25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Representations have been made to me on behalf of part time female cleaners employed by the Commonwealth Government, with particular reference to the fact that they do not enjoy the furlough benefits provided under the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act. I understand that they work 23$ hours a week and that if they worked another 15 minutes each week, they would be eligible for furlough benefits. Will the Minister be good enough to have this matter reviewed so that the female cleaners to whom I have referred will receive furlough benefits under the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act? lt seems to me that a simple solution would be to extend their working hours by 15 minutes each week.
– I think it would be obvious to the honorable senator that I have no personal knowledge of this matter. I shall refer his question to the Minister for the Interior.
– Does the Minister for Civil Aviation know that members of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots, particularly pilots of DC3 aircraft, are concerned that safety standards relating to lake off loads have not been reviewed for some years? Can the Minister give the Senate any information regarding this matter?
– I am sure that the Department of Civil Aviation has no knowledge of any request by the Australian Federation of Air Pilots along the lines referred to by the honorable senator. Conferences are regularly held on such matters. As a result of discussions with the Federation over the years and of performance tests conducted with aircraft such as the DC3, weight adjustments have been made including reduction of the maximum weight for freighters from 26,900 lb. to 26,200 lb., which is the maximum weight for passenger carrying operations. None of the matters considered was related to the age of the aircraft. However, I can assure the honorable senator that safety standards are continually under review, because safety is the prime consideration of the Department of Civil Aviation.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: Has the Minister observed Press reports that during the past four years several hire purchase and trading companies have fallen into a state of bankruptcy? Has the Minister been aware that most of the finance provided for those companies came from persons possessed of little money who were attracted to invest their savings in unsecured notes and debentures by very high interest rates offered by the companies? Will the Minister endeavour to arrange for the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the other savings banks in Australia to display on their premises a simple statement that the security of all sums invested is the main consideration for all investments?
– The Commonwealth’s jurisdiction in this field is not nearly as wide as that of the States. The State Governments have been dealing with the matter of the various calamitous happenings that have occurred in this field over the last two or three years - they have been calamitous for many people - because primarily it comes within their jurisdiction. The honoraable senator’s question on policy matters cannot be answered at question time. If he puts his question on the notice paper, I will ask the Treasurer to forward a reply to him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Government noted in today’s Press a report of a statement by the Minister for Health in the Laotian Government, who is now visiting Australia, to the effect that North Vietnam is definitely giving help to the Communist Pathet Lao rebels in Laos and that Communist China is aiding the rebels with arms and equipment? Does this mean that the pattern of Communist subversion from
North Vietnam, with which we are familiar in South Vietnam, is being repeated in Laos?
– I have not noticed the report to which the honorable senator has referred. If he so desires, he might put his question on the notice paper so that the Minister for External Affairs can give an answer to it. However, for some years it has been evident that the Pathet Lao has been supported, at least from time to time, by elements of the North Vietnamese Army and by the North Vietnamese Government. So there does not appear to be anything very new in the reported statement to which the honorable senator has referred.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. Is the Department of Works, by public advertisement, calling for tenders for the erection of 520 dwelling units in Papua and New Guinea? Is it a condition of contract that the successful tenderer will be required to recruit all skilled and semi-skilled labour from outside the Territory, unless specific approval to the contrary is given? Is it also a condition of contract that all manufactured materials must be .imported? Why are these conditions stipulated? Should not encouragement be given to the employment of indigenous labour and the use of locally manufactured materials?
– I am not sure of the exact contract to which the honorable senator is referring; but I know that there is one contract where a condition is that skilled labour - I think most labour, but certainly skilled labour - must be recruited from outside the Territory and that most of the raw materials required for manufacture must be imported into the Territory. The reason for that being a condition of the contract is the insistence of the Administration of the Territory that large numbers of people and large amounts of materials should not be drawn from the Territory’s resources, so upsetting its other requirements.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior: What is the estimated cost of conducting the proposed referendum in May of next year?
– I believe I have the information in my office. I have not got it with me at the moment. If it is not in my office, I shall get it from the Minister concerned. In any case, I shall forward it to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Would he arrange with the Minister for the Army for periodic visits to be made by parliamentarians to the Australian troops serving in Vietnam? I raise the question because of a request that has been made by young soldiers who are home on leave. They have told their State representative, Mr. Grassby, M.L.A., that they have been visited by Australian entertainers and clergymen but not by their elected parliamentary representatives: Would the Minister consult with his colleague with a view to arranging such visits? On the spot inspections by parliamentarians might help to overcome many of the problems of the Australian servicemen and result in the securing of amenities which would be of benefit to Australian servicemen who are serving in various areas.
– I shall have pleasure in referring the question to the Minister for the Army arid in asking him for a reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Insurance Commissioner initiated a thorough investigation of the M.L.C. Ltd., and can we be assured that he will use all his powers under the insurance acts to protect policy holders?
– The honorable senator has raised a most important matter. It is not one to be treated lightly. I would prefer that the Treasurer gave him an answer. If he places the question on the notice paper, I shall ask the Treasurer to deal with it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Is it a fact that 3,000 bags of Christmas mail, including some for the. United Kingdom, were left on the Mel- bourne wharves last Sunday because . a Greek ship sailed before the mail was loaded? Will the Postmaster-General consider making special arrangements to affreight this mail to forward ports so that it may reach London before Christmas Day?
– I understand that there was some difficulty in relation to Christmas mail being shipped from Melbourne on the “ Australis “. I have been informed that the Postmaster-General’s Department did, in fact, make emergency arrangements to air freight quite an amount of that mail to the West to enable it to reach its destination prior to Christmas.
– What about the overseas mail?
– This was overseas mail, lt was air freighted to the West so that it could be loaded on the ship at Fremantle. However, the Department was unable to air freight a certain proportion of the mail or to accommodate it in other ships. There was difficulty in arranging charter flights to carry all the. mail to the West, and I believe there is still some uncertainty as to whether some of it will reach its destination before Christmas. However, 1 shall make further inquiries from the PostmasterGeneral to see whether anything further can be done to meet this unfortunate situation.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that the Department of Civil Aviation proposes to erect licensed motels in or adjacent to major airports? If this is a fact, will the Government, before proceeding with the proposal, attempt to assess the effect that such licensed motels would have on hotels close to the airports, the proprietors of which have been spending large sums of private capital in order to provide accommodation for the travelling public?
– I understand that one or two proposals for the provision of motel services within airports are under examination. This is in accordance with the pattern which the Department has been following in ari endeavour to get as much revenue as possible from airports, in view of the great capital expenditure on airports that is taking place at the present time. We are trying to service some of the great capital expenditure other than from the taxpayers. The Department is endeavouring to raise revenues, wherever possible, from those who use the airports. Apart from that, this service will fill a great need. I noted this development in other countries on my recent trip overseas. There are motel-hotel facilities in some of the major international airports, and these are very handy indeed if aircraft are delayed or some circumstance arises which requires passengers to come to an airport and then wait for 12 or 24 hours. That is the attitude that we are adopting at the moment. However, I undertake to discuss with the Department the position that the honorable senator has raised and the possible effect upon hotels in the near vicinity which may or may not be providing the facilities.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Government in possession of any authentic information concerning the grave food crisis in India? Do reports received by the Government confirm suggestions that the situation, especially with regard to food crops, is the worst for many, many years? Has the Government received any requests from the Indian Government or from any other source for assistance, and if it has are there any practical steps that can be taken within the competence of this Government?
– All that I know personally of this matter is what I have read in the newspapers. We are told that a grave position is facing India. To the best of my knowledge, the Government has not as yet had any request for assistance, but if there is any additional information that I can get for the honorable senator I shall obtain it for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. As many hundreds of thousands of pounds of Commonwealth money are being paid towards Commonwealth scholarships awarded as a result of examinations conducted by the State universities or boards authorised by those universities, is the Minister watching the question revealed in Melbourne of illegal disclosure of examination papers prior to the holding of such examinations? ls the Minister satisfied that the State universities and their boards throughout Australia are taking adequate steps to prevent such leakages?
– I do not think that this matter really comes directly within my responsibility. In answer to the last part of the question, no-one could say he was satisfied that in Victoria, at any rate, adequate measures were being taken. In fact, the Victorian Government, I gather, is very disturbed at indications that one matriculation paper was made available to those who knew about it and could buy .it. This is a problem which the Victorian Government itself is looking into and seeking to overcome. J do not think that it is a matter about which I as a Commonwealth Minister have power to do anything. These matters are in the hands of each State, which is responsible for the body that sets the examination and the security of the examination papers.
– 1 direct a question to you, Mr. President. Are you aware that in a book entitled “ The Rulers “ a Canberra journalist-author criticises the women in this Senate, saying they were of a type that made no public appeal either to men or to their own sex - middle aged or elderly spinsters lacking the strength of men and the femininity that might have been a substitute for it; that they were better away from Canberra, where they exerted neither influence nor personal charm; and that women suffrage has given women voters such poor representation from their own sex, instead of bright, intelligent and even, perhaps, attractive women, who could win votes at elections and contribute something to the value of the country after entering Parliament? My question to you, Mr. President, is this: Is it not a fact that all women members of the Senate have been elected on the same standards of charm, intelligence and physical attraction as have our male colleagues? Have not lady senators contributed to the work of the Senate in an even greater measure than their numbers would indicate? Have not the women of the Senate shown a very good example to the men in how to win votes?
– I have not seen tha book to which the honorable senator has referred. Let me make it clear that I have no doubt about the capacity of our lady senators. However, whilst I would be anxious to protect them from attacks such as this, I am of the opinion that they are quite capable of protecting themselves.
(Question No. 670.)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
Does Australia export green turtles, particularly those found off the Western Australian coast? If so, (a) to what countries are these turtles exported; (b) what was the value of these exports for the last three years; and (c) how does this practice reconcile with the Government’s attitude towards preserving all forms of native fauna?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s, question is as follows -
(Question No. 722.)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Having regard to the fact that direct telephone dialling betwen Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney has been in operation for some time, what progress has been, or is being made, to provide direct telephone dialling facilities between all Australian capital cities?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer -
In general, the large-scale development of subscriber trunk dialling- S.T.D. - between capital cities depends upon the provision of high capacity trunk line systems and modern trunk switching exchanges, for which plans are well advanced. However, the present intercapital S.T.D. system oatered for by existing plant at Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, is being progressively extended and facilities were installed on the 15th November last to allow the 25,000 Sydney subscribers, who could already make S.T.D. calls to Canberra and Melbourne, to dial calls to Brisbane subscribers as well. Moreover, I expect to make an announcement shortly about increasing the number of subscribers in Melbourne who will be able to dial calls to Canberra and Sydney.
By 1967-68, it is expected that each capital city subscriber connectedto the S.T.D. system at that time, whether in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, will be able to dial his calls to all subscribers in the other three cities. By then, it is hoped that some subscribers in Adelaide will also have S.T.D. access to certain capital cities. On present indications, S.T.D. service will be available between all capital cities by 1971-72. At that stage, not every subscriber in each of the capitalcities will have S.T.D. access because some will still be connected to local automatic exchanges of a type not suitable for integration in the S.T.D. network. The equipment in these exchanges will be progressively modified to enable their subscribers to have access to the S.T.D. network.
(Question No. 737.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply to the honorable senator’s questions -
– On 11th November Senator Hendrickson asked me the following question -
In view of the recent statement that a large sum of money is to be spent by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, I ask the Minister: Can he say whether the Government has given consideration to making telephone charges throughout Australia uniform in the same way as postal charges and telegraph charges are uniform? Can he say whether the Postmaster-General has asked his officers to extend the present extended local service area in each capital city from the existing radius of 20 miles from the centre to something like 40 miles? If he cannot give an answer now, will he advise me within the next few months as to what progress has been made in the consideration of this matter?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply -
It is assumed that the reference to uniform telephone charges relates to trunk call fees. The question of adopting a uniform rate for all trunk calls, irrespective of distance, has been examined from time to time. In this respect, the Post Office is not opposed to a uniform rate system on any general grounds of principle as is evidenced by the fact that this basis of charging is in force for ordinary mail and telegrams. Moreover, because of technical developments in the methods of providing trunk channels, particularly over the longer distances, it has been practicable in recent years to simplify considerably the schedule of trunk call tariffs by reducing the number of different mileage charging divisions from twenty-six to the present seven.
Nevertheless, a uniform rate system for all trunk calls would react to the disadvantage of the great majority of telephone users. For instance, in order to secure revenue equivalent to that now being obtained with the existing method of charging for trunk calls and to compensatefor the loss on longer distance calls, it would be necessary to fix a uniform rate substantially higher than the present fees for calls over the shorter distances.
As a result, introduction of the proposal would not be in the best interests of a large section of telephone users who would, in effect, be subsidising calls over the longer distances. In addition, the changes in the disposition and incidence of trunk call traffic which would occur would create technical, operating and financial problems and upset the whole balance of the existing trunk line system without any compensating benefit to telephone users generally.
Regarding the extension of the capital city E.L.S.A. areas to a radius of 40 miles, the position is that, prior to the introduction of the community telephone plan, an extensive study was undertaken to determine the distance over which local calls might be permitted generally and, in particular, around the capital cities. The main factors which influenced the plan finally adopted were community of interest, traffic volumes, and the economics of providing plant and equipment.
Adoption of the proposal would involve the Post Office in a loss of revenue since a large volume of calls now chargeable at trunk rates would become local calls. In addition, substantial costs would be incurred in providing the extra line plant and exchange equipment that would be needed to meet the increased demand for calls which could bc expected. The losses and costs involved in extending the capital city unit fee areas beyond the E.L.S.A. boundaries rise so sharply in relation to possible savings that serious economic objections arc involved in the proposal.
Another aspect is that it would hardly be reasonable to enlarge the capital city local call areas without taking similar action elsewhere throughout the Commonwealth. This, in effect, would mean a general extension of local call areas beyond the point which thorough investigations have shown to be the practical limits.
Motion (by Senator Henty) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence of General Business after 8 p.m. this sitting, except for Notice of Motion No. 4.
Debate resumed from 24th November (vide page 1803), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
– When the debate was interrupted last night I was discussing the States Grants (Special Assistance) Bill which is the second of two bills dealing with grants to the States. The States Grants Bill, with which the Senate has already dealt, provides for general grants to the States, whereas the Bill now before the Senate provides for grants to Western Australia and Tasmania. The grant for Western Australia amounts to £12 million and that for Tasmania to £8$ million. Last night I traced the development of the process by which the number of standard States was reduced over the years until today there are only two.
The Vernon Committee in its report stated that there should be greater co-ordination in assessing the merits of special projects to be undertaken with finance provided by Commonwealth grants. The Committee stated that obviously there was no informed forward planning by the States and not sufficient examination of special projects. It suggested that someone should be looking at such projects and saying what should be done about them, so that both the States and the Commonwealth may be assured of the desirability of expending money in certain areas, perhaps remote areas of Australia. The Committee pointed out the need for machinery for a co-ordinated examination of such projects. It suggested that there should be forward planning, of which there is not sufficient at the moment, and that a special projects committee ought to be set up.
This is nol the first time that this kind of committee has been suggested. I made such a suggestion in 1950, because I believe that the reality of politics is such that we cannot expect State Governments to do certain things. On the other hand, if the Commonwealth Government has only a narrow majority, it is inhibited from moving into certain projects which, although they would be economically viable, are not as politically attractive as other projects. I suggested the setting up of a Senate standing committee in an effort to bridge the gap. Such a committee would be free of inhibitions caused by local politics, electoral considerations and the claims of one State as opposed to those of another. It could take into consideration the common good. Senator McKenna in the same year suggested’ something just a little different; he said that a Senate committee ought continually to be examining the question of special grants to the claimant States and to other States which might have special projects in mind. In the early days of the Public Accounts Committee after the period from 1929 to 1931, when Mr. J. B. Chifley was a member of the Committee, it was suggested that a permanent body should be set up to deal with these problems. Such a body - the Commonwealth Grants Commission - has been appointed.
You, Mr. Deputy President, being a Western Australian like myself, know that there has been some unseemly argument between the Premier of Western Australia and the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) about the rail standardisation project in that State. On the one hand, the Prime Minister has pointed out that when the project was commenced the estimated cost was £41 million, that it has now moved up to £55 million and that it will probably end up being about £60 million, or 50 per cent, greater than the original estimate. The Premier of Western Australia, on the other hand, has been saying: “ You are not doing so well in your own Commonwealth budgeting. Very frequently the same percentage increase occurs with Commonwealth projects “. Be that as it may, it is unsatisfactory if somebody is budgeting for a project without having the responsibility of paying for it. There is always the lingering thought that the Commonwealth will underwrite the project. In spite of the treatment that has been given to the report of the Vernon Committee, I suggest to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty), who is in charge of this Bill, that the proposal to which I have referred should be looked at very carefully. Each year an increasing number of special grants is being made. Whereas between 1951 and 1960 there were eight such grants, in 1963-64 the Commonwealth was interested in 14 projects. Obviously the number will increase. If a proper system of priorities is to be adopted, free of electoral or political considerations, we must establish some sort of co-ordinating body that will be free of the inhibitions I have mentioned. Proper recommendations could then be made to the Commonwealth Government about making special grants.
At the end of his second reading speech, the Minister paid a tribute to Professor Wilfred Prest and Sir Alexander Reid, whose appointments as members of the Commonwealth Grants Commission have been terminated. He welcomed to the Commission very well known men in the persons of Sir Leslie Melville and Mr. H. J. Goodes. Mr. Goodes was a Commonwealth civil servant, first in Western Australia and then in Canberra for many years. I should like to pay a tribute also to the staff which has kept the Commission running smoothly ever since 1933. Some very prominent and outstanding Australians have been members of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. They have come and gone, but there has never been a break or a fault in the delicate and difficult investigations that the Commission must undertake. Whenever I see a department running smoothly through changes of Ministers and administrations, I always look behind to the civil servants running the Department. Invariably, I find that they are very able people, dedicated to their tasks. In the case of the Commission, it is an intricate task.
Each year the. reports of the Commission are full of fascinating brain teasers. In the latest report , the Commission examines the State Shipping Service in Western Australia. It deals with the effect that the construction of better roads has had on the volume of business of the State Shipping Service. Credit is given to the Western Australian Government for making an examination of the Service, under Captain Williams. An assessment is made of the benefits contributed to the common good on the western side of Australia. The Commission makes the point that there is no similar situation elsewhere in Australia with which to make a comparison. Taking all these matters into consideration and arriving at a decision calls for very cool and unbiased minds. The decisions cannot be arrived at on wrong advice because the stake is vital. I have regarded the staff of the Commonwealth Grants Commission as being on the same level as the two departing members and the two members who are to join the Commission. The Minister concluded by stating that the recommendations of the Commission had been adopted without amendment in each year since it was established in 1933. The Opposition congratulates the Commission on its record and agrees with the Government that the Commission’s recommendations should be adopted again this year.
– I support this Bill, which follows the States Grants Bill which was passed by the Senate yesterday, providing for the distribution among the States of about £378 million from Commonwealth revenues. This Bill is designed to provide special assistance to Tasmania and Western Australia because of the special disabilities they are suffering in their development. Western Australia is a very large State and the finance available to the Western Australian Government must be used to provide facilities in centres spread over great distances of up to 2,000 miles. Honorable senators will appreciate that to do so involves expenditures not incurred by a State of the size of Victoria. The development of the northern areas of Western Australia is taking a considerable part of the State’s revenues.
Senator Willesee referred to the State Shipping Service which, until a few years ago, operated between Fremantle and Darwin. In latter years, in an effort to economise on the operating expenses of the Service, its run has been extended past Darwin so that cargoes can be picked up on the eastern coast for shipment to Fremantle. As well as reducing running expenses an opportunity is thus provided to manufacturers in the eastern States to ship their goods to Western Australia. This Service is essential to Western Australia in the development of the northern part of the State. Last year the loss incurred by it was £1,216,000. The Commonwealth Grants Commission has made a detailed study of this aspect of the State’s development. It asks: Should the taxpayers of Australia contribute to the loss incurred by this State instrumentality? The State Government says: “ We must provide this service for the development of the north and for the benefit of the people who arc living in the north”. And rightly so.
When an area which is a long way away from the more densely populated cities and towns is being developed, someone has to bear any loss that is incurred. If we want men to go into the outback with their wives and families - and we dr> - we must bear some of the cost of transporting them to and from the capital city on odd occasions - perhaps once a year for their holidays. A person living in Wyndham has to travel about 2,000 miles by sea to spend a holiday in Perth. The cost of that becomes excessive, particularly for people working in that area for government departments or for private enterprise on development projects. So a concession is allowed in respect of women and children for one trip to Perth a year. I believe that that is reasonable. The Commonwealth Grants Commission, after considering this problem of shipping, has said that certain economies could be effected. It has said that, until it has further evidence, it will require the State to bear £16,000 of the loss of £1,216,000 last year and will absorb the balance in the special financial assistance from the Commonwealth.
The total of the grants provided for in this Bill is £20,885,000, of which Western Australia is to receive £12,019,000. The relevant figures are set out in a table in the second reading speech of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty). There are two parts to the grant. The first is an advance payment in respect of the financial year 1965-f36, and the second is the final adjustment of the advance payment made in 1963-64. For Western Australia, the advance payment is £10,500,000 and the adjustment of the advance payment made in 1963-64 is £1,519,000, making the total that I mentioned earlier, namely £12,019,000. It is expected that at some future date Western Australia will be in a similar position to South Australia and will be able to stand on its own feet. I think it can be said that the Western Australian people are working hard to achieve this objective. The State’s productivity is increasing year by year. I certainly look forward to the time when Western Australia will no longer be a claimant State. No doubt Tasmania is also trying to achieve this objective.
Western Australia has a terrific potential for development. Companies are exploiting our iron ore reserves. The introduction of up-grading plants and the building of steel furnace plants or steel manufacturing plants in the north of Western Australia will provide additional employment opportunities and will create additional revenue for the State. Within the next 10 years our financial position should be so healthy that we will not require special assistance grants from the Commonwealth.
– Will the development of cotton production on the Ord River help towards this objective?
– When the honorable senator refers to the irrigable areas of the Kimberleys he is getting on to something that is vital, not only to Western Australia but also the the rest of Australia. The Ord River project is a great concept. As every honorable senator knows, Western Australia has made an application to the Commonwealth Government for an additional £30 million, which is to be spent over 15 years, to complete the Ord River scheme. We were very thankful to the Commonwealth for the gift of almost £6 million for the development of the diversion dam at Bandicoot Bar so that Western Australia could prove that cotton could be grown successfully and economically in that area. We find that the cotton growers there more than broke even in their first year of operation. They averaged 1,430 lb. of seed cotton to the acre. After allowing 6 per cent, for interest on capital outlay and after allowing for managerial expenses, the cotton growers made an average net profit of between £4,000 and £5,000 for the year. In answer to a question which Senator Branson asked yesterday concerning the Ord River scheme, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) said that in the 1964-65 season the Ord River cotton growers averaged 1,937 lb. of seed cotton per acre. The average for the two years since production commenced is 1,785 lb. of seed cotton an acre, which is, I should say, sufficiently high to show a handsome net return to the grower. The net return per farm, according to the Minister, was £7,624 for the 18 farms in production. Returns were as high as £17,854, after meeting all costs, including interest on capital at 6 per cent., and making due allowance for replacement of structures, vehicles and plant. Individual farmers received a return of up to 49 per cent, on their invested capital, with an average of 24 per cent, over all farms. The Minister also mentioned that’ individual farm yields in the’ 1964-65 season were as high as 2,844 lb. of seed cotton an acre, compared with a maximum farm yield of 1,558 lb. an acre in the previous year.
– That would be a lot higher than for some places in America.
– The highest yield of an individual farm on the Ord was 2,844 lb. of seed cotton an acre. In one State of America, namely Texas, the average yield was as low as 1,000 lb. of seed cotton an acre. Of course, in some American States the average yield is as high as 3,372 lb. but we in Western Australia are assured of higher averages as farmers gain additional knowledge.
– What did . the honorable Senator say was. the comparative figure for America?
– The average on the Ord over the past two years has been 1,785 lb. of seed cotton an acre. Last year it was 1,937 lb. The average for the whole of the United States in 1962-63 was only 1,551 lb., but we must remember that the United States pays a big subsidy to its growers for every pound of lint that is exported.
– Manufacturers are even paid for manufacturing cotton goods, are they not?
– Yes. I believe that it works. out at about 10 cents per lb. for the American growers. Although we in Australia are subsidising cotton growers, the growers believe that when they get a little more know how they will be able to compete in the world’s markets. I do not know that we can really expect them to compete in those markets with American growers if the United States Government is subsidising American growers. This figure is arrived at on world parity prices. I am convinced that at this very moment the best farmers on the Ord could grow cotton without subsidy. After visiting the area during harvesting and talking to the farmers, I am convinced that the yield will increase, although the percentage increase will not be as high in the years to come. I do not think that anyone can expect that the increase can continue at the rate of the last 12 months, which was from 1,350 lb. to 1,900 lb. This is an increase of almost 50 per cent., and we could not expect that rate of increase to continue. However, there are many farmers on the Ord now who say that their yields will increase in the ensuing year by at least 300 lb. or -400 lb. an acre. I have asked them on what they based this forecast and they have said: “ We carried out certain experiments on a particular section of our crop by giving it an extra 1 cwt. of nitrogenous fertiliser about a month before the crop had ripened, and this gave fantastic results “. They have also said that they have learned more about controlling insect pests. This has been a problem in the district which has been frightening certain people but the problem has now largely been overcome with the advent of new types of sprays. Bidrin is one which controls the pest prodenia, which attacks the seed boll. There is now no fear of that insect being as bad as it was before the introduction of the new insecticide.
It is reasonable to expect that the average yield of cotton on the Ord will increase, not decrease. I have already mentioned that the average return of 20 farms was £7,624 after making ample allowance for depreciation and interest payments. We can see the increased return that the farmers will get next year when they have increased their yields by 300 lb. or 400 lb. of seed cotton to the acre.
– What is the annual rainfall in the Ord district?
– It is about 35 inches at Kununurra. The rain falls between October and April. But cotton cannot be grown there without irrigation. That is why this application has been made to the Commonwealth for financial assistance.
– More rain than that is needed?
– The crop must be watered when it needs water. There may be 12 inches of rain overnight and then months may pass without another drop falling. Cotton cannot be grown there without irrigation. The results that have been obtained on the Ord are a wonderful achievement for the farmers, some of whom have come from Arizona in America as well as from all parts of Australia. All of them, with the exception of one American who had to return home, have grown successful crops. They are all as keen as mustard to get on with the job and they arc wondering when the Commonwealth will make this additional finance available. I certainly hope that it is in the near future.
Like Senator Willesee, I congratulate the Commonwealth Grants Commission for the excellent work it has done since 1933. The documents which it prepares for the consideration of honorable senators are always full of detailed reasons why this or that should be done or why this or that amount of money should be made available. There are several pages in this report dealing with the Western Australian State Shipping Service, which I mentioned earlier. Western Australia has a problem in relation to social services for natives. As a result of the Commission’s recommendation, £365,000 is being allocated to cover this aspect of the problem of developing the State.
– The report justifies the additional aid.
– That is so. As I have said previously, I hope that in the not too distant future we will be able to place our State in a position where it will not require this additional assistance.
I notice that two members of the Commission will be retiring and that they will be replaced by Sir Leslie Melville and Mr. Goodes. I am sure that they have the excellent qualities which are necessary for this vital job. As Senator Willesee has said, since 1933 Commonwealth Governments have accepted the Commission’s reports in toto. We accept this present report in toto. I have much pleasure in supporting the measure.
.- I have listened with great interest to the references that have been made by Senator Scott and Senator Willesee to aspects of the Bill which relate particularly to Western Australia. This is an example of the way in which we can take an interest, on the national level, in projects so encouraging as the Ord River scheme, to which Senator Scott referred. I rise to address my remarks to a different aspect of the Bill, which provides for special grants to Tasmania and Western Australia. This year an all-time record amount of £8.8 million will be. allocated to Tasmania. The Commonwealth Grants Commission, by recommending a grant of that size to permit Tasmania to discharge her public services at a level which is not unfavorable in comparison with the levels obtaining in the standard States, has given an indication of the benefits of Federation to an island State like Tasmania.
As I said last Tuesday night during the debate on another bill, the Commonwealth Grants Commisison was established as a result of the foresight of a former Tasmanian Premier, the Honorable J. A. Lyons. Since its establishment, the Commission has presented reports which have met with uniform acceptance year by year. That is due not only to the great administrative assistance that the Commission has received but also to those who laid the foundations of principle on which it has worked. I have in mind particularly Professor Giblin, who, as we all know, took a dominant part in formulating the third report of the Commission, which enunciated the principles which have been followed ever since.
The grants that we are discussing now are of a different nature from those embodied in the States Grants Bill which we discussed last Tuesday and Wednesday. That Bill provided for financial assistance to the States. The grants must take that label in accordance with section 96 of the Constitution, but they are really a return to the States of portion of the taxation revenue which the Commonwealth collects by virtue of the powers vested in it under the system of uniform taxation. The States are entitled to that money as a constitutional right, although the right is expressed not in the words of the Constitution, but only in the Act of this Parliament.
But nobody in this chamber can contend in a general political sense that the States were not entitled to that grant. A body of doctrine has developed in relation to this special grant due to the adoption of a principle over the years by the informed Commonwealth Grants Commission. It might almost be said that, after following a uniform practice for some 32 years, a convention has been adopted under which it is always considered that the claimant States constitutionally and as a matter of right are entitled year by year to a recurring grant assessed by the Commission. But with a full sense of the risk that I am taking, I want to develop the idea that there is a special responsibility upon this Parliament to consider this grant and see, not merely that the money is voted, but that it is voted for the purposes for which the Commonwealth Grants Commission recommends that the grant be made, and that the purposes are actually fulfilled by the expenditure of the money.
The manner of expenditure of the general grant comes within the ambit of the State Parliament and the State Government concerned. It is a matter for their own judgment and discretion to appropriate the money as they will. But the Commonwealth has set up a special Grants Commission to make recommendations for two States based on special disability, and detailed reasons are set forth in the report of the Commission which justify that appropriation. We make that money available to the States, not in exchange for any taxation rights we have appropriated, such as those under the uniform taxation arrangement, but because it is proper policy to ensure the development of all six States on something like a comparable economic level.
Senator Scott referred to the recurring shipping losses incurred by the Western Australian Government in maintaining communications between the sparsely settled northern parts of Western Australia and the centres of population in the south. If I have read the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission correctly, it appears to have adopted this attitude to the recurring losses on the Western Australian Shipping Service: It has fixed the limit of the losses it will take into account at £1.2 million. In effect, the Commission has said that that expenditure is justifiable, having regard to the huge area of Western Australia and its long coastline. The Commission believes that up to that point, losses incurred in the maintenance of the Service are justified. That seems to be an instance where this Parliament should ensure that the State Shipping Service is carried on for the purposes for which that item is taken into account by the Grants Commission. Having said that, I abstain from any further reference to the affairs of Western Australia.
But we have a problem - small when considered on a national scale but still a human problem - in respect of a small Bass Strait island, King Island, and the maintenance of shipping services from that island to the northern ports of Tasmania. There have been difficulties in maintaining the services that keep King Island going. Fortunately, King Island has been able to avail itself of air services that are of quite good quality and operate reasonably frequently; but a shipping service is essential to transport the heavy commodities required by the farming community and the stock awaiting export from the island. The Commonwealth Government has been able to recognise that. It has taken the view - I think, with respect, quite unwarrantably - that its intervention should be confined only to interstate shipping. As I have said in the Senate before, I think the Commonwealth’s attitude is unwarranted because in the field of aviation, it never baulks at taking an interest in intrastate services. The Commonwealth subsidises intrastate air services as a matter of accepted policy and has done so for the past 10 or 12 years.
– There is nothing in the Constitution about aviation but there is something in the Constitution which limits the activities of the Commonwealth in respect of intrastate shipping. Is that not so? I am not a constitutional lawyer.
– Do not let it be thought that I put forward any claim that I am a constitutional lawyer or even a lawyer. In the company in which I move, I would scarcely be accorded recognition as such and certainly not as a well furnished constitutional lawyer. The Commonwealth maintains aviation only under its interstate trade and commerce power insofar as it has power to legislate for trade and commerce among the States. The Commonwealth maintains its shipping under exactly the same power. But shipping has been a matter of discussion, under section 98 of the Constitution in the High Court of Australia. I think the matter in question was the Hunter River shipping case, which arose years ago but do not bind me to that statement. Section 98 of the Constitution states -
The power of the Parliament to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping . . .
The argument in the case I have mentioned was that the power in relation to trade and commerce was only as to trade and commerce among the States. However, the argument was put forward that this special addendum in Section 98 showed that the power of the Parliament to make laws with regard to trade and commerce extended to navigation and shipping. It did not mention navigation and shipping among the States. The argument had quite an attractive basis, according to my recollection, when it was urged that, by these additional words, the interstate power with regard to trade and commerce was extended to include intrastate trade when applied to shipping and navigation. But the High Court of Australia said that was not a correct contention. The combined operations of Section 98 and Section 51 of the Constitution give us the interstate trade and commerce power. The High Court handed down its interpretation some 30 years ago and I do not know that any serious challenge has been made since, so we accept it as the prevailing interpretation. The effect is that the power with regard to navigation and shipping is also tied to interstate trade and commerce. So we have aviation on the one hand and shipping and navigation on the other, vis-a-vis the Commonwealth, equally subject to the limitation that the Commonwealth has power only with respect to interstate activity. So, my argument remains completely valid. I am obliged to the Minister for his interjection and also to the Senate for its patience in permitting me quietly to state this point of view.
The argument remains quite valid that the Commonwealth’s power with regard to aviation and also with regard to shipping and navigation pertains to interstate trade and commerce and to nothing else. Therefore, if we subsidise intrastate aviation there should be no real obstacle to our subsidising in a proper case intrastate shipping and navigation. I submit again, not in a provocative way, my contention that the Commonwealth’s limitation of this subsidy to the King Island to Melbourne service on the ground that that is the interstate arm of the service, is unwarranted. I should have thought, also, from a practical point of view, apart from the constitutional considerations I have mentioned, that to limit the subsidy solely to the King Island to Melbourne service is to apply a very technical interpretation to the term “ interstate “. Honorable senators will appreciate that in this respect the island of Tasmania is a subsidiary consideration. It is true that King Island is within the jurisdiction of the Tasmanian State Parliament and that therefore the seas between the northern ports of Tasmania and King Island are Tasmanian waters and that the shipping connection between King Island and Launceston is intrastate, but that is so only in the most extreme technical sense.
In making reference to this matter it is not my intention to disparage the action of the Commonwealth in making assistance available. Subject to the comments I have made, such assistance is greatly appreciated. But greater appreciation would be felt if the assistance were to extend to the other branch of the shipping service, which is the King Island to Launceston branch. I come now to the relevance of this matter to the Bill we are discussing. I have stated my proposition concerning our right and therefore our duty in regard to these grants. I have said that money appropriated under the special grants provisions should fulfil the purposes for which it is appropriated. I have regard to the fact that there is less strength in the contention that a State is as much entitled to a special grant such as that for which this Bill provides as it is to a general grant for reimbursement of income tax. In my view it is quite proper for and, in fact, the inescapable duty of a Tasmanian senator to speak as I am speaking now, and to suggest that a year’s warning be given. I say that in no unfriendly way. I hope that the comments I have made will be kept in mind for the next 12 months. Unless Tasmania itself provides a proper subsidy to match the Commonwealth subsidy for the service from King Island to Melbourne, and unless Tasmania matches the subsidy on the service from King Island to Launceston, in my view it would be quite proper next year to add to legislation such as this to provide assistance to Tasmania a condition that so much of the money as is required for the subsidy be earmarked only for that purpose.
I am speaking for a little island community in the middle of Bass Strait. Fifty years ago it was the pride of any politician who visited such places to assure the outlying settlers that if they went out and settled the land he would see that their requisites were provided and that general services followed. In this day and age when social services simply flood the country, surely one of the most arterial services required by an island community such as the people of King Island is the maintenance of a proper shipping service. It is a reflection upon the capacity of this Parliament and of the Tasmanian Parliament that the shipping services between King Island and Launceston, Burnie, Ulverstone and Devonport are diminishing simply for want of subsidy. Naturally, the islanders are able to get a cheaper freight rate, with the benefit of the Commonwealth subsidy, on imports from and exports to Melbourne. This is a small matter but nevertheless it is one in which a beginning should be made to achieve common sense and balance on the part of the Federal and State Governments.
– I suggested a partnership.
– Yes. I adopt that idea completely. I think it is a reflection upon political judgment that this island community can be made the axis upon which political disagreement is developed, Tasmania saying that it cannot afford the subsidy and the Commonwealth saying that it will confine the subsidy to the interstate arm of the service. We in this Parliament are the custodians of the people’s money. In this instance we are appropriating £8,866,000 for the assistance of Tasmania. We in this chamber do not speak at any time as the delegates either of the Tasmanian Government or of the Tasmanian Parlia- ment. We speak as representatives directly elected by the Tasmanian people and we exercise our proper judgment to further their welfare.
We should take into consideration the essential needs of this small island community and if necessary embark next year on a constitutional innovation. We should see to it that, of the money that we appropriate for the assistance of Tasmania, the amount required is devoted to a subsidy such as I have mentioned.
– How much would it be?
– Between £40,000 and £50,000.
– We are giving the Tasmanian Government an additional £1.8 million and it boggles at £40,000.
– Yes. But we cannot escape our obligations. I say that in no party political spirit. I hope that nobody will understand me to be casting reflections of a party political nature on the Government in power in Tasmania. I think I have shown that I have some comment to make with regard to the Government that is in power here.
– The people of King Island cannot be abandoned.
– Exactly. I am aware that it would be a matter of real constitutional significance if the course I have suggested were to be adopted. That is why I abstain from suggesting that it be adopted this year. I have had it in mind for the last four or five months, ever since the imbroglio, which I think reflects political incompetence somewhere, beset this island community. I have abstained from suggesting actual amendment of the legislation this year only because I think it is proper to give notice that such a course may be necessary next year if the island has not by then been provided with a shipping service on the basis I have mentioned.
That leads me to Senator Willesee’s remarks about the standard gauge railway in Western Australia and discussions bebetween the Premier of that State and the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth statute which authorized a special appropriation to Tasmania to enable that
State to construct a road in the Gordon River area to provide access to a tremendous hydro-electricity potential also authorised the Commonwealth Treasurer to fix standards of design or construction for the road and to advance the money only if he approved those standards of design. The same statute also gave the Treasurer authority to ask for specified information about the construction of the road. If that information is not furnished the Treasurer may withhold further moneys until it is provided. Those conditions provide, in some measure, a precedent for the viewpoint I have been expressing. 1 do not wish anythink that I have said to be understood as implying that I regard the precedent to be directly applicable. I realize that in moving on from a special project of that kind to an annual recurring special grant one is taking a much longer constitutional step.
I hope I shall not be regarded as being tedious if I conclude, as others have concluded, by expressing great appreciation of the painstaking work that obviously has been done by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I refer not only to the personnel of the Commission but also to the staff who assist. Unfailingly year after year this agency of the Commonwealth manages to give complete satisfaction to the States, the officers of which are accorded audience. The States are satisfied that the arguments they present are evaluated objectively quite apart from party political considerations. That confidence on the part of the States has established the esteem in which the Commission is held.
– in reply - I thank Senator Wright for his interesting remarks about States grants and his novel suggestion about laying down conditions upon which some grants might be made available to the States. His suggestion is worthy of examination. Its adoption perhaps would be a trespass upon the sovereign rights of the States, but at least it could be considered.
However, I take up with him his remarks about the shipping service to King Island. In any examination of this matter one must consider the benefit of the Island as a whole. I should think that an adequate modern shipping service would be better for the Island as a whole than would be two or three smaller shipping services operating only partly filled vessels at a very low margin of profit. If my thesis is correct, I believe that it will be possible to reduce the present freight rates between Victoria and King Island. Of course, the service is subsidised. I look forward to an early reduction of the freight rates - not a detachment from the subsidy - for the reason that all the available cargo to and from the Island will be carried in one modern ship, the building of which the Government has subsidised. I believe that the service provided by this vessel will be to the ultimate benefit of the producers on the Island.
– Which ship is the Minister speaking about?
– I am speaking about the “ King Islander “, which was built specifically for this trade. It operates in difficult waters and has to negotiate a very difficult, shallow entrance into Currie Harbour.
– Is it operated by the Australian National Line?
– No. It is operated by a private company, the head of which is actively engaged in the trade and sails the vessel. I deplore the fact that intrastate trade between Tasmanian ports and King Island, which has been carried on with small vessels, has dwindled. When the owners were confronted with the need to replace their vessels with modern vessels, they were faced with great difficulty in substantiating the use of increased capital. We have to consider the welfare of the people on King Island, and I believe that anything we do to ensure cheaper freight rates will be to their advantage.
– The Minister would not suggest dispensing with the King Island to Tasmania link, would he?
– This has been almost inevitable. Trade on this link has been dwindling gradually over the years. It has been maintained with small ships, one of which has now been sold. Unfortunately, there is now no link between Launceston, a city in which I have been interested for more than 50 years, and King Island. Whilst I deplore the discontinuance of this service, it obviously had to come. The point I make is that, in considering the interests of the people as a whole on King Island, we must consider how they can obtain the cheapest freight rates. We could not justify competing services, both subsidised, if one was uneconomic. If we have one economic service and as a result are able to provide cheaper freight rates for producers on the Island, then we are doing something to help them. For the first time these people now have a real equity in their properties. There is now renewed interest in investment on the Island. I am looking forward to a reduction of the present freight rates in the very near future. I am hoping that, after one year’s run and with all cargo concentrated in one vessel, there will be a reduction by 30th June next.
Senator Wright and I are in perfect agreement in our desire to retain the link between Tasmania and King Island. But I can see the Tasmanian Government’s point of view. It has been faced with dwindling trade between these two points. It has been faced with the need to subsidise, and perhaps increasingly subsidise, what was proving to be an uneconomic shipping service. But that does not stay my hand. The honorable senator has made an interesting suggestion that this Government should examine details such as that to which he refers when making these grants. However, I remind the honorable senator that we must be true to our position as representatives of the States and all the taxpayers. We must say: “ Much as we would like to subsidise an opposition service, we must make sure that such a service is warranted economically.”
– I did not think it would be disputed.
– I am not disputing it. Politically, I would never dispute it, but in any consideration of the interesting point raised by the honorable senator, that must be a factor. A lot of the cargo now taken by the new vessel was previously carried by air. Representations have been made to me to subsidise the freighter service. The rule has been made quite clear in the Department of Civil Aviation that we do not subsidise two services to one place. While an air service must be subsidised in order to continue, we will not subsidise an opposition service. This rule has been made quite clear to the airline concerned.
I believe that the new vessel is now doing three trips a week because of the amount of cargo available. The economic use of the vessel is such that I believe it may be possible to reduce freight charges in the near future and that at the end of the year, possibly, the freight position could be reexamined. In my opinion that is the greatest service we can do to the ex-servicemen and other people who are battling on King Island to produce goods and send them out to market. They are not so much interested in where they send their products as they are in the returns they receive. The reduced freight charges are a real benefit to them.
I was very pleased to hear the honorable senator comment on the fact that, in this minor dispute, the valuable assistance given by the Commonwealth Government should not be overlooked. The Commonwealth has assisted both in the provision of finance to build the vessel and by subsidising freight rates. A tremendous advantage has been conferred in this way by the Commonwealth Government on the people of King Island.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 24th November (vide page 1765), on motion by Senator Henty-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill is one of three Bills which deal with the introduction of decimal currency. I suggest that we debate the three Bills - the Currency Bill 1965, the Decimal Currency Board Bill 1965 and the Reserve Bank Bill 1965 - together at the second reading stage and that we vote on them separately.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman). - Order! There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– Honorable senators have the advantage of a very comprehensive second reading speech by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty), who represents the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in this place. That speech describes very clearly and very fully the purposes of the three Bills and gives what the Minister described as a run-down on the steps that are being taken to put decimal currency into operation. I believe that the comprehensiveness of the speech is due very largely to the influence of the Decimal Currency Board and the Treasury officers. I pay a compliment to both the Board and the Treasury officers for the way in which the Bills were presented to the Parliament in that speech.
The Board was entrusted with the truly Herculean task of introducing decimal currency. So far as one can judge at this stage, that task has been tackled with care, foresight and a high degree of competent planning. It is rather interesting to note the absence of public disputation in relation to this very important matter. I think that flows from the fact that, as the Minister indicated, there has been a very high degree of consultation with all the parties who are interested in this new development, from the State Governments and the drafting officers in all of the States to the innumerable bodies that are most intimately concerned with the monetary system, which is the lifeblood of all of the business transactions in the nation. It is good to see that, according to the Minister, all parties have reached general agreement on the many facets of the scheme.
Of course, the real test will come on 14th February next when decimal currency is launched. But all the signs point to a successful launching. If it is the success which seems to be indicated, we members of the Opposition will feel obliged to congratulate the Decimal Currency Board, the Treasury officers and the other people concerned with the planning and introduction of the scheme. On behalf of the Opposition, I say that we expect and hope to be able to congratulate the Board, the Treasury and the Government generally on the implementation of the scheme.
We approved the principle of the introduction of decimal currency from the very beginning. But prior to the introduction of the Currency Bill 1963 we took the opportunity in both Houses of the Parliament to open up the matter. In discussions in both chambers we contended for a dollar equivalent to 8s. 4d. In other words, we contended for the establishment of decimal currency on the basis of there being 10Od or 100 cents in a dollar. There was a strong argument for that proposition, supplemented by our other proposition that a half-cent, being the equivalent of a halfpenny, should be included. They were the real differences between the Government and the Opposition. We persisted in that view when the Currency Bill 1963 was before the Parliament. However, the Parliament decided against acceptance of both of our proposals. So the scheme is being floated on the basis that 120d. in our present currency will be the equivalent of 100 cents, which will be the constituent parts of the new unit of a dollar, which in turn will be the equivalent of our present 1 0s. note.
Our concern lay in the fact that, on investigation, we found that the prices of 157 commodity and service items were affected by the halfpenny. They were mainly foodstuffs and other daily needs, such as milk, bread, groceries, newspapers and transport. There is a multiplicity of items of that nature. Our examination showed that 157 of them were affected.
– By the penny or the halfpenny?
– By the halfpenny and by there being no exact equivalent in cents for some amounts between id. and 6d. Pence and cents equate from 6d. on; so there is no real trouble there. The trouble lies in individual items, most of which are fairly small ones the prices of which are less than 2s. The prices of some of the items are more than 2s.
On the basis of our examination of the matter, we reached the conclusion that, if human nature ran true to itself in respect of items of the type that I have indicated - where it is impossible to find an exact equivalent for pence in cents - there would be a tendency for the business community to go to the higher level rather than to the lower level in reconciling pence and cents. That temptation exists, and one of the hardest things in the world to resist is temptation, particularly when yielding means making a monetary profit. I suppose that each item of monetary profit would be small - it might be one-fifth of a penny - but when multiplied by millions of transactions it could result in a vast profit for vendors of goods and services. Our estimate was that as much as £50 million per annum could be added to the prices of some commodities and services.
It was for that reason that we saw the danger of a stimulus to inflation - the inflation that is already current in Australia. We sought to avoid that stimulus to inflation by having exact equivalents between pence and cents at all stages. The proposal that we made in the Parliament would have achieved that result. I am told - 1 presume that it is correct - that even if the Government had second thoughts, it is now too late to go back and introduce the half-cent that would do a great deal to ameliorate the position which I have outlined. It is unfortunate if that is the case. If the tendency is to move upwards rather than downwards in seeking to convert current prices to the nearest cent, we of the Opposition will have a clear conscience in the matter. We directed attention to this possibility before the Currency Bill .1963 was introduced, and we pressed our view when the Bill was before the Parliament.
On that point the Government has met us with the argument that the difficulty concerns only items costing from Id. to 5d. It has argued that there will be as many reductions as there will be increases, and that things will balance out. Its great argument has been that competition will ensure that the situation is policed. All that we of the Opposition say on that is that we have already heard the story that competition forces prices down. The Government parties told it to the people of Australia when a referendum to confer power on this Parliament to control prices was put to the people in 1948. They said: “ Leave it to competition. Competition will ensure that prices go down “. They followed that up in the 1949 election campaign with a similar assurance. They made the solemn declaration that they would keep prices down and put value back into the pound. What did we find? We found that the business people of Australia took the fullest advantage of the inflationary tendencies. We had raging inflation that gave many sleepless nights to the members of the Government for the four or five years succeeding their election in 1949. That was a situation that brought terrific distress to the people of this country, especially those on fixed incomes. Pensioners and superannuated people had no means of keeping abreast of the raging inflation. At that time cost of living adjustments were applicable to the basic wage. Enormous increases were made in the basic wage every three months, as a matter of justice and necessity, to keep the workers of this country on an even keel, or, at least, only three months behind increases in prices.
We completely reject the argument that competition will prevent people from taking the easy and profitable course of moving up to the higher cent rather than the course of coming back to the lower cent. Although the amount involved on each article will be small, the higher prices will give to the vendors an enormous extra profit over a year. We do not accept the Government’s argument, and we can only hope that we are wrong in forecasting that business interests will take the fullest advantage of the opportunity that is presented to them by the Government.
The- three Bills before us are all machinery measures. The purpose of the Decimal Currency Board Bill is to repeal the Currency Act 1963 in all particulars except those relating to the setting up of the Decimal Currency Board and its functions. All the other provisions - those which relate to the introduction of the scheme, the transitional period, legal tender and other matters - will be transferred to the Currency Bill 1965. The Decimal Currency Board Bill is a measure of which I approve. The Decimal Currency Board is ephemeral only. When the scheme is launched it will go out of existence. There is no point in preserving any reference to it. Once these Bills are passed, the people of Australia will be able to pick up the Currency Act and see all the provisions that are applicable. The Act will not be cluttered up with outdated provisions in relation to the Board, whose existence will presently expire. Any reference to it would only clutter up current statutes.
The Reserve Bank Bill does a number of things. It authorises the creation of decimal currency notes in the denominations that are set out and provides that, if the need arises, the Treasurer may authorise the printing and circulation of notes of different denominations. The Bill makes those notes legal tender. It also authorises the issue of notes of the present currency during the transitional period of two years.
I come now to the Currency Bill, which I regard as the major one of the three measures. As I said before, they are all machinery measures. The Currency Bill incorporates the repeated sections of the Currency Act 1963, and in many cases expands them to meet the current situation. Amongst other things, the Currency Bill nominates the changeover date as 14th February 1966; it provides for two currencies, the present one and the new decimal one, to operate in a transitional period of two years; it makes substantial changes to the transitional provisions - changes that I regard as necessary; and it makes the three business days preceding 14th February 1966 non-business days for banks. The banks will be closed for business on the 10th, 11th and 12th February and, of course, on Sunday 13th February. Thereafter all banking transactions will be recorded in decimal terms only. Cheques, promissory notes, bills of exchange and so on must thereafter be written in dollars and cents to be valid. The Bill also provides for legal tender for the coins. These provisions are all necessary. We have no objection to any of them.
The second reading speech foreshadowed additional legislation. The provisions relating to the trust fund for the purchase of metals for use in manufacturing coins are to be translated to the Audit Act. We shall have an amendment of that Act for that purpose. It has been indicated that although an omnibus provision in the Currency Bill covers a great many Commonwealth acts where reference is made to pounds, shillings and pence, it will be necessary to make specific amendments to some 30 acts of the National Parliament. I understand - I hope I have been correctly informed - that 30 separate measures were introduced in another place today for that purpose. I merely pause to ask at this time: Why is there a need to amend 30 separate acts? We have had many changes of Commonwealth acts affected in a consolidation measure. It seems to me that consideration might have been given to achieving the purpose by having one act and showing the changes in a schedule to that act. However, that is a matter upon which we can comment at some other stage. I address myself with brevity to these three Bills because they are necessary. We on this side of the Senate find nothing to oppose in them. We support them and we trust that decimal currency will be afloat on 14th February next, with success and without inconvenience to any of the people in Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), in his second reading speech, asked me a question and I have the information for him. I am advised that there is a blanket conversion clause in the Currency Bill. The amendments to the other 30 Acts are all instances in which a blanket conversion is not appropriate and an amendment has to be made specifically.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henry) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 24th November (vide page 1765), on motion by Senator Henty -
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 24th November (vide page 1766), on motion by Senator Henty -
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 23rd November (vide page 1705), on motion by Senator McKellar-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill proposes to amend the Foot and Mouth Disease Act by extending the provisions of the Act to include two diseases which have been isolated and recognised by people concerned with veterinary science and primary industry and which have been identified by our own quarantine authorities. Because these diseases are virtually indistinguishable from foot and mouth disease, special provision is being made in this legislation to cover them. Their names are vesicular exanthema and vesicular stomatitis. From what I can gather, these types of virus are small and filterable and it is very difficult to distinguish them from the foot and mouth disease virus. The methods used to control by quarantine any avenue through which these diseases could come to Australia call for commendation not only in this Parliament but also throughout the Commonwealth. We have to be very thankful that none of these types of virus has manifested itself in this country, in spite of the fact that great numbers of stock and many primary products move into Australia from other parts of the world.
The Act establishes an arrangement with the States whereby, if an outbreak did occur in any State, the Commonwealth would immediately subsidise quarantine and control action on a £1 for £1 basis. This provides a definite assurance to the States that rather than that they should have to make appeals to the Commonwealth for additional funds, rapid and effective action may be taken immediately. The Act establishes a Foot and Mouth Disease Eradication Trust Account for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. This is a precautionary measure taken by the Commonwealth in respect of its own Territories, in anticipation of any emergency that might arise on the outbreak of this disease.
The Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), in his second reading speech, paid special tribute to the ever vigilant efforts of the excellent quarantine services. He remarked that if this disease were introduced and allowed to get out of hand it would cause economic losses that could be measured in millions of pounds. The continual vigilance and efficiency of the quarantine services have become more or less legendary. They were evident even during such an important feature event as the Olympic Games - with particular reference to the equestrian events - when the minds of most people were turned towards sport, which took priority over other matters in the community. Nevertheless, the vigilance of the health authorities in making certain that stringent quarantine regulations are observed proves that their purpose is to ensure that through no default by the Department will this disease ever enter Australia.
This very highly contagious disease affects the cloven hoofed animals. Although it is known to have affected humans and although cats, dogs and rabbits have been infected with the virus for experimental purposes and have been known to contract the disease, it is associated mainly with cattle sheep, goats and pigs. The value of these cloven hoofed animals to the Australian economy drives home in no uncertain manner the importance of keeping the disease out of this country. Over the centuries foot and mouth disease has occurred in Europe and in England. Quite a number of countries to the north of Australia have experienced outbreaks of it. I have no information on whether the two varieties of the virus, exanthema and stomatitis, have been isolated there, but I do know that the foot and mouth disease virus has been found to exist, and outbreaks have occurred, in the tropical countries to the north of Australia. In these days of fast means of transport when aircraft fly frequently and rapidly between Australia and the countries to its north, it is imperative that the closest vigilance be exercised in supervising the entry of any likely carriers of this virus. It can be carried in meat, it can be carried on a person’s clothing and shoes and it can be carried on vehicles. The ways in which it can be transmitted are known. They are multitudinous. In the countries where foot and mouth disease exists, the records show that only 2 per cent, of adult cattle die from it whereas an average of 20 per cent, of young stock find the disease fatal. The disease causes tremendous discomfort to the animals. Ulcers form in the mouth and on the tongue and in the clefts of the hoofs.
When an outbreak occurs in other parts of the world very stringent quarantine regulations are introduced immediately because of the rapidity with which the virus develops, lt has a short incubation period of from two to seven days and can multiply very rapidly. I understand there was an outbreak of the disease in Canada fairly recently, although the United States is fairly free of it. When an isolated outbreak occurs the authorities place quarantine restrictions on an area of at least 30 miles surrounding the point of outbreak. They insist that all stock in that area of the type that may be affected, and not only stock which is directly affected by the disease or showing signs of it, must be killed, burnt and buried. The other precaution the authorities take is to insist that the people in the area be isolated and disinfected. The precautions that are taken are designed to be as near perfect as possible so as to keep this virulent disease in check.
We are very fortunate in Australia in that most of the prevalent stock diseases are of a nature which can be controlled and that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is working continuously to find antidotes and counter measures for them. As a result, they have been kept to comparatively minor proportions. The vastness of the job which has confronted Australia in controlling the tick illustrates what would have to be done if ever foot and mouth disease entered this country. Recently in Tasmania we have been trying to control, and possibly eradicate, brucellosis, another very unfortunate disease of cattle, particularly dairy cattle. Even though this disease can cause very high losses through abortion, it is surprising that some members of the farming community feel that the necessary precautions are too exacting. There is opposition to these by people who claim that their stock is not infected even though stock in the area is infected. The State Government has fought a lengthy battle to bring home to the dairy farmers the absolute necessity of tracking down every single case of brucellosis so that it can be eradicated.
I hope that sufficient information and literature will be available to the members of the farming community so that they will know that when the authorities move in, if ever there is an outbreak of foot and mouth disease here, they mean business. Irrespective of whether a man had a cow of high quality or a particular pet, the authorities would be justified in paying no regard to the economic or the sentimental aspect. Not only the infected beasts but the herds in which they run would have to be destroyed because they would present a threat to one of our primary industries which is basic to the whole Australian economy. Researchers have isolated the strains of virus that cause various types of foot and mouth disease and which are hardly distinguishable. One is vesicular stomatitis and the other is vesicular exanthema. They have also isolated other strains of the foot and mouth disease virus in Europe.
Provision is not made in this measure to cover all the known strains. However, those I have mentioned can be distinguished and as there have been outbreaks of these exotic variations in other countries the Government has done well to extend the legislation to cover them. Initiative has been shown by all those responsible for the quarantine regulations in keeping foot and mouth disease o-.it of Australia. The expenditure of Commonwealth moneys necessary to defeat an outbreak of the disease would be quite justified regardless of the cost. Both the legislation and the second reading speech of the Minister indicate that those concerned are fully aware of the gravity of the introduction of the disease to Australia and they have taken all possible precautions to deal with the disease if an outbreak should occur. The Opposition congratulates those responsible for bringing forward this legislation and supports it.
– Senator O’Byrne has covered very fully the legislation already enacted between the Commonwealth and the States to cover an outbreak of foot and mouth disease should it occur. The honorable senator also covered many details of the disease itself and I will not traverse the same area. The Bill we are considering will increase the effectiveness of measures for the early diagnosis of foot and mouth disease. Unquestionably, it is wise of the Government to include in the Bill two exotic diseases which are clinically indistinguishable from foot and mouth disease. Equally, the establishment of a foot and mouth disease eradication trust account applying to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory also represents a wise decision on the part of the Government. This applies particularly to the Northern Territory with its large cattle population and vulnerability to the disease.
Any measure dealing with animal quarantine is of vital concern to all Australians. I think Australians must constantly be reminded that their well-being depends on the well-being of our 200 million domestic animals. We have been indeed fortunate that we have been free from diseases that have from time to time decimated the domestic animal population in other areas of the world. While I frankly acknowledge the high standard of our own animal quarantine services, I do not accept the view that there is no room for a measure of improvement. There is no room in Australia for a complacent attitude towards this matter. We need to remind ourselves that there are many diseases in Australia which were not known here previously. We have to recognise that improved methods of diagnosis have discovered many of these diseases and the introduction has not been of recent origin; but the plain fact is that they are here and they got here somehow.
We must be reminded also that despite new and improved methods of prevention and treatment, and the generally greater knowledge in the veterinary services throughout the world, exotic animal diseases have been on the march. Only a few years ago, a variation of the foot and mouth disease to which Senator O’Byrne has referred advanced from Africa into Europe. This was a type to which the European cattle population had no inbuilt immunity. It required strenuous efforts to prevent the introduction of this disease from Greece and Turkey into Central Europe. In fact, an isolated outbreak did occur in Spain. Other exotic diseases such as blue tongue and rabies, which are close to our shores, pose an equally difficult problem to our quarantine authorities. No one can dispute that today we are in greater and more immediate danger in this respect than ever before.
In the past, while I have acknowledged the efficiency of our quarantine services, our comparative isolation has been a major factor in our freedom from these diseases. Today, the increasing facilities available for travel, and the speed and ease of modern travel both by sea and air, have drastically altered the situation. In addition, there is little doubt that the change from Dutch to Indonesian control in West Irian has increased the danger of introducing foot and mouth disease into New Guinea. I understand - and this is a cause for some confidence - that a substantial degree of cooperation has been reached between the Indonesian and Australian authorities as to quarantine measures, but foot and mouth disease is prevalent in Indonesia and many veterinarians believe it is only a matter of time before it is introduced into West Irian. If this is so, the dangers of introduction into east New Guinea where it can be carried by many native animals, and its eventual introduction close to the Australian mainland by fishermen from Thursday Island who move freely between Thursday Island and many parts of New Guinea, and no doubt on to the Australian mainland, could readily carry the disease into this country.
Another problem which we have to face today is the development of our mineral resources in the north and the establishment of new ports in the north-west of Western Australia and in the Northern Territory. The number of wild cattle roaming the northern areas would make both detection and control difficult. I do not think we have any need to dwell on these dangers as they are obvious to us all.
I want to deal briefly with some aspects of our quarantine service with which I am not particularly happy. The first is the divided responsibility between the States and the Commonwealth. Recently, the Minister representing the Minister for Health, in reply to a question from Senator Marriott, said - and I do not quarrel with this - that certain quarantine precautions, mainly with regard to quarantine precautions at our ports, were the responsibility of State Governments. In 1962 I took up with the Minister who was then reponsible for the control of ports in Western Australia the matter of providing incinerators at Fremantle and at outports. He told me in very clear terms that that had nothing to do with the State Government but was solely the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government and that I should direct my request to that Government.
I have with me a fairly recent letter from the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) in which he states quite specifically -
Whilst the disposal of ships’ garbage is controlled under the quarantine legislation and by quarantine officers, the provision of incinerators for this purpose is the responsibility of State Governments as a port facility.
I have a report from South Australia dealing with this matter. It states -
The State Departments of Agriculture throughout Australia do not accept the contention of the Commonwealth Department of Health that the State is responsible for the provision of incineration facilities at ports for the purpose of disposing of ships’ garbage. The stand has been that the disposal of ships’ garbage is essentially a quarantine matter and, therefore, the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government.
That report is dated 7th September. The point I wish to make is that J believe that the dispute between the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments has led to an unsatisfactory state of affairs when we consider how vitally important quarantine is. <I suggest to the Commonwealth in very strong terms that this matter should be resolved. Either the Commonwealth should accept responsibility or it should make it clear to the States that the matter is their responsibility. I wish to sound a note of warning to the Commonwealth. If there should he an outbreak of exotic disease in Australia and it should be found to have entered Australia because of laxity at our ports, whether there is an academic argument concerning the relative responsibility of the Commonwealth and the States will not matter. I think that undoubtedly the finger will be pointed directly at the Commonwealth. I do not think that academic arguments will help.
To highlight the point I am making, I have information from South Australia regarding the position at Port Pirie. The report which, as I have said, is dated 7th September last, states that at Port Pirie there is an incinerator which is controlled by an excellent contractor, but recently the incinerator broke down. The report continues -
At the present time the Department-
Presumably the State Department of Agriculture - is most unhappy about the state of affairs at this port, which is regarded as the most vulnerable in Australia from the quarantine point of view. Garbage has to remain on board for as long as ten days while ships are in port and the fact that the port is virtually in the town centre of Port Pirie and not far from adjacent farm lands, makes the situation a most unfortunate one.
That, I suggest, is somewhat of an understatement -
The Department has appealed to the Commonwealth Government to subsidise the contractor to the extent of £250 per annum which would allow him to amortise the cost of erecting a new incinerator and facilities, but this has been rejected. The Chief Quarantine Officer cannot understand the Commonwealth’s attitude in allowing a dangerous situation to exist for the sake of expending such a relatively small amount.
I am not saying who is responsible for this state of affairs, but I think it highlights the division of responsibility between the Commonwealth and the States. It is obvious that in the minds of some State Governments, if not all, this is a Commonwealth responsibility. I appeal to the Commonwealth Government to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.
The second point I wish to mention concerns the disposal of ships’ garbage. For many years some of us, backed by a great deal of veterinary advice, have been alarmed at the rather antiquated methods used in some ports to dispose of ships’ garbage. As honorable senators will be aware, ships’ garbage is recognised as a possible means of introducing into Australia diseases such as foot and mouth disease. At the port of Fremantle the garbage is unloaded from ships and dumped several miles out to sea. I understand that that is done in Sydney also. In Melbourne, the garbage is taken from the ships and dumped in a fenced paddock which is surrounded by an industrial area. We are assured that it is saturated with oil and disinfectant every day. Some responsible people have inspected this dump and are far from satisfied that all these precautions are being taken. They have reported that birds are ravaging the dump and carting away pieces of foodstuff.
I do not believe that this is a satisfactory method of disposal. I am very happy to say that the Minister has now, through his Department, recognised that the only really effective method of disposal is incineration. Again, I quote from a letter received by the Federal Secretary of the Liberal Party on 23rd July 1965, stating -
It is, however, recognised that incineration is the best method of disposal of ships’ garbage to eliminate the possibility of introducing exotic animal diseases in this way.
If that is the most efficient method - and I believe it is - I do not think that anything that is second best is good enough. This method should be introduced at cur ports without further delay by whoever is responsible. It becomes particularly important to do so in view of the development of new ports in the north of Western Australia at which ships from overseas will be calling. Over many months I have tried to obtain satisfaction from the Western Australian Government concerning the methods of disposal that will be employed at those ports which will be particularly vulnerable to the introduction of diseases. Again, I can only appeal to the Commonwealth to resolve this matter and to ensure that only the most efficient methods of disposal are used at the ports in the north west of Western Australia and in the Northern Territory.
I wish to mention only two other matters. The first concerns the danger of exotic diseases, particularly foot and mouth disease, being introduced into this country by travellers. I am reminded of the fact that foot and mouth disease was introduced into Canada some years ago on the footwear of a German migrant. I know from the Minister’s letter to which I have referred that the regulations governing travellers have been tightened. That is indeed good news because in the past there has been some dissatisfaction concerning the regulations. I know of an instance in which a member of Parliament, on coming back from a foot and mouth disease area in South East Asia, was not even asked where he had been or whether he had been moving about in such an area. He had to go and ask for his footwear to be fumigated. Despite the tightening of these regulations, there was a recent report in a newspaper that a traveller who, but 24 hours before, had been in a foot and mouth disease area, had to go and find out where he could have his footwear fumigated. It is fortunate that he had a sense of responsibility.
I realise that there are very grave difficulties facing the Department in carrying out control measures, it is by no means easy to do so. No matter what precautions are taken, someone is likely to slip through. However, I believe that the measures taken should be such that the danger of somebody slipping through is as small as possible. It is sometimes said that we must not harass overseas visitors too much. We do not mind harassing them when human health is concerned, and I do not’ think we can harass them too much when animal health is concerned. I urge the Department of Health to continue to apply stringent precautions to travellers upon arrival from overseas, no matter how much it may harass them, and to continue to strive to ensure that every loophole is closed. I should hate to see foot and mouth disease brought into this country on the footwear or clothes of a traveller, as happened in Canada. The introduction of foot and mouth disease would cause the losses that we are now suffering from drought, however heavy they may be, to pale into insignificance. The introduction of such a disease would be a disaster of major proportions to our economy.
The final point I put to the Government - there may well be dispute about the wisdom of adopting this course - is that we should consider whether the department that deals with animal quarantine should be a separate department and not one that can be described as being a sub-department of the department that deals with human health. I believe that the importance to Australia of animal quarantine justifies its being placed under a separate department which has its own funds and which is directly responsible to its own Minister. Whether he should be the Minister for Health or the Minister for Primary Industry probably would be a matter of opinion. I believe that in many overseas countries the department which deals with animal health is attached to the Department of Agriculture. I repeat that animal health is of such vital importance to us that there is every justification for making it the responsibility of a separate department the head of which is directly responsible to the Minister concerned.
I give my wholehearted support to this Bill, as I would to any Bills that were designed to strengthen our quarantine precautions. It is gratifying to note that the measure has the wholehearted support of the Opposition. Finally, I commend to the Government for its consideration the points I have raised. I do not think there can be any room for doubt in relation to the source of responsibility. The responsibility must belong to either the Commonwealth or the States. This must be made clear to everybody. It should not be, as it is at present, a matter of dispute.
– Senator Sim has drawn attention to some very important aspects of quarantine. I commend to honorable senators his remarks on this subject. I wish to direct some attention to the Bill. It is a short measure which covers only one section of the many problems of quarantine. I think the previous speakers have not directed quite enough attention to the real purpose of this legislation. There are two diseases which, as stated in the second reading speech of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), are clinically indistinguishable from foot and mouth disease. A position could arise in which quarantine officers were in some doubt about whether the disease from which an animal was suffering was foot and mouth disease. Lest the disease might subsequently prove not to be foot and mouth disease, they might have some hesitation in ordering the destruction of the stock. This Bill is designed to give protection to quarantine officers who adopt efficient quarantine measures, even though the disease may prove not to be foot and mouth disease. This is a very wise and sensible precaution which is strongly supported by all members of the Parliament.
I should like to take advantage of this opportunity to draw attention, as did Senator Sim, to some aspects of quarantine administration in the Northern Territory. I should like to quote some statements which appear in the Seventy-first Report of the Public Accounts Committee, which deals with the Northern Territory Administration. I believe that the report has been circulated to all members of the Parliament. It states - 217. The evidence we took in respect of the development of the Animal Industry Branch has been dealt with in Chapter 2 of this Report. The evidence relating more specifically to the current responsibilities and problems of the Branch was prefaced by an indication that the success of the cattle industry depends very largely upon the measures taken to control the incidence of disease and more particularly in. the Northern Territory, to prevent the influx of exotic diseases. Although a complete range of legislation existed in this respect, we were told that the regulations were only as effective as the Branch’s ability to enforce them. Officers of the Branch are conscious of the risks involved but there is over one thousand miles of coastline of the Northern Territory and, despite the positive steps taken by the Government, loopholes continued to exist. A quarterly surveillance was maintained of all the outlying mission stations and settlements along the coast and an officer trained the residents in their responsibilities and emphasised the dangers involved. 218. It was stated that the Quarantine Act is administered by the Department of Health which relies to a large extent upon the assistance of the States and the Territory for animal quarantine. The officers of the Northern Territory Administration arc representatives of the Department of Health but a quarantine section, as such, does not exist in the Northern Territory. The Animal Industry Branch establishment includes only one position of Technical Officer, with a local designation of Port Inspector. The occupant of this position was engaged full time on quarantine duties for the Darwin air and sea ports. The occupant, a former stock inspector, had received training in the detection of exotic diseases and was responsible to the Director of the Animal Industry Branch who had a statutory appointment equivalent to a Chief Quarantine Officer in the States.
Paragraph 221 states -
In response to questions on staff strength, we were told that a generally satisfactory situation existed with ninety-six positions filled out of an establishment of one hundred and seventeen.
But significantly -
Some difficulty was being experienced in the veterinary field in that, for two years, the Branch had operated with three officers out of an establishment of twelve. The position had improved to eight occupants out of thirteen positions but the staff strength of this Section of the Branch was still felt to be far below a desirable level.
The Committee further stated, in paragraph 233-
We were- told that one Port Inspector is engaged on full-time duty at the Darwin sea and air ports in respect of animal quarantine matters. With this degree of representation in mind, we note the following extract from the Commonwealth Year Book: “Air Services: At 30th June, 1964, there were 10 Government aerodromes and 118 licensed aerodromes in the Territory. The Oversea passenger services using the Darwin international airport are Air India, Qantas/B.O.A.C. (Sydney to London) and K.L.M. (Sydney to Amsterdam). Qantas also conducts a freight service from Sydney to London.”
I suggest that the report discloses a somewhat unsatisfactory situation with regard to the ability of the quarantine officers to maintain an efficient guard upon our northern areas. They are the vulnerable areas and they are very close to areas where serious diseases exist. I appeal to the Minister to attempt to increase the effectiveness of our quarantine strength in that region.
.- I wholeheartedly support the Bill and commend the Government for the precautions it has taken in recent years to tighten our quarantine regulations and so prevent the spreading to Australia of diseases such as foot and mouth disease. Not so long ago action was taken to stop imports of green hides which, for many years, had been imported from countries where foot and mouth disease was prevalent. We were assured that the imports were safe, but many stock owners were not very happy about it. We were pleased when we got action taken to prohibit the importation of green hides from countries where foot and mouth disease was known to exist.
I specially commend the veterinary officers and other officers who have been so vigilant in enforcing quarantine regulations and watching for outbreaks or suspected outbreaks of disease. It has already been mentioned that modern methods of travel have made our quarantine regulations much more difficult to enforce. I refer particularly to air travel. People can travel to Australia in just a few hours from countries where some of these diseases are prevalent. If a stock disease breaks out, the diagnosis can take at least a week. I ask honorable senators to imagine how far such a disease would spread in a week before we could be sure of its nature.
I consider that the Government has acted very wisely in including vesicular exanthema and vesicular stomatitis in the provisions of this Bill, because they so closely resemble foot and mouth disease. I draw the attention of honorable senators to complementary legislation introduced by the Queensland Government in the last month. The same two diseases have been made notifiable in Queensland. The Queensland Government has been given wide powers should an outbreak or suspected outbreak of these diseases occur. It now has power to pro hibit, regulate and control the movement of persons, animals and things likely to spread disease - whether animate or inanimate - into, through, or from infected areas; and to prescribe and regulate the disinfection of the clothes of persons being in infected areas and the use of precautions against the spreading of disease by such persons. The Queensland Government has been given many other powers in respect of these diseases. I hope it will never be necesary to use those powers but they are available if required.
On our northern boundary, all the islands in Torres Strait are made a buffer area against the introduction of stock diseases. No animal is allowed to be kept on any of those islands, such as Thursday Island, as an aid to our quarantine. The consequences of an outbreak of stock disease are too terrible to contemplate, both to the livestock industries and to our economy. Should an outbreak occur, we just do not know whether it would be possible to stop it. Nor do we know whether our native marsupials are susceptible to stock diseases. If so, and an outbreak occurred amongst them, it would be very difficult to control it. Wild pigs are found in many parts of Australia and should they become infected with stock disease, it would be quite uncontrollable. I again commend the Government upon this measure. Our quarantine regulations should not be relaxed in any way and our efforts to keep out stock diseases must be maintained. We should be ever alert to strengthen continually the precautions taken to protect Australia from the introduction of stock diseases.
– in reply - I appreciate the stand taken on this measure by the Opposition and its recognition of the importance of this legislation to our economic welfare. I thank honorable senators who have spoken in this debate and drawn attention to the dangerous consequences should these diseases get a hold in Australia. Reference has been made to the precautions taken through our quarantine regulations and to the inconvenience and complaints that have resulted when people have been subjected to their application so that stock diseases may be prevented from entering Australia. Although minor inconvenience may have been caused, we cannot relax our vigilance. Whether the application of our quarantine regulations displeases migrants and visitors is beside the point. We have too much at stake to relax our quarantine precautions.
Visitors to Australia from countries where foot and mouth disease exists cannot enter Australia by aircraft. They must travel by ship because a greater opportunity is thus given to detect infection. Senator O’Byrne referred to the possibility of the carriage of foot and mouth disease by clothing or footwear. I think he also referred to the entry of foot and mouth disease to Canada which was brought about by a German migrant. I understand that in that instance the foot and mouth disease entered Canada in a piece of salami in the pocket of the migrant. That is why we are so insistent that foodstuffs of that nature should not be brought into Australia. New Zealand is the only country from which raw meat may be imported into Australia. Uncooked meats from other countries must be subjected to a temperature of 100 degrees centigrade.
I draw the attention of honorable senators to what has happened in some other countries. For some years, Argentina has had great problems with exports of cattle. Exports to the United Kingdom were severely curtailed because of foot and mouth disease. We would be faced with the same position should that scourge ever get a footing here. I think it is about four years since exports from Argentina to the United Kingdom were curtailed. The United Kingdom, almost overnight, prohibited meat imports from Canada because of the incidence of this disease in that country.
Senator Sim mentioned the allocation of responsibility, as between the States and the Commonwealth, for ensuring that quarantine measures are carried out. For some time past this has been the subject of negotiations between the States and the Commonwealth. I understand that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has written to the State Premiers, offering to bear some of the financial burdens that devolve upon the States as a result of carrying out quarantine measures. I also understand that a settlement has not yet been reached. The negotiations are proceeding. I point out that the disposal of offal and garbage from ships is carried out under the supervision of quarantine and health authorities. Senator Sim mentioned that, because of a holdup in South Australia for some reason or other, it had been necessary for garbage to be held on some ships for 10 days. He asked whether the Commonwealth health authorities considered that satisfactory. The answer is that it is considered satisfactory, provided strict precautions are taken to ensure that none of the garbage or offal goes ashore.
Senator Lawrie raised the matter of measures to prevent diseases coming in from the Torres Strait Islands, lt is very wise for us to ensure that no stock are kept on the islands to the north of Australia, such as the Torres Strait Islands. That also lessens the chance of diseases being carried in from one source or another. It is very important to every individual in Australia that we keep these diseases out. I believe that we are all happy to see that stringent precautions are being taken. I am quite sure that we all believe that, if more stringent precautions are necessary, they should be taken, even if they will cause some inconvenience to some people. I thank the Senate for the speedy passage that it has given to this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 23rd November (vide page 1707), on motion by Senator Gorton -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. Deputy President, I suggest that it might suit the convenience of honorable senators to debate this Bill and the Judges’ Remuneration Bill 1965 together at the second reading stage.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - There being no objection, .that course will be followed.
– The first of these two Bills relates to the remuneration of the justices of the High Court of Australia. The second relates to the remuneration of the judges of certain courts created by the Parliament and of the presidential members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The first Bill increases the remuneration of the judges of the High Court by £2,000 a year or, in round figures, £40 a week. 1 am not against paying men what they are worth. These salaries may be justified in the economic position that exists today, when value is oozing out of the £1, as it has done over the long years for which this Administration has been in office. One thinks of what was said about putting value into the £1, but that is now ancient history. No doubt historians will record it as a promise which was made but not fulfilled.
What amazes me about the Judiciary Bill is that in his second reading speech the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton), who represents the Attorney-General, gave no reason for this increase except that the salaries of the judges of the New South Wales Supreme Court have been increased. It seems that the Government felt that it was infra dig. for the judges of the Supreme Court of New South Wales or of any State to receive higher salaries than the judges of the High Court. That may be so, seeing that decisions of the New South Wales Supreme Court can be taken on appeal to the High Court. But I would like the Government to be logical. If it is good enough for the Government to go out of its way to increase the salaries of the judges of the High Court - however much we respect them, as we do - by £40 a week solely because the judges of the New South Wales Supreme Court received an increase that took their salaries above those of the judges of the High Court, surely the Government should be logical and say: “ We will increase the salaries of people in the high income bracket, but we will also give Commonwealth employees remuneration and conditions equal to, if not better than, those of employees of the New South Wales Government.” But, of course, that is not done. The employees are the small people.
Employees of the New South Wales Government receive four weeks’ annual leave a year, whereas Commonwealth employees receive only three weeks’ annual leave a year. Also, female employees of the New
South Wales Government who do similar work to male employees - particularly in the teaching profession - receive the same rates of pay as male employees receive. One would have thought that the Government, in considering the salaries of the judges of the High Court, would have considered also the salaries of Commonwealth employees who are in greater need of an increase.
I am not saying for a moment that a person is not worth his hire, but I do say that the premise upon which this Bill is based is not a sound one. To go further, why did not the Government bring the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act into line with the provisions of the workers compensation act in New South Wales? As the Government decided to give an increase to these people in the upper stratum, capable as they are and respected as they are, one would have thought that in this democratic age, about which we hear so much, some consideration would have been given to other Commonwealth officers. If that had been done, I would have been only too happy to support the Bill. However, as this is a Bill which affects only certain people, and as no intimation has been given that further legislation will be introduced to improve the position of what one might call - I say this without meaning any offence or disrespect - the common herd, I do not feel inclined, neither does the Opposition, to support the Bill.
I turn now to the Judges Remuneration Bill, which concerns me the most. It deals with the salaries of the members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I speak of these people, as I do of all people with the greatest of respect. I am very interested in those who constitute the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I have a vivid recollection that only a few months ago a majority of the members of the Commission, after many months of inquiry and study, said that the mass of the workers of this country should receive an increase of only li per cent, on their margins, which represented about 6s. a week or £15 12s. a year. In their judgment, they said that the position of the country was such that the economy could not stand a greater increase. I believe they stated also that the granting of a further increase would be fraught with great danger.
But today the Government wants the Senar.3 to pass a Bill that will give the self-same people who delivered that judgment a rise of £30 a week.
I do not think that the economy has improved since last August. I think it has deteriorated. Many arguments can be used to support that contention. Recently we read that sales of motor vehicles have dropped by 14 per cent. I suppose that the motorcar industry is the greatest employer of labour in this country. Our overseas reserves have fallen and there has been a rise in costs. Therefore, if this is not a case of one law for the rich and one law for the poor, I want to know what is. I would support a measure which provided for an increase of li per cent, in the margins of the members of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I believe that that is what they ought to get.
– Would the honorable senator give them quarterly adjustments, too?
– Nobody gets quarterly adjustments these days. It will be argued that the people about whom we are speaking have not received an increase since 1960. That is true. But let us look at what has happened since 1960. There have been three increases since then in the Federal basic wage, amounting in all to £1 12s. a week or £83 4s. a year. The basic wage has been increased by 11.6 per cent. The increase proposed in this Bill, however, is £1,500 a year, or £30 per week. That is an increase of 20 per cent. In 1960 the average weekly earnings - this is on the basis of a 40-hour week, excluding overaward payments and overtime - were £17 15s. and in June 1965 they were £20. Average weekly earnings increased by £2 5s. That is an increase of £117 a year, or 12.67 per cent. Including overtime, over award payments and bonuses, the wage in 1960-61 was over £22 10s. In June 1965 it was over £27. This was an increase of £4 9s. a week, £256 a year, or 21.9 per cent.
If there has ever been a clear indication of how this Government wants to deal with the tall poppies, this is one. When the Opposition asks that increases in social service payments be back dated, we are told that this cannot be done, or that it would be wrong to do so, but the increases in the salaries of these people are to be backdated to 1st July. Let me be clearly understood. I believe that any man is worthy of his hire and ought to be properly remunerated for the work that he does for society. But it ill becomes a government to give increases of over 21 per cent., particularly to judges of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission who could award an increase of only li per cent, in the combined wage. One wonders at the effect that this will have on industry. I can imagine what will be said by some of the members of shop committees of various organisations. This disparity will not bring peace in industry. Judges have a lot of security - much more security than we have and the ordinary person outside has.
– And non-contributory pensions.
– That is true. I was rather amazed to read in an answer to a question in another place that this Government sees fit to pay judges £15 a day by way of travelling expenses. But in any bill to alter the salaries of members of the Parliament, not one farthing is provided for the travelling expenses of the Leader of the Opposition, irrespective of who the individual may be.
– Is that so?
– I do not think so.
– I ought to know, because I have a habit - like everyone else - when these relevant bills are introduced, of turning over a few pages to have a look. It is true that the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place get travelling expenses.
– I thought the honorable senator was referring to the Leader of the Opposition in another place.
– I am referring to the Leader of the Opposition in this place. I hope that I am not embarrassing my Leader by mentioning it. This should not be the case, irrespective of what party is in opposition. He will not always be there. We have been here a long while, but even old pups change their spots at times, and might change their places.
I regret that the Opposition has been forced to take this stand. I think that the Government has acted wrongly. If it had introduced increases only in salaries of justices of the High Court I doubt whether many would have put up a case against them, because we all of us have the greatest of respect for those justices. The increases are proposed on the basis of something that was done in another State. One wonders whether, if the salaries of members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council were raised, this would be later relied on here to increase the salaries of the justices of the High Court.
– They are probably getting less.
– I do not know. If I had my way, there would be no appeal from the High Court. Seeing that the names of three persons with whom I am vitally concerned were mentioned in another place, 1 have no quibble about mentioning them here. I refer to Mr. Justice Gallagher, Mr. Justice Sweeney and Mr. Justice Nimmo. Theirs was the majority judgment that affected the mass of the people. Reading it through, one can almost feel disaster upon us. If it is good enough in the interests of the economy of the nation, its welfare and its people, that there be an increase of only H per cent, or 6s. a week in the combined wage, the Opposition will not vote for a bill to give to those judges within a few months - remember, it is only from August to November - a rise of f 30 a week. For that reason, I hope that the Bill is defeated.
– This question has been raised on occasions as an issue from the Labour side ever since the days, which some of us here can remember, of what was known as the Premiers’ Plan. At that time Judge Lukin, took action to reduce salaries all round on the ground of the grave situation in the community at that time. Having made a determination to reduce the salaries of a large number of other people, he declined, when offered the opportunity, to reduce his own salary. Senator Gair reminds me that not only did the eminent judge reduce the salaries of working people and others in the community and then refuse to reduce his own salary, but also, while a judge under the Commonwealth, he continued to collect a pension from the State of Queensland. Naturally, people keep an eye on these things.
While I was listening to Senator Kennelly I could not help wondering whether, if we took the action he suggested, some of the judges would not say, in effect, “ Let him among you who is without sin cast the first stone “. After all, pensions have not been increased as they should have been. Although the pensioners have appealed repeatedly to the Parliament, which determines their pensions, to increase their remuneration, they have not, in my estimation, received an increase in pensions anywhere near what they should have received. But that did not deter the members of this Parliament from increasing their own salaries when they felt the time was opportune to do so.
– Supported by the Democratic Labour Party.
– Not by myself; by an individual member of the D.L.P. The Party declared itself against the increases.
– Still, two wrongs do not make a right.
– I hear Senator Cavanagh say that two wrongs do not make a right. I say that we will lay ourselves open to an accusation of unfairness if we say to the judges: “ If you will not increase the wages of the workers, your salaries will not be increased “. We have been guilty of not increasing pensions as they should have been increased and then of increasing our own remuneration. On the occasions when I have had the opportunity to vote on proposals to increase parliamentary salaries I have declared that I would vote against them until a fair deal had been given to the pensioners.
– Has the honorable senator knocked back his increased salary?
– I have never worked for less than the award rate, but I was quite prepared to vote against such increases and I so voted. When the honorable senator votes against an increase in his salary he will be in a position to point the finger at other people.
I take a somewhat keen interest in the judiciary of the High Court because, unlike most honorable senators, I have appeared before that Court. Early this year I was the plaintiff in a case before it. At my instance, five of the judges were compelled to return from their Christmas holidays and I appeared before them in a case relating to a Senate recount. There were four Queen’s Counsel, supported by four juniors, engaged on the case. I did not enjoy it very much because I could not sleep for thinking of what it would cost if I lost. I did lose the case, but fortunately for me the judges, in their wisdom, determined to make no order as to costs. Everyone paid his own costs and in those circumstances I got out of it for a reasonable amount.
I agree with Senator Kennelly that if the Commonwealth intends to increase the salaries of its judges it should put forward a better reason than the fact that someone somewhere else has increased the salaries of judges. The fact that New South Wales,. Queensland, or Western Australia increased the salaries of their judges is no reason why the Commonwealth should increase the salaries of its judges. The sole reason why the Commonwealth should increase salaries is that it considers the judges, by virtue of the position they occupy, are worthy of that remuneration. I am sorry that the Government attempted to justify its intentions on the grounds put forward. I believe that if the judges are worth the increased salary, they should get it. If they are not worth it, they should not get it. There should be no question of the, Commonwealth competing with one of the States. Therefore, the first point I raise on the question is this: Are the judges worth it? From my experience in my own court case and the bill of costs which was presented-
– Is the honorable senator judging the matter on that aspect?
– It is not a bad aspect on which to judge the matter. I presume that these judges are chosen from outstanding members of the Bar. I would say that an outstanding member of the Bar today - if I am wrong Senator Wright probably will be able to correct me - would be able to earn a sum in the vicinity of the proposed salary or remuneration. Whilst, no doubt, many lawyers would be influenced to accept a position on the High Court bench from a consideration of the duty that they owe to the community and from a consideration that this represents the crown, as it were, of a legal career, there have also been instances - I have read of them in Australian history - of outstanding men being deterred from accepting top judicial positions because they could not afford to accept the positions at the salary that was offered. If we are to get the best men, we must offer a salary which will be reasonably attractive and which will compensate many of them for the sacrifice they make in accepting a position on the bench. Having regard to what I believe would be earned by a topnotcher in the legal profession today, the salaries that are offered do not appear to me to be too high.
I am not a scrap impressed by the Government’s suggestion that we should try to beat New South Wales. If that were all that was involved, I would vote against the proposed increases. I believe that the salaries are no greater than the best men could earn if they remained at the Bar. We must bear in mind the need to get the best men for the job. I do not feel inclined to vote against the Bill for punitive reasons or for the sake of saying: “You did not do this, so we will not do that “. I prefer to place on record my hope that those to whom Senator Kennelly referred will be more generous in the future than they have been.
But there are many other considerations. The case of the trade unions for increased wages has not been helped at times by Labour parliamentarians. We have all read of occasions on which the case for the unions was being put before the Arbitration Commission by the lawyers of the industrial wings. They presented evidence to show that the economy was flourishing and that industry could well afford the requested increase. At the same time we have all read statements by leading members of the Labour Party in Parliament to the effect that under the Menzies Government the economy was slowing down and that unemployment and depression were around the corner.
– Fairly rightly.
– Senator Ormonde says “ Fairly rightly “, but it does not help the trade unions to get an increase in the wages of the workers when, on the one hand, the trade union advocate is telling the Commission that the country is flourishing and, on the other hand, the political leaders of the Labour Party are stating that in their opinion depression, unemployment and want are just around the corner.
– Does not the honorable senator believe that the judges would have to give their verdict on the evidence submitted to them?
– Yes. Ideally they are supposed to give their judgment on the evidence submitted, but we are all human. Everybody is influenced by opinions circulated through the community. When the political leaders are telling one story and the industrial leaders are telling another, that must have its effect.
I conclude by saying that I regret the decision given by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I believe the decision was wrong; it did not give the ordinary working man a fair deal; but I am not in favour of using it for punitive purposes. After all, these judges will not be there always. I believe the rate of payment should be applied to the job that the job deserves. The rate should not depend on the fact that one dislikes something a particular person did in the job. Therefore, on the grounds of justice and on the grounds that we have to give a salary that will attract the best men and that we must give a salary that the job deserves, I am not prepared to oppose the Bill.
– in reply - I do not wish to enter into discussion or argument as to what should or should not be done in other spheres. I shall confine myself solely to what the Bill provides and that is the level of judicial salaries to be paid to various judges in various courts. I suppose at any time the level of these salaries would be a matter for individual opinion. It cannot be proved that the rates should be at this or that level. But I think we must remember that the judges of the High Court of Australia, for example, have a task second only to the Parliament and not even second to the Parliament when questions of constitutional interpretation are concerned. They have to see that the rule of law is applied in Australia and that the Federation works according to their interpretation of the meaning of the Constitution. The results of decisions they make are of far reaching importance in the lives of all Australians.
I believe it is true to say that all the judges in the various courts with which we are dealing could earn, if they were in private practice, not the sum we are offering but much more than we provide for them in this Bill. I think it is necessary and it is right that a court of the stature of the High Court of Australia with all the responsibilities it has should be shown in all ways to be a superior court. It should be shown to be the most important court in the Commonwealth of Australia and among other things the Bill seeks to do this. So each member of the Senate will make up his mind as to the justice of the remuneration suggested for the judges and, if necessary, cast his vote accordingly.
Senator Kennelly raised a point and in answering it I might be going out on a limb but I think I am fairly safe. I believe I can promise Senator Kennelly that this Parliament will not on any occasion be asked to vote money for the judges of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. He seemed to think we might do so.
– No. I thought the Minister might compare what those judges are paid with the remuneration paid to judges in Australia.
– I am sorry I misunderstood the honorable senator.
– If they are paid more, the Minister will cite them; if they are paid less, he will not.
– I misunderstood Senator Kennelly. I do not think there is anything I can add to what I have said. The positions the judges fill are of such a nature that it is absolutely essential that they should be adequately remunerated. Their remuneration cannot be fixed according to what they do because in many ways the things they are called upon to do are of such importance and far reaching significance that it would be almost impossible to set an appropriate sum and say: “ We, can work out what this is worth”. The judges fill these positions for a remuneration less than they could earn in private life with all the other advantages on the side. It is a matter of judgment as to whether this proposition is justified or not. I think it is.
Question put -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 23rd November (vide page 1708), on motion by Senator Gorton -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is the third occasion on which the Government has proposed amendments to the Universities (Financial Assistance) Act in order to provide additional funds for State universities during the 1964-66 triennium. With this Bill we are recommending Commonwealth grants for capital works at medical teaching hospitals of £1,555,850 and further grants of £184,900 for the recurrent costs of those hospitals which are directly attributable to the instruction of the undergraduate students in teaching hospitals. This sum of £1,740,750 will raise the total amount of Commonwealth financial assistance to State universities during the present triennium to approximately £73 million. In addition the Commonwealth will find £24 million for the Australian National University.
The Government provided grants for certain capital projects at medical teaching hospitals during the 1961-63 triennium. Earlier this year the second report of the Australian Universities Commission’s Committee on the Teaching Costs of Medical Hospitals became available. It recommended further capital grants and, in addition, assistance with some elements of the recurrent costs of medical teaching hospitals. I remind honorable senators that the Government’s decisions on that report were announced on 5th August last during the Parliamentary recess. The report itself was tabled in both Houses on 24th August.
The Government did not accept all the recommendations of the Committee, but did agree to support, pound for pound, such of the capital projects recommended by the Committee for various medical teaching hospitals as the States thought could be completed, or nearly completed, by 31st December 1966, the end of the present triennium. We also agreed to support from 1st July 1965, on the usual £1 to £1.85 basis, certain items of the recurrent costs of teaching hospitals which are directly attributable to the clinics!, teaching of undergraduate medical students. The items with which we will assist are: The cost of the administration concerned solely with the planning, organisation and supervision of teaching programmes within the hospital; maintenance and service costs of the areas and of activities used by clinical students and university staff; and the costs of providing books and periodicals for undergraduate students in teaching hospital libraries. Particulars of the grants to individual universi- ties with teaching hospitals are set out in the schedules to the Bill.
As the Bill provides only for those capital projects which the States have indicated can be completed, or nearly completed by 31st December 1966, there are several variations from the amounts recommended in the report of the Committee on Teaching Costs of Medical Hospitals. I would emphasise that these variations have been made on the basis of information received from each State after each had been told of the Commonwealth’s willingness to support the whole of the programme recommended by the Committee subject to each State’s views on what it would be practicable to construct in the time available. I have little doubt that subject to changes because of revised priorities, the teaching hospital projects now deleted will find places in the 1967-1969 programme. This, however, is a matter for decisions which will be taken on the recommendations yet to be made by the Universities Commission for the 1967-1969 triennium. 1 refer now to the recommendations made by the Committee on the Teaching Costs of Medical Hospitals regarding the provision of assistance for the capital programmes of dental schools which are an integral part of universities. The total sum recommended was £897,000, to be shared on the usual £1 for £1 basis. The Government rejected this recommendation for the current triennium for two reasons. First, the question of assistance for such institutions was outside the Committee’s terms of reference, and second, the Government was not prepared to add further to the already extensive building programmes of the universities during the present triennium. I have already made it clear to honorable senators that the resources of the States in this field are strained at this time. However, I shall again say what I announced in a Press statement of 5th August, that is, that the Government is prepared to consider such recommendations from the Australian Universities Commission for the 1967-1969 triennium.
So far as the recurrent grants are concerned, our share of the cost of the items accepted for grants purposes will be a maximum of £184,900 for the period 1st July 1965 to 31st December 1966, of which up to £123,000 will be required during this financial year, 1965-66. The allocation of this sum among the States concerned is set out in the Sixth Schedule. But I wish to emphasise that the amounts for recurrent grants listed in that Schedule are, in each case, maximum amounts so far as the Commonwealth is concerned and are payable only on certification by the States to the satisfaction of the Minister that the amounts claimed have been legitimately incurred in respect of the three elements of cost approved by the Commonwealth and are within the limits of the sums set out in Table 7 of the Committee’s report for those elements of costs. These amounts are provided on the basis of estimates by the Committee only and I emphasise that the Commonwealth Minister will need to be satisfied that the amounts claimed in respect of the various elements of recurrent expenditure are reasonable. The amounts set down in the Schedule are not to be regarded as an automatic entitlement.
Honorable senators will note the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, among the capital works in the Fifth Schedule to the Bill. Provision has been made for Concord also in the recurrent expenses of the University of Sydney in the Sixth Schedule. For many years Concord has served as a teaching hospital for the University of Sydney and the Commonwealth has met all the costs incurred. However, under the new arrangements universities will accept responsibility for certain capital and recurrent costs directly attributable to teaching, and it is appropriate, therefore, that the Commonwealth and State Governments shall share responsibility for those costs at Concord just as they will for State teaching hospitals.
This Bill also provides for a minor amendment to the main Act to allow the University of Melbourne to attract a Commonwealth capital grant of £15,000 for an animal breeding unit which it wishes to build at Werribee instead of Mr. Derrimut where it was originally intended to be and which is the location given to it in the principal Act. The change has been approved by the Universities Commission. Funds are not affected. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Tangney) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will authorise the first Commonwealth grants to the new Colleges of Advanced Education. Grants totalling £2.4 million will be paid by the Commonwealth to various States for expenditure on capital works at specified colleges over the period 1st July 1965 to 31st December 1966. The Commonwealth grants will be subject to a matching contribution from the State Government concerned.
Honorable senators will recall that in tabling the first two volumes of the report of the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia on 24th March last, I informed the Senate that the Government had accepted the Committee’s central recommendation for the development of advanced education in institutions which will become virtually new types of tertiary colleges outside the universities. What is envisaged is not merely improved arrangements for teaching technical subjects. An important part of the new concept is the encouragement of more liberal studies In these colleges and the establishment of courses which will provide greater breadth in education for all students who take tertiary level training outside the universities.
In this Bill we provide for a number of buildings which the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education recommended could be started right away. The institutions on behalf of which the Commonwealth is prepared to make immediate matching capital grants, and the amount of the Commonwealth contribution in each case, are set out in the schedule to the Bill. With the concurrence of honorable senators I will have the details inserted in “ Hansard “. They are -
Honorable senators will note two variations from the list of institutions for which the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education recommended immediate assistance. At the request of the Western Australian Government £61,500 is being provided by the Commonwealth for works at the School of Mines of Western Australia at Kalgoorlie, and the remainder of the £500,000 grant for Western Australia is being applied to the Western Australian Institute of Technology at Collier Park in Perth. No provision has been made for Commonwealth grants to new colleges at Bathurst and Wagga. The New South Wales Government has told us that it has no proposals for these colleges at present. Should such proposals be made in the future the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to give them favourable consideration.
I point out to the Senate that the Bill empowers the Minister to extend beyond 31st December 1966 the period during which State contributions to a project may be matched from Commonwealth funds. This will be done only where the project has been committed to construction and substantial progress made before that date. We have done this in recognition of the difficulty the States may face in completing these large projects within a relatively short time. In fact, as was indicated in the Budget papers, we expect that the programme of work will not call for the expenditure of more than £1 million during the present financial year of the Commonwealth’s total commitment of £2.4 million.
The Commonwealth has been gratified to receive the wholehearted support of all of the States in this development of the new Colleges of Advanced Education. All States, including Tasmania, are now preparing proposals for the continuing development of Colleges of Advanced Education during the triennium from 1967 to 1969 and beyond that period. The Commonwealth has invited the States to put forward specific proposals under which the Commonwealth and the States will share the capital and recurrent costs of advanced education. We have appointed a highly qualified Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Dr. I. W. Wark to advise us on proposals which will come from the States as part of the Committee’s more general task of promoting the balanced development of non-university tertiary institutions in Australia.
The following brief outline of prospective developments in advanced education in the States illustrates the timely action of the Commonwealth in promoting a joint CommonwealthState effort in this direction. New South Wales is in process of redeveloping its diploma courses, and is beginning to construct for the New South Wales Institute of Technology at Sydney a complex of buildings on a site presently occupied by the Sydney Technical College al Ultimo.
Victoria has passed legislation recently to form the Victoria Institute of Colleges. The Interim Council of this Institute is currently examining the question of the affiliation within the framework of the Institute of major technological institutions in the State. There are plans for the immediate further development of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Colleges at Ballarat, Geelong and Bendigo. The question of the siting of the new building at Bendigo is currently under discussion. In Queensland major plans involve the development of the present Brisbane Central Technical College to house the new Queensland Institute of Technology, together with branches being developed on new, and admirably selected, sites at Rockhampton and Toowoomba.
South Australia has plans well advanced for the development of the South Australian Institute of Technology on a new 200 acre site at Islington. Immediately, buildings are to be constructed on the existing Frome Road site in Adelaide and also at Whyalla. In Western Australia some fine buildings have already been built for advanced education purposes on a 270 acre site at Collier Park and the new Western Australian Institute of Technology is, therefore, already established and partly housed. Tasmania has begun plans for the early development of a College of Advanced Education in Hobart and these have already been discussed with Dr. Wark.
The College of Advanced Education is a new and challenging concept which will make possible a broadening of educational opportunities and achievements at the tertiary level. The Australian Government is confident that, in co-operation with the States and with the advice of Dr. Wark’s Committee, these colleges will play a major part in meeting Australia’s needs for educated and technologically trained people and in providing facilities suited to the selected vocations and capacities of individual students. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Tangney) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23rd November (vide page 1710), on motion by Senator Gorton -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition does not oppose this Bill which proposes a number of useful amendments to the existing Matrimonial Causes Act. As honorable senators will recall, that Act was passed in 1959 and represented to most members of the legal profession and the great majority of members of the community an important advance in the systematisation of the law and practice relating to marriage and divorce. For the most part, experience has shown that the legislation has worked satisfactorily. Although many problems may remain unsolved, there are not a great number of issues on which a sharp division of opinion exists as to what needs to be done.
The present legislation brings forward a number of matters on which, as a result of experience, it is thought amendment is desirable. The Opposition generally gives support to the amendments that are proposed in the Bill and I wish to refer only briefly to some of the more important matters dealt with in this legislation.
The first major matter is what might be called potentially polygamous marriage. Our form of society recognises monogamous marriages, but we must also recognise that in other countries where other systems operate, polygamous marriages are permitted. In particular the Bill deals with what are called potentially polygamous marriages. For example, in a country where the law of domicile recognises the right of a man to take more than one wife, although the first wife does not enter into a polygamous marriage, she enters into a potentially polygamous marriage because her husband may decide to take other wives after her. This Bill attempts to deal with one aspect of that problem. The parties to a marriage may come back to Australia after a marriage has taken place, say, in Pakistan, to take an example of a case that came before the Supreme Court of Victoria.
An Australian girl may go abroad and marry in Pakistan, or in some other country which acknowledges polygamous and potentially polygamous marriages. She may return to Australia with her husband and establish residence sufficient to entitle her to seek the relief of a court for dissolution of marriage. If the husband commits a matrimonial offence - it may be desertion, adultery, or one of a number of matrimonial offences - a court may hold, as occurred in a Victorian case in 1963, that the Australian courts have no jurisdiction to dissolve that marriage. This Bill goes to the extent of permitting the dissolution of that marriage, or permitting a petition for dissolution of marriage to be presented where both parties have been domiciled in countries which recognise polygamous marriages at the time of the marriage ceremony overseas. If the particular case dealt with in the Supreme Court of Victoria were to bc heard again, relief would now be granted to the wife who was refused relief in those proceedings. However, the Bill does not go the whole way. Relief is granted only to the first wife. This measure does not grant relief to the Australian girl who might marry overseas and not have lost her Australian domicile prior to her marriage. She goes abroad. She has an Australian domicile up to the time of her marriage. On her marriage, she takes her husband’s domicile. In the case that was under consideration in Victoria, it was a Pakistani domicile. If she were put in a position similar to that of the woman in that case, she would not be entitled to relief because the law of her domicile at the time of her marriage - an Australian domicile - docs not recognise polygamous marriages.
I merely draw attention to the fact that the Bill does not go the whole way, no doubt out of a desire on the part of the Government not to appear to be making it easier for Australians to enter into polygamous marriages. But the Bill still leaves unsolved problems. It leaves unsolved the problem of the girl who believed in good faith that she was the first wife but who, in fact, was not. She would not be entitled to any relief because sub-section (3.) of proposed section 6a grants relief only to the first wife.
– Is there any question of whether or not she would be entitled to maintenance in Australia?
– I have not explored that matter; but the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton), who represents the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden), gave us this assurance in his second reading speech -
– But not in the Supreme Courts?
– This statement refers to the general maintenance law. It is not related to proceedings for dissolution of marriage. When proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for a decree of nullity are instituted, the Supreme Court is then seised of jurisdiction over all forms of matrimonial relief, including maintenance and the custody of children.
– Would it be of any disadvantage to the honorable senator for him to consider this question: Why cannot the courts have jurisdiction to dissolve a marriage if it exists? Why do they have to make a positive finding that there is a marriage and then dissolve it?
– I think the question that the honorable senator has raised can be taken in two ways. We may say that, for the purposes of section 28 of the Matrimonial Causes Act a polygamous marriage or potentially polygamous marriage shall be deemed to be a marriage, so that the court has jurisdiction in the matter, can entertain a petition and can then dissolve the marriage. But I think the honorable senator is raising another question, namely this: If, in fact, there is no valid marriage, is it necessary to have proceedings for dissolution? I believe that at present the Act does not help us to answer that question. Maybe some form of procedure could be devised. It would certainly be open to this Parliament to .pass legislation to enable a court to entertain an application for a declaration as to the actual marital status of the petitioner or applicant.
– But that would not solve your problem, would it, unless the court made a declaration that it was a valid marriage and could be dissolved?
– There are two problems, as I see the matter. Under this Bill certain marriages which formerly were not recognised are made marriages for the purpose of allowing a court to entertain a petition for dissolution. In the case of a marriage which is not recognised, if the woman - in most cases the applicant would be a woman because these polygamous marriages involve the husband taking more than one wife, not the wife taking more than one husband - approached an Australian court, it would say: “We do not recognise this marriage. Therefore, we will not dissolve it. It is not a marriage within the meaning of the Matrimonial Causes Act. Therefore, we have no jurisdiction to entertain a petition to dissolve it.”
– Would a party to such a union be convicted of bigamy by our courts?
– That is the 64 dollar question.
– I think this is one of those conundrums in which legal people get themselves tied up.
– I agree with that. I believe that there are unsolved problems in this field. I do not know how many persons may be affected. It is important that the law relating to this subject matter should move humanely, even though it does not necessarily cover a large number of people. This amendment may grant relief to only a comparatively small number of people who are hopelessly bound without it.
In the case which I was contemplating, an Australian girl who married polygamously overseas and had an Australian domicile up to the time of her marriage would be bound for ever, as far as our courts are concerned, to her polygamous marriage. In that case we would seem to be encouraging polygamy, although she may have a desire to contract another marriage in a monogamous society. She would be bound if her marriage were valid. I see the Minister nodding his head and I think he and I are now on common ground. If her marriage were not valid, at the present time she has no way of having that established in a court. If she wants to re-marry, she has to act on the assumption that her marriage is invalid and not recognised, and go ahead and contract a monogamous marriage in Australia. Whether she would be prosecuted for bigamy would depend on differences of interpretation and, perhaps, on the zeal of prosecuting officers who might be guided by their own personal views on these matters.
In the next phase of the amendment of the Matrimonial Causes Act - I suppose that sooner or later further amendments will be introduced - we ought to legislate for some procedure under which a woman in such a position could approach a court and, notwithstanding her inability to prove a valid marriage or a marriage that would be recognised by our courts, obtain from the court a declaration which would have the effect of freeing her, as far as Australian courts are concerned, from any suggestion that she was still bound to the marriage contracted overseas.
Those are the main observations that I want to make on that amendment. We are dealing with a sensitive area of human rela tions. Often we are concerned with a person who made an unfortunate choice at some stage of her life - perhaps fairly early in her life. The people responsible for the administration of the law - particularly the Attorney-General, with his wide powers to examine these matters and to introduce amendments - should give some attention to taking the initiative in seeing whether some regularity can be brought into the position of the few people who are not assisted by this legislation. Of course, the number of such people may increase. It is becoming quite the thing, or quite common, for young Australian women to travel abroad. Some of them do so in their postgraduate years. Some of them do so to learn a little about the world. Some spend a year or two abroad studying, working or merely seeing some part of the world. If they contract marriages that are polygamous or potentially polygamous, at some stage of their lives they may want to retrace their steps and return to live normally in a monogamous society.
– In most cases they would not change their domicile.
– That is right, and therefore they would not get relief.
– What happens if they were temporarily resident in those countries?
– If, prior to marriage, they have not established domicile in the country in which they eventually marry, they do not get any relief under this Bill.
– There is some conflict between the authorities on this matter, but the better view, which I think Dicey and others share, is that our law, following British law, does not recognise a potentially polygamous marriage as a valid marriage. It is the law of the domicile. I would be pleased to be able to say that the proposition rests upon a nonsensical proposition )f law, but I am not sure that it is. Anybody who has had any experience in the difficult fields of private international law in matrimonial matters as well as in other matters knows how technical the distinction sometimes is on which an eventual decision regarding domicile is based. I have been told that in the particular case in which the Victorian court eventually found that it had no jurisdiction, there was a hairbreadth decision on whether the wife had or had not acquired a Pakistani domicile prior to her marriage. Why should the effective working of the Act or the essential outcome of a case like that have to turn upon a nice technical point? Yet we all know that the conception of domicile is fundamental in this branch of the law.
– The validity of the marriage depends on the place where it is celebrated?
– Yes, but we do not recognise polygamous marriages. Where the law of the country of domicile does not recognise polygamous marriages, that seems to be conclusive. This question has been argued in the textbooks and so on, but from my limited understanding in these fields and from what I have been able to gather from learned people who know a great deal about this matter, that seems to bc the better view. I raise these matters in order to draw the attention of the Attorney-General and of the Minister who represents the Attorney-General in this place to the fact that this Bill has not solved all the problems. Indeed, the AttorneyGeneral deliberately stopped short, as the Minister representing him in this place put it, of granting relief to those whom I have mentioned. He said -
The amendment will not alter our insistence that Australian marriage is monogamous, and it will give no encouragement to Australians temporarily overseas to enter polygamous marriages. Indeed, any such marriages would be invalid.
For myself, I do not think that making sensible provision for unravelling some of these very difficult skeins is encouraging polygamy. On the contrary, I think we might well encourage monogamy by making it plain that the woman in question would be free to enter into a monogamous marriage in our society if she wanted to do so.
The Bill deals with a number of other matters of substance, one of the most important of which is the opportunity now given to married partners to attempt a reconciliation without their coming together in cohabitation being regarded as condonation of a matrimonial offence if the attempt at reconciliation is unsuccessful. Previously, as the Minister made clear in his speech, there has been a natural reluctance, in view of the state of the law, by solicitors and others to advise their clients to attempt reconciliation because the act of coming together would be regarded, even if it proved to be unsuccessful, as having interrupted the period of the separation or as amounting to condonation of a matrimonial offence. The Bill says, in effect - I think properly and sensibly - “ Let us not put artificial barriers in the way of married partners who have become separated coming together again. Let us give them a three months trial period “. If they succeed in. reconciling themselves, well and good. If they fail, the attempt should not be regarded as standing in the way of relief to the partner who would otherwise have had the right to petition a court for dissolution. That seems to me to be a move in the right direction and one which the Parliament should encourage. In proposed section 39a there is a consequential amendment which protects the position of a husband against whom such a resumption of marital cohabitation would have been conclusive evidence that he had condoned the wife’s offence. There is some technical difference between the kind of presumption that operates against a husband and the kind of presumption that operates against a wife in such circumstances.
I move to clause 12 of the Bill. Some doubt had apparently arisen as to the validity of decrees pronounced as a result of the operation of section 71 of the Act, which provides that a decree nisi does not become absolute unless and until the court has made a declaration that satisfactory arrangements have been made for those children of the marriage who are under 16 years of age.
– I would be grateful if the honorable senator would state the basis upon which any such doubt could arise. I am not sure whether it has been the subject of a judicial decision.
– I am accepting the proposition that the Minister put in his speech. I have not done any independent research on the question, but I have no reason to doubt that the proposition was expressed in the Minister’s speech as a result of information supplied by responsible officers. It was in these words -
Cases have occurred where a child has, through inadvertence, not been named in the petition, or his age has been mis-stated. If such an error were not discovered in time, there would be no valid decree absolute. In such a case any marriage subsequently contracted would be invalid.
I am content to act on that assertion by the Minister. If the present provision permits the possibility of error in that way and if the amending Bill makes good or validates invalid decrees that already have been made in such circumstances, I am content to see the loophole closed so that we will not have any other cases of this kind occurring through accident or inadvertence.
– I am told that the Victorian decision in “ Dern v. Dern “ in 1961 raised the possibility of the difficulty arising.
– I accept that. I am not familiar with the case myself. I am content to say that if, in the hearing of some case, this possibility has been discovered, legislative action should be taken to remedy the defect and to guard against the possibility of subsequent invalid marriages being contracted or of difficulty arising regarding the relief that can be given to children. I think these are matters that can properly be cleared up by amending legislation. Clause 14 introduces a necessary amendment, although it might not at first sight seem to do very much. It deals with the case of the court’s having to effect a transfer of property which is in the husband’s name, or in the other party’s name. I am thinking particularly of that class of person whom Senator Wright has pursued vigorously in relation to maintenance proceedings - the deserting husband or the absconding husband.
– Who is costing this country £4.5 million a year in social services.
– I am paying Senator Wright the compliment of acknowledging his constant - indeed, persistent - interest in this matter.
– His tenacity.
– His tenacity. A judge may, in granting a decree to the wife, make an order that the husband transfer property to the wife, or transfer his interest in it if it is a joint property, and the husband is nowhere to be found. He cannot transfer it, because he is not there to comply with the order. He cannot be found and made to comply with the order. The present section deals only with persons who neglect or refuse. In cases where the husband neglects or refuses to transfer, the court can appoint an officer to perform the necessary transfer.
– You might shed light on the subject by flashing in the phrase, “ fail to pass “.
– I think that the honorable senator is getting into the realm of constitutional law.
– It is not as exciting as divorce.
– It deals with double dissolution, not single dissolution.
– Yes, on occasions. The amending clause gives the court power to direct a person to execute a deed or instrument not only in cases where the respondent has refused or neglected to comply with a direction but also if for any other reason the court thinks it is necessary to exercise its powers under the sub-section. That is a valuable provision. I know of an important case that was decided in Victoria this year by Mr. Justice Barry, in which he dealt with this problem in relation to a person who had a war service home. The Director of the War Service Homes Division, naturally enough, having a substantial duty towards beneficiaries under that legislation, has been reluctant to make any transfer, where in fact there had not been a definite transfer by the deserting husband. Mr. Justice Barry, in a very important judgment, directed the Registrar to execute the transfer, relying upon the Commonwealth officer’s observance of the full faith and credit section of the Constitution. He made some very important observations about the way in which a Commonwealth officer might approach his duty when confronted with such a judgment of the court. This provision will, I think, deal with the situation in a way which would not throw upon the responsible Commonwealth officer - this might apply, of course, to a number of situations other than in relation to war service homes - the onus of deciding whether he was really bound to act upon the Court’s direction.
Those are the main matters to which I wanted to direct attention. There are other minor matters. One of them - perhaps not so minor - is covered bv clause 15. which proposes to make it plain that the court has jurisdiction to grant an order for maintenance when the counter petitioner acts in good faith. Even although the petitioner has not acted in good faith, that would be a bar now to the petitioner’s obtaining relief. But if this amendment is carried, it will be no bar to a successful respondent’s obtaining an order for maintenance. With these remarks, I repeat what I said at the beginning. The Opposition supports the amending legislation. We should like to see, in due course, attention given to the other problems that have been raised. We do not propose to move anything by way of amendment during the course of this debate or in the Committee stage.
I think I ought to say that since the enactment of this legislation in 1959 much good has come from the passage of this legislation. The administration of the system has settled down in the courts and, from all that one knows and hears about it, it is working effectively. To the former Attorney-General and to Mr. Justice Joske - Mr. Joske, as he then was - who were pioneers in this field of amending legislation in the sphere of divorce, it must be some satisfaction to know that the legislation is working well.
.- I support the Bill. 1 pay tribute to a government that finds time to deal with matters so unimportant as those that are collected in this Bill. I do not disparage it by making that remark. I think it is an exceedingly trivial bill but I suppose it is desirable, as difficulties occur, to attend to them and put them right. It is like sending for a Tasmanian statute and being brought the South Australian one. In the income tax field, defects disclosed by decisions of the High Court of Australia can go unrepaired for 8 or 10 years, letting leakage of revenue take place, and when amendments in that field are imperatively required for the purpose of making the law just, we cannot spare the time of draftsmen to deal with them. But here we have a collection of very insignificant items in one bill and the only thing about which I strike a discordant note is that when we get dubious difficulties such as those that are dug up in this bill we probably complicate the law more by this form of repair than by leaving the matter to judicial exposition. I shall illustrate that by one case in a minute, but I shall follow the sequence that Senator Cohen has followed and refer first to polygamous marriages.
I would have thought that when we considered the original Bill we would have said: “ Shall we make it a ground of divorce that one party to the marriage has been absent for more than seven years, that he has not been heard of in circumstances where it is likely that communications would have come from him and that the presumption is that he is dead?” If he is dead, the marriage no longer exists, even on the most orthodox basis. We made that a ground of divorce. We dissolve the marriage and the dissolution has the force of law. Why can we not say here that if a union, under any law of the Commonwealth or the States, is recognised to the degree that in law it prevents remarriage, a divorce court may issue a decree or declaration that that union, if it is a marriage, is dissolved?
Senator Cohen referred to a polygamous marriage. I am fascinated by this aspect. He directed our attention to the fact that the relevant clause does not apply to a union unless the law applicable to local marriages, which was in force in the country or each of the countries of domicile of the parties at the time the union took place, permitted polygamy on the part of the male. I do not know whether there is any country on earth where polygamy on the part of the female partner is permitted.
– It is called polyandry.
– What has the law of domicile to do with the validity of the ceremony of marriage?
– Lex loci celebrationis.
– I would have thought so. If a person goes to Pakistan and there contracts a marriage which is valid according to the place of ceremony and he then returns to Australia, surely the Australian law recognises that marriage. If it does not recognise the marriage, why cannot the woman go to the Registry Office and marry a second man? It seems to me that here we are going into particular cases and squeezing out a whole lot of sections which confuse the law, whereas we should say that if there were a state of marriage a divorce court could issue a conditional decree.
The next matter to which reference has been made relates to reconciliation. The view is that if there is a chance of reconciliation it is a good thing to allow the parties to come together for a trial period of three months, and, however intimate the association may be, if the three months trial period proves to be futile, it should operate in no way as condonation of any matrimonial offence. I have no observations of any worth to offer on that except to say that it seems to me to be an oddity. What is condonation? It is forgiveness. It may be conditional, it may be tentative or it may be genuine. I understand that if the parties reach the stage of forgiveness, the offence is effaced. But we apply a three months arbitrary period. The reconciliation may seem to be complete in the first week or in the first month, but apparently one party can resile from that situation so long as he disappears the night before the three months expires.
To me, this oddity is accentuated when I consider the question of condonation. A distinction has been drawn between the effect of the conduct of the sexes. If the male partner engages in marital intercourse with knowledge of an offence by the wife he is held thereby, through the sound robust sense of the judges, to have condoned any previous offence by the wife. Someone calls that a presumption in this Bill. No doubt many courts have referred to it as a presumption, but I would have thought they regarded it as a fact which the judicial mind would not permit, in decency, to be disputed - a fact firmly accepted. What standard of honour have we reached if a husband, with knowledge of his wife’s fault, takes her to bed and then is afterwards permitted to say that he did not condone her fault?
The wife is in a different situation because even in the present economy she is not surrounded by the law with the same economic and social independence as is the male. If the male has been guilty of a fault, the wife, in that position of greater dependence on him, can more understandably permit him to have access, and that per mission by the wife, in the eyes of most people, would not be held as conclusive evidence that she has condoned his offence. The courts have so held. But the proponents of this Bill say: “ If that is the position for a wife, we will now make it the position for a husband.” I think that is a completely dishonorable proposition and I am surprised that anyone should put it forward. If there is any court which, without the compulsion of a statute, would say of a husband who took his wife to bed with knowledge of her fault that he did not thereby forgive her, what sort of dishonorable, degraded form of domestic conduct are we attributing to the marital union?
I turn to another matter which I raised by way of question while Senator Cohen was speaking in the hope that I would get more enlightenment than time has permitted me to getby research. I must say that preoccupation with more national matters has prevented me from reading the list of cases which, let me say, I am grateful to the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) and his officers for making available to me. Section 71 (1.) of the principal Act is in these terms -
Where there are children of the marriage in relation to whom this section applies, the decree nisi shall not become absolute unless the court, by order, has declared -
that it is satisfied that proper arrangements in all the circumstances have been made for the welfare and, where appropriate, the advancement and education of those children; or
that there are such special circumstances that the decree nisi should become absolute notwithstanding that the court is not satisfied that such arrangements have been made.
It is seriously suggested that if there are five children of the marriage and one is forgotten or inadvertently omitted from the petition, the court having made a declaration that it was satisfied that proper arrangements had been made for the welfare of “ those “ children of the marriage, there is no doubt as to the validity of the decree. Quite frankly, I thought I would be capable of encouraging legal doubts with relish for the purposes of dealing with them but I am completely unable to understand why it should be suggested that there was any real pretext for the invalidity of a decree where the court had made a declaration, in relation to the children of the marriage, that it was satisfied their welfare had been protected. lt may be that there is some significance in the words “ those children “. The section begins -
Where there are children of the marriage . . .
If the petition mentioned only some of them, the declaration perhaps would not be considered to refer to all of them; but I would think it would be a technicality of the nth degree to suggest that there be any doubt as to the validity of a decree on that basis.
– Surely if there is a doubt, it should be cleared up in the interests of the children.
– I agree with Senator Anderson when he suggests that in the interests of legitimacy and the subsequent validity of the marriage any doubt should be cleared up; but it is equally imperative that we do not allow unreal doubts to creep in to unsettle the certain validity of a decree that had been made. If we make the jurisdiction of the court to grant a decree depend upon a declaration by the court itself, we would think that surely, once a declaration had been made by the court purporting to deal with the matter, the existence of extraneous circumstances would not permit of any doubt as to the validity of the decree.
I do not wish to refer to all other matters related to the Bill at this stage, but Senator Cohen’s reference to deserting husbands deserves some notice. If the industry that has gone into the production of this legislation had been put into a little amendment to the social services legislation, I would have got much more satisfaction from it. The amendment I would like to see would have covered the problem of deserted wives to whom the Department of Social Services last year paid £4.5 million that should have been paid by their husbands. Provision should be made to enable the Department to recover the payment equivalent to a widow’s pension that is paid to deserted wives. I would have been glad if the work that has gone into this Bill had been put into a provision under the Service and Execution of Process Act of the Commonwealth making it easy, as a matter of Commonwealth process, to transfer these maintenance orders from State to State so as to cover some of these arrears of maintenance.
I cannot bring myself to a state of cheerful satisfaction when I recall that over the past three or four years repeated references have been made to the deficiencies of the law in those two respects; yet, but for the reference to the existence of a uniform maintenance act which has been passed in two States, we have still not made any advances in- that connection. The exchequer is still bearing the burden to the extent of a sum totalling between £4 million and £5 million a year. I know there is some doubt as to the constitutional power of the Commonwealth, incidental to its social services power, to pass laws for the recovery from deserting husbands of moneys paid to their wives; but surely we should have enough courage to take that matter to the courts and let the courts decide. When we are confronted with a list of trivia such as we find in this Bill, we must feel that we would get much greater satisfaction if we had before us measures such as I have mentioned of real substance and of public importance.
.- The Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) made a most important statement in his second reading speech on this Bill when he said that reconciliation was a major objective of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959. Honorable senators do not need to be reminded that the uniform divorce law for Australia was introduced on 1st February 1961. The request for a uniform divorce law had been presented by women’s organisations over a very long period. I understand from the history of the National Council of Women of Victoria that such a request was instituted in 1916 and that at repeated conferences of the National Council of Women, the request for a uniform divorce law was renewed. When Mr. Justice Joske, who was then the honorable member for Balaclava in the House of Representatives, set about the task of producing a uniform divorce law, the branches of the National Council of Women in all States were extremely interested. It was somewhat disappointing, therefore, when there was a lapse of time between the submission of the Bill by Mr. Joske, as he was then, and the legislation being taken up again by Sir Garfield Barwick when he was Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. Those who are interested in the prevention of divorce must be most grateful to Mr. Justice Joske, Sir Garfield Barwick who is now Chief Judge of the High Court of Australia, and to the present Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) because I believe some of the provisions in the new legislation will be of considerable benefit in the prevention of divorce.
We are told, and we firmly believe, that a marriage solemnised according to Australian law is a monogamous marriage. One would hope that through the educational programmes of the marriage guidance organisations there will be an ever increasing acceptance also that marriage as celebrated in Australia under Australian law is a solemn and permanent union. Nevertheless, there must be realisation that marriages do break down. In many cases, divorce is the only solution to a great deal of unhappiness not only for the husband and wife but also for the children.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
.- I move -
That each and every instrument, or copies thereof, made pursuant to section five of the Housing Loans Insurance Act 1965 declaring classes of approved lenders, be laid on the Table of the Senate.
There are two aspects of this matter which deserve brief mention. The first is that instruments in writing have been chosen in contradistinction to regulations. There is no automatic provision for the tabling of these instruments, but it is desirable that the Senate should be informed of them. The next point is that, having regard to the history of the Senate over the last 17 or 20 years, it is desirable that this motion be placed on record.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman). - Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - I present the following paper -
Instrument declaring classes of persons to be approved classes of lenders.
The presentation of this instrument flows from the motion that was proposed by Senator Wright a moment ago.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I had said that women’s organisations had pressed for a considerable number of years for a uniform divorce law. Whilst they greatly regretted marital unhappiness and the breakdown of marriage, they realised that very often divorce was the only solution to marital problems. They were aware that many sections of the State laws operated unfairly against women. They pressed for the removal of these discriminations and for the adoption of a law that would apply uniformly in all the States. Having said that very often divorce was the inevitable outcome of marital unhappiness, I mention also that it would seem that divorce in those cases was the only means of ensuring the future happiness, or possible future happiness, of the husband and wife and that their children would find greater happiness in the care of either the husband or the wife or in whatever care they were placed.
It is interesting to note that, although there has been an increase in the population of Australia, there has been a slight decrease of the divorce rate. In 1959 the divorce rate was 72 per 100,000 of the population, but in 1964 it had fallen to 71 per 100,000. Honorable senators will recall that the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959 recognised marriage guidance organisations and made provision for the granting of a subsidy to approved organisations. It is fairly obvious that the reduction of the divorce rate can be attributed in some degree to the efforts of these organisations, although it is extremely difficult to assess the degree of success that is attained in dealing with problems that are presented to marriage guidance counsellors by husbands or wives. In very many cases where the husband and wife are interviewed it is not known whether reconciliation has been effected. Nevertheless, it is acknowledged in the reports of the various organisations that, even if success is achieved in only 1 out of 100 cases, their work is very worthwhile indeed. In such cases not only is the happiness of the husband, the wife and the children restored, but there is hope for the emotional stability of the children of the marriage. Very often an unhappy marriage results ultimately in the unhappy marriages of the children. So I believe I am correct in saying that the marriage guidance councils are very glad indeed that proposed section 41a will strengthen the possibility of reconciliation.
It will be recalled that section 14 in Part III of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959 provides that, where divorce proceedings are instituted, if the judge, as he listens to the evidence, thinks there is a possibility of reconciliation he may adjourn the proceedings, interview the parties, and then nominate an approved marriage guidance organisation or a person with training in marriage conciliation, or in special circumstances some other suitable person, with a view to trying to effect a reconciliation. Section 14 (2.) sets out that the period in which reconciliation may be attempted shall not be less than 14 days. I feel certain that the proposal to extend the period of reconciliation to three months will certainly afford a very much greater opportunity for that result to be achieved. Section 14(2.) does not state the exact time within which reconciliation shall be attempted, but it does provide that if shall be not less than 14 days and that if, after the expiration of the 14 days, no reconciliation is possible the hearing shall be resumed, not by the judge who suggested the reconciliation, but by another judge.
Proposed section 41a, which is set out in clause 10 of the Bill, deals with the effect of cohabitation with a view to reconciliation. I have said that the marriage guidance organisations will welcome proposed section 41 a. Those organisations must have been very disappointed at the comparatively few cases that have been referred to them by judges in the various States. Of course, prior to the drafting of this section, difficulties have been experienced in attempting reconciliation. I hope that this provision will encourage members of the legal profession to suggest to parties who come to them seeking a divorce that they should first try to effect a reconciliation, knowing that the proposed trial period of three months will not destroy their ground for divorce. If during that trial period the reconciliation has proved to be quite ineffectual, the divorce will proceed and the grounds for divorce will remain. I suggest that this provision will give greater impetus to judges in the courts and to members of the legal profession, and also to marriage guidance counsellors if people come to them when divorce is imminent to suggest a trial period of three months.
The degree of success obtained by marriage guidance counsellors depends greatly on the time at which people come to them for help. I stress that people do not approach the counsellors for advice, because that is not the way in which marriage guidance works. I commend most heartily the provision of the proposed section 41a because of its greater emphasis upon reconciliation. If that section alone were embodied in the new Act, it would be very worthwhile legislation.
Another very welcome addition to the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959 concerned the care and custody of children. Honorable senators will remember that section 71 provided that there must be assurance of the care, custody and maintenance of the child or children of a marriage. In the legislation now before us, special reference is made in clause 6 to the children of a marriage. It provides that where children of the parents seeking divorce have been placed in the care of the State, upon the petition being granted they may remain wards of the State. Apparently some doubt has existed as to whether the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959 altered the position in relation to the States. Clause 6 makes it quite clear that the care of children by child welfare authorities is a matter that should be left to State law. The amendment covers that situation. Senator Cohen referred to clause 15 which relates to the power of a court to make orders on dismissal of a petition. Although a court dismisses a petition, nevertheless it can make an order for maintenance. In my opinion, an even more vital point of this amendment is that it also can provide for the custody of children. That is a new matter and one which will be greatly welcomed.
This Bill is also most realistic in that it has recognised that greater movement of peoples exists between countries than previously. Therefore, a greater number of marriages between peoples of countries with differing marriage laws may be expected. Some such marriages may fail. Apparently one has already failed, causing great distress to the woman involved, as has been stated by both Senator Cohen and Senator Wright. A marriage solemnised under our law must be monogamous and in no way must there be any departure from that standard. As the Minister said in his second reading speech that would be unthinkable. It has been suggested that a further amendment is necessary in respect of polygamous marriages, but I hope that safeguards will always be introduced and maintained in order that an attitude is not adopted that, although polygamy is deplorable, it may occur. I suggest that when Australian men or women arc temporarily visiting overseas countries and have not there established domicile, they should give a great deal of thought before entering into marriage. Of course, that, suggestion has equal force in relation to marriage between Australians also.
Clause 14 has been referred to by previous speakers. It authorises a registrar to execute a direction for the transfer of property from a husband or wife if that person refuses or neglects to follow that direction. This provision will be greatly welcomed by women. The two States in which uniform maintenance legislation has been passed are New South Wales and Victoria, although in neither State is it in operation. I imagine it is waiting upon the drawing up of the necessary regulations. I hope that the other States will speedily follow the example set by New South Wales and Victoria and introduce similar legislation so that the uniformity relating to divorce legislation may be extended to maintenance.
Various other aspects of this measure have been touched upon by previous speakers, f repeat my congratulations to Mr. Snedden for introducing this amending legislation which will assist reconciliation and the preservation of marriages where at present there is a great deal of unhappiness.
– As a member of the Opposition, I do not intend to oppose the Bill. However,
I would like to express my regret that these amendments to the legislation we passed in 1959 do not deal with its more important aspects. Quite a number of provisions in this amending legislation do not affect a great number of people who are affected by the original legislation. A great deal has been said about polygamy, yet we have not been able to deal satisfactorily with bigamy through the uniform divorce laws.
Ever since I came to this Parliament I have advocated unification of the divorce laws of Australia. I have been told that I was trying to break up marriages. I wanted uniform legislation so that people would not suffer merely because of the geographical factors involved. I wanted uniform laws based upon the highest standards that obtained in all States. As the Minister is aware, I opposed quite a number of aspects of the original legislation when it came before the Senate. I objected very strongly to some provisions which were based, not on the highest standards of the State laws, but upon the lowest standards. I believe that the provision relating to five years’ separation is much more deserving of amendment than some of the provisions iri the legislation now before the Senate because they do not affect very many people, I said at the time we debated the original legislation and I maintain still that the five years’ separation provision is weighted very badly against women. Unfortunately, the experience I have had since of many women who have come to me bears out that what 1 said was true.
I agree with Senator Wright in respect of the importance of maintenance payments and the huge payments made each year by this Government because of defaulting husbands who have not paid their maintenance dues and who just laugh at the law of this country. Legislation to deal with that situation should have been brought before this Parliament. I was pleased to learn that last week-end something which I had been advocating for many years was put before a Liberal Party convention in Tasmania. That was that the whole matter of maintenance and maintenance orders should be taken over by the States so that wives and children will not suffer in any way, defaulting husbands can be dealt with by governments and wives will not be put to the expense of finding their husbands and will not have to accept responsibility for getting their husbands to pay maintenance, which, under this uniform legislation, is happening.
Another thing which is very detrimental to women is the high cost of divorce. 1 know personally of one case in which a poor woman whose husband had deserted her many years before had to find nearly £300 before she could get a lawyer to take her case. I know that because I lent her the money so that she could obtain the legal advice that she needed. She succeeded in getting a divorce although she did not really want one because, for religious reasons, she was opposed to divorce. When she was granted a divorce, after she had successfully defended a petition by her husband on the ground of five years’ separation, he agreed to make maintenance payments; but he has not made them for the last two years. He has got away with that.
She has been receiving a deserted wife’s pension. She is afraid that the Government or somebody else will catch up with him, because then he could pay her just a couple of weeks’ maintenance and the whole sad story would start all over again. It is much better for her to receive the deserted wife’s pension regularly than to receive the fragmentary payments that her husband makes, although he has a maintenance order against him. I appeal to the Minister to take this matter up with the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) and to see whether something can be done, and done soon, because this position is becoming worse year by year. It should be the responsibility of governments, not of deserted wives, to ensure that husbands make maintenance payments and live up to their responsibilities.
The trouble is not always that the defaulting husband cannot be found. At the present time I am dealing with the case of a woman who does not want to be divorced. Her husband walked out some time ago. He is employed by the Commonwealth Government. He got a job at Woomera, which is a closed area. She wanted to go there and join him; but the application for her to join him had to be made by him, and he did not want her to go to Woomera. So she could not go there to join him. The period of separation begins from when he walked out. Now he has gone overseas on a Government mission. He has not paid any maintenance for his wife and child. She has had to go back to teaching in Western
Australia. The last time 1 was speaking to her, she was a patient in a hospital. She was recovering from a nervous breakdown. I had a long talk with her about this matter. Now she does not even know whether her husband is still in the United States, or in Canada, or where he is; and she cannot get that information from the department concerned.
– Did she not have to sign or endorse his application for a passport?
– That is all hooey. It is a bit of bluff that is put over people. I have taken up that matter on behalf of several other wives. The husband of one of them even took his girlfriend or de facto wife to England first class on a ship. His wife was on the wharf and saw them go. She did not have to sign his papers so that he could get out of the country. That is just a bit of bluff. I have been told that by the immigration authorities. I believe that it is. about time these matters were dealt with - and dealt with finally - instead of talking about polygamy and girls who go overseas, fall in love with somebody in an overseas country and then get into all kinds of matrimonial difficulties. I believe that some of the people who are trying to raise their families here in Australia are encountering great difficulties.
I speak very feelingly on this matter, because I have had to deal with not just one or two cases of this kind. In the 23 years for which I have been in the Senate, I have dealt with hundreds of such cases. During the war years alone I dealt with the cases of no fewer than 300 girls who were, deserted after entering into war-time marriages. Since the war many women, naturally, have come to Senator Breen, Senator Wedgwood, Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin and me and have told us their stories. I have also dealt with a couple of cases of deserted husbands. But in those cases the economic circumstances were not quite the same.
Just recently a chap came to me. He was very upset. He wanted me to get the police off his back. I said to him: “ What are they doing on your back? “ He said: “ They came in and dug up my cabbages.” They were prize cabbages, and he was very upset about that. I said to him: “ Why did they do that? “ He said: “ They were looking for my missus.
They thought I had planted her.” I said to him: “ Did you plant her? “ He said: “ No. She just shot through. But the cabbages were good ones.” He was more upset about his cabbages than about his wife. I think he had something on his side, because any woman who would desert her family is not worth as much as a good cabbage.
But I am speaking about the wife who is deserted, who is left to carry the burden of bringing up her family alone and who is faced with the prospect of living on a deserted wife’s pension. As I have said before in this chamber, I consider that the plight of the deserted wife is ever so much more sad than that of the widow. The widow at least has happy memories to which she can turn; whereas the deserted wife feels that she is a failure and has nothing but sadness in her memory. These are matters on which I believe more time should have been spent when amendments to the Matrimonial Causes Act were being considered, so that these anomalies and injustices could be remedied.
– They are more important than allowing a guilty party to petition for a divorce.
– Exactly. I said these things during the debate on the Matrimonial Causes Bill 1959. I know that Senator Gorton will remember that, because night and day for some time I put my arguments on various clauses of that Bill. Women whom the writer of the book that I mentioned this morning would describe as “ elderly, unattractive females “ are such because of the years of service that they have given to their husbands and families. The woman is no longer attractive, and her husband can find consolation elsewhere as long as he covers up his indiscretion. He can get a divorce although his wife does not want to be divorced.
I can remember Senator Gorton saying to me six years ago that women were selfish if they wanted to cling to a marriage when they were no longer wanted. I do not forget these things. Neither do many of the women about whom I spoke at that time and about whom I speak tonight. Women are not selfish. It is said that women have nothing to lose except their marital status. We send women overseas to the Status of Women Commission; yet we ignore the women in our community who wish to have pride in their marital status and many of whom have given up their lives to helping their husbands to reach positions of prominence which they would not have been able to reach but for the self-sacrificing help and encouragement that they have received from their wives. Some such men are in very good positions. They would die if I mentioned their names tonight. Of course, I do not intend to do that.
The Matrimonial Causes Act is very important. I agree with the idea that trying to effect a reconciliation is very important. I also agree that the sections of the Act that provide some safeguards and security for the children of a marriage are very important. I am not opposing this Bill; but I am suggesting to the Minister, the Government and all honorable senators that many aspects of the Matrimonial Causes Act should be tidied up. At the present time many innocent people are suffering because of this Act, which we passed six years ago. I believe that it has brought in its wake more unhappiness than relief, because in many cases it has succeeded in making divorce respectable by sweeping the dust under the carpet instead of picking it up with a vacuum cleaner and putting it in a waste paper basket.
– I rise to support the Bill. I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on matrimonial causes. It should be remembered that the original Matrimonial Causes Bill was passed in 1959 and that this is the first amendment to any part of the Matrimonial Causes Act. Senator Tangney reminisced about the occasion when the original Bill was passed six years ago. I am sorry that she has not been able to detect many advantages in that legislation. For myself, I think that it was momentous legislation. It did a great deal to bring the laws of Australia, relating to matrimonial causes, into a unified state.
I would like to pay a tribute, as other honorable senators have done, to some of the architects of that legislation. In point of time, I would like to mention Dr. Evatt. I think it was in 1945 that Dr. Evatt made the first use of that section of the Constitution dealing with matrimonial causes. Then there was the former member for
Balaclava, who is now Mr. Justice Joske. He is a well known writer of text books. I have in my hand Joske’s “ Marriage and Divorce” which was written in 1961. lt followed a number of books that he had written on that subject over the years. In those days the former member for Balaclava applied his mind to this question of uniformity.
The present Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Garfield Barwick, was the architect of the 1959 legislation. I think that Sir Garfield Barwick made a very important approach to this question. As was mentioned by Senator Breen who made an excellent speech, he wrote in section 14 of the Matrimonial Causes Act under the heading “ Reconciliation “. Great emphasis is placed on reconciliation all through the Act. Tonight we are dealing with a further aspect of reconciliation, to which I will refer shortly. The genius of Sir Garfield Barwick was that he spread his net very widely in search of knowledge. Sir Garfield, as I remember, took opinions from a wide section of the community. He consulted with the Attorneys-General of the States. I understand that he also consulted with the judges of the States, the Masters of the Supreme Courts, the law societies and the Law Council of Australia. He received opinions from the religious leaders of the day. Today we see the fruits of the co-operation that Sir Garfield received in his great work in 1959.
This first amendment to his work is of some importance to the Senate. It might be interesting for the Senate to know that this legislation, according to the statistics in the Commonwealth “ Year Book “, has not meant a startling rise in the number of matrimonial causes. The “ Year Book “ reveals that in 1959 there were 7,315 matrimonial causes; in 1960, 6,633; in 1961, 6,673; in 1962, 7,220; and in 1963, 7,409. When one considers that there has been a very steady increase in population particularly in the age group which is rather prone to divorce, the statistics do not show that there has been an increase in the number of divorces in the community. This is despite the fact that more grounds for divorce are now available. lt may interest the Senate to know the grounds on which divorces were granted.
In 1963 there were 3,324 divorces granted on the ground of desertion, 1,611 on the ground of adultery, 1,342 on the ground of separation and fewer than 100 on other grounds. One can see from those statistics the general trend of applications for divorce relief. Another set of figures in which the Senate may be interested shows the divorce rate per 10,000 of population over 15 years of age. In 1954 there were 100 males and 115 females and in 1961 there were 105 males and 119 females. So there has not been a great rise in the number of divorces granted per 10,000 of population over 1 5 years of age.
I agree with Senator Cohen’s approach to a number of these important amendments. I think that the honorable senator made a calm and reasoned speech. I agree with the point he made regarding polygamous marriages and also with his suggestion that a court should be able to give a declaration on the validity of a marriage. Even though only a few cases are affected by the amendment relating to polygamous marriages, I think that it is well justified. This is a pioneer trend of thought in matrimonial law in the English speaking world. I understand that no English speaking country has yet introduced such an amendment to matrimonial law.
I turn now to the topic of reconciliation. It should be remembered that reconciliation, under section 14 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, goes right to the basis of the thinking of the Parliament in 1959. Section 14(1.) states -
It is the duty of the court in which a matrimonial cause has been instituted to give consideration, from time to time, to the possibility of a reconciliation of the parties to the marriage . . and if at any time it appears to the Judge constituting the court, either from the nature of the case, the evidence in the proceedings or the attitude of those parties, or of either of them, or of counsel, that there is a reasonable possibility of such a reconciliation, the Judge may do all or any of the following -
And then it sets out that he can adjourn the proceedings, or with the consent of the parties, interview them, or nominate an approved marriage guidance organisation. Section 15 provides -
Where a Judge has acted as conciliator . . . but the attempt to effect a reconciliation has failed, the Judge shall not, except at the request of the parties to the proceedings, continue to hear the proceedings . . .
The parties have to get another judge. Then, the very important section 16 provides -
Evidence of anything said or of any admission made in the course of an endeavour to effect a reconciliation … is not admissible in any court . . or in proceedings before a person authorised by a law of the Commonwealth or of « State or Territory of the Commonwealth, or by consent of parties, to hear, receive and examine evidence.
So that, in effect, introduces the “ without prejudice “ idea, when the parties frankly discuss before a judge or before a marriage guidance organisation any of their problems, in an attempt at reconciliation. So far, so good. But those ideas, so forcefully put in the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1959, “are really abortive when they come up against a phase of law described under the heading of “ Condonation “ in Mr. Joske’s book. So that the Senate will bc aware of the legal definition of condonation, I have brought along Joske’s “ Marriage and Divorce”, volume 2, which states at page 366, on the subject of principles of condonation -
Condonation is a full and absolute pardoning, wilh knowledge of all that is pardoned or believed to exist, together with the restoration of the offending party to the same position as such party occupied before the offence was committed . . Condonation of a matrimonial offence prevents any proceedings either for dissolution of marriage or judicial separation being taken in respect thereof unless, the offender has revived the offence. The doctrine of condonation rests upon broad principles of law recognised in all courts; it is an absolute bar to relief.
So we get the position of a litigant bringing a case before the court, and at about the time the proceedings are instituted there is a desire to see if the breakdown of the marriage is inevitable, to see whether or not something can be done to save the marriage. Until this amendment goes through, if the innocent party agrees to cohabit with the guilty party, with the best of Christian intentions, that is the act of condonation and an absolute bar to relief, and so the innocent party has virtually thrown away - in the case of a woman - her chance of getting a divorce on the grounds that are available to her, just because of her action of giving her husband, as it were, another chance to see if it is possible to remake the marriage.
That has been the law for hundreds of years and despite the fact that in the Act of 1959 it was laid down as the duty of the court to go to enormous extents to aim at reconciliation of the parties, there was this absolute bar to relief still in the law of the land. So I consider that tonight we are doing something of tremendous importance and interest to many unfortunate people who have to seek the relief of the divorce court. They will be able, without losing the grounds that are fundamental to their cases, to try for a period of not more than three months to reconcile, to endeavour to live together, and if they fail to reconcile the grounds will still be available, whereas without this amendment the grounds would not be available. If, of course, the reconciliation is successful, the case does not proceed, and victory has virtually been achieved for a commonsense approach and a reconciliation in every way. If it is unsuccessful, no harm is done to the petitioner’s case, which can go on. I think that that clause, above all in the Bill, is of the greatest importance.
There are other very important clauses that I should like to mention. As Senator Breen has said, clause 14 is of great importance. This is on the question of trans:el of property. In these days, property is a very important matter after a decree has been granted. Many a dwelling house is now owned by husband and wife jointly. Possibly more than half of the dwelling houses that are being erected each year are owned by husband and wife jointly. There are joint holdings of moneys in bank accounts and of bonds, shares and that sort of thing. It is quite understandable that if a decree is made against a husband he accepts the decree not in any sense of shame but just as a means of being released from a marital obligation that has not suited him, and he goes to another State. But the registrars of land titles offices, accountants of banks and company secretaries cannot do .anything about transferring the property which the court, maybe, orders to be made over to the wife or the children. They cannot do anything without the signatures of both parties or without an order of the court. Clause 14 is in aid of getting these orders of the court met in cases where the husband cannot be found to be served with the order of the court. I think this is a wise clause and I compliment the Government upon it.
I do not wish to say anything more, except to congratulate the Attorney-General (Mr.
Snedden), on the amendments that he has brought forward. Both Senator Tangney and Senator Wright seemed to think that this Bill lacked much. I think Senator Wright said that it was minimal and Senator Tangney said that there were many other aspects to which the Government should have applied its mind. I put this to both honorable senators: The previous AttorneyGeneral, Sir Garfield Barwick, and the present Attorney-General are both gentlemen who are devoted to- perfecting our matrimonial law, as I know from discussions 1 have had with them. I have no doubt that if either senator had actual clauses or amendments to submit for discussion the Attorney-General would not hesitate to discuss them and get his law officers to examine them carefully with a view to introducing further amendments. We, as senators, have an obligation to put before the Attorney-General the .shortcomings, as we see them, of the matrimonial law. The attitude of the present Attorney-General and his predecessor has been to get as wide a range of views as possible. I have no doubt that views put forward seriously by honorable senators, not in the heat of debate or in an impassioned way but in the quietness of the Attorney-General’s office, will receive careful consideration. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
– I hope it will not be taken either as a sign of disrespect to the Chair, now occupied by Senator .Tangney, or of a split in the Labour Party if I say that on this Bill I find myself rather more in agreement with the remarks of my learned friend, Senator Laught than with the remarks of my colleague Senator Tangney. One of the signs of a civilised society is the liberality of its divorce laws, provided, of course, that adequate provision is made for any dependent children or spouses. Whatever rules ecclesiastical or other religious authorities may impose on their adherents, I believe these are not the business of the secular State. It is not the business of the State to maintain people in indissoluble links when there is obviously no purpose in maintaining those links. I must confess that had I been here six years ago I would have agreed with Senator Gorton in the exchange that apparently took place between him and Senator Tangney.
This is an advanced Bill, just as, in my opinion, the 1959 Bill was an advanced Bill. Offhand, I would say that this is possibly the only piece of legislation this Government has introduced which entitles it to call itself Liberal. Insofar as the Government does earn that title from the legislation, I congratulate those who have produced it. For a long time it has been Labour Party policy to have uniform marriage and divorce laws throughout the Commonwealth, but I must say that there were some people in Western Australia who, although believing in uniform marriage and divorce laws, had some apprehension when the 1959 legislation was first proposed and before its details were known. As honorable senators probably are aware, five years separation as a ground for divorce was first introduced in Western Australia, with excellent results. I think that Western Australian lawyers were pleased that the law which had worked so successfully in that State was adopted by the National Parliament to prevail throughout the rest of the Commonwealth, on a rather more liberal basis than had previously been the case in Western Australia. No doubt honorable senators , are aware that in that State adultery had been an absolute bar to divorce on the ground of five years separation. I can only imagine that this led to a great deal of perjury. Now adultery is only a discretionary bar under the Commonwealth legislation.
I do not want to speak at length on this Bill because most of what needs to be said about it has already been said. I am sorry that I was out of the chamber and did not hear Senator Wright’s contribution, which I am sure was very interesting. If I had heard his speech I might have been influenced to adopt a different approach. Not having heard what he had to say, I can only agree with Senator Laught that the provision in the Bill relating to a three months trial period of reconciliation is an excellent one. In my own not very vast experience as a practising lawyer on many occasions a client, either a husband or a wife, has come to me, as I am sure others have gone to countless lawyers throughout Australia, and said that he has grounds for divorce, that some time ago he thought he should proceed with the divorce but now the other party is making an approach with a view to their getting together again. I have been asked for advice. In those circumstances the only thing a sensible lawyer can say to his client is: “ It is up to you to decide what to do, but let me warn you that if you and your wife do live together again you will probably destroy the grounds you already have for divorce and you might find yourself unable to get a divorce later because of this attempt at reconciliation “. This Bill provides for a three months trial period of reconciliation. This may mean that some divorces will be obtained which otherwise would not have been obtained. Equally, there will be a number of reconciliations which otherwise would not have occurred. This provision of the Bill is farsighted, and the Government should be congratulated on what I believe to be an original and intelligent step.
I wish to refer briefly to the rather complex question of polygamous and potentially polygamous marriages. This is a very complicated branch of private international law. It is fraught with difficulties. As I understand it, the amendment proposed by this Bill makes quite a signal departure from the common law as it has been applied up to the present time, not only in Australia but also in the other common law countries and probably in most countries which follow any form of western legal system. However, I agree with Senator Cohen - I think Senator Laught agrees with him also - that some consideration should be given to the rare cases of a second or subsequent wife entering into a polygamous marriage in a foreign country where polygamy is legal. If the marriage is not regarded in Australia as being valid, there should be provision for some declaration to be made by a judge that it is not a valid marriage so that everyone will know where he stands. Alternatively, if the marriage is regarded in Australia as being valid, means should be available to the spouse to obtain a divorce.
The existing situation - which applies also to a first wife in such a marriage - is quite absurd. She is recognised as being married insofar as she is unable to marry anyone else, but she is not recognised as being married insofar as she is unable to obtain a divorce. A great improvement has been made by this Bill, which proposes to change the existing position, but I agree with both Senator Cohen and Senator
Laught that some consideration should be given to the cases of second or subsequent spouses or presumptive spouses.
The only small criticism I would make of the law as it now stands concerns the present practice relating to discretion statements, lt is rather unfortunate that discretion statements filed by an honest petitioner can fall into the hands of the respondent and can lead, I believe, to a person prejudicing his own case to an extent that he is not obliged to do in most other branches of the law. I believe that the whole subject of discretion statements should be looked at by the AttorneyGeneral at some time in the future. I know that various law societies and other legal bodies throughout Australia have examined it. However, I do not wish to be a carping critic on small matters. On the whole, I congratulate the Government on the Bill and trust that it will be carried by the Senate.
.- in reply - There is no need for me to speak at any length on this Bill. It is largely a legal document and, as everybody knows, I am not a lawyer, but Senator Cohen, leading for the Opposition, made a speech which deserves comment. Some other speakers on each side of the House also made contributions of such a nature that it would be churlish for me to ignore them even though what I have to say might not be said by somebody with proper legal knowledge.
I understand that one of the matters touched upon by Senator Cohen and Senator Wheeldon - a marriage which is polygamous or potentially polygamous - has been the subject of discussion between Senator Cohen and one or two other mem.mers of the Opposition and the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Snedden). This discussion has been on a legal plane as to what the law is, what it might be and what it ought to be. I think it is admitted that a step forward in this connection has been taken in the Bill in that an Australian citizen who is domiciled abroad and contracts a polygamous or potentially polygamous marriage now will have a chance of relief which she did not have if proper causes are given for the matrimonial relief. I am bound to say that when we consider the case of an Aus- tralian living abroad but domiciled in Australia who contracts a polygamous or potentially polygamous marriage, frankly I do not know where such a person stands or whether it is a marriage which is not recognised for purposes of dissolution but might be recognised for purposes of prosecution for polygamy. This is rather esoterically legal for me; but there has been a step forward and a recognition of a possible problem on these lines, and I think a step at a time is something achieved. It might well be that if it turns out that a problem of this kind might arise - and it has not yet so turned out - further consideration will be given to the matter.
I must say that I disagree with Senator Wright, both on this point and on other points which have been raised by him, not on legal grounds but on his description of some of them as trivial. Although in the grand sweep of a nation’s problems they may not be very great, they are not trivial to individuals who get caught up in the toils of these matters. They are of great significance to them and their whole lives and these things might well engage our attention.
On the question of reconciliation, it has been generally agreed by all speakers that an advance has been made in that it will bc possible now for a husband and wife to come together in the fullest sense to see whether a reconciliation is possible. I agree completely with Senator Wheeldon that it might well be that this will allow some divorces which otherwise would not have taken place; but it is almost certain also that it will lead to a number of reconciliations which otherwise might not have taken place.’ . Senator Wright expressed dissatisfaction with this provision. He suggested that in some way we were behaving badly in doing this; but if we are behaving badly, we are not the only Parliament which is doing so because the British law has been changed to give an opportunity for this type of reconciliation. The New Zealand law has been altered also and ours should be altered too.
The only other point I want to touch upon is a matter that was mentioned in the debate. There is a provision in the Bill that if there has been a mistake in the facts presented to the court, a decree absolute will no longer be invalidated because of the mistake. I think Senator Wright indicated his doubts whether a decree would be invalidated in any case because of a mistake in the facts. But a case has been cited in which a judge gave strong indication that he believed if a potential mistake had not been picked up in time, the decree absolute would not have been valid. I am informed there was another instance in Tasmania where a similar statement was made by a judge. In this case there had been a mistake because an adopted child had been left out of the relevant information. Without going into the details, I can say that again there was an indication from the bench that if a mistake had not been caught in time, the decree absolute might not be valid. If there is any doubt in this matter the doubt should be removed, and the relevant clause does that. On the other matters concerning maintenance and property I feel there is no need for me to speak further but it has been a useful debate and it has left the way open for further debate should circumstances require amendments in the future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will declare the rates of income tax for the current financial year. Company rates of tax are not being altered and the general rates of tax payable by individuals under the Bill do not vary in any significant way from those that were imposed for the 1964-65 financial year. The only changes proposed are minor ones to facilitate conversion to decimal currency. In addition to tax at the general rates, individuals will be liable to pay additional tax of 2( per cent, of the tax calculated in accordance with the general rates. The additional levy of 24 per cent, has been incorporated in the tax instalment deductions made from salaries and wages since 1 st October last. Provisional tax in respect of the 1965-66 income year will also include the additional levy. 1 have referred to the forthcoming conversion to the new currency system and to consequent minor changes in general rates of tax payable by individuals. In making these changes, the Government has adhered to the assurance of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) that it would not take advantage of the introduction of decimal currency to increase its revenues. The tax payable at the general rates for the 1965-66 financial year on taxable incomes of £24,000 or less will not exceed tax at the general rates for 1964-65 but in most cases will be slightly less.
Tax at the general rates will be slightly higher for 1965-66 than for 1964-65 on taxable incomes of more than £24,000. The increase is, however, a marginal one as it will involve an increase in tax of only £1 for each £3,000 of taxable income in excess of £24,000. In the aggregate, these adjustments to the general rates for individuals will involve an estimated cost to revenue of £600,000 per annum.
Honorable senators will notice one new feature in the Bill that is associated with the change to decimal currency. This is the expression of rates of tax as percentages of taxable income rather than, as in the past, as rates of so many shillings and pence, or so many pence, per £1. The percentage form of expression means that, when the changeover to the new currency occurs, the rates set out in the Bill will represent so many cents per dollar of taxable income. The advantage of this will, I am sure, be quite obvious.
It is also necessary to declare in this Bill the special rates of tax under the legislation enacted in 1964 following the Government’s consideration of the report of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation 1959-1961. The special rates of tax set out in the Bill are those that were announced when the amending provisions were introduced last year and I shall briefly refer to them. Before doing so I mention that the additional tax of 2i per cent, payable by individuals will not apply in relation to the special rates of tax.
Income of a trust estate, other than a deceased estate, to which no beneficiary is presently entitled and which is taxable under the special provisions inserted in 1964 is to be taxed at a rate of 10s. in the £1. For income from a share in a partnership over which a person lacks, or is deemed to lack, the real and effective control and disposal, the Bill proposes a rate of further tax. This is a rate that will be sufficient to bring the aggregate rate of tax on the uncontrolled income up to 10s. in the £1. No further tax will be levied if the taxpayer’s average personal rate of tax is 10s. or more.
The Bill also declares a rate of tax payable on taxable income of a superannuation fund that is not exempt from tax. This rate, which will also be 10s. in the £1, was first enacted in 1964. It will not apply to the very large numbers of funds of the traditional type that will undoubtedly qualify for exemption so long as they comply with the “ 30/20 “ public security investment rule. I should mention that the rates of tax payable by a superannuation fund on investment income that is taxable because of the fund’s failure to comply with that rule is not being changed.
A final comment on the Bill is that the levy that it imposes is being imposed as “ income tax “ rather than as “ income tax and social services contribution “. This change, which is associated with a proposed general change in the title of the income tax legislation, is of a formal nature only. An explanatory memorandum containing more detailed explanations of technical provisions of the Bill is available to honorable senators and I do not propose to make any further comment at this stage. I commend the Bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
– I present a report from the Standing Orders Committee of the Senate.
Motions (by Senator Henty) agreed to -
That the report be printed.
That consideration of the report in the Committee of the Whole be made an Order of the Day for the next day of sitting.
Debate resumed from 23rd November (vide page 1712), on motion by Senator Gorton -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. President, the Opposition supports this Bill, which deals with matters of considerable importance. The purpose of the Bill, as the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in ‘ Education and Research (Senator Gorton) said in introducing it, is to establish machinery which will enable grants to be made to the States for the benefit of individual research projects of particular merit. As we .understand from the Minister, the Bill authorises the expenditure of an amount of £1,848,875 which is to bc allocated to a substantial number of recipients whose names, together with a short description of the general nature of the research projects, appear in a list which he has supplied to honorable senators. I think it will be readily apparent from the scope and variety of projects to be undertaken or assisted with these grants that a great deal of valuable research work will be encouraged and supported as a result of this Bill.
The first thing we may note with pleasure is that, as well as subsidies being provided for research projects in the physical sciences, there are projects in the social sciences and humanities which will receive support. 1 think that is a commendable thing. It is right that research should be understood to cover the widest possible areas in our national life, not only in the physical sciences - those projects which can be the subject of laboratory research - but also those which demand an understanding of our human and social institutions.
The second thing I want to say is that this sum of £1,848,875 is, in effect, the £2 million that was not spent out of the £5 million allocated for research under the financial arrangements for the . 1964-66 triennium following the second report of the Australian Universities Commission. We are dealing now with a sum which, in the ordinary course of events, might have been appropriated by the Universities Commission to the various universities but which has now been taken over by the Australian Research Grants Committee under the chairmanship of Professor R. N. Robertson. It is interesting to note that the projects are individual projects. The Minister will correct me if 1 am wrong, but as 1 understand it the individual investigators will make application to the Robertson Committee.
– :Not directly.
– Well, the applications have to be channelled through the head of the department or the relevant university and no doubt a certificate will be required that if the grant is forthcoming the research undertaken will be research approved by the university or the institution. But, in effect, it is not an application for assistance by the. university. It is an application by the individual investigator or team of investigators directly to the Robertson Committee. It is that Committee which is to decide which projects are to be sponsored, encouraged and assisted. Is that correct, Mr. Minister?
– That is correct.
– That means that any individual in the university who is working on some research project is free to approach the Robertson Committee for assistance provided his application is cleared throught the university.
We should welcome the inauguration of this method of dealing with research grants, but if published statements are to be accepted we still have a long way to go. I do not mean to be unnecessarily critical of the way in which the matter is being approached by the Government but rather I wish to point the way to a brighter future. I understand from a statement by Professor Nossal, the Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research, the report of which was published in the Melbourne “Age” on Monday, 22nd November, that applications for assistance amounting to about £7 million had reached the Robertson Committee. Of course, only the amount that was available could be disbursed. It is obvious that the amount available is substantially less than that which could have been expended.
I draw attention to this phenomenon. On the occasion of the Parliament passing this legislation, we might well pause to consider whether Australia is spending enough money on scientific research and on research in the social sciences. We have reached the stage in our national development where we must adjust our thinking and accept much larger responsibility in this direction than we have in the past. Nothing will affect the quality of future Australian endeavour in so many fields more than the quality of research that is being undertaken now and which will be undertaken in the future. Attention to fundamental aspects of various fields of endeavour is of incomparable importance. I repeat that, whilst we commend the steps that have been taken, this is a proper occasion on which to review our attitude to the whole problem.
I note that Professor Nossal makes rather the same point in relation to total allocations for medical research, lt would seem that grants totalling more than £403,000 were approved last week by the National Health and Medical Research Council and that there were applications for approximately twice that amount. If we look upon the problem as being a matter of mere arithmetic, it may be said that this is as far as we can go but it must be appreciated that for every single application that was granted in the field of medical research another application had to be refused. The same thing seems to apply to the whole area of research that was covered by the investigations of the Robertson Committee. This means that some important piece of work either will not be done or some other method will have to be found to finance it. I shudder to think about what ultimately may be lost to this country if research workers have constantly to live and work in conditions in which they have only a 50 per cent, chance of getting assistance for the projects to which they are committed.
Most research workers plan their work to extend over a period of years. It can’t be done by mere improvisation. Rather is it a matter of laying down a plan of research that may take a dedicated worker three, five or ten years to complete. The research worker must know what assistance he will get. For most of such workers personal convenience and personal remuneration are not the most important things, so long as their work receives reasonable recognition. The conditions in which they work and the amount of assistance they can get to carry on their work are of greater importance to them. It is something of a national tragedy that this country has in recent years lost some of its best research brains to overseas, not because the persons concerned wanted bigger salaries - although until comparatively recently most of these people were underpaid - but because they needed the encouragement and stimulus of active support of their physical and financial needs in carrying out their research.
I have been told of a number of extremely promising Australian researchers who went to important positions overseas because they found there the opportunity to make full use of their talents and to develop their potential. I shall refer to three Australian scientists who in recent years have gone to the United States of America, each of whom has expressed trenchant criticism of the lack of support that is provided for research work in Australia. I mention, first, Professor Ross Adey formerly of the University of Melbourne and later a professor at the University of California but who now is one of the United States President’s senior advisers on space medicine. I think that originally he was an Adelaide graduate. The department to . which he belongs has a budget of approximately H million American dollars. I think also of Professor Michael Salton, a professor of microbiology with the University of New South Wales until not very long ago and who now heads a big department at the University of New York. The third man I have in mind is Dr. W. Joklik. who is a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and who was formerly a biochemist at the Australian National University.
These instances could be multiplied many times. They are examples of what has sometimes been called the brain drain - in other words, the loss to Australia of Australians who, suffering from a feeling of frustration at their inability to find sufficient encouragement for their work, have gone abroad. I do not suggest that their departure has left us in an extremely parlous condition, because for every one who has gone abroad many have stayed here. What it means is that very valuable Australian talent is being wasted. We, as members of the National Parliament, ought to do what we can to correct that state of affairs. I have recently come into possession of statistics which show that in such an important field as medical research, expenditure per head of population in Australia trails far behind comparable expenditure in other advanced countries. I am quite aware that it difficult to make precise comparisons. If one attempts to do that one falls into error, because conditions are not entirely comparable. Institutions in various countries are not the same. It may be argued that there is not an equivalent institution in the United States or Great Britain, or that institutions overseas cover a wider or a narrower area, or that there are or are not other institutions operating in the same field. Making allowance for that kind of difficulty in achieving a comparison, in Australia the amount per head of population spent on medical research is approximately £.04 pex annum. In the United States of America, the budget of the National Institutes of Health which would be a somewhat comparable grantgiving body is 1.2 billion dollars, or £A500 million. That represents £A2.7 per head of population, which is roughly 70 times as much as Australian expenditure. That may seem to be an immensely exaggerated comparison and it may need to be qualified by all sorts of factors that do not at present appear; but certainly, at the very least, an exceedingly large amount is spent on medical research in the United States.
In Britain, according to the White Paper estimates in 1965, the total budget for the Medical Research Council for 1966 - it is an agency of the Ministry of Education and Science, not unlike our National Health and Medical Research Council - is £.25 per head of population, which is about six times as high as Australia’s expenditure. In France, the Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifique has a budget for biology and medicine of about £7 million, or £.15 per head of population. I do not suggest that we can follow those figures implicitly or with mathematical certainty. I merely cite them as examples of the measure of national thinking in other countries, compared with our own situation.
I believe that this situation calls for new initiatives, insights and purposes in our national approach to science and research. In 1965, for the first time in the history of any Australian political party, the Australian Labour Party at its August conference enunciated a policy relating to science and technology which sets some very important targets that ought to be pursued if we are to develop our resources in science, technology and research and to make Australia live up to its potential. Labour believes that we desperately need national science policies embracing not only planning for scientific research and development but also policies which will enable the results of scientific research and development in Australia and elsewhere to be applied in every aspect of Australian industries and culture.
The Labour Party has proposed that a Minister should be appointed with direct responsibility for science and technology; that a parliamentary standing committee should be set up, charged with reviewing policies on scientific aspects of general Government policy. We believe that more should be done in the field of scientific and technical research and development and that a long term budget is required for that purpose. Perhaps the Minister will be able to elucidate this matter. We have not yet obtained an assurance of continuity of the work of the Robertson Committee. I am not saying that there will not be continuity. I am looking for an indication of the Government’s intentions, because this is the last £2 million out of the sum of £5 million recommended by the Australian Universities Commission to be spent in the 1964-66 triennium.
Is the Robertson Committee to continue its work into the next triennium? Is it proposed that the whole of the recommended research allocation in the next triennium is to be spent by that Committee? I think these are important questions. I look for an indication from the Minister that there will be continuity in the scheme and that increasing amounts will be spent on the development of it. If a research worker’s application for a grant is refused, there is a chance that he may be soured and may go elsewhere to look for work. In any event, his is human endeavour that may be important to this country and to humanity and which may be frustrated because it is not given a chance to bear fruit.
I have referred to the policy of the A.L.P. on science, technology and research. We support and have supported here, on occasions in the past, the establishment of an independent national science foundation to distribute funds to individuals, teams, universities and research institutes so that research may be conducted into the physical and social sciences and technology, and so as to enable geological research and survey, forestry research, and atomic energy research to be carried out either by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation or similar independent statutory organisations. I do not wish to take up the time of the Senate in a discussion of the policy formulated by the Australian Labour Party in 1965. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I shall incorporate it in “ Hansard “ -
Science must not be regarded as a compartment, separate from other aspects of life. It is a fountainhead of human progress, the source from which technologicaland social changes spring, and it affects all aspects of life.
Australia desperately needs national scientific policies which will embrace not only planning for scientific research and development, but also enable the results of scientific research and development in Australia and elsewhere to be applied in every aspect of Australia’s industries and in its culture.
Labour therefore proposes -
Australia needs to expand its activities in scientific and technological research and development, and its scientists need greater independence from unnecessary controls.
Labor therefore proposes -
Australia’s future, and the well-being of its people, depends on the scientific development of its natural resources. Development is not mere exploitation; it means wise use of natural resources. Non-renewable resources, such as minerals, should be used without waste, with research and planning for alternatives. Yields from renewable resources, such as soil, water, plants and animals, should be maintained or increased. Enough of both kinds of resources, and particularly of our natural landscapes, must be reserved for social, cultural, educational and scientific purposes.
Labor therefore proposes -
The present time-lag between the making of scientific and technological discoveries and their application by primary and secondary industry and medicine must be reduced. Furthermore, Australia has, in the past, lost most of the benefit of certain discoveries made by its scientists and technologists because insufficient provision has been made for developing discovery to the point where it can be applied.
Labor proposes to close this development gap by-
Scientific and technological research is an international activity in which Australia must participate fully if she is not to be cut off from the mainstream of developments. Furthermore, Australia has a responsibility to assist the developing nations to raise the standards and scope of their scientific and technological research programmes.
Labor therefore proposes-
The achievement of the foregoing proposals depends on -
Adequate science education at every level.
More and better-trained science teachers.
More graduates, especially with higher degrees.
Maintenance of the traditional freedoms of scientists.
I have referred to the need for continuity in the work of the Robertson Committee. I hope that the Minister and the Government will provide an opportunity in the not too distant future for a debate on the implications of science, technology and research for Australia’s future. It is a subject with many ramifications. Perhaps some of the things my party has put forward as being important to Australia’s long term interests may grow out of the institutions that the Government is setting up. I do not profess to know whether at some stage in the future our thinking and theirs may run parallel; whether one institution may be a logical development of another, or whether a new institution or foundation may be needed. Certainly the Robertson Committee provides a welcome beginning and a basis upon which the planning of future grants for research can proceed.
But in our view - I cannot over-emphasise this - it is important to maintain the flow of funds, not because quantity of money itself is important but because, in the various fields that are covered by the general oversight of the Robertson Committee, Australia has enough talent to warrant the expenditure of funds on necessary research. I plead not merely for bigness for its own sake in amounts spent, but for bigness in thinking. I believe that we must move much faster than the Government so far has shown a disposition to move. We must have positive policies on the future of our country and its capacity not only to defend itself - which, of course, is of primary importance - but also to prosper and develop, to realise the potential of our national resources and natural resources and to put our scientists and researchers on a level on which they can compete, in terms of stature and attainment, with scientists and technologists the world over.
I believe that we can be very proud of what has been achieved by Australians so far in these fields. We have men of learning and men of science whose researches have brought them world fame and recognition. It is a matter of great pride to every Australian that Australia has men who have won Nobel Prizes and similar awards of world standing as a result of their distinguished efforts in science and medicine and their devotion to the welfare of their fellow men. But we can maintain that tradition and build upon that foundation only if we intensify our efforts, if we see the problem as large and national in character and if we are prepared to devote an increasing share of our national resources to building up our future in this way. With those observations, I indicate the Opposition’s support of this Bill.
.- I wish to announce the Democratic Labour Party’s very strong support of this measure. In a developing country such as Australia there is the utmost necessity for us to give all the attention that we can give to research. I believe that the Commonwealth Government’s decision to enter this field is a forward move. No doubt the decision was made in the light of the limited finances of the States. I join with Senator Cohen in expressing the wish that in the future the Commonwealth will be able to go even further.
Before I come to the main matter that I desire to discuss, I express my regret at the failure of private industry to complement adequately what can be done in the way of research at the universities and also by the Commonwealth and State Governments. Many sectors of private industry have made immense profits from investment in Australia. But if one compares the assistance given by private industry to research in this country with the assistance given in other countries, one can only come to the conclusion that private industry in Australia has been very remiss in this respect. 1 can only hope that the example set by the Commonwealth will stimulate private industry to act further in this matter. I also join with Senator Cohen in expressing pleasure that in the research projects that have been listed the humanities are included to a pleasing degree. When people talk of research, it is too commonly taken to mean research in science, mathematics or economics. Very few people understand that there is wide scope for research in the humanities too. I am glad that the committee that has determined these research projects has decided to include the humanities to the degree that it has.
Our universities, in any appeal that they make to governments or private sectors of the community, must rely to a degree on their reputations in the community. If the reputations of our universities are high and if the community feels that they conform to the best standards to which universities should conform, there will be a greater willingness on the part of governments and private people to contribute to research projects. I raised this matter in the Senate a week or so ago in a question that I directed to Senator Gorton on an incident in connection with the University of Sydney, which I regarded as damaging to the reputation of that University and which had raised in my mind some doubts about the propriety of contributing to a university which permitted such incidents to happen. Senator Gorton replied - on reflection, I think very properly - that the Government felt that, at this stage at any rate, it should not take action in regard to this matter and that it should not take the matter into considera tion in determining grants. I point out that, whilst that is the attitude of the Government, many people in the community feel that an Australian university, in seeking the support of the community, should be able to claim that it conducts its affairs in accordance with the highest traditions of university life.
The matter to which I referred was one affecting academic freedom. I mention it now because the question whether the Commonwealth will make grants to a university must depend to a degree on the reputation of that university and the manner in which its affairs are conducted. I think most of us were concerned when we read in the Press today of a serious incident in regard to the University of Melbourne. I was concerned when I read a statement about an alleged dispute between two members of the staff of the University of Sydney which resulted in what appeared to me to be a very remarkable decision to divide the Chair of English Literature into two parts. But the incident to which I wish to refer is one affecting academic freedom. In my view, unless a university has academic freedom in the highest sense, it is not a university in the proper sense. Therefore, I propose to refer to this matter as a warning to our universities that, if they desire the community to have that sympathetic feeling towards them which will ensure that they receive financial assistance, they should be careful to conduct their affairs in accordance with the highest traditions of academic freedom. The other day Senator Gorton made this remark, with which I agree -
I always thought that academic freedom involved the right of somebody holding a professorial position to express his views without losing his professorial position or the right to advancement because of the views that he expressed, whatever they might be.
I believe that that principle has been breached by recent happenings at the University of Sydney which, if repeated elsewhere, could threaten the whole fabric of assistance to research projects and to other university projects. The person concerned was Dr. Knopfelmacher, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Melbourne. Dr. Knopfelmacher is of Jewish origin. He was born in Vienna. He later lived in Czechoslovakia, and when the Germans entered that country, the other members of his family were murdered by the Nazis but he escaped. He served with the British 8th Army in North Africa during the war. After the war he qualified as a Doctor of Philosophy at the Bristol University. Later he studied in London and he then continued his studies at Melbourne.
Some time ago Dr. Knopfelmacher was advised by Professor Armstrong of the University of Sydney that a position was to become vacant in the Department of Philosophy. At the suggestion of Professor Armstrong, who is the head of the Department, he applied for the position. A selection committee, with the exception of one member who abstained from voting, unanimously recommended Dr. Knopfelmacher for the position. But before the recommendation could go before the Professorial Board for approval, a number of personalities at the University, including Professor Christiansen, Mr. Wheelwright and Professor May, initiated a campaign against Dr. Knopfelmacher with the idea of preventing his appointment. For example they influenced Professor Stout to register doubts as to whether Dr. Knopfelmacher should be appointed. But Professor Stout, after inquiring into the circumstances, changed his mind and later voted for the appointment of Dr. Knopfelmacher. His appointment was rejected. The University did not carry out the normal procedure in such cases, of referring the suggested appointment back to the selection committee. Instead, it merely rejected the application and in so doing did something which is entirely foreign to Australian university practice. This suggests that there must have been some reason for the University’s action.
I point out that there have been other cases in our universities of nominations being rejected, but as far as I have been able to ascertain, they have always been referred back to the selection committee. On this occasion that was not the case. The rejection could not have been because Dr. Knopfelmacher was not considered adequate for the position. The selection committee, with one abstainer, unanimously recommended him for the position. He was recommended by personalities who are prominent in his particular sphere, such as Professor Armstrong, Professor Hook of New York, Professor Korner of Bristol and Professor Boyce Gibson of Melbourne. Although he was recommended by a committee consisting of members from the De partments of Psychology and Philosophy in which he was to serve, the people who opposed his appointment were not psychologists or philosophers. A Professor of Engineering and a Professor of Italian took it upon themselves to suggest that they knew better who should teach philosophy than did the people who were employed in that field.
Apparently, the main evidence that was produced in this inspired campaign was an article in a publication entitled “ 20th Century “, which Dr. Knopfelmacher had written about circumstances at the University of Melbourne. His opponents circulated this article, but they did not circulate his other writings. They failed to mention the fact that that particular article had been written in answer to vile and scurrilous attacks which had been made on him at the University of Melbourne by people who objected to his activities in trying to remove the Communist influence from the A.L.P. Club. They circulated the article in which he replied to these vile and scurrilous attacks. Apparently they made out that he had initiated this article without any reason. In defiance of all canons of fair play in our universities, the people who opposed Dr. Knopfelmacher called him a Goldwaterite and a Mccarthyite and gave him no opportunity to speak in his defence.
I think that everybody .who knows Dr. Knopfelmacher agrees that he is a powerful opponent in debate and a powerful protagonist of what he believes in; so much so, that the people who had been opposing his opposition to Communism no longer attempt to answer his arguments. They adopt the normal attitude of the Communist Party in these cases. They decline to answer the arguments of anybody who is too good for them. Instead they call him a Fascist, a Mccarthyite or a traitor and then say: “Therefore, we do not have to answer his arguments.” Their trouble is that they cannot answer what he says. The worst possible allegations were made against him. For example, one allegation was that he had caused bad relations between the University of Melbourne and the Bolte Government. When asked about this matter, Mr. Bolte said that he had never heard of Dr. Knopfelmacher and that certainly the relations between the University and the Government were good. Yet it was asserted at the University of Sydney that he had caused bad relations between the University of Melbourne and the Government.
The position was re-advertised and Dr. Knopfelmacher applied again. Apparently he has not got the position. There are people who may say that it is not for me to comment on what a university does. I will accept that point of view. I shall merely quote the opinions of the university leaders. Sir John Eccles, who won the Nobel Prize for Australia and who is one of our most distinguished university leaders, had this to say - and I want to emphasise that I am not expressing an opinion; I will leave that to the academics who are the right people to do so -
I am unable to understand how the academic body was persuaded into adopting a line of action contrary to the welt established procedure in cases where there is a disagreement with a recommendation . . . namely, to refer the matter back to the selection committee with appropriate criticism. Instead, they rejected the recommendation, so violating normal canons of procedure and demonstrating the personal antipathy that motivated the instigators of the action.
He found the business “alarming and revolting”. Professor Ray, Head of the Department of Indian Studies at the University of Melbourne, said that academic ethics had been violated in a way quite unparalleled during his 15 years of academic life in Britain, India, the United States of America and Australia. Professors Armstrong and Spann of the University of Sydney, who were the heads of the Department in which Dr. Knopfelmacher was to serve, in writing a review of the whole case said that they would be lacking in honesty if they did not add their view that political bias also played a part in the case. They went on to refer to a series of personal attacks on Dr. Knopfelmacher by staff members of the University of Sydney and to the prejudice created against him by the stories that his bitter opponents on the left wing had spread about him.
Professor Henry Mayer is well known for his writings on politics. In my opinion, he would be an authority to whom we could listen regarding Dr. Knopfelmacher’s attitudes. Professor Mayer, in supporting Dr. Knopfelmacher’s appointment, said -
I supported Dr. Knopfelmacher’s appointment and still support it because he is a man whose ideas cut across tight and rigid disciplines. He is a very stimulating controversialist and academically competent for the post.
These are not my opinions, and I have not expressed my opinions. These are the opinions of academics, men of authority in this field, who say that in this case a revolting injustice was committed. If that happens, it must affect the attitude of the community to contributing funds to universities such as this.
– Should not the Askin Government take that reponsibility?
– I accept that, but we have a responsibility. If we are being asked to contribute money, we should act. If the Askin Government does not act on this, it is recreant to its responsibilities. The question is: What can be done? 1 do not know, but I suggest that one thing that ought to be considered is the appointment of an appeal board to which, in matters such as this, academics could refer their cases. Senator Gair, as Premier of Queensland, suggested that in a similar case some years ago.
– I introduced a bill.
– If this kind of case is to continue, we shall have to do something such as that. I know that there are people who will say that the traditions of this country are against outside interference, and I would agree that if the university can reform this kind of thing from within that would be preferable.
– Has it rejected people before?
– Yes, there have been occasions before but none so bad, I think, as this. There is a strong feeling in the community against interference in trade unions, but when the unions were unable or unwilling to undertake reformatory action in 1948 in regard to certain abuses in the trade union movement the Chifley Government very rightly took action to clean up the position. I would say that a university should be no more sacred than the trade union movement. I hope that the University of Sydney will clean up the position from within, but if it does not it cannot complain if the community says: “We must take action to defend human rights, and we will take some action of our own “.
There I leave the matter. It was distasteful for me to have to make reference to such matters in connection with a university whose reputation has been high over the years, but I emphasise the point that universities are public bodies, very much under the scrutiny of the people. Their reputations should be above suspicion and when academic freedom is so highly prized, when in every community we say that academic freedom must be maintained, it is vital to the- reputations of our universities that cases such as this should not be permitted to happen. I emphasise once again that the views that have been expressed on the treatment of this man in his application are not my views. The views I have expressed are the views of persons of the highest standing in the academic life of this country, and when they say such things we must take notice of their words.
I strongly support the measure which the Government has put forward. I hope that the Government will be able to give much more money in future, but I also hope that the universities will ensure that all the circumstances in connection with their activities will be such as to make the public want to give that money willingly, in the belief that what is done in the universities will be in the highest traditions of our academic life.
– in reply - I should like to make a few remarks in closing the second reading debate on this Bill. All that I say as to the matter raised by Senator McManus is that I have already made my own position and my own beliefs clear in this chamber in relation to it. The professorial board at the University of Sydney acted in an unprecedented way. I believe that “ unprecedented “ is a completely accurate description of the way in which it acted, and one must be left with the very uneasy feeling, in view of the testimony to the academic qualifications of the applicant, that this board acted in that way for reasons other than academic reasons.
– That is a serious charge against the University of Sydney.
– What has this to do with the Bill?
– One must be left with that feeling, and that is bad for the university and bad for academics generally. But this, as I said, is a point of view that I have presented before and that is all that I wish to say on the matter raised by Senator McManus. Incidentally, there was an interjection, I think from Senator Murphy, as to what the matter raised by Senator McManus had to do with the Bill. Of course, it has nothing directly to do with the Bill, but the Bill is concerned with making grants to people working in universities, and the conduct of universities, I think, is something which can properly be discussed.
Senator Cohen pointed out that this was a sum of £2 million which, had it not been distributed in this way, would have been distributed in some other way on some formula laid down, had the Government acceded to that formula. I think that both he and Senator McManus agree that this way of distribution is likely to lead to better results, by having individual researchers and individual research teams submit actual projects to a committee so that the committee can vet them and select those which it thinks most material to scientific progress and the progress of scientific knowledge in Australia. This is more likely to lead to good results than a blanket grant to the universities and that is why we adopted this procedure. In fact - if I may say this without injecting into this debate a party bias which has not previously been in it - if I understood one of the policy proposals adopted at the last conference of the Australian Labour Party, it was for the appointment of a body to make grants to scientists working in universities. We in fact had done it before that policy proposal was adopted, though somebody might want to tell me later on that it goes further in some ways.
The grant, in a sense, serves two purposes. It not only helps the choice of particular work designed for a particular end which the committee thinks is useful, but also at the same time as that work is being carried out in universities, to some extent it contributes to the normal postgraduate training of university students, some of whom will be called in to take some part in that research work. A question was raised, as it always will be raised in debates of this kind, as to whether more money should be made available for research of all kinds. All I can say is that I am quite sure a good case could be made for the entire budget of Australia to be spent on scientific research and, if that were doubled, a good case could still be made by people who would pick out something in medical research, something in atomic research, or something in radio physics. The field is almost illimitable, and what has to be decided is how much of a national income can be diverted to this particular field. That is a matter of opinion and debate, and it will long remain one.
The question of continuity is significant and important. This was raised by Senator Cohen. I certainly hope that continuity will continue in this field. Senator Cohen did not discuss all of the avenues of research in Australia, but they are multitudinous. They include the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the universities, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the medical research foundations, the Department of Supply, the Defence and Service Departments, and State Departments of various kinds. In some cases, of course, they are not connected with governments at all, but mostly they seem to be connected with governments.
Like Senator McManus, I wish to see a bigger part played by private industry. I am not sure whether I mean in research or in development. However, those are associated fields. I hope the time will come when Australia is big enough to have the kind of private industrial implication in research in one or other of those fields such as we see in the United States and, to a lesser extent, in the United Kingdom. That day is not yet, but I am sure that kind of activity is a necessary part of national activity in this field of scientific research. I thank the House for accepting the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 23rd November (vide page 1706), on motion by Senator McKellar
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I suppose no government is so completely evil that on some occasion it does not do something good. I suppose no government is so ineffective that on some occasion it does not do something efficient from the point of view of governmental functions. On this occasion we have something that is good and something that is effective, however belated the timing of it may be.
The title of the Bill before us is “ A Bill for an Act to amend the National Health Act 1953-64 in relation to Pensioners”. It is rather interesting to see how politically cowardly is this Government. It is not game to throw open the whole of the National Health Act for debate. The Bill before us is one only to amend the National Health Act in relation to pensioners. I would say that the drafting of the Bill in so narrow a way was done with malice aforethought, with a deliberate intention to avoid discussion of the whole field of hospital, medical, pharmaceutical and pensioner services. When we see how ill-intentioned this Government can be, we realise how deserving it is of condemnation. I know that the Government is anxious not to have the whole matter discussed because a restriction has been imposed on hospitals which have wards for chronically ill people. The Government will place on doctors the burden of certifying that a patient who occupies a bed in one of these wards - beds which are subsidised by the Government to the extent of £1 16s. a day - will not live longer than six months.
If this proposal is implemented it will cause financial chaos in many hospitals. I feel certain that medical practitioners will resist strenuously any endeavour by the Government to force them to certify that any patient occupying a bed which the Government subsidises to the extent of £1 16s. a day will not live longer than six months. The Government must realise that, with the rare exception of people almost in extremis, doctors are loath to forecast the length of life remaining, even though a person may be chronocally ill and death is inevitable in a comparatively short time. I say that the Government introduced the Bill in this form with the deliberate intention of limiting debate. For this, it deserves the strongest condemnation.
It is interesting to trace the history of pensioner medical benefits. I understand that we may not discuss the restriction which has been placed on pharmaceutical benefits or on the range of drugs available to pensioners. All we can do is to discuss the role played by practitioners in rendering service to pensioners. I propose to limit myself to that, however loath I am to do so. As we all know, the pensioner medical service was introduced in 1951. It operated without interruption in its initial form until 1955. No means test was applied and the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen were given pensioner medical cards entitling them to receive free medical treatment.
Never at any time, however, was there any intention of making specialist services available. The Government was so limited in its outlook that it did not look beyond general practitioner services for pensioners. Apparently it believed that pensioners would not need specialist attention or, if they did, that they would go to a public hospital or to a specialist in a metropolitan area and would receive specialist attention on a charitable basis. The great majority of specialists do not charge pensioners who find their way to them. If any do charge, they charge on a concessional basis. The service was limited right from the start. We are considering now people who are of an age when they are likely to require specialist attention. We know that they need general practitioner services, but when they are coming to the end of their lives, their medical conditions are very often difficult to treat and specialist attention is necessary. The Government never thought of making specialist attention available through the pensioner medical service.
Then in November 1955 the Government, whether under duress or in submission to the requests of the then British Medical Association or through a desire to limit expenditure, decided that there should be a means test. It was decided that any person who did not have a pensioner medical card prior to 31st December 1955 or who was in receipt of certain means as determined at the base date, 31st December 1953, would not be eligible for the pensioner medical service.
What a miserable amount was allowed under the means test. An individual pensioner could not earn over £2 a week and a married couple could not earn more than £4 a week if both were pensioners. It must be realised that the people concerned are at an age when inevitably they require almost constant medical attention. People who had an income of £2 a week in addition to the pension in 1955 or 1956 were debarred from the benefits of the pensioner medical service. If they received only £2 ls. a week above the pension they were debarred. In fact, they were debarred if they earned £2 Os. Id. For many years the charge for a doctor to make a home call has been £1 ls. or more. When this new provision was made, many of the unfortunate pensioners who were justified in calling a medical practitioner did not have the means to pay for the service so they refrained from calling the doctor.
No-one will ever know just how many deaths this Government and its immediate predecessor were responsible for. Many of these people would have lived for a number of years if they had called a doctor when they first became sick. Many who thought they had a simple attack of bronchitis refrained from calling a doctor only to die of pneumonia. Many with conditions requiring urgent surgical operations refrained from seeking medical advice and when they were operated on it was too late. These deaths must be debited to the Government for its inhumanity to the pensioners. Yet comparatively few were involved. Even in 1965 when the Bill is being introduced it covers only 120,000 pensioners and the cost, including attention for their dependants, will involve an extra expenditure of only £2 million a year.
An agreement has been reached between the Australian Medical Association and the Government. The Government has agreed to increase the fees paid to general practitioners to 16s. for a visit to the consulting room and £1 for a visit to the home. I am not quarrelling with the rise in fees. The doctors have had an investigation of the costs of running a medical practice. Over the years there has not been a tremendous increase in medical charges. But if it was a question of the decision of the A.M.A. in relation to fees, this shows how parsimonious the Government was not to recognise the justification for an increase in fees and for the inclusion of these people in the pensioner medical service.
It is interesting to recall that there has not been one year when the Labour Party has not frequently made representations in both Houses of the Parliament for the inclusion of all pensioners and all dependants of pensioners in the pensioner medical service. But the Government has turned a deaf ear to the pensioners and their needs. Their cries have gone unheard. Only now, 10 years after the Government deprived these people of this service has the Government recognised the justification for restoring this medical service to the people concerned. The Opposition is the first to concede when something reasonable is done by the Government but there can be no excuse for the inordinate and unjustified delay in introducing this service.
As I have said, no government is so evil that it cannot perform a good deed on rare occasions. This is one of the rare good deeds of this Government and its predecessors. It has made a definite endeavour to provide for the dependants of pensioners and pensioners who are in receipt of a part pension. The’ coverage is quite widespread. Later the Opposition will deal with a section it thinks should be included but which the Government has excluded. I refer more particularly to the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. The Government has said that the Bill will bc effective from 1st January except for dependant student children. Why it could not have put these provisions into operation earlier we do not know. I understand the Minister said these provisions had to be included in the Budget but the Budget was presented quite a while ago. Here was an anomaly, a gross injustice crying out for immediate rectification; yet the Government has postponed action almost until the dying hours of the Parliament. Even then the Government now pleads that because of administrative difficulties, it cannot make these benefits available until 1st January. It passes my comprehension why it could not have done this earlier. Any reasonable person can understand that there can be no justification for the dilatory and callous approach to this need and the disregard of the rights of this group of pensioners.
As I have said, about 120,000 are involved and the cost of £2 million a year is comparatively small compared with the gross national product. The Minister has said, and the Bill provides, that it will cover all persons who now qualify for age, invalid or widow pensions under the Social Ser vices Act, service pensions under the Repatriation Act and tuberculosis allowances under the Tuberculosis Act as well as their dependants. Others who may receive the benefits are those in receipt of pensions in the nature of a. Commonwealth or State superannuation pension, a war pension or a T.P.I, pension.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Mr. President, I will not detain the Senate for more than a few minutes but I am prompted to rise because of an answer to a question relating to television which was given by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) in the other place today. The Postmaster-General said -
I am nol sure what is involved in the use of package stations. I have asked the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to investigate this matter and to offer mc advice in relation to it.
I am delighted to know that the PostmasterGeneral has asked the full Board, not just a member of the Board, to investigate thoroughly the advisability of package television stations for isolated areas. I received a letter today following the annual conference of the Federated Chambers of Commerce of Western Australia, held recently at Busselton, which relates to this very subject. One of the motions passed by that conference was -
That the Postmaster-General be requested to introduce immediate legislation to amend the Act controlling television stations so that where any station can provide a service to country towns which could not support a service of a high powered station it will not be counted as a second licence.
As honorable senators will remember, I pointed out last week, I think, that this was the inhibiting factor in respect of stations providing this service. As the Broadcasting and Television Act stands at present, a commercial station has the right to only two licences. I think it is right that the Government should keep some form of control over these media of mass propaganda. But perhaps we could have a look at the matter in the way it was examined in Canada when the same situation arose. In Canada, when applications are called for a television station for a specific area or town and no application is forthcoming, the control board considers the reason for this. If the controlling authority considers that no application is forthcoming because of the economics of the situation and that a station would not pay, it is prepared to allow the nearest television station to provide a translator or package station which uses videotape for its programmes. This is how the problem is overcome in Canada. The use of a package type station with a staff of two men is permitted.
– Canada also has an 80 per cent, quota.
– I will go along with Senator McClelland on that point at a later time. I am not opposed to it myself. This type of package service can bc made available by either of the two commercial television stations in Western Australia at the moment. I have no doubt it could be provided also in the Mount lsa area by a Queensland station. But neither of the stations in Western Australia will entertain the scheme if it will cost them the right to a second licence. They freely confess they will not make much money out of it, nor will they lose much money.
The two stations have made an assessment and I think it has cost quite a sum of money to do this survey. Such a station would mean that television could be provided for the concentrated population in these isolated areas. A second motion which was passed at the same conference stated -
That in view of the fact that the PostmasterGeneral is not prepared to recommend to Parliament “ the high expenditure necessary to erect a high powered television station “ he submit his reasons why he will not recommend the erection of package television stations in areas such as Kalgoorlie and Geraldton.
Over the years, at every conference of public spirited citizens in these areas, this question has been raised. It has been discussed over the last six or seven years. These people have seen millions of pounds spent on providing television services in the metropolitan areas of Australia, yet after 61 years of television in Western Australia there has been no undertaking whatsoever that any type of television service will be introduced in Geraldton or Kalgoorlie. The people freely confess that it is quite obvious that the expense of providing a high powered station in these districts is not warranted and is uneconomical. But they submit that there is a density population of 23,000 people in Kalgoorlie and about 18,000 in Geraldton spread over a distance not exceeding seven miles and that a package television station would cover that area and would be the ideal means of providing television services in those areas. Incidentally, these two towns are just so far away from anywhere that a signal from a station would not interfere with any existing television stations operating today.
There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about what a package television station, is. It produces exactly the same picture as. the high powered station but does not send the signal as far. Perhaps I should refer to what the Postmaster-General said in Parliament on 13th May 1964. He said that the quality of the picture received in the home was identical with that from a high .power station. He. also said that a 1,000 watt or 1 kilowatt signal from a mast 150 feet high would have a range of about 15 miles. We do not need that range in these two areas. A range of 3 or 3i miles would cover this population adequately.
People also have some funny ideas about the cost of one of these stations. The PostmasterGeneral mentioned the cost of a 1 kilowatt station. I am going to give honorable senators the cost of a 2 kilowatt station - that is its effective radiating power. It is not a lot of money when one thinks that the vision equipment, including one telecine channel, 2 film projectors, 1 slide projector, 1 studio camera and associated synchronising and processing equipment would cost only £16,000. Then one must have the complementary sound equipment to go with it at a cost of £1,350; the vision and sound control desks, lighting equipment and voltage regulating equipment costing £600; film handling and editing equipment costing £980; a 500 watt transmitter costing £8,350; an aerial with a four times gain feeder cable costing £1,000; a guyed mast - not one that stands unguyed - costing £850; test equipment costing £3,000; the videotape and the videotape machine costing £8,220; the building costing £3,000 - because it is not an elaborate setup - spares and installations costing £2,500; and sales tax costing £5,000. The whole thing complete would cost £50,830.
I submit that that is not a lot of money, particularly when I am not asking the Government to put one penny into the projects. 1 am asking the Government to permit private enterprise to do this. If the Government wants to come into the scheme it can do it on the same basis.
– The Government would also get a lot more money from licence fees.
– 1 thank the honorable senator for reminding me. I will come to that point in a moment. The assessed figures for running and maintaining one of these package type stations is £30,000 for a year for a staff of five with a viewing time of 35 hours a week. That figure includes depreciation over the accepted life of this type of station. Referring to Senator Cavanagh’s. interjection, I point out that if the Broadcasting Control Board permitted private enterprise to instal commercial stations in these areas it would be very happy for about 12 months but would then say: “ Everyone else in Australia has the choice of two television stations. Why are not national stations operating in these areas?”. That is fair enough. The national service can do so. The Board could instal an equivalent of this package type station for about £50,000. I think it is the policy of the Government, rightly or wrongly - and I am not going to debate the matter - that national television should pay for itself. Let us consider that question. The Control Board’s own estimate is that revenue from viewers’ licences would be about £26,000 for Kalgoorlie, and could rise to £37,500, and £18,000 for Geraldton. Although this does not quite cover the maintenance figure I mentioned earlier, the addition of the two figures gives a total of more than £30,000 a year and runs very close to the maintenance figure. Therefore, I am not impressed with the argument that national television could not be put in that area. Let us look briefly at that argument in relation to Western Australia. From 1959 to 1965 revenue from licences totalled £3,162,600. But expenditure over that period has amounted to £7 million. If it is good enough to show a loss of that magnitude on national television in the metropolitan area, surely we should be prepared to suffer a much smaller loss in other areas.
I have raised this matter tonight to put on record some of the facts relating to package stations, ‘ because I think there has been some misunderstanding. I am delighted to know that the PostmasterGeneral has stated that he has asked the Australian Broadcasting Control Board - I use the word “ asked “, because I do not know whether he instructs - to go fully into the desirability of using package type stations. I ask Senator Anderson, who represents the Postmaster-General in this place, to inform his colleague that I implore him, when he next examines the Broadcasting and Television Act, to consider making provision for package stations.
– Senator Branson has indicated that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) has stated that he has asked the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to inform him in relation to package stations. The honorable senator has furnished some supplementary information which he believes should be brought to the notice of the Postmaster-General. I certainly will bring to the attention of the Postmaster-General the comments that have been made tonight by the honorable senator.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 November 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1965/19651125_senate_25_s30/>.