25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMulIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– 1 address the following questions to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General: Is the Minister aware that a demonstration took place in Perth on Saturday, 5th September, in protest against the quality and the type of programmes that are being televised in Western Australia? Is he aware that the demonstration called for action by the Commonwealth Government to implement the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television? Has the Postmaster-General studied the report of the Select Committee and noted the Committee’s recommendations? When the proposal to increase the cost of television viewers’ licences was agreed to, was it intended to apply any of the increase towards the implementation of the recommendations, or any of them, of the Select Committee? In view of this public unrest, when can the Senate expect to have placed before it, either orally or in writing, a ministerial statement on the attitude of the Government to the recommendations, or any of them, of the Select Committee?
– I was not aware that a demonstration had occurred in Perth concerning the report of the Senate Select Committee to which the honorable senator has referred. As he has asked a series of questions to which only the PostmasterGeneral can supply answers, 1 suggest that he place his questions on the notice paper so that my colleague may reply to them.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs aware that the league of Arab States is endeavouring to boycott certain members of the business community of Australia to prevent them from trading with Israel? If such a boycott is occurring, what is the policy of the Australian Government in regard to it?
– I am not aware -whether what the honorable senator has suggested is happening. I shall certainly bring the matter to the attention of the Minister for External Affairs. I shall ask him whether he knows of any such action, and, if so, to give a considered expression of the Government’s policy on the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Was the need to dispose of surplus wheat given as the initial reason for and justification of extensive trading in wheat with Communist China? Have not wheat acreages in Australia been doubled to supply this market? Is it not unjustifiably rash for our economic dependence on this market to be increased further by negotiations for the sale of some of this year’s crop to Communist China by an Australian Wheat Board delegation which will leave for Peking next Saturday for that purpose? How much of last year’s crop of 300 million bushels has not been sold? Could the Wheat Board be asked to offer, without awaiting the formality of an approach from India, all its unsold stocks to that country, as a gift or on favorable terms, to cushion her present famine and as an immediate supplement to the three shiploads of Australian wheat which were recently diverted there? Will the Minister make it known to the Australian Wheat Board that the Australian Parliament and people insist that firm priority in negotiating contracts for the sale of wheat be extended to India and to other friendly consumer nations? As Mr. J. V. Moroney, Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, recently stated that it was the prerogative of the Government to give directions in relation to sales to Communist countries - to Communist China and to other unfriendly countries - is it to be taken as a fact that the Australian Government is firmly in favour of such sales?
– Sales undertaken by the Australian Wheat Board are commercial negotiations in every sense of the words. The honorable senator has asked a long series of questions which concern not only negotiations for the disposal of Australian wheat to Red China, but also sales to other international customers. The resolution of such matters depends on a variety of circumstances. I do not pretend to bc able to answer them offhand. The best 1 can do is to ask the honorable senator to put his questions on the notice paper and I shall obtain answers to them from the Minister for Trade and industry.
– So far as I am aware the only act which in some way would be applicable to the matter raised in the honorable senator’s question and is under my jurisdiction is the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act. This Act is applicable by my Department only in relation to imports. I have been informed that, provided imported goods have their country of origin clearly marked upon them - I think the Act states that the markings must be prominent and in clear characters - there is nothing that can be done to prevent their entry. Subject to normal duty considerations the Department of Customs and Excise has no power to prevent the importation of the goods described by the honorable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister able to inform the Senate why approximately 20 tobacco growers and their families were forced quite recently to leave their farms in the Inglewood district? Has the Minister been informed whether the farmers concerned have succeeded in gaining employment?
– I have not been informed of the reasons for the departure of about 20 tobacco growers from the Inglewood district. I think the question is a little too vague for me to give an informative reply. The obvious inference to be drawn from the situation is that the lack of adequate returns from the sale of their tobacco crops was the prime cause of the departure of the growers, but there are so many possible reasons why tobacco is not sold that I would not dare to guess what might have been the cause in this instance.
– They were growing tobacco there for 20 years.
– I concede that may be so, but there are good seasons and adverse seasons for tobacco growing. It is subject to all the vagaries of climatic conditions and other factors that affect the quality of the crop and in the circumstances I would not dare to hazard a guess why the farmers left the district. However, I will discuss the question with my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry. If I can obtain any helpful information about the position I will pass it on to the honorable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs whether the Government has ascertained to its satisfaction the nature of the paratroop force that landed in Malaya from Indonesian territory a few days ago and whether it is a volunteer force or an organised official force of the Indonesian Government.
– I do not think I could go beyond what was stated previously in reply to a question asked on this matter in the Senate. The exact composition, man by man or unit by unit, of this force is not known. What is known is that a substantial number were members of the regular Indonesian forces.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Are Commonwealth health benefits payable in accordance with Section 14 of the National Health Act, to qualified persons who receive treatment outside Australia? Are these benefits payable if the. treatment given is unknown to the Australian medical profession, different from the usual treatment given by the Australian medical profession, or not approved by it? Are hospital benefits payable, under Part V of the Act, to qualified patients of government or private hospitals in countries outside Australia?
– We have a policy that permits - indeed requires - the payment of hospital benefits to people who, prior to leaving Australia, were members of a benefit organisation and who, whilst away from Australia, have maintained their subscriptions to the organisation. If, upon returning to this country, they can produce substantial evidence of their stay in a hospital overseas, the Commonwealth and the fund will reimburse them at the level that would apply in Australia.
– Is the
Minister for Health aware that, at present, the transportation of viable rice seed and also cotton seed is forbidden between the Kimberleys and Perth? Could the Minister inform me under what authority this prohibition is imposed and why it is imposed?
– Speaking generally, the control of plant and animal diseases between the States is the responsibility of the State Governments and, indeed, is best handled by those bodies, because it is within their competency to do so. But the Commonwealth under, I think, Section 13 of the Quarantine Act. has power to prevent the movement of animals, plants and seeds within Australia, if that action is in the best interests of the economy generally. An embargo has been placed on the movement of cotton seed from the north western portion of Western Australia to any other part of Australia for the simple reason that there is in that area a disease in the cotton crop which is not known anywhere else in Australia. We have exercised our powers to confine the disease to that area pending its eradication.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. Is it true that the new ordinances introduced in Papua and
New Guinea reduce native salaries by an average of 45 per cent.? Does this mean, in effect, that native public servants will be paid approximately one-third of what Australian public servants, who are employed in similar capacities in the Territory, will receive? ls it true that the members of the new House of Assembly were not given the opportunity by the Department of Territories in Canberra to debate this salary reduction? In view of the desire to maintain the best relations with the people of Papua and New Guinea, who are being trained for self government, will the Minister request his Department to have a second look at these ordinances which could cause a breakdown in racial relations in Papua and New Guinea?
– It is not true that the ordinance referred to by the honorable senator reduces the wage received by any native public servant at the present time. What the ordinance does is to provide that, in future, positions which are filled by recruitment from the local population will carry lower salaries than they do at the present moment. Nobody now in employment will have his salary reduced. This action was taken by the Department of Territories in the belief that it will be necessary to build up progressively an administration staffed by local people and that it will be almost impossible for the local economy to sustain the rates of remuneration payable at present when the people of the Territory undertake the task of self-administration. I shall certainly bring the suggestion of the honorable senator to the notice of the Minister for Territories, but I repeat that nobody has had a reduction of the salary he is receiving at present.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior or to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, whoever is the appropriate Minister. By way of preface, I point out that the people of South Australia were delighted to see on the front page of this morning’s Adelaide “ Advertiser “ an amazing radio photograph of south-eastern Australia, taken from an altitude of about 550 miles above Mount Gambier in South Australia. The American weather satellite Nimbus I is apparently the orbiting platform for the camera. Could the Minister cause an evaluation of this exciting photographic phenomenon to be made and then inform the Senate, firstly, of its possibilities in the forecasting of Australian weather, and secondly, of its service in other fields of scientific research? What nation or nations bear the cost of Nimbus I and of the ground tracking stations servicing it in Australia?
– It is true to say that this phenomenon to which the honorable senator has directed attention will open up a new era in weather forecasting in Australia. I cannot answer the other portions of the question now, because the provision of answers to them will necessitate some research. If the honorable senator will place the questions on the notice-paper, I shall ask the Minister for the Interior to obtain the information that he seeks.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. How many applications for the £250 housing grant have been received by the Department of Housing? How many applications have been granted?
– I do not have this information, but I. shall ask the Minister for Housing to obtain it for the honorable senator.
– 1 should like to ask another question of the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs on the subject of Indonesian paratroopers, to which 1 referred before. Have any diplomatic representations, by way of protest, been made to the Indonesian Government on the subject? If so, has the Indonesian Government’s spokesman, in reply to those representations or at the Security Council, either disowned the expedition or given any explanation of it?
– 1 cannot answer the first part of the honorable senator’s question because I do not know whether representations have been made, but I shall find out anything that I can for him. With regard to the second part of the question, when this matter was brought to the Security
Council by Malaysia and an accusation of aggression made, the Indonesian representative did not in any way deny that the aggression had taken place, but sought in some way to excuse it by the words “ colonialism “, “ neo-imperialism “ and other words of that kind.
– ls the Minister for Health aware that Dr. Peverill, the doctor in charge of the Perth Dental Hospital, has announced that the hospital is unable to look after patients who require fillings only, and that he has directed attention to the seriousness of this situation as far as dental health is concerned? ls it possible for the Department of Health to consider providing assistance by making dentists available, or, if that cannot be done, by paying a subsidy so that patients requiring fillings can be attended by private practitioners and will not have to wait inordinately long periods for treatment?
– Whilst 1 have the greatest sympathy for people who cannot get dental services, 1 remind the honorable senator that the provision of these services is wholly and solely the responsibility of the State Government. The honorable senator has suggested that we might be able to assist by providing dentists. 1 remind him that we have a responsibility to supply a dental service in the Northern Territory, which taxes our dental staff to the utmost. I cannot offer any help in that field. I repeat that this is a matter which the honorable senator could well bring to the notice of the State authorities.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. I refer to Question No. 221 on the notice paper, which was asked by me on 19th August. It relates to war service homes. In my opinion, the information sought in the question should be fairly readily available. I want to know when I may expect an answer (o it because the answer will have an important bearing on a case that I have in hand at the present time.
– I shall draw the attention of the Minister for Housing to the request made by the honorable senator and see whether it is possible to expedite the answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I realise that the Minister may wish me to put some parts of- the question on the notice paper, but there may be other parts that he can answer now. I ask: At what date will production start of the 1 cent, 2 cent and 50 cent pieces for decimal currency? At which mints will these three coins be made? What is the number of each coin that can be produced within the capacity of each relevant mint by February 1966? How many pennies and halfpennies are estimated to be in current circulation? How many more will be produced and when will their production cease at each relevant mint? What is the present estimate of the number required by February 1966 of 1 cent, 2 cent and 50 cent pieces? What is the estimate of the percentage of the community which will be converting to decimal currency in February 1966 and thus needing these coins?
– Order! I have repeatedly drawn the attention of honorable senators to long questions. Senator Branson’s question is a long one and the preparation of answers to the various parts of it must call for research. Nearly all the questions that have been asked this afternoon have been in that category. I do not think it is fair to expect a reasonably informative reply off the cuff to a question which requires so much research.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he is in a position to give the Senate the details of or the reasons for the demotion of Captain Robertson of H.M.A.S. “Melbourne “.
– I think the honorable senator is in error in referring to the demotion of Captain Robertson. Captain Robertson has been appointed to a captain’s command at “ Watson “ in Sydney. I should have thought that the circumstances leading up to this appointment would have been well known by now. Immediately after the accident in which his former command, “ Melbourne “, was involved, Captain Robertson necessarily was held available for the Royal Commission which was to inquire into the accident. At one time it was thought that he would possibly be required for longer than he actually was required for the purpose of giving evidence to the Commission. “ Melbourne “ was to proceed on exercises elsewhere, so another captain was appointed. Captain Robertson’s appointment to “Watson”, as I understand, can be regarded as a normal appointment of a captain to a command suitable to that rank.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Will he and the AttorneyGeneral take note of the remarks that fell from Mr. Justice Sholl of the Supreme Court of Victoria on Friday, published in Saturday’s Press, with reference to methods of police interrogation, so far as they relate to Commonwealth Police? In particular, will they take note of His Honour’s observation to the effect that modern tape recording means are available for the purpose of putting on indisputable record the processes of interrogation? Will the AttorneyGeneral’s Department take steps to see that Commonwealth Police use that means of recording police interviews?
– I will ask the Attorney-General to take note, if he has not done so already, of the statements which the honorable senator suggests he should note. In case the wording of the question might have led any listener to believe that Mr. Justice Sholl’s strictures were directed in any way towards the Commonwealth Police, I should like to say that in fact they were not connected in any way with the Commonwealth Police.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy is supplementary to that just asked by Senator Ormonde. In view of the exoneration of Captain Robertson of H.M.A.S. “Melbourne” by the Royal Commission which inquired into the “ Voyager “ disaster, will the Minister give the Parliament an assurance that the posting of Captain Robertson to H.M.A.S. “ Watson “ was not the Naval Board’s way of supplying a scapegoat for the disaster and that his demotion was not tantamount to dismissal? In the event of Captain Robertson following the tradition of one who believes he has been made a scapegoat by the Navy, will the Minister take the necessary steps to see that rights under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act are as available to him as they would be to an officer who retired in the normal way?
– The honorable senator’s question makes a number of assumptions Which are not correct. The question is long. Before making any reply, 1 should like to have a look at it and possibly confer with my colleague, the Minister for the Navy. 1 ask the honorable senator to put the question on the notice paper.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Defence. Have any steps been taken recently, or are any steps under contemplation, to increase the capacity of the school cadet system? If so, what steps have been taken or are to be taken in respect of each of the three Services?
– I will have to consult with each of the Services to get the information required.
– My question is addressed to the Minister in charge of Commonwealth activities in Education and Research. With a view to improving the productivity of the coastal rivers districts in northern New South Wales, will the Minister consider the initiation of a joint Commonwealth-New South Wales project in one or more of those districts, similar in scope to the Yass Valley project?
– This is a matter which would need to bc considered first by those divisions of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation directly concerned with the activities which are being carried out in the Yass Valley project and which would be carried out in any new, similar project. It would have to bc considered subsequently by the Executive of the C.S.I.R.O. with the State
Government concerned and the Department of Agriculture of the State concerned. All those procedures having been followed, the matter of the availability of people for secondment and the cost of the whole project would need to be thoroughly discussed between the State Government concerned and the Commonwealth. So I think that the whole question of whether or not this is done resolves itself into a matter of policy in any particular area. As the honorable senator well knows, because he has taken a keen and intelligent interest in it, the Yass Valley project is attracting a great deal of attention from farmers and State and Commonwealth authorities.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that Radio Australia is by far the most popular foreign radio station throughout the Republic of Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam? ls it a fact that it is the most sought after but the least listened to, because the signal is so weak and jammed out that reception is almost impossible? ls it true that there has been a tremendous increase in the power output of Radio Peking. Radio Moscow, and the Voice of America, and that jamming has become the order of the day? Will the Government consider the building of a battery of high powered radio stations in Northern Australia, so that we can push home our message of faith, guidance and goodwill to those teeming millions with eyes and ears turned towards Australia?
– I acknowledge the facts enunciated by the honorable senator in suggesting that Radio Australia is one of the most, if not the most, popular station in South East Asia. 1 believe that we as Australians have an opportunity to tell that part of the world that we have the best way of life in the world today. With that object in view, the Government is constantly devising ways and means of increasing our output, from the point of view of actual power and the story that we tell.
– Has the
Minister representing the Minister for the Interior seen a recent report that the possibility of Australia’s being bombed by Indonesia was recently discussed by the “ New
York Times “ news service? Bearing in mind the seriousness of the report, I ask the Minister what plans, if any, have been made by the civil defence authorities to evacuate civilians from Darwin in the event of any hostile attack occurring there.
– I say with the greatest respect to the newspaper people of this land that if the Government is to act on every newspaper report that suggests that this part of Australia may be attacked or that part of Australia may be attacked, our defences will bc nothing more or less than a shambles. The Government, in its wisdom, takes advice from the sources that are best qualified to advise, and it plans the defences of this country accordingly. The specific reply to the honorable senator’s question is that if and when the time comes for the evacuation of any city in Australia, the Government will do its utmost to have adequate plans prepared.
– 1 wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. Is he aware that the Government of South Australia has threatened to ban the importation of New South Wales bananas into South Australia? Can he give the Senate any information about this state of cold war which exists between South Australia and New South Wales on this question of importing South Australian tomatoes into New South Wales and the importing of New South Wales bananas into South Australia? Has the Premier of South Australia power to ban the importation of bananas from New South Wales?
– I have absolutely no information on the action taken by the Government of South Australia to ban the importing of New South Wales bananas but I venture the opinion that the prevention of the sale of New South Wales bananas in South Australia, would, in fact, contravene a section of the Constitution. If there is any other information which might be available in respect of this matter 1 will try to get it for the honorable senator. Although I do not think it is a matter for the Minister for Trade and Industry, I will see about it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs: Could he inform the Senate whether there was or was not a bloodless coup in Saigon, South Vietnam, led by General Phat, aided and abetted by General Duc, yesterday? How long did that Phat-Duc coup last and to whom are the Australian people to lend their allegiance in South Vietnam at the moment?
– At the moment General Khanh is in the position of leading South Vietnam. There was a bloodless coup which lasted for an extraordinarily short time. General Khanh is now back in control and appears to be making efforts to establish in South Vietnam what it greatly needs. That is a broadly based government which is acceptable to the people of that country without exception.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. Will he bring to the notice of the Attorney-General a booklet named “The Peace Racket” by Fred Wells, a member of the Gladesville Branch of the Australian Labour Party? In particular, could the Attorney-General be asked to note the statement by Mr. Wells that the peace congress to be held in Sydney from 25th to 30th October 1964 is a Communist front? As Mr. Calwell, the Leader of the Opposition, is today reported to approve Australian Labour Party men attending these so-called peace talks, can the AttorneyGeneral state whether the documented statement by Mr. Wells is more calculated to protect the security of Australia than is the action of Mr. Calwell?
– I do not think there is any need to bring to the attention of the Attorney-General the statement made by Mr. Wells in this booklet, because the Attorney-General has already made a statement in this Parliament which clearly sets forth, in a documented way, the association of this peace conference with various Communist fronts and a number of active members of the Communist Party who occupy key positions in it. All I know of Mr. Calwell’s attitude is what I have read in the newspapers, which report him as saying that the Australian Labour Party does not officially endorse this peace congress, but is prepared to allow its individual members to attend it. I presume that does not express an opinion one way or the other as far as Mr. Calwell personally is concerned. I should imagine it flowed from the fact that, although he is the leader of the Australian Labour Party, he is unable to control the actions of individual members of the party.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate in a position to say why the American ship “ Enterprise “ did not enter the port of Melbourne? Is it true that Melbourne did not have the facilities to accommodate the ship and that the American authorities thought it would be dangerous to attempt to sail the ship into that port? Does the Minister think that such inadequacies present certain difficulties from the viewpoint of defence? Do they not detract from Melbourne’s claim to be a first class port and a first class city?
– The itineraries of visiting warships are arranged between the governments of the countries which own the vessels and various authorities in Australia. Any government concerned would have the right to nominate or to suggest its own programme. I am informed that the reason why this vessel did not visit Melbourne was the existence of certain navigational difficulties, one of them being that the water was not deep enough.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy ask his colleague to comment upon the widely publicised statements which were attributed to Sir Henry Burrell, an ex-Chief of the Australian Naval Staff, in which he claimed that the guided missile systems of the three Charles F. Adams class destroyers which are on order from the United States of America are inadequate to repel enemy air attacks?
– I shall certainly direct the attention of the Minister for the Navy to this matter. Whether he replies will remain for him to decide.
(Question No. 192.)
asked the Minis ter representing the Prime Minister upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answers to the honorable member’s questions -
(Question No. 205.)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Prime. Minister, upon notice -
Will the Prime Minister have investigations made into the speech delivered by the honorable member for Yarra to the Hiroshima gathering in Sydney to see whether the utterances made by this member of Her Majesty’s Parliament were treasonable, especially as Australia has forces in South Vietnam?
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honorable senator’s question -
No complete and verbatim report of what was said by the honorable member for Yarra in the speech referred to is available to the Government. The matter of his remarks to the Hiroshima gathering in Sydney has received considerable attention in another place. J do not propose to have investigations made.
(Question No. 219.)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice - ]. In view of the recent disastrous floods in
Western Australia and the inability of persons to obtain from private insurance companies adequate insurance against flood damage, will the Treasurer give consideration to the raising of a National Disasters Fund to cover such disasters as floods, bush fires, and so on, which can and do occur in any part of the Commonwealth?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer - 1 and 2. The question of a National Disasters Fund or a National Disasters Insurance Scheme to cover losses arising from natural disasters such as floods and bushfires has been raised a number of times in recent years, but an acceptable and equitable basis for such a fund or insurance scheme has not been found.
(Question No. 226.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Are Indonesia and Malaysia at war?
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply -
Neither the Indonesian nor the Malaysian Government has made any declaration that a state of war exists between them. Since the formation of Malaysia, many acts of aggression have been committed against Malaysia by armed groups which contain members of the Indonesian regular armed forces and which operate under the direction and control of Indonesia. This state of affairs has been admitted publicly by members of the Indonesian Government. The acts of aggression have included armed attacks on members of the Malaysian security forces in Sarawak and Sabah and acts of terrorism against Malaysian civilians in those States, acts of sabotage in Malaya and Singapore, and most recently, landings of groups of armed men in the State of Johore.
Question No. 237
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Prime Minister obtain and make available the following information in relation to members of the six State Parliaments and the Commonwealth Parliament - (a) the rate of salary; (b) other allowances and amenities made available to members; (c) the rate of contribution in respect of retiring allowances; and (d) the rate of retiring allowance paid to (i) a member upon his retirement; and (ii) a member’s widow or dependants upon his death?
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honorable senator’s question -
Kates of salary and other allowances currently paid to members of the Commonwealth Parliament, and facilities provided for their use, are those set out in the Appendix to the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the salaries and allowances of members of the Commonwealth Parliament, 1959, with the exceptions of recommendation 14 - car transport for ex-members - and recommendation 25 - non-contributory pensions for ex-members and so on - which were not adopted. In addition to these allowances, members of certain select and joint committees, when absent from their homes on committee business, receive travelling allowance at the rate of £4 per day when attending meetings in Canberra and £4 4s. per day when attending meetings elsewhere. The Commonwealth is not in possession of similar information as to the salaries, allowances and amenities currently paid or made available to members of each of the six State Parliaments. However, Senator Ormonde will no doubt be aware that, at the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), I have promised to make information available to the Parliament regarding the superannuation entitlements of Commonwealth and Stale members. My department is currently working on this matter.
(Question No. 248.)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows -
Motion (by Senator McKenna) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senator Arnold on account of ill health.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The proposals I now lay before the Senate were referred to by me when I introduced the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill 1964 in this chamber on 6th May last.. These proposals fulfil an undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), in his policy speech last November when he indicated that the Commonwealth would “helpfully discuss” with the States the desirability of establishing a National Roads Authority. As the Prime Minister then said: “ The nation would benefit from a thorough-going survey and appraisal of the existing roads system and of foreseeable roads requirements “.
Consequently, at the Premiers’ Conference held in Canberra last March, the Commonwealth outlined its intentions and, in framing the present legislation, has had regard to the discussions which took place on that occasion, as well as to the views expressed by a variety of interested parties in the meantime. The Bill now before this chamber presents the Government’s legislative proposals for establishing the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads which I indicated in the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill debate would be established in order that the Commonwealth may have the benefit of a continuing study of the national roads situation. As will be well known to honorable senators, in recent years suggestions have been put forward that some sort of Commonwealth body should be established to deal with the road situation. The nature of these suggestions has varied widely, even to the extent of advocating that such a body should be responsible for the planning, construction, and maintenance of major roads in Australia.
However, the Government’s decision to establish a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads arises primarily from the Commonwealth’s deep and increasing involvement in the financing of roads expenditure in Australia. From being only a marginal contributor to the financing of roads in the early 1920’s, the Commonwealth is now contributing rather more than one-third of the total amount spent annually throughout Australia on roads and bridges. Under the measure recently passed by the Parliament, the Commonwealth will over the next five years be providing an aggregate sum of £375 million to the States for roads purposes. In addition it will be providing substantial sums for roads in the Australian Capital Territory, and also for special roads projects in the States, as well as for roads in our external Territories. The Commonwealth aid roads contribution of £375 million to the States represents an increase of 50 per cent, on the amount of £250 million being provided in the five years ending 30th June next. There is little doubt that, with the need for more and better roads growing apace, increasingly heavy demands will be made on the Commonwealth as time goes on to provide finance to the States for roads purposes.
Apart from the importance that roads finance has assumed in the Commonwealth Budget, road works, and expenditure on roads, have also acquired a considerable economic significance. Transport costs make up a substantial part of total production costs, and road transport now represents the largest element in land carriage of goods and people. Moreover, expenditure on roads now comprises approximately one-quarter of all public works expenditure in Australia, and its impact on economic conditions, both generally and in particular areas, is significant. It will thus be evident that the Commonwealth has great and growing responsibilities for the financing of roads. Up to the present, however, the Commonwealth Government has found itself in the position of having to discharge these responsibilities without having available to it data which is fully adequate for its purposes.
We do receive a great deal of information and advice from authorities and organisations concerned with roads and road transport. We have official statistics and we obtain the views and assessments of the States. Inevitably, however, this falls short of what we require. Necessarily, the views and representations put to us stress particular - and, in the nature of the case, sectional - aspects of the problem. But the Commonwealth must be in a position to make a competent and reliable appraisal of its own. It has to do this in the context of its many other responsibilities. It has to try to see the problem as a national whole and not simply as the sum of particular views of it. It must be able to satisfy itself, when it settles upon an amount for grants to the States for roads, and the basis of their allocation, that it really has a firm and closely analysed foundation for ils judgment.
It is in the light of these needs of the Commonwealth that we have approached the question of the establishment of a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. We have felt it is essential for us to have an impartial body capable of investigating roads and road transport with a view to assisting the Government in reaching its decisions as to the nature of the financial assistance to the States for roads and road transport. While this would be the Bureau’s primary purpose we also envisage it investigating any other matters affecting roads and road transport, which are the concern of the Commonwealth, referred to it by the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Such references will for the most part relate to special requests by the States for Commonwealth financial assistance for particular roads projects. However, the Bill is drawn widely enough to permit such references to the Bureau by the Minister to extend to any matter with respect to roads or road transport that relates to a purpose of the Commonwealth, such as roads in the Commonwealth Territory. I should make it clear that the Bureau will not be in any way a roads construction authority, and it will not have any power over the States.
As I have emphasised the Bureau will be essentially an advisory body established to assist the Government in determining policy in respect of roads and road transport by providing expert and objective advice. Accordingly, the Bureau will be responsible to the Government, through the Minister for its activities. The Bureau will report to the Government on its investigations but it will be for the Government to decide whether or not such reports will bc published. This provision has been incorporated because, as I have just mentioned, the Bureau will be, in essence, an advisory body to the Government. Although it is hoped that the Government will be able to release a great deal of informative material it receives from the Bureau, it is not intended that the Bureau must submit to Parliament a report on every item which it examines, nor that the Bureau be compelled to submit an annual report to Parliament and disclose in the report all the matters which may be referred to it, or on which it may advise the Government.
Having decided on these functions we felt that they could best be undertaken by a statutory bod)’, to be called the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, responsible to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, lt has been suggested in some quarters that we should set up a Commonwealth roads authority on the pattern of the United States Federal Bureau of Roads, which is concerned, inter alia, with the selection, planning, construction, as well as financing, of national roads projects throughout the United States. We have studied the United States system but find that it does not meet our situation. In Australia, the planning, programming, design and construction of roads in the States, and their subsequent repair and maintenance, are the responsibility of the States which have developed organisations for the purpose. We have no intention or desire to take over the States’ functions on road matters.
It has also been suggested that the Com*monwealth might rely on the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities for advice on roads matters. N.A.A.SR.A. is a voluntary association of the heads of the main roads authorities in the States together with the Commonwealth
Director-General of Works, by virtue of his responsibility for the construction of roads in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. These authorities are responsible principally for the construction of main rural roads. Their responsibilities in the capital cities are very limited. Furthermore, they have no direct control over the local government authorities and consequently have no overall responsibilities for roads in their respective States. The Commonwealth’s experience has been that this body provides essentially a conspectus of State views and requirements. On the other hand, the Commonwealth Government needs to have expert advice on the situation both as to roads and road transport, in respect of Australia as a whole, looked at from the national viewpoint. In consequence, N.A.A.S.R.A. is considered to be inappropriate, both as to composition and function, to carry out the responsibilities envisaged for the proposed Bureau. We expect, of course, that the Bureau will develop working relationships with relevant State and local government authorities for the purpose of carrying out its task, and we hope that such relationships will readily develop.
The Bureau, as proposed in the Bill, will be constituted by a full time chairman, who will be the chief executive of the Bureau, and two part time members. In deciding that the Bureau should be so constituted, we have in mind that we do not expect the Bureau to be a large organisation and that the appointment of more than one full time member would not be warranted. At the same time, we believe that there could be drawbacks in having the Bureau’s powers and responsibilities vested wholly in one person and we have felt that the chairman of the Bureau should be assisted by two part time members.
With regard to staff, it is provided in the Bill that the Bureau will have power to appoint such officers and to engage such employees as it thinks necessary for the performance of its functions. The total size of the Bureau’s staff is not, however, to exceed a maximum number determined by the Minister from time to time, and the terms and conditions of employment determined by the Bureau will require the approval of the Public Service Board. In addition to the power to employ staff, the Bureau will have power to engage persons, or arrange for persons, to advise and inform it on any matter which is being investigated. This provision is designed to enable the Bureau to use the services of consultants and research organisations, such as universities, if it decides that it would be appropriate for it to do so. In this connection I should perhaps mention that the Bill does not contain any provisions specifying how the Bureau is to go about its work or, indeed, the precise nature of the work it is to do. We believe that these are matters for the Bureau itself to determine and that it should be free to make its own assessment from time to time of the kind of investigations it should undertake.
The remaining provisions of the Bill are on lines that are fairly standard in other Commonwealth statutory authority legislation. They relate to such matters as the conduct of meetings of the Bureau, disqualification from office, provision of funds to the Bureau, the keeping of proper accounts and the auditing by the AuditorGeneral of the Bureau’s financial transactions, and do not call for special explanation.
The decision to establish the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads marks the Government’s recognition of the great and growing importance of roads and road transport in Australia and the widening national interest in this field of growth. At the same time we have sought to preserve and indeed support the major interest the State Governments have in this matter. We believe that the establishment of the Bureau will carry forward into a new stage the valuable forms of co-operation which have grown up between the Commonwealth and the States in this field. With that thought I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3rd September (vide page 416), on motion by Senator Anderson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- I should like to begin this afternoon by referring to the closing comments made by Senator Sandford. He reminded the Senate that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said in 1949 that if his party were elected to power repatriation would be a great, grave and proud responsibility. If we look back over the years since 1949 and note the distinguished gentlemen who have been Ministers for Repatriation, I think we will all agree, having had an opportunity to study the work that has been done, that the Prime Ministers pledge has been thoroughly honoured. I, and I think probably every ex-serviceman in Australia, would like to say how we have appreciated the work done by Senator Sir Walter Cooper during his occupancy of this important portfolio. I am proud to say that Mr. Swartz, one of my Queensland colleagues, who succeeded Senator Sir Walter Cooper as Minister for Repatriation, is carrying on the splendid work that was initiated by his predecessor.
Before I make any comments on the Bill itself I would like to correct an interjection which I made on the last sitting day. When Senator Sandford was speaking he was asked how many ex-servicemen from the 1914-18 war were not in receipt of a pension. Having listened to the earlier debate and having heard Senator McClelland make a comment on this point, I interjected and said that there were some 16,000 exservicemen of the First World War not receiving repatriation benefits. 1 now realise that Senator McClelland was merely making a general statement and was relying on his recollection of a previous comment that had been made. A few minutes later Senator Mattner interjected and said -
I think the figure of 16,000 you gave is a little low. 1 think it is 40,000.
Subsequently, having heard this interjection, 1 reminded Senator Sandford of the comment that had been made earlier. The figure given is not correct I have been interested in this subject for some time. I have gone to some trouble to learn the correct figure but I have been able to obtain only an estimate. Although it may be slightly astray, it is very close to being correct. Of the men who served in the First World War, there are, in round figures, 50,500 receiving full treatment, 15,300 receiving part treatment and 44,700 receiving no repatriation benefits. This makes an estimated total of 110,500 veterans of the First World War who are still living. There are two reasons why 44,700 of these are not receiving any repatriation benefits. The first is that they have no accepted disability, and the second is that, being over a certain agc, they have means which render them ineligible for the special service pension. That more or less puts the record right. I wanted to do that because I did not want subsequent speakers in this debate to be misled by an interjection or by a figure that was not entirely correct.
I am sorry that Senator Sandford is not in the chamber at present because. I want to say that I feel he was very ungenerous to my colleague, Senator Marriott. I would not comment very heavily on this were it not for the fact that three or four pages of “ Hansard “ are devoted to a query raised by Senator Sandford, to which Senator Marriott replied by interjection, the interjection then becoming the basis of an attack on the honorable senator by Senator Sandford. I should like to examine rather carefully the comments that were made. The first appears on page 409 of “ Hansard “. After Senator Marriott interjected in reply to the lead given him by Senator Sandford, Senator Sandford made this charge about, the honorable senator -
He has identified himself as being opposed to these men -
That is, the 44,700 of whom I spoke - securing some of the things they were promised when they enlisted.
That was a very unjust thing to say. But the honorable senator later made it much worse. I do not want to misquote him so I shall read from page 410 of the “ Hansard “ report. Senator Sandford said -
Yet, Senator Marriott . . . would deny them a hospital bed and medical treatment in their declining years. He would close the door of repatriation hospitals to these men. He would say, in effect, that because they had not bothered the Repatriation Department over the years . . . they should fend for themselves.
Later, he said-
But the human wrecks of war who are in desperate need of hospitalisation and medical care are not enittled, according to some people, to that treatment in their declining years.
All of this refers to the interjection that I mentioned a moment ago. But that was not the burden of Senator Marriott’s comment. We all know that both Senator Marriott and Senator Sandford had distinguished war careers. They served for a long time, one in the Artillery and the other in the Corps of Signals. These are very hazardous fields of service. All honorable senators should remember that when debating this subject. But that does not give one honorable senator the right to misinterpret what another has said. Undoubtedly Senator Sandford did misinterpret Senator Marriott’s comment, quite unjustly and, quite unfairly. I hope that during later stages of the debate an honorable senator opposite will take the opportunity to acknowledge this and also the fact that no-one in this chamber has spoken more consistently than has Senator Marriott for those exservicemen who need help.
Let us look at this subject a little closer. What is a good repatriation system? This has been explained in many ways, but I would say that a good repatriation system is, first, one that compensates fully those who have suffered as a result of war service. I believe that is the first responsibility of a good repatriation system. Its second responsibility is to make adequate provision for the dependants of those who died or suffer as a result of war service. As I see it, that constitutes a good repatriation system. But a good repatriation system moves to the stage of being a very generous repatriation system when the Repatriation Act encompasses further benefits. When a repatriation system recognises and helps those who are suffering from illnesses or injuries which obviously are not due to war service, that repatriation system becomes a vey generous one As we all know, our own Australian repatriation system extends benefits to those ex-servicemen I have just mentioned. I think this is widely known and generally recognised.
In addition, there are many other ways in which our Repatriation Department goes beyond the normal narrow limits of a repatriation department’s activities. By doing so, it makes a generous acknowledgment of responsibility. 1 refer now to the 1962-63 report of the Repatriation Commission, which sets out quite clearly many of the additional functions undertaken by the Repatriation Department which take our repatriation system from the level of a good one to the level of a very generous one. This information is available to all honorable senators. I have in mind the various educational and training schemes which are available to the children of ex-servicemen. There are gift cars, perhaps one of the most excellent benefits granted to ex-servicemen, and funeral grants for relatives of ex-servicemen.
– What are gift cars?
– Some 170 oars have been given as gifts to returned servicemen who have lost both legs, for example, and require some method of transportation but whose means are such that they are unable to buy cars for themselves. These cars are gifts from the Repatriation Department. In fact, the Department goes even further. It provides - I think this amount is correct - £120 a year towards the maintenance and upkeep of these gift cars. This is another example of going the extra mile, that little bit further to convert a good system into a very generous one. I mentioned that 170 ex-servicemen had received free motor vehicles. I am not at all sure that that is an up to date figure; it is the figure that I recall seeing some considerable time ago There arc grants of immediate assistance at the discretion of a Deputy Commissioner to provide meals, sleeping accommodation and that sort of thing. Very generous transportation privileges are provided, not only by the Commonwealth Government but also by State Governments and municipal authorities. I know quite a number of exservicemen who come within the category of the totally and permanently incapacitated and who regard their free railway passes and free tram passes as amongst the greatest of their privileges.
Incidentally, when we consider the quantum of pension which is payable - this is a different question, of course, from the one that I am discussing at the moment - we do wrong if we do not automatically in our minds include these extras which, as I said a moment ago, are regarded by many people as amongst their greatest benefits. Business re-establishment loans are made. I recall that very early after the Second World War a huge number of people applied for tools of trade. These provisions were of extreme assistance to many ex-servicemen at that time when they were trying to rehabilitate themselves. Aids such as talking book machines are provided for blinded ex-servicemen. I mention in passing that one of those ex-servicemen with whom I have been quite closely associated, and who became blind as a result of war service after his return, was sent to Saint Dunstan’s, the very wonderful hospital in England for blinded persons, and he is today able to engage in an extremely useful occupation as a physiotherapist as a result of the training that he received. This is not by any means a comprehensive coverage of the assistance that is given, but at least I have tried to mention quite a number of those extra facilities which convert a good system into an excellent system.
Senator Sandford advocated that all First World War survivors be given free hospitalisation and other facilities. 1: am trying to reply not only to Senator Sandford’s comments but also to comments which were made in another place. We should remember that our repatriation system was never designed nor is it expected to provide a service which is more or less competitive with our very wonderful and comprehensive social services, lt is not designed to be a competitor with social services. It is designed to apply only to ex-servicemen in the way which I described earlier. If we did attempt to widen it to the extent that has been suggested we would be setting up a parallel organisation to deal with ex-servicemen and to go right beyond the bounds of assisting them because of the effects of their war service. We would have two systems competing, each trying to outdo the other. This would be an extremely bad principle, even to consider for a moment.
– How does it work in Queensland, where free hospitalisation is given to all people?
– Now the honorable senator is talking about social services help - hospital help. I am saying that the repatriation system should never try to duplicate our social services system in the way that has been advocated by the honorable senator’s colleagues here and in another place.
– It is all very fine for you. Queensland has a free service for the ex-servicemen but other States have not.
– The honorable senator is confusing the service that we have. I know that this is not relevant to the discussion and I must not go loo far. In Queensland we certainly have a system of free hospitalisation but it is not by any means an overall Australian system which is competing against an existing social services system. That is the point that I am trying to make. Let us look at this a little further. Our opponents are advocating that we should make it possible for all cxservicemen from World War I - I mentioned how many there were - to be admitted to repatriation hospitals and to receive all medical and hospital assistance through the Repatriation Department by virtue - this is the point - of the fact that they are exservicemen.
– Preference to ex-servicemen.
– This is a very good point. I have been a very strong upholder of the principle of preference to exservicemen as far as employment is concerned. This principle was applied most thoroughly throughout Australia, but we must seriously ask ourselves to what extent in point of time must this be continued. Do those honorable senators who are interjecting at the moment think that preference to exservicemen must be an overall blanket that will last throughout their days? Is that supposed to be their belief? lt is not mine. The whole principle of repatriation, preference in employment, and that sort of thing, hinges and swings on the fact that we have a very great responsibility to restore those men. who fought in the First World War, the Second World War, or any of the other wars, to a position where they will be not disadvantaged because of their war service. That surely must be our aim and our objective. I am speaking entirely for myself when I say that I cannot see that we would be justified in extending the system of preference throughout the whole of the life of an ex-servicemen. If we do this, anomalies immediately arise. I have seen them. I can recall occasions shortly after the end of World War I - fortunately, as far as I know, there were not too many - when World War I men were disadvantaged and were more or less deprived of certain types of livelihood because of preference for ex-servicemen of World War II. I can give examples of where men lost their holdings under this very provision. There is one of the anomalies that occur if we try to continue a system beyond its just time and just application. I am afraid that I have been taken a little off my argument but I did want to answer that interjection, which I thought was very relevant.
We come to another point: Let us assume, for the purpose of debate, that we have accepted the arguments that have been advanced from the Opposition side of this chamber and elsewhere - that all men returned from World War I, who are not now benefiting from hospitalisation, medicine and so on through the Repatriation Department, should be brought within its ambit. We would be bringing in many very wealthy men, as many of these men are wealthy. I will give some figures in this regard later. We would also have to start thinking immediately of the position of exservicemen from World War II. Do not forget that there are men from World War H who are today 60 years of age and more. Would it not be just as logical to argue that we should include all the men from World War II under this provision as that we should include all those from World War I? I believe it is just as logical. What would this cost us? This is very difficult to determine, but I have tried to ascertain the approximate number of ex-servicemen from World War II who are alive today.
– They are asking for this only for the World War I ex-servicemen.
– I know. But it is always the same; once there is a weakening of a principle - once a principle is thrown away for the sake of expediency - there is always a continuous pressure that the door shall be opened a little wider. Senator O’Byrne said that this is being requested only for ex-servicemen from World War I. If it were granted to the World War I exservicemen today, tomorrow honorable senators opposite would say: “ Let us give it to those from World War II, because their hair is grey and they are 60 years of agc and more “.
– Why not?
– For this simple reason: If we are going to be completely illogical in what we do and in what we give, we will find that we will have to double taxation and in doing that we will have to impose grave hardship on one section of the community in order to create a privileged section in another part of the community. Surely nobody would advocate that.
– What do you advocate?
– I am telling you, in very clear terms, what I am advocating. 1 am advocating that we support a bill which is associated with what is not only a just but also the most generous repatriation system operating in the world. That is clearly where I stand. A little while ago, by interjection, Senator Sandford asked: “ Why not bring in all the World War II men?” I wonder whether he has any idea how many of them there are. Surely he has not, or he would not ask such a silly question.
– Are you going to pin it down to cost again?
– Look at it and tell me whether you are going to be silly enough to support such a proposal?
– Tell us what we promised these men.
– Those who are survivors from World War II number some 900,000, as closely as I have been able to gauge the figure. Those receiving full treatment through the Repatriation Department number in the vicinity of 35,000. The number of those receiving part time treatment is in the vicinity of 147,000 and there are over 700,000 who are receiving no treatment at all. Senator Sandford says that even though they have not suffered from the war and do not have war caused illnesses we should bring them all in and make it a wholesale party. That shows how illogical some people are in relation to responsibility. AH governments recognise that, whatever may be the subject which arises, members of the Opposition say: “ Yes, give these people twice as much.” I do not care whether it is a question of social services or anything else; every time a member of the Opposition rises when the question of spending money is concerned he says: “ Not enough. Give them more. Double it.” But whenever the question of taxation arises honorable senators opposite say: “ Too much! Cut it in halves.” Is there any logic in this? Of course there is not.
Whether a man be in opposition or in government he should be prepared to be responsible to the people who have put him into this very responsible office in the Parliament of our country. A recognition of these things and a recognition of the impossibility of doing what is asked has confirmed the statement I made earlier, that Senator Sandford was extremely ungenerous to another ex-serviceman in the person of Senator Marriott. I said that in your absence, Senator Sandford, and I say it now in your presence. I think, quite frankly, that the honorable senator was a little bit carried away with his own verbosity. I do not think he would seriously repeat the things that he said on that occasion. Frequently, when repatriation questions arise, we hear references to the wonderfully generous systems which are operating in some other countries of the world. Reading some of the addresses made during the debate on this legislation in another place I saw the United States of America referred to in this vein. I have been associated with ex-servicemen’s organisations for a long time. I have been a financial member of the Returned Soldiers League for 20 years and I was the first president of the Rats of Tobruk Association in Queensland, having formed that organisation there and was the second Federal president, I have been associated with returned servicemen’s associations for a very long time. When in my doctor’s waiting room nearly 12 months ago I saw a copy of the “ Saturday Evening Post “ of November last year. In it was an article which immediately attracted my attention. I will give some extracts from it and though they are somewhat long I think they are very relevant. The article is headed “ Let’s Say No to the Veterans “. It is written by Mr. Edward P. Neilan. a banker, who is President of the United States Chamber of Commerce and who served for 39 months on active duty with the United States Navy during World War II. The article is headed -
An ex-serviceman charges that the veterans’ lobby, with the help of vote-hungry Congressmen, is seeking a shockingly unwarranted billion-dollar handout. The result, he says, will be to penalise deserving veterans.
There is the crux of his argument and it is a mighty good one. I will give a few further extracts from this article as it is too long to read in full. Mr. Neilan said -
It is time we stopped treating America’s 22 million veterans as a privileged group. This is not to say that we should turn our backs on men whose health was harmed in the nation’s service or on the families of those who died for their country. Care for these people is a bedrock American tradition. As a group, however, veterans have no God-given right to special consideration.
There again, is a very important aspect of our consideration of this matter. The article continues -
Last August, before the National Press Club, 1 labeled the buying and selling of votes in our modern spoils system as “ seduction by subsidy “. I called it a bigger scandal than the one centering around Christine Keeler, the London party girl. My speech stirred up considerable indignation, especially in Congress, but I stick to what I said. Plunder has become so prevalent in American political life that it would be difficult to name the worst offenders, were it not for the blatant and outrageous maneuver called veterans’ benefits.
– I do not know why veterans should be treated as outcasts.
– I am quoting from a very thoughtful article. I do not necessarily associate myself with all that is contained in it, but it is important that we should see how people look at these matters. The writer refers to a certain bill and says -
This Bill is the work of the recently formed organisation called the Veterans of World War I of the U.S.A., lnc. Its members are called the Wonnies. Under the measure they propose, every 90-day veteran of World War I who was not dishonorably discharged would get $100’ a month, tax free - unless he makes more than $2,400 a year if single, or $3,600 if married. He could work full time, have no disability and still be eligible for the pension.
True, $2,400 to $3,600 a year isn”t much to live on; for millions of elderly Americans such income means something close to poverty. The easy argument is that they could use the money, so why not let them have it? But that argument is deceptive. If low income veterans of World War I should be helped, why shouldn’t low income, elderly nonveterans? If a federal handout is justifiable for the one group - and it isn’t - why not for the other? This double standard - this discrimination in favour of veterans - is at the very heart of the veterans’ benefits scandal. The veterans, because they are organised, get the money. Yet the basic problems - ones extending far beyond the matter of who wore a uniform when - remain.
It is a problem, because the more we do beyond what is justified the less money there is in the kitty to help those whom we may justifiably help. The article continues -
To get free treatment for a non-service-connected ailment at veterans’ hospitals, an ex-seviceman must swear that he can’t afford to pay. So perjury becomes routine, and, because the law is badly written, cheaters are seldom prosecuted.
There is a lot more in the article. I commend it to honorable senators because, as I said earlier, it is a very thoughtful contribution on this vexed question. I know it is very popular to cry to the world and to say: “Give these people a lot more than they are getting “. This subject is a vote winner, but surely we should not consider all matters from that viewpoint. We have a responsibility to look at these problems soundly and to ensure that what we do is fair and right. 1 am afraid that I must refer to some of the statements made by Senator Sandford, as reported at pages 412, 4J3 and 414 of “Hansard”.
– Personally, I do not think there is much to chose from as between the author of the article you quoted and Senator Sandford.
– I leave that to the judgment of honorable senators. 1 repeat that I read those extracts because I thought they were very thoughtful and very pertinent. Honorable senators should read the whole article. If Senator Wright did so, he might have further thoughts about the author. Senator Sandford attacked very solidily the officers of the Repatriation Department and the various Tribunals. He said -
The officers of the Department are excellent, and so are the personnel of the various Tribunals. 1 do not want to cast any reflection on their integrity or their honesty, lt cannot be denied that, iii actual practice, the onus of proof has never rested on the Department. 1. know of thousands of cases in which men have appeared before the Tribunals wilh sworn evidence, but their applications have been rejected and no reasons have been given. The applications have been rejected in spite of sworn medical evidence to the effect that the disabilities either were caused by or aggravated by war service. The Tribunals have knocked them buck’ literally in thousands. 1 repeat that I am not casting any aspersions on the members of these Tribunals because I really think that they consider they are there to save the Department as much as they can in pension payments. They are not callous, but they take the natural view that they are there to reject as many cases as they possibly can.
He continued in that strain and then said -
I say in all sincerity that 1 have had cases placed before me - and I know that most honorable senators in this chamber have had the same experience - of people who have gone before the Tribunals and have been subjected almost to third degree interrogation. 1 absolutely reject that statement. I know that these Tribunals are composed of exservicemen who approach their problems not in the vein in which Senator Sandford would have us believe but in the fairest possible manner. Of course they examine the evidence, but I believe that in all cases they give justice - and more than justice - to the applicants.
Let us see whether I am justified in saying what 1 have said. I have before me the 1962-63 report of the Repatriation Commission. It shows that in 1962-63, 45 years after the end of World War I, 1 ,200 applications by ex-servicemen of the war were granted, and in the 20 years after the end of World War II 8,000 applications by ex-servicemen of that war were granted, ls that a sign of meanness? Does that suggest that they were trying to save the Department money? Of course it does not. There is proof, if proof is needed, that the Tribunals are continually awarding repatriation benefits to exservicemen who submit a good case. The figures I have quoted are not peculiar to that one year. Almost identical figures could be quoted for the previous year. I venture to suggest that a very thorough search of the records would reveal that the sympathetic outlook that has characterised the Repatriation Department since 1949 has resulted in a tremendous number of applicants being admitted to repatriation benefits.
Perhaps I should mention one of the many cases with which I have been associated. Before I do so, may I say that it is altogether different for a member of Parliament to tell an ex-serviceman who places his case before him that something should be done and for a Tribunal to have to determine the claim. All honorable senators are familiar with these cases. I have had experience of many of them. When I ceased to be a member of the Queensland Cabinet - and after that a member of the Queensland Parliament - I felt I was justified in accepting an invitation to be an advocate for returned servicemen before War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals or Assessment Appeal Tribunals. That is why I asked Senator Sandford whether he had been an advocate before the Tribunals. Previously 1 have handled dozens of cases as a member of Parliament in respect of which I have said, “Here justice has been given “, or, “ Here justice has been denied “. From a superficial examination of a case that assessment has been right.
However, now I shall refer to a particular case of which I had experience in the early 1960’s and to my feelings about it. Having ceased lo be a parliamentarian I agreed to act as advocate for a returned serviceman before a Tribunal. I then received a summary of the man’s case. The summary contained details of the man’s case right from the time of his service and included copies of his applications for pension assistance. Everything is recorded in a summary which is relevant to an applicant’s case, lt can make quite a big file. At the beginning of the summary of the case of the man to whom I am referring there was set out his Army health record, followed by a record of the times he had appeared before doctors before and after his discharge. His discharge papers showed that he had claimed to be perfectly fit at the time of this discharge.
After completing my study of the summary 1 saw no reason to change the conclusion 1 had first reached; that is, in this case justice had been denied. In the course of my study I discovered that the man’s previous advocate had completely and utterly failed to bridge the gap of 20 years from 1919 to 1939. No evidence whatsoever had been offered of the continuity of the man’s trouble, or even the build up of the trouble, so that no chance was given to any Tribunal to say from the evidence provided that he was suffering from a war caused injury. It was obviously quite impossible to give the man a pension on the basis of what appeared in his papers. I shall not name the man or the illness from which he was suffering. I went to him and said: “ Here is the score. You have not - or somebody has not - tried to bridge a gap of 20 years in your medical history and that is why you are not getting consideration, fs it possible to bridge the gap? Which doctors did you see? “
I traced the man’s case and as a result he went to see the doctors who had treated him during the earlier period of his illness. Finally I appeared before the Tribunal on his behalf. I was able to show the members of the Tribunal for the first time a complete picture from the time of the man’s discharge and was able to prove to their satisfaction that he was being unjustly deprived of a pension. As a result of the hearing he is receiving a pension today.
– Where did the onus of proof lie in that case?
– The onus of proof question is very important. It is a very big subject and I am aware from preceding speeches in this debate that it will be the subject matter of a proposed amendment.
I intend to say something on that matter when it arises; I do not think now is the right time.
I am in the process of reading the speeches made last year in a debate on repatriation. I have referred to some of the comments that have been made, especially by my colleague, Senator Wright, who was not too happy about something I read a little earlier. I started to read the honorable senator’s speech but I have not yet been able to finish it. When I have finished reading the speech I will make some comments upon it. To return to the case to which I was referring, I mention that it was not through any lack of sympathy or the workings of the Repatriation Act that the man had been denied a pension. It was purely and simply because of the failure of his advocate to tell the complete story - the consecutive events - in relation to the man’s illness. I venture to say that many applicants for pensions who feel that they have justification fail because of lack of research work by their advocates. I most earnestly warn anybody applying for a repatriation pension or lodging an appeal to make sure that his case is fully documented and that he is represented by a qualified advocate.
Senator Sandford said that many people were gassed in a mild way in World War I but are not receiving pensions. I think the honorable senator is probably right in that respect, but I do not think he is right in saying that these people are ill necessarily as a result of being gassed in World War I. A lot of people had a whiff of gas in World War 1 and have never since had any trouble. Any applicant to the Repatriation Department for a pension on the basis of an illness caused by gassing will be given a thorough examination and will receive every medical aid possible to discover whether there is any connection between his gassing and his subsequent illness. He will be treated sympathetically. Of this I know, because I know many people who have been in these exact circumstances.
There are many other things that should be said, especially in relation to the onus of proof and the other aspects that will be raised. I hope to have more to say when they are raised. It is my view that because of the affinity between lung damage caused by gas and the subsequent onset of tuberculosis, today the Repatriation
Department has recognised the entitlement of all T.B. serviceman patients to receive pensions, irrespective of their histories. I believe this to be an extremely generous acknowledgment. Perhaps I should go further and say that it is a fair acknowledgment, but it is something we would not get with just a good system. It is something we get only with a very generous system. The repatriation system is very generous and I am therefore very happy to have had an opportunity to speak in its favour and in favour of the Bill.
– The approach of the Australian Labour Party to any bill which has as its objective the increasing of repatriation benefits is to support the legislation as far as it goes, but also to express regret that’ it does not go much further. We believe that quite a number of the increases to be granted are inadequate, not only from our point of view but from the point of view of the Congress of the Returned Servicemen’s League held last year and the requests that resulted therefrom. At the opening session of the Congress the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) said that the Government is always interested in the views of informed organisations which maintain a responsible public image. The Minister then went on to state that such an organisation was the R.S.L. and that the Government had special cognisance of the work of that body. He said that the Government would pay due attention to resolutions passed by the R.S.L. I am afraid, however, that between the time of that conference and the bringing down of the 1964-65 Budget, other thoughts must have prevailed because the views which were put forward by the R.S.L. in its 1.963 Congress have been given only scant consideration by the Government in its Budget.
I do not intend to deal with all the money benefits, or the lack of them, which are entailed in this Bill. I would like to make some general observations at this stage of the debate, particularly in regard to the onus of proof. I wish to refer also to some of the remarks which were made by Senator Morris. I was rather interested when the honorable senator read from an American publication in an endeavour to compare the attitude of the Australian Government to its ex-servicemen with that which obtains in the United Slates of America. Senator Morris sought to compare the benefits available to ex-servicemen in this country with those available to war veterans in the United States and those available to the rest of the community. I thought it was a poor comparison. We in Australia have a much better social service system than that in the United States. 1 was privileged to visit that country last year. There are a great number of things in that country which we could usefully adopt. But there is one matter on which the United States could well learn from us, and that is our programme of social services as it has been maintained over the years.
While our treatment of elderly people generally still leaves much to be desired, it is infinitely better than anything that 1 found in the United States. I think it is quite wrong to make a comparison between the benefits which are received by our ex-soldiers and those received by other members of the community. Such a comparison could properly be made in a community where exservice and health benefits were available to elder citizens, but in Australia such a comparison loses a great deal of its force when applied to our social service system. In any case, I. consider that a comparison of that type is invalid when it is remembered that payments which are made by the Repatriation Department and the Department of Social Services come out of the one purse. When all is said and done, a payment which is made by the Repatriation Department does not have to be made by the Department of Social Services also. If we had a proper hospitalisation scheme, such as that which the Australian Labour Party endeavoured to introduce when it was in office, there would be no need for this great call for hospitalisation for our ex-servicemen.
When we consider the conditions of service in World War 1 we realise how different and how difficult they were when compared with the conditions of service in the Second World War. Many of those who served in World War I are now in their middle sixties at least.
That must be so, because only last month we observed the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. So, the very youngest of those who enlisted at the beginning of that war would now be approximately 67 or 68 years of age. Statistics show that the number of exservicemen from the First World War is decreasing each year. The Repatriation Department is able to write off each year between 3,000 and 4,000 pensioners who served in World War I. They have passed away. The number of deaths is increasing year by year. That is only natural. Therefore, the cost of providing repatriation hospitalisation for exservicemen of World War I will not be as great as it might appear to the Government. Approximately 100,000 exservicemen from the First World War are still alive. But they will not all require hospitalisation all the time. The arguments which have been advanced are such that you would think that every survivor from World War I required hospitalisation every day of the year. That is not so. There are quite a number of ex-servicemen who are still in good health. There are those who will not require any hospitalisation at all. On the other hand, there are many who do require hospitalisation. A recent survey of most of the repatriation hospitals showed that there were some spare beds available all the time. They could be utilised in this manner. The cost of treatment is the same whether it is provided by the Department of Health, the Department of Social Services or the Repatriation Department. After all, an exservicemen, if he is in his late sixties or even older, would be much happier in an exservicemen’s hospital than in a public hospital. In an ex-servicemen’s hospital he would be with many of his old comrades. That would mean a great deal to him.
One of the resolutions moved at the R.S.L. congress last year related to the question of the hospitalisation of World War 1 ex-servicemen. As the years pass, the number who benefit from this concession is reduced, and there has been a significant increase in the rate of reduction. We all know that that is so. Senator Morris referred to the fact that ex-servicemen in the First World War received a whiff of gas. Some of those who were in the battlefields in France during World War I did not receive just a whiff of gas. I once fought a case for an ex-serviceman who I was assured by an official of the Repatriation Department, had nothing wrong with him. I was given tint assurance on a Tuesday. On the following Saturday the man died. I rang the official at the Repatriation Department on
Monday and said: “You were quite right there is nothing wrong with Mr. So-and-So. He is dead.” Eventually, I was able to help his widow to obtain a pension. But that particular ex-servicemen should have been receiving assistance in the way of treatment from the Repatriation Department long before he died. His wife said: “ I do not want a pension. My husband could have done with treatment while he was alive.”
I have mentioned that case because when you refer to the report issued by the R.S.L. Congress for last year, and also to the report of the Repatriation Department, you find that ex-servicemen who have had appeals to the War Pensions Assessment Appeals Tribunals after their original claims for pensions had been rejected by the Repatriation Department, have had 46 per cent, of their appeals rejected. That is the figure for last year. However, over the whole period since the 1914-18 war, 51 per cent, of those who have appealed to the War Pensions Assessment Appeals Tribunals have had their claims granted. This means that those persons did not receive pensions or medical benefits during the time that elapsed between the rejection of their applications and the upholding of their appeals. Their cases must have been worthwhile if they eventually received pensions.
This brings me to the question of the benefit of the doubt, particularly as it applies to World War I ex-servicemen. I dealt with the case of an ex-serviceman who received a Military Medal for his bravery in World War I. He was mentioned in despatches twice and his name was engraved on the Roll of Honour in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. He was shot through the chest twice. He died of lung trouble. His widow was told that his death had no relationship to his war service. So, she received no pension. She received nothing at all. Even the payment of the small gratuity for his Military Medal ceased with his death. She could not even have a memorial placed over his grave to show that he was an ex-serviceman. I repeat that this man had received a Military Medal and was twice mentioned in despatches. He was shot in the chest and died of lung trouble. Yet his widow was told that his death had nothing whatever to do with his war service. That is a case that could well be taken up once again with the tribunal. Unfortunately, in many such cases the tribunals ask for more evidence. How are we to get more evidence for World War I ex-servicemen? People do not seem to realise that it is 46 years - nearly 50 years - since that war ended and that many of those who could have given evidence on behalf of the applicant exservicemen are no longer with us. Medical records were not kept as well during World War I as they were during World War H. The men had been overseas for three or four years, and some for a longer period. All they wanted to do when they arrived back in Australia was to obtain their releases as quickly as possible and get back to their families. They were not given the detailed medical examinations that men were given before discharge after World War II. Many men of World War I camouflaged their condition in some way in order to get home. Every ex-serviceman will tell you that that is so. Now, 46 years after that war, we are told that if we are to get a pension for an ex-serviceman we must obtain new evidence. That is how the position stands at present.
Repatriation should not be a party issue. I hate to see it being made a party issue, because ex-servicemen are drawn from all political parties. Repatriation should be a question, not of politics, but purely and simply of doing justice to ex-servicemen. We on this side of the chamber have persistently advocated a proper interpretation of what is known as the onus of proof, or benefit of the doubt, provision. If any doubt exists as to whether an injury is warcaused, we say that the ex-serviceman must be given the benefit of that doubt. But how can he be given the benefit of the doubt when he is told to get new evidence and when many of those from whom he might have obtained evidence have been dead for more than 20 years?
Medical men themselves sometimes differ in these cases. A doubt is immediately created then, because surely we cannot give more weight to the opinion of one doctor than to that of another doctor. In my experience of repatriation cases, I have found that doctors who themselves had overseas service, and were with the troops, are much more helpful to ex-servicemen than are people recently recruited to the medical profession. I suppose the reason for that i that they realise that many of the disabilities from which ex-servicemen suffer do not always follow the normal course. Doctors who served overseas know the hardships which ex-servicemen underwent, and perhaps they understand the ex-servicemen themselves better than doctors who did not have that experience. Whilst I do not for one moment wish to detract from the work that is done by all medical men in repatriation matters, 1 do say that when a doctor who is an ex-serviceman gives an opinion, that opinion should be given more weight than the opinions expressed by other doctors.
I am very interested, personally and otherwise, in the question of the onus of proof. I have two sisters who are war widows, and two brothers who are eligible for war pensions. Repatriation matters are very dear to my heart. The Labour Party agrees with the Returned Servicemen’s League that much more consideration should be given to providing medical treatment for men from World War I who are not pension holders. It agrees, also, that much more should be done for exservicemen from both World Wars, particularly for cancer sufferers. The medical profession has not yet found any specific cause of cancer. In this morning’s Press mention was made of a process to help poultry farmers increase their profits. It was suggested that the substance used to treat the chickens could cause cancer in those who eat them. Every week or so somebody comes up with a new theory as to the cause of cancer, and much more research wilt need to be undertaken. If medical men still disagree on this matter, or cannot say definitely what causes cancer, then a repatriation tribunal is not in a position to say that such and such an event was not a contributory factor to an exserviceman developing cancer. Where there is a difference of opinion between medical men, the ex-serviceman should be given the benefit of the doubt. I should like to see it made mandatory that cancer be accepted as a war-caused disability.
Let me refer now to one of the conclusions reached at the conference of the Returned Servicemen’s League held last year. In relation to the onus of proof provision the League recommended that the following paragraph be added -
Tn all cases a doubt shall be deemed lo exist where the origin of any disability cannot be properly determined or where authoritative medical opinion conflicts a> to the origin of the disability.
Doubt is nowhere more clearly evident than in the case of cancer sufferers. When it was originally suggested that all exservicemen who were sufferers from tuberculosis should be automatically accepted for repatriation pensions we were told that that could not be done because it would cost too much. But it was done and today an exserviceman suffering from tuberculosis has no fear of being denied a pension. The authority exists for a pension to be granted to him. He knows that if he is found to be suffering from tuberculosis, he and his dependants will be well looked after.
Senator Morris said, quite rightly, that not just pensions are involved in repatriation measures. This Bill, of course, deals only with pecuniary benefits to pensioners and does nol take into account any of the other things wilh which the Repatriation Department deals. I give the Department credit for what it does for war widows and the children of ex-servicemen. It is not only with the dead that we should be concerned. Wc should be concerned also with the living and with the expectations of life.
– Mr. Deputy President, 1 ask that, with the indulgence of the Senate, Senator Tangney be given leave to continue her remarks later. She is clearly unable to continue now.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [5.19]. - Let me say first how sorry I am that Senator Tangney is temporarly indisposed. She takes a great interest in repatriation matters, which are very dear to her. Unfortunately, this occasion has proved too much for her. I sincerely trust that she will soon recover. The Repatriation Bill is a very important measure. It deals, to a great extent, with returned service men and women. Each year when Budget time comes around there is always a lot of controversy between Government supporters and supporters of the Opposition. However, I have no hesitation in saying that honorable senators on both sides of the Senate are in harmony in regard to giving the best possible deal to ex-service men and women. From 1949, when the present Government came to office, we have been able not only to increase pensions but also to introduce new benefits.
I wish to bring before the Senate once again the promise made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) on 10th
November 1949. It has been referred to by Senator Sandford and also Senator Morris, but neither of them gave the full text of the promise. These are the exact words that the Prime Minister used at that time -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility … We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
Before I conclude my remarks, I hope I will be able to show that that promise has been kept.
In 1950 one of the first matters dealt with by Cabinet was the formation of a committee of ex-servicemen members of the Government, with instructions to overhaul completely repatriation pensions and other benefits. The Government’s policy was gradually to introduce new benefits as well as to increase pensions. The committee sat for about two months and finally brought down recommendations that increases should be granted in all rates of pension and that a number of benefits which had been withdrawn during the depression period should be restored. When the members of the Returned Servicemen’s League saw what was proposed in the Bill they were astounded.
Pension increases have continued on the basis of regular reviews since 1950. I shall state the total increases during the period that the present Government has been in office in the three main rates of pension - the total and permanent incapacity rate, the general or 100 per cent, and under rate, and the rate for war widows with and without domestic allowance. I shall deal first with the total and permanent incapacity rate. The T.P.I, pension has been increased by £8 1 9s. and is at present £ 1 4 5s. a week. The general rate pension has been increased by £3 5s. to £6 a week. The war widows’ pension has been increased by £3 to £6 a week, and the domestic allowance has increased by £3 2s. 6d. to £3 10s. a week. The war widows’ combined pension - that is, the pension and the domestic allowance - has been increased by £6 2s. 6d. to £9 10s. a week. I might mention that 94 per cent of war widows receive the pension and domestic allowance of £9 10s. a week.
I would now like to refer to a few of the benefits that have been introduced by the present Government. The first benefit that comes to my mind is the gift of a motor car to certain double amputees and to exservicemen paralysed from the waist down. That measure was introduced in September 1950. At that time we made a careful study of the ways in which the governments of Other countries dealt with this matter of giving cars to people who were so severely incapacitated. No other government gave a car as a straight out gift. Usually there were strings attached. The car could be taken back because it was on loan to the incapacitated person and still belonged to the Government. In our case the car was a straight out gift. The only condition attached was that if the person concerned sold the car he could not get another one from the Government. Only Hillman Minx cars were provided at the time, which I thought was a mistake. The Government subsequently changed its policy in this regard. If a person desired to have a larger car or a different make of car from the Hillman Minx, he could do so by paying the difference in price between that of the Hillman Minx and that of the car he desired to purchase. As time went on the cars wore out and had to be replaced. Some incapacitated persons have now received their second or third car. He is allowed to purchase the car of his choice free of sales tax, and he is also granted free registration. That was a really good benefit. As Senator Morris has said, these ex-servicemen are also given an annual allowance of £120 for running expenses and the general upkeep of the car. I remember well that unfortunately some exservicemen who obtained these gift cars died shortly afterwards. In those cases the wife either took over the car for her own use or sold it and retained the proceeds.
Let me refer now to benefits that have been given to war widows. If a war widow remarried she sustained a considerable loss by giving up her pension, so we decided to give her in a lump sum the equivalent of 12 months’ pension, which at present amounts to £312. All she has to do now is bring her marriage certificate to the Department and she will then receive a cheque for £312 as a wedding gift from the Commonwealth Government. That benefit was very well regarded by the war widows. They were very pleased to receive it because undoubtedly it was more than they had expected.
From the many other benefits that have been granted I have selected at random the disabled member’s and widow’s training scheme. This was introduced in May 1952 to cover those people who were not able to take advantage of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. The Repatriation Department decided that disabled members and war widows would be trained, at the Department’s expense, in some calling which they would be able to follow to supplement their earnings and to occupy their time. Then there was the extension of medical benefits to war widows with children. Previously war widows did not receive complete repatriation benefits. A war widow could occupy a bed in a repatriation hospital only if a bed were vacant. No regard was paid to her children. Now these children enjoy full repatriation benefits. This was a very good move and the widows with children were very happy about it. Now, instead of a widow having to wait for a bed in a repatriation hospital, the Department pays for an intermediate bed in a general or private hospital.
In addition, sustenance has been granted to those who have been discharged from hospital with a medical certificate endorsed “ Rest essential “. Some time elapsed before we could grant that benefit to the unfortunate people concerned, but I always believed that they needed sustenance after their discharge from hospital when rest was essential. While in hospital they received the full benefit of the sustenance, which is equivalent to the T.P.I, rate. Previously, upon their discharge they received only the 100 per cent, general rate, which meant a considerable reduction in their income. I can assure honorable senators that they were very happy to receive the new benefit. I am sure that it has made a great deal of difference to them. Among the other changes of note that have been made, the ceiling limits which restricted the service, age or invalid pension of a war pensioner to something less than he could receive under the means test, were abolished. I will deal with that aspect later.
To sum up, the increases that have been made in benefit payments, the new range of eligibility for benefits, end the new benefits that have been paid, combine to show the Government’s continued concern for exservicemen and their dependants and the way in which the repatriation system has been expanded to cover them. Wilh the extension in 1960 of medical and hospital benefits to service pensioners, the more seriously disabled 100 per cent, general rate pensioners and all needy ex-servicemen who served in a theatre of war, there is now a complete range of medical and hospital benefits for ex-servicemen suffering from disabilities, irrespective of whether they are due to war service. Not only do they receive hospital treatment but they now receive also optometrical and dental treatment from the Repatriation Department. The net effect of all this is that when the Government removed the special ceiling limits in 1955 it placed war pensioners on the same footing as other members of the community with income from, say, earnings, workers compensation payments, dividends, superannuation and so on.
Let me deal now with the additional means test pension. Previously a T.P.I, pensioner and his wife could not receive any means test pension because of the ceiling limit. This has now been removed. To illustrate my point let me take the example of a pensioner with a wife and two children aged 13 and 15 years. The rates I shall cite arc those provided by the Bill now before us. In passing, let me mention that the basic wage is designed to cater for the needs of a man with a wife and two children. That is why I have taken the case of a T.P.I, pensioner with a wife and two children. A T.P.I, pensioner now receives £14 5s. a week, his wife receives £2 0s. 6d. and his two children receive £1 7s. 6d. In addition he receives a service pension of £1 12s. 3d., his wife receives 17s. 3d. and his two children 17s. 6d. Then he receives an education allowance of 19s. a week for the younger child and £1 8s. 9d. for the other child. This makes a total weekly income of £23 7s. 9d.
It is of no use for the Opposition, to say that these ex-servicemen are receiving less than the basic wage. The basic wage is intended to meet the needs of a man, wife and two children. I have given details of the amounts received by a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman who has a wife and two children. This amount of £23 7s. 9d. a week is, as honorable senators no doubt, know, not subject to taxation. It is entirely free of income tax. It does not include the child endowment which would also be payable. The ex-serviceman, if eligible, may also receive a recreation transport allowance of up to £10 a month. There are other benefits in addition, but I am dealing now more with the mass of ex-servicemen than with just a few. They could not receive less than the amount that I have stated.
If the ceiling limits applied by the Labour Government had still been in force, the families to which I have referred would not have received any service pension at all, that is they would have received £3 7s. less a week. So the abolition of the ceiling limits has been of great benefit to these people throughout. A married couple with no children, the husband being a T.P.I, pensioner, may now receive up to £18 a week from both war and service pensions. This is the maximum that the means test allows. If the ceiling limits were still in operation, they would receive only £16 5s. 6d. a week, that is, £1 14s. 6d. a week less than they are receiving at present. The ceiling limits applied also to general rate, or 100 per cent, rate, pensioners. They have had a tremendous uplift. A man and wile may now receive up to £18 a week and a single man may receive up lo £9 a week. In round figures, about 6,000 T.P.I, pensioners out of a total number of 24,000 receive in addition to a T.P.I, pension, a part service penson, age pension or invalid pension. These 6,000 are married pensioners. A single T.P.I, pensioner cannot receive a pension to which a means test is applicable because his T.P.I, pension exceeds the income limit under the means test.
It is worth mentioning that all T.P.T. pensioners, and general rate pensioners who also receive a service pension, arc granted full medical treatment for all disabilities, whether these are war caused or not. Service pensioners have the full benefit of this provision, even if they receive only ls. a week in service pension. They receive the full benefit, just as does the T.P.I, pensioner. So it may be seen that quite a large number of people now receive medical and hospital treatment and other benefits to which they were not previously entitled. That has been a wonderful boon to members of the community who were really in a very difficult position. They had no wealth. The bulk of them were just recipients of a service pension. They were in much the same position as age or invalid pensioners.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Just before the Senate suspended its sitting for dinner I was saying what a great difference the granting of all the benefits supplied through the Repatriation Department - such as hospitalisation and all the medical benefits - had made to the service pensioner. Before being granted those benefits there was a large number of service pensioners and exservicemen receiving the age pension who had been hard hit by disabilities which were not war caused and they were more in need of health benefits than were the other exservicemen in the community. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage of the debate.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by - leave - I point out that I am making this statement on behalf of the right honorable the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) who, at this time, is making a similar statement in the other place. Consequently, the personal pronoun, “ I “, is to be understood to refer to him.
On 26th August, I presented to the House the report of the Royal Commissioner on the circumstances attending the loss of H.M.A.S. “ Voyager “. On that occasion I read out the terms of reference, which I therefore need not repeat. I also indicated that the Government had taken steps to obtain advice from the Naval Board through the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) upon the Commissioner’s findings and the implications of those findings. The Naval Board, presided over by the Minister for the Navy, consists, in addition, of the First Naval Member, Vice-Admiral Harrington, the Second Naval Member, Rear-Admiral Smith, the Third Naval Member, Rear-Admiral George, the Fourth Naval Member, Rear-Admiral Peek, and the Secretary of the Department. I indicated that the Board had already begun this task and had, in fact, begun when evidence was still being taken. I then said -
When the results are to hand, the Government will give prompt consideration to them and will then put itself in a position to make a further statement to the House.
In reply to an observation by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), I made it clear that I did not undertake to present to Parliament the observations of the Naval Board since that body, through its Minister, advises the Government. This is true of all Service boards. For the effective discharge of their responsibilities they must be able to know that their relationship to the Government is one of great confidence and indeed, secrecy. When the Government, after receiving advice, announces a decision or makes a statement of fact or of policy, it takes the responsibility for what it does.
In the present case, we have been assisted by an elaborate examination of the matter by the Naval Board. After careful consideration, we are not prepared to establish what would be a harmful precedent, by publishing the report of the Board. Honorable members will, I think, agree, particularly those with Ministerial experience, that if the Service boards came to believe that their reports to their Minister and through him to the Cabinet, would be made public there could, in all human probability, be some change in the nature of the reports. Human experience shows that where a document is designed for publication it may very well be written in a somewhat different way and perhaps be a little less frank than it would be as a confidential report.
However, what I am about to put to the House has been greatly assisted, though of course not controlled, by the views and comments of the Naval Board, a body which I will hardly need to say is as much concerned by these tragic events as all the rest of us, and has displayed a marked willing’ ness already to make changes in the light of the facts elicited by the Royal Commission.
It will be recalled that although the Royal Commissioner places the primary responsibility for the collision upon the “Voyager”, without feeling able to apportion individual blame among its bridge officers, he did make critical remarks about three of those on the bridge of “ Melbourne “.
In the case of Captain Robertson, the Commissioner said that, in his view, when “ Voyager “ turned to port her action should have created some doubt in Captain Robertson’s mind as to what her intentions were and the moment the movement to port passed beyond what would have brought her back on course. Captain Robertson should have made some inquiry or passed some signal, whether by whistle or otherwise, to “ Voyager “. He went on to add -
Whether action of this kind would have avoided the collision I am unable to say, but 1 feel that the chances of a collision occurring might have been lessened if some such action as I have indicated had been taken by Captain Robertson.
In (he case of Acting Commander Kelly and Sub-Lieutenant Bate, both of whom were on the bridge of “ Melbourne “, the Commissioner said -
The conclusion I reach is that the walch which was maintained on the bridge of “ Melbourne “ by the Officer of the Walch and the Navigating Officer was, in the circumstances, inadequate.
These observations by the Commissioner were made in the light of the evidence given by the three officers themselves and of Captain Robertson’s report after the collision.
The question at once arises as to whether charges of negligence or neglect of duty could or should be laid before courts martial. This question was made the subject of legal advice, both from counsel and the Crown Law Department, and later, from the Attorney-General. That advice is against court martial. The principle reason for this view is that, as a matter of law, statements made by any witness in answer to any question before a royal commission are not admissible in evidence against him in any civil or criminal proceedings, and that this mlc, established by the Royal Commissions Act. should also apply to proceedings before a court martial. In the result, it became necessary for our legal officers to consider what evidence, if any, other than (he evidence given to the Royal Commission, could be adduced on a court martial. Their short answer is that the evidence given by these three officers before the Royal Commission being excluded and Captain Robertson’s report being excluded, there would be no evidence at all available to what might bc described as the prosecution. As this may seem strange to those who are not lawyers, 1 will explain it.
At a trial by court martial, in which the officer concerned would be in a position of an accused person, the prosecutor - (a) could not tender as part of his case the transcript of evidence before the Commissioner; and (b) could not call the accused to give evidence for the prosecution, hoping to convict him out of his own mouth. For a man is deemed innocent until he is proved guilty: it is not for him to prove his innocence. This is one of the basic principles of the normal criminal law.
Honorable members will therefore agree that it would be grossly unfair and indeed completely improper to institute a court martial if competent advice was that not only would there be no evidence which could establish an offence beyond reasonable doubt, which was not the standard of proof which the Commissioner had to apply, but that there was in fact no material admissible evidence at all. Strictly speaking, it would, of course, be possible to amend the legal provisions retrospectively, so as to make the evidence of the officers concerned, and any report made by any of them, admissible against them. I am sure that nobody would support such an astonishing course. I do not propose to elaborate this. None of us would wish to conduct some form of prosecution against those on the bridge of “ Melbourne “ when such a prosecution would fail at the outset and would therefore achieve no result except the somewhat inglorious one of creating an unproved slur upon their names.
The Government accepts the advice that has been given and confidently believes that there will be wide support for the conclusions 1 have just stated. Indeed 1 think that honorable members -would agree that the important questions which arise are not to be answered by arguments about whether individuals made errors of judgment or observation. What we must do by all the means in our power is to ascertain whether in a general way there was or is something wrong with naval efficiency or in the procedures followed in the Navy. This, I think, is a legitimate inquiry: and, as I will indicate later, we propose to take steps to pursue it.
But justice to a very fine Navy requires that a proper perspective should be established at the outset. Tn all armed services, particularly those which must train and operate under circumstances of special difficulty, there will from time to time be human errors. This is, of course, true in every aspect of life. It is specially true of every air force, of every civil aviation network, of every navy. I do not seek to minimise the tragic nature of the “ Voyager “ collision, with its appalling consequence in lives lost. That is why we instituted the most searching public inquiry in the whole of our defence history. But I think 1 should point out to the House that experience in other and older navies supports the view that naval life has its own dangers and that, in spite of every precaution in selection and training, accidents will happen. For example, in the calendar year 1960, the Royal Navy had 17 collisions at sea and 25 groundings. The United States, whose records are not public, is known to have had collisions, including one of a similar nature to the “ Melbourne “- “ Voyager “ collision, in which there was a very much greater loss of life. Every year, around the Australian coast, there are, in the mercantile marine, ship mishaps.
None of these excuse the error or errors which led to the “ Voyager “ loss, nor should we excuse any deficiencies in training, efficiency, or discipline that can be shown to exist. But the facts do emphasise that life at sea has its hazards, and that this is plainly true in the case of the Navy, which must prepare itself to fight by day or by night in all sorts of circumstances and weather and whose preparations can be effective only by practising by day or by night every sort of manoeuvre which may be needed in war. I therefore invite the House to look at the Navy as such, and not be led into what might be described as a campaign against individuals, some of whom indeed are no longer able to speak for themselves or to explain what circumstances of emergency or errors of observation or communication led them into the courses they pursued.
But in the interests of justice some individual observations must be made. Some criticism has been directed against what has been called Captain Robertson’s inexperience in the handling of an aircraft carrier or in tactical command of an operation involving an aircraft carrier and another vessel. We have discussed this matter with the Naval Board in order to ascertain the facts. As honorable members will recall, comments concentrated on three points - that Captain Robertson, though a very experienced naval officer, had joined “ Melbourne “, his first carrier command, only a month before the collision; that he had just finished three years ashore; and that he had never had tactical command of an aircraft carrier and another ship. In fairness to Captain Robertson, it should be stated that he had in fact been the executive officer and second-in-command of an aircraft carrier for 16 months, during which he was, as part of his duty, understudying the captain.
Three years ashore between commands has been common practice in the Royal Australian Navy and is dictated by the need to give a number of officers command experience at sea, while securing the great benefit of using recent sea experience in shore appointments. This has applied in each case of a carrier captain. It is interesting to learn that in the United States Navy the careers of nine of their better known admirals reveal that the average time they spent in shore duty before assuming command of a carrier was three years and four months. The practice in the Royal Navy is that carrier captains, as here, have only one carrier command, and that the average time spent by each ashore before assuming command of his carrier is three and a half years. Of the general capacity, not only of Captain Robertson but of Captain Stevens, there cannot be an’y real doubt. Each had a splendid record and very considerable naval experience.
The judge found specifically that the ships and their equipment were in a proper state of preparedness for the exercise. There were, however, two criticisms made or suggested by the Commissioner which have attracted some notice. The first was that it might be advantageous to practise, by day, exercises which are likely to occur at night during the initial touch and go practice. We have examined the Naval Board on this point. Their answer as experts is that the work-up programme was a full one involving many exercises more complicated than the manoeuvres required on the night of 10th February. The programme stretched over four or five weeks. Any difficult exercises - for example, replenishment at sea, where ships sail close together, and touch and go landings by aircraft - were in fact done, first by day. If all the more routine ship manoeuvres involved in the programme first had to be practised by day, the work -up period would be so long as to reduce very considerably the period when ships were available for operations. This seems to us to be reasonable.
The other suggestion was that the exercise programme on 10th February commenced at 7 a.m. and was still continuing at 8.56 p.m. when the collision took place and that this was a lengthy period of time. But the whole point of these exercises is to equip the Navy for operations of war. The Naval Board believes - and we see no reason to disagree - that if it were accepted that 12 or 14 hours exercising so reduced the concentration of command teams as to render their judgment unsound, the Navy could not operate effectively in peace or in war.
I referred just now to the findings of the Commissioner to the effect that the ships and their equipment were in a proper state of preparedness for the exercise. The Naval Board, however, considering all the available evidence and findings, has concluded that the state of preparedness of “ Voyager “ could not have been adequate, having regard to some of the detailed matters dealt with in the Royal Commissioner’s report. In the view of the Board, the fact that “ Voyager “ had just completed a long refit during which she had a large change round of personnel, and that it is not possible now to discover where the weakness in her organisation lay, does not adequately explain the state of affairs existing at the time of the collision. The Naval Board, therefore, is instructing administrative authorities to carry out an inspection of ships on completion of refit and before commencing their workup to ensure that ships’ companies and equipment are at an appropriate level of preparedness. In addition, re-organisation of the staff of the Flag Officer Commanding the Australian Fleet is being made which will enable increased visits by staff officers to be made to each ship while working-up, thus enabling an additional check to be made and remedial action to be taken if necessary.
I will therefore refer to various specific matters mentioned by the Royal Commissioner. I think I should recall to honorable members that in the early stages of the Royal Commission, we became accustomed to somewhat sensational headlines. It is therefore important to recall that the ultimate findings were on a much more moderate scale. However, honorable mem bers are familiar with the report. They will quite probably be anxious to know what action, if any, has been or is being taken by the naval authorities.
As soon as it was discovered that wheel spanners had been missing from “ Voyager’s “ escape hatches on the night of the collision, the Naval Board asked its technical branch to devise, as a matter of urgency, some better means of ensuring that hatches could always be readily opened. As a result, anew mechanism has been produced in the Naval Dockyard and the escape hatches in naval vessels have now been modified by fitting this improved securing mechanism, which does not require the use of a wheel spanner. At the same time, of course, it must be remembered that, like any other opening device in any vehicle, even this one may fail if badly buckled in a collision.
Although the Royal Commissioner found that at the time of the collision not all of “ Melbourne’s “ boats were available, he said that there was no ground for criticising those in charge of “ Melbourne “ in that regard. He praised the work of the boats that engaged in the rescue operation. The findings of the judge have, however, not silenced criticism. It is therefore fair that I should state a considered view. Boats in naval ships, unlike life boats of merchant ships, are not part of survival equipment. Inflatable rubber rafts are carried in naval ships for this purpose. Naval boats are carried in ships for three purposes -
On the night of the collision, the emergency boat in “ Melbourne “ was damaged in the collision but, despite this, was in the water in a very short time. The boat’s rescue work was done, as the Commissioner found, with great efficiency. As soon as it became clear from evidence given before the Royal Commission that men were not familiar with the procedure for being winched out of the water into helicopters, arrangements were made by the Naval Board for all personnel already serving and for those who join in the future to be instructed in this procedure.
There were many publicised complaints about the travel arrangements made for survivors. The Royal Commissioner dealt with this quite precisely. He said -
In the main, survivors who had long distances to travel to their homes were permitted to travel by air, and others travelled by train. There were but few complaints from survivors in this regard, and I do not think any criticism can justly be directed against those responsible for the arrangements.
The Naval Board itself, however, looking at the matter in retrospect, feels that all interstate survivors should have been sent to their homes by air from the outset, in spite of the normal rules.
Although the Royal Commissioner found that it seemed unlikely that very many men were lost once they had escaped from the ship, he did have comments and suggestions to make about the nature of swimming tests. The Naval Board promptly initiated a review of the swimming tests and has sought advice from the Life Saving Association, as a result of which the tests are being varied to require a man to be able to keep himself afloat for 10 minutes instead of 3 minutes. Almost every person in the R.A.N. can swim. The Board thinks it would be undesirable if the small minority who cannot swim, despite instruction, were prevented from serving in rhe R.A.N. We think that this is right.
The existing storage arrangements for life jackets were criticised by the Royal Commisioner. A review of the existing practices -which have been identical with those in the Royal Navy - was initiated following the collision. The Royal Australian Navy Life Saving Equipment Committee has recommended to the Board that life jackets should be stowed conveniently to the escape routes from ships and not, as formerly, in a single store room. The FlagOfficer Commanding the Australian Fleet is currently and urgently preparing proposals on the resiting of such stowages. The task will take a little time, as space is, for obvious reasons, at a premium in all naval ships and it will be necessary to rearrange other stowage so that life jackets can be stowed in the most important places.
During the hearing it was said by several witnesses that they did not know how to operate the inflatable life rafts. This could well have been the case with a number of those who joined the Navy before these rafts were introduced. Since their introduction, instructions have been given to all recruits as they join the Navy as to how to operate the rafts, and posters, showing the method of doing so, are displayed in all R.A.N, ships. The Naval Board, however, has taken steps to improve the position. Live demonstrations are now given on the workings of the inflatable life rafts and this, together with other routines, will be practised as early as possible in the workingup of a ship and at regular intervals thereafter.
I now return to the important general questions which have exercised the minds of all of us. The loss of the “ Voyager “ and the report made upon that loss may have induced some to reach sweeping adverse conclusions about our Navy. This would in our opinion be grossly unjust and unwarranted, since, as I have pointed out, unhappy accidents occur in all navies and should not be hastily used as a reason for attacking our Navy as a whole. On the other hand, of course, it would be most unsatisfying to the public mind and to our own judgment for us to adopt the attitude that everything in the Royal Australian Navy is perfect and that what happened on the night of 10th February was just one of those accidents that must be accepted as the normal price of admiralty.
It should be remembered that since 1959 a new destroyer and four new frigates have completed their building in Australian shipyards and have been manned and commissioned, together with a number of smaller support ships. We have acquired a flotilla of six mine-sweepers which have been commissioned and steamed to Australia, their base support has been provided and magnetic mine sweeping has been introduced into the Royal Australian Navy. Antisubmarine Wessex helicopters have been introduced and H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “ converted to operate them. H.M.A.S. “ Sydney “ has been brought out of reserve and has been converted to a fast transport. In this role, she has been effectively employed quite recently. A modernised replenishment! tanker has been brought into service to complete the fleet’s mobility. A new specialised survey ship has been built in Australia and brought into service, while three frigates have been converted to oceanographic and survey work. New weapons and techniques have been introduced, such as the Seacat anti-aircraft missile and variable depth Sonar. The first Australian designed naval weapon, the anti-submarine system Ikara is being developed in conjunction with the Department of Supply.
In the introduction of all these new units and techniques, a very considerable training and logistic and administrative effort has been involved. Work is under way on ten new ships for the fleet, three guided missile destroyers in the United States of America, four Oberon submarines in Great Britain, an escort maintenance vessel and two new frigates in Australia. Preparations are well in hand to cope with the greatly expanded training and maintenance requirements involved in absorbing these new and sometimes almost incredibly complex units in the
Royal Australian Navy. All these things have put a great strain upon the resources of the Navy, because they have required not only steps to raise the general educational level but also provision for specialised training in the wide range of activities required. There is a junior recruit entry scheme which has involved the setting up of training establishments in Western Australia and Victoria. The Navy has set up an apprentices training centre, which is recognised as one of the largest and most efficient in the country to meet the demands for tradesmen volunteers.
Large numbers of selected officers and men and technicians are receiving training in Great Britain and the United States, ft is, I think, commonly agreed that R.A.N. personnel who are sent abroad each year to Britain and the United States arc regarded as being well up to the standard of their counterparts in the British and United States Navies. For some years, at the request of the Government of Malaysia, the R.A.N, has provided the Commanding Officer of the Royal Malaysian Navy and seven other officers for that service. The manpower strength of the Navy has increased from 10,600 in 1960 to 12,870 at present, lt is evidence of morale that the re-engagement rate has risen from about 8 per cent, at the end of the 1950’s to over 50 per cent, today. Two destroyers or frigates have served continuously since 1955, on a rotation basis, with the strategic reserve based on Singapore, and the aircraft carrier, with escort, has served a tour of duty each year with the reserve. The general standard of efficiency of these units and their crews has been the subject of favorable comment by a succession of British naval commanders to whose command they have been operationally assigned. A R.A.N, squadron has participated for several years with distinction in annual multi-national South East Asia Treaty Organisation and Commonwealth maritime exercises. On two occasions, the R.A.N, has been responsible for the planning and command of S.E.A.T.O. exercises, and with great credit. I need not elaborate these matters. The mere statement of them should be sufficient to show that we have a good Navy and that we ought not to underestimate its quality and performance.
In considering whether new practices or procedures might be adopted in the Royal
Australian Navy, it is as well to remember that our Navy began as a child of the Royal Navy, a very great Navy with centuries of tradition and achievement behind it. We have therefore had a natural tendency in Australia to inherit the practices of the Royal Navy and, to a considerable extent, vessel design. This, of course, has advantages; as a relatively young naval power, we cannot pretend that we have nothing to emulate or to learn. But it might turn out that it has some disadvantages, since it may lead us to believe that the problems of the Royal Navy are in substance identical with those of our own. We have learned something about this in the case of the Army, where, having regard to our territorial situation, we have found it necessary to give particular attention to training soldiers for jungle fighting in tropical areas and have considered the weapons that we may require in the light of similar circumstances. In the Air Force, we have had our own problems. The kind of air force that might be required by Great Britain is not necessarily the same kind of air force that we feel that we need. To take a quite recent example, any fast bomber we wanted would need to have a very long range and would need to have a speed and manoeuvrability that would enable it to foil attack at a long distance from its base. The point I am making is that each country must consider each of its own armed services in the light of its own particular circumstances.
Much of what I said earlier was somewhat detailed; and even then there are many minor aspects of the matter to which it has not seemed necessary to refer. But, in examining this tragic event, the Government had and has several duties. The first was to put in hand with all speed a searching inquiry into the causes of the collision. This has been done, without fear, favour or affection, by the Royal Commissioner. We now know as much as we are ever likely to know about what happened that night, and about the acts or omissions of those conducting the manoeuvres. The second is to restrain ourselves from harsh judgments upon individuals, and in particular upon those on the bridge of “ Voyager “, who are lost and gone and cannot speak for themselves or personally influence our judgment. Nor, for the reasons I have stated, should we. having decided that no charge can legally bc laid or supported against Captain
Robertson, Commander Kelly, or SubLieutenant Bate, seek to condemn them for deficiencies of observation or action which the Commissioner has found were not the primary - which I understand to mean the effective - cause of the collision.
The third, and at this stage the paramount, duty is to establish and enhance the future efficiency and morale of the Royal Australian Navy - a military arm vital to our national security. This is a duty to be performed with understanding and judgment; its performance not to be impaired by extravagant attacks, or to be abdicated by an uncritical defence of the status quo.
The statement of this third duty, indeed, brings us to the nub of the matter. I think it is probably right to say that the people of Australia are not looking for individual scapegoats. They know that the Royal Australian Navy has a splendid record in two great wars, and that its international reputation is high. They have read with a mixture of pride and anguish Ohe findings of the Royal Commissioner about the efficiency with which operations after the collision were conducted, the absence of panic among the men, and the outstanding gallantry of those to whom the Commissioner has directed attention. They will, no doubt, have properly concluded that a Service which can train men to this high point of discipline and efficiency has much in it to be recognised and praised. Clearly, the general morale is high.
But the Government is well aware of the existence of a feeling of uneasiness because of some recent incidents, of which the latest is the “ Voyager “ disaster. It is not our practice in Australia to conceal such incidents. Indeed, in two which involved loss of life, the investigations have been conducted in public. This is not the normal practice in other’ navies. We believe that the uneasiness may arise partly from a natural failure fully to understand the hazardous nature of naval training and service even in time of peace, when preparations must be made for active service in circumstances of great menace and difficulty. But we also believe that there may be doubts, not capable of precise definition, as to the effectiveness of the naval organisation, including communication procedures, and as to the suitability of the methods of selection, training and promotion so far practised. To this criticism we have most anxiously directed our attention. For whatever the overall efficiency of the past - and I have made recognition of it - we must meet the challenge of the future. We will not he afraid to make changes where they prove desirable. In particular, we must not assume that practices followed by other and much greater navies are necessarily appropriate to our own, with limited numbers, a much smaller fleet, and peculiar geographical and strategic circumstances.
Steps will be taken constantly to review procedures in the light of the special character and circumstances of the R.A.N. It would be wrong to say that the cause of the “ Voyager “ collision was maladministration on the part of the Naval Board, for proper look-out and navigational moves on individual ships are matters of individual efficiency and judgment on the part of those at sca. But it is right to say that much good may result from re-examination of methods of selection, training, and promotion, and of constantly improving general efficiency.
How should such review and re examination be made? It has been suggested that we should seek the services of a British or American naval officer of suitable rank and experience. We reject this suggestion. What we are looking for are Australian answers to Australian questions relating to an Australian service, operating in its own special circumstances. There are plenty of Australian senior naval officers’ of ability, experience, and integrity, as capable of giving advice as any.
It would, of course, bc quite unsatisfactory if changes in organisation or procedures were conditioned upon the occurrence of some mishap which directed attention to some defect in the Service. Our study must be wider and more continuous. Yet we have noted that in the Air Force there is a Standing Committee to investigate air accidents; that it goes to the spot rapidly; that it concerns itself particularly with such problems as faulty construction or maintenance, defective communications, and inadequate control. Its reports are a valuable source of recommendation for improvements, and have contributed usefully to the increasing efficiency of the Air Force.
Inquiries are made by experts into naval incidents; but they are essentially ad hoc, and are made by varying groups of people. We have decided that there should be a Standing Naval Committee of Investigation, with as much continuing membership as the circumstances of the Navy will permit. But for a general review the Government must and will accept its proper responsibility. It will, through a Ministerial Committee presided over by the Minister for the Navy, the Chief of the Naval Staff being associated with him, and with the professional naval advice available to it, closely and regularly consider ways and means of reviewing naval organisation procedures and methods so as to make improvements where these are found to bc desirable.
We believe that under these circumstances the Navy can go on with its vital service to the nation in co-operation with the Government and with the moral backing of the Australian people. I repeat that we have a fine Navy, with a gallant and devoted company of officers and men. It is the task of all of us in responsible authority to remove any discoverable impediments to its full effectiveness.
I present the following paper -
Loss of H.M.A.S. “ Voyager “-Ministerial statement. and move -
That the Senate take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKennal adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 442).
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [8.46]. - Before the debate was adjourned I had given some illustrations of the benefits which have been provided for ex-servicemen and women and their dependants, dating back to the decision of Cabinet in 1950, when the present Government came into office. I have shown that the Government carried out the promise that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) made on 10th November 1949. 1 take the opportunity to congratulate the Minister for Repatriation on the further benefits to be provided for ex-service men and women and their dependants under the present Bill. 1 should like also to congratulate the staff of the Repatriation Department on the very great work it has done during the many years the Department has been in operation.
– There are unfortunate circumstances, which I suppose are quite unparalleled, associated with my rising to speak this evening. First, we saw the collapse of Senator Tangney. We know of her extraordinary sympathy, not only for ex-service men and women, but also for all the underprivileged people. That is part and parcel of her nature. She could not continue with her speech, because she realised how inhuman is the approach of the Government to the problems of the underprivileged, and how little it has done for them. Secondly, I follow in this debate Senator Sir Walter Cooper, a soldier of the First World War and one who suffered in that war. In the process of time, he became Minister for Repatriation. I pay a tribute to him for the great job he did for the ex-service men and women of this country, notwithstanding the unsympathetic Government of which he was a member. The two circumstances just mentioned make me humble and somewhat hesitant about speaking about this problem.
I do not intend to speak in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. That aspect has been traversed very often in debates of this kind. Sometimes I think we might arrive at a formula. You cannot do justice in terms of pounds, shillings and pence to human suffering or to those who lost their loved ones. But there are certain basic principles that have not yet been faced. I have seen these problems. I know people who have submitted applications and bad them rejected. Because they submitted them inefficiently, because of ignorance or misunderstanding, they have not received justice. I am not questioning the competency or the sympathy of the departmental officers. In the experience that I have had of them in my own State they have always been helpful and desirous of being helpful. They have a sense of responsibility to the exservice men and women of this country. I know that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) is sympathetic to the problems of ex-service men and women.
I think that the Minister and the Government should consider appointing officers who could guide ex-servicemen when they make applications for repatriation benefits because sometimes the story is not told adequately or not told correctly. I am not suggesting that they do not tell the truth, but they tell the story as they see it. When the application is received, because it is garbled and so on, it is not understood and an injustice is done. There is no reason why the Government should not consider - and I know that the Minister will give sympathetic consideration to this submission now that it has been made - appointing departmental officers for the specific purpose of assisting applicants to make correct submissions when they apply for repatriation benefits. Then when the appeal comes before the tribunal perhaps the Government, if it is tolerant enough and sufficiently humane in its understanding, might provide an advocate for the appellant.
What happens is that a person comes along and says: “ I want to make an appeal. What do I do?” He is told: “You lodge it.” He asks: “ What happens then?” and is told: “You have to appear before a tribunal or get an advocate to appear for you.” If justice is to be given to these people who were prepared, if necessary, to sacrifice their lives, and who were fortunate enough to survive, not necessarily completely whole, they are entitled under the law of the land to a measure of financial justice associated with the gratitude of the people of this nation.
These people go in to make their applications not totally ignorant but totally unversed in the reality of the approach to this problem. Then they go either to the Returned Servicemen’s League or to the Australian Legion of Ex-service Men and Women and someone might appear for them, or someone might not appear for them. It is the responsibility of the Department to divorce itself entirely from the position of devil’s advocate. After all, the Government is not without its sins of omission and commission. Consequently, I plead with the Government to provide for these people an advocate who is divorced from the Department and who will accept in all sincerity and in all truthfulness the responsibility of advocating a particular applicant’s case. Those are two particular weaknesses regarding repatriation benefits.
Many people have been denied economic justice from this nation because of the failure to provide those two facilities for them.
I come to Section 47 of the Repatriation Act, the onus of proof provision. We find that there is much confusion regarding this section. I do not claim to be a lawyer. In fact, I do not claim to possess any legal knowledge. The section reads - (1.) The Commission, a Board, an Appeal Tribunal and an Assessment Appeal Tribunal, in hearing, determining or deciding a claim, application or appeal, shall act according to substantial justice and the merits of the case, shall not be bound by technicalities or legal forms or rides of evidence and shall give to the claimant, applicant or appellant the benefit of any doubt -
This is a matter on which there is much disagreement. It seems to me, not necessarily in my ignorance, but as a layman, that no matter which body hears the appeal, the onus of proof is directly on that body. I think that perhaps a committee should be set up to look into this matter. It could be a select committee. The Government should determine exactly what this section means because ex-service men and women and exservice organisations are not satisfied with the interpretation that is being placed upon it. I feel that ex-service men and women are being denied justice. The onus of proof is not being placed on the body concerned, but on the applicant or appellant. I am not the only one who is aware of this situation. Government supporters may not be interested in the rights of ex-service men and women. Irrespective of whether they are reading books or are asleep, the point is that ex-service men and women have certain rights and are determined to get them. If it lies within my power, I shall see that they get them. I think that there should be some amplification of Section 47.
I know that sometimes the fault is on the part of the applicant. After the war he may have been anxious to get home. Perhaps the doctor, who was examining him as he was boarded out, also was anxious to get home. The doctor would say to an exserviceman: “ Are you all right? “ He would answer: “ I’m all right, doctor “. The doctor would say: “ All right, you can go “. Subsequently, the ex-serviceman realised that he was suffering from a disability. As every honorable senator knows, I am always fair. I know that the Government cannot be blamed for the faults of the individual. When one thinks in terms of Section 47 of the Act and realises where the onus of proof rests, I do not think that it is being observed legally or sympathetically. If it is not being observed in this way, let us rectify the position. At least let the individual know the significance of the onus of proof provision. Let him know whether the onus of proof is on the appellant or on the Repatriation Department. I know that the departmental officers try to administer the Act sympathetically, and I know also that many people are being denied that to which they are entitled.
Much has been said about the automatic acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability. Tuberculosis has now been so accepted. In another place there was a learned dissertation on this subject by an honorable member who is a doctor. I do not think anyone knows the cause of cancer. It has been accepted as an irritative phenomenon. It has been accepted as being possibly associated with a virus infection. I know that skin cancers, suffered by people who served in the desert and in tropical areas, have been accepted for the purpose of repatriation benefits, but, quite frankly,no one knows what causes cancer. The distinguished honorable member in the other place said that. As I understand, he said also that a particular condition of colitis could lead, in the course of time, to cancer. I do not know. That was not my particular field. In any case, he said that he did not know the ultimate cause of cancer. Should we not say, then, that an ex-serviceman who suffers from cancer is entitled to the benefit of the doubt, paying due regard to Section 47 of the principal Act?
I asked a question on this subject some years ago but I have not received a reply. Successive Menzies Governments have never attempted to find out whether there is any association between cancer and war service. I asked whether the Government had taken out figures relating to the incidence of cancer in ex-service men and women, compared with its incidence in other sections of the community. Such figures would not supply conclusive proof but they would provide a basis on which to work. Figures were taken out relating to the connection between smoking and lung cancer. There has been no direct evidence that smoking causes lung cancer although there are many associated features. If you have statistical evidence relating to the incidence of cancer in ex-service men and women, compared with its incidence in other sections of the community, having regard to age, occupation and so on, just as you have statistical evidence relating to the connection between smoking and lung cancer, you will have a basis on which to work. If you find an increased incidence of cancer in ex-service men and women, surely they are entitled to the benefit of the doubt for repatriation purposes.
As I have said, I asked a question on this matter three years ago but nothing has been done about it. There has been no approach of the kind I suggested. I knew it was useless to repeat the question, so callous is the Government in its disregard of human rights. The Government wants only to tell a story, or to paint a picture, so that it can retain control of the treasury bench. It has no desire to recognise human rights or to pay due regard to economic justice in anything that it may do for ex-service men and women. I suggest that the Minister pay due regard now to this matter and attempt to obtain statistical evidence of the incidence of cancer in ex-service men and women of particular age groups and in ordinary members of a community in similar age groups.
I make that submission, as I have made my other submissions, in all sincerity, realising the problems that confront our returned service men and women.
I come now to another field, in which there is a differential approach. As all honorable senators know, pensioners are entitled to certain financial consideration if they lost a son on war service or had a son who died because of war service, irrespective of whether they were dependent on that son at that particular time. No similar provisions exist in relation to a daughter lost due to service conditions. The Government has, on its side of this chamber, many women. Although they champion women’s causes, none of them has raised her voice to defend women’s rights.
– I think that in each case you have stated the principle wrongly.
– I have stated the principle correctly. You are entitled to rise after I have concluded and state it in your own inimitable way, as I shall do in my own good time despite your rude interruption.
Take the case of a boy and a girl who go to war to serve their country and are killed. The parents do not desire monetary reward for the service that the son and daughter has rendered the country. In the process of time, legislation is passed which entitles the pensioner parents, irrespective of whether they were dependent on the son, to certain financial benefits, consistent with their means. But, as to the daughter, the parents have to prove that prior to her enlistment they were dependent on her for their economic sustenance. Why should there be this conflict between the sexes? I am appalled that this anomaly has not been rectified. I can see no reason for a differential approach to the sacrifices made by the son and the daughter. I can sec no reason for a differential approach to the rights of the parents. Those are the principles that I have sought to enunciate tonight.
I do not intend to say much about the executive of the Returned Servicemen’s League. If any member of the League wants to change the executive, he has the right to seek to do so. Every member has the right to vote for the executive of his choice. But, in fairness to the executive, let me say that I believe that it has tried to battle for our ex-service men and women. That is my belief, irrespective of what anyone else thinks. As I have said, every member of the League has the right to vote to elect the executive of his choice. Every member has the right to determine the executive officers of a particular branch, of a particular division or of a particular State.
To sum up, Jet me say that the Government should make available the services of a skilled officer to any applicant for repatriation benefits. When an application is being considered or an appeal is being heard, the Government should provide a skilled advocate. Irrespective of whether he is a Public Service officer, I am sure that he will do his duty. But he must be skilled in this calling. There should be a statistical consideration of the incidence of cancer in ex-service mcn and women, compared with its incidence in other members of the population. There «should be no differential approach to the rights of parents of sons or daughters who lost their lives in action or who died as a result of war service. If the Government adopted my suggestions there would be a great improvement in many avenues - the granting of economic justice, the consideration of human rights and the adoption of a humane approach to these matters. Then we would not have a repetition of the experience that we had this afternoon when Senator Tangney, who has a human understanding of and a sympathetic approach to these problems, collapsed. It was for that reason and for no other reason. In control of the treasury bench of this Parliament today, as has been the case since 10th December 1949, is an inhuman Government divorced from reality, trading on the prosperity of the country and claiming credit for that, to which it is not entitled.
– in reply - In winding up the second reading debate on this Bill, I say at the outset that much of the material used by Opposition senators has related to proposed amendments which will be moved in the Committee stage.
– Cancer was discussed.
– Cancer is the subject of a proposed amendment.
– The onus of proof was discussed, too.
– I suggest, Mr. President, that I do not need any help from the honorable senator. He does not assist when he interjects before knowing what I propose to say. I suggest that it would make for a far better debate if at this stage I did not examine any of the arguments put b’y Senator O’Byrne and subsequent speakers for the Opposition in support of the proposed amendments. I do not think that the amendments have been circulated yet, but much of the debate has centred on the question of an alteration of section 47, a proposed amendment in relation to cancer, and a proposed amendment in relation to setting up a Joint Parliamentary Committee on Repatriation. I want to confine myself to a number of other separate matters.
Senator O’Byrne, in leading for the Opposition, and Senator McClelland to a degree, tried to base an argument on comparisons between repatriation pension rates and the basic wage in 1950 and 1964. The argument became a little confusing. If Senator O’Byrne were to analyse closely some of the figures that he cited, he would realise that he was not comparing like with like, getting different groups of figures in different circumstances, and putting an argument which would not hold together. For instance he cited the basic wage in 1950. That itself was an average; it was not a fixed figure. When he came to the rate for totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners - I mention this merely because it shows the confusion - he cited a figure for 1950 which was not the T.P.I. rate, as I understand it. All in all, the whole argument rather falls to the ground because the circumstances he chose for his purpose were not comparable. Once you do that, you get a complete fallacy and a logical argument is impossible. The facts of life are that this Government came to power in 1949. Senator O’Byrne cited a figure for 1950.
– That was the first year the Government had in office.
– That is perfectly correct. He cited the pension as a percentage of the basic wage. Had he gone to the previous year, in which his own Government was in power - even accepting as completely accurate his own figures, which to some degree are calculated - he would have found that the general rate pension was 42.6 per cent, of the basic wage, and not 45 per cent, as it was in the following year. He referred to the T.P.I, rate and made a great case on figures, which I think should be subject to some adjustment. He said that when this Government came to power the T.P.I, rate was 112 per cent, of the basic wage. If he had gone back less than a year to when his own Government was in power he would have found that the T.P.I, rate was only 82 per cent, of the basic wage.
– He was not criticising it.
– That is right. That is always good to know, lt is a case of doing as I say, not as I do. I merely point this out to show that figures may be confusing and may give a false impression of the true position.
– The figures I gave were adjusted on the figures compiled by the Returned Servicemen’s League with the f i increase in the basic wage that occurred since those figures were published.
– The honorable senator said that in 1951 the T.P.I, rate was £8 15s.
– That is right.
– According to the note that I have - I mention this merely to show that an argument based on figures is rather deceptive - the T.P.I, rate in 1950-51 was £7. It is significant that in the previous year, when the Labour Government was in power, the rate was £5 6s. In one year we increased the rate by £1 14s. The next year we increased it by £1 15s. The whole record of this Government has been that of a very practical approach to all repatriation pension rates. In 1949, the last year of the previous Government’s term of office, the T.P.I, rate was £5 6s. Today it is £14 5s. That is an increase of £8 19s., a tremendous increase, over the period. The general rate, which is the rate that we all know so well, was £2 15s. in 1949. This Government, in a review in its very first year, increased the rate by 15s. The rate now goes to £6, an increase of £3 5s. over the period. The rate for a wife has risen from £1 4s. in the last year of the previous Government to £2 6s.
I do not want to go right through all of the rates. We all know them well. There has been a very deliberate reconsideration of pension rates throughout the field. As. previous speakers on the Government side have pointed out, new benefits have been provided over the years. The part played by Senator Sir Walter Cooper as Minister for Repatriation over much of the period is worthy of comment. I shall leave to the Committee stage the issues involved in the proposed amendments and shall refer finally to two other items. Reference was made in another place to the Returned Soldiers League which I thought was very poor and which I feel members of the Returned Soldiers League would resent very much.
I want to make this point: After all, the Returned Soldiers League is an exservicemen’s organisation which has the unique privilege of being able each year to present its case for the ex-servicemen personally to the Government. Each year it comes to the Government and says: “ We are advocating certain improvements in conditions for exservicemen and cx-servicewomen.” In the very nature of things, since they are sitting in the position of advocates, the representatives of the organisation will present their case to the optimum advantage. They quite properly - nobody suggests that there is anything improper in what they are doing - present a scries of submissions in which they ask for certain benefits and certain improvements in conditions. It is not to be suggested because they do not get these benefits and improvements at the time they are asked for that the ex-servicemen are not being properly treated by the Government. They are fully aware of the situation and, in fact, they nominate their recommendations and expressions of view with some sort of priority, setting out what they believe to be the degree of need and the degree of advantage to their members.
I do not think it is fair to argue at one level or at one end of the line that they are a very weak group of people and do not press their claims; nor do I agree that, at the other end of the line, it should be argued that, because they make to the Government & submission which it cannot accept, it is necessarily falling down in its recognition of the claims of ex-servicemen The representatives of the ex-servicemen are just the same as some group of people coming to a court with their advocacy and naturally they are going to advocate at top level. They are not going to go into the battle asking only for minor things. It is in the nature of their position that they will put forward the best case they can and it never follows that they get everything they ask for when they come in their pilgrimage to Canberra.
There is only one other thing I want to say: I wish again to draw attention to the deplorable statement made by Senator Sandford. 1 have been speaking in debates on repatriation matters for 11 years. In each such debate Senator O’Byrne, Senator Sandford and I and a lot of other honorable senators speak, and on every occasion that I can remember this criticism of the Repatriation Tribunals has arisen. I think it is a poor show. It is deplorable when we have a situation in which men who cannot reply or defend themselves are subject to criticism of the nature of that presented by Senator Sandford in this debate. I will read just what he said, so that there will be no dispute about it. In the course of the debate, as reported at page 412 of “ Hansard “ of 3rd September, Senator Sandford said -
I repeat that I am not casting any aspersions on the members of these Tribunals because I really think that they consider that they are there to save the Department as much as they can in pension payments.
The two things are completely opposed. First the honorable senator said that he was not casting aspersions on members of the Tribunals. Then he said that they consider they are there to save the Commonwealth money and not to treat cases on their merits. I think that is a terrible thing to say. I really do. The honorable senator does not vindicate himself or get into the clear by saying: “I am not casting any aspersions.”
– He meant personal aspersions.
– But he was casting personal aspersions by suggesting that these mcn are not there to do their job as medical or legal people in relation to appeals.
– Are they not governed by accepted principles?
– They arc governed by the principles of an Act.
– The Act is ambiguous on the onus of proof.
– The fact is that Senator Sandford says these men consider they are there to save the Government money.
– They do save the Government money when they can.
– But it is casting a reflection on them to say that they do not treat cases on their merits. They are there to judge cases on their merits and to suggest anything else is wrong.
– Successful appeals against some of the Tribunals’ rulings prove it.
– Forget that and come back to the facts. I would not like anybody to say this sort of thing about me and I do not think you would like anybody to say it about you if you were appointed to an Appeal Tribunal. Senator Sandford went on to say -
They are not callous, but they take the natural view that they are there to reject as many cases as they possibly can.
If that is not suggesting callousness on their part I do not understand the meaning of the English language. Senator Sandford continued -
It is not the way in which the Parliament and the government of the day intended it to work.
I think this is a shameful thing. I criticised remarks such as this last year or within the last few years when debating this legislation.
– The members of the Liberal Party are not beyond criticism.
– When any group of men are put into positions of trust under an Act of Parliament and are asked to administer it, to suggest that they deliberately set about trying, not to administer the Act, but to save the Government money is to reflect upon all their decent human instincts.
– Is not the Act written to save money?
– No. You cannot walk around it in that way. I have repeated his words and I think Senator Sandford has to accept the responsibility for them or to withdraw them. I hope he withdraws them. This is the technique of saying: “ They are not bad fellows, but . . . “ Senator Sandford says: “ They are not callous, but they take the natural view that they are there to reject as many cases as they possibly can.” Coming from a member of the Opposition who is himself an ex-servicemen, this is something I do not understand. I sincerely hope that Senator Sandford will come back into this place and say: “ I did not mean it in that sense “. But, as written, I suggest that his words read terribly.
– Are there not majority and minority decisions of these Tribunals in some cases?
– The decision of the Tribunal is given but no explanation of the decision is given.
– But the Tribunals are not always unanimous in their decisions?
– I do not suggest that they are and I am not worried about that. We can debate that question in the Committee stage but, as a responsible Minister, I could not let that statement appear without lodging my protest against the wording as it appears.
Senator Dittmer raised a number of matters which I have not previously heard raised in this debate. Some of those matters related to the amendments that have been foreshadowed. He suggested that there should be some skilled officer to help people who go to the Department to present their cases. My personal opinion is that, when you go to the Repatriation Department with a claim, you deal with men who have been handling these things for years and they are skilled officers.
– Do you assume that tin R.S.L. helps them?
– The point that the honorable senator was making was that the R.S.L. will provide an advocate when one goes to appeal. As I understood it, his submission was that before a person goes to appeal it is desirable that that person should have a skilled person to advise him in the preparation and the manner of presentation of his appeal. I think that by and large that is done at the departmental level now. I should say that honorable senators and. members of the Parliament generally are fairly skilled in giving advice and assistance in this field. In the capital cities it is open to a person to go to the Legal Service Bureau to get advice. Members of ex-service-, men’s organisations may get advice before they go before an Entitlement! Appeal Tribunal. The honorable senator brought forward a new approach to the matter, and I shall naturally draw it to the attention of the Minister for Repatriation.
– Is there any validity’ in what he said about parents not being entitled to payment for the loss of a daughter?
– I was coming to. that point. Quite frankly, I had not heard before of that differentiation. All I can say at this stage is that the honorable senator’s proposition contains various elements which would have to be examined. I shall certainly bring them to the attention of the Minister for Repatriation.
I conclude by saying that this is a good Bill. It provides for added benefits for ex-servicemen. It provides for the following increases: The T.P.I, rate from £13 15s. to £14 5s., the class B rate for tuberculosis’ from £9 15s. to £10 2s. 6d., the rate payable to certain double amputees from £8 to £8 5s., the general rate pension from £5 15s. to £6, the allowance for wives from £1 15s. 6d. to £2 0s. 6d., and the war widow’s pension from £5 15s. to £6. The service pension is to rise by 5s. I ask all parties to support the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new clause 2a.
.- I move -
After clause 2, insert the following new clause - “2a. After section twenty-one of the Principal Act the following Part is inserted: -
Part 11a. - Joint Committee on Repatriation.
– (1.) As soon as conveniently practicable after the commencement of thisPart, a Joint Committee of nine members of the Parliament, to be called the Joint Committee on Repatriation, shall be appointed according to the practice of the Parliament with reference to the appointment of members to serve on Joint Committees of both Houses of the Parliament. (2.) Three of the members of the Committee shall be members of and appointed by the Senate, and six of the members of the Committee shall be members of and appointed by the House of Representatives. 22a. The members of the Committee shall hold office as a Joint Committee until the House of Representatives for the time being expires by dissolution or effluxion of time. 22b. - (1.) Any member of the Committee may resign his scat on the Committee by writing under his hand addressed to the President of the Senate if he be a senator, or to the Speaker of the House of Representatives if he be a member of the House of Representatives. (2.) The scat of any member of the Committee shall be deemed to have become vacant if he ceases to be a senator or a member of the House of Representatives (as the case may be). 22c. Where the seat of any member of the Committee becomes vacant, it shall be filled by appointment according to the practice referred to in section twenty-two of this Act within fifteen sitting days after the happening of the vacancy if the House of the Parliament of which he is a member is then sitting, or, if not, then within fifteen sitting days after the next meeting of that House. 22d. There shall be a Chairman and a ViceChairman of the Committee, who shall be elected by the members of the Committee at their first meeting, or as soon thereafter as is practicable. 22e. At any meeting of the Committee -
Chairman, a member elected by the members present, shall preside;
The object of the amendment, in short, is the setting up of a joint parliamentary committee to conduct a thorough examination of the Repatriation Act. The greater part of the amendment contains machinery provisions. 1 have before me copies of the first and second reports of a committee of senators and members of the House of Representatives which was set up in 1943 to inquire into andreport upon the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The committee examined the Act and recommended certain amendments. In my view, the principle involved in appointing a joint parliamentary committee to examine this subject is very important. During the 21 years that have elapsed since 1943 there has been a trend away from the use of parliamentary machinery. Our parliamentary system hinges upon the use of parliamentary machinery. Joint committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives give the fullest expression to government of the people by the people for the people.
The Minister for Repatriation, in reply to the suggestion in another place, said that such a committee would be useless because the matter was under constant review. To me that reply indicates an attitude of contempt for parliamentary committees. Every committee that I have known, appointed from both Houses of this Parliament, has in its own way produced something of value. Irrespective of whether the government of the day has seen fit to implement the recommendations of the committees, the reports that have been presented to Parliament have, in their own spheres, been valuable documents and records of the deliberations on the subject matters examined. I think that the hasty and peremptory rejection of the suggestion for the appointment of a joint parliamentary committee by the reply that it could be of no value in this instance is to be deplored. I hope that honorable senators, now that the legislation is before us, will not tolerate the Minister’s attitude.
I shall repeat the main operative clause of the proposed amendment, lt states - 22 j. The Committee shall examine the Repatriation Act and regulations and, in a Report to the Parliament, recommend amendments necessary to be made in the Act and regulations to remove existing anomalies and improve their provisions.
Earlier today we heard Senator Morris refer to a case in which he acted as advocate before a repatriation tribunal. Through his own detective work the honorable senator had the satisfaction of winning the case for the man for whom he appeared. Most of us have had that great experience. Each time it happens to me I derive personal satisfaction because it means that justice is being done after it had appeared that it was not being done.
In relation to the administration of the Repatriation Act, I return to paying a tribute to the departmental officers and to the members of the various tribunals. However, I do not agree with Senator Anderson’s reference to Senator Sandford’s statement in this respect as a shameful thing to say.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Chairman. The honorable senator’s remarks have no relevance to the subject matter of the debate.
The honorable senator is in order.
– I am leading up to the point that a multitude of matters need to be reviewed. The proposed committee could handle a host of problems which concern ex-servicemen who perhaps are not fully aware of the method of approaching a tribunal. The Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. Senator Anderson, admitted that one point that had been raised during the debate was a completely new one that had not been thought of before.
– I said it was new so far as I was concerned.
– And so far as I was concerned, too. We speak about the Returned Servicemen’s League as not being the be-all and end-all of investigations into ex-servicemen’s matters. I admit the truth of that. Every honorable senator during the course of his electoral duties involves himself in repatriation cases. Often we get results from the Minister and even, in the long run, get parliamentary action in the form of an amendment to the legislation.
I am making a point that the legislation before us is not static, because the effluxion of time alters circumstances. This is natural as we are dealing with human beings. A man’s health is his greatest asset. He can be the wealthiest man in the cemetery or in the sanatorium but what is the use of that. If he docs not have health, he has nothing. We are dealing here not only with the possibility of restoring men to health, if we can, but also, if we cannot do that, with the possibility of seeing that they get a measure of compensataion because of the ill health they are experiencing as a result of their war service.
I have referred to the 1943 report of the joint committee in which were made recommendations which altered practically the whole face of the Repatriation Act. Today we have for a point of reference the repatriation requests of the R.S.L. that may form a part of the legislation of the future. In one section of the League’s report are. listed the advancements that were made during the previous year. It refers to those cases where the Government has seen the merits of the League’s recommendations, and has legislated accordingly.
Labour Party Senators have agreed that the amendments were necessary but it took a considerable period of time for the necessity to penetrate the thinking of the Government. Consequently, many exservicemen who now benefit because of the amendments were deprived of their rights during the time lag. The 1943 report contains a recommendation for legislation making it obligatory for claims to be paid as from the time of their lodgement and even from six months before the date of lodgement. Yet there could be genuine cases in which the. claims have been badly presented from the start because of the inexperience of the applicants, of inadequate records being kept in the files of the Repatriation Department, or lack of perseverance. A man’s claim may be rejected and he may subsequently receive the assistance of a. senator or some other adviser as an advocate. As a result his claim may be established beyond doubt.
There are matters which are perhaps on the fringe of the legislation, but there are also matters going to the real spirit of the Act which could well be re-examined, as 21 years have elapsed since the previous examination.
To condemn our proposal out of hand seems to me to be a reflection on the ability of parliamentary committees to make a substantial and constructive contribution to parliamentary activities and to the use of the Parliament.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Whilst amendments to the legislation which govern our repatriation services are almost annual events, I feel that the present proposed amendments are necessary. They set out a method by which the Government can re-examine its attitude towards repatriation. Fine contributions have come from both sides of the Chamber in this debate. This is not a party matter. It is not a party question. Submissions have been made from both sides to which the Government could give consideration. But we have found that the Government has not acted upon such submissions in the past. Amendments of the Act have had specific purposes and, because of that, the complexities of individual cases have not been considered. Such submissions could be considered if the Act was to be reviewed. The Repatriation Act is amended from time to time to give increased benefits to certain beneficiaries under it. Those amendments are proposed by the Government with the intention of alleviating a position which has arisen in certain circumstances. But tha effectiveness of the amendments is reduced by either the means test or the circumstances in which the soldier concerned is to be rehabilitated.
It is essential that the Government should take another look at our repatriation arrangements and examine not only the anomalies in the administration of the Act but also the relationship of the Act to other acts passed by this Parliament affecting the monetary value of pensions. Another circumstance to be considered is that over the period since the last committee operated, social service benefits have altered considerably. They have overlapped and impinged upon repatriation benefits. There has not been a real re-assessment for several decades. Social services now permit a citizen to enjoy some of the benefits that were previously available under the Repatriation Act. 1 think that this is admirable. However, a person in receipt of the benefit may get married, and then the means test is applied and the pension has to bc re-examined at that stage. If we are not in a position to consider amendments lo acts of this nature, we have at least to consider the effect of the provisions of those acts upon personnel who were discharged from war service with certain disabilities which were accepted by the Department for the payment of benefits. We provide pensions for burnt out soldiers. At the age of 60 they may receive medical treatment and other benefits. This, too, is admirable.
The amendment now before the Committee aims at something with which the Parliament has found itself on prior occasions quite inadequate to deal. We have amended the Act from time to time in regard to the onus of proof provision. I would say that every honorable senator has at some time put forward views on the way in which this provision should be applied. Honorable senators have examined this matter and have said: “ Well, the Act is not being interpreted or administered correctly in relation to this particular matter. What will we do about it? “ The matter is debated every time the subject of repatriation is before the Parliament. It would be difficult to improve the drafting of this measure in order to achieve the objective sought by the Returned Servicemen’s League and members of the Parliament. If a committee, such as the one proposed in this amendment, was set up, it could examine the matter and make a determination in regard to appeals.
It would appear that at the moment appeals are from Caesar to Caesar. Consideration could be given to the right of appeal after so many years of operation of the Act and after hundreds of submissions have been made by returned servicemen’s organisations, by parliamentarians, and by individuals. It is time that a committee of the type proposed in the amendment was set up to examine and re-assess the provisions of the Act. The committee could ensure that the Act was administered in the spirit of the intention expressed by Ministers for Repatriation from time to time. In addition, the position should be examined of a person having to appeal from Caesar to Caesar and having to submit new evidence to a tribunal which has already refused the application or appeal on one, two, three or four occasions. When such evidence is presented, the tribunal may say: “No, this is not new evidence. You are out.” The collating of new evidence is another matter which should be considered. I have known persons who have appealed a considerable number of times. On rare occasions ultimately they have been successful. The point I wish to make in this regard is that the expenses incurred by the applicant are not inconsiderable. If the onus of proof section provides that the benefit’ of the doubt is to be given by the Commission to the soldier, why should huge expenses be thrown on to the shoulders of a person who has suffered in the war and who has had to collate evidence to prove his disability? There should bc a re-orientation of the attitude of the repatriation tribunals to these matters about which complaints are continually received. I would like the Minister to give me an answer on that point. In effect, the amendment asks that a statutory committee be set up to examine these problems for the reason, if for no other, that we as a Parliament have not been competent to solve them.
– I wish to state my views on the amendment which has been proposed by the Opposition. Although there is very little 1 can say in addition to the points that have been raised by my colleagues, Senator O’Byrne and Senator Cooke, I feel that because the matter is of such importance to the welfare of ex-servicemen generally I should have something to say about it. I think it was in 1942 that a committee of the nature proposed in this amendment was appointed by the Parliament. A detailed report was presented by that committee in 1943. But this is 1964, and 21 years have elapsed since the presentation of the report. As honorable senators well know, methods of treatment have changed in that time and many improvements in our standard of living and our way of life have been effected. I believe that the Repatriation Act could well be looked at expertly by the committee proposed in our amendment. As
I mentioned in my second reading speech, the report of the national executive of the Returned Servicemen’s League states that war and service pensions have lost Value over the last decade and that it is the League’s task to see that the case in regard to pensions is presented in such a way that values are substantially restored. A committee of the nature proposed should bc charged with the task of ascertaining the real value of the amounts to be awarded to servicemen generally for loss of limb or for conditions brought about by war service. The committee could be charged to inquire into repatriation benefits and systems operating in other parts of the world. I think the Veterans Administration in the United States of America would be able to supply a committee of the nature suggested in our amendment with detailed and valuable advice. I believe that it would be in the interests, not only of ex-servicemen generally, but also of members of this Parliament to be equipped with the latest and most detailed information that could be obtained about repatriation matters.
Another aspect that needs inquiring into relates to repatriation hospitals. Only last week I tried to get a veteran of the Boer War and the First World War into hospital by a date earlier than January. He was in need of an operation for an ear, nose and throat ailment. I was informed by the Department that there are some 1,400 ear, nose and throat patients waiting for admission to the Concord Repatriation General Hospital. That is an alarming number of patients to be awaiting treatment. No doubt most of these people, if not all of them, are suffering considerable discomfort because of their ailments, which have been brought about by their volunteering to serve Australia in time of war. This is only one aspect of repatriation into which a. committee of the nature suggested could inquire. The committee could inquire also into the availability of medical specialists to treat particular injuries or ailments from which ex-servicemen are suffering.
There are many aspects into which a committee of this nature could inquire. I repeat that such an inquiry would be in the interests of ex-servicemen and of repatriation generally. The committee could inquire into the functions of the Repatriation Department. It certainly would be in the interests of members of this Parliament to be more fully informed on matters of this nature. For the reasons I have stated, I support the amendment moved by Senator O’Byrne.
– I listened patiently to the debate on this Bill. I had not intended to say anything, but I think I should not let this occasion pass without saying something about the amendment that has been moved by Senator O’Byrne. The amendment is not put before the chamber lightly. The Labour Party has a committee to deal with repatriation matters, and the members of this committee collect and consider evidence from all parts of the Commonwealth.
Reference has been made this evening to the parliamentary committee that was set up in 1943. ] well remember it. I think that the previous Minister for Repatriation, Senator Sir Walter Cooper, will also remember it, because he was a member of the committee. A committee such as that docs not say that the Parliament will or will not do something. The committee I am referring to was set up to collate evidence with a view to recommending amendments of the Repatriation Act designed to give, as near as could be given, justice to the people entitled to repatriation benefits. Anomalies exist now in relation to exservicemen from the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War, and there would be further anomalies if another war were to occur. In view of what we read in the Press at present, none of us can say that hostilities will not break out again at any moment. Therefore, we want to be able to say to people who would - be prepared to defend this country that we have a Repatriation Act that would give them a chance to live a life as near as possible to a normal life if they participated in a war and returned.
I do not think that members of Parliament should be able to affect the decisions in individual repatriation cases. I do not think that a member of Parliament should have any sway with repatriation officers when they are considering whether repatriation pensions should be granted. It was only last night that a case was brought to my notice by a war widow, who asked for my assistance. 1 told her that I could not give her any assistance at all, and that the Act laid down the provisions relating to a case such as hers. I do not want to go into details now, but this lady refused to apply for a pension five years ago when her husband died. She thought that she had enough money to carry on, but today she finds that she has not. I advised her to go to Legacy, although I do not think she should be forced to seek the help of Legacy. I believe that we should so simplify the Repatriation Act that justice can be done automatically for such people.
I am a member of the Returned Servicemen’s League and I get the journal of that organisation. I read in that journal each year, prior to the Budget being brought down, of certain amendments that the League puts before the Government as being desirable. The Government has never granted these claims. I am not saying that the claims are just or unjust. However, if we had a committee comprised of members of both sides of the Parliament, the claims made by the returned servicemen’s organisations and other organisations could be placed before that committee and the Parliament could be advised on the problems with which the people concerned are confronted. We are all well aware that at the moment anomalies do exist. For instance I do not think that the onus of proof provision is being interpreted as it was meant lo be interpreted.
I repeat that the amendment submitted has been carefully thought out by those who constitute the repatriation committee of the Australian Labour Party in the Federal Parliament. After careful consideration, the committee has submitted this amendment, on which the Parliament is asked to express its opinion. I do not think that the Minister would be doing any injustice to his party if he were to accept the amendment. I believe we would do great justice to ex-servicemen of the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War if the Minister were to accept the amendment and if we were to appoint a committee to inquire into repatriation matters in a manner similar to that in which the 1943 committee inquired into them. Senator Sir Waller Cooper will bear me out when I say that the 1943 committee was afraid to do many things because it could not judge what the cost of repatriation benefits would be. It was impossible to know at that stage, because we were in the midst of the Second World War. However, we are at peace now. I believe that if this proposed committee were set up, and evidence collected from people who are affected, we could do something to give those people the benefits to which they are entitled. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment and ‘have the committee appointed. We will then see what the outcome will be.
– I appeal to the Government to accept the amendment that has been moved on behalf of the Opposition. What is wrong with it? We have been told that an amendment in this form is moved almost every year. Obviously it has to be moved almost every year because there are anomalies in the repatriation machinery. This amendment proposes that a committee be set up. The Government will not lose face by accepting it. A committee of this nature would be of inestimable value to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) and to the Government. Surely neither the Minister nor any other member of the Government has the temerity to say that the repatriation machinery is without fault. Therefore, if the Government accepted this amendment and a committee was set up, it could examine the whole of the repatriation machinery. As is mentioned in the latter part of the amendment, it could make recommendations to the Government for streamlining the operation of the repatriation machinery.
There are matters that I have dealt with and that other honorable senators have dealt with. One is the inordinate delay in the hearing of appeals. In some cases there is a lapse of 13 weeks between the time when the application is lodged and when the appeal is heard. A. committee such as this could go into the whole of the ramifications of the Appeal Tribunals and make recommendations for the streamlining of the operations and the work of the Repatriation Commission. As I said in my second reading speech, I pay full and due respect to the integrity, efficiency and courtesy of the repatriation officials.
– I am glad to hear you say that.
– I said it in my second reading speech and I repeat it.
– Then you said other things that went in the teeth of that.
– I said during my second reading speech that I paid full and due respect to the efficiency and courtesy of the repatriation officials, from the top level to the bottom level. But that does not alter the fact that they have to proceed according to the Act as it stands at the present time. If the Government had the common sense to accept this amendment, the committee could make recommendations for the streamlining of the operations of the repatriation machinery, not only in regard to the hearing of appeals, but also in regard to the vexatious problem of the onus of proof. That is a matter which is resurrected every year. The provision is not operating to the satisfaction of hundreds of applicants, and it is not operating to the satisfaction of returned servicemen’s organisations throughout Australia.
We have been told that a committee was set up in 1943 and that it submitted a report to the Government. That is 21 years ago. Obviously, with the passing of time and the various problems that confront the Repatriation Department because of the advancing years of the applicants, the difficulties of the Repatriation Department necessarily have grown. If a committee such as this were set up by the Government, it could make recommendations for streamlining the working of the Repatriation Department; it could make recommendations in regard, to the onus of proof and hospitalisation, as we have been advocating; and it could assess the number of ex-servicemen of World War I. who are in need of hospital and medical care. It could go into a number of matters such as that to enable the Government to come to some understanding or, at least, some appreciation of the growing needs of ex-service personnel in regard to repatriation matters. As has been pointed out, the committee could examine the repatriation activities in other countries and, perhaps, learn something which would be of benefit to the Australian repatriation machinery. It has been said that our Repatriation Act. compares favorably, or more than favorably, with other Repatriation Acts in the world, but that does not prevent the Government from agreeing to this amendment to set up a committee to further improve the repatriation machinery of this country.
What has the Government to fear? What argument can it advance against the setting up of such a committee? If the Government refuses to accept this amendment it is saying, in effect, that the Repatriation Act is perfect, that it cannot be improved and that there is no advantage to be gained from setting up such a committee. Is any honorable senator on the Government side prepared to stand up and say that the Repatriation Act is perfect, that there is no need for an investigation because we cannot improve the Repatriation Act? Is anyone prepared to give that as the reason for the Government’s refusal to accept this amendment? In all sincerity, I appeal to the Government to agree to this amendment and to set up this committee. The Government would not be bound by the findings or recommendations of the committee, but they would, of necessity, be of great assistance to the Minister and to the Government in this vexatious problem of repatriation anomalies.
I appeal to the Minister to realise the importance of this amendment in the framing of improvements to the Repatriation Act, and the immense advantage such a committee would be to ex-servicemen. I appeal to the Minister to appreciate the reasonableness of this amendment. There is nothing to fear. If he does not propose to accept this amendment, I would like to hear his reasons for rejecting it. It will be interesting to learn why the Government -will not accept the amendment. A committee of the kind proposed would do nothing but good. It would facilitate the operations of the repatriation machinery and could make recommendations for the removal of anomalies. For those reasons I ask the Minister, on behalf of the Government, to accept the amendment.
– I rise to support the proposal for a joint committee of inquiry. All honorable senators should remember that in 1964 there are still a lot of grievances in relation to the Repatriation Act. I do not want to be critical of the officers of the Repatriation Department because I am well aware that they are co-operative in dealing with people who make representations and inquiries. But 1 suggest that, after all, the officers are bound by the Act. They cannot base their judgment of particular cases on what the Australian Labour Party might argue. What we are saying is what we have said over the years, but more recently in 1963, when we on this side of the chamber put forward two important resolutions of the Returned Servicemen’s League, a reputable organisation which the Government accepts as one which speaks for all ex-servicemen in Australia. The first matter was in respect of section 47, which was the old section 39, relating to the onus of proof. The second matter was in respect of the question of cancer. The Government has not yet acceded to what the R.S.L. and ex-servicemen generally want.
In addition to those specific matters, as every member of Parliament knows, there are many cases where ex-servicemen feel aggrieved when they make applications. The difficulty still exists in getting supporting evidence in a case where an ex-serviceman has made an application for an entitlement or a pension appraisal. We all realise as the years have gone by how difficult it is to get supporting evidence. That applies even in respect of ex-servicemen from the last war. I have known of ex-servicemen who have tried to track down witnesses to accidents that happened to them while they were in the Services in the last war. Not only is it very difficult to track down medical evidence but also it is difficult to get the evidence of people who know of an incident which resulted in injury. How much more difficult is it to track down evidence which relates to the First World War? There are still a great number of grievances of exservicemen and others relating not only to pensions but also to other entitlements under the Repatriation Act. These should engage the consideration of a committee such as that for which we argue.
Opposition senators have pointed out that reviews of the Repatriation Act have not been frequent enough. In 1924 there was a royal commission - a very noteworthy commission - and in 1929 certain repatriation legislation was passed, followed by amending legislation in 1930, 1936, 1942 and 1943, hut none of these measures has cleared up the vexed questions that we are always raising and always explaining to ex-service and other organisations which approach us with specific requests. Surely there is enough evidence for us to support a review of the legislation. The importance of such a review lies in the fact that it would enable us to take ex-servicemen’s grievances out of the realm of politics and examine them in the atmosphere in which such things should be examined. That seems to me to be the best way to approach this matter. If, for example, we could put the onus of proof provisions of the Act, and the various interpretations that have been made of it, in the correct light, we would be taking a step in the right direction. There has been recourse to two broad interpretations. Although, as the Minister has said, there has been some evaluation of these provisions, there has not been the kind of appraisal that should have been made.
Another consideration that is important to all ex-servicemen and ex-servicemen’s organisations is that the argument is advanced that, closely following each war. there has always been a particularly good climate for ex-servicemen to make their applications for benefits. Some may say that this cannot be so because the Act lays down certain procedures to be followed, but it is true that there is a certain psychological attitude, a certain sympathetic consideration of ex-servicemen’s applications, in the years closely following the end of a war. In these circumstances it is possible for ex-servicemen to get some measure of justice, but as the years go b’y, if an exserviceman happens to be one who was not so seriously affected by the war, he finds it more difficult to argue that he has in fact been affected by the war. I want to emphasise again what Senator Sandford has said frequently in this chamber, because it makes commonsense to me. He has said that there is hardly an ex-service man or woman whose health has not been affected to some extent by war service. Irrespective of the job that a man did in the Services, there must have been some ill effects. If an ex-serviceman did not make an early application for repatriation benefits and state his case specifically in the early years, the procedures to be adopted later become much more difficult.
Not only we of the Opposition but also the R.S.L. have made general complaints about the operation of the Act. We accept the minor changes and amendments that have been made but we point out that there has been no major inquiry into this subject since 1943 and no royal commission since 1924. The time is ripe now for a committee of inquiry to examine the matters to which we have referred and to consider the general submissions that are made annually by ex-service organisations, particularly the R.S.L. If we had a committee of inquiry and if it did its job in a workmanlike manner, the issues that are discussed in this Parliament would not arise. A committee could examine the claims made by the organisations outside the sphere of politics. This would be a very satisfactory way of settling the difficulties that arise. I hope that this matter will be considered now in a new light.
.- 1 am appalled that honorable senators on the Government side remain silent. I believe that they have a responsibility to enter this debate and to state their views. They have adopted the attitude that they do not want politics . in repatriation, but the fact that they make no contribution to the debate on this important matter calls for censure. In my view, they are failing also to do what Senator Mattner and Senator Wright have been saying constantly that all honorable senators should do - lend every effort towards raising the value of the Senate by participating in joint parliamentary committees.
Over the years the Senate has lent itself to various committees. When matters are discussed by joint committees politics go out the window. The Constitutional Review Committee is a case in point. That Committee submitted its recommendations and, although the Government has not acted on them, whenever the recommendations are discussed politics do not seem to enter into the debate. The same remarks apply to the inquiry into television productions and to many other inquiries which have been of great value to the Parliament.
Government senators are keeping politics in repatriation by not supporting the proposed amendment now before us. In another place one honorable member said: “I will not vote for this proposed amendment because my vote might defeat the Government. If I voted in favour of it the newspaper headlines would say: “ The honorable member for Mallee voted against the Government ‘. I would hit the headlines. I do not want that kind of publicity.” This attitude indicates that the Government wants to keep politics in repatriation.
This is an excellent opportunity for repatriation to be placed outside politics for discussion by members of Parliament, who are elected as spokesmen for the electorate, and by the broad masses of the Australian people. We have a highly respected organisation in the community, the R.S.L. It is doing its bit - quite a substantial bit - to see that many of these anomalies are rectified, but it is doing this at the expense of being accused of being political. Epithets arc bandied about. The R.S.L. is called a tame cat organisation because it makes direct representations to the Government to have anomalies rectified. The R.S.L. leaves itself open to the accusation that it enters into politics. One of the basic tenets of the “R.S.L. is that it does not participate in religious, political or other controversies, but because it is bound to protect the interests of its members it comes to the fringe of politics, as I have indicated.
If a committee such as we have suggested were appointed, with the powers of an ordinary joint parliamentary committee, it could ask the R.S.L. and any other organisations, such as the Legion of Ex-Service Men and Women, the ex-naval men’s association, the Air Force Association and a host of other bodies that are interested in the welfare of former members of the Services, to present their submissions periodically - annually, if necessary. The evidence submitted could be properly collated and presented to the Parliament in the form of a report. For one reason alone, this would be of immense value. The reason is that the committee would be able to take politics out of repatriation.
– 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) -
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.
– There is a matter to which I should like to refer tonight. I shall be as brief as I can. On 26th August Senator Dittmer spoke on several matters during the Budget debate. Amongst other things, he referred to Queensland bauxite and to beef roads that have been built in Queensland. By interjection, I asked him to present the true story. As a sequel, he spoke again on these subjects on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate on 2nd September and repeated previous misleading statements. Then again I asked him to tell the correct story. Tonight I want to give the facts quite briefly in relation to these matters. First I shall deal with the question of beef roads.
– I am not going to be misrepresented.
– At the very beginning, Senator Dittmer, I ask you to understand that Senator Morris will be heard. If you have anything to say you will be heard later. You will not be permitted to interrupt his speech.
– I am not going to be misrepresented, either.
– I am warning you now that I will not allow you to interject.
– Reference to “ Hansard “ will remind us of what he said. I shall read a brief extract -
A lot has been said about beef roads. We recall only to» vividly the last night before the Senate adjourned prior to the 1961 general election when the Commonwealth Government agreed to provide £650,000- along with £350,000 to be provided by the State Government - for a road 287 miles in length.
I leave out two or three lines which are not relevant. He went on -
What sort of a road would you get in a city for £3,000 a mile?
He then spoke of the Governments reconsidering the matter. That is quite incorrect and quite misleading. I took the opportunity to refer to the debate on the earlier occasion. As reported on page 1460 of “ Hansard “, on 25th October 1961 Senator Sir William Spooner made it very clear that earlier in the year an offer of this amount of money had been made to commence the construction of roads which were called beef roads. He also said - and this is the relevant part - that a further sum of money would be available, making a total grant of some £5 million for the building of beef roads. Those statements were made. They are quite obviously statements which completely disprove what Senator Dittmer said a few nights ago. The road in question, by the way, is the Normanton to Julia Creek road. Let me give him the facts. The first estimate for this road was £10,400 a mile, not £3,000. The honorable senator knew that but he would not tell it to the Senate. The estimated cost at that time was £2,814,737. Later, on receipt of tenders, the final estimate was £3,579,300. I repeat that it was known to everybody, to the honorable senator as well as everybody else, at that point of time that the amount of money allocated was not at the rate of £3,000 at all. It was very much higher. I say that the honorable senator deliberately made these statements to mislead the people of Australia and perhaps even to try to mislead members of the Senate. I objected then and 1 object now, and I am recording my objection.
On 2nd September last, as reported on page 373 of “ Hansard “, he said-
The Queensland Deputy Commissioner of Main Roads saw fit to say that there were some potholes. Recently I saw the road through Brunette Downs to Anthony’s Lagoon.
He went on to say that the Press had published photographs and then he led his colleagues again to believe that the road of which I have been speaking was in a shocking state of repair. He said that be personally had stood in these holes, that other people were in the holes in the road and that it was impossible to see the heads of those people. Everything that he said, Sir, applied to roads not in Queensland at all but he deliberately tried to accuse the Queensland Main Roads Department of inefficiently doing its work of constructing these roads. J hate to see people misled, even in error, but I hate a lot more to see them misled deliberately, as was done on that occasion.
Let us have a look next at the question of bauxite. The honorable senator charged the Queensland Government with neglecting Queensland’s interests. When he said this, he chose to take me to task. He forgot perhaps - I am being generous at the moment - many aspects. The first one that he forgot was that a proposal from Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation Pty. Ltd. was lying on the table of the Labour Minister for 12 months and no action was taken to accept the tender or to do anything about it.
– They were trying to determine a reasonable royalty.
– We assumed office in 1957. Within 12 weeks of our assuming office in Queensland, our Minister for Mines saw the proposed agreement to develop Weipa, operated on it, and the agreement was signed. It is a wonderful agreement for Queensland. That was the first point that he omitted to tell us, but the next was a lot worse. He said that the company that proposed to establish a refinery at Gladstone was not under any compulsion to smelt the ore. Surely he knew that that was not true.
– You are not going to tell an untruth.
– Order! I warned you, Senator Dittmer, that you would be losing your seat if you continued to interject.
– I am sorry.
– I interjected and reminded him that the whole of this bauxite proposal was in three stages, the first stage mining the bauxite, the second stage conversion of the bauxite into alumina, and the third stage conversion of the alumina into aluminium. He denied it. Now, Sir, let me satisfy honorable senators, even if the person to whom I refer will not be satisfied. I refer to clause 16 of the agreement, which is the critical clause, to prove that what I said was right and what he said was wrong. Clause 16 of the agreement made under The Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation Pty. Ltd. Agreement Act of 1957 provides that Comalco must construct a large scale enterprise for the conversion of alumina into aluminium in Queensland or elsewhere in Australia - bear that in mind - or its Territories within a specified time if the Minister considers that such a scheme is economically justified, otherwise a large part of the lease must be surrendered. In addition, the variation of 1964 provides that the right to export bauxite ceases if, after the Gladstone alumina plant begins operating, less than 100,000 tons of alumina or 20,000 tons of aluminium is manufactured annually in Queensland from Weipa bauxite. There is complete support for all the things I said earlier in this sessional period. I am glad to have had the opportunity of letting the Senate know the truth of the matter.
.- On Tuesday, 18th August, there was a debate in the Senateon incidents in the Gulf of Tonkin, a subject introduced into the Senate by Senator Gorton on behalf of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck). Senator Gorton made his statement, then Senator McKenna spoke and subsequently Senator Mattner took part in the debate. I wish to quote portion of what Senator Mattner said. At page 82 of “Hansard” for Tuesday, 18th August, Senator Mattner is reported as having said -
Here tonight - I hope the Opposition is sincere - we have heard Senator McKenna leading for the Government, ifI may put it in that way, on this vital question.
Later on, during the course of his speech, he said -
I listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) as he propounded the case for the Australian Labour Party and I repeat that to my mind he was leading for the Government.
I wish to say that no member of the Australian Labour Party who is a member of this Opposition was authorised to speak on behalf of the Menzies-McEwen Government in respect of any matter relating to international affairs.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 September 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1964/19640915_senate_25_s26/>.