25th Parliament · 1st Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Mckellar) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., “and read prayers.
– I address the following questions to the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Did the Minister note in the “ Australian “ this morning, under the caption “Indonesian Rockets “, a statement that last Saturday 10 home made rockets were launched from u base in east Java and that most of the rockets hit their targets accurately? Has the Government any information about these rockets? What is their range, power and so on?
– I have not seen the article referred to. I have no official information about the reported incident - the manufacture and provision of rockets in Indonesia, and their firing.
– I ask the Acting Minister for External Affairs whether I am correct in believing that a news item stated that Mr. Shann, our very capable Ambassador at Djakarta, is proceeding on two months’ vacation. Can the Minister inform the Senate who will be discharging the duties of principal officer in the embassy during that period?
– I cannot tell the honorable senator the name of the person who will be Charge d’Affaires if Mr. Shann proceeds on leave, but I shall find out and let him know.
– I address the following questions to the Minister for Defence in relation to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund: Is the Minister aware that general dissatisfaction in regard to the cost to contributors, the benefits paid and the conditions governing the Fund has been expressed by contributors? Does he realise that this is one of the factors which are militating against the success of recruitment to the defence forces? Are all members of the defence forces compelled to contribute to the Fund? Will the Minister order an investigation to be made of the Fund with the object of, first, improving the rules and conditions attaching to it, and secondly, increasing the benefits paid by it? What is the amount of reserve held in the Fund? When was the last actuarial examination of the Fund made, and what did it reveal?
– The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund is administered by the Treasurer, not by me. Therefore, I would not venture to answer questions relating to detail, although I am not without some knowledge of the details. I am sure the honorable senator will agree that it is preferable that the Treasurer should answer those questions. However, I deny that there is general dissatisfaction with the Fund. As with all funds of this kind, some members find, or think they find, cause for criticism. Let me say at once that it does not mean that some of the criticism, particularly in special cases, is unjustified. There is justification for criticism in all big funds of this type. However, I reject very emphatically the proposition that there is general dissatisfaction. Indeed, I think it can fairly be said that the action which the Government took some months ago in respect of the improvement of terms and conditions of service in the Army, together with generous variations in respect of many allowances including education allowances and the like and the provision of a housing programme, did a great deal to mitigate criticism of conditions within the Services.
– I direct my questions to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that on the death of a taxpayer who has been conducting his own business or who is in receipt of income, his estate is not entitled to the concessional deductions which normally would have been claimed by the taxpayer before his death? Does this mean that for the period until probate is granted the estate is taxed on its full income without the benefit of any concession for dependants who must still be supported, or any other concessional deductions such as for medical and educational expenses? Will the Minister refer this matter to the Treasurer for examination and comment?
– I shall be happy to refer this matter to the Treasurer. I do not have at my finger tips the details for which the honorable senator asks. I shall certainly refer the matter to the Treasurer for his comments.
– I ask the
Minister for Civil Aviation whether he has been approached by the Ambulance Transport Service Board of New South Wales and by air ambulance appeal leaders from that State seeking the co-operation of Commonwealth aviation agencies to provide air ambulance services for the people of New South Wales. If so, has the Minister formulated a decision in regard to the co-operation of Commonwealth aviation agencies with the Board for the provision of the proposed air ambulance service?
– I have been approached by the Ambulance Transport Service Board of New South Wales and by other bodies along the lines suggested by the honorable senator. The matter is under consideration in the Department at the moment, and under my active consideration. No decision has yet been reached.
– I wish to ask several questions of the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that Trans-Australia Airlines is to construct an aerodrome on Brampton Island off the Queensland coast and use Beechcraft aircraft to carry passengers to and from Mackay? Has it not previously been the responsibility of the Department of Civil Aviation, State Governments or local government bodies to construct airports for civil airlines? Why has permission been given to T.A.A. to go into the airport construction business? What is the estimated cost of the proposed airport? From where or from whom is T.A.A. obtaining the finance? Will aircraft other than those owned by T.A.A. have access to the airport?
– -Trans-Australia Airlines has leased land at Brampton Island and has engaged a contractor to build an airstrip. This will be suitable for light twinengined aircraft like the Beechcraft Queen Air. It is the intention of T.A.A. to carry its passengers between Mackay and Bramp ton Island by aircraft. A great number of the smaller airports and airstrips in Australia, and especially those in remote areas, have been constructed by private owners. Airlines have also in certain cases undertaken the responsibility for airport construction. T.A.A. did not need approval to undertake this particular project, the cost of which is within the authority of the Australian National Airlines Commission to approve. It also has the statutory authority to engage in intrastate operations in Queensland. The estimated cost of the proposed airport is £47,000, which will be obtained by T.A.A. from its own resources. It is the usual practice when an airstrip is privately owned or leased for other aircraft owners to negotiate with the owners or lessees if they wish to use it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware that it is proposed to increase substantially the price of superphosphate in Tasmania as from 1st July 1965? This is not the first increase since the subsidy was introduced. What action does he propose to take to satisfy himself within the terms of section 7 of the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Act that the superphosphate bounty is being passed on to consumers in full?
– In truth, the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Act is administered by the Department of Customs and Excise. My Department is aware that it is proposed to increase the price of superphosphate in Tasmania by lis. a ton as from 1st January 1965. This matter is currently being examined by the Department, which is also examining price changes in superphosphate in other States. My Department’s function is to administer the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Act and, within the terms of the Act, to ensure (hat all such bounty is passed on to the consumers. As the honorable senator knows, the bounty is of the order of £3 a ton. In the last financial year, the Commonwealth Government paid £11.25 million by way of superphosphate bounty.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. I preface it by saying that on 21st
October last in reply to my colleague, Senator O’Byrne, the Minister stated that by-law entry applications had been made by Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. and TransAustralia Airlines in regard to the importation of two Boeing 727 aircraft purchased by those companies and that the matter of the applications was under consideration. My question is: Has finality been reached in regard to the consideration of the applications and, if so, what is the decision?
– As I recall, the question by Senator O’Byrne was directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. However, 1 am happy to inform Senator McClelland of the position. The question of by-law entry is a matter which is resolved finally by the Commonwealth Government having regard to Australia’s commitments under the trade agreement with the United Kingdom. The British Board of Trade needs to have the opportunity, of course, to express its views in relation to by-law entry. At the present time, these matters have not yet been determined. Pending the determination, the aircraft concerned have been admitted under security.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. By way of preface I point out that I notice that the Minister has agreed to reseal at a cost of approximately £15,000 the runway apron and taxiway at the Devonport aerodrome in Tasmania, thus preserving the runway against water seepage and deterioration. I ask the Minister whether he will examine the question of protective sealing of the aerodrome at Minnipa on Eyre Peninsula in South Australia where, I understand, wind erosion of the strip is causing both damage to the airfield and great discomfort to the residents of the town of Minnipa when the prevailing winds are blowing.
– I understand that the strip to which the honorable senator refers is a local ownership strip, which means that it is owned by the local authority and that the Commonwealth has entered into an agreement to find half the maintenance costs. The problem that the honorable senator has mentioned is under consideration at the moment between the local authority and the Department of Civil Aviation. I understand that the strip is to be reseeded as soon as the weather is suitable. Reseeding in that part of the country can be carried out only during two or three months of the year. I understand also that consideration is being given to treating the ends of the strip with some type of sealing materia] in order to keep the dust menace down. I will ask the Department to have a look at the matters which the honorable senator has raised and to see what can be done to treat the area in order to remove this dust menace from the township to which this strip is so close.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Does he dispute the bona fides of the complaint now being advertised by the Interstate Parcel Express Company organisation, which revealed a good deal of dissatisfaction with the standard of existing air freight services? If not, is the Department of Civil Aviation prepared to give I.P.E.C. and the users of air freight services a fair go?
– I have already explained in the Senate that the application from this organisation was received on 2.1 st July 1964 and that it is grossly unfair to say that the application was not dealt with for more than 12 months. I have also made the point that the application by I.P.E.C. rs not the only application for this type of service and that the applications are at present under active consideration by the Government.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a further question on the matter raised by Senator Murphy. Did the Interstate Parcel Express Company apply to the Department of Civil Aviation in July 1963 for permission to import five air freighters? If so, has an answer yet been given to the application? If not, when can an answer be expected?
– If this organisation applied to the Department of Civil Aviation for permission to import air freighters, it applied to the wrong department. It should have applied to the Department of Customs and Excise. I have no knowledge of any application having been received by the Department of Civil Aviation other than ons of 21st July 1964, which I have mentioned.
-! understand from the Minister for Territories that this article, which I have not read myself, was an extremely highly coloured and exaggerated account of some disturbances which have from time to time occurred in Alice Springs and which have led to increased police supervision of the town. Apparently, these steps are proving effective in relation to the matters referred to by the honorable senator.
– I desire to redirect to the Minister for Customs and Excise the question that I asked the Minister for Civil Aviation. Does the Minister wish me to repeat the question?
– I think that the honorable senator had better restate his question.
– Did the Interstate Parcel Express Company apply to the Department of Customs and Excise in July 1963 for permission to import five airfreighter aircraft? If so, has a decision yet been made on the application? If not, when can a decision be expected?
– I am sure the honorable senator will appreciate that I am not able to recall the nature of applications which were made in July 1963. However. 1 shall certainly seek the information and make it available to the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the resolution of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, successfully moved on 13th August by Mr. W. Brown, Vice-President of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labour Party, that the recent Federal Budget shows the urgent need for the Australian Labour Party to campaign for the implementation of its Socialist objectives, and also to apply its energies and intelligence to allocate funds provided for extra defence expenditure to the relief of the aged and the sick? Has the Minister observed any solitary A.L.P. senator urging or campaigning for the said Socialist objectives since the date of the Senate election was announced? Does he agree that this resolution to reduce defence expenditure would seem to be in line with the Labour Party speakers’ notes, of which I have a copy, used during the last election campaign for the Senate, and which completely omitted reference to defence because the A.L.P. had no defence policy?
– I did see a report of the motion submitted to the Melbourne Trades Hall Council and carried by it. The motion was of the nature described by the honorable senator. The Socialistic aspects of it have, of course, a familiar ring. While the Labour Party is a Socialist party openly declaring that it stands for the socialisation of industry, production and exchange, from time to time, to meet a political situation and its own convenience, it drops from prominence this particular plank of its policy. During the 1961 election campaign Mr. Calwell found it convenient to ask the electors of Australia to return him to office on the basis that he would not introduce Socialist measures within the next three years of the Parliament. The people of Australia treated that request with the contempt that it deserved and kept him out of office.
The part of the motion that has to do with defence expenditure is only another example of the confusion which exists within the Labour Party and which manifests itself from time to time within the political wing of the Labour Party, the members of which just do not know where they are going in respect of defence. I remind the Senate that it was only a couple of elections ago that Mr. Calwell was saying that the troops should be brought home from Malaya and it was just before then that he was saying much the same as is stated in this motion, and that we were in fact, in respect of defence expenditure, pouring money down the drain, and that more of it should be spent on social welfare and the like. Well, the defence policy of the Labour Party is shortly to come up for pretty close and critical examination. Maybe members of that Party will be able to restate it. We shall listen to them with great interest.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, and by way of preface I remind him that the Tasmanian parliamentary session will soon end. Will the Minister stress to the Minister for Primary Industry the urgency of the need for the report on soldier settlement on King Island, which I understand is or was in his possession, to be forwarded to the Tasmanian Minister so that it may be presented to the Tasmanian Parliament before the current session of that Parliament ends? If this is not done, the contents of the report will not be known until some time next year.
– I recall that during the debate on the Estimates reference was made to the report on soldier settlement on King Island. I certainly will raise with the Minister for Primary Industry the matter of the prompt distribution of the report. However, I feel bound to point out that the report took an interminable time to produce and that the period during which it has been in the possession of the Minister is not significant, having regard to all of the implications involved.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry read an article concerning the use of poisons to combat parasites and diseases affecting primary produce? The article directs attention to the need for uniformity in the laws and regulations of the States dealing with common names for pesticides, packing and registration requirements and poisons generally, as the present differing rules and regulations are confusing and are causing concern to industry and consumer. Will the Minister consider taking steps to bring about this necessary uniformity?
– The achievement of uniformity at all levels is not easy in almost any matter. All of us have had experience of it in relation to various departments. As recently as early this morning we were discussing a proposition relating to uniformity in meat inspection. The points raised by the honorable senator will be brought to the notice of the Minister for Primary Industry. I am quite confident that he will take whatever steps he can to achieve uniformity, but the States themselves have responsibilities in this field.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for National Development know whether the report prepared by the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. and submitted to the Western Australian Government on the growing of sugar on the Ord River is a confidential document? If it is not, will the Minister ask his colleague to ensure that those honorable senators who are interested in the matter can get copies of it?
– As the honorable senator observes, the report made by the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. was submitted to the Western Australian Government. No doubt he will recall that the Western Australian Government requested the company to make this survey of the possibility of sugar production on the Ord River. I gather from the Press that the company has now presented its report to the Western Australian Government. As recently as yesterday I asked my colleague, the Minister for National Development, whether he had a copy of the report. I understand that he has not yet received one from the Western Australian Government.
The honorable senator will appreciate that I cannot undertake to give him any assurance as to the distribution of the report. It is, in fact, not the property of this Government. A decision on whether it should be distributed will be taken by the Western Australian Government, whose property it is.
– I address my question to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth activities in Education and Research. Will the Minister tell me the number of Commonwealth scholarships that have been allotted to South Australia for both secondary and tertiary students? Will he state shortly the value of such scholarships and the benefits included in each? What arrangements are made to select students for scholarships?
– The number of secondary school two-year scholarships which have been awarded to South Australia is 951. Arrangements have been made for those scholarships to be awarded at the end of this school year to those students who have two more years in which to complete their secondary school education. The scholarships will be tenable in 1965 and 1966. For students in South Australia and in other States who have only one more year in which to complete their secondary education, special one-year scholarships have been established. These also will be awarded at the end of this year and will be tenable in 1965, the last year. In total 1,902 secondary school scholarships will be awarded following examinations to be conducted by the South Australian Department of Education. Approximately 240 technical scholarships will be awarded in South Australia - some of them possibly part-time scholarships.
The value of the secondary school scholarships is £100 as a living allowance and up to £100 annually for books and any school fees that may be required. Both these payments are means test free. The value of technical school full time scholarships is the same as that of the secondary school scholarships - that is, a means test free £100 living allowance and up to £100 for books and fees.
– On top of that there are the tertiary scholarships.
– They are quite different. They are additional.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral been directed to an appeal by the Leader of the Australian Labour Party, Mr. Calwell, for free time on commercial television channels during the coming election campaign because, as he has said, the Labour Party does not have funds to match those of the hidden persuaders of the Liberal Party, whoever they may be? Has the Minister observed that the report of the Aus tralian Broadcasting Control Board shows that during the last Federal election campaign the Labour Party had 42 per cent, of the total time made available on metropolitan commercial stations compared with only 24.3 per cent, by the Liberal Party?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator is giving information. I ask him to frame his question.
– Has the Minister observed that the ratio of time on television between the Australian Labour Party and the Liberal Party, as disclosed in the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, is almost two to one? If this is so, would this not appear to make arrant nonsense of the honorable gentleman’s statement?
– Representing the Postmaster-General as I do, naturally I am not unaware of certain background statistics of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which are contained in public documents. As I understand the position, the percentage quoted by the honorable senator is correct. In all the circumstances, this does suggest that the representations that have been made by Mr. Calwell are quite inappropriate and inconsistent with the consideration that has been extended to the A.L.P. in the past. I agree in general with the honorable senator’s comments.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Am I to understand that the Vernon Committee of Economic Inquiry will not be presenting its report to the Government before the end of this sessional period? Bearing in mind previous statements that the report was expected towards the end of October, has the Government any inquiries as to when the report will become available? Are the latest defence proposals outlined by the Prime Minister likely to have any effect on the economy and therefore an effect on the deliberations and the report of the Committee? Is the report likely to be further delayed as a result of these defence proposals?
– It is clear, now, that the report of the Vernon Committee of Economic Inquiry will not be presented within the next few days. Indeed, it must be clear to everyone that even if it were presented it could not be made available to anybody other than members of the Government before they had sufficient time to study it. I have no idea at all as to whether the Vernon Committee might want to consider its findings in the light of the new defence expenditure. This is a question the Committee will have to consider but I venture the personal view, for what it is worth, that the Committee would not consider that to be necessary.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that, at the request of the Tasmanian Government, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics examined the possibility of an irrigation scheme in the southern midlands of Tasmania? If the report has been received by the Tasmanian Government, will the Minister make a copy of it available or ask the Tasmanian Government to make it available in the public interest?
– As I understand the question, the report was sought by the Tasmanian Government of its own Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The honorable senator has suggested that it would be desirable in the public interest that the report should become public and that the Minister for Primary Industry should seek that information from the Tasmanian Government. I cannot answer for the Minister in a specific matter but speaking personally I would think that as the document relates to the welfare of an area in Tasmania, it is desirable that it should become public as quickly as possible. I would think that the Minister for Primary Industry would have that view also. I shall refer the honorable senator’s suggestion to the Minister and ask him whether he will make representations to have the document made available in the public interest.
– I ask the Minis ter in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research whether further legislation will be required to implement the Government’s proposals in regard to scholarships for secondary and technical school students, or whether the Government has all the legislative authority it needs for the purpose. If it lacks authority, will the necessary legislation be introduced before the Parliament rises?
– It is not believed that any legislative authority is required for either the secondary or the technical school scholarships.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate what was the year of birth of the youths who will be subject to the first call up under the recently announced defence plans. Was it 1944 or 1945?
– This matter comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Labour and National Service. The year of call up is defined in the Act, as I recall it, as being the year in which the men to be called up attain their twentieth birthday.
– Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate recall that some time ago he indicated that restrictive trade practices legislation would be introduced in this sessional period? May we assume that the legislation will not now be introduced and that the Government is still running away from the matter in accordance with the wishes and interests of the great pressure groups that have been aptly described as the hidden persuaders behind the Government?
-It is a matter for regret - the Attorney-General himself greatly regrets it - that it will not be possible to introduce the legislation in this sessional period as was hoped. I indicate to the honorable senator that this legislation, being for Australia completely new and completely novel-
– And completely nonexistent.
– Yes, and completely non-existent as yet. The honorable senator should possess himself in patience. I assure him that the legislation will be introduced in the next sessional period. As I was saying, the complexity of this legislation is such that the Attorney-General believes that it is better to wait just a little while longer in order to ensure that, when the legislation is introduced, it will be better than would be the case if he believed himself to be under irresistible compulsion to introduce it in this sessional period.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been directed to a number of reports from the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Malaysia, all of which indicate that Australia is right in regarding threats to the security of South East Asia as being threats to her own security and that there is general approval of Australia’s plans to strengthen her defences in the way indicated in the Prime Minister’s defence statement?
– The reports to which the honorable senator has referred have been brought to my notice. Naturally, these comments afford considerable satisfaction to the Government and I believe, more importantly, to the people of Australia. The recognition that the security of our homeland rests upon defence in depth is of great satisfaction to us. We have no doubt that the Australian people - and for that matter, the people of the Western world - realise that the defence of Australia can be successfully carried out only if we continue to adopt in concert with our allies a forward posture and maintain that depth in defence which is so important.
– My question, which I address to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, is supplementary to the question asked by Senator Murphy. Will the Minister agree that if restrictive trade practices now existing were extirpated, the society with which we are familiar would to a very great extent be vaporised?
– I confess that I do not understand the question. If the honorable senator will allow me a chance to read it, I shall endeavour to answer it.
(Question No. 344.)
– I very reluctantly ask this question of the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, as any real interest it may have had has expired through effluxion of time -
Can the Attorney-General inform the Senate of the subject matter of the conference he is reported to have called of State Attorneys-General in Melbourne on Friday, 30th October?
– With no reluctance at all, I give the honorable senator the following answer which has been supplied by the Attorney-General -
The meeting on 30th October 1964 of the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General considered the recent amendments of the Commonwealth Air Navigation Regulations made by Statutory Rules 1964 No. 128. The Committee discussed the Commonwealth’s proposal as stated in the Prime Minister’s letter to the States dated 6th August 1964, that, in regard to intrastate air transport co-ordination, the Commonwealth would act only after consultation with the State transport authorities. The Committee considered the possibility of establishing effective consultative machinery that would obviate the need for a decision on the question of power which is involved in the case of Airlines of New South Wales Pty. Ltd. v. The Stale of New South Wales.
(Question No. 346.)
Senator BUTTFIELD (through Senator
What are the qualifications necessary to obtain the Commonwealth grant for emergency housekeeper services?
Is there a maximum and minimum amount available to any one organisation or State?
On what basis is the amount to be granted estimated?
Has the South Australian Government applied for such a grant on behalf of any organization such as “ Meals on Wheels “?
– The Minister for Social Services has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
The Federal housekeeper grant was designed to encourage the development and extension of emergency housekeeper services available to families, particularly during the illness or confinement of the mother. The conditions with which the States were required to comply in order to participate in the grant were -
In granting approvalto organisations, the Department of Social Services seeks satisfaction of the following requirements -
The organisation should recover from the client as much of the cost of the service as is practicable, having regard to the client’s ability to pay.
All States except South Australia accepted the allocation.
(Question No. 349.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has furnished the following answers -
– On Friday, 30th October 1964, Senator Drury asked the following question, without notice -
Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy been directed to reports that the British destroyer “Duchess”, which is being loaned to Australia to replace the lost “Voyager’’, is a naval white elephant? Is it a fact that the “ Duchess “ will cost £300,000 to refit? Is) it also true that the destroyer was offered to Australia on loan on very handsome terms? Can the Minister tell the Senate what the terms are and when refitting of the vessel will be completed?
The Minister for the Navy has now supplied the following answer -
There is no truth in the reports that the Royal Navy Daring Class destroyer “ Duchess “ was in a poor condition when she was made available on loan by the Royal Navy to replace H.M.A.S. “Voyager”. The ship was twelve years old, and was due for a scheduled major refit. The refit at Williamstown Naval Dockyard in Victoria has shown that she was in a sound condition. No unanticipated problems were encountered, except for trouble with a boiler tube, which was repaired. The refit has cost approximately £340,000. This has included certain alterations such as the installation of air conditioning, in accordance with R.A.N. policy for ships serving in tropical waters; other improvements to the ship’s habitability to accord with R.A.N. standards; and the updating of certain fighting equipment and communications.
The Australian Government and the R.A.N. are most grateful to Britain for the loan of “ Duchess “, which is a sister ship to the two Daring Class destroyers in service in the R.A.N. She will serve in the operational fleet until the two new type 12 frigates being built in Australia are completed in some four years’ time. The destroyer was made available at very short notice, the only cost to the R.A.N. being the vessel’s refit and maintenance. The terms of the agreement under which the ship has been loaned to the R.A.N. are-
the ship to be on loan for a period of four years with possible extension and no charges to be made for the loan;
the ship to be handed over to the R.A.N. at Melbourne and at the end of the loan period to be returned by the R.A.N. at Singapore or as may be agreed;
the R.A.N. to be responsible for all running expenses including refits and repairs during the period of the loan;
the R.A.N. to bear at the outset the cost of the full outfit of consumable naval victualling and other miscellaneous stores plus the following armament stores -
all torpedoes, including torpedo spares and warheads;
twelve squid projectiles;
saluting guns and ammunition and spares;
40 mm. ammunition.
M.S. “Duchess” has completed her refit, and commenced her post-refit trials on Monday morning, 9th November.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to-
That Government business take precedence over general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
Debate resumed from 11th November (vide page 1656), on motion by Senator Hcnty -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- There being no objection, that course will be followed.
, - Mr. Deputy President, the amendments to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act which are now before us were foreshadowed in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). This is a simple Bill. Its purpose is merely to increase the rate of benefits and bring them in line with the benefits which are now paid by the Government of New South Wales. After the Budget proposals were announced on 26th August, I asked the Minister representing the Treasurer a question, but he has not yet got round to answering it. As in the case of Senator Wright’s question, my question, because of the effuxion of time, has lost much of its portent, although in my case the position may not be quite as bad. The question I asked on 26th August was -
As I have said, the Minister has not yet answered the question, and obviously he has not done the things I asked him to do. In another place the Australian Labour Party prepared eleven proposed amendments of this legislation. The amendments were designed to do two things. The first was to inject into the mind of the Government a new concept of workers’ compensation - something that the Australian Labour Party has been working on now for several years and which it has tried to explain at every opportunity in the Parliament. The second objective of the amendments was to try to persuade the Government to enlarge and amend the present Act, even within the scope of the concept on which it is now based. So the amendments constitute a two-pronged attack.
I do not intend to move similar amendments in this chamber today because when the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) moved these amendments and discussed them in another place, he was told that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) was impressed with them and would examine them early in the new year when the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act was again under review. This is what the honorable member for Hindmarsh had to say in another place -
I might say that I have had a talk with the Treasurer on this subject and that I understand from him that he is not unfavourably disposed to the suggestion that earnest and serious consideration should be given to the Opposition’s proposal. I welcome this attitude.
Every member of the Australian Labour Party welcomes it. As I have said, in view of such an assurance we do not intend to move amendments in this place. However, I desire to take this opportunity to express a few thoughts on the subject in the hope that they will be considered and that the scope of the Act will be widened still further.
Again 1 complain about the timing of the legislation. The last occasion on which I debated a bill to amend this Act was in 1959. On referring to “ Hansard “ yesterday I found that li pages of print - which does not represent very much talking - covered the period between when I finished dealing with the Bill and when Senator Sir William Spooner, as Leader of the Government, and Senator McKenna, as Leader of the Opposition, began to engage in the usual valedictory, wishing one another a merry Christmas before they went home. In other words, it was only in the very last hour of that sessional period that we had the opportunity to discuss a matter so tremendously important as this is. A few weeks ago when I was dealing with the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act I pointed out that bills to amend that Act, the Commonwealth Workers’ Compensation Act and other acts of a similar type only came before the Parliament in the final week of a series of sittings. That practice has been as consistent as the sun’s rising. I make the suggestion that it is time that Ministers told the deparmental officers who deal with this legislation that if they cannot bring in complicated amending bills on these subjects in time to give members of Parliament adequate opportunity to debate them, the bills should bc held over until the beginning of the next sessional period. I agree that that might not be very desirable in the case of this Bill, which will give benefits to many people, but retrospective operation of the amendments might overcome that difficulty.
Our workers’ compensation legislation, which has its counterpart in almost every other country, affects the everyday lives of people in distressed circumstances, people who have been injured and the wives and other dependants of men who have been killed. In 1959 the legislation to amend this Act was the very last piece of legislation to be brought in during the sessional period, ft was the last piece of legislation introduced into the Senate for that session. Here again we have the mad rush. No fewer than 14 or 15 bills have been listed for debate today, after the Senate sat until 3 o’clock this morning. I had to attend a party meeting at half past nine this morning, and now I have to try to deal with this complicated legislation. It is the. umpteenth time I have mentioned this matter of rushing bills through the Parliament at the last moment, and I shall dwell on it a little longer in spite of the smile on the face of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty).
– I was wondering what the honorable senator did between 3 o’clock and 6 o’clock this morning.
– I tried to get some sleep. I suppose the Minister would suggest that I should have been studying the Bill. I think this matter is getting beyond a joke. The time has arrived when we should try to improve the procedure.
I want to deal with one or two of the amendments which were suggested in another place, and to underline them to some extent in the light of the review we have been promised. The first matter to which I refer is the complicated question of employees travelling to and from work. The provisions regarding travelling in the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act were amended in 1945. At that time I was concerned with the administration of the Act. The case law that has arisen from the amendments has greatly improved the position. I noticed in this morning’s Press that the New South Wales Parliament is to further amend its Act to make it quite clear that employees are covered by the Act from the time they leave their front door to go to work in the morning until they return to their front door at night.
– Is that what the Act means? It simply refers to the period while the employee is travelling to or from his employment by the Commonwealth.
– As far as I know, from the way in which the Act has been administered, it applies from the time an employee leaves his house in the morning until he returns to his house at night. But there are many complex questions which arise from that interpretation. One question concerns the shortest possible route that an employee should take to get to and from work. Another question is whether, if an employee does some shopping on the way, it is a genuine deviation.
– Suppose that he has been to Melbourne for the weekend and boards a plane at the Melbourne airport on Monday morning to return to his work in Canberra.
– Being a lawyer, the honorable senator should know that that matter would be left for the decision of a judge.
– I was seeking assistance from a superior layman.
– I love these legal hypotheses that the honorable senator puts up to the Senate. Lawyers have to argue these matters before judges. The provisions covering employees travelling to and from work were inserted in the Act in 1945. They have been improved over the years. I think that the interpretation placed on the question of travelling to and from work in Queensland has probably been the best interpretation from the employee’s point of view. For the very reason suggested by Senator Wright the New South Wales Parliament has foreshadowed amendments to the Act to try to overcome the difficulty. Another difficulty arises where an employee travels from his place of employment to attend a doctor. Amendments to overcome these difficulties are not breaking new ground. They are merely designed to keep the parties out of the expensive arena of the courts.
An amendment which was suggested in another place related to the question of people helping in emergencies. Criticism is expressed from time to time about people standing back and not helping others who have been involved in accidents, or mishaps, in the water, and not going to the assistance of police when they are under attack. We consider that the Commonwealth should apply the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act in the event of the death of or serious injury to a citizen who helps to save somebody from drowning, who helps a person from a flaming wreck, or who goes to the assistance of police, and that type of thing. I hope that this matter will be considered by the Minister in the future.
I come now to the question of medical benefits provided under the Act. They vary so much in the various States that the Commonwealth should establish a lead in this connection by defining what the medical benefits provisions mean. Some of the benefits are unlimited, but others are not. When we are dealing with the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act, constutionally we have power to deal only with our own employees, employees in the Territories and seamen on interstate ships. As
Australia develops the Commonwealth Government should set the standard in this regard. It should give its own employees the best possible conditions in these matters. Not only should the Commonwealth Government do that, but it should watch trends all over the world in this field of workers compensation.
I noticed also in the Press report that the amendments foreshadowed by the New South Wales Parliament are almost identical with the amendments which were proposed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) in another place last night. They deal with such matters as damage to glasses, dentures and artificial limbs. The position is somewhat ludicrous. If a man with a wooden leg breaks his wooden leg, the worker’s compensation provisions do not apply, but if he breaks his good leg and it is amputated, the provisions do apply. If he is out of workwhile his wooden leg is being repaired, the provisions do not apply. We have to do something to improve this position. Many difficulties arise because of doubt as to whether an injury resulted from a worker’s employment, and matters of that kind. The Commonwealth Government ought to be setting a lead in this connection for everybody in the community. If an employee of the Commonwealth Government is injured at his work, he should be a charge upon the Commonwealth Government and there should not be difficulty as to what we will admit and what we will not admit.
I come now to the question of facial disfigurement which does not affect a person’s earning capacity. Although it does not affect his earning capacity, very severe facial injuries resulting, say, from acid burns received in the course of his work, have a marked effect on his life. These are matters on which new ground ought to be broken. We should be carefully considering what we could do in this regard.
There is another important concept of workers’ compensation that will have to be considered. I notice that it was discussed recently in the Western Australian Parliament. A Liberal Party member, who is a doctor, said - and I hope I am quoting him correctly because I have only a Press report - that we ought to be moving towards providing regular pension payments. I think that we are a little outmoded in this matter;
When a person is killed on the job we pay the widow £4,000, wash our hands of the whole affair and feel happy about it. With the raging inflation at the present time and with the different situations in which widows and children might be placed, the widow should become a charge on the community, or, under the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act, a charge on the Commonwealth Government. We should say to the widow: “Your husband died in the field of industry and you are a charge on the Commonwealth Government until you remarry. Your children will be given all the opportunities.”
This is a difficult matter because in the whole field of social services widows are certainly the worst treated. We should not perpetuate this position in the field of worker’s compensation. We all know that we are going to die. We know there is the possibility that we will get sick. We know that we will certainly grow old. We can prepare ourselves for that time. But there is no way in which a young married woman can prepare herself for the sudden death of her husband. Even if she anticipated it happening within a year or two of her marriage, in the early days of married life usually it is not possible to make the necessary financial arrangements. The widow is badly treated under our social services set-up, but we should not perpetuate that position in the field of workers’ compensation. As honorable senators know, under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act when the Commissioner gives a determination a right of appeal to the Supreme Court lies with an injured person.
– To the County Court, is it not.
– I thought it was to the Supreme Court. In any event, there is a right of appeal to a court. The particular court is not tremendously important to the point I was about to make. Under section 6, the Commissioner may reconsider any such determination and may alter, amend or revoke it. So on the eve of an appeal against a decision, the Commissioner might revoke his determination and bring it out another one. The High Court of Australia referred to this matter in a case that it considered. The judgment stated -
The appeal eventually came on for hearing before the Magistrate’s Court on ]6th February 1959. A week before that date, however, a delegate for the Commissioner took a new step. Sub* section 1 of section 6 of the Act provides that the Commissioner shall have power -to examine, hear and determine all matters and questions arising under the Act and the regulations, and subsection 2 provides that the Commissioner may reconsider any such determination and may alter, amend or revoke any such determination. These are powers which may be exercised by delegation under section 7.
A person might prepare an appeal against the first determination.
– What was the effect of the variation of the determination? Was it to increase compensation?
– I do not know, but I imagine that that was the position. I read the case many years ago. I do not think that the Commissioner would reduce compensation or make the position worse. The point is that the High Court held that the delegate was completely within his rights under the Act. There is no legal doubt that the Act can be applied in this way. I suggest that this is something which operates in a very unfair manner. Many of the decisions in respect of Commonwealth servants concern postmen and linemen, because the Postmaster-General’s Department is the biggest employer of labour. Injuries to employees in those callings occur far more often than in any other section. They are persons on fairly low salaries. After having engaged counsel to prepare an appeal, an injured lineman may find that the ground of appeal slips from under him and he has to reconsider the whole case. No allowance is made to him for .the costs that he has incurred. To take the case to extreme lengths I point out that this process could go on for ever. I am not suggesting that it would. The Act does not say that the Commissioner may revoke a determination only once or twice. The determination may be revoked and altered” as many times as the official considers necessary. This is an obvious fault. Surely it is not beyond the wit of the Minister and the Department to give a fairer go to the individual in this regard.
Although we have had workers’ compensation for a long time, there has been remarkably little change in the pattern. Wc are inclined to be lethargic. We decide to raise the lump sum compensation for death to £4,300 so that it will equal the compensation payable by the New South Wales authorities, and we think that in granting the increase we are doing a pretty fair job. I should like to refer to a passage in a book produced by the University of California. The introduction reads -
The job of treating and compensating occupationally disabled workers goes on every day in each State much as it has since the beginning of workmen’s compensation. Through years of criticism, workmen’s compensation laws have slowly added and liberalised benefits and incorporated new methods of treatment, but they remain remarkably true to their original form.
That statement applies equally to Australia. In fact, when one looks at the setup in America, where the various States have different compensation laws and meet problems arising from lack of uniformity, one sees that the position is remarkably like our own. It is quite beneficial to study the American setup when considering our own.
We have had workers’ compensation in the world since 1885. Strange to say, it originated in the Bismarck era in Germany. After one failure four years earlier, Bismarck finally produced a set of social laws which covered workers’ compensation. The position was somewhat parallel with that in England today, where, under the Beveridge plan of 1945, workers’ compensation is linked with social services. The movement spread outwards from Germany, mainly because of the work of the group of writers known as the Socialists of the Chair. This socialistic approach was adopted by other countries of continental Europe before it finally spread to England.
Western Australia was the first Australian State to have a workers’ compensation act; it was introduced in 1902. Subsequently other States passed acts and the Commonwealth has an Act. I do not know to what degree the Commonwealth has ever tried to give a lead in achieving uniformity. It does seem to be a bit silly that if a person suffers an injury on one side of a State border, he might be in a better position or a worse position than if he had suffered the injury on the other side of the border. We are much better off than the United States of America, in having only six States instead of 50, but there is scope for the Commonwealth to produce a model act as a basis for every State. Every now and again we send representatives to conferences in Geneva, where we agree to all sorts of things. These decisions are not immediately implemented. After many years, the Commonwealth in 1959 accepted the Geneva decision in relation to this matter. It is interesting to note that the United States of America has tried to produce a model act. I was found that some States had particular problems. After litigation and suffering, provisions to cover a situation peculiar to one State were written into the legislation of that State. These problems did not exist in the next State, which had other problems. A hypothetical analogy might be that in Western Australia we would be very concerned with silicosis, because of the gold mining industry. That disease would be pretty well covered in the Western Australian act, but Tasmania would not have the same problem.
– Miners’ disease?
– I suggest that it was a hypothetical analogy.
– We have miners’ pensions in Tasmania.
– I know. I cited a hypothetical case. I started by saying that the authorities in America tried to pick up these matters and write them into a model act. I said that hypothetically, conditions that applied to Western Australia might not apply so much to Tasmania. We should attempt to produce a model act. In doing so we might write in something that has particular application to Western Australia. Although the provision would be written also into the Queensland and Tasmania Acts, it might lie dormant for a long time, but it would be there if ever the need arose and would save some poor person from being involved in litigation. The United States has been trying to achieve uniformity of this type but, I think, has not met with a great deal of success. In view of the variety of the conditions that apply in Australia, it is time that we started to do something. Although the Commonwealth has no responsibility in this regard, I suggest that as the central Government it should accept responsibility. Let us consider very quickly the compensation that is paid in the case of death. In New South Wales it is £4,300 plus £2 3s. a week for each child under 16 years of age; in Tasmania it is £4,175 plus £103 a year for each child under 16; in Queensland it is £3,300 plus 19s. a week for each child under 16; and in Victoria it is £2,240 plus £80 a year for each child under 16. We have varying lump sum payments and we have payments for children under 16 years of age which range from 19s. a week in Queensland to £2 3s. a week in New South Wales. America faced up to this problem. Australia should do the same.
The Commonwealth is in a unique position in that it is one employer which deals with one set of people, although they are in various industries. We have the advantage that our legislation is much more simple to operate than that in the States, which applies to both government employers and private employers. I hope that amongst other things the Treasurer will consider setting up a workers compensation board. Under the present arrangement, the Commonwealth’s delegate has to make a decision on a case presented to him. He is in a field, let me agree immediately, in which there is surprisingly little case law and surprisingly little documentation. It is not the kind of law that seems to be recorded as much as are other kinds. Nevertheless, delegates can make varying decisions on typical and perhaps identical claims, and the only thing a department can do is to refer the delegate’s decision back to him with a request that he reconsider it. There could be some variation between awards made to employees in two Commonwealth departments, with the result that possibly a junior or a low-paid officer would have to appeal to a court for what he considered to bc justice.
The Commonwealth is not building up any case law in this field. There are no records to which the officers handling these matters from day to day can turn. A tremendous amount of confusion occurs in departments. It is most confusing to have two different determinations in what appear to be two identical claims. The Workers Compensation Boards seem to work particularly well in the States. The Board in Western Australia seems to be working very smoothly It is building up a great reputation for efficiency, speed of handling cases and a wide outlook-
– What is the constitution of the Western Australian Board?
– A chairman, an employee’s delegate and an employer’s delegate.
– What is the chairman’s previous experience?
– I do not know at the moment, but the two delegates come from industry and they are experienced in these matters. With these Boards, the States are building up tradition and case law. They are beginning to see where they are going. This cannot be said of the Commonwealth. I do not see how this can be said of the Commonwealth until it commences to handle these claims along the lines that I have suggested and disseminates information within the departments so that employees will know what to expect should they become involved in a claim.
In passing, let me refer to partial compensation. An employee may be injured, and the decision may be that he has suffered a loss of 50 per cent, of his working capacity. The Commonwealth then tells him: “ You can work only to 50 per cent, capacity, but we cannot employ you.”
– Does the honorable Senator mean a recoverable injury?
– I do not know what the honorable senator means by the word “ recoverable “. I am putting the case of a man who is told by the Commonwealth that he should be able to earn 50 per cent, of the normal salary for a particular job, but although he may have been employed in, say, the Postmaster-General’s Department he is told that a job is no longer available for him. It seems rather strange that the Postmaster-General’s Department or other Commonwealth Departments, which cover the whole spectrum of industry, cannot find a job for one of their employees. If the Commonwealth cannot find him a job, what chance has he got outside? In effect he is told: “Your working capacity has been reduced to 50 per cent. We admit that we are responsible for that and will pay you one-half of the salary that you were earning when you were injured, but you have to go outside and try to earn the rest for yourself “.
As I mentioned at the outset, the Opposition supports the proposed increases? We regret that the Bill was introduced at such a late hour that we did not have the opportunity, because of the pressures which are upon us, to debate it fully. This Bill was introduced late last night and we have to discuss it this morning. It passed the House of Representatives yesterday. I hope we are not confronted with a similar situation in the future. As 1 have indicated, we have accepted the Treasurer’s promise that the legislation will be reviewed and amended in the New Year. In the circumstances I have nothing further to say except that we welcome the Bill and look forward to another amendment of the Act in the early part of the next sessional period.
.- There is growing in each one of us an increasing apprehension of the dangers and risks of this avalanche of legislation which falls upon us in the last few days of every sessional period. I agree with the comments that were made yesterday by the honorable member for Mackellar in another place, to the effect that this practice is reducing the Parliament to something of a farce and depriving the parliamentarian of his true sense of responsibility. The proper thing to do is to refuse to pass legislation except on a time programme and to sit on until legislation is given proper consideration. We are confronted with a pending Senate election in this instance and that exigency must be met in a practical way.
I suggest that here is a field that might well be the subject of consideration by a select committee. The appointment of such a committee would enable honorable senators to contribute ideas that might evolve a piece of legislation, before the end of the next autumn session, which would give leadership in this most appealing field of industrial justice. Every member of the Senate should accord the Government a measure of congratulation upon the terms and provisions of this Bill, which proposes to increase compensation payments in the case of a deceased Commonwealth employee from £3,000, the amount at which it has stood now for too long, to £4,300. Il gives, I think, increasingly valuable benefits to the children of deceased employees; it increases the medical benefits available to injured employees and it gives to those who are injured a compensation payment which is to be the equivalent of the average basic wage of the six capital cities, plus a child supplement. The Commonwealth is moving towards compensation payments that recognise needs in a more generous measure than did the payments specified in the legislation that is being displaced.
There is great force in the view that Senator Willesee has put forward, that by clinging to the concept of a lump sum payment on the occasion of death we may be handling the matter from a totally unsatisfactory angle. The Senate has heard me on many occasions on the subject of compensation for passengers in aircraft. Honorable senators have heard me expound on the provisions in other fields.
I have put forward my views on the need for a greater measure of justice to the victims of industrial accidents. When you come to the field of common law and can prove negligence, you graduate the compensation that the jury or the court awards according to the future capacity of the deceased employee. The widow of an employee killed at the age of 30 years will get greater compensation than the widow of an employee who is killed at the age of 60 years because one has, on a reasonable assumption, a working life of 30 years and the other, on the same assumption, has a future working life of five years. That concept has not been carried into this field at all.
This is one of the things that make me feel there could be a more fundamental examination of the method of compensation, particularly in the- case of deceased employees, within our present pattern of legislation. Let it be understood that I think the Government deserves a measure of congratulation for the benefits of the standard pattern that are to be provided under this Bill. They are not ungenerous in comparison with the benefits provided by the States. Senator Willesee has referred to one or two aspects of the principal Act. Previously, Senator Murphy made some criticism of some aspects of the Act and 1 think that it would be to the benefit of the Senate as a whole if. we took notice of them. .1 anticipate that Senator Murphy will make some further contribution to this debate. .
Senator Willesee referred to the method of administration of. the Act under which the original assessment for all employees of all Commonwealth departments is made by a Treasury officer ‘ who is” styled the “ commissioner “. He is given, therefore, the status of a tribunal. If it is a matter of centralising the assessment in one branch or department so that there will be a concentration of experience and the Commonwealth, as the employer, can expect that there will be the justice that stems from uniformity, I would think that the appropriate department would be the Attorney-General’s Department or, failing that, the Department of Labour and National Service. They have a much closer acquaintance with industrial conditions and the medical basis upon which the proper evaluation or assessment of an injury has to be made.
I would think that we would have a much better presentation of these matters, not by presenting the branch or officer as a tribunal but by presenting him simply as an assessor on behalf of the Commonwealth. Anybody who disputed his assessment would then take the ordinary action before the appropriate court to bring the matter under judicial review. He could go ahead gaily without styling the claim as an appeal. But in the main, that is a matter of psychology. When you get an appeal from the Commissioner at present it is an appeal by way of complete rehearing de novo and it is really miscalled an appeal. It is in the nature of an original process and one is not inhibited in any degree, as I understand it, by the reasons that have been given by the Commissioner under this Act.
– If he gives them.
– You are better off without them, but you ignore them whether or no and go ahead and prove the case according to the facts, uninhibited by any finding of facts that the Commissioner has made. As 1 understand it, no regard is paid to them. I do not profess to speak from any real experience in this field. I speak only from some small experience in the small cognate industrial compensation field administered by the State. Senator Willesee referred previously to a matter which arose out of a judgment of the High Court of Australia and he adverted to it again today. On one occasion, the Commissioner, on the threshold of an appeal, varied his assessment and deprived the appellant of any jurisdiction for the appeal to be heard. I am willing to think that in that case, the Commissioner on second thoughts said: “ I have been less than just on my original assessment. I will now substitute £3,000 for my original assessment of £2,000.” But if he did that, I simply cannot understand any ministerial administration in the Commonwealth field that would, in effect, condone the action of a Commission by not saying at once: “ If you wish, you can go ahead with your appeal on short notice even though the determination was made yesterday and you can treat this as the same determination as that made last April which is the basis of your appeal”. Every consideration should be given to facilitate the admission of a claim of this sort into the court so that it can be dealt with as a matter of substantial justice free from technicalities of that sort.
Senator Willesee went on to refer to the possible advantage of uniformity in this field on a federal basis. We are accustomed to think that uniformity in all these things has great and unique virtue. As I see it, this is a field where reform should be a continuing effort on the part of those who seek industrial justice for the victims of industrial accidents which are becoming altogether too severe in their effects on the individual in this mechanised age. So for my part, I see in the division of this field into responsibilities of the various States and the Commonwealth, a competitive process where one government prods the other by its advances. If you get uniformity, you might have a stalemate which you would not be able to remove with everything centralised under Canberra controls. You would have the lid on with £3,000 the limit for a death claim, as it has been for the past six or seven years. I think I am right in saying that has been the period of operation of the limit.
So whereas I want simplicity in legal matters especially in this field, it is a vain endeavour because the variety of injuries and the difficulty of assessment in relation to particular dependents is a never ending task for the earnest person. The problem will not be solved by any ready made formula. But I do see advantage in this field in keeping it under the control of six States while the Commonwealth takes its own responsibility because I regard each as a competitor of the other seeking to be in the front of industrial justice in this field. With these few remarks, quite inadequate to the occasion, I offer my congratulations to the Government on the measure of industrial justice that is offered in the Bill and I support it.
– I had not intended to participate in this debate, but I have been invited by Senator Wright to do so. We welcome the adjustments that have been made in the Bill. They tend to ensure a measure of long overdue justice. We regard the Bill as being merely a stop gap measure. I understand that the Act is to be looked at more closely in 1965. We trust that then many of the anomalies not only in relation to substantive rights to the payment of moneys but also in the machinery provisions will be dealt with.
Much criticism has been voiced from time to time in this place by honorable senators, including Senator Willesee, about the injustices which the Act perpetrates. Criticism has been voiced also in the House of Representatives. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) have analysed many of those injustices. Moreover, attention has been drawn to these anomalies and injustices by supporters of the Government including, if I remember correctly, the present Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden).
The provisions of the Commonweatlh Employees’ Compensation Act constitute an unsatisfactory way of dealing with the rights of persons who are entitled to compensation. The method by which the determinations are made is found in practice to be unsatisfactory. Persons who are intimately acquainted with the Act and who appear for and handle the claims of injured persons and their dependants regard the Act as being most unsatisfactory. The whole concept of the method of determination adopted is bad in principle and works injustices in practice. I do not want to repeat what has been said already, because this is not the occasion for examining the structure of the Act. However, we hope that in the future there will be a departure from this kind of legislation, which really does not give a fair go to injured persons. The Workers’ Compensation Act of New South Wales, for example, not only is better than the Commonwealth legislation in regard to the rights of injured persons and their dependants but is infinitely superior in its machinery provisions.
I suport what has been said by Senator Willesee. We are pleased to note that this Bill will achieve a measure of justice. Members of the Opposition, not only in the Senate but also in the House of Rep resentatives would welcome the appointment of a select committee, not on this Bill - nobody wants to delay its passage - but to investigate the operation of the Act and to suggest improvements in detail and in principle. Surely this is a matter in relation to which the parties are not divided. Surely the wealth of talent that is to be found in the Parliament ought to be employed in formulating legislation that would be adequate to meet the needs of the case. It is shameful that, when members of both the major political parties are dissatisfied with the Act, it should be allowed to remain in its present form. Many senators and members of the House of Representatives have had vast experience in the industrial field. In the Parliament there are former officers of the trade unions and members of the legal profession, all of whom have had experience which is much wider than that which may be gained by officers of the Public Service who administer the Act. The Government draws its advice mainly from a limited field. We are confident that, if all the talent which is available in the Parliament were brought to bear on this problem, a great deal of improvement could be effected.
– in reply - 1 welcome the comments that have been made in this debate. After the stormy seas in which we found ourselves yesterday. I appreciate today’s peaceful waters. I believe that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have a real interest in improving this sphere of humanitarian effort. It is interesting to note the number of honorable senators who have had a great deal of experience in this field. I am confident that those honorable senators could render, and indeed have rendered, a great service in seeking to effect an improvement of this legislation.
I should like Senator Willesee to know that before he spoke I had marked the question standing in his name on the notice paper. In justice I think I should indicate that, although his question was not answered immediately, it had some effect on the drafting of the legislation which is now before us. It is only fair to say that his question was noted and that the matters he raised constituted one of the motivating factors in the preparation of this legislation. I am aware of the undertaking given in another place that the amendments which were suggested there and the suggestions which have been made here will be examined conscientiously. There is to be a review of the Commonwealth Employee’s Compensation Act and the Seamen’s Compensation Act concurrently early next year. All the matters that have been raised on both sides of the chamber in this morning’s very interesting debate will be noted very closely and the result will be available to us in the early months of next year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 11th November (vide page 1657), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I have a few brief remarks to make on this Bill. Its provisions relate to benefits for seamen engaged on vessels on interstate trade, or on a ship on a delivery voyage. Masters, mates, engineers and radio officers are excepted from the provisions of this legislation because these men are covered by their own respective awards. The necessity for this legislation flows from the Constitution. Although the States have residual powers in respect of workers’ compensation, when it comes to interstate trade the Commonwealth must step in and accept its responsibility. The seamen covered by the legislation before us must be looked after by the Commonwealth in the same way that the Commonwealth looks after its employees in the Territories.
The Opposition welcomes the Bill, which contains provisions similar to those the Senate has just passed. I wholeheartedly agree with the suggestions of Senator Wright and Senator Murphy that it might be beneficial to conduct an inquiry into legislation of this nature. If such an inquiry were open to suggestions from the Senate, or if the
Minister approved of the appointment of a select committee, a tremendous amount of good could result. An inquiry into the workings of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act could also cover the terms of this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 11th November (vide page 1662), on motion by Senator Anderson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. Deputy President, the Senate now has under consideration five complementary measures, including the Repatriation Bill (No. 2) 1964 and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1964. The Opposition does not intend to oppose the Repatriation Bill (No. 2), but I shall move an amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time. It is not my intention to oppose the Bills generally because they will give some little relief to recipients of repatriation benefits. But the Bills fall short of the legislation that I believe the Government should be introducing in this year, 1964. There is the proposal at the moment for a call up of young men to defend this country. I feel that the Government should give the lead to the recruiting of these young men by making some reasonable amendments to the Repatriation Act in order to protect them. As it stands, the Act, I believe, satisfies 95 to 97 per cent. of the people who can claim some benefits under it. Over the years, the Repatriation Department has done a reasonably good job. Therefore, I say that the Government, which is proposing to spend some £400 million on defence in this financial year, could be a little more generous in dealing with people who are entitled to allowances under the Repatriation Act.
One of the first complaints I have, and I am serious when I say this, is that the provisions of the Repatriation Bill (No. 2) do not include men and women who may be called up for service in the Commonwealth forces. I think that, in some respects, we must class war as an industry. I have always held the belief that any citizen of Australia who is engaged in such an industry in this country or overseas should come within the provisions of the Repatriation Act. Instead of that, people called up for service come under the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. Further, I believe that if the Government, in its wisdom, decides to introduce legislation to force young people to go into the armed forces, it should be prepared to make provision for them or their dependants if anything happens to them while they are in the Service.
I do not intend to delay the Senate long in its consideration of this legislation, because the Opposition will not oppose it. However, there is another matter about which I want to complain most bitterly to Senator Anderson, who represents the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz). I am disappointed that his officers, who prepared this legislation, have not given effect to representations made by honorable senators on this side of the chamber, other people, and by the Returned Servicemen’s League to the effect that ex-service men and women from the First World War should be given free hospitalisation. When I brought this matter up some time ago in this chamber, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge) said that I was shedding crocodile tears. If he was right, then the Returned Servicemen’s League is in a similar position to me. The Repatriation Department has done a reasonably good job over the years, but I cannot see why it should now spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar. For the expenditure of a few more pounds, the position of ex-service men and women who served in the First World War could be made a lot better if they were given free hospitalisation under the Repatriation Act.
I have several letters here from people In different parts of the State, of Victoria who are of the opinion, and I agree with most of them, that they have not had a reasonable deal from the Repatriation Department. Because of the amount of business before us, I shall not weary the Senate with a recital of all of the cases. I mentioned one of them in this chamber some time ago. That ex-serviceman has now passed away. His wife tended him for 24 hours a day for week in and week out.
The man appealed to a repatriation tribunal to grant his wife an attendant’s allowance. She was refused on two occasions. She went before a tribunal on a third occasion to present her case. She was patted on the shoulder by the chairman of the tribunal who told her: “Carry on, dear woman. You are doing a yeoman job. You will be well rewarded.” The woman foolishly thought that the chairman was sympathetic and would be just to her. He was not, because her appeal was refused again. There must be some way that this injustice can be corrected. I . have said before that if the Repatriation Department is to function as it should in the interests of all concerned, a select committee should inquire into the ramifications of the Repatriation Act and see whether something can be done to correct injustices. On behalf of the Opposition I now move an amendment to the motion that the Bill be read a second time. The amendment is -
That the following words be added to the motion: “ but the Senate is of opinion that the provisions of the Repatriation Act 1920-1964 should be extended to apply in respect of all service in the Defence Forces “.
I hope that the Senate will carry the amendment.
– 1 am delighted to know that Senator Hendrickson has seen fit to pay a tribute to what has been done by the Repatriation Department generally. It is only fair to say that all governments, to the best of their ability, and regardless of political colour, have tried to place on the statute book most of the ideals of the people of Australia who have most generously supported the returned ex-service men and women in the community. I do not know of any other country that has treated its returned service men and women as well as Australia has done, irrespective of the government that has been in power. I know that cases of hardship occur. I was delighted to hear Senator Hendrickson speak about the 1914-18 service men and women. The honorable senator will recall that in this chamber some years ago I fought for the principle of free hospitalisation for the 19.14-18 men who were not in receipt of a war pension, and eventually the Repatriation Department agreed to this. Never let us forget that for years Senator Sir Walter Cooper was Minister for Repatriation. He followed in the footsteps of many devoted men who held that portfolio. Because of his experience, and perhaps as a result of his own physical disability, he had a very accurate knowledge of what was required.
Getting back to the question of hospitalisation, we did obtain for the service pensioner free hospitalisation in repatriation hospitals. I hope that honorable senators will not think me presumptious when I say that this is one of the very good things that we did. I take a great deal of quiet satisfaction in knowing that in some way I was responsible for getting the matter carried through the Parliament, with the assistance particularly of Senator Ivy Wedgwood. Honorable senators know as well as I do that there are certain ways and means of achieving your aim in Parliament. I should like to pay a tribute to Senator Ivy Wedgood for what she did on behalf of these pensioners.
What are the facts about this matter? I shall not go into the vexed question of the onus of proof. At the time about which I am speaking there were 1,400 vacant beds in repatriation hospitals. We wished the hospitals to remain open. Some of them were training hospitals, and what could be better than to try to keep those hospitals open? Many ex-service personnel were receiving the service pension. They were Incapacitated and this prevented them from following their normal occupations, but their incapacities were not due wholly and solely to war service These men and women had to be treated somewhere. At the time public hospitals were overcrowded but there were 1,400 beds available in repatriation hospitals. What could have been better and - please do not misunderstand me when I say cheaper - than to have these men and women occupy beds in repatriation hospitals? Thanks to Senator Sir Walter Cooper and the Government we achieved our aim.
I suggest to honorable senators, and the public generally, that that was one of the greatest and best things that was ever done for returned servicemen. In this chamber I was castigated because I said that I believed it was better to give hospital treatment to men and women in that category than to give it to what I said were men and women financially secure.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was speaking about the hospitalisation that had been granted to our service pensioners by the Repatriation Department. I think that having access to repatriation hospitals is of enormous value to these people, particularly because the means test is applied to them. There are ex-service men and women from the 1914-18 war who are receiving service pensions and who are entitled to free hospitalisation. Also, there are ex-servicemen of the Second World War whose decline in health is not attributable to war service but who come under the provisions of the War Pensions Act, and receive free hospitalisation. This has placed a great strain on the existing repatriation hospitals.
Many of the hospitals were built years ago. We know the gallant efforts that the Repatriation Department is making to keep the hospitals somewhere near the standards that are required in 1964. We know that there are very few vacant beds. I suppose I could say truthfully that there are no vacant beds in the repatriation hospitals, and it does not appear that there will be any great change in that connection. In fact, it is anticipated that there will be a greater demand for hospitalisation in the next ten years than there is at the present time.
I ask the Government whether it can see its way clear to provide free hospitalisation for the diggers of the South African War and of World War I who do not have an entitlement under the Act or a service pension to receive free hospitalisation. I believe that we are getting closer to doing so every day. It need not necessarily be provided in repatriation hospitals. Judging by the figures that are given in the report of the Repatriation Department, it costs £42 a week, or perhaps a little more, to accommodate a person in a repatriation hospital. I make the suggestion that perhaps hospitals in country areas and some of the city and suburban hospitals could be used to provide hospital facilities for ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war and other wars. I think that would be a practical means of overcoming this difficulty. I hope that the Government and the Repatriation Department will consider that suggestion and see whether it is possible to accept it.
Generally speaking, I think that hospitalisation in country hospitals costs from £30 to £35 a week, which is not as expensive as hospitalisation in repatriation hospitals. I believe that those hospitals would provide excellent treatment.
– There would be the problem of getting staff.
– I appreciate that point, but I also appreciate that if these people were admitted as repatriation cases it would be of immense advantage to the boards that are running the country hospitals. I make that suggestion because I think that perhaps it is the only possible way in which we can provide free hospitalisation for the ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war. Other people in the community also think that this should be done. As I have said, whether we are on this side of the chamber or the other side we all are concerned to do what we think should be done for our exservicemen of the South African war, of World War I, of World War II and of other theatres of war.
Mr. Deputy President, I am indebted to you for the indulgence you gave given me in order that I might discuss this matter. The Bill is really a machinery measure. It deals with some of the matters which we have found by trial and error should be included in the Repatriation Act. It is usual in the Budget session for a repatriation bill to be introduced, for the purpose of amending the Repatriation Act. The Department has found that the provisions contained in the Bill that is before us today should be included in the Act.
Finally, I want to pay a tribute to the Repatriation Department, particularly on behalf of men of my vintage. If, by any chance, we feel that we should have a medical check up because our health is not as good as it should be, we can go to the Repatriation Department and have an examination. Our state of health is fully investigated and a diagnosis is made. If X-rays are required, the Department pays for them. If we are required to be hospitalised while pathological tests are carried out, the hospitalisation in a repatriation hospital is free. I am glad that honorable senators on both sides of the Senate are in agreement that the Repatriation Department is doing a good job for ex-service men and women. I support the Bill.
– 1 rise only to add my support once again to the proposition that Senator Mattner has brought to the attention of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) I am repeatedly urged to do something in this matter by a class of diggers whose interests appeal to me enormously. I refer to ex-servicemen of the First World War who are over 70 years of age and who, by reason of the means test, are not entitled to treatment in repatriation hospitals. I am indebted to the Minister’s advisers for furnishing me with actual figures, taken out some time ago which show that the estimated number of survivors of the Boer War is 500 and of the First World War, 110,400.
The figures show that of the total number of pensioners from the First World War, 50,500 are entitled to hospital treatment completely free of charge and 15,300 to treatment some of which is free, but there are 44,700 who are not entitled to free hospital treatment. I ask the Minister, and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) whom he represents in this place, to give urgent consideration to this matter once again. I know that it has been before the Minister for Repatriation from time to time over recent years. But as each month and every year goes by, we are losing an opportunity to afford a measure of justice to which the service that these men gave entitles them.
It is surely not impossible to relax the means test in a fairly considerable way to enable those people to qualify for hospital benefits. Upon those who are just disqualified for hospital treatment by the operation of the means test, the denial of hospital treatment falls most unjustly.
There is an excellent case for a special means test in relation to hospital treatment only for the over 70’s in this sectional group. This would afford experience for the wider field of general social services in years to come. But I am not emphasising that aspect at the moment. I should not like to refer to it in such a way as to reduce the emphasis that I am placing upon the position of the First World War Diggers who are over 70 years of age and who just fail to qualify under the means test for hospital treatment. Wealthy people with big incomes from properties or, if they are lucky, from earnings, will not need any consideration at all. Out of the 44,000 persons, it is probable that 20,000 do not need consideration, but there are over 20,000 of these men to whom the nation is not granting what is worthy of it, having regard to the fact that with the passing of each year we are losing the opportunity of giving them what they are entitled to receive.
I have said this with full knowledge that the Minister’s officers have been good enough to inform me that, following a rugged debate in this chamber some two or three years ago, a complete survey was made of the degree to which beds in repatriation hospitals and other institutions were unoccupied. The officers have put in to my hand figures that show that in all institutions 4,208 beds are occupied and that in repatriation general hospitals 3,652 beds are occupied. In the case of general hospitals, this represents about 90 per cent, of normal operating capacity and the overall figure for all institutions is 89 per cent. This leaves a margin of only about 10 or 11 per cent, of hospital beds that could be utilised for the purpose that I have mentioned. I ask that a special effort be made to utilise for this purpose any unoccupied beds. If it is found that hospital bed capacity is insufficient to accommodate persons from among the 20,000 on behalf of whom my plea is made, I urge that Senator Mattner’s suggestion be adopted. Instead of expending money exclusively fox repatriation hospitals, we might use some of it as a contribution towards the expenses of these men for such hospital beds as are available elsewhere in the community.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by Senator Hendrickson, which seeks to add the following words to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time - but the Senate is of opinion that the provisions of the Repatriation Act 1920-1964 should be extended to apply in respect of all service in the Defence Forces.
Although these persons are now covered by workers’ compensation provisions in respect of accident and injury, which cover may be continued after their return to civilian life, they are not covered, I understand, in respect of sickness. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) will have a chance to answer me if I am wrong on this point.
It appears to me to be completely wrong to take a person out of civilian life and to put him, for instance, in the infantry, where he will sleep in wet clothes and march and train in the rain. In those conditions he is likely to pick up pneumonic ailments. Extension of the provisions should not be expensive, because there would not be extreme cases such as occur in warfare. It seems that these people ought to be covered when they move back into civilian life. From the latest decisions that have been announced, it appears that we have passed the point of worrying about recruiting. This is one of the matters that I indicated to the Minister for Defence (Senaor Paltridge) as reasons for the difficulty experienced in recruiting. I should like the Minister in charge of the Bill to comment upon this point.
– I am grateful to the Senate for its approach to this series of repatriation bills. The amendment moved by Senator Hendrickson, to which Senator Willesee adverted, seeks the addition of the following words to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time - but the Senate is of opinion that the provisions of the Repatriation Act 1920-1964 should be extended to apply in respect of all service in the Defence Forces.
What is proposed would be a departure from the repatriation policy followed by successive governments, and the effect would be all embracing. The effect would be to bring all service men within the ambit of the Repatriation Act. If the amendment were accepted, repatriation benefits would be available in respect of death or disability arising out of any service in the Australian forces, whether full or part time, whether on voluntary enlistment or on callup, whether within or without Australia, and whether it is peace time or war service. In other words, the amendment would make no separation between the two classes of service.
– Conditions vary according to the nature of service and in repatriation provisions there has always been a distinction between war service and peace time service. War service benefits are for incapacity or death due to war service and are provided for the member and appropriate categories of dependants. Benefits under the Repatriation Act, regulations and associated legislation are available in respect of service in the 1914-18 war, in the 1939- 45 war, in the Korean war from June 1950 until April 1956 and in Malaya from June 1950 to August 1957.
– What about Malaya now?
– I am coming to that-
– Are they there now just for a holiday?
– I have said that 1 am coming to that. The honorable senator is hearing me only part time. The Far East Strategic Reserve in Malaya from March 1957 to May 1963 is provided for in the Far East Strategic Reserve Act.
– What does that mean?
– We have an act which lays down certain conditions and benefits.
– But those personnel do not come within the Repatriation Act?
– They do not. Personnel who serve outside Australia on special duty in a special area are covered by the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act, which is separate from the others. Compensation for all service is in line with that paid to Commonwealth employees in case of death or injury, which includes both monetary payments and medical treatment as appropriate. If there is an entitlement under this Act and also under the repatriation legislation, benefits have to be taken under the latter, which is equivalent to the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act.
Now we turn to career service. In addition to the compensation benefits I have mentioned, retirement benefits, either by way of lump sum or retirement pension, are available under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. The fund operates on a contributory basis.
I have mentioned the various Acts which cater for all categories. In substance the same amendment was proposed in another place and I have been advised that the issue raised by the proposal is whether compensation for service which is not in wartime or does not otherwise involve additional risk because it is directly associated with warlike operations, should be based on the general level of compensation applicable to other peacetime occupations or should be at the level specially designed to compensate ex-servicemen and their dependants for death or disability due to war service. As I said at the outset, the whole point is that these proposed amendments affect a matter of Government policy. This policy is not of recent vintage. It has been followed for many years in the repatriation legislation. The Government does not accept the proposed amendments. The Government adheres to the belief that the Repatriation Act, which has special application to ex-servicemen, should remain in its present form.
Both Senator Mattner and Senator Wright raised the question of additional hospital benefits. We discussed this matter fairly fully when the estimates, particularly those for the Repatriation Department, were before the Senate and when proposed variations in repatriation benefits were before us.
– The matter is still unresolved.
– It is still unresolved, and if any honorable senator wishes to raise it he has the right to do so. I only make the point that we had a fairly good debate on this issue. Again, this is a matter of policy. The Government, at this stage at any rate, is not prepared to accept the proposals which have been advanced. The matter has been studied. I well remember Senator Sandford and Senator Hendrickson putting it forward in a previous debate, and their arguments were developed this afternoon by both Senator Mattner and Senator Wright.
– Not for the first time.
– Not for the first time. Under the proposal put forward, some 15,300 additional people could be entitled to free hospital treatment in addition to their present entitlement for treatment only for accepted disabilities. If the Government accepted the proposal, 15,300 additional people would have to be considered in relation to the availability of hospital beds. Over and above that, it is estimated that an additional 44,700 persons could acquire eligibility for medical and hospital treatment under the repatriation system* If my mathematics are correct, the proposal if accepted would result in an additional 60,000 ex-service personnel becoming eligible for hospital treatment.
– We were basing our case on the principle rather than on the cost. The Minister is doing the opposite.
– I am not. I have not made any reference to cost.
– The Minister has done so in an indirect way.
– I have merely given the arithmetical calculation of eligibility and I was about to equate that with the availability of beds. Inherent in the question of bed availability, of course, is the question of cost, but I had not reached that point when the honorable senator interjected. One must consider the 60,000 additional persons who would become eligible for hospital treatment in conjunction with the availability of beds. The normal bed capacity in open and closed wards in all institutions is 4,713. Repatriation General Hospitals have 4,049 beds. Something like 90 per cent, of available beds in institutions generally and in Repatriation General Hospitals are currently occupied. Those of us who have any knowledge of this matter know that you do not keep a hospital up to a complete bed state from day to day, so when you have 90 per cent, occupancy you are virtually operating at capacity.
– But is it not 90 per cent, of normal operating capacity, and would not that already allow vacancies for changing patients and so on?
– No. As I have said, there is a 90 per cent, occupancy of beds and the remaining 10 per cent, would cope with movements in and out of hospital. In other words, occupancy could be 100 per cent, plus and people could be occupying stretchers, as sometimes happens in an emergency. Conversely, the occupancy could be less than 100 per cent. There is a margin in hospital bed state, as I well know from experience at another level. Repatriation hospital treatment afforded to an additional 60,000 persons would entail a substantial increase in cost.
– Again, cost.
– Obviously cost must be considered.
– All of the Minister’s argument has been based on cost.
– The availability of beds cannot be divorced from cost. You cannot have beds without cost. Senator Mattner canvassed the justice of the case for providing bed accommodation for patients in those categories if there were no repatriation beds available and suggested that some arrangements should be made to have the patients accommodated in ordinary civilian hospitals. This involves the use of non-repatriation institutions. It may be urged that treatment should be provided in non-repatriation institutions at the expense of the Repatriation Department. The question of whether repatriation patients should be treated as a matter of routine rather than being placed in outside institutions is one for policy consideration in its own right. I come back now to the question of policy. This must be faced up to by the Government and it must make the decisions. In this chamber, honorable senators can only debate the background of policy though it is quite competent for honorable senators to advocate that policy should be changed.
– But the Minister will refer these matters to the Minister for Repatriation, will he not?
– Yes. I shall come back to that point. Generally these are matters for consideration after decision by the Government on the main issues. In other words, the Government would need to inquire whether additional eligibility should be granted. Having made that policy decision, it must consider further as a matter of policy also whether it would be appropriate to make some arrangements with civilian hospitals. I am not putting this forward as a strong argument but honorable senators will realise from their personal knowledge that there are difficulties in providing additional hospitalisation in the civilian field. Senator Mattner asked whether I would refer this matter to the Minister for Repatriation. Most certainly I shall do that. As I have said, however, these are matters of policy. For that reason, I cannot go further except to say that I shall refer to the Minister the matters that have been raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I wish to refer to a specific provision in the Bill and my comment arises from a matter that was referred to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) by me and by Senator Mattner. Statistics show that the average period for which a repatriation patient occupies a hospital bed is some 22 days. That means that in the course of a year, one bed would accommodate 17 patients if you divide 22 into 365. The 10 per cent, surplus capacity of beds, on the figures given, represents about 860 beds. If you multiply that by 17 patients who could bc accommodated in one bed each year, you have accommodation for 14,620 beds. That is what could be done by using energy and keeping beds full.
The Minister has said that he will refer these matters to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) and I rise only to bring these facts before the Minister. A few extra wings on these hospitals would provide accommodation. The additions could be of a temporary nature. If a bulge in hospital demand is anticipated in the next 10 years, temporary structures would do. I emphasise to the Minister that this is regarded by all sections in this chamber as a pressing need to which the nation should yield.
– Will the Minister for Customs and Excise give his interpretation of the resolution which was on the agenda of the R.S.L. conference last year asking for free hospitalisation for ex-servicemen who are not on pensions from the First World War? That item is still on the agenda of the League.
– I have a question to ask of the Minister for Customs and Excise concerning proposed new subsection (4.) in clause 7 of the Bill which states -
A pension under this section shall not be granted to a child of a member of the Forces if the grant would result in pensions under this section being payable to more than four children of the member.
If payments of 15s. for the eldest child and 2s. 6d. a week for three other children were made, this would total £58 10s. a year. Can the Minister explain why, if there were a family of six children, the two younger children would be barred from any pension at all?
.- I have several questions for the Minister for Customs and Excise. When is the Repatriation Act applied to soldiers? If an expeditionary force is training in Australia and a soldier is killed or injured, is the Repatriation Act applied from that point? If it is, there would appear to be a case for young men who are training in Australia to be similarly treated even if they do not belong to an expeditionary force. Surely the objective in training men in Australia in the Regular Army or the Royal Australian Air Force is, finally, to defend the country wherever the Government decides it should be defended. If members of an expeditionary force are covered for repatriation purposes while in training, surely everybody in training should be covered.
Members of the Far East Strategic Reserve are covered by a separate act - the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act. This covers troops in Malaya, for example. What is the difference between the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act and the Repatriation Act? Are the personnel serving in Malaya or Vietnam or other places overseas worse off under the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act than they would be under the Repatriation Act?
Thirdly, is there any provision for a person who contracts an illness or is injured accidentally while serving in the Australian Regular Army? Is there any provision to follow them into civilian life, so to speak, and to provide medical benefits or recompense for a disease or complaint that they contracted ‘while in uniform?
– Honorable senators have asked a series of questions which I propose to answer progressively and if I overlook any, I hope that honorable senators will repeat them. Senator Wright applied some simple arithmetic to bed statistics and came up with a solution in which he stated that there were so many vacant beds. With respect, I suggest that the honorable senator over-simplified the problem of bed management.
– I fully concede that.
– You cannot, in fact, divide a number of beds into a number of days and say that therefore you have so many bed days, because hospital adminisstration is a complex and variable matter. All sorts of factors are interwoven such as the movement of patients from a bed to special clinical or operating sections. As I said earlier, whilst a situation could arise where more than 1 00 per cent, of the accommodation was occupied and it was necessary to provide emergency accommodation by putting up special hospital stretchers, at other times the occupation figure might drop. One never envisages a situation where in a 1,000 bed hospital 1,000 patients are accommodated every day.
– Well, give the entitlement subject to the availability of accommodation.
– It is impossible accept that proposition, because you would bc given then an entitlement only because coincidentally a bed happened to be available. As the honorable senator will appreciate, one could not live with that situation. The honorable senator also made the point that this is an issue about which all parties have strong feelings and that therefore I should ensure that I get the message across to the Minister for Repatriation and to the Government. I have promised to do that.
The provision of short term extensions in repatration hospitals is not as easy as it would appear on the surface. I ask Senator Wright, who is trying to interject, to let me make my point. I am speaking as one who has had some experience in hospital administration. One of the tragedies of hospital administration is that when a 500 bed hospital is built, kitchens, theatres, boiler rooms and other facilities are- provided to cater for that number of patients. But then it may be decided to construct a wing here, a wing there and a wing somewhere else. Suddenly it is discovered that a kitchen which has been designed to cater for a 500 bed hospital is expected to cater for 1,000 patients, and the boiler room fails because it cannot cope with the needs of a 1,000 bed hospital. Moreover, the electrical system becomes inadequate, the theatres become overcrowded and the nursing quarters become out of balance. I have lived through such a situation. If I may say so, the answer to this problem must bc given at two levels: First; it is necessary to decide as a matter of policy whether to admit this concession and then, having done so, to decide as a matter of policy how to accommodate the first decision. I do not think the problem can be overcome as simply as has been suggested.
I have been asked- by Senator Hendrickson how I reconcile my attitude with the fact that the Returned Servicemen’s League has passed resolutions in support of the proposal. It must be acknowledged that every year the R.S.L. advances a series of proposals, but governments do not undertake to accept these proposals. In the current financial year the League advanced a series of proposals for added benefits for exservicemen. The Government examined them and said: “ We are prepared at this stage to do only so and so”. As Senator Hendrickson has said, the fact that the R.S.L. has supported the proposal we are now considering strengthens the argument that has been advanced by honorable senators. Nevertheless, the Government is not prepared to accept the proposal.
asked a question about clause 7. As well as a payment of 15s. for the first child, an amount of 5s. a fortnight is paid for the second, third and fourth children of a service pensioner. This additional payment, which has no equivalent in the social services legislation, has applied since service pensions were introduced in 1935. Clause 7 (2.) is a drafting amendment which is designed to retain eligibility for children’s pensions; it does not alter the law. The granting of this concession for children beyond the fourth child would have to be decided as a matter of policy.
I have not accepted the complete challenge contained in Senator Willesee’s submissions. It poses a difficulty, as I understand the remarks of the honorable senator, from the point of view of time and definition. Let us take a hypothetical case. If a person becomes ill after he comes out of the Service-
– No, in the Service.
– Or even in the Service. The question arises as to whether the authorities should regard the illness as being due to service. It becomes difficult from the viewpoint of definition. It is even more difficult in the case of a person who is out of the Service, who becomes ill, and who then says: “ 1 believe that this is due to my service “.
– Is there any provision to cover the situation if that happened to a person in the Australian Regular Army?
– There is provision only for Commonwealth employees’ compensation.
– It would not cover sickness.
– That is the point I am making. As the honorable senator will appreciate, it is rather difficult to define whether the sickness is due to service or not.
– As I understand the situation, even if it were due to service, a person in the A.R.A. would not be covered.
– That person would have sick leave entitlement under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and so on. A point was raised in regard to the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act. It does in fact carry through the benefits of the Repatriation Act. A person would be entitled to sickness benefits in the normal way.
.- I was rather intrigued by the statement of the Minister, who has had extensive experience in hospital administration, that the average time spent in repatriation hospitals is 22 days. I admit that the majority of patients are now getting up in years, but would not the Minister agree that a period of 22 days seems to be rather excessive? Some months ago I instanced a’ hospital in Melbourne where the average stay was 3.76 days. That seemed to me to be a very short time. We all are more interested in this subject now than possibly we’ were in the past. I do not want to debate the matter I am about to mention because we shall be discussing it later. I merely mention that we are now confronted with a situation which is really foreign to peacetime conditions in this country. The Government proposes to take certain steps because it cannot attract sufficient men to the armed forces. In his reply to an interjection and also when answering the comments of Senator Wright, the Minister seemed to base his argument on cost. No doubt the Minister will have more to say about the matter later.
A lad in the Services today may contract an illness. After he has served his time and is discharged, does the Minister say that he is entitled only to workers’ compensation? If that is so, I do not think it is good enough. 1 do not claim that great numbers of servicemen would be placed in this position. I hope that is not so, but it is possible. The defence legislation recently passed by the Parliament provides that servicemen volunteer for overseas service. Does a serviceman become entitled to repatriation benefit only when he goes overseas, although from the day he enlists he leaves himself open, by his own decision, to be sent overseas at any time? If I undestand the Minister correctly, a serviceman becomes entitled to repatriation benefits only when he is serving or has served in a theatre of war.
– I do not know how far we can go on this question. The Minister traced the career of a serviceman in Malaysia to 1963. There was a little trouble in Malaysia only last week, according to what we read in the Press. Are our servicemen in Malaysia entitled to benefits equal to those provided by the repatriation legislation? I do not want to intrude on the ground of other honorable senators, but what about service in Vietnam, to which Senator Willesee referred? What is the position of Australian servicemen who go to Vietnam? Let us be practical about it, because this matter has a bearing not only on the present debate, but also on the debate which should take place tomorrow. Tomorrow we will be much more in earnest and will be throwing our weight about more than we are doing now.
– I should like first to inform Senator Kennelly that the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act covers Australian servicemen in overseas danger areas.
– Would the Minister say that the benefits allowable under that Act to returned servicemen are as good as the benefits allowable under the Repatriation Act?
– Yes, it follows the same pattern. The next point concerns the Australian Regular Army. Members of the Army have normal sick leave provisions.
Upon discharge, they are covered by the provisions of workers’ compensation. No serviceman would be told: “ Now that you have contracted an illness because of your service, we are going to discharge you”. It would not happen that way. The benefits obtainable under the Repatriation Act would apply to members of the Australian Regular Army. 1 refer to sick leave and medical treatment. The Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act is related definitely to overseas service. It is a separate Act from the other acts I have enumerated, which carry, in the main, the same benefits to meet the various contingencies that have been referred to this afternoon.
Senator Kennelly referred to the average length of stay in hospital and very properly asked whether 22.3 days was an unusually long stay in hospital. Of course it is. For surgery, other than in major or terminal cases, the average stay in hospital would be about half that period. I say that from my background knowledge. I want to draw attention to the type of hospitalisation we are confronted with in this situation. Page 17 of the report of the Repatriation Commission shows that while the average length of stay of a patient in a repatriation hospital is 22.3 days, in certain categories of illness - such as tuberculosis - the average stay is 66.1 days. For psychiatric treatment the average stay is 20 days. I think all honorable senators will understand that these illnesses do not lend themselves to treatment of short duration. A good example of such an illness is tuberculosis, a complaint which stems noticeably from service in the First World War, particularly among servicemen who were gassed. This Parliament recognises tuberculosis as a war caused disability and special treatment for it is provided at all levels. Honorable senators should bear in mind that the figure of 22.3 days varies up and down.
– That is why an average is u> ken.
– It is an average. The figure is high because it relates to cases which are peculiar to ex-servicemen who have undergone privations during war service, in the First and Second World Wars, or in Korea or Malaya. They are more likely to spend longer periods in hospital, particularly men of the First World War. They are now getting up in years and many of them are admitted with terminal complaints. This means that they stay in repatriation hospitals until the end of their lives. I acknowledge that it is a long period, but it is peculiar to repatriation hospitals.
– I would be obliged if the Minister could inform the Senate whether the wards in all repatriation general hospitals are occupied and whether they are served by doctors and nurses. I think this a very important point. Like Senator Kennelly, 1 was interested in what the Minister had to say because he has had a great deal of experience in hospital management. I think I can claim to have had more than a passing acquaintance with hospital management myself. I imagine that one of the things we should consider first is the bed capacity of all the repatriation hospitals in Australia. We should also know something about their average daily bed rate, because I am not convinced that there are not many beds in hospitals which could be used by ex-servicemen, particularly men of the First World War. Every hospital knows its bed capacity. It knows its emergency capacity. If we could hear from the Minister whether all beds are occupied and whether they are served by nurses and doctors, I think we would be in a position to judge whether something more could be done.
I would like to thank Senator Mattner for his reference to any work that I may have done in connection with the hospitalisation of servicemen of the First World War. 1 believe this country is lagging sadly in its treatment of these men. After the Second World War, it was easy to trace the records of ex-servicemen and for the Government to indicate that it was prepared to grant benefits and do everything possible for men who had sacrificed their health. The position with regard to ex-servicemen of the First World War was quite different. As a result, firstly, of the attitude of the men who were not conditioned to the seeking of pensions or benefits for any disability, and, secondly, of the fact that, later the ex-serviceman was unable to produce satisfactory records of his service or medical history, many have dragged their lives out with disabilities but have received no compensation whatsoever. Today, they are a fast diminishing group of people to whom, even at .this late hour Australia owes something.
– Earlier I asked the Minister a question regarding the resolution on the agenda of the Returned Servicemen’s League. Could the Minister obtain the figures from his officers of how many First World War servicemen would now be entitled to hospitalisation?
– Let me get this clear. What is it that the honorable senator requires?
– The Minister has agreed with me that the resolution to which I referred is on the agenda of the Returned Servicemen’s League for discussion at its conference. The Government does not agree to that resolution. How many ex-servicemen who served in the First World War and who are not now entitled to hospitalisation would be entitled to it after the passing of this Bill?
– Over and above those who are entitled to it now under the Act?
– A thought has crossed my mind in regard to hospital beds. The procedure in respect of medical checkups generally follows a well defined course, whether for people seeking repatriation benefits or for ordinary citizens. The ordinary citizen who goes to his doctor for a checkup is put through a series of tests, such as the barium meal test, and X-rays are taken. In a day or two, he is given the doctor’s diagnosis. It seems that people entitled to repatriation benefits are invariably sent to hospital and the same kind of checkup tests take five, six or seven days. Surely this longer period is accounting for a fair degree of this bed occupancy about which the Minister has been speaking and also some of the costs of which Senator Kennelly was so critical earlier today.
– I thank Senator Wedgwood for her contribution to the debate. I gather her proposition is that there should be a complete survey of all hospitals, both civilian and repatriation -
– Only repatriation hospitals?
– Yes. The Minister must know the total bed capacity.
– I gave that figure to the honorable senator earlier in the debate. I will read again the number of available repatriation beds. In all repatriation institutions, the normal hospital bed capacity of opened and closed wards is 4,049.
– What is the average daily bed rate?
– The average daily bed rate is approximately 90 per cent, of the total capacity. This has been the whole burden of the debate this afternoon. Senator Wright argued that because there was a 10 per cent, tolerance we could increase the number of admissions. I have suggested rather gently that the solution is not so easy. This 10 per cent, margin has to take into account other contingencies.
– But there is an emergency tolerance in every hospital?
– I am talking about the capacity of beds.
– The normal operating capacity.
– Yes, that is right.
– Senator Wedgwood draws the distinction as to the emergency capacity.
– With regard to their emergency capacity, some hospitals have taken it to the point where they have gone over 100 per cent. They accept the extra patients because it is their function to take them in. The patients are put in what are known as medical stretchers. The word “ stretcher “ is a misnomer. The stretchers are really beds, but a different type of bed. Repatriation hospitals’ have to make that arrangement, but this situation occurs not only in repatriation hospitals but also in ordinary hospitals.
Senator Willesee referred to the time lag in medical checkups in repatriation hospitals. This is a matter of detail and I cannot add very much to what I have already said. The point has been made and I will bring it to the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz). I cannot do any more than that at the moment. My reply to Senator Hendrickson is that I am informed that of all First World War veterans, 15,300 will receive more hospital treatment than they now do, because at the present moment they are eligible to receive it only for recognised war caused disabilities. Fortyfour thousand First World War exservicemen who now receive no hospital treatment will get hospital treatment. That makes a total of 60,000. The additional 60,000 First World War ex-servicemen will become eligible under this proposal.
– Fifteen thousand seven hundred are now in receipt of part hospital treatment?
– Yes. Under this amendment, they will have full hospital rights and an additional 44,000 servicemen will receive hospital treatment also.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 11th November (vide page 1663), on motion by Senator Anderson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 11th November (vide page 1663), on motion by Senator Anderson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through ils remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 11th November (vide page 1663) on motion by Senator Anderson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 11th November (vide page 1664), on motion by Senator Anderson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not offer any objection to the passage of the measure. It is the type of bill which usually accompanies a bill to amend the Repatriation Act. There is one matter to which the Opposition wishes to advert in the Committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 5 of the Bill, which seeks to amend section 53a of the principal Act. I take the opportunity in discussing this clause to direct attention to an anomalous position that exists in Australia in relation to beneficiaries under this legislation. The number of persons involved is small; there are only 62 of them. There are some 17 Australian mariners, 33 wives or widows of Australian mariners, and other dependants of Australian mariners numbering about 12 in all. Approximately 62 persons are affected by the anomaly to which I am directing attention.
Difficulty arises from the fact that there were persons resident in Australia during the war - persons who were citizens and taxpayers of Australia - who enlisted in British ships not registered in Australia. The original Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act applied only to persons serving in ships registered in Australia. A number, but not a very large number, of Australian residents served during the recent war in ships not registered in Australia. Some of these people were killed and some were injured. Accordingly they, or their dependants, became entitled to pensions from the British Government. Those pensions were lower than those available to Australian mariners who did exactly the same service, but rendered that service in ships registered in Australia. The two classes of people were doing exactly the same service at the one time.
Because the British pension was much lower than the Australian pension, for a good many years - up to 1952 - the Australian Government, by way of ex gratia payments, made up the difference between the British pension and the Australian pension, but in 1952 the position was regularised by legislation. The legislation provided that those who had served in the circumstances which I have mentioned - who were residents of Australia before entering into their contracts of service - were to be regarded as Australian mariners. The 1952 legislation was given retrospective effect and applied to persons who began to serve as from 1943.
At the same time as that provision was written into the Act, incorporating the various persons who served in British ships, there was also written into the Act section 53a, which is now being amended by the Bill before us. That section provided - I incorporate in it the amendment that is proposed in this Bill because the Opposition has no objection to it - that -
Where an Australian mariner or any of his dependants is entitled to receive payment by way of compensation for the death or incapacity of the Australian mariner arising out of a war injury -
under a law of a country other than the Commonwealth that is or has been a part of the dominions of the Crown, the compensation so payable shall be taken into account for the purposes of this Act in such manner end to such extent as the Commission thinks just, and for that purpose the Commission may direct that a pension or allowance under this Act shall be reduced or shall not be payable.
Applying that section to the circumstances I have in mind, the men to whom I have referred - and their dependants who receive British pensions - now collect the amount of the Australian pension less the amount of compensation payable to them by the United Kingdom. We are faced with the position, however, that by reason of a change in the income tax law in 1954, which provided that all war pensions should be free of income tax - and so too should British pensions received by Australian residents - an unfortunate result has occurred. The change involved the Double Taxation Agreement between Australia and Great Britain, and when the British pension became nontaxable according to Australian law, it immediately became taxable according to English law.
There are 62 persons today who, by reason of an Act of this Parliament which was intended to make seamen’s pensions and war pensions completely free of income tax, have become subject to British taxation. This matter has been raised on a number of occasions by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place. (Mr. Whitlam), and various proposals have been put forward to cure the position. The object is simply to see that all Australian mariners, whether they served in ships registered in Australia or in British ships - they were Australians and taxpayers of this country before they embarked - should be treated upon the same basis. The great bulk of mariners and their dependants benefiting under this Bill receive their payments entirely free of tax of any kind.
– What are the words that have caused the British income tax to be imposed?
– I have not the Agreement before me, but I think I can give the honorable senator a precis of it in these terms: Under Article 10 of the 1946 Double Taxation Agreement with Britain the British pension being derived from sources within Britain by an individual who was a resident of Australia, and being subject to tax in Australia, was exempted from tax in Britain. Such a pension was regarded as subject to Australian tax, even when the pensioner’s net income did not exceed the amount at which one becomes liable to pay tax. Pursuant to section 8 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Act of 1952, depending on her age, a widow’s income became tax free. Then the 1954 legislation was introduced which exempted Australian and British pensions from Australian taxation. Consequently, the pension being no longer subject to tax in
Australia was no longer exempt from tax in Britain under Article 10 of the Double Taxation Agreement.
Here we are with this one little island of people, differentiating in two respects between them and the great class of beneficiaries under the Act. First, they served in exactly the same way, but some served on British ships not registered in Australia, and others served on British ships which were registered in Australia. Secondly, our own Act of 1954 threw the British portion of their pension within the scope of the income tax law in Great Britain. Various suggestions have been made on that matter. I am informed that the total amount of the pensions is about £ 11 , 000 per annum. It is not a very big amount. I think it averages out at a little over £3 per week.
The suggestion has been made that if these British beneficiaries relinquished their pensions they should be entitled to the full pension in Australia. That suggestion, of course, would relieve the British taxpayer of £ 1 1 , 000 that he is now paying, but it would, at least, put everybody on the same footing. It occurs to me that there are two ways in which this position could be cured. One way would not involve amendment of the legislation. That would not be required in the terms of the section of the Act I have mentioned. I am speaking now of compensation paid by a country other than our own. The section states that - the compensation so payable shall be taken into account for the purposes of this Act in such manner and to such extent as the Commission thinks just . . .
– What Commission is that?
– The Commission appointed to administer the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act.
– The Repatriation Commission.
– That is correct. So by a simple administrative act the Commission could determine that it would be just to carry out the intention of this Parliament that pensions of this nature should be completely free of taxation. It could do that quite simply by exercising the power that it possesses. Surely it is just that these people, who differ only because some served on one type of ship and some served on another type of ship, should be put on the same basis.
I point out that, with the total British pensions in this category running to about £11,000 per annum, the amount of British tax would be insignificant, so far as this Parliament is concerned, though it is a matter of financial importance to the people concerned. If the Commission decided to exercise the undoubted power in possesses, the amount of money involved might be only hundreds of pounds. I have no basis for assessing the amount of tax, but it could not be much on £ 1 1 , 000 spread over 62 individuals, the average being slightly more than £3 per week.
– Has the Commission given any answer to that?
– I do not know the answer. I am putting it forward as a possible approach to this matter because I am concerned to see that the anomaly is rectified.
Another way in which the problem could be solved would be by a simple amendment of the clause to provide that tax charged in a country outside Australia on a pension paid by that country shall be disregarded in making a deduction from the Australian pension. That could be done if we altered the section of the Act to read - the compensation so payable–
That is by another country - less the amount of income taxation thereon deducted by such country, shall be taken into account for the purposes of this Act in such manner and to such extent as the Commission thinks just . . .
I am putting that there are three possible approaches to the matter. One approach is to say to the beneficiaries: “ Relinquish your British pension and we will treat you on the same basis as all our pensioners in Australia who served in ships registered here during the war “. The second approach is for the Commission to say: “ We have a discretion. If the British pension is £5 a week and it is subject to a taxation deduction of 10s. a week, we will deduct only £4 10s. and not £5 from the Australian total pension.” The third approach, which seems to me to be completely just and open, is simply to provide that in deducting the pension abroad, the amount of tax that is charged on it be disregarded. Accordingly, the deduction from the Australian pension would be merely the net amount that the pensioner receives from the United Kingdom Government.
I put it to the Minister that the last suggestion has probably not been placed before the Parliament previously. It may be that the second one that I have put has not been placed before it either. It is certain that the first one has been placed before the Parliament on several occasions. I am putting the argument that even if that proposal were adopted, it would involve a cost of £11,000 to the Australian Community and would relieve the British taxpayer of that amount. It would give even-handed justice to the people in this category. I hope that the Minister will not lightly dismiss any of the suggestions. I think that he will see the problem that is involved. It is anomalous that our own citizens, doing exactly the same work on the same type of ships, the only difference being that some of the ships were registered in Australia and some were not, should be dealt with differently.
The justice of the matter emerges all the more clearly when we know that it is because of our own efforts in amending the 1954 Act to make all war pensions completely free of tax that we have projected this small category of people into the British taxation field. I hope that the Minister, if he is not prepared immediately to accept one or other of these suggestions will assure the Committee that the fullest consideration will be given to the three proposals and that in due course we shall have the matter before us again after proper consideration has been given to it by the Government.
– I am’ grateful to Senator McKenna for putting forward the position as he sees it. I have no criticism of his analysis of the historical background of the matter. As indicated by Senator McKenna, this matter was raised in another place by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). In reply, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) said that although he did not believe the matter came within his jurisdiction he would see that some consideration was given to it. Senator McKenna has set out the problem and given three possible solutions^ - in the Opposition’s view of it. I shall most certainly see that the Minister’s atten-tion is direced to his submission. For my own part, I should think that the first two solutions would pose some difficulty that would become apparent on closer scrutiny. There would be some difficulty in persuading a pensioner to relinquish a pension. It is a fact that a pension is an entitlement. I am told that the pension could not be relinquished voluntarily but that legislative action would be required.
As to the proposition that the Repatriation Commission should exercise a discretion, the Minister makes the point that, in fact, this is a taxation matter. The Repatriation Commission’s function is to provide repatriation benefits. The Minister regards the exercise of a discretion in relation to a tax matter as not being his function. He points out that the pensioner receives the prime pension not in Australia but in the United Kingdom. The tax is not charged at the Australian level. It results from an arrangement between the United Kingdom Government and the Commonwealth Government. The remission of tax would not be a matter for the Minister for Repatriation. The honorable senator suggests that a fairly simple amendment would suffice. I should think that action would have to be taken by an amendment. I believe that Senator McKenna set the position out factually and I shall most certainly direct the Minister’s attention to it.
– I am obliged to the Minister for his assurance that the matter will receive consideration. I should be grateful if he would ask the appropriate Minister, whoever he may be, to advise me when a decision is made, whether or not the Parliament is sitting. There are urgent cases in the field and there is a good deal of concern about this matter. I hope that consideration of the proposals will not be too long deferred. I think the Minister in another place expressed the view that this was a matter not for this Act but for an alteration of the taxation law. I express my very respectful dissent from that view, because since 1954 the income tax law has expressly exempted not only Australian war pensions but also British war pensions from taxation. The taxation policy of the nation is completely clear, and it is not this nation that is taxing in this case. My own view, which I put quite strongly; is that this is not a matter for taxation policy, which is clearly laid down but which has attracted British taxation to the few people in this particular field.
The Minister referred to a remission of tax as a matter for the Commissioner of Taxation. I would agree to that proposition, but I point out that this is a case not of remission of tax, but of denial of a full allowance to very few in the pension field. I hope that the Minister will impress that view on his colleagues, whichever Ministers are concerned in a consideration of the matter. There is no question at all of remission of Australian tax. lt is a question of the quantum of grant of a seaman’s allowance at a uniform rate throughout Australia. It is completely clear that under the Government’s taxation policy war pensions are free of both Australian and British tax.
As to a form of amendment, I am deliberately not moving a form of amendment. 1 know that these matters need consideration. Some modification may be required. I indicate that the form of amendment that 1 have in mind would be in these words -
In section 53a, after the words “ the compensation so payable “ insert the words “ less the amount of taxation thereon collected by such country “. 1 record it in these words so that at least my thinking to date may be before the Minister when he comes to consider the matter.
– On the question of taxation, 1 purposely went very wide in my comments. Lest there be any misunderstanding as to the assurance that I give, let me cite what the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) said in another place. I can give an assurance only to the extent that he gave one. He said -
I am not prepared to accept the proposed amendment, 1 am sure that my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, would not accept it as it stands, because this is not the Bill on which the action desired should be taken. However, in the administrative sphere in which my responsibility lies, I shall undertake to see to what extent any action can be taken to rectify the situation.
In relation to United Kingdom taxation, although only a few people are involved and the amount is relatively small, it is not inconceivable that some of those people have incomes from other sources. This would mean that rebates would be required. We would be making a concession here in relation to taxation in the United Kingdom when the tax payable by a few persons - I do not know the number - might be fixed on the basis of income other than the British pension. 1 simply put that as one more problem that could emerge. I shall certainly direct the attention of the Minister to this matter.
– I think the Minister made quite a valid point, at least in theory, when he said that the recipient of a British pension might have other income which was taxable at a high rate in the United Kingdom and that this Parliament would be paying the high tax on. the British pension. I would not think it likely that that would occur. We are dealing with Australian citizens, people who were resident here before the war and are still resident here. I do not think the proposition that the Minister advanced is likely to arise.
– It could be mct.
– It could very easily be met by providing that such taxation as is relevant to the British pension alone shall be disregarded. I would be very happy to accept that thought and to have it incorporated in anything that was done.
Quite frankly, I would like the Commissioner to be able to exercise a power to do what was just. To keep things on an even keel and to do what was just, he could look at a position such as the Minister has envisaged, in which there was a high rate of taxation on the British pension by reason of the high income that the pensioner draws from the United Kingdom. He could reduce the allowance in respect of that tax to what he would regard as a just proportion. We would not have to provide for the situation that the Minister has envisaged if the Commissioner were to apply himself in that way. However, I concede that it is better to be quite specific as to what he has to do. If we are to give him a discretion in that matter, we should make it specific. I am very much obliged to the Minister for the way in which he has approached the suggestion.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 11th November (vide page 1664), on motion by Senator Anderson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill proposes to extend the operation of the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Act 1956-1964 for a further maximum period of three months, to 31st March 1965. The current Act has already been extended for a period of six months to 31st December 1964. The reason for the proposed further extension is that the Tariff Board is investigating the industry and the question of the assistance that should be afforded to the production and sale of cellulose acetate flake and its related products. I believe there are several cellulose acetate products but the only one that attracts the bounty is the flake.
A final decision has not yet been reached by the Board but it appears that investigations will be concluded by 31st March 1965 or even earlier. In his second reading speech the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) said -
This Bill extends the current cellulose acetate fluke bounty legislation for a further period of three months to 31st March 196S or to a date to be proclaimed, such date to be not later than 31st March 1965 and not earlier than the date of proclamation. This action is being taken in order to allow sufficient time for the Government to receive, to consider and to take appropriate action on the Tariff Board’s report and meanwhile to maintain the present level of assistance to the industry.
I should like some information from the Minister.. How much cellulose acetate is imported into Australia? What is the total bounty that has been paid to the producers of this commodity in Australia? What are the names of the producers? I should be obliged if the Minister can supply me with that information. The Australian Labour Party does not oppose the Bill.
– in reply - This bounty is payable in respect of cellulose acetate flake produced at a factory and in a year to which the Act applies, sold for use in the manufacture in Australia of cellulose acetate rayon yarn. The bounty is at the rate of 7cl. per lb. That rate still applies. There is no profit limitation on applicants for the bounty. There is only one recipient, C.S.R. Chemicals Pty. Ltd., Mary Street, Rhodes, New South Wales, which is the only registered claimant for the bounty. Claims are paid quarterly. Estimated expenditure under this head for the 1964-65 period to 31st December of this year is £47,000. I have no information available at this time on the question of imports.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 11th November (vide page 1658), on motion by Senator Gorton -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- -rim. Bill has the support of the Opposition. It contains no controversial provisions. It deals with a number of situations which call for remedy and which are appropriately dealt with in the clauses of the Bill. The particular occasion which gave rise to the presentation of the Bill arose in the Australian Capital Territory as a result of a recent decision of the High Court. It relates to the position of persons who, being accused of crime in the Australian Capital Territory, appear before a magistrate on an indictable offence and plead guilty. They are then committed for sentence and, upon being sentenced, it has been discovered on appeal to the High Court of Australia that no appeal lies against the severity of the sentence because the person involved is not a person convicted on indictment before the Supreme Court.
This Bill simply sets out in clause 8, the most important of its clauses, to amend section 52 of the principal Act by ensuring the right of appeal, not only against a conviction but also against a sentence imposed where originally there was a plea of guilty. It is a proper provision because it is important that a person should not be denied the right of appeal by some technicality. He should not be penalised because he did not waste the time of the court. The Opposition supports the Bill.
As the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) has said in his second reading speech, the Bill puts beyond doubt that judges of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory may hold judicial appointments in other Territories without affecting the validity of their Australian Capital Territory commissions. That is a proper provision and one that the Opposition supports. We dealt with this question quite separately from other considerations when the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was before the Senate. We think it proper that the position of the judges and their confirmation in judicial appointments in other Territories without affecting the validity of their Australian Capital Territory commissions should be safeguarded. Actually, the position is that this protection applies at present only in the case of a permanent judge - and not to temporary judges, and the Bill closes that gap.
A number of other provisions in the Bill include the exclusion from the principal Act of provisions enabling a judge to hold the office of Judge Advocate General of a part of the defence forces and permitting him to hold non-judicial office with the approval of the Governor-General. It has been pointed out that, recently, judges have not held this appointment of Judge Advocate General. I agree with the Minister that probably it is undesirable that a judge should do so because it is not a judicial appointment. When the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was before the Senate last week I had occasion to make some observations on the extent to which it is proper for judges to hold non-judicial appointments. I do not want to make more than a passing reference to that matter now and certainly I do not want to repeat my arguments which are extremely well known in the legal profession and beyond it.
The Bill deals with some machinery matters concerning court officials but I do not intend to detain the Senate by discussing them. All in all, the Opposition supports this measure which it regards proper and non-controversial.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 11th November (vide page 1660), on motion by Senator Gorton-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is a most important Bill. The Opposition supports the Bill and commends the Government for its introduction. The Bill is important because it deals with Australia’s relations with the rest of the international community. The need for the measure arises because of arrangements entered into by the Australian Government with the United Nations Organisation for Australian civilians to serve with United Nations forces in Cyprus. This has prompted the introduction of the Bill but the measure has a general application. It is not of a temporary nature nor is it limited to the forces in Cyprus or to any existing situation. This is a Bill intended to deal with offences committed outside Australia by Australian civilians in other countries for the performance of our international obligations.
The Opposition is pleased to be able to join with the Government in framing a suitable basis upon which our relations with the United Nations, in this respect shall be managed. It also applies to our relation with other countries who may form part of a peace keeping force or where members of our civilian population may be present in accordance with arrangements with the United Nations. Lastly, the Bill concerns the rights of Australian citizens and others who are covered by the Bill and who may be subject to the offences created by the Bill.
Australia is a continent isolated physically from the rest of the world, and hitherto we have not had to make provision for the situations envisaged in the Bill. The Bill is designed to provide law, and to provide for the enforcement of the law, in relation to crimes committed by Australian citizens and British subjects generally who are covered by the provisions of the Bill. The questions that arise concern the persons to whom the Bill applies, the nature of the offences that are created by the Bill, and the method by which the law may be enforced. The persons to whom the Bill applies are Australian citizens or British subjects ordinarily resident in Australia who are serving in a country outside Australia under arrangements made between the Commonwealth and the United Nations, but they do not include members of the defence forces. It is important to observe that the provision does extend beyond Australian citizens. We ought to remember that in our country there are approximately half a million British subjects who are not Australian citizens. Of the half million British subjects who have come to Australia since 1949 only about 11,000 have registered as Australian citizens. Unfortunately in bills of this nature it is necessary to make special provision for persons who, although ordinarily resident in Australia, are not Australian citizens.
I come now to the nature of the offences that are created by the Bill. Here a problem arises. On the face of it, this Bill is designed to deal with what are normally regarded as criminal acts which might be committed by civilians who are part of a force in a certain place. Of course, the immediate case is that of Cyprus, but the provisions of the Bill arc of general application. The old rule was, that when in Rome one should do as the Romans do. It was thought to be the height of diplomacy, and neighbourliness and the mark of a good traveller for one to observe the customs and laws of the country in which one was staying. In this measure there appears to be a departure from that principle. This is something to which the Opposition desires to draw attention, but not in criticism of the Government because we welcome the Government’s efforts to deal with this situation. We are merely desirous of giving such assistance as we can cope with the problems that may arise.
What is to be done? Are we to provide that a person who is a member of a United Nations force in, say Cyprus and who does something which would be a crime under the law of Cyprus is to be punished or are we to say that he is not to be punished unless what he did was a crime according to the laws of Australia? Are such persons to be subject to the law of the country in which they are placed, subject to the law of Australia, subject to the laws of both countries, or subject to a law only when, to put it in simple terms, it would create an offence in both countries? I am using the word “crime” in a loose sense in order to simplify the matter. When all is said and done, an act becomes a crime only when it is made a crime.
This Bill contains the curious provision, to put it in its simplest terms, that a person shall carry the law of the Australian Capital Territory with him wherever he goes. The Bill makes an act or omission in some other place an offence against this legislation if it would have been an offence if committed in the A.C.T. There is a limitation to certain laws of the Australian Capital Territory, but they are the general criminal laws. Clause 4 refers to the act or omission as being an offence against a law of the Commonwealth in force in the Territory, the Crimes Act 1900 of New South Wales in its application to the Territory as amended or affected by ordinances from time to time in force in the Territory, or the Police Offences Ordinance of the Territory. It means that a civilian member of a United Nations force shall carry his law with him.
That immediately brings to mind the anomalies that might occur. A person might do something that is quite permissible under the criminal laws of the country where he is stationed. It might be something that is done by everybody and is not regarded as being an offence. But, if it happens to be an offence under the laws of the A.C.T., then he will be deemed to have committed an offence. In some cases it might be a very serious offence. Let us consider the reverse situation. A person might do something which, although it is not an offence if done in the Australian Capital Territory, would be a very serious offence under the local law. But under this Bill no offence is created and the person concerned would not be subject to any penalty. This means that problems of great delicacy and difficulty might arise in our relations with other members of the United Nations force and the country in which the force is stationed.
One can easily conceive of other countries having laws creating serious offences which would not be regarded as offences in the A.C.T. One can imagine that in some of the Asian countries there would be offences relating to religious observances which would be regarded by the citizens of those countries very seriously but which under Australian law either would not be regarded as offences or would bc regarded as being trival. They might be regarded as offensive behaviour or something of that nature. On the other hand, there might be laws in other countries which might depart so seriously from Australian law that something which would be regarded seriously in the Territory would not constitute an offence in that country.
One example which readily comes to mind and is often used by lawyers to illustrate this kind of problem is the question of the age of consent. It is a practical example and is often used because it is easily understandable. If the age of consent in matters of carnal knowledge, and so on, differs between the Australian Capital Territory and the territory where the members are present, grave problems may occur. If the age of consent happens to be lower than in the Australian Capital Territory, it means that a civilian member of the forces may be committing an act which constitutes no offence at all in the place where he is resident and may carry with it not only no legal disapprobation, but no moral disapprobation. Yet, by reason of this enactment he would have committed a most serious offence against the law of Australia. On the other hand, if the age of consent were higher in that country than it is in the Australian Capital Territory, it may mean that the civilian member of the forces would be committing a most serious offence in the place where he was resident, yet it constituted no offence against this enactment.
One can see the problems which may occur not only in relation to that kind of matter but to other offences as well. One can easily visualise an inflammatory situation arising in a country where an Australian subject covered by this enactment had done something which was very gravely disapproved of by the people of that country; yet what he had done constituted no Offence against this Act. Often the countries in which foreign persons are resident under agreements, such as is behind this enactment, are well satisfied to have some extraterritorial jurisdiction being exercised if they are certain that where an offence has been committed against their own laws, punishment will be applied. But when one has the situation that punishment is to follow only if there is an offence against, in effect, the laws of the Australian Capital Territory, it may well be that in many cases the person who is regarded as an offender will not be in a position to be punished under this enactment.
Those are the observations I wish to make upon that part of the Bill. I am not suggesting that the solution is easy. The Government and the Australian community might take the view that we would want, for instance, in some situations members of our civilian forces to be punishable in the same circumstances as they would be if they committed an offence against the laws of the Australian Capital Territory. I can imagine an offence of some kind of misappropriation which might not be an offence under local law, that is, the law of the foreign country. One can see that it would be proper that that person should be subject to penalties if the misappropriation were committed in relation to the peacekeeping forces. Other considerations might apply if the misappropriations were unrelated to the purpose for which the offender was present in the other country.
If one looks at the converse situation also, it will be seen that problems might arise. But this is an attempt to lay a foundation stone to deal with these problems wherever they may occur. The Opposition respectfully suggests that further consideration might be given to this clause, which really goes to the foundation of the Act, in order that a better formula might be arrived at. It appears that the formula follows that which was in the Crimes (Aircraft) Act No. 64 of 1963; but of course the considerations are different here. The crimes which could be committed in relation to an aircraft are quite restricted. An aircraft is a special case, somewhat similar to that of a ship. One can visualise passengers carrying their law with them, as if the ship or aircraft were a little bit of Australian territory. When one deals with the acts and omissions of a person who is living in another territory, the kinds of involvement which might occur are far more numerous. The complexities of life are greater and it seems to us that the most serious anomalies and problems may occur, on the one hand affecting the rights of the civilian members of the forces, and on the other hand affecting seriously our relationship with other countries, particularly the host country.
The question of enforcement arises under this Bill, which provides for the arrest of persons without a warrant in circumstances where a Commonwealth officer has reasonable ground for suspecting that a person has committed, is committing, has attempted to commit or is attempting to commit an offence again this legislation. A Commonwealth officer or a person authorised may hold the person so arrested in custody until he can be brought before a justice of the peace or other proper authority in Australia to be dealt with in accordance with law. We are not satisfied that sufficient provision has been made to enable the alleged offender to be brought speedily to trial. A person may be arrested in a faraway spot. Where is the machinery to require that person to be brought speedily to justice or to entitle him to a discharge from custody? In Australia an arrested person in custody is able to avail himself of a private remedy which is available to all citizens; that is the ancient writ of habeas carpus, or one of its modern variants. A public remedy is also available to persons who are in prison; that is the administrative side of the judicial apparatus of this community.
On the administration side, the courts have from older times always seen to it that an investigation was periodically made of the cases of persons who were held in custody, and a judge had to be satisfied that there was some adequate reason for holding them in custody. So, we have the procedures of gaol delivery. We have this country’s administrative procedures which are incidental to the judicial powers which arc applied in order to see that persons are not left in custody without some adequate reason. In regard to those persons, the Opposition would like to know how a person who may be in one of these other countries may avail himself of the writ of habeas corpus. It may be that the powers of the High Court of Australia itself could be invoked under the Judiciary Act. The High Court has power under Section 33 (I .) (f) of that enactment to make orders or to direct the issue of writs of habeas corpus, but there is no specific provision in this Bill to deal with the question. There does not seem to be any administrative procedure whether part of the judicial apparatus or otherwise to ensure that persons shall not be placed in custody and left to languish perhaps for very lengthy periods without being brought to trial. I understand that the Minister has circulated an amendment since this matter was raised in the House of Representatives by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). The Opposition is pleased to see that the Government is willing to act in accordance with the proposal which has been made by our party.
The other provisions in the enactment deal with the trial on indictment of the offences. They provide for the various procedural matters. The trial might take place in any State or in any Territory. There are some serious questions here because, undoubtedly, the procedural rights of persons who are tried differ substantially from State to State. This means that a person who is tried in South Australia receives a different sort of trial from a person who is tried in New South Wales.
– The honorable senator is not telling me anything. He can add Queensland to that, too.
– I thank Senator Aylett for his observation that one certainly might get a different trial in Queensland. What does this mean? Australia engages in an international exercise. It says: “ Here we are, a nation. We have obligations as a member of the United Nations.” Australia has found her nationhood. It is accepting its international obligations. As part of those obligations, men have come from every State of Australia to form a section of the United Nations Police Force. They have gone to Cyprus. No doubt, in other circumstances, they would go to other parts of the world as Australians. Yet, if anything occurs which means that they are alleged to have committed an offence under this Act, they are liable to be dealt with in a manner in which their substantial procedural rights upon trial differ from State to State. There is no doubt that the differences in the procedural rights of accused persons are so great that they can many times mean the difference between conviction and acquittal.
– What about my grievance, as a citizen of Tasmania, which has reformed its law, being subjected to the criminal law of the Australian Capital Territory which imports the law of the Sydney Crimes Act?
– The honorable senator from Tasmania has just referred to the next matter to which I desire to proceed. Having illustrated that the procedural rights differ from State to State, I come now to the point that Australia says: “ Here is a group of Australians. They are treated as Australians as part of the purpose of our international obligations.” Yet, if something occurs under this arrangement, we permit them to be dealt with as New South Welshmen, Queenslanders or Tasmanians, in relation to what has been done by them as Australians, and dealt with in a manner where there may be the most serious procedural difficulties.
– Does that not apply now in the case of offences against Commonwealth law under the Judiciary Act?
– It does apply, Mr. Minister. It is our view that it ought not to apply and that the time has come when the Commonwealth Government ought to say that all Australian citizens who commit offences against the law of the Commonwealth should be treated equally in regard to their substantial procedural rights. Accused persons are tried according to law. They are entitled to a fair trial according to law. But the law, as far as its procedure is concerned, differs materially from State to State.
The next matter is the law to be applied. We know that the law to be applied is the law of the Australian Capital Territory - that is, those three parts of it which have been referred to. That is substantially the criminal law of the Australian Capital Territory. In the selection of such a law, no criticism can be made because of the basis of selection. If a law is to be applied, it is far better that the law of the Australian Capital Territory be selected as at least being Australian law than some other type of selection which might involve a discrimination between persons, for example, on the basis of the law of the State from which they came. But what is good in theory is most unfortunate in practice. This is because the criminal law of the Australian Capital Territory is very backward indeed. It is archiac. It is long overdue for reform. It is hopelessly out of date. The most stringent criticisms have been made of this law not only by learned professors in the field of law, but also by those who have to administer the law of this Territory. Mr. Justice Joske, who was a former member of this Parliament, who is now a member of the Commonwealth Industrial Court and who also acts from time to time as a judge of the Supreme Court of this Territory, has commented most adversely on the law which he has to administer. There has been no answer from the Government. The Government knows that the law of the Australian Capital Territory is out of date. It is bad that the citizens of this Territory should have to live under a criminal law which is overdue for revision. I remind the Senate that it has been well said by a great writer, Henry Maine, that as societies become more complex and more civilised the criminal law becomes all the more important. The criminal law in this Territory ought not to be neglected as it has been. It is scandalous that the criminal law should be in the state in which it is in the Territory. That ought to be corrected. What I have just said is not a criticism of the Bill. It operates upon the laws of the Australian Capital Territory. If those laws were corrected the Bill would be unexceptional.
I have no other observations to make other than to commend the Government for its attempt to deal with the situation covered by the Bill. The Opposition trusts that the Government will see fit to consider the suggestions which have been made in the House of Representatives and in this Chamber, and it hopes that an atmosphere of co-operation will enable a firm foundation to be laid for the future in matters which so intimately concern Australia’s relations with other countries.
– in reply - The points raised by Senator Murphy would perhaps be better discussed in the committee stages of the Bill since they concern the provisions of the Bill rather than its general principles. Therefore, at this stage I will not say anything further.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reed a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 postponed.
Clause 6. (1.) A Commonwealth officer may, with such assistance as is necessary, arrest without warrant, outside Australia, a person to whom this Act applies if the officer has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the person has committed, is committing, has attempted to commit or is attempting to commit an offence against this Act. (2.) The Commonwealth officer, or a person authorised by him, may hold the person so arrested in custody until he can be brought before a Justice of the Peace or other proper authority in Australia to be dealt with in accordance with law.
– I move -
At the end of the clause add the following sub-clause: - “(3.) This section does not authorise the holding of a person in custody for a longer time than is reasonably necessary in the circumstances to enable him to be taken to Australia and there brought before a Justice of the Peace or other proper authority.”.
The amendment is designed to meet, as far as possible, the point that has been made by Senator Murphy and by Opposition members in another place. It is, I think, impossible to set a definite time limit or to be any more specific than to provide that action must be taken as quickly as is reasonably possible. A unit of a United Nations force could well be operating in a place where law was virtually non-existent. It might be engaged in the middle of the Congo or in a country where the circumstances were such that it would not be possible to arrest an offender and, within a week, a fortnight or some specified time, make sure that he was returned for trial for the offence for which he was arrested.
The Government believes that the amendment makes more explicit the protection that was thought to be implicit in the provision as it stood. I suppose the matter depends upon the interpretation of the words “reasonably necessary”, but anybody who believed he was severely inconvenienced or felt aggrieved by the length of time between his arrest and his return for trial would, if he had a good enough case under the circumstances, be able to take some remedial action.
– The Opposition welcomes the amendment and supports it. However, it may not solve all the problems that may arise. I do not know whether the Minister has had the opportunity to consider the possibility of some kind of gaol delivery or of some kind of report being made in relation to persons held in custody. I suppose that such cases would be very rare now, but one does not know how many persons may be affected later. Has the question whether the High Court has jurisdiction in relation to such persons been considered? Can the Minister tell me whether consideration has been given to whether a person held in custody, or some one on his behalf, might make application in Australia, in a proper case, to the High Court for a writ of habeas corpus?
– I am informed that consideration has been given to that point and that the view of the Attorney-General’s Department is that, although a statement could be issued of persons arrested and held in custody and in respect of whom applications for writs of habeas corpus could be made, the Court would have jurisdiction only if the persons were in custody in Australia and were wrongly held in custody. If a statement of persons held in custody outside Australia were supplied to a judge, he would have no jurisdiction to order the release of such persons from custody. I am informed that that is how the law stands.
– Has the section to which I referred earlier been considered? I referred to section 33 (l.)(f) of the Judiciary Act, which provides that the High Court may make orders or direct the issue of writs of habeas corpus. Is it the view of the Attorney-General’s Department that the original jurisdiction of the High Court to grant writs of habeas corpus does not extend to Australian citizens arrested under Australian law outside of Australia?
– Section 33 of the Judiciary Act, to which the honorable senator refers, would apply, but the view is held that the action to which the honorable senator refers could be sought but could not be enforced in these cases.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.
– I move -
That further consideration of the Bill be deferred.
I believe that some points have been raised in the course of this debate to which I do not have the capacity to give an immediate answer. Without in any way wishing to indicate that I believe those points to be valid or acceptable, I would like some time in which to be able to have them considered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Ilay on the table the following paper -
Advance to the Treasurer - Statement for the year 1963-64 of Heads of Expenditure and the Amounts charged thereto pursuant to Section 36a of the Audit Act 1901-1962.
Motion (by Senator Henty) - by leave - agreed to -
That consideration of the statement in Committee of the Whole be made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henry) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to the borrowing by the Commonwealth of up to 30 million dollars, or about £13.4 million, on behalf of Qantas Empire Airways Limited and the Australian National Airlines Commission - Trans-Australia Airlines. The Bill appropriates the Loan Fund to enable the proceeds of the borrowing to be advanced to Qantas and T.A.A. It also appropriates the Consolidated Revenue Fund to enable the Commonwealth to pay principal and interest and to meet other charges associated with the loan. As the two airlines will provide the Commonwealth beforehand with all of the funds necessary to meet these latter payments, the loan will involve no net cost to the Commonwealth.
The borrowing is being made by the Commonwealth in order to assist Qantas and T.A.A. to finance the purchase of additional Boeing jet aircraft and related equipment. Qantas will be assisted by the loan to acquire either two or three additional Boeing 707-338C aircraft, and T.A.A. one additional Boeing 727 aircraft, in each case with related equipment and spares. The loan will be for 24 million dollars if Qantas decides to finance two aircraft from this loan, and 30 million dollars if it decides to finance three. The new aircraft will increase Qantas’ Boeing 707 fleet to eighteen or nineteen, and T.A.A.’s Boeing 727 fleet to three. The arrangements for the borrowing are similar to those approved by Parliament in May 1964, when the Commonwealth borrowed 25 million dollars or £11.2 million, on behalf of Qantas. The entire proceeds of the borrowing will be made available to Qantas and T.A.A. by the Commonwealth on terms to be determined by the Treasurer. These conditions will be the same as those under which the Commonwealth itself will borrow the money. As the airlines will be required to meet all charges under the loan agreement, the Commonwealth will therefore assume a function similar to that of guarantor of the loan and, as I have said, there will be no net charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Prior to the present loan, the Commonwealth had arranged loans totalling 124.6 million dollars or £55.6 million, in the United States of America for the purchase of aircraft and related equipment since 1956. Of this amount, 108.6 million dollars represented loans for Qantas, and the remaining 16 million dollars loans for T.A.A. Loans previously arranged with United States commercial banks total 85.4 million dollars, of which 50.3 million dollars remains to be repaid. In addition, the International Bank and theExport-Import Bank of Washington have lent 39.2 million dollars for aircraft purposes, of which 23. 5 million dollars is still outstanding.
These loans have contributed significantly to the extension, modernisation and re-equipment of their frontline fleets which Qantas and T.A.A. have both undertaken in recent years. In arranging the loans, the Government has continued the previous practice of asking each airline to help to finance the purchase of new aircraft by borrowing in the country of manufacture. Also, following sound commercial practice, the loans are repayable during the expected life of the aircraft being purchased, and during the period that the aircraft are making a substantial contribution to the successful operating results of the airlines in question. In the case of Qantas, its earnings of oversea currencies are more than sufficient to repay the loans raised.
Australia is a net importer of capital, and it has been the Government’s continuing policy in past years to accept the very favourable terms it has been able to negotiate for finance for aircraft purchases for its two airlines. The major part of the present loan will not be drawn until late 1965 or early 1966, and there are obvious advantages in taking steps now to ensure that funds are readily available to meet known future contractual commitments.
Our balance of payments position is strong at present, but it is traditionally subject to wide fluctuations, often within short periods. Our economy is growing rapidly and with that growth there is a continuously increasing demand for imports - materials, capital equipment and other requirements that we must obtain abroad. Our export earnings also have been growing but we cannot expect every year from now on to be better for export earnings than the one before. Rather, whether because of seasonal conditions affecting export production or variations in the prices obtainable in oversea markets, we can expect some years to be less favourable than others for export earnings. Especially when import demand is running high, we will in some years undoubtedly have to draw on our reserves - sometimes, perhaps, quite heavily. That, in fact, is what the reserves are for - to see us through periods when the balance of payments runs against us.
For that reason, it is no more than prudent to take advantage of whatever opportunities we have to strengthen our reserves. The fact that, at a particular time, the level of our international reserves happens to be unusually high can thus be no reason for ceasing to make every effort to increase our export earnings. Nor is it any excuse for forgoing opportunities for obtaining a continuing supply of “ specialist “ capital of this nature when it becomes available on reasonable terms and conditions. The operation of the United States interest equalisation tax has placed difficulties in the way of the Commonwealth continuing its series of public loans on the New York market but, as I shall explain later, the new tax does not apply to borrowings of the type which we have been able to arrange with United States commercial banks, and the same considerations thus do not apply in this case.
The present loan is being made by a group of five United States commercial banks. These are Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York, the Chase Manhattan Bank, Bankers Trust Company, Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago, and American Security and Trust Company. The text of the loan agreement which the Commonwealth negotiated with these banks is annexed as the Schedule to the Bill.
The two airlines will request the Commonwealth to make drawings on the loan as payments for the new aircraft are required by the manufacturer. Drawings are expected to commence soon after parliamentary approval has been obtained to the Bill, and are to be completed by 15th March 1966. A commitment fee of t per cent, is payable on undrawn amounts of the full 30 million dollars, unless the Commonwealth gives notice before 15th March 1965 that only 24 million dollars are required, which would be the case if Qantas decided to finance only two additional Boeings at this stage instead of three. From the date of such notice being given, the commitment fee would apply to only 24 million dollars. The commitment fee is i per cent, less than that payable on the previous Qantas loan.
As the loan is drawn, interest will become payable at 4i per cent., and the
Commonwealth will issue interim promissory notes of appropriate amounts to each of the five lenders. On 31st December 1966, the interim notes will be exchanged for five series of fourteen notes of approximately equal value, which will be payable half-yearly between June 1967 and December 1973. The notes repayable in 1967 will bear interest at 4) per cent., those repayable in 1968 will bear interest at 41 per cent., those repayable in 1969 will bear interest at 5 per cent., those repayable in 1970 will bear interest at 54 per cent., and those repayable in 1971, 1972 and 1973 will bear interest at 5i per cent. The average interest cost over the life of the loan is approximately 5 per cent., or only very fractionally higher than the interest cost for the loan approved in May 1964.
In general, the loan agreement annexed to the Bill follows the form of the previous agreement. In view of the reference to the possible application of the United States interest equalisation tax in the loan agreement for the previous borrowing on behalf of Qantas, I should mention specifically section 8 of the present agreement. This contains an undertaking by the Commonwealth to the effect that not less than 85 per cent, of the proceeds of the loan will be used for the purchase of property manufactured in the United States.
The significance of section 8 will be apparent if I explain that the Interest Equalisation Tax Act became law on 2nd September last. It is now more readily apparent that securities issued for the present loan, and the previous aircraft loan, will not attract the tax. However, by an amendment included shortly before the legislation was passed by Congress, the President is authorised to extend the application of the tax to certain commercial bank loans if, in his view, the acquisition of oversea debt obligations by commercial banks has materially impaired the effectiveness of the tax. The same amendment specifically prevents the application of the provisions of the Act to commercial bank loans, if not less than 85 per cent, of the amount of the loan is attributable to the sale of property manufactured or produced in the United States.
It is clear that both loans will fall within this exempt category.
The terms and conditions of the borrowing have been approved by the Australian Loan Council, and the borrowing will be additional to the Commonwealth’s loan programme of £51.4 million for housing which was approved at the July 1964 meeting of the Loan Council. As with previous loans arranged on behalf of Qantas and T.A.A., the Commonwealth is acting only as an intermediary, and the borrowing will therefore involve no net call on the Commonwealth’s resources.
I must apologise for introducing this Bill so late in the present Parliamentary session but, by force of circumstances, the terms of the loan agreement could not be settled until the end of last month, and the loan agreement, which appears a schedule to the Bill, was not signed in New York until Monday of last week. As I have indicated, both Qantas and T.A.A. will be wishing to draw on loan proceeds before the next Parliamentary session commences. I commend the Bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 11th November (vide page 1657), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill is part of the pattern of adjustment of salaries of senior officers. It relates to salaries that are fixed by particular acts for Senior Commissioners, Commissioners and Conciliators of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and the Public Service Arbitrator. We do not oppose the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 11th November (vide page 1658), on motion by Senator Henty-
That the BUI be now read a second time.
.- This Bill seeks to provide an appropriation of funds for the purpose of increasing, with effect from 1st November 1964, the salaries of permanent heads of departments. The Opposition offers no objection to the Bill, but we note with some surprise that the salaries of the permanent heads of parliamentary departments, all First Division officers, have not been increased by the same percentage as have the salaries of other permanent heads. The salaries of permanent heads of Public Service departments, presently fixed at £5,900, will be increased to £7,500, and salaries now fixed at £6,900 will be increased to £8,750. This represents an increase of 27 per cent. But the salaries of the heads of parliamentary departments are not to be increased by the same percentage. The salary of the Clerk of the Senate will be increased from £5,025 to £6,000 - an increase not of 27 per cent, but of 19.4 per cent. A similar rate of increase applies to the salary of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. The salary of the Parliamentary Librarian will be increased by 22.7 per cent., to £5,400; the salary of the Secretary of the Joint House Department will be increased by 18.2 per cent., to £5,200; and the salary of the Principal Parliamentary Reporter will be increased by 18.8 per cent., to £4,900.
Will the Minister tell us the reason for the differential treatment that has been meted out to the heads of parliamentary departments? These salaries are not subject to any arbitral fixation. They are fixed by the Government. When a general increase in First Division salaries is being made it is somewhat surprising that the percentage increase applied to the salaries of permanent heads of Public Service departments is not applied to those of permanent heads of parliamentary departments. I should like some information on that aspect. Subject to that, we do not oppose the Bill.
– I am grateful to my colleague, Senator Cohen, for directing my attention to the matter he has just raised. It was not until he spoke that I looked at the Schedule to the Bill to see what was involved. One of the curiosities of this situation is that this Bill follows the pattern of the Bill relating to ministerial allowances which we passed a fortnight ago. We saw then what happens when the members of the Ministry are involved in examining their own needs. I must confess that I was filled with pity to hear of the disadvantages under which they had been labouring in relation to allowances and superannuation. My feelings of pity then moved towards the Presiding Officers of the Parliament, Mr. President and Mr. Speaker, and I obtained from my friend, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, a promise that their position in this respect would be examined in the ensuing year.
As Senator Cohen has indicated, here we have a repetition of the pattern that began to emerge when Ministers were considering their own needs. The curia of the Ministry - which I understand consists of three eminent princes who can be identified somewhere in the Schedule by those who know their politics - have decided that the Parliament must be further derogated in the eyes of the executive by assailing - that is what this amounts to - the officers of the Parliament. Where a generous 27 per cent, increase has been granted to all those who can get near the source of revenue, the salary of the Clerk of the Senate will be increased by 19 per cent., the salary of the Principal Parliamentary Reporter by 18.8 per cent, and the salary of the Secretary of the Joint House Department by 18.2 per cent. If it is good enough for Public Service First Division officers to have their salaries increased by 27 per cent, and if it is good enough for members of Parliament to have their remuneration increased by 27 Der cent., surely it is good enough for the officers of the Parliament itself to have their salaries increased at least by a similar percentage.
This is the second instance of a pushing of the Parliament into the background. Its own officers have now been pushed into the background. I think it is time that the Parliament began to take notice of what is haD.pening. Honorable senators will recall that during the debate on the Appropriation Bills last May Senator Murphy directed attention to what he considered to be the need for the
Parliament to operate under its own Act. When we see Bills of the kind now before us, we may well think the time has arrived when the Parliament should have its own Act and be master inside its own house. I should be grateful if the Minister would give me some rational explanation of the differential that has been applied in the fixing of salaries in the instances to which I have referred.
– I am indebted to Senator Cohen and Senator Cormack for their assistance in this matter. 1 think I should make it quite clear that there is no real difference between the views of the Government and the views which have been very well and very properly expressed by those honorable senators about the quality, loyalty and indefatigability of the heads of the parliamentary departments and, for that matter, of their staffs as well. I think all honorable senators are very much indebted to our friend, the Clerk of the Senate. We, as Ministers, are doubly indebted to the Senate staff since we have responsibility for the business of the Senate. We receive enormous assistance from the Clerk and his staff in discharging that responsibility. I am certain that the same position applies in another place. I know that certain observations were made there similar to those which have been made in the Senate. There is no question, therefore, of any lack of understanding or appreciation of the role of the permanent staffs of the Parliament.
Certain remarks have been made bearing upon the salaries now proposed for the heads of the various parliamentary departments. As to these proposed salaries, I feel that certain things need to be understood and that certain of the background needs to be sketched in. lt is the responsibility of the Government to fix a suitable range of salaries for officers in the First Division of the Public Service and in various statutory bodies, and for persons who are members of various Government boards and the like. In all, these positions number at least 100 - perhaps a good deal more. They spread across a very wide range of salaries. On the existing salary structure - that is, before the adjustments now in contemplation - salaries run from about £3,000 at the bottom to £7,900 at the top. In arriving at decisions about its review of all these salaries the Government has, of necessity, to adopt certain guide lines and rules. Unless this were so, a somewhat chaotic situation would result. The existing salary levels have, for the most part, evolved over a long period of time and adjustments of uneven character, unless demonstrably necessary, set unacceptable repercussions in train.
The central point at issue concerning the salaries of the heads of parliamentary departments seems to be the difference in the size, and the percentage, of the adjustment proposed for the heads of the parliamentary departments. Although the latter share with the heads of the Public Service departments what is known under the Public Service Act as First Division status, I doubt whether it is claimed that the parliamentary permanent heads are to be equated with the Public Service permanent heads. In any event, in the period of this Government’s term of office such an equation has never been admitted.
Throughout all recent history at least, the heads of the Parliamentary departments have been, for salary purposes, given what I may describe as a high place - indeed a very high place - in the structure below the heads of the Public Service departments. The proposals now put forward are in conformity with this. In fact, as I will indicate in a moment, they are somewhat better than “ in conformity “.
I would like to quote some figures. If we look at the existing salary of the Clerk of the Senate and also of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, we find that it is £5,025. This has applied since 1959. If we look next at the Public Service Board paper tabled in Parliament recently in response to questions by the Leader of the Opposition in another place, we find that those on the salary level of £4,777 in the Public Service - that is, just below that of the Clerks - received in general an increase of £848. We find also that those on the Public Service salary level of £5,277 - just above that ot the Clerks - received in general an increase of £768. I repeat those figures - £848 and £768 on Public Service comparisons.
The increase proposed for the Clerk of the Senate and the Clerk of the House is £975 - from £5,025 to £6,000. In proposing this adjustment, the Government had in front of it representations by the Presiding Officers and, as the Senate will see, made a response to those representations. It is clear that the salaries for the Clerks have moved to a greater extent than those in the Public Service on comparable salary levels prior to the recent series of adjustments. 1 do not feel that I need take the matter beyond this. Our appreciation and admiration of the work of the Clerks are undoubted. Our salary proposal for them was carefully and sympathetically arrived at, but took into account - as it must - not only the overall salary fixing responsibilities which rest upon the Government but also the very factors to which reference has been made by honorable senators and which had been fully presented by the Presiding Officers for the consideration of the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
.- I do not want to repeat what I said in the debate on the second reading, but I have listened to the explanation of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) and would suggest that we should not be entirely satisfied with it. The Minister made a comparison between the salaries of the heads of parliamentary departments and officers in the First Division of the Public Service who are in receipt of comparable salaries. On that basis, he suggested that the adjustments in salaries were not unfavorable to the parliamentary heads. I put it to the Minister that these parliamentary officers are all First Division officers and I would suggest that the Cabinet take another look at the question during the parliamentary recess and before the next sessional period.
– I identify myself with the view expressed on both sides of the chamber that the position of the five officers should be reviewed. The decision on salaries has been made by the Govern ment at Cabinet level in relation to First Division officers and if I heard the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) correctly, he indicated that these decisions were reached after consultation with the Presiding Officers.
– That is correct.
– I am interested to hear that because I do not see the logic of procedure whereby the Government, in seeking a norm for these First Division officers, should look for a standard outside the First Division. That seems to me a fundamental error that the Government has made. I should have thought that the Government would look for its standard among officers of the First Division with whom these five officers are classified. I think the Government has chosen not only the wrong standard but the illogical standard in seeking to equate these officers to those outside the First Division.
I would hope that the Government would have regard, not only to what has been said here today, but also to what has been said elsewhere in the Parliament on this matter. I rise particularly to identify, not only myself, but the whole of the Opposition with the view I have put. I would hope that the Minister would give us some indication that he will ask the Cabinet, of which he is a member, to have another look at this particular provision.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henry) read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Henty) agreed to -
That the Committee approves the statement for the year 1963-64 of Heads of Expenditure and the Amounts charged thereto pursuant to section 36A of the Audit Act 1901-1962.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Senate adjourned at 5.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 November 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1964/19641112_senate_25_s27/>.