategic materials will be exported to China? Has the Minister seen a statement by the chairman of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, referring to exports of steel by that company to China? Does the Government regard steel as a strategic material? If not, what is a strategic material?
To that question the Leader of the Government in the Senate replied -
The Government’s policy remains unchanged. It will nol permit the export of materials which are of strategic value to mainland China. A list has been compiled of materials that are classified as strategic, but 1 am not certain whether it is publicly available. Steel is classified as a nonstrategic material.
On the sr.me day I put a question on the notice-paper in which I asked the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton), who represents the Acting Minister for External Affairs (Sir Robert Menzies) -
What items are included on the Government’s list of strategic materials which could not be exported to mainland China?
I do not think that that question should take any length of time to answer. If the Government has a list of strategic materials which cannot be exported, either it wants to make it available to the Senate or it does not. I should think that the Government would want to make the list available so that exporters may know what they can and what they cannot export. Having in mind what the Minister for the Navy said when I asked him a question earlier to-day, I think that I should have received a reply to my question by now. I am hot blaming him for the fact that I have not received an answer.
I think that the Government should make this list available, not only to honorable senators but also to the general public. How it can be claimed that steel and wool cannot be classed as strategic materials I am at a loss to know; but it is the Government that must make the decision. Let it name the articles on the list. We should know what the articles are. I believe that this is one question that could be answered in the course of a day. I am not blaming the Leader of the Government in the Senate for the failure to answer this question. I suppose that we all want to score a point here and there at question time. Of course, 99 times out of 100, the person who asks the question is the loser. I believe the Leader of the Government when he says that there is a list of items. But surely we ought to know what is on the list. I think the Minister should recognize that at this particular time such information is of the greatest interest not only to Opposition Senators but also to people outside the Senate. Surely it should not take more than a day to answer a question of this kind.
[10.35]. - The answer to the question raised by Senator Kennelly falls into two parts. First, there has been a great increase in the number of questions on the business paper of the Senate. In recent months the business paper has contained twice as many questions as it contained about twelve months ago. As I indicated at question time this afternoon, liking to see questions answered promptly, I made some representations with a view to having questions answered more promptly than they have been answered. One result was the spate of answers that came back to-day. We received more answers to questions on notice to-day than we have received on any other day in the Senate in my recollection. It was solely for that reason that I asked that those answers be incorporated in “ Hansard “. I could see that had we adopted our usual procedure an hour could have been spent in reading the questions and the answers. 1 thought I saw a look of disapproval on the face of Senator Kennelly when I asked that the questions and answers be incorporated in “ Hansard “. I do not contemplate that we will do that as a rule. I think that answers were received to-day to 21 questions on notice.
In pursuing this matter I found that a great deal of work in the departments is involved in answering these questions.
– I admit that with respect to some questions, but you would have to prove that would be the case in this instance.
– For a start, 1 think that this question has been put to the wrong Minister. I think it is a matter for the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen).
– I directed my first question to you and you answered it. When I saw my question on the notice-paper to-day I observed that it had been directed to the Minister for the Navy. I thought that the officers who so directed it knew better than I did and, being a modest person, 1 agreed with them.
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER.Perhaps the truth is that we are both wrong. However, the fact that the question was addressed to the wrong Minister is of no great moment; it should not result in delay. But I have a hunch that when the answer comes back it will show that the question has not been an easy one to answer. I shall try to get an answer to it as soon as I can.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 October 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1963/19631008_senate_24_s24/>.