25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at J I a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. I have read that it has been reported in an Australian official publication that there has been an influx of Japanese fishing vessels in the waters off New Zealand, and that the New Zealand Government has protested to the Japanese Government concerning violations of New Zealand’s territorial waters committed by Japanese vessels. Have any reports been received from authorities controlling the Timor Sea and adjacent waters that Japanese fishing vessels have been cooperating with Indonesian vessels and that these operators have been showing increasing interest in fishing and pearling in the waters within the territorial jurisdiction of Australia?
– I did not hear part of the honorable senator’s question, but I think it was: Has there been any report of instances of Japanese vessels encroaching on Australian territorial waters in the Timor Sea?
– That is right.
– I know of no such reports. For many years Japanese fishing fleets have been coming down and conducting pearling operations in this area of the Timor Sea. The Navy, on behalf of the Department of Primary Industry, used to have - and probably still has - a vessel which went out and kept an eye on the Japanese fleets. 1 know of no instances in which they have been alleged to have violated Australian territorial waters.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services: Is it a fact that under the Commonwealth Social Services Consolidation Act there is imposed a waiting period of six months, subsequent to desertion by or the imprisonment of a husband, before benefits are paid to deserted wives or wives of prisoners and their families? If so, is this waiting period imposed in all Australian States except in Victoria? Are such benefits, where applicable, available in Victoria as from the date of desertion or imprisonment as the case may be?
– The honorable senator indicated to me earlier that he proposed to ask this question and in view of the fact that we are going to debate social services at a later hour today I thought it appropriate to get a reply to him immediately. I am happy to make it available to any honorable senator who cares to have it. Under the Social Services Act, a wife who has been deserted by her husband without just cause for not less than six months and who has taken reasonable action to obtain maintenance from her husband may qualify for the widows’ pension. A wife whose husband is in prison and has been in prison for not less than six months may also qualify for the widows’ pension. In both instances, the six months waiting period applies in all States of the Commonwealth, including Victoria. In Victoria, however, the Commonwealth pays special benefits to deserted wives and wives of prisoners during the first six months if hardship is present and it appears that the wife will be eligible for a widows’ pension at the end of that period. This practice originated in 1947. It was specifically designed to be exclusive to a State where no State assistance was available. Victoria was the only State where State assistance was not provided during the first six months and it became, and it still remains, the only State where special benefits are paid in these cases. Where payable, the benefit commences from the seventh day after the day of the husband’s desertion or imprisonment or from the date of the lodgment of the claim, whichever is the later.
The period of six months, in the case of deserted wives, was laid down by the Government of the day on the introduction of widows’ pensions in 1942. Its stated purpose at that time was - (a) to ensure that the wife was the deserted party, rather than the deserting party; (b) to give the parties a reasonable time in which to effect a reconciliation; (c) to ensure that the separation of the parties was bona fide and not arranged for the purpose of obtaining a pension; and (d) to give the wife the opportunity to obtain maintenance before Commonwealth pension assistance became available. On the extension in 1947 of the payment of widows’ pensions to women whose husbands have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment it was felt that such women should not be more favorably treated, in regard to pension eligibility, than deserted wives.
– Can the Minister for Health explain why certain drugs for the treatment of asthma when prescribed singly are on the free list but when sold in combination and applied by medium of a pressure pack are not on the free list? Is it possible that the committee which controls additions to and deletions from the free list has a prejudice against pressure pack therapy for asthmatics and favours the old fashioned fly spray type of inhaler which asthmatics have been forced to use over the years?
– No drug can be added to or removed from the schedule unless upon the recommendation of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, which is a completely independent Committee and is comprised, as honorable senators know, of the best brains in the field. I cannot give the reasons for additions to or deletions from the schedule, for the simple reason that the Committee is not obliged, and is not asked, to give its reasons. I suggest that, generally speaking, mass medication, if I may use that term, is not in the best interests of patients. In that way a combination of drugs, with the same proportion of each particular drug is made available for all and sundry. It might well be argued that the needs of individual patients differ considerably. I believe it could be argued with justification that the best interests of individuals are served when the proportions of all drugs in a prescription arc specified.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen a report in today’s “ Daily Telegraph “ which states that at yesterday’s Labour caucus meeting concern was expressed at the qualifications which are being sought by the Government in members of a joint com mittee to be appointed to report on plans for a new Parliament House? Is it a fact that only ex-Ministers could become members of the proposed committee? Is it true that certain qualifications are required? If so, what are these qualifications? Does this requirement apply also to Government members who will serve on the committee?
– Until the details of any proposed committee to consider the erection of a new Parliament House are formally submitted to the Parliament or are officially made public in another way, I am not prepared to make any comment.
– My questions arc directed to the Minister for Health. I have framed them so as to avoid the necessity for explanatory remarks. A few of the questions I ask with diffidence because, being of a retiring nature, I recoil from exposing my personal habits. However, I am sure they are of interest to brewers, temperance advocates, the medical profession, honorable senators and the people of Australia. My questions are as follows*. 1. Is the Minister aware that 45 years ago I gave up smoking for reasons other than economic? 2. Is he aware that 45 days ago I stopped drinking the chemical substance known as beer, and that I have not had a drink of beer since? 3. Does he know that for 80 years less 4 months I had never suffered a twinge of rheumatism, arthritis or neuritis? 4. Will the Minister be astonished to learn that since sacrificing the palate pleasing pleasure of imbibing beer I have contracted a form of rheumatism, arthritis, or both? My doctor believes that it is arthritis. I come now to the serious part of my questions. 5. Is it a fact that rheumatism has puzzled and confounded the world’s doctors for generations? 6. Do not the nations of the world suffer monolithic economic loss because of rheumatism’s painful inroads into the health of the people? 7. Have any foundations been established in the United States of America, Great Britain or any other country, to investigate the causes of rheumatism and to find a remedy, aided by public subscription or government finance? 8. What is being done in Australia to overcome the excruciatingly painful scourges of rheumatism, arthritis and neuritis?
– Indeed, Mr. President, one glance at the honorable senator, having regard to his advancing years, reveals him to bc a physical giant among men. But what is more important from my point of view is that he stands revealed as a perfect advertisement for the Government’s national health scheme. I am at a loss to understand why the honorable senator supports a party which is always advocating fundamental changes to the scheme.
I do not know what research is being undertaken in the United States and in Great Britain into the causes of rheumatism. However, I do know that an Australian Rheumatism Association has been formed in recent times in that section of the Australian medical profession which has directed its attention to the causes and effects of rheumatism. The Association has attracted a great deal of interest and a good deal of work is being done in this field of research. I must confess that I do nol know of any concentrated effort in this field which is being undertaken in any specific laboratory.
– I preface my question to the Minister in charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research by referring to his statement following the Third Commonwealth Conference on Education held in Ottawa earlier this month. I ask: Is it a fact that Australia will increase its aid by 50 per cent, for professional training of teachers and for other forms of education in developing Commonwealth countries? In what ways is Australia already contributing to assist education in Commonwealth countries? What is the size of the present grant by Australia for this purpose? In what ways will we increase our aid? Has any consideration been given to assisting the spread of education and enlightenment into village life through the medium of television, particularly through the establishment of a school of television education in Australia to train not only Australian educationists and technicians but also overseas personnel?
– I think the honorable senator is referring to the recent education conference which was held at Ottawa as a result of discussions at the Prime Ministers’ Conference. The Conference was concerned with co-operation amongst members of the British Commonwealth of Nations in assisting in education matters as between one country and another country. It was agreed there that the Australian Government would increase its assistance in the way of training students from these countries by 50 per cent. At the present moment, the two main fields in which the Australian Government helps are the training in Australia of students to become teachers and the training of people with skills that they can take back to their own countries and their education departments, and the sending abroad of Australians to act as teachers under the control of the education departments of the countries to which they may go.
I do not know of any specific examination of the question of providing television education. Indeed, it would be a matter for the Government of a particular country that we were assisting to decide through its own education department whether it wanted to establish such a method of education. I do know that in the education of farmers through rural programmes - and this is peripheral to the matter we are discussing - there has been, under the Colombo Plan, a scheme whereby broadcasters from other countries come to Australia and are trained in the techniques of rural broadcasting and extension services. They then go back to their own countries and carry out work of that kind.
– Can the
Minister for Health advise whether the Government or his Department has given further consideration to the request of the National Council for the Mentally Retarded for a Commonwealth inquiry? Has the Minister read the speeches of honorable senators on both sides of this House when this subject was debated in the Senate on 22nd April last? I further ask the Minister whether he will have another look at this matter and heed the humane plea of all senators to set up a committee under the control of his Department to study on a nationwide basis the problem of mental retardation in all its different aspects.
– I have read the speeches referred to by the honorable senator. I remind him that the
Prime Minister announced that special assistance was being given to the States to assist them with their capital works programmes for mental hospitals, as they are properly termed today. I have yet to be convinced, as I have said in this place on a previous occasion, that any really useful purpose can be served by superimposing another inquiry on what has already been done in this regard. I think the honorable senator would be the first to concede that New South Wales has already made great strides in this field. My mind flies to Dr. Dax of Victoria who is a world authority on this subject. I think that it could be regarded by the States as an intrusion if the Commonwealth Government were to set up an authority to investigate mental retardation, having regard to the outstanding work that the State authorities are doing. I have nothing to add to what I have said because I think the people in the States are doing a great service in this regard.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. By way of preface, I point out that copies of “ Hansard “ of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory are made available to honorable senators. My question is: Why have not copies of “ Hansard “ of the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea been made available to honorable senators? With world attention focussed on the problems of Papua and New Guinea, does not the Minister consider that the views of the elected members of the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea are of sufficient importance to ensure that they are available to members of this Parliament?
– I think the best thing I can do is to ask the honorable senator to put his question on notice. If he does not wish to do that, I shall convey it to the Minister for Territories on his behalf and get a written reply. I leave it to the honorable senator to choose the course he wishes to follow.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. When is the air service to Mexico by Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. expected to begin? What service will be provided?
– It is expected to begin a Sydney-London service via Mexico in November of this year. I do not think that the actual route has been decided yet. Whether the first flight will be a trial service to survey the route or the first flight in a permanent service on that route is not yet settled, but Qantas hopes to make at least one trip by the end of November this year.
– I am aware that some States have recently announced increases in public hospital charges. Private hospital charges are matters for arrangement between patients and hospital proprietors. The Commonwealth hospital benefit scheme has been designed specifically to assist a patient to pay his or her hospital bill. The scheme is not, of course, directed towards hospital finances generally. The purpose is to help a patient to meet his hospital bill when hospital treatment is required. Except in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, the Government has no control over the standards of accommodation provided in hospitals. In this field the State Governments are supreme; they alone decide what standards shall apply.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will he inform me of the extent of the shortage of tradesmen in Queensland in the boilermaking, fitting and turning, electrical fitting, coach-making, panel-beating and building trades? Have all the States been requested by the Commonwealth to engage apprentices to fill all vacancies occurring in State departments so that a greater number of Australian youths may be taught trades? Are Commonwealth departments examined periodically to ensure there are no vacancies for apprentices in any trades?
– I can answer offhand only the last part of the question. The Department of Labour and National Service is in touch constantly with other Commonwealth departments, such as the Department of Works and similar departments, to try to ensure that the greatest numbers of apprentices are employed, not only by those departments but also by firms doing work for them. As to the other and detailed part of the honorable senator’s question, I shall have to ask him to put it on the notice paper so that I can obtain the information for him.
– 1 assume that the appropriate Minister to whom to direct this question is the Minister for Civil Aviation. A report in the “Post”, a newspaper published in Israel, states that some time ago Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. proposed to open a sales office in Israel, but that the proposition was cancelled. The report goes on to say that the Qantas representative was recalled after pressure was brought to bear through the Australian Ambassador in Cairo. Is this a fact? If it is, for what reason did the Government interfere with the opening of a sales office by Qantas in Israel?
– Qantas is an independent trader and makes its own commercial judgments. The matter to which the honorable senator refers is along the lines of a question which was recently asked of me in the Senate. I will send him a copy of the answer I gave on that occasion. There is no suggestion that any Government interference is taking place. It is a matter for Qantas, as a business organisation, to make its own commercial judgment.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. During the preparation of the 1964-65 Budget did the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and others have discussions with business and commercial leaders in Australia? Were the representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions included in the discussions, and did the representatives of the A.C.T.U. impress upon the Government the urgency of implementing a system of prices control? Does the Government intend to take any steps to implement the request of the A.C.T.U.? Does the Government propose to take steps to control the fast growing cost inflation spiral?
– As is its usual practice, the Government engaged in discussions with representatives of all kinds of commercial and industrial activity in Australia, and also with the employees’ representatives. I think that the A.C.T.U. did make a submission in respect of prices control. However, the honorable senator will be well aware of the difficulties which are attached to any Commonwealth attempt to impose prices control, even if such control were part of the policy of the Government of the day. It is not the policy of this Government, as has frequently been stated. The honorable senator has asked whether the Government will take any measures that it considers necessary to avoid cost and price inflation. I assure the honorable senator, as I remarked in reply to a question asked of me yesterday, that the Government keeps the economic condition of the country under close and continuing surveillance and, that, as in the past, whatever measures are necessary to ensure that the economy is kept in the sound state that has existed for many years will be taken by the Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Would the Minister care to state the steps that are being taken overseas to develop vertical take-off aircraft? Is this matter of special significance to Australia, particularly in relation to aerodrome development?
– I can only tell the honorable senator what I saw on a recent visit to Farnborough. The British aircraft industry has taken some steps towards developing vertical take-off aircraft. The work has not yet reached a commercial basis, but the matter is being progressively investigated and considerable research is being carried out. I understand that there is an agreement between the British aircraft industry and the aircraft industry of another country to carry out research into the commercial aspects of vertical take-off aircraft. One of the things that impressed me at Farnborough was the development of medium sized passenger aircraft, with the ability to land and take off in much shorter distances than we are accustomed to in Australia. That is something which I think will be developed in the future and will be of advantage in aerodrome construction. The aircraft is only in the developmental or research stage now, so nothing concrete can yet be said about it.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In view of the Prime Minister’s reply yesterday to question No. 108, to the effect that investigations had been made into the activities of an alleged terrorist organisation and of Fascist supporters but that it is not the practice to disclose either the details or the results of such investigations, and bearing in mind that a recent ministerial statement disclosed both the details and the results of an investigation into Communist Party activities and peace conferences, will the Minister say whether this indicates the Government’s sympathies, hopes or fears?
– It is always very touching to note the concern with which Senator Cavanagh approaches anything that might impinge upon the activities of Communists in Australia. In this question the honorable senator has associated two entirely different things. Yesterday he asked for the release of information which had been adduced from an inquiry into the activities - probably the unlawful activities - of some sections within the community. He received the answer - the very proper answer - that it is not the Government’s practice to make the results of its investigations available publicly. This, surely for obvious reasons, is in the public interest. He now compares that answer with a ministerial statement relating to a peace conference and the Communist Party’s association with that conference. The Government made a statement about that peace conference because it is a notorious fact that peace conferences very frequently parade in false colours. The Government feels that it has a duty to point out to the Australian public the real nature of many of these conferences and the extent of Communist influence upon them. It has done this, also in the public interest.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. I refer to the answer given by the Attorney-General yesterday to my question No. 100 on the notice paper, concerning the nine members of the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood who were arrested and tried some months ago for alleged terrorist activities. I refer particularly to the Minister’s answer that the men who went to Yugoslavia - . . apparently received some rudimentary instruction in Australia in activities such as map reading and the handling of explosives, which could among other uses be used in terrorist activities.
If, as the Attorney-General says, no training or assistance was given to these men by the Australian Government or any government instrumentality, will the Minister say whether the Government has evidence as to when, where and from whom these men received such instruction and, if so, whether the presumably unauthorised giving of instruction in the handling of explosives does not constitute conduct punishable by law? Does the Government intend to proceed against any person found to have been involved in such unlawful activity?
– I can repeat immediately the unquestionable fact that no assistance of any kind was given to these individuals by the Australian Government or any Australian Government instrumentality. The rest of the honorable senator’s question refers to the particular state and method of investigations into this matter, which are not public investigations. It is not and never has been the practice in this Parliament to answer questions as to the particular point that investigations being carried on by the Government into secret organisations have reached.
– Has the
Leader of the Government in the Senate seen a statement that the Indonesian Government has notified, the British Government of its intention to hold naval exercises in the area between Sumatra and Java, including the Sunda Strait, that the exercises are planned to last until 10th October next, and that the Indonesians have said that they have no intention to close the Strait to other naval traffic? Has the Australian Government been advised of these naval exercises by the Indonesian Government? Arc any Australian vessels operating in these waters and, if so, will the Government undertake to direct them to clear such waters whilst the exercises referred to are being carried out?
– The Indonesians have notified the British Government. The Australian Government is aware of the intention of the Indonesians to conduct
Certain naval exercises in the Sunda Strait over the period referred to by the honorable senator. No Australian naval units are operating in the vicinity of the Sunda Strait.
– Is the Minister for Health aware of the proposed rise in fees for dental services throughout Australia? In view of the importance of dental health in relation to health in general, will the Minister consider the establishment of a national dental scheme as part of the national health service? Is the Minister also aware of the shortage of dentists in rural areas, and will he have a survey made of dental needs and dental services available throughout Australia?
– Answering the last question first, I say that I am aware of a shortage of dentists, particularly in rural areas. I hasten to assure the honorable senator that I have no authority or jurisdiction to undertake a survey as to the dental needs of rural areas. The survey might well bc taken, but from that point of time the Commonwealth Government would be quite powerless to take any effective action at all to relieve the shortage. These are problems for the States, which I believe are competent to handle them. I have been asked whether I would move towards the establishment of a national dental scheme. I think that all of us concede that there is a need for some type of scheme in this field, because of the incidence of dental caries, particularly in our young people. For my part, I am concerned in directing my attention to that field. A good deal of work is being done, but there are some very real economic problems to be overcome before the implementation of such a scheme. The New Zealand scheme is being studied and we are studying other schemes overseas. But to propound a scheme which would be acceptable to the Australian people is not easy because there are great economic problems to be faced. You cannot compare a national dental scheme with a national health scheme, for the simple reason, that one may be quite well today but might want hospitalisation or need medical attention tomorrow. Such is not the case with a dental scheme. I could argue that my teeth will be sound at any rate until I am 18 or 20 years of age, plan my insurance benefits to coincide with that fact and then lose all interest in the scheme when I have been provided with dentures. These are the real problems which face us when we look at this possibility.
– I wish to ask the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research a question. Is he in a position to. reply to my representations concerning the recruitment and transfer of teachers to the Commonwealth Department of Territories and the suggestion that a conference should be held between the Commonwealth and the States to establish reciprocal arrangements in order to preserve teachers’ rights?
– I am in a position to add to a reply which I gave the honorable senator on this matter on a previous occasion, but before I do so I would like to say that I do not think there is any problem or question of establishing reciprocal arrangements between the State and Commonwealth teaching services. There is no question, as I understand it1, of a teacher from a Commonwealth service wanting to work for a State. The position is that from time to time teachers from a State education service are required to go to Nauru, the Northern Territory, New Guinea or somewhere of that kind and on occasions there has been some difficulty as to their leaving the State service, spending a term of years in the Commonwealth education service, and then coming back to the State service with a continuity of rights as to long service leave and matters of that kind. I have brought this matter personally, and in writing, to the attention of the Minister for Territories, who has written to me and has informed me that he will take this question under his full consideration to try to make sure that, at any rate, before any teacher is transferred from a State education service he will know exactly what the position is as to his return to his own service with unimpaired rights.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. I have heard reference to the indication of Indonesian naval exercises in Sunda Strait. I heard a statement that none of our naval vessels are there. Can we have an assurance that naval vessels, on our side, are there, or thereabouts? Can we have an assurance that the Government is satisfied that these naval exercises are not proposed in association wilh the guerrilla assaults as announced by Sukarno in this morning’s Press?
– If it is in fact true that there are Indonesian naval exercises being held in the vicinity of Sunda Strait, then they are being held, if my recollection of geography is completely accurate, in a small strait just to the north of Java, which is about 16 miles wide just before you come to the south of Sumatra and some considerable distance from any Malaysian territory which could be thought to be threatened by the holding of these exercises. As far as Australian naval ships are concerned, there are none in that area of Sunda Strait, but there are, of course, two ships serving with the Far East Strategic Reserve at Singapore, which is thereabouts, and the Royal Navy, as the honorable senator will have seen, has strengthened its naval presence in the area.
– Has the Minister representing the Attorney-General noted complaints from the New South Wales judiciary about the exorbitant cost of divorce proceedings? Has the Government in mind a plan to reduce the cost of these proceedings? Was is not the intention of the Government, when the uniform divorce legislation was introduced by Sir Garfield Barwick, to cut the cost of divorce proceedings?
– A similar question was asked in the House of Representatives about a fortnight ago. The AttorneyGeneral gave a long and detailed reply which I cannot remember at the moment. I recall that it took about seven or eight minutes to deliver and that it dealt specifically with all the points that arise from the honorable senator’s question. I suggest that the honorable senator place his question on the notice paper so that I may obtain the Attorney-General’s reply and repeat it in this place.
– My question– is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it not a fact that the Government, in its statements on the subject, has failed to reveal that after careful consideration the peace congress which is to be held in Sydney is regarded as being sincere and bona fide by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and State Labour Councils and that the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labour Party has permitted its members to participate as individuals in order to propound A.L.P. policy? Is the Government opposed to Australian Citizens who are members of political parties, including the A.L.P. , Communists and, as I note from the newspapers, the Liberal Party, and citizens of various religious and other persuasions, meeting in a perfectly lawful manner to discuss openly questions of peace and disarmament?
– The Australian Government is not opposed to any activity which is lawfully undertaken by any citizen of Australia. That, of course, is a general statement which applies at all times and in all circumstances. But the Government takes the view that, in respect of this particular peace conference, it has a duty in the public interest to make abundantly clear to the Australian public the influence of Communism and Communists in relation to the congress. I have noted that the A.L.P. has adopted the attitude that, whilst it does not propose to be represented officially as a party, if individual members care to attend they may. This is what might be described as the usual Janus faced approach by the A.L.P. to matters of this kind.
– Has the
Leader of the Government in the Senate seen a report that as late as yesterday the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia unanimously decided to send delegates to the peace congress and has urged Presbyterians to take an active part in its deliberations? Would this seem to indicate that the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church has unanimously rejected the Government’s statement that the congress is Communist inspired?
– As I have indicated, the Presbyterian Church has a perfect right, as has any other body, to take whatever action it likes in respect of this conference and to form itsown opinion about whether the conference is a suitable one to which it may officially send its representatives. The Government has made its own comments as a result of its own investigations into the conference. The investigations were conducted and the results made known in the public interest and for the purpose of disclosing to the public the extent of the influence of Communism and Communists on the conference.
(Question No. 233.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Housing has provided the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions - 1 and 2. Statistics of the location of eligible homes under the Home Savings Grants Scheme are being compiled only in respect of applications that have been determined, that is, either approved or rejected. However, a special tabulation was made of the location of homes in all applications submitted in Western Australia up to the 21st August last. This revealed that, of 300 applications lodged, 269 related to homes in metropolitan areas and 31 to homes in nonmetropolitan areas. The following table shows the number of applications approved and rejected in respect of homes in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas in each State up to 21st August 1964-
(Question No. 238.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Mow many applications have been made by organisations for the Government grant for the purpose of assisting in the provision of hostel accommodation for handicapped people working in sheltered workshops?
– The Minister for Social Services has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
Persons Accommodation Act, organisations interested in sheltered workshops represented hostel accommodation as their most pressing need.
(Question No. 240.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The Minister for Social Services has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
(Question No. 247.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The Minister for Air has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
(Question No. 251.)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Air, upon notice -
JO. What is the estimated total cost of purchasing, and of the annual maintenance of the aircraft and their ancillary services?
– The Minister for Air has supplied the following reply -
No. 1- 5th April 1963 (in France).
No. 3- 19th December 1963.
No. 4- 29th January 1964.
No. 2- 22nd April 1964 (in France).
No. 7- 24th June 1964.
No. 8- 7th August 1964.
No. 5- 27th August 1964.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to - That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
Senator PROWSE (Western Australia).I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject -
Construction of Radio Australia Booster Station at Darwin, Northern Territory.
I ask for leave to make a statement in relation to this matter.
– The summary of the recommendations and conclusions of the Committee are as follows -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time. The Bill gives effect to the Government’s decision, as announced by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his Budget Speech, to increase all age, invalid and widows’ pensions by 5s. a week. Before dealing with the proposed increases I would like to refer briefly to some important structural changes made last year in. age and invalid pensions and the pensions payable to widows with children.
As honorable senators will recall, a new standard rate of pension was then introduced for single, widowed and divorced age and invalid pensioners and for married pensioners whose spouses were not in receipt of a pension, a wife’s allowance, a tuberculosis allowance or an unemployment, sickness or special benefit. Pensioners in these categories, representing 61 per cent. of all age and invalid pensioners, received an increase of 10s. a week in their pensions to provide them with a new standard rate of £5 15s. a week. The purpose of this structural change was to bring the single rate up to a level more commensurate with the combined rate of £10 10s. a week payable to a married pensioner couple.
The new standard rate also became the basic maximum rate applying to widow pensioners with one or more children. In addition, such widows became entitled to receive a mother’s allowance of £2 a week together with an allowance of 15s. a week for the eldest or only child, so that the total pension payments to a widow with one child were increased by £3 a week from £5 10s. to £8 10s. a week. This rate was further increased by 15s. a week for each additional child in the widow’s care. Other increases and liberalisations were also made last year. The pension payable to a widow without children was increased by 10s. a week to bring it from £4 12s. 6d. to £5 2s. 6d. a week. The wife’s allowance payable to the wife of an invalid pensioner or permanently incapacitated age pensioner was increased by 12s. 6d. a week to bring it from £2 7s. 6d. to £3 a week; and the additional pension for each child after the first of such pensioners was increased from 10s. to 15s. a week. Furthermore, the additional payments for children of invalid and permanently incapacitated age pensioners and of widow pensioners formerly limited to children under 16 years of age, were extended to apply to a child over 16 who is a full time student and dependent on the pensioner up till the end of the year in which the child turns 18.
My purpose in recalling these structural changes and other liberalisations which were made in pensions last year is to ensure that honorable senators may appreciate in their full perspective the further pension increases for which this Bill provides. Under the Bill before the Senate the standard rale of age and invalid pension will be increased by 5s. a week from £5 15s. to £6 a week. This will be the new maximum rate of age and invalid pension for single and widowed pensioners and for those married pensioners who are qualified to receive the standard rate. A number of pensioners in this group receive supplementary assistance of 10s. a week by virtue of the fact that they pay rent for their accommodation and are entirely dependent, or are deemed to be entirely dependent, on their pensions. Such pensioners will continue to receive this payment in addition to the increased pension, bringing their total payments to £6 10s. a week. The married rate will also be increased by 5s. a week to bring it from £5 5s. to £5 10s. a week. A married couple who are both in receipt of an age or invalid pension will accordingly have their combined pension income increased from £10 10s. to £11 a week.
These new rates do not, of course, include the additional amounts payable to invalid and permanently incapacitated age pensioners for children and student children. Honorable senators will be interested to note that, when measured by the consumer price index, the value of the new standard rate of pension payable to single age and invalid pensioners will be £1 15s. 8d. a week higher than the pension that was in force when the present Government first assumed office in December 1949. In other words, if this pension had been fixed strictly in accordance with movements in the consumer price index since that date, it would now be only £4 4s. 4d. a week. Similarly, the value of the new married rate of £5 10s. a week will be £1 5s. 8d. higher than the 1949 rate. In 1949, moreover, there was no supplementary assistance, no pensioner medical service and no additional pension for children after the first child. We have certainly taken some big steps forward since the last time a Labour Government held office. Honorable senators are well aware that the pensioner medical service, since its introduction by the present Government in 1951, has been of tremendous help to eligible pensioners - some 87 per cent, of the total - by relieving them of the financial worry previously associated with sickness. For these pensioners, the value of the pension does not lie in the cash payment alone.
It is claimed by some people that the rate of pension should be linked with the basic wage. There is actually no sound basis whatever for this claim, but it may be of interest to note that when the Labour Government last held office in 1949, the rate of age and invalid pension was 33 per cent, of the Commonwealth male basic wage for the six capital cities. The new standard rate pension of £6 a week will be almost 39 per cent, of the current basic wage, which became £15 8s. a week this year, and the new married rate of £5 10s. a week will be 35.7 per cent. A married pensioner couple will thus be able to receive a combined pension income equal to more than 70 per cent, of the basic wage, and with the other income allowable from outside sources they may have a total income even exceeding the basic wage. In the case of single pensioners who receive supplementary assistance, their total pension payments of £6 10s. a week will be 42 per cent, of the basic wage as compared with 33 per cent, in 1949.
A general increase in pensions, as I think honorable senators are by this time aware, automatically extends the amount of means which a person may have before his entitlement to a pension is eliminated under the means test. At one time this applied only in respect of income. Now, thanks to the important measure introduced by the present Government in 1961 known as the merged means test, it also applies in respect of property, or of property and income combined, for under the merged means test property and income are interchangeable. Thus, in the case of a single age or invalid pensioner without children and with affecting property valued at less than £210, the effect of the general increase for which this Bill provides will be that his entitlement to a pension will not bc completely eliminated until his income reaches £9 10s. a week, instead of £9 5s. a week as at present. If he has no income, other than income from property, his entitlement to a pension will not cut out until the value of his property, apart from home, furniture and personal effects, reaches £5,140- -which is £130 more than the present limit of £5,010.
For a married couple who are both pensioners and who have no affecting property, the disqualifying limit of income will be automatically raised from £17 10s. to £18 a week, and where they have no affecting income the disqualifying limit of property will be raised by £260, from £9,500 to £9,760. In the case of a married person whose spouse is not in receipt of a pension, allowance or benefit, the disqualifying limit of combined income, where there is no affecting property, will be raised from £18 10s. to £19 a week, and the disqualifying property limit where there is no affecting income will be raised from £10,020 to £10,280.
So far as income is concerned, the figures I have cited refer only to pensioners without children. In the case of invalid and permanently incapacitated age pensioners who have the care of children under 16 years of age, or student children 16 to 18 years of age, the maximum rate of pension is, as I have already mentioned, increased by 15s. a week for each child after the first. Moreover, income taken into account for means test purposes is reduced by 10s. a week for each dependent child.
I turn now to widows’ pensions. I referred earlier to the important structural change made last year in the class A widow’s pension. It was then provided that the standard rate applying to single age and invalid pensioners should also become the basic maximum rate of the class A pension and that it should be further increased by a mother’s allowance of £2 a week and an allowance of 15s. a week for the first or only child. The effect, therefore, of the increase of 5s. a week in the standard rate of age and invalid pensions will be to increase automatically the basic maximum rate of the class A widow’s pension from £5 15s. to £6 a week, so that the total pension payments made to class A widows with one child will be increased from £8 10s to £8 15s. a week. Additional pension of 15s. a week will remain payable for each additional child, as at present, and a student child is treated as a child under 16 years on the same basis as for age and invalid pensions. A class A widow, of course, also receives child endowment for each child, and as the result of legislation introduced earlier this year many widows now receive the benefit of higher rates of endowment for third and subsequent children and of the new student endowment payable for full-time students between the ages of 16 and 21 years.
In the case of class B widows - that is, widows over 50 years who have no dependent children - the maximum rate of pension will be increased from £5 2s. 6d. to £5 7s. 6d. a week. This will also apply to the class C widow - that is, a widow under 50 years of age with no dependent children but who is in necessitous circumstances immediately following her husband’s death. Widow pensioners in all classes who receive supplementary assistance will, of course, continue to receive this additional payment of 10s. a week in addition to the increased pension. In the same way as for age and invalid pensions, the pension increases for widows in classes A and B will automatically extend the amount of means which such widows may have before their entitlement to pension is eliminated under the means test.
As an example, let us take a class A widow who has one child and whose property, apart from her home, furniture and personal effects, does not exceed £2,250 in value. Apart from any income derived from her property, which is of course exempt, such a widow may $t present have income from outside sources of up to £11 15s. a week before her entitlement to a pension cuts out. This disqualifying limit will now be automatically lifted to £12 a week. Bearing in mind that the allowance of 15s. a week for the first or only child is not reduced by the means test, it will be seen that a widow in this position will be able to have, in addition to any income from property, a total income from pension, child endowment and other sources of up to £13 a week or, if her child is a student child attracting student endowment, £13 10s. a week. In the case of widows with more than one child the disqualifying limit of income rises by 25s. a week for each of the additional children. This does not take into account the child endowment payable. On the other hand we have the class A widow who has no income, other than income from property, but who has property, apart from her home, furniture and personal effects, valued at more than £2,250. As the result of the increase in the basic rate of pension under this Bill, such a widow will be able to have property valued at up to £6,980 before her entitlement to a pension disappears. This will be £1 30 more than the present limit of £6,850.
Several provisions in the Bill relate to pensioners who are inmates of benevolent homes. At present a pensioner who is an inmate of a benevolent home does not receive more than 40s. a week of his pension if a standard rate agc or invalid pensioner, more than 37s. a week if a married rate age or invalid pensioner or more than 36s. 6d. a week if a class B widow pensioner. The balance of the pension in all these cases is payable to the authorities of the home for the pensioner’s maintenance. In applying the general increase of 5s. a week to such cases the amounts payable to the three categories of. pensioner inmates will in each case be increased by 2s. to bring them to 42s., 39s. and 38s. 6d. a week respectively and the remaining 3s. a week of the increase will be added to the amount already payable to the authorities of the home. Under the Bill, the increased rates will become payable from and including the first appropriate pension payday after it receives the Royal Assent and becomes law.
This completes my outline of the provisions of the Bill. It will benefit nearly 800,000 pensioners throughout the Commonwealth and, as honorable senators know, k is the second Bill introduced by the Government during the current year to improve our social services with such widespread effect. Earlier in. the year the child endowment provisions of the principal Act were amended to provide higher rates of endowment for some 900,000 children under 16 years in over 500,000 families and to provide, in addition, a completely new form of endowment affecting a further 120,000 student children between the ages of 16 and 21 years.
The estimated cost of the pension increases in this Bill will be £10,430,000 in a full year and £7,825,000 in 1964-65. lt should be noted, however, that expenditure on social services for 1964-65, in addition to including the part year costs of these pension increases, will include the full year costs of the liberalisations effected in 1963 and of the child endowment measures introduced earlier this year. These other items will amount to about £35 million, approximately half of which will bc for child endowment. Expenditure for 1964-65 will, of course, also include what VC might call the natural growth in social services expenditure reflecting, inter alia, the increase in our population.
The significance of these costs is not apparent at first sight from a comparison of actual expenditure on benefits payable under the Social Services Act in 1963-64 - £320,795.000-with estimated expenditure of £336,936,000 for 1964-65. This arises from the fact that expenditure in 1963-64 included additional amounts of over £9 million for extra child endowment and widow’s pension pay-days which fell in the year. Furthermore, outlay on unemployment benefit in. 1963-64 was over £2 million more than is estimated for 1964-65.
The’ pension increases for which this Bill provides, together with the cost of health and other benefits paid from the National Welfare Fund, will lift total expenditure from thai fund for 1964-65 to a record level estimated at £452.1 million. In addition, expenditures under the Aged Persons Homes Act and the Disabled Persons Accommodation Act are expected to reach £3,700,000 and £150,000 respectively. In 1948-49, the last full year for which a Labour Government was in office, expenditure from the National Welfare Fund was £80.8 million. This represented. 40 per cent, of the combined yield of £119.5 million in that year from the then separate social services contribution and the. income tax paid by indivduals. The estimated expenditure for this financial year - £452,1 million - will represent 60 per cent, of the estimated yield of £745.6 million from income tax and social services, contribution payable by individuals. These figures speak for themselves. They reflect the huge growth in our social services during the fifteen years of office of this Government, and they also draw attention to the fact that is too often overlooked - that our progress in social services depends on the capacity and the willingness of Australian taxpayers to meet the cost.
All through the years since 1949 the Government has pursued a policy of extending, liberalising and improving our social services consistent with the rate of growth of our national resources and the measures necessary to sustain that rate of growth. The effectiveness of this policy has been well demonstrated. Already, we have a greatly enlarged and greatly improved system of social services which is not only bringing greater benefits to more and more people, but which is also soundly based and beneficial to the community as a whole.
The Bill which is now before us - the second of its kind to be introduced this year - should not be viewed in isolation. It is another step in a progressive programme of social services based on a policy which has already produced substantial results and which we may confidently expect to continue doing so in future. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Senator TANGNEY (Western Australia)
Bill but with an amendment which I intend to propose. I shall do so now because on a previous occasion when I was about to propose an amendment I almost forgot to do so. I move -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the Senate is of opinion that the rates of pension for the aged, invalids and widows, and rates of maternity allowances, child endowment, sickness, unemployment and funeral benefits, are completely inadequate, and that there should be a review of all social service benefits, including the establishment of a base rate pension and supplementary assistance for special needs, in order that recipients may be able to meet the increase in the total cost of living; the increases lo be retrospective to 1st July, 1964 “.
This proposed amendment is, I think, selfexplanatory. The Bill which the Minister has introduced deals only with a very small fraction of our total social services. Not only does it deal only with a very small fraction of our total social services but it gives only a very small measure of relief to a few social service beneficiaries.
One thing that I have noticed during the 21 years that I have been in this chamber is the complete revolution in the thinking of the parties that now comprise the Government in relation to social services. - Many of the social service benefits which are now regarded as the right of the people in this community were bitterly opposed, when we introduced the relevant legislation into the Senate in the 1940’s by honorable senators of the same political parties as those which now occupy the Government benches. I will never forget being taken to task by the Leader of the Opposition in. the Senate at the time when the first unemployment and sickness benefits were proposed. He said that the unemployment benefit would encourage idleness in the workers and that the sickness benefit would encourage malingering. I am very pleased that over the years the thinking of the Government parties in relation to social services has undergone such a complete change. They have never repealed the social service legislation introduced by the Labour Government. Although they have not improved that legislation by the Bill now before us they have - I pay a tribute to them to this extent - done quite a good deal to retain the social service benefits which were introduced originally during the war.
I do not think that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) is fair in his comparison between the position that existed in 1949 and the position that exists today. It is so easy to say that a certain sum was spent in 1949 and that we are spending so much more today. Of course we are, but we know that the value of the £1 has deteriorated so much that the 1949 £1 is worth today only about 9s. 7d. In addition, we have a much greater pension population due to two factors, first, the natural ageing of the people in the community, and secondly, the greatly increased population as a result of both our immigration policy and our natural rate of increase. When you take these two factors into consideration you will find there is very little difference in the values of the amount spent on social services today and the amount that was spent in 1949. The amounts per head are practically the same. We are very proud of our social services. I was quite prepared, when I went overseas last year, to say that we were the leaders in social services in the world, that we had this and that, but I very quickly came to heel when I found out that this was not so. A paper of the International Labour Organisation for the year 1961 shows that Australia is placed very low on the list of countries in respect of the proportion of national income spent on social services. This report, prepared by the Social Security Department of the International Labour Organisation, is the latest available at this time. It shows that Germany, which was defeated in the war, is spending 20.8 per cent, of its national income on social services. The figures are-
It should give us pause that some European countries which were ravaged by war and had to rebuild in the post war years - are still rebuilding, as a matter of fact - although not yet completely recovered from the war, are spending a higher proportion of their national incomes on social services than we are in Australia. Although I am not the best authority in the Senate on figures, I commend these to honorable senators. If they want to cite official figures in this respect, these are from an official I.L.O. publication which brings into proper perspective the proportion of national income that Australia is spending on social services. Looking at the matter objectively, I find that the answer is that in 14 countries which are perhaps the leading countries in the world we rank twelfth.
In any case, this Bill is more notable for what it does not do than for what it does. It has been decided to give an increase of 5s. a week, or 8id. a day, to certain pensioners. At the same time, the Government brings down a Budget which immediately takes more than that amount away from the pensioners in increased charges. We have, for instance, the increased telephone charges. Someone might say that pensioners should not need telephones or should not expect to be able to afford telephones, but I put it to honorable senators that a telephone is a much more vital necessity, in many cases, to invalid pensioners than to other people in the community. lt is a much more vital necessity to blind pensioners than to other people in the community. In many instances, it is their only possible link with the outside world. 1 was interested in a programme a little while ago on “ Four Corners “. 1 suppose all honorable senators saw it. lt showed that the only way that an invalid had of communicating wilh her doctor was by hanging a towel out a window. If the doctor happened to be passing that way and saw the towel hanging out the window, he knew there was something wrong and he came in to sec the patient. This pensioner happens to be living alone. The towel was also a signal for the lady across the road. If she saw the towel hanging out the window, she knew something was wrong in the house and came to investigate. That programme made a terrific impression on mc. I just realised the plight of people who are living alone and who are unable to communicate, in time of need, with anyone outside the home. Yet with these increased charges for telephones, the S-ld. a day increase in pension will be wiped out in one fell swoop.
Also, postal charges are to be increased as a result of legislation ut present before the other chamber. 1 should like the Minister to confer with his colleague the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) even at this late hour to see whether something can be done to reduce these charges to pensioners in order that the supposed rise of 5s. a week in pension will not be completely nullified by increased charges for only one service. 1 wish to make a second point. The small token rise is much less than what is really required. We are told about the great increases that have been given to pensioners. We are told what they were getting in 1949 and what they are getting in 1964. But many of the people who were getting the pension in 1949 are no longer with us. What really matters is not how much people are getting in 1964 but how much this can buy. What can they buy with it? We know that costs of staple products which they need every day just to keep life going have increased enormously. We cannot calculate this increase from the C Series Index. We have to take out the ordinary, everyday commodities which are necessary for the maintenance of life in order to see for ourselves what the pension really means to these people. A great deal of it goes out in sales tax. If a pensioner goes into a shop and buys something, he is not charged less because he’ happens to be a pensioner. The money that is paid out in pensions is the best investment that the Government has ever made, because a great deal of it comes back to the Government in other forms. It is spent immediately it is received, or rather the expenditure of it is budgeted for. I often think that if by some chance an age or invalid pensioner became the Treasurer of this country we would have a very fine Treasurer, as he would be so used to managing on a pension.
For instance, in 1949 a pensioner could buy 1 lb. of butter for 2s. 2d. Today it costs 4s. lOd. There is a rise of 120 per cent. Tea, which cost 2s. 9d. per lb. in 1949, costs 6s. 3d. today, another rise of 120 per cent. Sugar, which cost 5d per lb. in 1949, costs lid. per lb. today. Sausages, which are. perhaps the staple meat diet of quite a number of pensioners, have risen from less than ls. per lb. in 1949 to 2s. Id. The price of bread has increased by 170 per cent. To the pensioner who does not own his home the high rent he is obliged to pay is a heart breaking financial burden. The Minister referred to the fact that a person could have so much in the bank, so much property, and all the rest of it, and still get a pension. Yet, in a reply which I received today to a question I asked some time ago, I am told that although statistics arc not available for every State, the statistics available in one State show that 66 per cent, of pensioners - two out of every three - have no income other than the pension. I do not know whether statistics are available as to how many pensioners own their homes, but let me deal only with those who have no income other than the pension. They are the ones with whom we are most concerned. They are the base pensioners, the ones who depend on whatever the pension happens to be.
If they do not own their homes and they are given an allowance of 10s. a week towards rent, that does not go very far. Even in some of the doss houses, if I may so call them, a charge of more than 10s. is made for a bed for one night. I should like to see money which the Government is spending under the Aged Persons Homes Act - I have put this proposition to the Senate before - diverted to some kind of scheme of housing for the aged, even in conjunction with State Governments or local government authorities, which are not allowed to receive grants from the Government under this legislation. I consider that in many cases they are the best authorities to deal with this matter and they would not charge an ingoing fee for these flats. I was amazed, today, to hear the Minister say that the majority of the bodies which are building under the Aged Persons Homes Act are not charging any donations. 1 like that word “ donations “. I do not know any aged person who could afford to give a donation of a couple of thousand pounds to any church or society for this purpose, but it is a necessity for them to pay it in some cases if they are to be guaranteed shelter in their old age.
I cannot think - offhand - of any home for the aged, in my own State, which has been built with the assistance of Commonwealth money, and which does not impose some form of forced donation towards its funds, with the exception of Nazareth House and flats built by the Australian Pensioners League. The Pensioners League, also, does not charge an ingoing fee because, as they say, the flats which they have built - and which are very good - remain the property of the league. I have asked this question over and over again, because I have had very serious complaints from people who have taken up these cottages and flats and who have no equity in them. As I said earlier, the donations are towards the cost of the accommodation. Must the next person going into such a flat make a donation of the same amount? I have heard complaints about places in Victoria - which I have not been able to deal with because I realised that they were outside my province - where the first tenant of the flat has paid up to £2,000 ingoing fee and the next tenant, who has come in shortly afterwards, has paid up to £2,500. I do not think that when this legislation was first introduced it was ever envisaged that these funds were to go to the assistance of people who can afford £2,000, which is subsidised by another £4,000 from the Commonwealth to provide a £6,000 housing unit.
I consider that the first aim of the Government should be to see that the people who need accommodation - that is the base pensioners - are adequately housed. These people do not want a grandiose scheme or anything of that kind. I think there should be in Australia some scheme such as I saw in England immediately after the war. In that housing development scheme there were units for both married and single pensioners and the rental charged was 7s. a week. The important aspect, of course, is the relationship of the rental to the pension. In England the rental was only a small fraction of the pension and the accommodation provided was a living room, a bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom and a back verandah where dad could potter around with his tools and keep out of mum’s way while she was tidying up inside. In that housing development there was a community dining room where those too old to cook for themselves could get a meal at a very reasonable rate. I brought the plans of that development back to Australia and gave them to the authorities but nothing happened in relation to them.
Governments in Western Australia - both Labour and Liberal - have done a good job in providing homes for single women. In many communities it is a bit of a crime to be a single woman and the authorities have laughed off the whole proposition that single women have any needs in relation to housing. We have a very fine committee at work in Western Australia, which provides adequate housing for elderly single women. A number of very good flats has been built by the State Government, which does not charge this huge ingoing fee for people to rent the flats. Excellent work is being done and, in every housing settlement and group of new houses, houses for elderly folk have been included. But this only touches the fringe of the problem. I am certain that our municipal authorities and State Government authorities could do much better with a lot of the grants being made to outside bodies than is being done by those bodies at the present time and more people would benefit.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Mr. President, I ask for leave to withdraw the amendment with a view to moving it in a slightly amended form.
– 1 now move-
That the following words be added to the motion - “but the Senate is of opinion that the rales of pension for the aged, invalids and widows, and rates of maternity allowances, child endowment, sickness, unemployment and funeral benefits, are completely inadequate, and that there should be a review of all social service benefits, including the establishment of a base rate pension and supplementary assistance for special needs, in order that recipients may be able to meet the increase in the total cost of living; the increases to be retrospective to 1st July 1964 “.
Before the suspension for lunch I was dealing with the Aged Persons Homes Act and was suggesting to the Government that the provisions of that legislation could well be extended to include local governing bodies and State Governments so that the need for the provision of housing for elderly citizens could be more adequately met without having to make donations from special funds. I do not intend to pursue that line of thinking further. I think I have said sufficient to make my intention clear.
Now I come to widows’ pensions. The Minister’s second reading speech seemed to contain little about the subject matter of theBill but was more a resume of the whole field of social services, particularly the additional benefits that were granted last year. There is a great deal of room for improvement, particularly in regard to pensions for widows in classes B and C. When the children of a widow turn 16 years of age, the widow is immediately transferred to class B and thereafter receives less than the base rate pension. We do not think that is fair; we think that the base rate pension should be paid to all widows, because the needs of a widow are the same as those of any other pensioner. I was rather amazed to hear the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) state this morning, in reply to a question asked by Senator Morris about wives who had been deserted by their husbands, that no assistance is available to wives in Victoria from any State instrumentality during the first six months of desertion.
In Western Australia we have an excellent Child Welfare Department which does help in this respect. As honorable senators know, deserted wives and wives whose husbands are in prison do not receive a pension until after the lapse of six months. lt is very difficult for such women to manage during that period. I should like to pay a tribute to the officers of the Child Welfare Department, who are very helpful in such circumstances. We never have to approach them twice before they have their inspectors out on the job; they do everything they can to help those who are in necessitous circumstances. There is a very good liaison between our State social welfare agencies and the Commonwealth agencies. I. should like to pay a tribute also to the officers of the Commonwealth Department of Social Services in Western Australia. From Mr. Humphreys down through the whole staff, they are always very helpful and go out of their way to assist as quickly as possible and to obtain a decision in any tricky cases that may be submitted to them. They have even tried to explain the merged means test to me. I could not say that they have had much success, because I still become confused about it. But they do put the needs of applicants for social service benefits first and arc only too eager to expedite the granting of any payments that might be due. It seems strange to me that in Victoria the Commonwealth Government should have to give assistance which is provided’ in other Stales by State Governments during the first six months for which a wife is deserted to enable her to rear her family with some degree of decency.
I recall that when provision was first made for payment to deserted wives and to wives of mcn who are in prison it did not receive the unanimous support of honorable senators. We were not very much in favour of having a lower rate of pension for class B and class .C widows. It must beremembered that up to that time no pensions at all had been paid to widows and the government of the day, with the nation at war, had to do the very best it could with the limited amount of money that was available for social services. Some supporters of the Government are rather inclined to forget that fact. When they talk about the lower rates of pension that were granted by a Labour Government, they must remember that when those payments were introduced the nation was geared for war. A lot of people thought it was extravagant to pay extra social service benefits when money was needed for the war effort. The fact that those benefits were introduced during the war showed that the Government of the day had in mind the problems of peace as well as those of war. Even in the immediate postwar years attempts were made to improve social services, but the task of getting one million men and women back into industry with as little dislocation of industry as possible was gigantic and first things had to come first. We agree with honorable senators opposite that social service benefits have been extended over the lust 15 years. And they should have been, because at least we try to maintain something like the progress that has been made by other nations in this respect. Although we cannot claim to be the leaders in this field, we certainly do not want to be right at the rear.
The Commonwealth Government should consider fixing a base rate of pension for all widows. Widows should not receive less than the rate of pension that is paid to aged and invalid persons. Even that rate of pension does not permit luxury living; it allows for only a meagre standard of living. We can imagine how much lower is the standard of living of widows of more than 50 years of age who cannot get employment. Spheres of employment that were open to them in the past are now closed. The increased use of washing machines, polish ing machines and so forth means that they cannot obtain domestic work. In any case, after a widow has reared her family to the stage where they turn 16 years of age and are able to look after themselves she deserves at least the base rate pension. If the economy of Australia is expanding as rapidly as the Government would have us believe, it should not be beyond the bounds of possibility for the Government to pay an extra sum to the classes of widows whom I have mentioned.
The Government is already making a very big contribution for deserted wives. Year after year I have said in this place that husbands who desert their wives should be brought to account by the authorities and should be made to shoulder their responsibilities. As we do not want wives to suffer because they receive payments from their husbands only now and again, the Government ought to continue to pay a pension to deserted wives and to do its utmost to apprehend defaulting husbands and make them pay back to the Department whatever has been paid to their wives by the Department.
– Do you think that any penalties should be imposed upon a wife who deserts her husband?
– I think you will find that where there are children, in 99 cases out of 100 - at least in the cases I have dealt with - the deserting party has been the husband, not the wife. If a woman, deserts her husband and children, he is well rid of her and does not deserve any compensation. I think he has got it.
Of the vast amount that is being spent - and rightly so - by the Government in assisting deserted wives, a great deal could be recouped from defaulting husbands and used to help the necessitous cases which come to various departments seeking assistance. I would not like it to be thought that I am trying to take away pensions from deserted wives. I think that the granting of pensions to deserted wives is one of the most humane acts of any government. When we talk so glibly of 66 per cent, of the pensioners having nothing but their pensions and 72 per cent, having something else, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with people. They are human beings and not percentages; and it is no good speaking of people as percentages. We have to remember that they are human beings who need assistance to keep their dignity as such and to avoid existing in forms of extreme poverty.
The Bill before us is only small in that it deals with the payment of only an extra 5s. a week to some pensioners. It does not run the whole gamut of social services. An aspect of social services I would like to have seen included in the measure is the abolition of medical entitlement cards. They divide the pensioners into two groups, those with medical entitlement cards and those without. Some pensioners are disqualified because they have an income of only £2 a week. If the Government cannot see its way clear to abolish the cards, surely to goodness it could do something about adjusting the eligibility limit to a more just figure and one which is more accurately related to today’s economy.
When the medical entitlement cards were introduced in 1955 the allowable income was fixed at £2 a week. Nearly 10 years have elapsed and the value of money has depreciated greatly. If the figure of £2 was brought to parity with today’s values, that at least would be. a step forward. If it were adjusted to, say, £4, it would help quite a number of pensioners. 1 have received letters from pensioners who cannot got medical entitlement cards because they have income of £2 a week from superannuation or from some fund to which they have made contributions. These people say that they would prefer to lose the income of a couple of pounds a week in order to qualify for medical entitlement cards. We are all aware of the rises in costs of medical services. Many pensioners who cannot afford medical attention delay visiting a doctor until their cases become much more complicated and, in many cases, until it is too late.
I would like the Minister to give some consideration to the problem of medical entitlement cards and also to the problem of aged pensioners who become patients of mental institutions. When entering mental institutions age pensioners lose their pensions. Surely if the community has advanced at all in the last 20 years it has been in its more enlightened acceptance of mental illness as an illness and not as a crime. Time was when those people afflicted with a mental disability were regarded as insane and were placed in asylums for the insane. That was that.
Today mental illness is regarded as an illness which requires attention just as physical illness requires attention. It is not a crime. It can happen to anyone. Quite a number of people who are mentally ill, believe me, are walking around and are not in institutions. I think that public consciousness of the problems of mental illness has developed along the right road in the last few years. However, this is not true of the Department of Social Services which takes away the pension from pensioners who enter institutions for the mentally ill. I know from my own experience of visiting mental institutions that the retention of a small degree of independence helps a great deal in the treatment of mental disorders. These people like to have a little bit of money available to them.
State Governments are responsible for almost all of the maintenance of mental institutions. While the Federal Government is stepping out of this field it throws the onus onto the State Government instrumentalities. The health of our aged people and all its associated problems is interwoven with the legislation before us. It is hard to deal with one aspect without dealing with the other aspects. I know it is our intention to pass this legislation in the Senate today so that those who are to receive benefits will get them as soon as possible. I do not intend to keep the Senate very much longer, but I would like to register a protest because the Bill was not brought down earlier to the Senate. Why in the world could not the Senate have remained sitting last week? We could have passed the Repatriation Bill and the Social Services (No. 2) Bill so that the people who are to receive some slight benefits could have received them earlier than is now possible. By our absence we have saved the Government payment of one week’s increases in pensions. I think it is bad enough that the payments, small as they are, will not become operative until some months after their original announcement. I do not just blame the Government, but we on this side of the chamber are also to blame for not pressing to have the Social Services (No. 2) Bill put through the Senate at the earliest possible moment to prevent undue delay in payments to the pensioners.
We would like to see the increased payments made retrospective to July. I know that has been said every year for 21 years, but we say it again in the hope that this time it will be approved. When we are dealing with people on the higher rungs of the social ladder we do not mind making payments retrospective when increases are approved. 1 refer to our own salary increases which we made retrospective on one occasion. If we can do it for ourselves, we can do it for the pensioners who are in much greater need than we are.
I fear 1 have been a little discursive. In part this may be due to the fact that the Bill has reached us today and is being debated immediately. For this reason I was not able to give it the attention I would have given it had there been a day or so to digest it. At the same time, I realise the urgency of the matter. I regret that the increases do not go far enough, as I have said in my proposed amendment. The legislation leaves untouched many of our social services which demand the attention of the Government. With all its defects, we know that the Bill will be passed. We can only express the hope that the Government will agree to accept the amendment which I have placed before the Senate.
.- In December 1949 the Liberal and Country Parties formed the Government of Australia. From then until now the coalition Government has successfully guided the development, growth and welfare of this country. Over this period the Parliament has successfully used every endeavour consistent with our national resources to improve our social services. It has increased and improved our system of social services so that more and greater benefits accrue to the people. The Bill now before the Senate is one of the many progressive steps in the programme of social services that this Government has carried through. For that reason, and many others, I support the Bill and oppose the amendment moved by Senator Tangney on behalf of the Opposition.
Senator Tangney wishes to make this Bill retrospective to 1st July 1964. It should not be necessary for me to remind her of something that was said in 1948. She was a member of the Senate at that time. If we turn to “ Hansard “ of 14th October 1948, and look at page 1655, we find these remarks -
I do not think that the principle of making payments retrospectively is sound. A Bill should operate from the date on which it is passed unless there is a very strong reason to implement it retrospectively.
I do not say that Senator Tangney used those words, but I do say that she was one of 33 against three in those days. The words were used by the present Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) when he introduced a particular Social Services Bill. He was Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister for Health and Social Services. Senator McKenna used those words and every supporter of the then Government agreed with him. There was not one word spoken by them in opposition to his remarks. If that principle was right then, I cannot see why the present position should be completely changed and why Opposition members should say that the payments must be backdated to 1st July. This is one of the many reasons why I oppose the amendment moved by Senator Tangney.
As I said earlier, this Bill is one of the progressive steps this Government has taken in helping the less fortunate people in our community. I hope honorable senators will bear with me while I quote at random a few examples of the achievements of this Government. If we look at age and invalid pensions, we will notice that these have increased from £2 2s. 6d. per week in 1950 to £5 5s. per week in 1961. The only years between 1949 and 1961 in which no increase was made were 1954, 1956 and 1958. The total increase during that period was £3 2s. 6d. In 1963, the Government introduced a new standard rate for a single pensioner and for a married pensioner if the spouse was not receiving a pension, an allowance or a benefit. An increase of 10s. per week was provided, which raised the pension to £5 15s. per week. Under this legislation the new rate for that class of pension will be £6. The rate will be £5 10s. per week if each partner of a marriage is a pensioner. We have introduced the merged means test. I am not going to weary honorable senators by speaking about the merged means test, because they know what a great benefit it is. We have increased the permissible income a person may earn while still receiving a pension. Property qualifications have been modified. A great step forward was taken when the residence qualification was reduced from 20 years to 10 years. Honorable senators know that child endowment has been increased. I have great respect for widows. We find that the pension for a widow with one or more children under 16 years of age has been increased by £6” 7s. 6d. per week over that period, making the amount £8 15s. per week. As 1 said, this is an increase of £6 7s. 6d. or, if honorable senators prefer percentages, an increase of 268 per cent, over what was paid by the Australian Labour Party during its last years of office. Class B widows have received an increase of £3 10s. 6d. since that time, which represents a percentage increase of 191 per cent, over the amount paid by the Australian Labour Party in its last years of office. 1 repeat that the amount of permissible income that is allowed has been increased. If we turn to unemployment and sickness benefits, about which we have heard a great deal, we find that at the present moment the payment is £4 2s. 6d. per week for a man. If he is married, he receives £3 per week for his wife. The increase has been spectacular. War pension is excluded in calculating total income under the means test which applies to unemployment and sickness benefits. Again, we have extended the period of claim from six weeks to thirteen weeks. I suggest that these are all valuable concessions Is it any wonder that the cost to this nation of improved social services in the coming year will be approximately £571.876 million? That is the estimated cost for the financial year 1964- 65. To make this perfectly clear, I want to point out that I have included in that figure, and I think the inclusion is justifiable, £115.873 million for repatriation, £452.153 million for health and social services, £3.7 million for homes for the aged, and £.15 million for accommodation for disabled persons. There are many other miscellaneous social service payments which are not included, such as £1.77 million for mental health institutions. There is also free milk for school children.
Let us consider the figure of £452.153 million for health and social services in the National Welfare Fund. We find that that figure represents 60 per cent, of total income tax receipts. Health and social service payments require 60 per cent, of everything which the Government receives in the way of income tax. That amount is, as I said, £452.153 million. But, if we include the cost of repatriation benefits, the total rises to £571.876 million. That is approximately 75 per cent, of the total income tax that is collected. If we take the lower figure, let us tell everybody who pays income tax - the man on the basic wage and so on - that 12s. of every £1 that he pays in income tax goes on social services. If we include repatriation in that figure, 15s. of every £1 paid in income tax goes towards meeting the cost of social services. Some interesting things arise from this question of what is paid and what is not paid under social services. The Opposition should tell the people the cost of providing the social service benefits about which it speaks so glibly. I well remember a former Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, saying: “You cannot pay for social services out of loan funds. They have to be paid for by labour.” I would like to put my argument in this way: I believe that the Australian people have decided that 40 hours a week, as laid down by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, should be the standard number of hours to be worked each week. In round figures, the Government budgeted this year for a revenue of £2,500 million. That is the total revenue that the Government will receive. An expenditure on social services of £571 million represents more than one-fifth of the total revenue of the Government. Putting it in another way, the whole amount of tax paid by one out of every five people in this country, must go to pay for social services. In effect, one man in every five is engaged in paying for social services. If the Opposition wants more and better social services, and is honest about the matter, it must tell the people of Australia that instead of working 40 hours a week they must work 42 hours a week.
Even that would not provide all that the Opposition says should be spent on social services. It is probable that to give the social services that the Opposition says should be given, every man and woman in this community would have to work 421 hours each week.
– What rot.
– Did I hear you say: “ What rot “?
– Yes. It shows how muddled are your financial thinking and planning.
– It shows what the facts are, and the Opposition is not game to face up to them. How else can you get this money? Are you going to take it from what you say is the wealthy section? You cannot get very much more from that section. The money must come from the average person in the community. He would have to work two and a half hours a week extra to provide the necessary money. When the matter is put in that way, anybody can see how large the cost of extra social services is measured in terms of work hours.
While I am dealing with the cost of social services, let me take the case of a man on the basic wage. He earns £15 8s. and he pays income tax. A pensioner couple receiving social service benefits get £11 per week and are entitled to a permissible income of £7 per week, making £18 a week. They have no income tax to pay. The Opposition is, in effect, saying to the man on the basic wage that he must pay more income tax in order to keep people who are receiving up to £18 a week and have no income tax to pay.
I come back to the question of what should or should not be paid in social services. Never let it be forgotten that when the Labour Party went out of office it said that it left a large credit in the National Welfare Fund. A special tax had been imposed to give to the pensioners some of the things which they desired and which the Labour Party said should be given to them. But the money that was collected was not spent on the pensioners. As a matter of fact, the £130 million that Labour alleged was in the National Welfare Fund had gone into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Labour Government spent it, not on social services but on other Government activities, and conveniently put £1 30 million worth of I.O.Us. in the Fund. It then had the audacity to go to the country and say that it had left the Liberal and Country Party Government £130 million in the kitty. Honorable senators opposite should be honest about this matter. The Labour Government spent that money on things other than social service benefits. I defy anyone on the other side to contradict the statement I have made, or even to suggest that it is wrong. One honorable senator opposite has accused me of having no idea of finance. Let him face up to the statement I have just made. I think, perhaps, that I know as much about finance as other people. I have always had to live within my income, and any Government must do the same.
– You have never been on a pension.
– The fact that I have not been on a pension does not prove anything. I am sometimes staggered by what I hear said about the pensioners having been great pioneers. There are not many pioneers over my age. I suppose I have worked fairly hard, but everybody has had as much opportunity as 1 have had. The fact that I have not had to live on a pension has little relevance to this matter. I am very glad that I have not had to do so. Sometimes we hear a great deal of clamour about this matter, but let us face the facts. I know the way in which some people invested their money. They did not consider me, but only their own joys and pleasures in the way they invested their money. They did not get any dividend from it. Even the honorable member who has said that I know nothing about finance would not contradict me, I think, when I say that on the part of some people there has been no sound investment. I know very well that there is more money to be made by selling beer than there is to be made by drinking it.
– Not as much fun, though.
– Exactly. I agree with the honorable senator. The people who may have invested their money unwisely and now depend on pensions, are saying to me: “ Come on, old boy, it is up to you to share your money with me.” When they were investing their money I was not asked to share their fun as stated by Senator O’Byrne.
– You would not suggest that all pensioners are pensioners because they spent their money on beer?
– I did not say that. I said there was more money to be made by selling beer than by drinking it. An honorable senator asked me how I would like to live on a pension. I suppose that if T had to do so, I would. At the same time, I do not believe all this talk we hear about the great pioneers of the country and what they have had to sacrifice. The reference is to people of mv age. I suppose I have done a little bit of pioneering and a little bit of hard work, but when I look back and compare what I have done with what my parents and grandparents did, I would not say that I was a pioneer. During the last 20 years people in this country have had a great opportunity to save money. I am aware that there are cases of distress but, on the other hand, we have people in this community who are drawing a pension and are quite comfortably off. If they are fortunate enough to own their own home they are relatively comfortably off, particularly if they have saved a few shillings or are in receipt of superannuation. I am delighted that they have these things. I admit that there are some special cases, and I am going to mention one or two things later on and suggest some improvements that could be made in our social service scheme.
I want to mention briefly the provision of homes for the less fortunate .people in the community. One of the. greatest things, in my opinion, that this Government has done for these people is to provide a subsidy of £2 for every £1 raised by the various institutions and social organisations which are prepared to build homes to accommodate aged persons. I refer particularly to South Australia where we are gradually catching up with the demand for this type of home. I would like to pay a compliment to the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) for the practical interest he has shown in this matter of providing homes for the less fortunate people.
When we look at the question of social services, I think that we have to give greater consideration to providing homes for aged and sick persons. This is a problem. We know that the Government has given an extra £1 a day for inmates of nursing homes which, together with their pension of £6 a week, makes a total of £13 a week. But I am told on the best authority that £13 a week is not sufficient to keep people in these homes. We must go a step further in this direction. Here I am following the honorable member for Sturt. I hope that the Government will see its way clear in the near future to provide a subsidy of £2 for £1 to the various organisations which are providing homes for the aged so that they can provide hospital accommodation for the aged and the sick. The upkeep of many of the present homes is great. If we could provide a greater subsidy it would be of great assistance to them to build new premises, more suited to accommodate our aged sick and infirm. As I said earlier, the fact that people have a home and are drawing a pension makes them relatively well off. I do not want to be misunderstood when I say that. I know that the payment of rent places a hardship on people. We did something in that regard by providing a 10s. supplementary rent allowance. I think that when we are considering social services we might concentrate a little more on the aged and sick persons in an attempt to provide greater benefits.
Over the last 15 years this Government has seen that people have had employment. I was interested in checking some of the figures that were mentioned in another place regarding the relationship of pensions to the basic wage in 1949 and today. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) acknowledged that 36 per cent, is greater than 34 per cent. He said that weekly earnings today are greater than they were when the Australian Labour Party went out of office. I suppose that is because there are more people in employment today than there were then. I can well remember a well known stalwart of the Labour Party saying: “ If we can reduce unemployment to 4 per cent, the golden age will be with us “. I am pleased that there is very little unemployment in this country today. That state of affairs has been brought about by good government. Because there has been good government, and because men and women have been able to earn a good living, this year the Government has been able to provide more than £571 million for social services. That is something of which we can be proud.
Senator Tangney referred to social services in other countries of the world. She mentioned Germany. I have been to Germany recently. I am not going to query her figures, but I suggest-
– The figures I quoted came from the International Labour Organisation. They were not my figures.
– I am not querying the figures in any way, but I am saying that the average person in Australia is much better off than the average person in Germany and enjoys better social services. There is one fact that we must not lose sight of when we talk about Belgium, Germany and France. American money has been poured into those countries like water. They have been able to- borrow money; for rebuilding purposes at the rate of 1 per cent, interest. They have the tradesmen and the technicians, and- they have been able to carry on a great rebuilding programme. If they can borrow money at the rate of 1 per cent, interest, is it any wonder that they can undertake such rebuilding programmes? Some people in these countries whose businesses were not bombed and destroyed say: “ We had to contribute so much during the war for national rehabilitation, but now our. trade competitor who was bombed is able to borrow money at 1 per cent, to rebuild his plant. He is in a much better position than we are.” When we come to compare Germany with Australia, we must look at all the facts.
I believe that this Government has done an extraordinarily good job in social services, and that it will continue to see that the less fortunate people in our community receive the social services which we can afford to give them. The benefits will be greatly appreciated by those people who receive them. I support the Bill and oppose the amendment.
– I have pleasure in seconding the amendment which was moved by Senator Tangney. I have paid great attention to the speech that has just been delivered by Senator Mattner. Many Liberal members do not believe in any form of social services whatsoever. I am not suggesting that Senator Mattner is in that category, and I am not suggesting that that applies to every Liberal senator.
– Who are the many members?
– The present Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), not long before he took over that portfolio, said, in effect, that if he had his way there would be no social services at all.
– That is one. You said there were many.
– I shall refer to them later in my speech. I will refer to statements that have been made in another place by Tories, people with the same ideas as a vast majority of honorable senators opposite. Senator Mattner said, in .effect, that if pensioners want anything in addition to what they axe getting, the working hours must be increased by at least an extra two and a half hours a week. In this period . of great inflation the proposed increase of 5s. a .week is paltry. Later in my speech I shall attempt to explain the feelings of pensioners in particular, and the people of Australia in general. Although workers in industry have secured an increase of £1 a week in the basic wage, there are widespread strikes in every State of the Commonwealth because of the increased prices and inflation which have followed the granting of that basic wage rise. Teachers, public servants and members of the Federal and State Parliaments too are all eager to secure some additional benefit.
When we raise questions in this Parliament about the basic wage the immediate reaction of Government members is to tell us that no-one now receives only the basic wage. The fact is that the average weekly male earnings, which the Government is happy to mention, are now £24 a week, including the recent increase in the basic wage. It is on the basis of the present average weekly male earnings that we must regard the miserable 5s. that the Government intends to give to pensioners. That is the way in which the situation must be viewed. Never mind about percentages. As Senator Tangney said, we are talking about people, human beings. They will receive the paltry sum of 5s. a week. I shall show later that it is not necessary to increase taxation or working hours to give the pensioners a greater increase than is provided by the Budget.
Like Senator Tangney, who is a member of our social services committee, I have received a number of requests from numerous pensioner organisations. The Original Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association, New South Wales, which regards its members in a humane and just way, has forwarded me requests from its many branches. I have received a document signed by about 5,000 pensioners. I regarded this as a petition but when I showed it to the Clerk of the Senate he told me that it did not conform with the forms of the Senate and he suggested that I should have it redrafted. When I mentioned this to Mr. Powell, the honorary secretary, and Mrs. Diserens, the General President, who were here yesterday and discussed this matter with me, they said that they did not think it necessary to redraft the document; they were quite happy to have it known that so many people had signed it to show their feelings about the Government’s proposal.
Representations have been made to senators, in the main, because the pensioner organisations feel that if only one or two Government senators had the decency to vote with the Opposition when social service legislation was before the Senate the Government would be forced to do a great deal more for the pensioners. The branches of the Association which are covered by the representations are located at Bondi Junction, Boolaroo, Canterbury, Culcairn, Glen Innes, Holbrook, Hurstville, Inverell, Kogarah, West Kogarah, Lakemba, Manly, Merrylands, Moore Park, Narrabri, Narrandera, Orange, Toukley, Urunga, Wentworthville and Woolgoolga. For the information of honorable senators who have not received a copy of the letter that accompanied the petition I have mentioned, I shall read it. It is in these terms -
On behalf of the above Association we request the senators to give sympathetic consideration to the following submissions -
As pensioners, we pay the full price for food, the same as the people who enjoy the privilege of working in a buoyant state of economy, yet pensioners are forced by the Government to exist on one third of the basic wage.
The Government claim that the country is passing through a period of extraordinary prosperity with increasing national income, yet the 1964-65 Budget only held out a miserable 5s. for pensioners and failed to link the recent basic wage cost of living increase £1 with the social service pension, thus forcing the majority of pensioners in the ensuing year to a life of penury and distress.
The Social Service Bill before the Senate is a very important one for all pensioners.
Therefore pensioners earnestly seek the assistance of the senators that, during the debate in the Senate in relation to the measure in the Social Service Bill, they by voice and vote, support an amendment to link the recent basic wage cost of living with the social service pension, and recommend that the Government grant a just and reasonable increase of £1 per week to all pensioners, and the payment be dated back to July, or at least from the date of introduction of the Bill.
A total of 21,484 new aged, invalid, and widow pensioners, or 25 per cent, of the new admissions to pension during the year did not qualify for pensioner medical service at the time their pensions were granted.
To alleviate the burden on aged, invalid, widow and superannuated pensioners, suffering hardship under the discriminatory 1955 amendments to the National Health Act, we request that -
The senators give serious consideration to an amendment, recommending that entitlement to a pension, should carry withit entitlement to pensioner medical service.
Thanking you in anticipation.
That letter was signed ‘by the secretary of the Association.
An increase in pension of 8½d. a day is a complete disgrace. Such a proposal has no place in a Parliament which is dealing with a Budget of the magnitude of the Australian Budget for 1964-65. As I mentioned during the Budget debate, the Budget provides for a record expenditure of £2,511 million and it is expected that there will be a surplus of £18½ million. During the Budget debate Government members talked about the great prosperity in Australia. They are talking about it now during this debate on social services. We believe that the aged, the sick and the widows are entitled to a share of that prosperity because they are the ones who suffer in time of adversity. What are the facts in relation to the current Budget and past Budgets? Two years ago the Government budgeted for a deficit of £118 million and finished the year with a surplus of £16 million. Last year the Government expected a deficit of £58.2 million and actually had a surplus of £85 million. Like other Opposition senators, I believe that we can confidently expect a surplus this year of about £100 million. According to the Treasurer’s thesis, the proposed increases will cost £10 million. What a paltry sum when compared with the surpluses which can be expected to total £200 million. Unless the Government applies another credit squeeze of the kind for which it is famous, in a growing economy there must always be a surplus in Government accounts.
The Treasurer has indicated that even if the Government did not increase taxation or any other charges it would collect this year an additional £180.9 million in revenue. In his Budget Speech the Treasurer said -
We propose to increase the rates of age, invalid and widows’ pensions by 5s. a week, thus raising the standard rate of pension payable to single age and invalid pensioners and to widow pensioners with children from £5 15s. a week to £6 a week.
The married rate of pension will be raised from £5 5s. to £5 10s. a week . . . For widows without children the rate of pension will rise from £5 2s. 6d. a week to £5 7s. 6d. a week. It is also proposed to increase the allowance payable to persons suffering from tuberculosis by 5s. per week in the case of a single person and by 10s. per week in the case of a man and wife.
Increased pensions will be payable on the first pension pay day after the necessary legislation has been passed. The estimated cost of the increased benefits is £10,430,000 in a full year and £7,825,000 in 1964-65.
This Government talks glibly about the great prosperity that exists. It should take a second look at this situation. Doubling the benefits would cost only a further £10.4 million. I hope that some honorable senators opposite have feelings of decency about this matter. I can imagine that if a miserable 5s. a week increase were given to public servants there would be hell to pay from their organisations. When the basic wage was a measuring stick, the social service benefits could be measured in terms of a percentage of the basic wage. But today it so happens that everyone on the Government side is concerned with claiming .that workers are working not for the basic wage but for excessive amounts in the vicinity of £22 a week. As the pensioners themselves point out, this form of inflation affects them in their purchases of the necessaries of life.
It is with great pride that I second the amendment proposed so ably by Senator Tangney to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time. It is in the following terms -
Leave out all words after “That”, insert: - “ whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the Senate is of opinion that the rates of pension for the aged, invalids and widows, and rates of maternity allowances, child endowment, sickness, unemployment and funeral benefits, are completely inadequate, and that there should be a review of all social service benefits, including the establishment of a base rate pension and supplementary assistance for special needs, in order that, recipients may be able to meet the increase in the total cost of living; the increases to be retrospective to 1st July 1964 “.
It is the right of the Labour Party to propose a amendment of this character because the Labour movement pioneered social services. Right from the formation of the Labour Party in the 1880’s, it has sought to establish and improve social services. The Labour movement was formed to give assistance to those who were most urgently in need. If we look at the history of social services, we find that Labour pioneered all forms. I shall be as brief as possible in this regard. Labour pioneered the campaign for age pensions from 1896. In 1900, when Labour held the balance of power, the John See Government in New South Wales introduced age pensions for the first time in Australia. In 1910, when Labour held the balance of power in the Commonwealth Parliament, age pensions were introduced.
For a period of my service in the Parliament I was secretary of the Parliamentary Labour Party and it was my pleasure from time to lime to go through the minutes and records of the Party. I read with very great pride communications between Alfred Deakin and J. C. Watson, who was the Leader of the Labour Party at the time. Mr. Deakin -stated that his Government would introduce age pensions if Labour gave its support. Labour gave support to the Deakin Government and age pensions were introduced for the first time in the Commonwealth sphere in 1910. Labour introduced invalid pensions when it came to office in 1912. It introduced the maternity allowance in the same year. Child endowment was introduced by the Lang Government in New South Wales in 1925. Some of the statements made at that period are most amazing. Widows’ pensions were introduced by a Labour Government in 1926. Labour has pioneered social services and if a Labour Government were now in office it would be making adequate provision for those who are in need.
When Labour pioneered each of these social services, Liberals opposed them. The Liberal member for Newcastle in 1900 said that age pensions were not necessary and that people should save for their old age. The Minister for Social Services has made similar statements. The Liberal leader in New South Wales in 1925, Thomas Bavin, said that industry could not stand child endowment, and that this was the last straw. The most famous statement of all is one attributed to the Liberal member, Theo Hill. In 1926, when the proposal for widows’ pensions was first introduced, he said -
This proposal for widows’ pensions is the most immoral measure which has ever come before this Parliament.
So I answer the question as to who and how many members of the Liberal Party over a period have supported a reduction in pensions and refrained from supporting-
– I said Liberal members and I am happy to know that there are no present sitting members in this category. After listening to some of the speeches made here, and particularly that of Senator Mattner, I am not certain whether there are not some of the same kidney at the present moment. No-one denies that the Minister for Social Services himself made such a statement.
– Labour did not introduce pensions in the first place, did it?
– I have given the history of social service benefits. The age pension was the only pension which we did not introduce in the first place, but as the party keeping the Government in power, in 1900 in New South Wales and in 1910 in the Commonwealth, Labour was responsible for the introduction of age pensions. It was also responsible for the introduction of the other forms of social services to which I have referred.
– In what year did a Federal Labour Government reduce pensions?
– I am happy that that matter has been raised. I think that there were just two blots on Labour’s record. The first was in the depression in 1931, when the Labour Government in the Commonwealth Parliament, with a hostile Senate, had to meet the forces of Niemeyer and company, who came here from Britain to force certain things on Australia. The Government was told that if these things did not take place there would be no further assistance from Great Britain. Mr. Scullin suffered more than any person who ever lived. It has been said that his hair went white overnight because of the circumstances in which he was placed. He had to reduce age pensions. He was defeated by our own people and after his defeat the Lyons Government further reduced age pensions by 2s. 6d. Honorable senators opposite should not talk about what Labour did at that time. The fact is that a government like this Government came into power and reduced pensions further. On another occasion Labour reduced the age pension by 6d. a week because it was tied to the basic wage. There was a hue and cry on the part of age pensioners against Labour on that occasion, and so there should have been. The reaction was so great that the Government immediately altered the basis of calculation and returned the 6d. If we were the Government and issues of this kind were to arise, I am positive we would heed the agitations of the people and would accede to their requests. So I say to the pensioners that if they have any requests to make, there is only one thing for them to do. Not one supporter of this Government in the Senate or the House of Representatives should be able to sleep peacefully while the present situation continues. If the Labour Party were in Government, it would certainly see that the pensioners got their just rights.
– But the people do not want the Labour Party in Government.
– I do not know about that. I am saying what should take place. I advise the people who come to Canberra to protest from time to time that if they want to secure what they need, they should take the action I am advocating. I know that they would come to us if we were in office and I am certain that a Labour Government would do what previous Labour Governments have done and would adjust injustices. I remind honorable senators that what a Labour Government would do for the people has been outlined in the policy speech of our leader which was delivered during the election campaign last year. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) stated thenSocial Services touch the lives of most of our people very closely, and particularly those who are elderly, or sick, or are mothers of young families. The Labor Party, whether in or out of office, has been the driving force behind all the major improvements to our social services system since Federation.
Our desire has always been to do justice to all, both young and old; to secure the welfare of all Australians; and to provide the basis for the fullest development of the individual, freed from the insecurity and inequalities of a system which regards greed as the fundamental human motive.
Later in his policy speech, the Leader of the Opposition said -
For the same purpose - that of helping the parents of Australia - Labor will double the maternity allowance to £30 for the first child, rising to £33 for the fourth and subsequent children.
The honorable gentleman spoke also of the pensioner medical service which is not available today to 105,000 persons, merely for the sake of the expenditure of a miserable £1.3 million. No Government can be very happy about a situation in which 105,000 people cannot get a medical service simply because they have an income of £2 a week. It is disgusting and disgraceful to think that supporters of the Government who represent millions, and possibly have that amount themselves, should deny a service to these unfortunate people for the sake of a few miserable bob.
– Do you mean millions of pounds or millions of people?
– I refer to the millions of pounds you represent and possibly the millions you have in your own pockets. In his policy speech, the Leader of the Australian Labour Party said last year, when speaking of pensions -
Nor will Labor ignore the plight of our elderly citizens. We will provide an additional 10s. a week for married pensioners, ending the extraordinary discrimination against marriage established by the Menzies Government in its last budget. Labor stands for a high basic minimum rate of pension related to the basic wage for all pensioners, married and single alike, with additional special allowances for those with special needs.
We further propose to help the newcomer to our shores, and to encourage naturalisation, by granting entitlement to all social services to all citizens, upon naturalisation.
We propose to increase the funeral payment made to the person who has paid or is liable to pay the cost of a funeral of an age or invalid pensioner from £10 to £50.
We will abolish the means test progressively, and as opportunity offers.
In the matter of dependants allowance, Labour’s policy is that no adult recipient of a social service payment should receive less than the basic age pension rate.
Labour would increase the supplementary assistance up to 30s. a week and also examine the question of making payments for special needs.
This is the policy of the Australian Labour Party. It is the policy that the people of Australia gave away at the last elections. I regret that many pensioners were among those who gave this policy away when they recorded their votes and I believe personally that they would have a change of heart if they had the opportunity today.
The President Mrs. Diserens and General Secretary of the Original Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association of New South Wales, Mr. F. Powell, have expressed grave concern over the provision of pensioners’ medical entitlement cards. As I have said, 105,000 pensioners are not receiving this benefit which it would cost £1.3 million to extend to them. Labour’s policy is to provide cards for all who qualify for a pension. Married pensioners now receive £11 a week but if the husband is hospitalised the wife receives only £5 10s. This is a worry to pensioners and to the officers of pensioner organisations. They are on such a narrow budget that when difficulty arises, their position is desperate. That is why we say that the Government should pay special allowances for special needs. The present situation is disgraceful. A pension of £1 1 for a couple may be all right normally but when things go wrong and a pensioner becomes ill, one can understand that they are in difficult circumstances.
There are the needy pensioners - and mostly they are the invalid pensioners - who are not able to earn one penny. The Labour Party believes that the wife of an invalid pensioner should receive the basic age pension rate when she is dependent on the husband. The treatment accorded these wives who have to look after an invalid pensioner husband is miserable and paltry. At present, they get less than the husband they have to nurse.
The pensioners are also concerned about the provision of free hearing aids and surgical appliances. There is provision for these aids to be made available in New South Wales. We believe that a wider range of drugs should be available to pensioners who suffer from asthma and arthritis. The increase in telephone charges is also a matter for concern. This may appear to be outside the scope of the Bill under debate, but the pensioners, who are to receive an increase in pensions of only 5s. a week, need assistance in many ways. They are affected by increased costs like the rest of the community. The increase in charges for public telephone calls from 4d. to 6d. affected the pensioners because the majority of them do not have private telephones.
There are others, of course, who regard a telephone at home as an absolute necessity, not a luxury, although the Government unfortunately appears to have other ideas.
The New South Wales Labour Government provides free spectacles for pensioners and there are land rate concessions also in New South Wales. These are matters that should be taken up by the Commonwealth Government. Provision for such benefits should be made in Commonwealth social services. At present, these concessions are made in New South Wales by either the Labour Government or Labour municipal councils.
Funeral benefits were introduced by the Curtin Labour Government in 1940. The benefit was £10 then and it is still £10. A Labour Government would increase the funeral benefit to £50. The cost of funerals is a matter of great concern and worry to the loved ones who are left. They want to give their departed relatives the very best. When death comes, they are left with a debt as well as their sorrow. Few funerals can be conducted now for less than £100 including the cemetery arrangements. Unfortunately, the Government does not seem to be concerned about this problem. It does not affect the Government’s supporters. I hope that the agitation for increased funeral benefits will bear so heavily upon supporters of the Government in this Parliament that they will understand and appreciate the plight of the pensioners.
The basic wage is now £15 8s. a week. As I mentioned earlier, a Government spokesman has claimed that the average wage of the Australian male adult is close to £24 a week. So it will be seen that the pension is equal to approximately 25 per cent, of the average adult male wage. The unions are protesting about the cost spiral. The last increase in the basic wage was granted because of the prices that were then prevailing. The judges of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission were forced to act. But what has happened since? As I said a moment ago, workers in all States are protesting about the further increase in prices. The rate of inflation is so great that the proposed miserable increase of 5s. in pension rates is gone even before the pensioners will get it. Workers in industry tell us that the rise of £1 in the basic wage has been absorbed by price increases. In the
Budget provision has been made for increases in the prices of cigarettes and tobacco, for dearer television and radio licences and higher telephone charges. Pensioners are placed in the unfortunate situation of having to meet these extra charges.
I make a plea on behalf of civilian widows and deserted wives. Senator Tangney made a very humane plea on behalf of these people. She said that they are almost paupers in this prosperous age. Social workers are still appalled at the poverty and destitution that they find amongst civilian widows and their children. The increase that was granted in the last Budget was very good, but unfortunately under the means test a mother with three children is limited to an income of £3 10s. a week for herself and 10s. for each child, a total of £5. After she has worked for six consecutive weeks she must notify the Department of what she is doing. Casual work is difficult to obtain and she cannot obtain part-time employment on a permanent basis because she is allowed only a certain period without her pension being affected. The Government should consider increasing the permissible income for widows to £5 a week plus £1 for each child. We should be proud of our womenfolk; we should not put them in a situation where they are impoverished, which is exactly what is happening at the present time. It is of no use for the Government to say that this situation does not exist. I would like to see some of the families of honorable senators opposite placed in similar circumstances.
– I bet you would.
– It is all very well for one who represents a great millionaire industry to laugh to scorn a plea made on behalf of civilian widows and deserted wives. It is a disgrace to think that a person who is as comfortably situated as she is should find the circumstances of these people so funny and so difficult to understand. I ask the Government and its supporters to consider the matters we are raising.
We urge the Government to make the payment of the proposed increases retrospective to 1st July last. Other speakers have pointed out that a number of precedents are available to justify that action. The superphosphate bounty which was announced in the 1963 Budget, for which a sum of £9 million was provided, was made retrospective to the date of the announcement. The homes savings grant was back dated to 2nd September 1963, and child endowment for student children which was introduced on 7th April 1964 was back dated to 14th January 1964. Senator Tangney has mentioned numerous cases over the last 15 years in which increases have been back dated. Let honorable senators opposite not say that there is no precedent. There is no more worthy or needy section of the community than the recipients of social service benefits. They would gain a little advantage and would benefit from the back dating of the proposed increase. At the committee stage we will move appropriate amendments in support of the points that have been raised in the amendment moved by Senator Tangney and in the submissions that have been made by Opposition senators.
– I should like to say a few words about the: Bill and to lend my support to it. This measure is further evidence of the care that is continually being displayed by this Government in the field of social services. I realise that I am a newcomer to this field. I speak with some diffidence, because it is a field in which I am quite inexperienced. Perhaps I have been rather fortunate in that whenever a problem related to social services has cropped up I have been able to igo to one of my colleagues, Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, who is known throughout the State as having done outstanding work in this field. During the many years that she has been a senator I have had very much help from her. I pay a tribute to her not only for the work she has done but also for the success that she has achieved.
I do not intend to deal with the whole ambit of the Department of Social Services but to refer to a particular problem that has come to my attention, especially in later years, as a result of the responsibility borne by the department that I administered in Queensland. I asked a question this morning which bore on the subject. I thank the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) most sincerely for his comprehensive reply. I shall deal with it in a few moments. Before doing so, I should like to reply to one or two points that have been raised by Opposition speakers. Senator Fitzgerald said that many honorable senators on this side of the chamber do not believe in social services. When challenged to name some of them, he had some difficulty in replying. I noted that he did not name anybody. Perhaps he was wise. If Government senators are unsympathetic towards social service benefits they seem to be strangely illogical, because over the last 15 years, that is since the Labour Government was defeated in 1949, social service payments have increased by no less than 550 per cent. The increase has not been 150 per cent, or 160 per cent, or even 200 per cent, but, as I said a moment ago, 550 per cent. That is a mighty good record for people who are charged with responsibility for providing social services. Senator Tangney, I believe, complimented honorable senators on this side of the chamber because of their changed attitudes. There has been a tremendous change in 15 years in which period, I repeat, social service payments have increased by 550 per cent.
I was interested in the International Labour Organisation figures quoted by Senator Tangney. I noticed her statement that our expenditure of social services is 9.1 per cent, of our total national income. I do not challenge the figure. I am sure it is correct, but I point out to the honorable senator that this is not an entirely satisfactory method of comparison, for this reason: The more well to do are the people, the less is the need for social services. Earlier today the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, Senator Anderson, illustrated this point when he indicated that this year expenditure on unemployment benefits will drop by about £2 million. That is the pattern. As a country becomes more prosperous, fewer people require social service assistance.
– Do not people grow old when a country is prosperous?
– I have found that people here do not seem to be growing old. They seem to be quite well. Generally a facetious interjection deserves a facetious answer. The honorable senator asks whether people do not grow old in a prosperous country. Are we to assume from his question that he believes that when a person becomes old he automatically becomes liable for social service payments? Does he believe that? Of course he does not.
In a prosperous community, even though the people normally progress to the age of 65 or 70 years, they do not always make calls on social services as they may have been so prosperous during their lifetimes that they are delighted to be able to look after themselves. I suggest that is the answer to Senator O’Byrne’s question, lt seems to me to be an important point that the more prosperous a country is, the less is the need for payment of social services. Therefore, obviously the percentage of expenditure on social services to national income changes.
I shall analyse the percentage a little more. I have quoted for honorable senators one comparison - ‘that social service payments have increased by 550 per cent, over the last 15 years. Fifteen years ago when the present Government took office this country was not nearly as prosperous as it is today. I do not think any honorable senators opposite would disagree with that statement. Therefore, there was then need for the expenditure on social services of a greater percentage of the national income. But in the last year of Labour administration in the Federal sphere expenditure on social services was 7.4 per cent, of the national income, and not 9.1 per cent, as it is today. That is a very big difference.
– Today there is a greater number of pensioners.
– That is quite right; the population has increased. But if we wish to relate our considerations to a percentage, I think we have to examine where the comparisons are valid. I maintain that the percentage comparison ceases to have validity when we apply it to other countries. It ceases to have validity also as a comparison which is detrimental to the Government when it is seen that today’s expenditure on social services expressed as a percentage of national income is almost 2 per cent, higher than it was in the time of the last Labour Government.
So much for the comments to which I wanted to reply. I regret that I was unable to be in the chamber during the latter part of Senator Tangney’s speech. I understand that the honorable senator referred to the problems of deserted wives and families. This subject is probably the main reason why I rose to speak in this debate. My colleagues from Queensland - particularly Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin - and probably my colleagues from other States, have worked on this problem for a long time. I have no direct knowledge of my colleagues’ activities in this respect, but I do know that the department for which I was formerly responsible provided over a period of years assistance to wives and families who were deserted by the husbands or whose husbands were imprisoned.
I have never been able to understand why a strange lapse of six months must occur before Commonwealth payments are made available in these circumstances. Consequently I asked a question today and those who heard the answer will have received the enlightenment that this disadvantage does not apply in Victoria. In every State but Victoria, deserted wives and families receive no help whatsoever for six months in the form of Commonwealth social service payments. In Queensland State assistance is given, as I understand it is given in other States, to assist these people to bridge the dreadful gap of six months after the shock of imprisonment of, or desertion by, a husband. It is in the first six months that the wives find their problems are greatest. They have suddenly been hit with a family catastrophe. They have lost the breadwinner and for some months they are quite unable to live normal lives or to attempt to rehabilitate themselves. In time they may become more resigned to the problem. We are all aware that with the passage of time we are better able to bear the disappointments and troubles that meet us. After some months deserted wives may be able to help themselves a little, but they are unable to do so when the blow first strikes. The first six months is the really vital period.
An examination shows that the needs of the first six months are recognised for Victoria by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services, but for nowhere else. This is a very curious thing. I just could not understand why it should be so, but the answer hit me very suddenly. This discrimination against all States but Victoria came about in 1947 and the time of its origin explains the illogical approach. This is the sort of stupid thing one sees very often under Labour administration. I have no doubt that this is an anomaly that has existed since Labour was forced from office. We must realise of course that our Ministers are removing anomalies all the time. This anomaly has again been brought to the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services in this chamber, and I have no doubt that it will be rectified. I urge that aid be given to these people. I repeat that the period when these people need help most is the six months after the desertion or the imprisonment takes place. Of course, they need the assistance afterwards as well - I do not deny that fact - but in the period I have mentioned they need it more than ever. I therefore appeal for this matter to be looked at. As I said before, I have every confidence that my own colleagues in the Government will correct this anomaly.
.- I rise to make a brief contribution to this debate and especially to draw attention to the answer given by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to a question on notice asked by me. The question was answered on 2nd September 1964. The answer reveals, in my opinion, a disgraceful state of affairs and exposes the hollowness of the claim by the Government that it is mindful of the needs of those who are in receipt of pensions in this community. The first part of the question I asked was -
What research, if any, is being conducted by the Department of Social Services into the economic position of age, invalid and widow pensioners?
The answer the Minister gave was -
There is no research of this kind being conducted at the present time.
My next question was -
Has the Department made any study of the relationship between pension payments and the actual needs of pensioners for food, housing, clothing and other items necessary to sustain a reasonable standard of living?
The answer given was -
I suggest that this Government should be thoroughly ashamed to admit that it does not relate its approach to pensions to the actual financial position of pensioners. The answer I received was an admission in the clearest possible terms that there is no investigation of actual cases. There is no approach which would enable the Government to obtain a clear picture as to how age, invalid and widow pensioners, and also service pensioners, are managing on the meagre pensions that they are receiving. The Government apparently plays it by ear. Sometimes it responds to monetary pressures to increase the pension rate, feeling that another Budget has come around and that it had better add another 5s. to the pension. Sometimes there is an election in the offing, and the Government says: “ We need to offer something concrete to those who are in receipt of pensions.” This is not a national way to approach the problem in an area in which the Government is to spend something over £400 million a year. The Government does not know, nor is it concerned to find out, the actual cost to pensioners of housing, food, clothing and other subsistence requirements. This, as I have said, is a shocking state of affairs.
The Government cannot claim in the face of those admissions that it is seriously concerned with the poverty that exists in the community. There is a good deal of information to indicate that poverty is much more widespread than even the most sober-minded of us had suspected. There is mounting evidence that what this community needs is a thorough going survey of the position of all the under privileged groups in the community so that it can be seen whether conditions in Australia are in any way comparable with the position which obtains in other countries. We know that, in the United States of America, President Johnson has declared war on poverty with his anti-poverty bill. His estimate is that approximately one-fifth of the population of the United States is living on the edge of subsistence. This is defined in America as having an income of less than 3,000 dollars a year.
Researchers have shown that, in Great Britain, some 14 per cent, of the population is living on the edge of poverty. We do not know what the figure is in Australia. However, some experts have suggested that there are perhaps half a million or more Australians who would fall into this category of living. This is the kind of problem to which a conscientious government, spending over £400 million of the people’s money, should direct its attention. We should know the actual situation in which these pension payments are operating, and the actual standard of living of those who are to benefit from pensions. But, apparently, this is an irrelevant consideration in the mind of the Government because, to its eternal shame, as I say, there is not even an attempt on the Government’s part to inquire into the existence or the extent of this problem.
I do not propose to canvass the other issues which have been raised in this debate. I support Senator Tangney’s amendment. I rose to make this point, which seems to be the critical aspect in the whole problem of social services: Is there any kind of relationship between the financial position of the pensioner and the actual payments that are received by way of pension? The plain fact is that the Government does not know and apparently is not even attempting to find out.
– I rise to support the amendment which has been moved by Senator Tangney and so well presented on behalf of the Opposition. I compliment previous Opposition senators on the speeches they have made on this Bill. There are matters to which I would like to draw the attention of the Government. Senator Cohen dealt with one aspect of social services which, I think, is most vital. We have well informed officers in the Department of Social Services. I want to pay a tribute to them and to the way in which they apply themselves to their duties and to looking after those who draw pensions. But there is an almost total lack of statistics in respect of this matter. There is integration of pension payments by the Repatriation Department and the Department of Social Services, but it is not possible to get proper statistical records of the needs of pensioners. We should get away from the eternal lying about a pensioner being able to have a pension and an income and to live at a certain level. This Garden of Eden situation to which honorable senators on the Government side have referred applies to only 17 per cent, of the pensioners of this country. In an endeavour to paint a bright picture, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) when introducing this Bill said that 82 per cent, of pensioners in Australia enjoy medical treatment and other benefits. What does that statement mean? It means that 82 per cent of pensioners are not able to enjoy the standards and benefits which the Government’s propaganda in respect of pensions would have us believe they do. They are restricted by the means test. If they do not meet the means test of 1952 they do not enjoy free medical service. Therefore, an early and quick remedy must be found in relation to medical attention for pensioners. This has been neglected by the Government, despite the fact that the value of pensions has not risen in equation with increases in the cost of living. The Government says that it is spending more on pensions, but every citizen in the community is spending more to achieve the reasonable standard of living which he should enjoy.
I think there is another matter that is in need of urgent attention. I do not say that the Government is completely heartless in dealing with social services, but it seems that it just reviews the pension rates from year to year in a monotonous way. It adopts the attitude that because there has has ‘been a minor rise in prices, it will adjust pensions in some way to meet that rise. Whilst the property means test has been alleviated generously, there is an urgent necessity to increase the amount of permissible income. If the Government is to treat the pensioners honestly, fairly and reasonably, the additional income they are allowed to earn must be increased. When the amount of £3 10s. a week was fixed it represented as much as half a week’s earnings, but today it does not represent a day’s earnings.
We talk about utilising the skills of trained people. We say there are not enough skilled people, yet we are prepared to allow our elderly skilled people to be put on the scrap heap. A man is retired compulsorily at 65, or sometimes, in the case of disability, at an earlier age, but he could still contribute to the community, whether in industry, in teaching or in some other occupation. But while the permissible income is only £3 10s. a week, pensioners will not engage in occupations unless they can do so on a full-time basis, because they run the risk of destroying their pension entitlements altogether. I can see no reason why the Government should not raise the permissible income above the amount that has been in the Act for a considerable time. That would be beneficial to the nation and to the pensioners. In addition, it would save the Department having to police this provision. The officers of the department are most considerate in the way they administer the Act. Sometimes a person can get a couple of day’s work one week and a couple of days the next. I think he should be allowed to average out his earnings. What is happening is that some people are trying to evade the provisions of the Act in order to obtain a reasonable income. They do a little work and try to hide the fact from the Department. I am not saying that that is a general practice, hut there would be no need for it if the policy of the Government were a little more fair and reasonable. Nobody would lose anything, and many would benefit.
Another matter to which the Government should give some attention is the aged persons homes scheme, under which a subsidy of £2 for £1 is paid. I think the scheme is admirable. If a person who is aged or ill is fortunate enough to have £800 or £1,000, or is able to raise that amount by selling whatever little property he has, he can obtain accommodation in one of these aged persons homes and thereafter pay only a small rent, equal to the interest earnings on his money. It is very nice to see people accommodated in this way, but there is a crying need to do something for the people who have not got £800 or £1,000, or whatever amount is demanded by the various organisations that obtain the subsidy of £2 for £1. It is good that certain people can obtain this accommodation, but it is the persons who have not the necessary money who must be given consideration. I think, too, that, even in the case of people who can afford to pay, it is wrong that control should not be in the hands of the Government, or of the Department. An organisation receives a number of applications, and it decides to take certain amounts of money from the applicants. The people who run the homes are honorable, decent citizens, but they put the applicants into certain categories, and it is only natural that they select those who are connected with their organisation. There is no control over this matter by the Department.
– The folk who get this accommodation have no equity in it.
– As Senator Tangney says, they have no equity in the accommodation. In most cases it is an associate of the organisation or a friend who is successful in obtaining an allocation. The unsuccessful applicants go on hoping and praying that at some time they will be able to find accommodation.
There are other matters which need to be considered also. I should say that I sympathise with the people who are administering these matters. They are dealing with old people, and sometimes with sick and impoverished people. I have in mind the case of a lady in Western Australia. This lady may have been careless in causing annoyance with the noise from her wireless or in letting the wind slam her doors, but she was issued with an eviction order. She had been in the house for about 18 months, but she had to get out. She had been paying a rental of about 35s. a week, plus incidentals. When she left, she received back a certain portion of the deposit she had paid but she had to start all over again with insufficient capital to pay again the required deposit to satisfy the demand of persons building flats and so on under the deposit system. I do not want to apportion blame or say whether she was unreasonable or cranky, but at that stage she was in difficulties.
– She was lucky to get anything back.
– It is true that she was lucky to get anything back. There are other aspects that the Government should consider. Some invalid, sick or aged persons pay £1,000 to enter these homes. What happens to that money when they die? Does it go to the organisation, notwithstanding that the organisation has previously had the benefit of the £2 for £1 subsidy? I think that the Government should have some control over these matters, particularly in the allocation of homes to persons who have the money to get this type of accommodation. There certainly should be an extension of the scheme to enable local government bodies or State Governments to participate in it. I believe that these authorities should be encouraged to use the subsidy of £2 for £1, acting in the interests of pensioners who have no other source to look to for obtaining the accommodation they need. In saying what I have said I am making a plea on behalf of the great majority of pensioners. It may be that there are some pensioners who, because they own their own homes, are living in the manner in which we would wish all pensioners to live.
There are many deficiencies in the social services scheme which should be looked at. It is not enough for the Government to grant an annual increase of 5s. a week in pensions each year and to make other small adjustments. I hope that at some time we will have an opportunity, acting on nonparty lines, to review the whole social services structure, with all the necessary information available. That is a suggestion that we of the Labour Party have been making for some time. It is not put forward on this occasion for the first time.
– The Opposition has moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. I indicate at the outset that the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment, which states that whilst the Opposition will not obstruct the passage of the Bill at the second reading stage it takes the opportunity to criticise the Government for its administration of the social services scheme.
There were a few points raised in the debate to which I want to refer. Whilst it is fresh in my mind, I point out to Senator Cooke that the Aged Persons Homes Act, under which the Commonwealth provides a subsidy of £2 for £1 on capital expenditure, has been an outstanding piece of legislation. The Commonwealth Government has provided more than £20 million under this particular legislation. Homes have been provided for 18,000 aged people. The organisations have been able to provide companionship, a degree of medical help and guidance to the inmates of the homes. In fact, as I recall it, the Department of Health provides one sick bay for every three people in these homes. As I indicated in reply to a question earlier, it is true that some of the people who conduct die ‘homes require some payment. On the other hand, quite a substantial number of people conduct the homes to help those in need on a non-payment basis.
– Are there any statistics on this point?
– I cannot give the precise figures. There was an answer given earlier which indicated that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) was not prepared to give figures concerning the arrangements ‘between the persons entering the homes and the organisers of the homes. In fact, he was not in a position to do so.
– As Commonwealth money is being spent, do you not think that is an unwise procedure?
– The honorable senator can raise this point at the Committee stage when there will be a less formal atmosphere. It may ‘be better to discuss it then. This scheme is a magnificent one. It has provided homes for 18,000 aged people. Senator Tangney, and other honorable senators opposite, built a case on the percentage argument taken from the International Labour Organisation publication. The case was based on the percentage of social services to the national income of various countries. Reference was made to North America, Europe and Australia. This argument was developed yesterday when we were debating the Repatriation Act I think it is proper to say that the I.L.O. itself said that caution is needed when making comparisons of figures. We can only compare like with like. Once we start comparing other things we can lead ourselves into difficulties. The I.L.O. made specific reference to this point, when it said’ -
However, the Committee recognised the difficulties involved in making valid international comparisons and it therefore appears appropriate to make some general comments on the data presented in Part II of the present volume which is devoted to comparative tables.
Senator Tangney referred to the percentages of certain European countries, and she gave the figure for Australia as 9.1 per cent, and for the United States of America as 6 per cent. Those figures give a clue to the fallacy involved in the comparison, because we all know that in terms of prosperity and living standards the United States of America is probably unequalled in the world.
– But not in social services.
– That is the point. Social service benefits are written into the structure of American wage agreements. The Americans do not have an arbitration system as we do. There are negotiations to reach agreements between the unions and the employer organisations. Quite frequently they negotiate a five year agreement or a ten year agreement and write the social services arrangements into the wage structure of the agreement.
It is abundantly clear that you cannot compare, for instance, the figures of a country where there is a unitary system with those of a country which has a federal system. Let me take Australia as an example. We all know that each of the six States has its own department of social welfare. Each of the six States in its Budget makes provision for social service payments. I know that New South Wales does so because I was a member of the State Parliament.
– Does the Commonwealth Government take that into consideration?
– The I.L.O. did not take it into account when it arrived at the figure of 9.1 per cent, for Australia. The figure was based on a percentage of the Australian Budget.
– They have a federal system in the United States, too.
– That is so.
– And in Germany.
– That is so. But that only proves the fallacy of trying to compare the social services of one country with the social services of another country. In my own right I am an honorary director of the Good Samaritan Association and the Food for Babies Fund in New South Wales. We receive from the State a grant of so many thousands of pounds a year. We use it to provide social welfare. In each State of Australia the Treasurer in his Budget pro vides a certain sum of money for social services over and above the amount provided by the Commonwealth. That is the type of thing that completely destroys the percentage argument, as the I.L.O. itself recognised.
– Should not our delegates to the I.L.O. present the true picture of these things?
– The argument was based on a comparison of the social services of one country with the social services of another country. Although superficially it sounds a good argument, it should be treated with caution. I do not go beyond saying that it should be treated with caution. Some reference was made to the percentage in France. It must be remembered that in France many things are written into the wage structure. For instance, family endowment is written into the wage structure, and the cost is met by the employer. This argument has not the strength mat the Opposition has attached to it.
The next point to which I want to refer is the argument that has been advanced in relation to the consumer price index. Some reference was made to this in the second reading speech. Some speakers have said that money values have changed, and that the value of money today is the real test. The consumer price index for the September quarter 1949, the last quarter before this Government came to office, was 64. The consumer price index for the June quarter this year is 127, so there has been an increase of 98.4 per cent. The pension in 1949 was £2 2s. 6d. a week. The present standard rate pension for a single person, including the proposed increase, is £6 a week, and for a married person £5 10s. a week. This represents a percentage increase of 182.4 per cent, in relation to the single pension and 158.8 per cent, in relation to the married pension. I ask honorable senators to note those percentage increases. Irrespective of the basis on which you like to urgue, you cannot escape the inevitable conclusion that the real value of the social service pension for a single person has practically doubled since this Government came to office.
– You do not really mean that, do you?
– I have compared like with like. If you check the figures I have cited you will find that they are accurate.
– You should compare all the figures instead of the narrow ones that you have cited.
– In fairness to me, you must admit that the Opposition’s argument was ‘based on the consumer price index and I have cited the accurate figures in relation to that.
There is only one other matter to which I shall refer. Reference was made, as it is made from time to time, to the unfortunate circumstance of a pensioner being admitted to a mental hospital and his pension ceasing. I direct attention to the fact that in these circumstances the pensioner’s wife then qualifies for a pension comparable to that paid to an A, B or C class widow as the case may be. The situation is not as it has been presented.
The argument that the pension should continue was rebutted by the Minister for Social Services because if it did continue the States automatically would collect it. I remind honorable senators that when a person becomes an inmate of a mental hospital he comes under the jurisdiction and control of the Master in Lunacy in the State. I repeat that the situation is not as it has been presented by the Opposition. The wife of a pensioner inmate of a mental hospital receives a pension comparable to that paid to a class A, B or C widow.
The debate has been a good one, but the Government is not prepared to accept the proposed amendment. As points of detail emerge during the Committee stage I shall attempt, within my capacity, to present the Government’s point of view.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Tangney’s : amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Debate resumed from 15th September (vide page 428), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition will not vote against the Bill, which is to establish a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, but it will in the course of this debate express its deep disquiet at the failure of this Government to establish a national roads authority, with a mandate to formulate and carry out a national plan for road development. The Bill which the Senate is considering falls very far short of that objective, which many organisations and many people throughout the community had looked forward to as a very desirable step to take at this stage of Australia’s development. As I shall show in looking at the detailed clauses of the Bill, it has somewhat limited objectives.
The Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge), in outlining the purposes of the Bill, stressed that the functions of the new Bureau of Roads would be of an investigatory and advisory character and that it would not have any power over the States nor be in any way a construction authority. Leaving aside for one moment the question of whether or not the new Bureau should have powers as a construction authority - and it is easy to find differences of opinion about that - there seems to be today throughout the community a very wide appreciation of the urgency of the need for a national roads plan.
In setting up this Bureau, the Government is deliberately limiting the scope of its operations. At one stage the Minister made it look as though the whole future of the Bureau would be in the hands of the Bureau itself. Perhaps it is desirable to mention this early in my remarks, because it does set in proper perspective the limited and inadequate steps which the Government is taking on this occasion to deal with a problem of great national dimensions. The Minister said in his second reading speech -
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.
That plain statement by the Minister indicates that the problem is not being taken seriously enough by the Government. I want to proceed to analyse the scope of this Bill in the context of the great national roads problem of today.
During the course of the debate a few months ago when the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill was passed through this Parliament, there was a good deal of discussion as to the immensity, gravity and urgency of the problem. I do not want to canvass again all that was said on that occasion by many speakers on both sides of the chamber, but I do not think it is possible to test the adequacy of the Government’s measure on this occasion without some broad reference to the larger national problem of roads considered in relation to the general problem of transport. I want to mention briefly a number of the most significant factors that should be in the mind of any responsible government when faced with the need to implement a national roads policy. I suppose that to be fair, we have to concede that this is the Government’s own contribution to what it believes to be -a national roads problem.
First, I direct attention to the importance of transport in the economic life of the nation. It is significant to note that 11 per cent, of everything paid for by the nation is for the cost of transport, and that 75 per cent, of the total passenger miles and freight tonnage each year is accounted for by road transport. That puts the general social and national functions of roads into proper perspective. The next thing is to look at the phenomenal spectacular growth in the number of vehicles using the roads each year. In 1944 there were fewer than one million motor vehicles on the roads in Australia. During the ensuing period of 20 years, the number rose to be, in 1963, 3,394,795. The estimate for five years hence, 1969, is 4f million, and the estimate for 1974, which is only a decade away, is just on 6 million. So between 1944 and 1963, whilst the Australian population increased by 48 per cent., the number of motor vehicles increased by 280 per cent. That extraordinarily rapid increase in the number of vehicles is taking place on a road system that is already inadequate, and substantially inadequate, by any standards.
So when we look to the future for the next 5 years or 10 years, it is not as though we are starting from a position of equilibrium today and that all we have to do is to keep pace with the development in the next 5 or 10 years. We are starting way behind scratch and what is needed is a national effort of very large dimensions to modernise our road system to make it meet the needs of the nation at this stage of our history. The National Association of Australian State Road Authorities has made a number of surveys of the needs of the nation in the development of roads. There is no point in talking about these great national problems unless we start from the standpoint of what the needs are. Then we can measure what is being done against what will ultimately be needed. It appears from a survey conducted by N.A.A.S.R.A. in 1962 that over the next five years there will be a deficiency of £431 million in capital, and from a survey made by Mr. R. D. Munro, Senior Lecturer in the School of Traffic Engineering in the University of New South Wales, over a period of 20 years there will be a deficiency of capital amounting to £2,200 million.
– You speak of a deficiency. Was that prior to the recent announcement of Federal aid for roads?
– Yes, it was. This was an estimate published in 1963 and prior to the increased allotment under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act which was passed by this Parliament last May. That legislation provided £375 million for road development over the next five years. I am not concerned whether the figures I have quoted have any precise accuracy upon which we can rely without question. I am concerned to direct attention to the magnitude of the task because we have only to speak of figures like these to realise that small efforts will not get this nation anywhere. What is needed is a national planning authority so that the whole of the effort can be related to the ultimate needs.
In the existing roads system, only 14 per cent, has a dustless surface. I think it is worth while knowing that although we occupy roughly the same area as a nation as the United States of America occupies, we have only one-seventh of the road mileage of the U.S.A. Of course, we have the special problems of a very large continent with a comparatively small population.
– We have only oneseventeenth of the population of the U.S.A.
– That is correct but we still have to cover great distances. I readily concede that we have peculiar problems arising out of the size of our population in relation to the size of our continent. Everybody must recognise that. We must also realise that this puts Australia into a somewhat difficult position, in that the development of roads has either to fall a long way short of what is required or else something special has to be done by way of a national effort if we are to move ahead into new areas of national maturity in the economic sense.
These are but some of the matters to which we should direct our attention. It has been estimated that bad roads cost Australia £1 million a day in excess fuel, maintenance and commercial time. It has been estimated that accidents on the roads cost something like £70 million per annum; that appears in the report of the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety just a few years ago. So all in all, it will be seen that there are large problems in which the quality and quantity of roads and the measures to be taken to secure safety on the roads, as well as the efficiency of roads, dominate the scene. On any question of finance and any question of what is to be done in improving our position, we have to test what the Government does on a particular occasion against that background.
There are problems of road safety. There are problems of great traffic congestion in the metropolitan areas. Overshadowing it all, a big question mark as to whether the finance that needs to be obtained for the job is, in fact, available. There is the problem as to whether we can get the finance and whether we can really hope to achieve the goals which are clearly marked out by some of the surveys, however unofficial they may have been to date.
What is the Government’s response to this problem? The response has not been to set up a national planning authority such as was foreshadowed by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in his policy speech last November. I think it is relevant to quote from that policy speech so that what is ‘being done now can be measured against that Government assessment of the problem. In his policy speech, the right honorable gentleman said -
Many people and organisations have advocated the establishment of a national roads authority to provide a focal point for the planning and development of a comprehensive system and to help in co-ordinating the activities of Commonwealth and State Governments in the roads field. Our own study suggests that this is desirable. We will helpfully discuss with the States the desirability of establishing such an authority.
What we have got in the result in this legislation is not a national roads authority but a research bureau - a bureau which will conduct research so as to provide basic information to the Government upon which presumably it can formulate plans. That, in itself, is a valuable goal and I think it would not be fair to withhold that measure of commendation from the Bill because it is obvious that if information can be gained at an official level as a result of research and surveys, then that will increase the total amount of knowledge on the subject. I for one - and the Opposition - would not want to say that such a job is not worth doing. The question is whether the doing of that job can be related to a larger Government purpose that can be spelt out of the Government’s pronouncements on the subject.
In our view, this is a disappointing measure because it fails to indicate Government purpose of action. What we want above all is to see that the establishment of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads does not become an excuse for inaction, but that it becomes the starting point for proper national planning. It could be either of those things. It could rest at the level of passing to this Bureau all the hard problems and asking it to deal with this, that or the other but not requiring it ever to make that information public. I shall come to that aspect in a moment. But, as I say, this proposal could result either in a very limited task being undertaken by the Bureau without any close relationship to national planning or, if it were done properly and under somewhat less restrictive conditions, it could, of course, provide a sound basis for information upon which the Government could act. I miss in this measure - and the Opposition misses - any notice of the Government’s desire to act in a national way on the information obtained by the Bureau.
That brings me to the second aspect of the case. First we say - and this is the point I have been attempting so far to develop - that the concept of the Bureau is inadequate in terms of what is required to deal with the urgent and immense national roads problem. Secondly, we say - and this is the basis upon which more will be heard in the Committee stage - that even on the Government’s own assumptions, it is not going to have a national planning authority but a research bureau for investigation and report. The Government has hedged this Bureau about with so many restrictions of an improper character that the Bureau is bound, even before it gets off the ground, to offer only a narrow basis for optimism.
I hope that will not be the ultimate position; but let me direct the attention of honorable senators to some of the clauses in the Bill to make it plain that a very limited function is intended for this Bureau firstly in the scope of its activity and, secondly, in the amount of publicity that can be given to its work and especially in the extent to which it is answerable to this Parliament. I draw attention to clause 14, which reads -
The functions of the Bureau are -
to investigate, and from time to time to report to the Minister on, matters relating to roads or road transport for the purpose of assisting the Government of the Commonwealth in the consideration by the Government of the grant of financial assistance by the Parliament to the States in connexion with roads or road transport. . . .
The first function is to investigate matters which it wishes to investigate.
– Mind you, that is very important.
– It is. 1 took the trouble to read the whole paragraph, because 1 want to direct attention to the limited nature of this function in the legal sense. I should like to hear the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) discuss this point in due course. As I read paragraph (a), the Bureau may initiate of its own motion investigations into matters relating to roads or road transport but only insofar as they are for the purpose of assisting the Government in the consideration of grants of financial assistance by the Parliament to the States in connection with roads or road transport. In other words, the function of the Bureau is limited to purposes which come within section 96 of the Constitution - that is, grants of financial assistance to the States. I should like to hear what- can be said to the contrary, but I do not think there can be any doubt that the function is limited in that sense.
That would exclude such matters as planning for a national interstate highway system. That would not be directly related to section 96 of the Constitution, although it might well involve that section. The same remark applies to defence. If you wanted to relate the road system to the defence needs of the country, you would not think of that function in terms of assistance to the States but as part of the wider national responsibility of having roads commensurate with defence requirements. Under the terms of the first function of the Board as set out in clause 14, those matters would not be matters on which the Bureau would take the original initiative.
The point is made very clear if one looks at the second function, which is defined as follows -
The next succeeding section is set out in clause 15, which reads - (1.) The Minister may, for or in connexion with any purpose of the Commonwealth, refer any matter relating to roads or road transport to the Bureau for investigation and report.
Then the clause proceeds to place an obligation on the Bureau to investigate the matter as soon as practicable and to furnish a report to the Minister. The expression “ purpose of the Commonwealth “ is defined very generally in these terms - (3.) In this section, “ purpose of the Commonwealth “ means any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws, and includes -
So the power conferred by section 96 of the Constitution is covered in clause 15 (3.) (a) and the legislative purpose covering Territories is dealt with in clause 15 (3.) (b). The general language is such as to cover any purpose of the Commonwealth. In other words, the Minister may refer to the Bureau for investigation and report any matter relating to roads or road transport covering any purpose of the Commonwealth. The Bureau will not be limited to section 96 of the Constitution, that is, to the function of providing information to assist the Government in its problem of granting financial assistance to the States.
So the Minister has a very broad power - properly broad, I believe - to refer matters to the Bureau. But why is the function of the Bureau limited in such a way that, if it takes a literal view - and it ought to take such a proper view - of the language in which the Parliament enacts the statute, it will not concern itself of its own motion with matters which go outside the scope of section 96 of the Constitution? In our submission, that is a very serious restriction upon the scope of the Bureau’s work. I should certainly like to hear what the Minister has to say about this at the appropriate stage. I repeat that clause 14 provides that the Bureau shall have authority to investigate and report upon any matter that the Minister refers to it in relation to roads and road transport but that in exercising its own initiative it will have a much more limited function.
– But you would not want the Bureau to be able to act on roads on its own initiative.
– I want a national roads planning authority.
– You must come back to the Parliament, surely.
– I am very glad that the honorable senator said that, because that is our next point of attack on the Bill. I do not know whether the honorable senator has had an opportunity to read the measure, but it has been my privilege and duty to do so. We complain about clause 17, which provides -
Except with the approval of the Minister, the Bureau, or a member (including an acting member) of the Bureau, shall not make public -
any information obtained by the Bureau in the course of caryying out any investigation;
the results of any investigation carried out by the Bureau; or
the whole or any part of the contents of a report furnished by the Bureau to the Minister.
We say that the Bill ousts the jurisdiction of this Parliament in supervising the activities of the Bureau.
– Is not the Minister responsible to the Parliament?
– The Minister is responsible to the Parliament, but he will not be obliged to reveal to the Parliament any of the reports of the Bureau. I have never seen such nonsense or mumbo-jumbo in my life as is contained in clause 17. How can the Parliament make an intelligent assessment, and if necessary offer any criticism, of the work of the Bureau if the Minister is not under an obligation to make public any report that he has received from it? This should not be a secret society. We ought to be placed in the same position in relation to this matter as we are in relation to the reports that we receive from 32 other statutory authorities of the Commonwealth. My authority for that figure is the report of the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications. We ought to be able to get an annual report from the Bureau, but that is not provided for in the Bill.
– The Bill expressly states that no report shall be given.
– No report is to be made available unless the Minister permits it to be made available. If a report is not made available, what are we to discuss? The Minister will be able to say quite properly: “I am here if you want to talk about the Bureau of Roads. All I can tell you is that it is working satisfactorily and the Government is getting a great deal of assistance from such reports as we are getting, but I do not propose to tell you about them and I do not need to give you a reason for not doing so.” We in the Senate would be placed in the position of saying: “ The words of this statute prevent us from taking it any further. Parliament has agreed to a provision which says that no report shall be made public except with the approval of the Minister “. This is completely unheard of. Not only is the Bill silent upon- the question - that would be bad enough - but as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) pointed out a moment ago by interjection, .there is a positive prohibition against publication. Speaking for Opposition senators, I say that we will not tolerate nor agree to support that part of the legislation. We cannot vote for a clause which excludes the right of this Parliament to retain some supervision, by way of discussion of reports, over the work of the proposed Bureau. That is a simple statement of our attitude. On behalf of the Opposition I will be moving some amendments in Committee, first, to provide for an annual report of the Bureau to be furnished to the Minister and, secondly, for the deletion of clause 17 which states that the results of the work of the Bureau are not to be made public. In its present form the Bill makes nonsense of our right to deal with national problems.
I ask what possible justification there oan be for saying that reports cannot be made public? Let us leave aside for the moment this Parliament, which should be supreme in this matter. The public is also entitled to know what the Bureau is doing. We are at a stage of our history where the closest possible understanding by the public of what government is doing in its manifold aspects is important. Why should this right be denied in what appears to be a non-sensitive area like roads? After all, we receive reports from defence authorities, from the National Radiation Advisory Committee and from the Services.
– And, at times, from the Navy.
– Yes, every now and then we receive reports from the Navy. All these matters are properly the subject of reports to the Minister each year, and from the Minister to the Parliament. What is there that is so delicate and sensitive about a report from the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads? What is it going to do? Will it go overboard on some wild proposition? As we understand it, the Bureau is to be established basically for the purpose of obtaining information and investigating factual situations, and to lay the foundations upon which the Government later can act.
Honorable senators opposite are often at pains - and rightly so - to assert the principle of the supremacy of Parliament when it comes to legislation and to the supervision of authorities, whether they are government departments or authorities set up by statute. We shall see on this occasion whether we can have some support for the amendments I shall be moving and for the principle of the supremacy of Parliament. We should all be in a position to know what is the broad picture about roads and we can each try to make our own contribution to discussions.
– There should not be anything top secret about it.
– There should be nothing at all secret about it. I have quoted this afternoon, and I do not doubt that other speakers will do so, from surveys by the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities, the Australian Automobile Association, which is very interested in this matter and publishes monthly newsletters about it, and by State transport authorities. The more there is public understanding of the complexity of the problem, the more will people appreciate what has to be done.
If we wish to achieve a truly national approach to the subject of roads and if the proposed Bureau is to be useful, surely it will be providing some useful material for discussion, at any rate by the National Parliament. We shall be asserting this principle at the Committee stage of the debate and presenting it as forcefully as we can so that the Bill, which we believe is disappointingly limited in its scope, will nevertheless within the terms of its own assumptions be made to work a little more effectively.
– The reports to which you referred - such as from the Navy - do not necessarily recommend the expenditure of large sums of money. A report from the Bureau may do so.
– Presumably the Bureau will not be recommending the expenditure of large sums of money but will investigate and report on problems initiated by itself or referred to it by the Minister. Large sums of money may of course be involved. We do not require that every memorandum that passes between the Bureau and the Minister has to be the subject of debate in the National Parliament, but to start with, the Bureau should have to furnish an annual report. Next, there can be no possible justification for denying the public and the Parliament access to the report.
At the Committee stage we will move that the Parliament or either House of the Parliament should have power to refer a problem to the proposed Bureau. We would like to see reports to the Parliament as well as an annual report to the Minister. We shall make that plain in the proposed amendments and in the discussions on the appropriate clauses. There can be really no contradiction about this matter. Wc assert that an important principle is involved and we intend to press our objection to this feature of the measure.
The subject of roads has many aspects, but I believe I have said sufficient to indicate that Labour does not regard the Bill as a substitute for action. A great problem has to be dealt with and we do not sec the Bill as providing the answer because the proposed body is not really a national roads planning authority. However, it will be useful to the extent to which it makes some contribution to research and to the extent to which it may develop in the future. I do not know whether it will ever develop teeth, but if it develops a reputation as a centre for reliable information on the subject it will be performing a helpful function.
– It might make a noise beating its gums together even if it does not have teeth.
– It has been described elsewhere as a gummy old ewe without teeth. We think of it in that fashion. The responsibility will rest with the Government to demonstrate that it can be something else. We do not always agree with the national newspapers; but we note that at the moment they are watching the creation of the Bureau and will continue to watch its development with close interest.
It has been stressed that the proposed Bureau should not be started off with too narrow a view of its own functions. As far as its powers will allow, it should be mindful of the relationship between road transport and transport problems in general. We hope that the amendments we shall propose in relation to reporting and publicity will be accepted by the Government. The responsibility will then be on the Government to make the Bureau work in such a manner as to make an effective contribution towards developing an efficient national road system.
– I support the Bill. I hope to address some remarks in connection with the interesting observations made by Senator Cohen. However, I feel that the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, Senator Paltridge, with his usual skill will present the Government’s view of the circumstances referred to by Senator Cohen.
We are all agreed that the Bill is rather a small measure, but it is a small beginning for what I hope will bring great and lasting benefits to the Commonwealth. During the course of the last general election campaign, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said that the nation would benefit from a thorough-going survey and appraisal of the existing road system and of foreseeable road requirements. This matter was put before the Premiers’ Conference last March. I regret that there is no publication of the proceedings of that Conference. Almost every year there is a report available in the Library for study, but this year - quite an important year when we consider this question of roads - no report is available. On inquiry, I was told that this is because one or more of the Premiers objected to the publication of the report. This is a pity because this Bill really refers in the main to matters that take place within the States. It is a pity that the views of the State Premiers are not available for consideration by the Senate which, as we are often reminded, is the chamber of the National Parliament particularly charged with the responsibility to consider matters affecting the States. So, we enter into this debate without knowledge of what went on at the Premiers’ Conference, other than the broad statement which was issued. We have to consider this matter without knowing precisely what the intentions of the States were with regard to the establisment of the Bureau.
The Bill envisages the establishment of a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads which will be a statutory body responsible to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth). There will be a full time chairman and two part time members. There will be officers and employees of that Bureau, and the Minister will determine the number of officers and employees. There will be power for the Bureau to engage special consultants and research people, (t is envisaged, I think, than men of distinction from the universities will bc asked to offer their views on road problems. I think this is all to the good. Senator Cohen paid some attention to subclauses (a) and (b) of clause 14. However, we do not want to get away from what this Bill sets out to do. The Bureau is not to be a constructing authority. It was clear from Senator Cohen’s remarks that he thought there should be a charter for action of a constructional nature.
– I did not say it had to be a constructing authority. I mentioned national planning.
– You were talking of action, and I gathered from your remarks that what you meant was planning plus construction.
– Well, planning with a view to construction. I think one of the great weaknesses of this scheme would be if this Bureau, presumably to be situated here in Canberra, were to plan and, to use Senator Cohen’s words, take action, in relation to roads all over Australia. I am a bit doubtful of the efficacy of centralised planning and action from Canberra. The Bill goes far enough at this point of time in establishing a Bureau with regard to roads rather than a planning authority with the idea of action.
On the question of the disclosure of work that passes between the Bureau and the Minister. I believe that the way in which the Bill has been drawn is wise in that it prevents information obtained by the Bureau in the course of investigations from becoming public. It also prevents the results of any investigations carried out by the Bureau becoming public automatically. This applies also to the reports furnished by the Bureau to the Minister. This body, as I see it, will be an advisory body. Let us assume that the Minister went to an eminent cousel for legal advice. Just as that counsel would be an advisory person to the Minister, so will this Bureau be an advisory body to the Minister. I do not think it is in the interests of the Commonwealth to have automatically disclosed to the public advice tendered to the Minister on legal or constitutional matters. I therefore think that it is highly desirable, at this stage of the establishment of the Bureau which is not to be a planning authority but purely an advisory body, that the publication of advice from the Bureau to the Minister should be restricted. I commend the Government for starting off the Bureau in that way. But I abhor the idea that there should be a planning authority in Canberra to plan roads all over this vast continent. This will be an advisory authority to assist the Minister who in turn will assist the Cabinet, and the Cabinet will assist the States in regard to money for roads. I believe that it could well be embarrassing to the State Premiers to have made public the investigations of the Bureau with regard to roads in particular States.
I think that the purpose of this Bill, as laid down by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), is set out clearly in clause 14, which states that the function of the Bureau is -
To investigate, and from time to time to report to the Minister on, matters relating to roads or road transport for the purpose of assisting the Government of the Commonwealth in the consideration by the Government of the grant of financial assistance by the Parliament to the Stales in connection with roads or road transport.
I think that the limitation on publication of the affairs of the Bureau is sound. I agree with some of the statistics that Senator Cohen brought forward with regard to the importance of roads. Certainly, if the advice tendered to the Minister by virtue of the functioning of this Bureau can have the effect’ of lessening the cost of production and transport of goods, it will do great good. 1 am glad that the establishment of this Bureau is contemplated. Senator Cohen referred to the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities Committee. This N.A.A.S.R.A. Committee is virtually a voluntary association of the heads of the Main Roads Departments in the various 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. N.A.A.S.R.A. has a rather limited role at the present time because ils responsibilities are in or near the capital cities and it has no direct control over the local government authorties. It has no overall responsibility for roads in the respective States. In view of the limited scope of N.A.A.S.R.A., the contemplated Bureau would not cover the same ground as that authority, and N.A.A.S.R.A. would not be an adequate substitute for the Bureau. Also, as N.A.A.S.R.A. is comprised mainly of State civil servants, it would tend to advise the Commonwealth Minister in a manner somewhat coloured by the respective responsibilities of the State Ministers. It would not give to the Commonwealth Minister - who would have to advise the Prime Minister, who, in turn, would have to present a case to the Premiers - the kind of advice which would be of the greatest benefit to the nation. I commend the bill. I think it has been soundly drawn up. The Bureau could in time attract some highly qualified people. The three gentlemen appointed as office holders under the legislation will have the power to call upon the best technical advice they can obtain, and will report to the appropriate authorities on the basis of this advice.
Before I sit down, I should like to invite the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) to ask Cabinet to consider in the near future the idea of not limiting the functions of the Bureau merely to the consideration of roads. I think that the time has come for a wider consideration of transport generally - on land, sea and air. The results of that study should be tendered to the Commonwealth by way of advice. I envisage tremendous problems, not merely on the level of roads. As Senator Cohen has rightly said, the question of defence transport, whether by road, rail, air or sea, or in combination, must be considered. We are living in an age of roll-on roll-off ships. The sea route, the land route and the rail route are very closely linked. I understand that at present produce from Tasmania is sent to Melbourne and is forwarded immediately to Sydney by rail. In South Australia, produce from the lower Eyre Peninsula is carried by road and sea, and then by road again, without movement from the original vehicle in which it was placed. These methods have brought new transport problems to Australia which I hope Cabinet will study.
I direct attention to another problem that has recently arisen. Senator Bishop referred to this problem in a question he asked about a fortnight ago. Recently South Australia has become the headquarters for an interstate parcel express company. This company operates a system under which it receives a parcel in Melbourne in the late afternoon and delivers that parcel in or around the metropolitan area of Adelaide the next morning. At present the company is using small pickup vans to take goods to its headquarters in Melbourne and overnight transport vans to transport the goods to Adelaide. Next morning in Adelaide the company delivers the goods in small delivery vans. This service is developing very quickly and is of great benefit in the movement of small articles that must be supplied quickly, such as spare parts for machinery. I believe, from my own knowledge and also as a result of Senator Bishop’s question, that the company has applied for permission to procure a DC4 aircraft for use in the carriage of parcels between Melbourne and Adelaide. This is a problem, as I see it, covered by the broad concept of transport.
I understand from the question asked by Senator Bishop that the whole matter is at present being considered by the Department of Civil Aviation.
– I bet the Department knocks the application back.
– I do not know about that. The point 1 make is that it is desirable for the whole subject of transport to be considered, not just the availability of funds for the purchase of three or four second hand aircraft. We have to look at this as an overall transport problem rather than as just a road transport problem plus a civil aviation problem. In these days in Australia, there has been virtually a marriage between two or three separate forms of transport.
The Australian Government is, I think, entitled to be very proud of the work being done by the Commonwealth Railways. The present Commissioner, Mr. K. A. Smith, has given a lot of thought to, and has done a lot of research on, the use of pickaback trucks on the Commonwealth railway. That is a system whereby a road vehicle is loaded on to a flat truck at Port Pirie or Port Augusta and is transported by rail to Kalgoorlie. It is then taken off the truck and goes by road to Perth. This system is of great national importance. Firstly, it brings revenue to the Australian railways system, and secondly, it reduces wear and tear on the road between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, which is very difficult to mainlain. This pickaback system is something which is not just a matter of rail or road transport. It is a combination, or marriage, of road and rail transport. The Government should obtain advice on these joint problems from a Bureau with the capacity to investigate and give advice. I will listen with great interest to the answers that the Minister gives to the questions raised by Senator Cohen. Assuming that this Bureau works well in its limited scope with regard to roads, I ask the Government to consider giving it greater power so that it can investigate road, sea and air transport, with particular reference to the situation where goods and passengers are carried in the one journey, as it were, by more than one method of transport. I support the Bill.
– Mr. President, first I want to compliment
Senator Cohen upon his speech because it has provided the background to the attitude that the Australian Labour Party adopts in relation to the Bill. We will not oppose it, but we suggest that it is ineffective in its present form. I listened intently to what Senator Laught said, and it seems to me that the approach that he made to our transport problems supports the attitude that we arc adopting. I, and other honorable senators on this side of the chamber, have indicated in recent debates that there has to be greater consideration of planning and the co-ordination of transport.
I have mentioned the need to consider road and rail rationalisation. I have said before and it is still appropriate, that if it is competent to have rationalisation of the airways, it ought to be so for road and rail transport. As Senator Laught said, there are great problems confronting the railways. The country is losing a great deal of revenue. Mismanagement is occurring because we have not a co-ordinated policy. It seems to me that the Government is taking a hesitant step towards the concept of road planning by the formation of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. No doubt this was in the minds of local authorities and automobile associations because they were responsible for putting forward the proposal for the Bureau.
The title of the Bureau is appropriate because it must represent some degree of co-ordination, investigation and planning. The Government says that it has not the facilities for proper surveys to be carried out. and that it wants the surveys to bc carried out by competent people and the results made known to it. Under clause 14 of the Bill the Government imposes upon the Bureau its duties and obligations. Having done this, the Government sets out to circumscribe what the Bureau may do. As Senator Cohen pointed out, under clause 17 the Government has made sure that reports arc not made public and that discussion of the reports can take place in the Parliament of the country only if the Minister allows it. This is where the Bureau of Roads is to start and this is where it is to end.
I want to refer to an article in the “Australian” of 26th August 1964 in which the proposed Bureau is discussed. It expresses the sort of notion which is in the minds of honorable senators on this side of (he chamber. The article states -
In road policy Australia has become far too used to living with wasteful rivalries, reams of unco-ordinated plans, and masses of contradictory figures. Even the elaborately named National Association of State Road Authorities has led to fresh controversy, rather than a genuine search for priorities.
As pointed out in the “ Australian “ yesterday, one of the greatest anomalies has been the starving of the main trunk highways.
It would be a mistake if the new Commonwealth Bureau of Roads were to see its role as a narrow one - concerned with roads alone. It will have to examine wider issues of transport co-ordination.
Much depends on who the Government appoints to the new Bureau.
This seems to me to be the main point of consideration. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
We have before us a Bill which might be regarded as complementary to the recent Repatriation Bill, its purpose being the authorising of further increases in pensions payable to wartime mariners in conformity with the Government’s recent decision on pensions. Under the Bill, which maintains the practice of keeping the rates of such pensions at the same levels as those payable under the Repatriation Act, the rates of pension payable to the wife of a totally incapacitated Australian mariner pensioner, to a totally incapacitated mariner and to the widow of a mariner covered by the Act, are raised by 10s. a fortnight. Clauses 2 and 5 will enable the increases to be paid on the first pension pay day after royal assent is given and 1 feel sure that, on this account, honorable senators will ensure a speedy passage for the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.43 to 8.0 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was about to say that in my view the idea of a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads really arose as a result of the agitations and representations of people interested in traffic problems, from discussions that the Government had with local authorities, and no doubt from discussions at Premiers’ Conferences. As Senator Cohen has mentioned, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), in his policy speech, envisaged the setting up of an authority. He stated that the Commonwealth would helpfully discuss the desirability of establishing a national roads authority. He said also that the nation would benefit from any thorough-going survey and appraisal of the existing road system.
Following the Premiers’ Conference and the receipt of representations from local authorities, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) made a general announcement about the Government’s roads programme. He said that the Government intended to set up a Commonwealth body, a Bureau of Roads. I point out to honorable senators that the Prime Minister used the term “ national roads authority “ and the Treasurer, shortly after the Premiers’ Conference, used the term “ Bureau of Roads. “ The Treasurer concluded his statement by saying -
We envisage that the body will be given statutory form under the Minister for Shipping and Transport, and it will be known as the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. Exactly what its composition will be we have not yet settled finally but we intend to push on with its early establishment because we feel that it has a big and urgent job to do and the sooner it gets launched on this task the better.
It is no wonder that the “ Federal News Letter” of the Australian Automobile Association, in the issue of 1st May 1964, referring to the Treasurer’s statement, had this to say -
In the roads field the 64 dollar question at the moment is “ What will bc the composition and precise functions of the future Commonwealth Bureau of Roads.”
The Bureau should play an important, and perhaps a vital, part in Australia’s roads development and it is essential, therefore, that a decision bc made as soon as possible. The Commonwealth Government recognises this and doubtless is giving immediate and close attention to the matter.
We believe that the early approaches to this new Bureau of Roads or roads authority were fairly satisfactory, but the realities of the position are not so satisfactory. The Opposition believes that the proposed body will be ineffective, lt is just as well, at this stage, to record the Minister’s attitude when he made the announcement in this chamber of the Bureau’s establishment. He is reported on page 427 of “ Hansard “ in this way -
We do receive a great deal or 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 Slates. Inevitably, however, this falls short of what we require . . . But the Commonwealth must be in a position 10 make a competent and reliable appraisal of its own . . . lt 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.
The proposed body will act in a purely advisory capacity. The Commonwealth will receive advice and will have the right to make its own assessment of the position. But the point we make is that at no stage is it indicated that the Parliament will have the right to assess, to read and to understand the Bureau’s contributions. The Minister said later -
As ! 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 … lt is not intended tha 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.
This is where the first cracks in the edifice arc observed. As 1 have argued, the first approach to this question was based on the growing discontent with the transportation position in Australia, about which much has been said; on the lack of co-ordination between road, rail, air and sea services; on the problem associated with the increasing degree of motor transportation; on our in adequate roads; and on the difficulties experienced by metropolitan and country councils. We expected the establishment of some authority which would correlate information and investigate and report to the Parliament on what it thought should be done so that the Parliament would have the opportunity to examine the views expressed by the experts.
Another unsatisfactory aspect about the proposed Bureau is that only one fulltime officer will be appointed to it. In addition, according >to clause 17 of the Bill, although the functions of the new body arc fairly adequate and wide, no public statement will flow from members of the Bureau except with the approval of the Minister. The Bill makes no provision for the Parliament to consider the Bureau’s investigations. Of course, the proposed staff is obviously inadequate for the kind of functions which the Bureau may have to perform. It seems to me that only one full-time officer will not have a hope of doing the kind of job that should be done.
Wc take the view that this concept of a planning authority which may investigate all the problems of transportation in Australia, even accepting that it has no right to construct roads or to advise upon construction, is unsatisfactory, having regard not only to our point of view on the economic significance of transport but also lo the Minister’s statement when he introduced the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill. On thai occasion he stressed the great significance and importance of roads in the overall economic field. In view of that, and in view of the criticism which has flowed from various authorities and people who have specialised in road transportation, we should have expected the Government to advance a much more positive proposal and to establish a body which, in the words of the “ Australian “, had some teeth and could deal - I agree wilh this aspect of Senator Laught’s remarks - not only with the simple question of aid for roads and road construction but also with the wider field of transportation generally. That field must be looked at if the proposed Bureau is to be of any value to the Australian economy.
As T have said, the proposal to establish the Bureau has resulted from the growing number of submissions which have been made to the Government by many specialists in *his field, planners in the universities and many of the specialist organisations, the kind of organisations to which Senator Cant referred, whose job it has been to evaluate the problems in the States and to combine their views with those of other State authorities. At this point it might be as well for me to recite the background to this matter. I admit that this was mentioned in the previous debate but it should be repeated so that it will be on record. Professor A. J. Francis, head of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Melbourne, is reported an “ Industry Today “ as saying -
Any late stage remedy to prevent a transport crisis is bound to be costly and must involve increased use of public transport.
He was speaking at a luncheon of the Australian Road Federation Limited. The report continues -
He said that to anyone who had studied transport systems abroad Australia was remarkable for these facts: its urban highway system was worse than that of any other country with a similar standard of living, and its people were singularly complacent about it. “ Australia, in fact, is an interesting example of private prosperity and public penury - and nowhere does this appear more clearly than in our highway system,” Professor Francis said. “ We are actually spending today only two-thirds as much on our roads as in .1959, in relation to the vehicle mileage covered.” Professor Francis said the future could be viewed only with more and more apprehension.
New vehicles were being registered at the rate of 400,000 a year. The growth rate in Melbourne was seven per cent., which meant the number of vehicles doubled every 10 years, or at twice the rate of growth of the population. “ In fact, road vehicles are increasing at roughly the same rate as the demand for electricity, but there is a remarkable contrast between the attitudes of Governments to these two,” Professor Francis said. . . .”By 1970, chaos will be complete for hours a day unless the existing system is completely remodelled “.
The Professor has made other statements in which he referred to the work being done in some universities. There has been some recognition of the problems in the traffic engineering field by some Australian universities. In some States, town planning authorities have considered this matter. The only concession which the Government makes in respect of the problem, after listening to representations, has been to make provision in the Commonwealth Aid Roads
Act for some part of the money awarded to the States to be used for traffic engineering.
I have mentioned previously the position that has arisen in Adelaide. A similar position obtains in every other capital city. In February of this year the Lord Mayor of Adelaide said that a total sum of £2,450 million from Commonwealth, State and local government sources was expected to be provided in the next 10 years for road works throughout Australia, but the cost of road needs during this period had been estimated at £3,179 million on present day costs. This left a deficiency of £729 million. The Lord Mayor then stated that Adelaide’s master plan recommended that a new road system be developed over the next 16 years, in conjunction with an expanded public transport system, costing a minimum amount of £70 million. He said that if these projects were not carried out, in the opinion of the town planning committee some of Adelaide’s roads would be asked to cope with from three to five times more vehicles than they are capable of holding. This means that the present day roads in my own capital city, inadequate as they are, needing reconstruction, maintenance and certainly redesign in many instances, will be required to carry an additional burden of traffic, which will not be possible unless there is a completely new approach.
My next point has been mentioned by Senator Cohen. Apart from the investigations and surveys of which I have spoken, we would have expected any national roads authority to have power to consider great national problems such as defence requirements. This aspect was mentioned by Senator Laught. It should also have power to consider questions of economics, such as access to markets, including beef roads. Although the Government has established some specialist groups to examine costs of transport, there should be some final authority to give expert advice. The important thing from our point of view is that the advice and the results of any examination ought to be made available to the public.
There is one other aspect which I should like to mention, because it is often misunderstood. Many people today argue that the growth in the numbers of ordinary motor car users results in wealth being taken from the country. I do not accept this opinion. I have referred previously to the fact that motor cars are manufactured in this country. Our own workers are used to produce them. They acquire skills in manufacture and operation. This means that we are becoming equipped to compete with the best developed nations of the world, and this is a condition which we should strive to obtain. Another most important aspect of the growing use of motor vehicles is that we are building up another system of communication. Among the ordinary people of the community, a motor car is not wholly a pleasure-giving commodity. It is part of their ordinary life and in many cases a substitute for public transport. I do not mean that I advocate that private road transport should take over from public transport, but private motor vehicles at present provide an ancillary service. The Australian Automobile Association has recognised this aspect. In its “ Federal News Letter, No. 5 “ it states -
Is the automobile a luxury? For a swift, decisive answer, ask members of the United States work force. Most will reply with a resounding “ no “ because 68 per cent, of them depend on cars to commute to and from work. 53 per cent, drive their own cars and the others ride as passengers.
Use of cars strictly for pleasure rides accounts for but seven per cent, of all trips and 13 per cent, of all miles travelled.
We must recognise that this development will go on. Our country, because of its geography, has a unique transport problem. Wc also have 0:her great problems about which we have argued at various times. Senator Laught acknowledged the existence of the transport problem, but he failed to go further. He would not recognise that co-ordination and an appreciation of the requirements of other transport groups will not come from the establishment of this Bureau. We must have regard for the position of the railway services. Over the years there has been pressure for standardisation works by certain States but for some time the position was stagnant. These works have started to roll again. Some associated works which will facilitate travel across Australia by rail have been put into operation. These will play a great part in our economic future, but over the years railway systems have been allowed to decline, The main workshops have not been used to the extent to which they should have been used.
The role which railways should play In relation to roads has never been properly clarified. No authority has been established to say, “ Roads should connect here “ or “ This transport should be by rail “. Railways have had to carry great economic burdens because of requirements relating to the carriage of goods and special freight rates. In addition, they have had to face very severe competition from unorganised units using road transport. The railways are saddled with normal labour costs, but much of the competition by road transport comes from people who have not regular industrial standards. This matter must be examined. A rationalisation policy is necessary for airlines, according to the Government’s argument, to sustain reasonable standards and reasonable profits. We say. of course, that it is implemented for the purpose of fostering the private airline. But if rationalisation is necessary for airlines, it is particularly necessary in relation to roads and railways. I would think that, quite apart from all the constitutional problems, a Commonwealth authority could face up to this problem and make reports which would permit some movement towards a general national point of view that would be beneficial.
Of course, we know that (his is the background. We know, too, as has been mentioned in a sketchy way, that the problem of safety on the roads is very important. I am not going to repeat the figures that have been given in that connection. During a previous debate, I mentioned the increase in accidents on South Australian roads but this is a common pattern and the only way to attack this problem is to start planning. No matter how little the Government might like planning or facing up to the need for a new authority, at some stage something of this kind will have to be done. All this background provides the real reason why the Government has brought down this Bill.
It seems to me that the Bill is not even a half way .measure towards the concept everyone expected. We thought that at some stage we would have a body which would look at the overall transport problem in relation to the economic development of Australia and our population needs. We thought that such a body could advise the Government and the Parliament on the proper course to take. What we have is a Bill to establish a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. I would not complain very much about the functions of the proposed Bureau. The objectives set out in the Bill ate fairly wide and satisfactory; but when one gets past those provisions, we find the Bill is circumscribed.
The chairman of the Bureau will be the only full-time member and it will not be possible for the Bureau to do the job that we and other traffic minded people would expect it to do. It will not be able to carry out even the tasks that the Government refers to it. We believe that this is a start, but we consider that the Government should agree to extended powers for the Bureau to enable it to meet the requirements of those who made representations to the Government before and shortly after a recent Premiers’ Conference. They wanted something like this authority established but with greater powers than are proposed. As Senator Cohen has said, the Opposition proposes to submit amendments to the Bill which we think will remove from it the restrictions on the Bureau which we sec in the measure.
Certain moves and requirements have been mentioned in this connection on behalf of the Government. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) stated in his policy speech last November that the Government envisaged the establishment of a national roads authority. Even this title has been revised and it is now proposed to have a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. As honorable senators have said, the Bureau will be only an advisory body. The appropriate Minister will refer to the Bureau matters that should be referred to it but the results of its work will not necessarily be made public and they will not be submitted to the Parliament for consideration. What sort of people are we to allow legislation of this kind to be passed?
Let me submit a simple proposition with which we could be faced if this Bureau is set up and is commissioned by the Minister for Shipping and Transport to discuss, for example, beef roads in South Australia. In such a case, honorable senators representing South Australia would be expected to add our weight to moves for such important roads to be constructed. If the
Commonwealth Bureau of Roads were commissioned by the Minister to undertake some surveys of the proposal, it could conduct its own surveys. It could employ its own specialists, deliberate on the proposal and report to the Minister. The Minister would know what was in the mind of the Bureau but nobody else in the Parliament would know. We would not have an opportunity to examine any reports or to put our point of view as representative of local opinions or local interests.
Senator Scott__ When you say “ we are you referring to yourself as a member of the Parliament or as a State representative?
– As a senator in this chamber. I am suggesting what would happen if the Bureau were asked - as is likely - to consider the construction of roads for purposes of economic marketing such as beef roads or defence roads for the Northern Territory. The Bureau could conduct its own investigations, prepare its own reports and bring within the ambit of its investigations anybody it chose. The Bureau will have only one full-time officer and only the Minister would know what was happening. The Minister could refrain from making public or making available to the Parliament opinions or advice gained through the Bureau. This would put us in an impossible position. We could be worse off with a Bureau than we are in present circumstances because, at least, as requests come to State representatives now, we can make direct representations to the Minister. We can then come into the chamber and argue the need for economic developments.
This is the main argument of the Opposition in its approach to the Bill. We recognise that there has been some renewed interest in the need for a road authority of some sort. If we allow this legislation to pass without the improvements the Opposition has in mind we shall be taking a backward step.
– I always listen with considerable enjoyment to the contributions to the debates by Senator Cohen and his speech today was no exception. His broad analysis of the Bill and especially of clauses 14 and 15 was correct.
I believe everyone would agree with his interpretation. But having said that I should like to add that I believe his assumptions as to the purposes of the Bill were as incorrect as his analysis was correct. Senator Cohen referred to the many problems associated with our road transport system. There is no doubt they exist. He gave his reasons on the need for a national roads authority or a national planning authority. I think he said that such an authority should plan and construct roads.
– Not necessarily construct but certainly plan.
– At least the honorable senator referred to the desirability of a national roads authority and a national planning authority. Then he went on quite correctly to quote an extract from the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). I am not quite sure whether the honorable senator quoted certain words from the end of the Prime Minister’s statement. He may have done so but I shall quote them now in case they were not stated by the honorable senator. At the end of his statement on roads in his policy speech the Prime Minister said -
We will helpfully discuss with the States the desirability of establishing such an authority.
Then the right honorable gentleman said -
The nation would benefit from a thoroughgoing survey and appraisal of the existing roads system and of foreseeable roads requirements.
Having quoted those words, I should like to turn to the speech that was delivered by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge) in introducing this Bill. The Minister said -
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 “ wilh the States the desirability of establishing a National Roads Authority.
Let us bear in mind that the Prime Minister said that the Commonwealth would helpfully discuss the matter with the States. The Minister continued -
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 “.
The next passage is very important to a consideration of the Bill -
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 -
I interpose the observation that he did not say the proposals were for the establishment of a national roads authority - 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. 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.
The following passage in the Minister’s speech is very important -
J should make it clear that the Bureau will not be in any way a roads construction authority, and it will net have any power over the States.
To my mind, that is the crux of the matter. We must ask ourselves: Is this Bill being presented as a substitute for legislation to establish a national roads authority or is the Bureau to be established to collect vital information? The Minister made it abundantly clear in his second reading speech that the Bill is designed to establish an organisation to collect information that is vitally needed.
I have no knowledge of what was discussed at the Premiers’ Conference, but I think we can safely assume that this legislation is the outcome of an agreement between all the State Premiers and the Commonwealth Government. Without knowing anything about what was in the minds of the State Premiers, I should be very surprised if, at least at this point of time, any of the State Governments would concede to any authority control over the construction and maintenance of highways within their own territory. Whilst the argument advanced by Senator Cohen was an extremely interesting and a very good one, I think it loses its validity when we consider the purpose of the Bill. Doubtless the honorable senator will concede that there is some validity in my submission.
Having emphasised that the measure sets out precisely the intention of the
Government, 1 believe that we should now ask ourselves whether the tasks envisaged ore important. I submit that one of the most important matters that are presently troubling at least some of us is the financial allocation for roads. I said that on 13th May last when I was discussing the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill. I repeat that in my view the formula that has been adopted for the distribution of Commonwealth aid roads moneys is very far from being satisfactory. The Minister reminded us in his second reading speech that up to date the Government has had inadequate data to guide it. That statement not only indicates what the situation is but also accurately pinpoints the basic need for this legislation. We have a lot of information, but very little of it is comprehensive and very little is impartial. Because of the very nature of things, we could not expect it to be impartial. I have asked myself this question: If the financial breakup, allocation or formula - call it what you like - is unsatisfactory, is the Premiers’ Conference a suitable forum in which to discuss it and perhaps to alter it? I do not think it is. The very nature of a Premiers’ Conference is such that I do not think those who attend would be able to settle down and consider carefully the very detailed data that must be considered before the matter can be decided.
We all know that the Commonwealth aid roads moneys are allocated on the basis of one-third as to population, onethird as to vehicle registration, and onethird as to area. I maintain that the moneys should not be allocated on that basis. Many other factors should be considered. 1 referred to them in quite a lot of detail on 13th May last and I do not want to weary honorable senators by referring to them again. However, there are other factors to which I would like to refer. The first is that of need. The need to build roads where none exists at the present time in order to serve fertile areas is of overwhelming importance. There arc many places, perhaps not in the southern States but in Western Australia and certainly in Queensland, that I know of where there are huge tracts of wonderfully fertile land that are totally untapped by roads. There is a real need for roads in those areas. If we want to develop the north, we can do so only if we make it possible for people to get into these areas. We should consider also the need to improve the standard of existing roads. We all know this is of importance, although the degree of importance varies from place to place. There are many areas in which it is planned to spend up to £50 million to improve existing roads. I am not quarrelling with the expenditure of that money, because I can see the need for expressways and much wider highways. However, I would like to consider that matter again in a few minutes. There is also the need for annual maintenance, a problem which is common to all areas, although the roads in certain parts of Australia are much more difficult to maintain than the roads in other parts. There is a need for a great deal of study in this field.
The subject of roads should be considered also in relation to the requirements of national development. To a degree this is being done. The needs of northern development are also being studied to a degree in conjunction with the construction of beef roads and with industrial development. I suppose it is true to say that roads and industrial development are considered together in every State, in varying degrees, and it is a factor to be considered in the allocation of funds.
I would like to tell honorable senators of an experience of mine a couple of months ago when I attended the Cairns show. I was most interested in a competition which has recently been introduced in that area. It is a competition for the best carcass. Graziers reasonably close to Cairns entered cattle for the competition and out of concern for their entries they took unusual care in transporting them to the slaughteryards to be killed prior to judging. Notwithstanding the care taken in transporting the cattle, scarcely a beast did not have its flesh seriously damaged by bruising. This occurred although the cattle were carted under very special conditions. Areas of bruising a foot in diameter were caused. It may not be generally known that when sides of beef are sold overseas, if there is a large area of bruising on one part of the side, the whole side is downgraded.
I discussed this matter at the Cairns show with a man extremely experienced in beef production. He told me that quite frequently - more than average - bruising caused during the transport of beef cattle would cause from 20 per cent, to 30 per cent, downgrading of quality. That is a very serious matter. On the Mulligan Highway alone, which runs for about 200 miles, about 25,000 cattle are transported each year. If you like to make the calculation, using the cost of a fat beast, you will quickly discover that the bruising of cattle transported over the Mulligan Highway causes an annual loss of about £250,000 on that highway alone. This is not only a problem for the beef producers of the area but also a serious problem for Australia. We want to capture more of the beef market because of its value for Australia. We can do so only by supplying quality beef and we cannot overcome the factors that prevent the supply of quality beef unless we have good roads for the transport of cattle.
Far be it from me to suggest that the bruising of cattle during transport is the greatest problem. It is not; it is only one of the problems. I use it simply to illustrate the number of problems that exist in relation to roads. One must automatically agree that there are many problems to be considered before determination of the financial breakup of the annual grants. We need to employ an expert team of research people to do this work for us. lt is in this field that the Bureau envisaged in the Bill will do an excellent job.
I do not wish now to repeat all my statements of 13th May, but I shall repeat that I simply cannot accept as a just and fair division of the grants that are made one which will give an 18.16 per cent, share to a State that has 25 per cent, of Australia’s roads, 22i per cent, of Australia’s acreage and a greater area of unopened land than any other State. Another State, having 3 per cent, of Australia’s acreage as against Queensland’s 22$ per cent., receives 19 per cent. - more of the cut than, shall we say, the largest fully fertile State in Australia. I am not saying that Queensland suffers alone in this respect - Western Australia suffers, too - but I am referring to the problems of Queensland. Another State, which has 10* per cent, of Australia’s acreage, receives 27.9 per cent, of the cut, whereas
Queensland, which has more than twice as much acreage, receives 18.16 per cent, of the allocation.
These problems should be determined by impartial people. I do not pretend to b-s impartial. I know the problems of Queensland better than I know the problems which arise elsewhere. I want these things to be decided by people who are impartial not only towards me but towards other people. I want a fair analysis to be made and this can be done only by people of adequate capacity.
One of the problems involved when considering roads is equitable payment for their use. To my mind, this applies particularly where heavy transport is used. Everybody, I am sure, will acknowledge that a phenomenal growth has occurred in the use of road transport. This growth has contributed largely to the astronomical rise in the requirements of road finance. Many times I have asked myself whether it has been an entirely healthy growth. I do not believe that it has, and I shall explain why I think so.
First, it is infinitely more costly to transport goods by road than by sea. Yet road transport is used, I suppose, because of its facility; perhaps I should have said because of the lack of facility of sea transport. The cost of goods in most of our far distant areas is a lot greater because of the increased use of road transport which has followed the dwindling use of sea transport. Secondly, I also gravely doubt whether the road transport industry pays its fair share of the cost of building and maintaining roads. The damage that heavy vehicles inflict on the road surface represents only a small fraction of the cost they are inflicting on the community. The whole construction, engineering and maintenance of our arterial roads is today largely dominated by the requirements of these heavy vehicles. I think all honorable senators would agree that a great deal of the widening and straightening of roads would not be necessary if it were not for the growth of the use of heavy transports in the general transportation of goods. I am sorry, especially as far as our remote areas are concerned, that shipping has ceased to be used as widely as it was used in the years prior to the last war. There have been many occasions on which I have compared the cost of road transport with that of shipping, when shipping was available as an alternative to road transport, and I have been staggered by the difference in cost. I have said that I doubt whether the transport industry contributes an adequate payment towards the cost of the building of new roads, and the maintenance of existing roads. Wilh all that is being done to provide satisfactory arterial roads for its use, I very much doubt whether the industry pays a fair share of the total cost. I know that, so far as Queensland is concerned, attempts have been made on many occasions to obtain what was thought to be a fair amount from those using the roads. The problem must be even greater in New South Wales. But, because of section 92 of the Constitution, Queensland has been limited in regard to the taxes it has been able to impose. If there could be a uniform approach to this problem by all States adequate payments might be received from those who operate heavy vehicles. Perhaps if wc were able to achieve this it would encourage us to provide more ships for our coastal work.
I would like to think that this Bureau of which we are speaking tonight will examine these problems. If it does so, there will be a more realistic approach towards the payments which are made. Another factor relating to heavy vehicles is the carnage on the roads. I know I should not deal with the death toll on the roads because it is out of the ambit of the Bill. 1 merely say in regard to this matter that I would like to have an efficient examination made of the effect of heavy vehicles on the road toll. I personally have been somewhat interested in this subject. I would like to see a subject such as this examined closely. If that were done, 1 think many of us would be staggered to discover (he cost in human lives that these heavy vehicles are imposing on this country.
These are some of the things which should bc looked at. There are others, but 1 have no doubt that honorable senators who follow me will refer to them. I hope that all these matters that have been raised will become part of the study of the Bureau as soon as it is set up. Finally, I want to make this point: I do hope that we are not going to permit ourselves in this debate to confuse the issues. I repeat what I said at the outset of my speech. We must clear our minds and ask ourselves if wc arc thinking in terms of the setting up of a national roads authority or if we are thinking of the establishment of a Bureau acceptable to all the Premiers of the States and also to the Commonwealth, as a research and investigation department, to use my own phrase. Once we clear our minds on that point wc will understand the Bill that is before us and recognise that it is a splendidly drawn piece of legislation for the purpose that has been thoroughly explained by the Minister in his introductory speech.
– The purpose of the Bill that is before the Senate is to implement a promise made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) during the 1963 election campaign, lt is interesting to examine what the Prime Minister had to say at that time. He said -
Many people and organisations have advocated the establishment of a national roads authority to provide a focal point for the planning and development of a comprehensive system to help in coordinating the activities of Commonwealth and State Governments in the roads field. Our own study suggests that this is desirable.
– Desirable for what?
– Senator Morris quoted the rest of the passage. He did not quote the part I have just read. If you like, 1 will read the rest of it.
– .Put it in context.
– Very well. The Prime Minister said -
Our own study suggests that this is desirable. Wc will helpfully discuss wilh the States the desirability of establishing such an authority.
Envisaged in the policy speech of the Prime Minister is a focal point for planning and development of a comprehensive system. When I look at the Bill, I am unable to find where such a thing is provided for.
The specific functions of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads are set out in clause 14. They are -
And these are the interesting words - in the consideration by tha Government of the grant of financial assistance by the Parliament to the States in connexion with roads or road transport; and
The only specific power provided for in the Bill is related to financial assistance by the Parliament to the States. The Bill goes further, of course, and gives the Minister an overriding power to refer matters to the Bureau. The power that is given to the Minister is so wide that it is incapable of precise interpretation. What is more, the Bureau is forbidden to give out information in connection with any matter referred to it by the Minister. That provision is contained in clause 17 of the Bill.
I believe that the Bureau will have a full time chairman, two part time assistants, and probably a typist. That is about as far as this Bill will allow the Bureau to go. This is not satisfactory to the Opposition. The Opposition envisages something which I believe the Prime Minister envisaged when he was wooing voters in 1963. He told the people of Australia that the focal point of this Bureau would provide for planning and development. Senator Laught said that the Bureau would have power to engage persons to carry out research into various problems. This will be so only if the Minister refers problems of research to the Bureau. Senator Morris said that we could safely assume that the decision to establish the Bureau was the outcome of discussions at the Premiers’ Conference.
– That is indicated by what is said.
– I am loath to believe that that is so. I do not assume anything when information is kept from mc. The Premiers’ Conference was held, and because there was no agreement between the Premiers as to a re-allocation of taxation money, or a re-organisation of the formula, it was decided that no public statement would be made. It is not right for anyone to assume that the establishment of this Bureau is the outcome of discussions by the Premiers in conjunction with Treasury officials and the Prime Minister. At least, I am not prepared to assume that it is. I am not prepared to believe that the States about which Senator Morris talked - Queensland and Western Australia, with their over-large areas and untapped fertile lands - would be prepared to agree to a Bureau of Roads being set up with the one specified power of advising the Commonwealth on financial relations.
I believe that this Bureau, after any investigation that it makes, will become a buffer between the States and the Commonwealth in respect of financial matters. You have only to consider the amount of money that the Commonwealth is making available to the States during the next five years for road building purposes and compare it with what authorities say will be required in Australia during that time.
Whilst the Opposition will not oppose the motion for the second reading of the Bill, it will attempt, during the committee stages, to have the legislation amended so that the functions of the Bureau can bc controlled by this Parliament. The Bill proposes a statutory authority. If this Parliament sets up a statutory authority, surely that authority should become the instrument of the Parliament, not the instrument of a Minister. Surely we are entitled to know what activities the Bureau will carry out, what reports it will make to the Minister and what action the Minister will take on the reports made to him. Senator Morris said also that we were receiving inadequate returns from heavy transport.
– I gave that as my view.
– That was the view that you expressed.
– The Minister, in his second reading speech, said -
Transport costs make up a substantia] 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 ils impact on economic conditions, both generally and in particular areas, is significant.
Only one inference is to be drawn from the statement by Senator Morris, that the States are not receiving adequate remuneration from heavy transport. The inference is that extra charges should be imposed on heavy transport to pay for the construction and maintenance of roads.
– May 1 just interrupt you there? I went on to say that this would probably drive a lot more of this traffic back to sea transport, which is a lot cheaper.
– Would you sail up the rivers?
– I am talking about transport along the coast.
– The Minister recognises, from what he said in his second reading speech, that transport costs are a heavy burden upon industry in Australia. Senator Morris would increase those costs, lt is estimated that 25 per cent, of the cost of production is comprised of transport costs. In other countries the proportion is as low as 9 per cent. If we add extra costs to heavy transport, we shall increase our production costs.
Road transport is, of course, most important in inland Australia - that part of Australia which is not able to carry increased costs. Primary production comprises the major part of inland industry, and is the major source of Australia’s overseas earnings. It is not in a position to absorb increased costs. I would have thought that the idea of setting up this Bureau was to reduce the cost of road transport, but I am unable to find a charter for that proposition in the Bill. Apart from becoming a buffer between the States and the Commonwealth Government in respect of financial assistance, I am unable to find any other function of the Bureau in the Bill. This Parliament will not know exactly what the activities of the Bureau arc, because of the secrecy that is to surround its operations. This Parliament will not know what matters are referred to the Bureau, if any.
The purpose of the establishment of the Bureau is in some way to keep a promise made by the Prime Minister, without committing the Commonwealth to any major expenditure. The roads of Australia do, of course, suffer from the ravages of heavy transport. I agree with Senator Morris on that. Most of the arterial roads in Australia were not built to carry the type of traffic that is using them today. Very little research has been done in any part of Australia into the types of materials used for road construction. The problems of road construction vary in different localities and in different States. What is a suit able material to use in the construction of a road in one part of Australia is not a suitable material to use in another part. An enormous amount of research needs to be carried out in this field alone, but that is not to be referred to the Bureau of Roads, or the Bureau will not be concerned with it unless the Minister refers such a matter to it.
I hardly think that it is fitting to have only one full time officer to superintend all of the work that could be referred to this Bureau. He would have to be some sort of a superman to perform the functions that would be required of him if the purposes outlined by the Prime Minister in his policy speech were, in fact, to be implemented by this Bill. The least that the Australian people could expect to find in the Bill are provisions to carry out the promise made during the election campaign.
Heavy transports have an effect on road safety, particularly when we look at the type of the roads that we have. In Western Australia the arterial roads are generally termed seven ton roads. That is, they are built to carry vehicles of an axle weight of seven tons. Heavy transports distort the roads, particularly during the wet periods, and as a result the road surfaces become unsafe. We are told that speed is the major cause of road accidents, but if a proper examination of the use of roads by heavy transports was made it would be found that the distortion and imbalance caused by them had greatly contributed to the accident .rate. Suitable materials are not being provided to construct roads to carry such vehicles.
There is traffic congestion in all the metropolitan areas. I think that every city in Australia is suffering from traffic congestion and the authorities are trying to find ways to relieve it. Extra taxes are constantly being imposed upon road users, particularly motor car users, in an endeavour to overcome the congestion. That does not seem to improve the position - in fact, the congestion is becoming worse. As a result, all State Governments are building express highways to relieve the congestion. These highways are expensive to construct, as I am sure the Victorian people will agree when they look at the cost of King’s Bridge which it not finished yet. It will probably cost another couple of million pounds to complete it. I think it would be better to knock it down and rebuild it.
– The Victorians claim that they built a bridge for you.
– They may have provided some of the finance, but we did not allow them to touch the construction of it. These problems require a lot of research, but the Bureau which is to be set up by this Bill will have no specific power to deal with such problems. The Australian Labour Party believes that there should be a proper roads bureau, clothed with power to go into all aspects of road construction, road transport and the co-ordination of various types of transport. Many areas of Australia, particularly in the north, are dependent upon the co-ordination of the various transport systems.
Because of tidal factors, ships are sometimes difficult to move. If they miss the tide they may have to wait twelve hours before they can sail. It is important that road transport which connects with ships does so at the due time because ships cannot be tied up at jetties and in harbours for peanuts. It costs money to keep them there. If they have to wait an additional 12 hours they may miss a berth at the next port and lose more money. This Bill does not provide authority for the Bureau to deal with co-ordination of that type of transport.
The pickaback system was mentioned by Senator Laught, particularly as it affects the transcontinental railway between Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie. This system relies greatly on co-ordination of road and rail transport. Under section 92 of the Constitution: the State Governments are unable to collect revenue from the users of the road between Kalgoorlie and Perth, a distance of some 375 miles. The road is constantly being used by heavy interstate transports which are mainly registered in Victoria and New South Wales. Victorians talk about paying for Western Australia’s roads, but the registration fees for those vehicles go into the Victorian Government’s coffers and not those of the Western Australian Government. The heavy interstate transports from Now South Wales and Victoria break up our roads, but the taxpayers of Western Aus tralia have to provide the necessary finance to construct and maintain the roads. These arc problems that should be looked at in the broad aspect and not in the narrow aspect of their effect on a particular State.
I do not believe that the Bureau will fulfil the functions that one would expect of it. However, it is a start. After the next election, when the Labour Party is returned to power, the Bureau will be there and we will be able to put some teeth into it. We will be able to build it up so that it will perform the work that we expect of it. Until that time comes, we shall ask the Senate to agree to amendments for the purpose of making the information gathered by the Bureau and its reports available to Parliament. We would then be able to examine the reports and gauge for ourselves whether the appropriation of money required to carry on the Bureau was being properly spent, and applied for the purpose for which it was appropriated. As the Bill stands at the moment, when each annual Budget is introduced we shall be asked to make an appropriation for the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads without knowing whether or not it is performing any useful function. I believe that a Government should not operate in this way.
We have to consider what traffic congestion in the cities is costing industry. Heavy vehicles are not cheap to buy and operate. Much capital is tied up in them, and the owners cannot afford to have them standing in queues waiting to travel through the cities. I believe that the average speed through the city of Sydney is six miles per hour. If this is so, it means that traffic is moving slowly and is costing transport owners a lot of money. Congestion causes vehicles to use more fuel, and all the fuel that is used is imported. We have to sell goods overseas so that we can purchase fuel, and that will continue until such time as we are able to produce our own fuel. We are getting closer to that position, but it is still a long way off.
Then there is wear and tear on vehicles. They tend to wear out much quicker in those circumstances than they would in the normal course of proper operating. So the maintenance cost on these vehicles is increased. This becomes a charge on industry. All kinds of increased taxes are imposed on the transport industry which are loaded on to the cost of goods to the consumer public and on to the cost of goods that we export. This makes it increasingly difficult for us to compete on world markets. We are told constantly that rising wages are pricing us out of overseas markets. There are many other factors besides wages that are doing that. I do not believe that wages do price us out of overseas markets, but transport costs do help to do that.
These are the kinds of things that a Bureau of Roads should be investigating. lt should not be established merely to provide a buffer between the Commonwealth and the States in their haggling over financial arrangements. The Bureau should have the duty, in the first place, of examining ways and means of reducing the cost of road transport and, in the second place, of improving road safety. Despite the dereadful loss of life on our roads, responsibility for road safety - I suppose this is because of constitutional difficulties - is split up among the six States with the Commonwealth having very little authority outside the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, except in the provision of roads finance. A central bureau that could gather all of the relevant information and pass it on to the authorities that could use it would be of very great value not only to the Commonwealth and State Governments but also to Australia as a whole’. Of course, road accidents would continue. I do ‘ not know of any way in which they can be stopped, but at least they could be reduced if we had a decent roads system.
I urge the Government, when considering this mater and the amendments that the Opposition will propose, to accept the amendments and give us a bill which will be a big improvement on the one now before us. I ask the Government not to rely upon the science of numbers. Just because it has the numbers to defeat amendments, that should not be a reason why amendments are defeated. Amendments that are defeated in this Senate should be defeated on their merits, not because they emanate from a particular side of the chamber. If our amendments are acepted, then, although the Bureau will still be anaemic in its purposes, we will at least know what functions are being performed. When reports and recommendations of substance are made to the Minister and the Minister does not act upon them, at least we will be able to raise the matter with him and ask why the recommendations have not been implemented. As the Bill now stands, irrespective of what is contained in reports, the Parliament can exert no pressure to have recommendations implemented, because the Parliament will not know what the recommendations are.
The Bill should be amended as we will suggest. Then let us get down to doing something about referring matters to the Bureau that will give it some teeth and enable it to carry out the functions that a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads should carry out.
– The Bill before us is designed to set up a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. This will honour the promise that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) made in November 1963 to set up a body to advise the Commonwealth on ways and means of improving the roads throughout the Commonwealth. Following discussions at the Premiers’ Conference in March, the Government framed and presented this legislation. By the establishment of the Bureau of Roads the Commonwealth will benefit from a continuous study of our national road problems.
Senator Cant said that this Bureau will have no teeth. The Bureau will have no teeth; it will be acting only in an advisory capacity. It will report to the Minister who, in turn, will either accept or reject thi Bureau’s advice as he thinks fit. Senator Cant said also that the Parliament should have the right to discuss the Bureau’s suggestions and then to either accept or reject them. Other honorable senators have stated that as far as they know this is the first instance of an authority being set up by the Commonwealth merely to advise the Minister, without being responsible to the Parliament. Opposition senators have said that they will seek to amend the Bill so that the Bureau’s recommendations will be considered, by one of the Houses of the Parliament. This means, of course, that the
Bureau’s annual report and its recommendations would be tabled in the House in which the Minister administering transport affairs was located. I inform honorable senators opposite that other organisations have been set up by the Government to make recommendations to Ministers on the various subjects that they have been established to investigate. The Forestry and Timber Bureau Act 1930-1953 provided for the establishment of a Forestry and Timber Bureau. I have a copy of it, which 1 shall make available to any honorable senator for perusal. Section 3 reads - (1.) For the purpose of this Act there shall be a Forestry and Timber Bureau . . .
Section 4 reads -
The powers and functions of the Bureau shall, subject to the regulations and the directions of the Minister, be -
advising the Administrations of the Territories on all matters pertaining to the management of forests; (b)the management of forests placed under its control by the Governor-General;
the establishment of experimental stations for the study of sylviculture, forest management and forest protection;
the provision of educational facilities for the training of professional foresters;
the establishment and awarding of forestry scholarships;
the collection and distribution of forestry information;
the publication of reports and bulletins dealing with forestry; (ga) collecting statistics and information regarding limber supplies and requirements in Australia, and formulating programmes in respect of the supply, production and distribution of timber in Australia, and the importation into, and exportation from, Australia of timber . . .
If requested, the Forestry and Timber Bureau may make recommendations to State authorities. The Act provided for the establishment of a Board of Higher Forestry Education with members appointed by the Minister as the representative of a State government or of the university in a State, who hold office during his pleasure. The report of that Board is not tabled in the Parliament. Its recommendations are made available only to the Minister in charge of forestry.
– Would its reports not go also to the State bodies that are part and parcel of it?
– As I mentioned earlier, that Board looks after the forests in Com monwealth Territories, and it also advises the States if they require information and guidance. The States may request it to make certain studies. So the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will not be the only organisation established by the Commonwealth which does not report to the Parliament. Senator Cohen, in leading for the Opposition, said that about 32 statutory bodies made reports to the Commonwealth Parliament. Those reports cover the previous twelve months and relate to the functions of the statutory authority in that period. They are perused by the Minister and I understand that he may, in his discretion, reject any part of the report before it is presented.
– I am told that this is so; I do not know how true it is. I am also told that they do not make very many recommendations to the Government or to the Parliament regarding finance for the ensuing twelve months without first obtaining the permission of the Minister.
– Are you saying that some of the reports of statutory authorities tabled in the Parliament are amended by a Minister?
– I did not say that they were amended by a Minister. A Minister sees them first and he may, if he so desires, reject parts of them. I understand that this is right. It is what I was told but I do not know whether it is true, because I am not a Minister.
– It is a case of all or nothing at all with the report of a statutory authority. He tables it or he does not.
– That is what I was told. I may have been told incorrectly. I want to discuss the reasons that brought about this Bill, and the functions that the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will carry out. Under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, the Government will find in the next five years £375 million for the development of roads in Australia. Most, if not all, of this will go to the States to help them construct roads. In addition, we are finding money for the development of roads in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and for the construction of beef roads in some States. At present we have no authority to advise us on whether the money we are providing is being spent to the best advantage of the taxpayer. Various associations such as the automobile associations and the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities make recommendations. I do not decry their efforts one bit. But now the time has arrived when the Commonwealth should have an authority to which it or the Minister may turn for advice as to whether sufficient finance is being provided and whether the roads are meeting transport requirements. No doubt the various States have road systems which they believe are necessary for State functions, but we must look at the matter from a Commonwealth angle. There may be cases where roads are built in the interests of a State but not in the interests of the Commonwealth. An honorable senator opposite is frowning, but this could be quite true. Naturally a State road system gives preference to State requirements and does not ‘ take cognisance of Commonwealth requirements. For example, the Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, has promised to construct a road with a black surface as far as Ceduna by 1968. The South Australian Government is satisfied that this will complete its sealed road system because there is very little if any traffic further west than Ceduna. The Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Brand, has stated that by 1968-69, a road with a black surface will be constructed from Perth through Norseman to the border, a distance of about 900 miles.
But if both Premiers honour their promises - and I have no doubt they will do so in the interests of their respective States - in 1968 there will be a section of road 326 miles long without a bitumen surface in no-man’s land between the two roads. It might not be in the interests of the South Australian Government to provide more money from Commonwealth funds to complete the road from Ceduna to the border and I doubt whether it would be within the powers of the Western Australian Government to construct a road beyond its borders into South Australia. However, I have had confirmation from Sir Thomas Playford that if finance were made available to him he would construct the road to the border although he claims that he has not sufficient money now to go beyond Ceduna. No doubt finance for this road will have to be made available eventually by the Commonwealth
Government. This is only one case. No doubt a similar problem exists between the capital cities in other States.
Recently on the advice of the States, money was made available to the States for the construction of beef roads. There are beef roads now in Western Australia through to the Northern Territory which are under the administration of the Western Australian Government, built by the State Government with Commonwealth funds. There are certain beef roads in the Northern Territory built by the Commonwealth Department of Works on the advice of the Northern Territory Administration and with the approval of the Minister for Territories. On the east side of the Northern Territory, the Queensland Government has built beef roads with funds provided by the Commonwealth Government. These have been built by the Queensland Government where it considers they will be of the greatest advantage.
But these various State Governments and the Northern Territory Administration might not have an overall plan for road construction. There are three organisations building beef roads within a certain area with finance provided by the Commonwealth Government. These roads have been designed only to suit the three instrumentalities I have mentioned. If this Bill is passed, a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads consisting of a chairman and two members will be set up. Through the Bureau, the Commonwealth Government will be able to get all the information required by the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Commonwealth Government to ensure that the money provided by the Commonwealth Government is spent in the best interests of Australian development.
I believe these points I have cited are terribly important. Roads are a major problem in Australia. We have had various systems to finance road construction. Legislation for a federal aid roads agreement was introduced into this Parliament in 1925 by Sir Earle Page. Under that legislation money was provided for the States, originally from the petrol tax. Later it was distributed on a formula based on two-fifths according to area and three-fifths according to population. In 1948-49 the amount provided was approximately £8 million. Now it is over £75 million and in the next five years the amount provided by the Commonwealth will total £375 million not taking into consideration money provided by the Commonwealth for its Territories and grants to the States. This figure of £375 million is 50 per cent. more than the money provided in the previous five years. 1 am not suggesting that it is enough. Senator Cohen said earlier today that 75 per cent. of the total passenger and freight traffic in Australia was transported by road. He said that in 1944 there were 1 million vehicles registered in Australia and in 1963 the total was 3,394,795. He said this figure would reach 4¾ million by 1969 and that in 1974, 10 years from now, vehicles registered in Australia would total 6 million. I believe we can accept those figures as accurate. The development of a road system is a problem that must be faced by the whole of Australia. Why should we not have an authority set up by the Commonwealth Government which after all is finding a little over 331/3 per cent. of the total funds provided for road construction? At the moment we have no recognised Commonwealth authority to advise us. The Bureau of Roads will be able to investigate the problems associated with roads and road transport that I have mentioned. There arc terrific problems to be overcome.
The Bureau of Roads could study the construction of roads. For example, one State might have a plan for constructing roads within its boundaries which would be of considerable assistance to a distant State which did not know of that plan. In the north of Western Australia we had an area between Port Hedland and Broome which was known as the Pardoo Sands. Senator Willesee would know this area far better than I because he comes from the north. In the olden days it was nothing to see 50 or 60 motor vehicles which had set out from Port Hedland to go to Broome bogged in the Pardoo Sands. There was no gravel within hundreds of miles, but capable officers and engineers of the Main Roads Department managed to get certain muds from the surrounding lakes and near the coast and mix them with the sand to provide a wonderful surface over which vehicles could travel quite safely. The construction of roads has progressed a long way in the last 10 years. No doubt there are other features of road construction in various States which could be used to advantage in other Stales. Such information might not be available at the moment, but it certainly would be available if this subject were studied by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads.
As Senator Cohen pointed out, the functions of the Bureau are set out in clause 14, which provides -
The functions of the Bureau are -
to investigate, and from time to lime to report to the Minister on, mailers relating to roads or road transport for the purpose of assisting the Government of the Commonwealth in the consideration by the Government of the grant of financial assistance by the Parliament to the States in connexion with roads or road transport; and
to investigate, and report to the Minister on, any matter referred to the Bureau under the next succeeding section.
That provision arises from the Commonwealth’s keen desire to assist the States. The financial assistance to be made available will be a grant by the Parliament to the States.
Senator Cant said that the Australian Labour Party does not believe in this approach. He said that the Labour Party believes that there should be an overriding Commonwealth organisation with complete authority over the building of roads within the Commonwealth. I do not know whether that view is shared by all members of the Opposition. Such a proposal would mean taking away some of the powers of the States and giving to the Commonwealth the power to construct roads within the States. We are trying to avoid doing that. We believe that the best method of looking after the interests of the Commonwealth is to establish the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, which will consist of a Chairman and two members and which will have to report to the Minister.
Clause 15 (1.) provides -
The Minister may, for or in connexion with any purpose of the Commonwealth, refer any matter relating to roads or road transport to the Bureau for investigation and report.
That provision could cover a very wide range of subjects. It could cover road safety. I was a member of the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety which submitted many recommendations on road safety. Many of those recommendations have been adopted by the States, but many have not. lt is of interest to note that it is possible to have in one State a rule that provides for giving way to vehicles on the left and in another State a rule that provides for giving way to vehicles on the right. At one stage the rule in one State provided that a driver must give wa’y to a vehicle on his right and in another State there was a rule that drivers must give way to the first vehicle arriving at an intersection.
– Where does that operate now?
– I do not know of any State where it operates now, but I do know that as recently as two years ago it did operate in Western Australia. One can imagine the problems that arose from that rule. A large number of accidents could be caused b’y the fact that in New South Wales, say, drivers had to give way to vehicles on their right and when they reached another State the rule was that the first driver to arrive at an intersection had the right of way. One of the recommendations made by the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety was that there should be a universal road traffic code. Such a code is gradually being adopted.
So, Mr. President, the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will be of considerable help to the Minister’’. I do not know whether it would be in the best interests of the Commonwealth that the Bureau’s recommendations should bc reported to the Parliament, as has been suggested by the Opposition. If politics were not played, the procedure suggested might bc helpful, but unfortunately politics must always come into this matter. Let us imagine that the Bureau recommended to the Parliament that an amount of £50 million be spent on the construction of a road. The Government might think that such a scheme would be a waste of money. I am not speaking now in terms of the Labour Party, the Liberal Party or the Country Party. The Opposition of the time might say to the people: “ If you elect us to office we will see that the road is constructed.”
The Commonwealth Bureau of Roads might recommend that an amount of £100 million should be made available for the construction of through roads in Melbourne and Sydney. Such a scheme would be very popular with the people of Melbourne and Sydney but it might not be in the best interests of the Commonwealth. The government of the day might refuse to go along with the scheme and say: “ We can do it over a period of years, but we cannot implement the recommendation of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads at the moment.” The Opposition would say to the people: “ Vote us into office and we will spend the money.” Over half the population of Australia is located in Melbourne and Sydney and those people may cast their votes for the party that promises to build the through roads.
I believe that to be the reason why the Government is not prepared at this juncture to make the recommendations of the proposed Bureau available to either House of the Parliament. I have very much pleasure in supporting the Bill. I give notice now that I shall vote against the proposed amendments.
– I have returned to the Senate in time to hear some remarkable statements by Senator Scott. His first remarkable statement was that a Minister had the right to alter the contents of a report of a statutory body. When his statement was queried, he said: “ That is what I have been told “. I could ask my friend, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge), how he views such a situation. I am sure he knows very well that it could not happen, irrespective of the identity of the Minister.
The honorable senator’s next remarkable statement related to the fact that within the next five years the Commonwealth will provide £375 million to the States for roads. His authority for this statement is the second reading speech of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), which no doubt he had in front of him. In fact the Commonwealth Government gets a lot more from petrol tax than it provides for roads, including roads within its own Territories and beef roads. Surely the Government cannot claim much credit for that. It is true that the revenue from petrol tax has risen, but that is because people are using a greater quantity of petrol and it is anticipated that revenue will continue to increase. I gained the impression - so perhaps did other honorable senators - that Senator Scott was saying that the money is being obtained from a source about which some of us do not know.
Another classic statement by Senator Scott was to the effect that he doubts whether the States, which have the responsibility of spending the funds allocated to them for road purposes, in some instances arc spending the money wisely. I do not know whether that is true of his home State. No doubt he knows more about Western Australia than I do. I think he should ask the State Premiers whether they are spending the money wisely. When making statements like that, he should support them with some facts. After making that wild statement, Senator Scott said that roads may be constructed in the interests of a State but not in the interests of the Common wealth. Under the Constitution, the States have the right to construct roads within their own boundaries. I would be delighted to see the day the States would hand over to the Commonwealth the responsibility for the main arterial roads.
However much we would like to see more of our goods transported by sea or by rail, the figures quoted by Senator Cohen show that 75 per cent, of our goods are transported by road. That is how the people want it. In referring to a road in South Australia Senator Scott castigated Sir Thomas Playford - in a very mild manner - for not having it bituminised. No doubt Senator Scott believes that the road ought to be scaled in the interests of Western Australia. Sir Thomas Playford has the responsibility of spending the funds allotted to him in the way he thinks is in the best interests of South Australia. At certain limes he must show to the people that he has accepted the responsibility and has spent the funds wisely. I am not putting in a plug for Sir Thomas, but over the years it seems that he has succeeded in getting sufficient numbers to enable him to achieve office and hold it, irrespective of whether he gets the majority of the votes.
As I said, I thought that Senator Scott made a remarkable speech. He said that in normal times it would be a very good idea for a report of the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads to be submitted for the consideration of the Parliament and of the nation. To be fair, I must say that Senator Scott did not accuse any one political party. He referred, to the Opposition of the day, whatever its political designation may have been. If the report was tabled and the recommendation was made that a certain amount of money should be spent in New South Wales and Victoria, those States would use their best endeavours to have the money spent there. I say with respect that I do not think one can place much credence on such an argument.
I do not think that this is a good bill. I say that because we, as members of the Senate, are setting up a body to make inquiries into road problems in Australia and, eventually, we will be responsible to vote money for it. As the elected representatives of the people, surely we are entitled to know what the body does. I cannot think of any argument against such a fundamental principle as this. Why cannot honorable senators know what this Bureau is doing? There is no security reason for withholding information. Nothing has been said about an investigation into roads that would in any way affect the security of the nation. What is so secretive about the activities of this Bureau? I am surprised that the Minister should introduce a bill which, to my mind, cuts across one of the fundamental principles of responsible government. Senator Cohen referred earlier to the practice in connection with 32 statutory bodies. Would it make any difference if the report of this body was made known to us?
When I read the Bill, I asked myself: “ What does the Government expect to get from this Bureau? “ There are to be one permanent officer and two part time officers. This Bureau, according to the second reading speech of the Minister, is to consider what is the best for Australia as far as roads are concerned. We are told that there will be one permanent officer and two part time officers. I ask the Minis: ler when the two part time officers are going to act. As I have said before, I detest the idea of appointing part time employees. I have no objection to responsibility being placed with one permanent officer, because
I have enough faith to think that the Government will choose a man who can do the job. But when are the two part time men going to do their jobs? Is the permanent officer, with his staff, to consider the whole ambit of policy in connection with roads in this nation, and are the two part time men then to come in and read his report? I think this is only tinkering with the position. This was one of the matters which the Prime Minister mentioned in his policy speech. Other things were said in his speech. It was alleged that he was the only one who knew of them, and I think that perhaps this was one of them. Of course, Government senators may say that the Government crossed the Rubicon and that proposals such as this won the election for the Government. If one reads the second reading speech of the Minister, it will be seen that he used the words which the Prime Minister had used in his policy speech. The Prime Minister said -
The nation would benefit from a thorough-going survey and appraisal of the existing roads system and of foreseeable roads requirements.
Those words no doubt built up in the minds of a great number of people in this nation the belief that they were going to get something worthwhile. Now we are confronted with a bill which provides for the appointment of one permanent officer and two part time officers.
Let me deal with the composition of the Bureau. 1 have read the second reading speech delivered by the Minister and have paid particular attention to such matters as staff. If I am a judge of the meaning of words, I think that the Bureau is going to be tremendously careful about the number of people who arc to help in its work, lt is provided in the Bill that the Bureau will have the power to appoint such officers or engage such employees as it thinks necessary for the purposes of its functions. The total size of the staff of the Bureau is not to exceed the maximum number determined by the Minister from time to time. Those words convey to me that we cannot expect the Bureau to have a large staff. 1 do not want to see the Bureau with a larger staff than is practicable. But wc must remember that it will be faced with a colossal job. The roads of this nation mean a great deal to it. I think it was
Senator Cohen who said that transport contributes 11 per cent, to the total cost of all goods in Australia. But that figure applies only in some instances. I understand that the actual amount that transport adds to the cost of goods is in the vicinity of 19 per cent, of the overall cost. Therefore, when we are dealing with the subject of roads we should do so in a way which will give reason for confidence that we will get something worthwhile.
Do not let it be thought that the Commonwealth Government does not receive information on roads today. In his second reading speech, the Minister said -
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.
Of course, the Minister did not go on to say in what way further information is required. When all is said and done under the Constitution the Commonwealth Government can only spend money on roads in Commonwealth territories. I regret that fact. I am not blaming the Government for that state of affairs. When the Constitutional Review Committee was sitting members on both sides of the Senate asked the State Premiers, at various times whether they were prepared to hand over the control of their main arterial roads to the Commonwealth Government. Of course, up went their hands. I do not know whether they thought the Commonwealth would get that much power. They were all singing out about the great cost of roads and saying they could not provide in their own States the road systems they desired, but when they were asked whether they were prepared to let the Commonwealth handle the matter there was not one who was prepared to go as far as that. It seemed to me that they were prepared to put up with a system of roads that everybody said was not adequate.
The Minister said -
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.
Be that as it may. I repeat that the only areas where such advice can be put into effect by the Commonwealth are those areas within its own control. The Commonwealth can do what it likes in its own areas now. There is nothing to stop the Commonwealth from building whatever roads it wants in the Australian Capital Territory or any area of the nation where it has jurisdiction, but the Constitution bars it from doing anything in the States without the consent of the States.
Further on in his speech the Minister said - . . 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.
As I said earlier, that is one of the most remarkable things about this legislation. I was surprised and disappointed when I heard Senator Laught trying to put up a case for a statutory body not being compelled to submit a report to Parliament. I thought he was struggling to find a reason why it should not. There is no fundamental, commonsense reason why a body set up by this Parliament should not report to the Parliament when it is dealing with matters that we should not mind anyone knowing about. What would be wrong with the Bureau recommending that certain roads should be built in certain States, as long as it could give a reason for its recommendation? The roads would not be built unless the States concerned were agreeable. I am sorry that a certain member on the Government side is not present at the moment. I know that he has other work to do. On many occasions I have heard him put up a fight for the supremacy of the Parliament over the Executive. If it is held that the Parliament should be supreme in other spheres, I do not think anyone could put up a good case for it not being supreme in this field.
This is a most important subject. I understand there is one registered vehicle to every 3.2 people in Australia. Before I left to go overseas a few months ago, I was told that in this Territory there is one registered vehicle to every 2.71 people. We are fast getting to the position where very few countries will use their roads to a greater extent than we do. Transport plays an enormous part in the economic life of our nation. The Bill provides for one full time man and two part lime assistants. I am intrigued to know when the two part time mcn will punch the clock. I should like to know what they are going to do. How much knowledge will they have? How can they give decisions on these most important questions? I do not want to repeat the arguments put forward by Senator Cohen, but he referred to clause 14 of the Bill, which deals with the functions of the Bureau. It looks as though the Bureau will have a pretty sizeable sort of a job. lt is not a job which can be done in a short time. It is a colossal job. When the Minister replies, I shall be delighted for him to tell me how these part time men will fit into the picture. I am most anxious to know what their jobs will be. How much work are they going to do? What is expected of them?
The best we can say about this Bill is that it gives effect to something that the Prime Minister thought of just before the last election. I say, without full knowledge and in all friendliness, that I do not think many members of the Liberal Party knew that this matter was going to hit the front pages. The Prime Minister made a very important statement and I am sure that no-one dreamt for a moment that this Bill was all that would come of it. In his second reading speech the Minister stated why this Bureau ought to be set up. He certainly did not say much about why no reports should be made to the Parliament but he did speak about why the Bureau should come into existence.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, 1 formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I rise to speak on the motion for the adjournment because of my deep concern, uneasines and fear about the Communist infiltration into trade unions in Australia which are associated with our heavy industries, and also our defence production industries. 1 cite the case of the Garden
Island dispute, which is continuing at this point of time, and also the aircraft production incident. Communism in Australia is a very real danger and is most active. 1 want to speak later on about how the Communist propaganda machine is working, and working very efficiently.
– What is the Government doing about it?
– I will come to that factor. I am going to make some criticisms and J would be glad if you would join me in the criticisms. I feel that the situation has developed to such a dangerous degree that Australian industries are threatened and probably Australia’s defence could be brought to a standstill overnight by Communism. In talking about the Communist propaganda machine I want to mention several factors. The peace congress which is to be held in Sydney from 25th to 30th October this year is, in my opinion, a plain straightout Communist front organisation. I shall explain why I say that. Many obviously non-Communist people such as churchmen, writers, artists, politicians, trade unionists and prominent citizens from all walks of life, are sponsoring this congress, but that does not alter the fact that the congress is Communist inspired. 1 hope to bc able to prove that statement. The congress will be manipulated in such a way that its propaganda and ils findings will support the foreign policy of the Communists.
If this congress were to examine the attitudes of Indonesia, Red China and Soviet Russia and suggest a way to stop those countries from pursuing their expansionist and imperialistic policies, it might well achieve some useful purpose. After all, it is the Communists throughout the world who have declared war on the Western world and are the very people who should be convinced that peace is highly desirable and is something that we all want. I go on record as saying that either the people at the congress will not discuss these questions, or, if they discuss them, will whitewash the actions of the three countries I have mentioned. I think they are going to condemn Britain and the United States of America who, in a dozen different places throughout the world today, arc providing money and men to keep people free. This congress will result in propaganda that will blacken Britain and the United Sttaes and whitewash the Communist countries. We will have to wait and see. I could be wrong, but I go on record as saying that I think this is what will happen.
Let us look at the history of the peace conferences. This is what Khrushchev had to say about the idea behind peace conferences -
The peace movement is an extension of the propaganda machine to further Communism.
The Australian Peace Council of these days derives from the League Against Imperialism of some 34 years ago. This was a satellite of the Communist Party. Of course, the name was changed. That was good tactics.
– The same as your party did.
– If you want to talk facetiously of this matter, that is all right with me, but I am so desperately serious about it that 1 am standing in my place speaking about it. You may wish to support me or oppose me.
– You are making a mug of yourself.
– This is very interesting, and 1 hope that the people who read “ Hansard “ will form their own judgment whether my approach to the infiltration of Communism today is right, or whether Senator O’Byrne is right when he says that I am a mug to stand up and seriously debate this matter.
– You are standing up and declaring yourself as a reactionary Fascist.
– Mr. President, I ask that that remark be withdrawn.
– Order! Senator O’Byrne will withdraw the word “ Fascist “.
– I will not withdraw it. I believe that he is a Fascist because of the way he is talking.
– The word is offensive to me. I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Mr. President, if the word is unparliamentary and the honorable senator takes exception to it, I will have to put it in another way. If 1 put it another way and it is acceptable to the Senate-
– Withdraw the remark.
– You have the numbers, but if I put it another way-
– Order! Senator O’Byrne will withdraw the word “ Fascist “. If he does not withdraw it, I will name him.
– I said he was a reactionary Fascist. I will withdraw the word “ Fascist “. He is a reactionary.
– When I was rudely interrupted I was saying that the organisation that was set up in Sydney 34 years ago was a satellite of the Communist Party. The name was changed, under a directive from the Soviet, to that of the Movement Against War. It was again changed, under Soviet orders, to the Movement Against War and Fascism. Then, in 1936, it was decided to camouflage its activities and to call it the World Peace Conference. To do this the Communist organisers were instructed to get hold of persons of widely acceptable character, who were beyond reproach and untinged with Communism, and who could never be associated with Communism. These persons were to send out invitations to the conference. Their actions were successful. They obtained the sponsorship at that time of a well known bishop in Australia, two clergymen and a scientist. With this respectable front of genuine idealistic men, invitations were sent out to a great number of very responsible and prominent people, with great success.
The same policy holds good today. The Victorian Secretary of the Australian Communist Party, Mr. Ralph Gibson, emerged from this affair to which I am referring. The term “ front organisation “ came into vogue because both these organisations are directed by the Communists and the party machine. They present a facade of respectability and independence to attract as many non-Communists as is desirable. This gives them the necessary cloak of respectability. Could anyone doubt the genuine and sincere motives of, say, the Rev. A. M. Dickie, or of the Presbyterian Church as a whole? I do not think so. These people should realise that the Communists use these conferences as a cover for secret Communists who are far more dangerous than the known Communists.
– You arc a stooge.
– I do not think I will listen to his interjections, Mr. President; I think he is a little unbalanced on this matter. The World Peace Council had its origin in Paris in 1951, but it was expelled by the French Government for fifth column activities. I say to Senator Cant I only wish that this Government had the courage that the French Government had. It was moved from Paris to Prague. Then in 1954 it moved again into Vienna under Soviet protection. It was safe there at that time. But the Austrian Minister for the Interior went on record as saying that he protested strongly. He added -
A sharp watch will be kept on this Council as it has nothing whatsoever to do with peace.
When Austria gained her independence, this Congress was banned on the ground that its activities were directed against the interests of the Austrian State.
To come back to Australia, on 1st July 1949 the Australian Peace Council was formed, With Mr. Ralph Gibson on hand to quietly and unobtrusively direct its activities and progress. From the very beginning the Australian Peace Council was manipulated by the Australian Communist Party. Its propaganda line then was that the Communist powers were for peace. That remains its propaganda line today. It claimed that the Communist countries were for peace whilst the United States, Great Britain, France and West Germany were for war. That is the kind of propaganda put out by the Peace Council. It even alleged that Australia is a war-like nation.
Moving to April 1950, the first Australian Peace Conference was held in Melbourne, with Mr. Ian Turner as organising secretary, Mr. John Rodgers as Peace Council Executive member, and Mr. J. Legge as a member of the Peace Council. All three were members of the Communist Party of Australia. Turner, of course, left the party some years later because he could not stomach what happened during the Hungarian revolt. Various other known Communists were listed as attending the Conference, and events showed that the Communist Party did run it. So obvious did it become to thinking Australians that this was purely a Communist front organisation that at the Nineteenth Commonwealth Triennial Conference of the Aus- tralian Labour Party, held at Canberra in March 1951, the Federal Executive reported -
We further denounce go-called Peace Councils as instruments of Soviet imperialism, and we warn members of the Australian Labour Movement against being involved with appeals of organisations which exploit the desire for peace in the interests of Russian plans.
The official report of the proceedings of that Conference then states -
Your executive gave consideration to the standing of the Australian Peace Council in relation to the Australian Labour Parly and determined as follows: That this Federal Executive being of the opinion that the Australian Peace Council is a subsidiary organisation to the Communist Party -
Remember where this was being said - we therefore declare that it is not competent for any member of the A.L.P. to be associated therewith and remain » member of the A.L.P., and, further, we refer to Labour support of the United Nations Organisation as a worthy medium aiding the advancement of world peace.
Those extracts are from the official record of the proceedings of the Australian Labour Parly Conference in March 1951.
The Labour Party saw the dangers associated with these peace fronts. Both the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the then Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt, went on record with their views which I shall mention later. Mr. J. D. Blake, who had direct responsibility for peace work in the Communist Party, maintained that the peace front was the most important work ever undertaken to further the cause of Communism in Australia. As I have said, both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition saw the dangers associated with these peace fronts. They both denounced the 1953 Convention and branded it as being Communist infiltrated an Communist dominated. They were supported, strangely enough, in this belief some six years later when, in 1959, Mr. Stephen Murray Smith, one of the organisers of the Convention and also at one time a secretary of the Victorian Peace Council, said at a public meeting in Melbourne that, as a Communist, he had been able to control the policies and activities of the Peace Council. He left the Communist Party as others did, after the awful bloody Hugarian revolt.
The 1953 Convention was followed by another in 1956 which bore the title of the
Australian Assembly of Peace. The Communists had changed the name again. But that was not all. The name was later changed to the Australian and New Zealand Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament. That body met in Melbourne in 1959. After that meeting an organisation was set up in all Australian States and in New Zealand. That is how the present New South Wales Peace Committee for International Co-operation and Disarmament came into existence.
I do not apologise to the Senate for having taken up a few minutes to show that these peace movements are, and have been for the last 34 years, plain straightout Communist front organisations which are used by our enemies as a propaganda medium. I appeal to every decent thinking Australian who has his country’s interests at heart to boycott this Congress, to discredit it in every possible way and to show it up to the Australian people as just another weapon being used by the Communists to destroy Australia as we know it. They are out to destroy our way of life and ultimately to hand us over to our enemies. We have only one enemy in the world today - the ideology of Communism.
I ask Opposition senators: Have these Communist front organisations changed since Dr. Evatt warned you and since the triennial conference passed its resolution in March 1951, or has the Labour Party’s attitude towards Communist front organisations changed? I am led to believe - 1 can only base this on a Press report - that Mr. Calwell has said that it is all right for A.L.P. members of Parliament to attend the forthcoming conference. I remind the Senate that in 1951 that meant expulsion.
– As I notified the Senate earlier this evening, I desire to mention certain grievances that I have in relation to immigration and naturalisation. However, although my time is limited I do not think that I should let the opportunity pass without making some comments on Senator Branson’s remarks. The matter that he has raised will be the subject of a debate following a ministerial statement relating to the forthcoming peace congress. I hope that we will have a full debate on it.
What has happened tonight? Prior to 10.30 p.m. I approached the Deputy President and notified him of my desire to speak during the adjournment debate. He told me that Senator Branson would be the first speaker and that I would follow him. I returned to my colleagues and warned them that we might not be able to leave the chamber until a late hour because Senator Branson intended to speak during the adjournment debate and that I was to follow him. They asked me what subject I intended to raise. 1 told them. They then asked me what subject Senator Branson intended to raise, and 1 told them the precise subject on which he has just spoken. They asked: “ How do you know that? Has he told you?” I replied: “ No, he has not told me but there has never been an occasion when the Government, being embarrassed about something else, has not raised the old Communist bogy to hide its embarrassment”. Eighty two men lost their lives and the Government is embarrassed because it has, done nothing about that. Robertson, that worthy captain, has been victimised and the public is crying out for justice, so the Government, because it is not prepared to face up to realities, has had to raise the old bogy and create fear in the minds of the people.
I knew that this was the subject on which Senator Branson intended to speak because I witnessed a disorderly scene in the other chamber tonight when the same topic was raised by the Government’s champion, who, as always, is given the task whenever a subject is too filthy for anyone else to raise.
– Mr. President, I raise a point of order. May reference be made to a current debate in another place? I think that the Standing Orders forbid it.
– Senator Cavanagh, you may not refer to a current debate in another place. I was at a loss to know what you were referring to.
– I respect your ruling, Mr. President. I do not desire to refer to that debate. I was referring to a disorderly scene in the other chamber and following that in the King’s Hall. Reference should be permissible to the debate that happened in the King’s Hall. I am saying that every time it is necessary to bring filth into this Parliament, to arouse a fear and to create an enemy to take the eyes of the people away from the failure of the Government-
– I ask, Sir, that the word “ filth “ as applied to me be withdrawn, as I consider it to be unparliamentary.
– Senator Cavanagh, you will withdraw the word “ filth “.
– Yes. Instead, I say “ dirty “.
– I ask for an unqualified withdrawal.
– He has withdrawn it.
– He substituted “ dirty “, Sir.
- Senator Cavanagh, have you withdrawn the word “ filth “?
– I have withdrawn the word “ filth “, and if it is necessary I will withdraw the word “ dirty “ and substitute the word “ unclean “, but I have not got to the stage of relating the filth or the dirt to Senator Branson. In order to avoid the necessity for any further withdrawals, I shall not continue along those lines.
The matter to which I was referring is raised periodically, when the Government has its back to the wall, in order to hide its own misdeeds. We are told tonight to oppose the Peace Congress, on the authority of a number of statements of Communist Party members. We have been told what one Communist Party leader has said from time to time and what another Communist Party leader has said. For the first time Government supporters accept as authentic what Communist Party leaders say. What egotism the Communist Party leaders must have, to think that they can direct and control this Congress of 500 people when, if they are represented, they will be a small minority, but this is something that the Government is prepared to accept because this suits its purpose.
The whole subject should have been debated last week in this chamber when the statement of the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) showing the machinations of the Peace Congress was read. If Senator Branson had any desire to debate the merits of the case, and the urgency of the matter justified such a course, he could have done so on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate that night or the following night. The Government has its back to the wall and desperately needs the publicity, with leading articles in every newspaper in Australia, that will be given to this debate. So the Government see fit to bring up this question in the other chamber and here.
– You do not think that wc will get any publicity out of this tomorrow, tlo you?
– No, but [ think you want to carry on the campaign until there is recognition of it. I believe that you have sufficient support in the newspapers of Australia to ensure that you do get publicity. In a debate a few nights ago 1 heard a member of the Opposition simply slay the Government, but the following day in the newspapers there was not a word of what he said. However, there was a full page of what the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) had said. I think that the Government can buy its publicity and J can sec no Other purpose for the campaign tonight. However, the Peace Congress will proceed, lt will progress. It will make a worthy contribution to peace, a much worthier contribution than the debates in cither chamber tonight will make. Those who are organising the Peace Congress will rejoice at the publicity that they are getting for the Congress, which they would not have got but for the activities of the Government.
– Are you in favour of lt?
– I am a sponsor of the Peace Congress and proud of the fact that 1 am a sponsor of it.
– That is why you are defending it.
– And I associate with some of the most desirable elements in Australia, including the clergy, trade union leaders, and supporters of the Australian Labour Party including the New South Wales Executive.
– And 22 Communists.
– Possibly there arc Communists on the sponsoring com: mittee; I do not know. Because the Communists want peace, do we advocate war? That is not in my book. Because it is Communist policy to support peace, we should not divorce ourselves from the whole decent element of Australia, which is trying to do something that governments throughout the world have not done in the past.
I desire to speak tonight on another topic. On 19th August I brought up the matter of Mr. August von Elm, who was prohibited from coming into Australia to visit his son and daughter and his grandchildren. As I said on that occasion, Mr. von Elm was refused a permit by the Department of Immigration to visit Australia for this purpose. His son and daughter were naturalised Australians. They were immigrants from Germany who have proved their desirability as citizens and been granted citizenship. My main complaint was on the refusal of the Department to give the reasons why Mr. von Elm was not considered satisfactory as a visitor to Australia. The Minister representing the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) said that he would convey my remarks to his colleague.
Subsequently I rang the Minister for Immigration and asked him whether he would have an interview with me on this matter. He did so. I told him that although he would not state the reasons why this man was not permitted to come to Australia, we had unearthed the reason - this man had been a member of the Communist Party of West Germany since the Second World War until the Communist Party in West Germany was declared illegal; that he is 68 years of age, he cannot speak English and it is not likely that he will start a revolution here; and that his request for permission for his wife and himself to visit Australia is only for the purpose of seeing his children and grandchildren before he dies - he has not much longer to go. I told the Minister that he had nothing against this man’s wife, and that he knew the man had at one time been a member of the Communist Party. I asked the Minister whether Mr. von Elm could do any harm in corning to Australia to visit his children. I asked whether the. humane family factor was not sufficiently strong for him to be given a visa. The Minister said: “ Senator Cavanagh, I was always of the belief that this man wanted residence in Australia “. I said: “ I can assure you that he does not. All I ask for is a visitor’s visa so that he may come and see his children and grandchildren.” The Minister said, “ I will consider your representations and let you know “. Tonight I received from the Minister a letter, the concluding paragraph of which reads -
I have reviewed carefully the circumstances of this matter and, whilst being sympathetic to the request, 1 am unable to vary the previous decision of non-approval.
Here is a man who at one period followed his convictions and joined a Party, whether it is desirable or not. Now he wants to see his children in his declining years and the Government is refusing him that opportunity. Whenever a family is reunited by one of the members of it coming to Australia after many years, the family having been divided by Communist action, we publish it in every newspaper in Australia. We say that the family has been reunited by the efforts of the Australian Government. We say that the family tie was broken for many years because of the action of the Communist Party or because someone had run away from a Communist country. We know that in Australia the family tie is a big and strong issue. We know that it has the sympathy of the public. Here is a man who wants to come to Australia only to see his children and grandchildren. He has never seen the grandchildren, who were born in Australia. He is refused permission by a spineless Department that is not prepared to give reasons for the refusal. Hiding in this cowardly manner behind a veil of secrecy, it is not prepared to say why he is not permitted to come to Australia.
I ask all fair minded people to look at this matter fairly and squarely whatever their political opinions might be. Can they see any harm whatever in a man 68 years of age being granted a visa for three months to visit Australia so that he can be re-united with his family. The son in South Australia has one child and the daughter in Tasmania has five children. The son has told me that he has no alternative but to save up and return to Germany because the family bond is so great that he wants to see his father before they put him under the ground.
The Minister for Immigration has no grounds for refusing this visa. The Minister himself knew very little about the case. Some head of the Department, possibly acting on security recommendations, refused to allow this man to be re-united with his family. This cannot be justified whatever our beliefs might be.
I want to discuss now the question of naturalisation. Mr. Steve Pappas of Adelaide has been in Australia for 37 years. He has a good character. Mr. Pappas is one of the most inoffensive little fellows anyone could meet. He is popular and does nobody any harm. He has a knowledge of the English language but not sufficient to make him an active advocate for any cause. However, all the time I have known him - and he is known to anybody associated wilh the industrial movement in South Australia - he has been peddling Communist literature around the streets. I can only assume that he has been a member of the Communist Party, but I do not know his political affiliations. To my knowledge he has always worked hard and always paid his taxes to the Commonwealth Government. He applied for naturalisation in 1929 and was refused. He applied again in 1932, 1948 and again in 1959 and on each occasion his application for Australian citizenship has been refused. Again because of this cloud of secrecy, we are not permitted to discover why the Government is acting as it is in this case.
Mr. Pappas has paid heavy taxes for 37 years as he is a single man and has no deductions for a wife or children. He has done no harm in Australia but, having reached the point of retirement, he is not entitled to social service benefits because he is not naturalised. Mr. Pappas has paid for those social service benefits. The Treasurer did not refuse his taxes because Mr. Pappas was not naturalised. Now, having taken his income tax and social service contributions for 37 years, the Government denies him the right to get something back. This is an injustice.
I asked a question on this matter in the Senate on 2nd October 1962. The question was directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, who was then Senator Henty, and in his reply he stated -
It is not the Government’s policy to reject applications for naturalisation on the basis of an applicant’s bona fide trade union activities or party political membership as such. However, if an applicant’s activities are such that he is not considered suitable for Australian citizenship, then citizenship has been and will continue to be refused.
J cannot disagree with that if it is a bona fide explanation. On 14th November 1962 1 asked a series of questions on the same subject and the Minister replied -
I am happy to inform the honorable senator that no application for naturalisation has been or will be refused solely by reason of the applicant’s political or trade union activities or associations.
It has been the practice since 1949 when considering applications for naturalisation to take into account an applicant’s membership, or association with, the Communist Party or other Communist activities, although applications for naturalisation are not necessarily rejected on all of the grounds mentioned. However, if an applicant’s activities are such that he is not considered suitable for Australian citizenship, then citizenship has been, and will continue to be, refused.
According to the Minister’s reply, the test is not the applicant’s party political activities or membership or his trade union activities. It is a question of whether the man is considered suitable for Australian citizenship. Mr. Pappas has been accepted as an Australian resident for 37 years. The Government has permitted him to remain in Australia but he is not considered suitable for Australian citizenship.Is the Government bona fide in its objections? Of course, Mr. Pappas has had an association with a party with which the Government disagrees. I challenge the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) to produce any report in which the finger of scorn can be pointed at this individual.In the reply given to me on 14th November 1962, the Minister stated -
Inquiries arc made by officers of the Department of Immigration into all aspects of applications for naturalisation. In the matter of security, considerable reliance is placed on the reports of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
Therefore, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation can submit a report which is never disclosed to the applicant and he is smeared by the refusal to grant him naturalisation. He is not given an opportunity to deny the contents of the report. The Minister has stated in his reply in the Senate that the only question involved is the suitability of the applicant for Australian citizenship. Mr. Pappas has done no wrong except that in the Government’s eyes he has the wrong political affiliation. He has never appeared in an Australian court. He has paid his taxes in Australia for 37 years. Yet the Government considers that he is not suitable for Australian citizenship. Surely if be was not suitable for citizenship the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation would not allow such a man to remain in Australia.
This man has reached the age of retirement at 65 years without any social service benefits and he will be forced to plead guilty from time to time to having insufficient visible means of support. The Government is driving him into the ranks of the criminal element. He has no alternative. There has never been a better living man in South Australia as anybody associated with the industrial movement knows. The Department of Immigration has acted under the cloak of security. When the same security organisation has inquired into the activities of a Fascist organisation, its policy had been to keep the results of its inquiries secret for understandable reasons. If we have a Fascist corps in Australia, it should be exposed to the whole public but it is not exposed. However, it is considered in the public interest to tell the people the influences behind a peace council which wants to talk peace.
Surely the Government is not sincere in its actions. I challenge the Minister for Immigration to show any reason for refusing Mr. Pappas naturalisation other than the fact that he is or was possibly a member of the Communist Party of Australia. Let the Government refund Mr. Pappas the taxes he has paid for 37 years if he is not suitable for Australian citizenship. I challenge the Department of Immigration to produce one iota of proof, other than his political activity, that this man has done anything that would not commend him as a decent Australian citizen.
We are reaching the stage where, as in the Fascist world, a cloak of secrecy is being drawn and a man can be condemned without any proof of guilt. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said earlier in the week that the holding of a court martial as a result of the “ Voyager “ disaster could have no other result than to smear the names of certain people. He asked: “Who would want to do that?” I ask: Who wants to smear the names of people? But the names of decent Australian citizens have been smeared by a department which cannot justify its action. Why is there need for secrecy? For too long have we accepted this state of affairs in which the Department says: “ It is not our policy to disclose what has been discovered “. If the security service finds out that something subversive is happening in Australia, it should let us know by submitting a report through the Minister and should not operate through the back door by letting the information be disclosed by some member of the Parliament.
I ask the Minister for Immigration to take note of my remarks and to see whether, if a fresh application is submitted by Steve Pappas, naturalisation cannot be granted and whether, despite the Minister’s latest refusal of today’s date, there cannot be a review on humanitarian grounds of the decision to debar Mr. von Elm from coming to Australia.
– The comments of the honorable senator will be brought to the attention of the Minister for Immigration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 September 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1964/19640917_senate_25_s26/>.