26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity either as Minister representing the Prime Minister in relation to cultural affairs or as Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to a letter in yesterday’s ‘Age’ by a Melbourne art consultant, Mr Joseph Brown, in which he pointed out that Australia is one of the few countries in the world where no legislation exists to ensure that works of arl of historic or national importance are not sold overseas without the approval of an appropriate authority? Has Mr Brown’s concern been shared publicly by Mr Thompson, the Acting Director of the Victorian National Gallery, who has described the export of Australian art treasures, amounting last year to some $2. 3m, as something of a scandal? Why has the Government allowed this art drain to take place over the years? Is it not about time that we had a government which showed some concern for the quality of life in Australia and for the preservation of irreplaceable and significant items in our cultural heritage?
– As the Senate knows, we have an Australian Council for the Arts to which an allocation of Commonwealth funds is made. I would have thought that the kind of question the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has posed had inherent in it some aspects of the sovereignty and responsibility of the States, and indeed the constitutional limitations that have been placed upon the Commonwealth.
– Over exports?
– Yes. I know that we have power under the customs legislation to prohibit exports, but the legislation has very serious implications and indeed, as we know from what has happened in the past, some limitations. I think that this is a question which is worthy of being placed on notice so that a considered reply can be sought through the Prime Minister’s Department. However, as I said at the outset, the Australian Government plays a significant part in providing financial assistance in the field of art and culture. My only concern is as to the limitation of our responsibilities.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware of serious reports from Hong Kong to the effect that Australian kangaroo meat contaminated with worms, manure and lead bullets is being shipped to Hong Kong for the human food market? What action does the Commonwealth Government contemplate for the twofold purpose of curbing this slaughter of our wildlife and preserving our good name as a meat exporting country?
– My colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, has informed me that his Department has received reports of some rejections of kangaroo meat in Hong Kong. There has been no rejection of other classes of meat of which the Department is aware. Kangaroo meat is not subject to official inspections prior to export. It must be appreciated that kangaroo meat is game and is not amenable to the same kind of control as meat from domestic animals. There is, however, a demand for game meats throughout the world.
Exports of kangaroo meat are certified by commercial companies in the superintendence of export cargoes. They employ qualified inspectors for the purpose. The Department of Primary Industry has been advised that the inspections performed by these companies formerly were based on check examination but those procedures have been changed recently. A complete inspection of all meat is now performed with the object of ensuring that the 1,’LiU.. meets the requirements of the Hong Kong authorities and is suitable for human consumption. Kangaroo meat exporters have adopted a reasonable and a proper attitude towards this matter. No evidence exists to suggest that exports of kangaroo meat from Australia have any relationship to Australia’s regular trade in meat from Australian domestic stocks.
– Has the Minister for Works seen the extensions at present nearing completion at the Adelaide air terminal building? Has he noticed the rather unsightly projections which tower above the roof of what is otherwise a very well designed and acceptable addition to airport facilities at Adelaide Airport? Can something be done either to decrease the stature of these projections or, alternatively, to provide some other cooling system and so make these projections unnecessary?
– My last view of the Adelaide Airport was some 3 months ago. I have not seen the projections to which the honourable senator - refers. I shall get a comment from one who is competent to make comment on such matters - I would not profess to have any opinion on the question of design - and let the honourable senator know. I hope that these projections are not obscuring our appreciation of the very grand extensions that have been afforded to the Adelaide Airport.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to the latest gallup poll, published yesterday, which shows that 58% of voters interviewed favour a free national health scheme financed by taxation, which is part of the Labor Party’s election’ policy, and that only 38% want to keep the present voluntary scheme. Does the Government now agree that there is a mounting wave of public feeling against the present shoddy and inadequate voluntary health scheme and that a large majority of Australians want Labor’s health programme?
– No, I certainly do not agree that a large number of Australians want Labor’s health scheme.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Prime Minister a question with reference to a statement attributed to the Prime Minister in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ of today that no great party can tailor its foreign policy to fit in with the requirements of any other party. Is this an admission by the Prime Minister that the Country Party as a great party is refusing to tailor its foreign policy to fit in with the requirements of the Liberal Party policy announced by Mr Freeth with the concurrence of Mr Gorton?
– I would suggest that the honourable senator has again fallen into the error into which he fell last night of reading something, putting his own interpretation upon it and then making that the basis for a suggested argument. I do not want to make any comment and I would not make any comment on what the Prime Minister said. It stands in its own right.
– My question follows that of Senator Cant and is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. As the health plan proposed by the Australian Labor Party requires the cooperation of the medical profession if it is to have any prospect of success, does the Minister agree that the bitter opposition to the Labor plan which has been voiced by the Australian Medical Association indicates clearly that, its other shortcomings apart, the plan has no prospect of success?
– I raise a point of order. This is a question, apart from its grossly party political nature, asking for an expression of opinion by the Minister on a matter outside his portfolio. Such questions have been repeatedly rejected and I would ask you, Mr Deputy President, to reject this one also. This is not the purpose of question time. A Minister is to be asked questions of fact, not calling for his opinions on programmes or policies of the Australian Labor Party.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I want to remind the Senate that in recent weeks we have had a series of questions of a similar nature to this from both sides of the chamber. It is a rule of the Senate that a question should either seek information or press for action within the Minister’s responsibility. Pursuant to that rule the Chair will disallow any question which it believes is not within a Minister’s responsibility. But it is often difficult for the Chair to decide whether the subject matter of a question comes within a Minister’s responsibility. I shall let this question flow through to the Minister with the suggestion that he answer that portion of it which he believes comes within his responsibility.
– I accept your ruling, Mr Deputy President. I am sure that I can answer the question by saying that as a Minister of the Crown and a member of the Cabinet I have responsibilities not only in relation to the portfolios that I represent in this chamber but also an overall responsibility, in which I would include the Department of Health. I hope that that brings me within the framework of your ruling, Sir. I remind the Senate that one of the earlier questions asked by Senator Cant contained all the ingredients that are in the question to which Senator Murphy now takes objection. Consequently, a little tolerance in my reply would be appropriate. It is a fact that an essential ingredient in any national health scheme is ready cooperation on the part of the medical profession. History reminds us that during the life of the Chifley Labor Government an attempt was made to bring in a medical and hospital service in a form which was found to be unconstitutional. The medical profession at that time indicated in categorical terms that it would have no part of that scheme. So in response to the question now asked I would say that any scheme which begins, as the one proposed by the Labor Party begins, with complete hostility to it on the part of the medical profession has all the ingredients of failure.
– That is not true.
– It is suggested that what I have said is not true. It is abundantly clear from what has been said already that a national health insurance scheme of the kind proposed would not have the co-operation of the medical profession. For that and other reasons which I am not permitted to canvass in answering the question the proposals of the Labor Party would be doomed to failure.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation seen a statement attributed to the Liberal Premier of Victoria in which he said that he favoured the lifting of the ban on late night and early morning jet opera tions at Tullamarine airport on the basis that this would suit the convenience of freight planes and passengers? Does the Minister agree that the Victorian Premier’s statement presages an attempt to establish Tullamarine as the first major capital city airport to operate jet flights for 24 hours a day? Does this mean that international operators will prefer Tullamarine to Mascot in Sydney and that it is likely that Sydney airport will be forced to follow suit by opening for 24 hours a day? What guarantee can the Minister give to the people of southern Sydney suburbs that fulfilment of Sir Henry’s tribalistic obsession to advance Melbourne at all costs will not give them relief from the almost unbearable noise of modern jets during the hours when most people want to sleep?
– I inform the honourable senator that I have not seen the statement to which he has referred. I assume that the statement is correct; otherwise the honourable senator would not have quoted from it. My first comment is that Melbourne will not be the first international airport in Australia to have a 24-hour service; it may be the second or third airport to have this service. One of the first airports to have a 24-hour service was Perth, and I believe Darwin is another airport where there is no limitation on the hours during which jet aircraft may operate.
– There is no limitation in Hobart.
– I do not think that at this stage Hobart is an international airport. It is in the interests of the airline transport industry that both passengers and goods be permitted to arrive at their destination at any time of the day. I compliment Sir Henry upon his attitude towards the encouragement of aircraft traffic to his capital city. I do not believe that the Victorian Premier is at all worried about what happens in Sydney. But he is interested in his own State, and he is interested in having aircraft coming in to the Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport for 24 hours of the day. Other airports in Australia are also interested in having aircraft landing at all times of the day and night and I certainly hope that in the future we may see an end to any objection from New South Wales.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, lt follows the question asked by Senator Cant in which he said that a gallup poll indicated that 53% of the people favoured the health scheme put forward by the Australian Labor Party. Does the Minister consider that the public is completely confused by the Labor Party’s scheme which purports to have two bob each way? Does he consider that this scheme, although based on the proposal of two economists - Dr Scotton and Dr Deeble - leaves out the most important integral part of that proposal which means that under the Labor Party’s scheme the public would have to pay more for general practitioners’ work than they do under the present scheme?
– When the question was asked originally by Senator Cant it was obvious to me that he was linking the results of a gallup poll based on general questions with the scheme as advocated by the Australian Labor Party. The Scotton and Deeble proposal envisages the imposition of a tax, as a basic ingredient of the scheme, whereas the scheme now in operation is a voluntary one under which contributors enjoy taxation concessions in respect of their contributions. It is patent that the results obtained from a gallup poll depend upon how the particular question is posed. How can one pose a question related to the scheme advocated by the Labor Party when the members of that Party themselves admit that as yet they have not gone fully into the implications of their scheme?
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. What special assistance is available from either the Commonwealth Department of Health or Department of Social Services for diabetic invalid pensioners living on expensive special foods, which has the effect of reducing their standard of pension benefits? Can any supplementary allowance be paid in these circumstances? If not, will the Minister consider providing assistance in special cases?
– I cannot give the honourable senator a detailed reply concerning assistance that may be available to cases such as those he mentions, but I shall inquire of both the Minister for Health and the Minister for Social Services and obtain a reply for the honourable senator.
– I. ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he has seen a statement in this morning’s Press to the effect that the new $6m Tilbury berth built to handle vessels on the England to Australia run, which has been idle since February, is to remain closed indefinitely because London dockers cannot agree on terms to work it Will alternative arrangements be made to handle the container trade between the United Kingdom and Australia, or will this modern type of sea commerce be held up indefinitely?
– I am not competent to give a reply to the honourable senator’s question. It would appear to me that it would be appropriate to put the question on notice for the Minister for Shipping and Transport who will reply to it. We are all aware of the industrial trouble that has been endured on the London docks. Alternative arrangements have been made for the use of ports on the Continent, as we all know. What implications the London situation will have on our position, at this point of time I am not competent to say.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that widely publicised reports in various sections of the Press yesterday showed that 62% of the voters interviewed favoured cancelling the Fill contract? In view of this not unexpected result, does the Government still intend to announce its decision on the Fill purchase before the election?
– On a number of occasions in the last few weeks I have answered questions about the FI 1 1 aircraft. A team of experts, led by Sir Henry Bland, the Secretary of the Department of Defence, went to the United States of America in connection with the Fill order. My own Department, the Department of Supply, which, as honourable senators know, has a great team of scientists and experts in this particular field, was represented. The team has returned to Australia and has made or is in the process of making a report to the Government, which will consider that report. When full consideration has been given to the matters contained in the report and when it is proper to do so, a full statement or announcement will be made. In truth, I have nothing to add to what I said to, I think, Senator Cohen probably about 10 days ago on this matter. As soon as I have information available I, representing the Minister for Defence in this place, will bring it to the attention of the Senate.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs seen repeated assertions in the Press and by senators and other members of Parliament to the effect that the statement on foreign affairs by the Minister for External Affairs, given on 14th August, represents a marked change in Government policy to Soviet Russia? Has the Minister seen and heard the repeated denials of the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs that there is any change in basic policy? Is the Minister aware that assertions are now being made that, notwithstanding these denials and in defiance of what actually appears in the statement, there must be a change in policy because other Ministers have not yet affirmed that there is no change in policy? Does the Minister consider assertions such as these aid public appreciation of major issues of national importance? Will the Minister affirm that there has been no change of policy but simply a response, in line with traditional policy, to a new situation created by Soviet Russia?
– As I recall the situation, this matter was debated yesterday. The very things to which the honourable senator referred were discussed at length. Again, as I recall the situation, I made the same statement about the speech by Senator McManus who, I suggested at the time, was using a process of logic which was completely incomprehensible in relation to present policy. He assumed that because certain Ministers had not made statements and he had made statements, it must follow that his statements were the right ones from which to draw conclusions. 1 agree with Senator Greenwood that the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs have made it abundantly clear that there has been no basic change in Australia’s policy to Soviet Russia.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the question asked by Senator Greenwood and to the answer just given by the Minister. I ask: In order to satisfy everyone in this Parliament and to convince the nation itself, will the Minister arrange to have the substance of the question asked by Senator Greenwood referred to the Minister for Defence, Mr Fairhall, so that he can make a statement assuring the nation that in his opinion there is no change in policy?
– Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I submit that a question related to this matter and identical with this question is already on the notice paper. It has remained unanswered for the last 3 weeks. I submit that it would be wrong if the question were to be listed again.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- If such a question is on the notice paper, I want to know which question on the notice paper it is and whether it is identical with the one Senator Murphy has just asked.
– ‘I understand that the question is No. 1430, which reads as follows:
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- -Order There is no substance in the point of order.
– My reply to the Leader of the Opposition is that it is not necessary, except in certain circumstances, for me to bring questions that relate to the portfolios of other Ministers to the notice of those Ministers. I assure the Senate, including Senator Murphy, that all Ministers look at all questions that are asked and the answers given thereto in this place.
– Why not do it?
– I do not need to. The question and answer will be seen by the Minister for Defence because of his natural interest in the debates that take place in the Senate.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an article in today’s Press regarding a report issued by the Australian Consumers Association, which calls for action on inflammable night wear for children? Is he aware that the Association states that the manufacture of materials for use in next winter’s nightwear for children has already commenced? Could the Government issue an appeal to the manufacturers of these materials to desist from such action and treat as a matter of extreme urgency the investigations into establishing a system of testing of flammability prior to the eventual banning of the use of such materials?
– I form the opinion that on this issue the sovereign States would have more responsibility than would the Commonwealth. However, I will refer the question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. If he can give a reply that will meet some of the honourable senator’s proposals, I am sure that he will do so.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is the strong pressure being applied by Ansett Airlines of Australia for 24-hour operation by jets designed to allow that company to use passenger aircraft as cargo freighters at night? Would such an operation place an excessive strain on aircraft and thus jeopardise public safety?
– I am sure that the honourable senator has not made a very great study of the work that the Department of Civil Aviation carries out in order to ensure that Australian people are carried safely from one place in Australia to another. I believe that the record of the air transport industry, particularly the aircraft passenger industry, in Australia is unequalled in any other part of the world. It is a record of which we in Australia are very proud. I am not aware of any representations made by Sir Reginald Ansett or Ansett Airlines of Australia-
– Or Trans-Australia Airlines.
– Or Trans-Australia Airlines or anybody else to seek to obtain a 24-hour jet service in all the capital cities. 1 said earlier in answer to a question about Sir Henry Bolte advocating that overseas passengers and cargo be allowed to come into Melbourne 24 hours a day that that was a matter for Victoria. In relation to New South Wales, it is a matter for its government to decide whether or not it wants to advocate a 24-hour service. 1 do not know how many other countries have a 24-hour service. But it is a very interesting subject. In view of the very high cost of these machines, we in Australia would probably obtain cheaper freights if the airlines could operate for 24 hours a day between commercial centres.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that the Australian Labor Party is attempting to force officials of the Australian Wheat Board to appear at the Bar of the Senate to answer questions relating to the Board’s attempts to sell wheat overseas? Does the Minister feel that such action is in the public interest or in the interest of the wheat industry in particular? ls this attempt likely to be put into effect prior to the Senate rising or prior to the forthcoming House of Representatives election?
– The honourable senator is flouting your ruling, Mr Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Senator Webster asked this question, or one similar to it, earlier and I ruled it out of order under standing order 99. Since then I have had an opportunity to look at the notice paper. I find that this question has been on notice longer than the period stated in standing order 419. So I am now allowing this question to go through to the Minister.
– The question raised by the honourable senator is a very interesting one indeed. It is a fact that the Australian Labor Party has on the notice paper a motion which indicates that it wants to bring before the Bar of the Senate officials of the Australian Wheat Board so that they may be questioned. The interesting thing about it is that no further steps have been taken by the Opposition to carry out this proposal. It still has a couple more weeks left in this sessional period to bring this about if it so desires, but it. appears to me that certain members of the Opposition do not wish to do this. In other words, they may have cold feet on this subject.
– My question also is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister unaware of the fact that last week the Government moved to prevent general business from being dealt with on Tuesday nights and that the motion to which he has referred is under that heading? Does he agree therefore that his suggestion that there are still 2 weeks in which to bring up this matter under general business is completely unwarranted? Will he apologise for the suggestion he made? Will he admit that the Government thinks that this motion, which concerns the sale of wheat not only to China but generally, is not an extremely important one? Does he say that such a matter is not fit for the consideration of the Senate and for a decision by the Senate? Is it not true that the Government, if it so desired, could at any time in the proceedings of the Senate have advanced that motion to be dealt with? Is it not also true that on earlier occasions matters of importance have been dealt with by the Senate when dealing with general business, and that many extremely important matters remain on the notice paper? Will the Minister at the very least apologise for his unwarranted statement about the next 2 weeks, or bring the matter on?
– I would like to advise the Leader of the Opposition that he put on the notice paper a motion dated 28th May 1969.
– No, 14th May.
– 1 am sorry, I should have said J 4th May 1969. He has had at least 4 months to act on it. In fact, he has had an opportunity to do so from the time he placed the motion on the notice paper until about a week ago. I. did say that he has an opportunity to bring the matter on in the next fortnight. However, the situation is now, as has been the practice in the past at this stage of a sessional period, that Government business takes precedence of general business. The relevant motion was moved last week.
– But that is not an absolute preclusion from bringing the matter on.
– lt may or may not be an absolute preclusion, but I do not believe that the Leader of the Opposition would be bringing it on at (his time. I do not believe that the Government would be likely to do so. I am sorry that 1 mentioned the last 2 weeks of the session. What I am saying is that the Opposition has got cold feet on the proposition, and that was the case when it had an opportunity to bring it on until a week ago. The Opposition did not desire to bring it on. Members of the Labor Party, having developed cold feet on the subject, did not desire to bring it on again.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: For how long is the Prime Minister going to victimise a great number of Australians and myself by not providing me with a Press Secretary?
– I do not think I should respond to the question, because as I understand the position the honourable senator has made representations and that is where the matter rests at present.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for National Development seen a report in the Melbourne ‘Age’ that a member of the South Australian House of Assembly might use his casting vote to sabotage the Dartmouth Dam project? Has the Minister also seen the reported comment of Sir Henry Bolte that under -no circumstances would he agree to a commitment now to build the Chowilla Dam as well as the Dartmouth Dam, and the further reported statement of Sir Henry that if the Dartmouth scheme were blocked, We might have to have another look at the whole River Murray Agreement’? Can the Minister say what effect this would have on the conservation of water for South Australia’s needs?
– 1 have seen the newspaper reports referred to by the honourable senator, lt is a fact, of course, that the Commonwealth Government is a party to the River Murray Agreement, together with the governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The parties to the Agreement have agreed on the scheme known as the Dartmouth Dam project. The South Australian Premier and his responsible Government have agreed to the scheme, which will give the people of South Australia an extra 250,000 acre feet of water a year over and above the quantity they would have received from the Chowilla Dam. The scheme is in the balance at the moment because when a vote is taken on it in the future a member of the South Australian House of Assembly, exercising his right to vote, may vote against the Dartmouth Dam scheme unless the Chowilla Dam project is to be built at the same time. We all know the high cost of conserving water. Both schemes will cost in the vicinity of S70m. We all know that only one dam should be built at a time.
The honourable senator asked what will happen if the Dartmouth scheme is thrown out by the South Australian Parliament. It simply means that the people of South Australia will go back to where they were in 1915. In other words, they will receive from the Chowilla Dam when it is completed the same amount of water as they received in that year. They would not receive any more Water now than in 1915. The people of South Australia must know that. Their very lifeline is water from the River Murray. They are so dependent on it that I believe they will want the Dartmouth scheme to go ahead, because it will mean that they will receive from the Dartmouth Dam some 254,000 acre feet of water a year more than they would receive from the Chowilla Dam.
– In accordance wilh the provisions of standing order 98 I direct a question to Senator Murphy, the Leader of the Opposition. Is there any particular reason why, in accordance with Notice of Motion No. 7 which he placed on the notice paper on 14th May 1969, and with which I do not agree, he has not sought to have the Chairman and the General Manager of the Australian Wheat Board brought before the Senate? Should the Government find an opportunity within the next 2 weeks to allow this notice of motion to be brought forward, would the Leader of the Opposition wish to have the leaders of the wheat industry brought before the Senate prior to the election?
– I think that perhaps” now more than ever it would be advisable to have the Chairman and the Genera! Manager, or some other officer, of the Australian Wheat Board come to the Senate and explain Australia’s position in relation to wheat sales and the prospects for the wheat growers. I think it should be obvious to everyone that the Australian wheat industry is facing a tremendous crisis and this Parliament should know at first hand, and the wheat farmers should be informed of the prospects for the future. Although my notice of motion referred particularly to the sale of wheat to mainland China, I think that really has become a subsidiary matter. The overwhelming question is what we will do in relation to wheat sales in the future. How do we stand? Are we to be left with a whole crop-
– Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I direct your attention to standing order 100 which provides:
In answering any such question, a senator shall not debate the matter to which the same refers.
I suggest that Senator Murphy was debating this motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I am not upholding the point of order. Under standing order 98, Senator Webster had the right to ask Senator Murphy a question. I am treating Senator Murphy in exactly the same fashion as I treat a Minister. He can answer the question as it Falls within his responsibility.
– Yes, this is one of the most important questions that faces primary industry in this community. There has been no- (Honourable senators interjecting) -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I know that each and every senator is capable of answering this question. Senator Murphy has been asked to give the answer. I suggest that honourable senators listen to his answer.
– Yes, 1 would think that they would be able to answer it. Every honourable senator here will agree that we ought to have the utmost information given to the Senate and the nation by these gentlemen or by other officers if these gentlemen are concerned with discussions at the moment. I would think that this is the kind of motion to which there ought to be no opposition at all. In fact, I would invite the Government to facilitate the bringing of these persons before the Senate - to invite them here.
There is no question of coercion in this matter. There is no question of putting people in gaol. That is nonsense. This motion seeks to bring the appropriate officers here to tell the nation of the problems that face Australia, what has happened in the past and what will happen in the future. The Government cannot tell us this, the Government has said that the Australian Wheat Board is an independent statutory body for which the Government is not responsible. So we cannot get the answers to our questions. We have tried again and again to get the information by asking Ministers for the answers. They say: We really cannot tell you. We are not responsible for this body’. So, it is rational that the people who do know the answers be given the opportunity to tell the nation these answers in the appropriate place.
I am pleased to see that Senator Webster is anxious to have the matter brought out. lt would be a very easy matter for the Government to say: ‘We too would like the gentlemen to come and to give the answers’. Why should we not all be here and get a simple statement from the officers as to the position in regard to wheat - whether there is a disaster; whether there is not; whether there is some way out of it; what action should be taken by this Parlia ment, if it thinks that some special action should be taken: in what way we can all co-operate in order to see to it that this wheat crisis is solved; and to establish what action should be taken now by way of quotas? I know why the Government does not want this motion to be proceeded with and why all this nonsense is put on in opposition to the motion. It is because the Government’s failure to put forward a proper solution will be exposed if these officers come before the Senate.
In reply to the rest of the question as to what has been done regarding this motion, I point out that no answer has been forthcoming to the question asked by Senator McClelland on these matters. A ministerial statement was asked for. That followed a refusal previously to answer questions. This makes it quite clear that a course such as has been indicated in this motion ought to be followed. I invite the Government now to facilitate the bringing of these officers before the Senate, by invitation, request or summons, and let us all know the full facts about the situation that Australia faces.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Works. It refers to the problem that has been raised of aircraft noise. This is a problem that is recurring as each year the Commonwealth becomes further involved in the matter of providing facilities at great cost to the people of Australia. Will the Minister give very close consideration to issuing a directive to his Department that plans for new airport construction by the Commonwealth will be proceeded with only if those plans include a provision that a covenant be placed by local government and State authorities on areas adjoining an airport to prevent the exploitation of such areas for residential purposes, which is happening now, so perpetuating this very vexed problem of aircraft noise?
– The chief expertise and advice with regard to the location of airports would come from the Department of Civil Aviation which always would keep as a paramount matter for its judgment the question of the effect of noise upon residents in the proximity. The suggestion that the encroachment of residents upon the airport perimeter creates an inconsistency between the comfort of residents and the operation of an airport is one to which the Government is well alive, having within the last few months constituted a committee to examine this subject under the chairmanship of Mr Len Bosman. I will give consideration to the other observations with regard to local government covenants when I have seen them in writing and shall see whether or not further attention should be given by my Department to that matter.
– Will the Leader of the Government take immediate steps to have the Government lodge a strong protest with the French Government against any further nuclear tests in the Pacific? ls the Minister aware that the fall-out rate in north Queensland is more than thirteen times the accumulation rate in Tasmania? Will he undertake to have extensive medical tests carried out on young children in north Queensland to ascertain whether any long term physical damage has been caused by the high rate of nuclear fall-out in this area?
– I propose to table, when question time has concluded, a report of the National Radiation Advisory Committee on biological aspects of fall-out in Australia, and the honourable senator and other senators will have an opportunity to peruse it. I note a tie-up to some extent between the question and a reference in the report to the fact that fall-out over Australia from the 1968 series of French nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific is of no significance as a hazard to the health of the Australian population. That is a summarisation. I think it would be more appropriate for Senator Keeffe and other honourable senators to read the report thoroughly and subsequently to ask further questions if they wish to do so.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development a question which arises from an answer that he gave earlier to a question by Senator Young. The Minister stated on more than one occasion that South Australia would obtain an extra quarter of a million acre feet of water from Dartmouth than it would receive from Chowilla. I ask: Would
South Australia be guaranteed this extra amount of water in each and every year? Would the quantity of water reaching South Australia in a drought year be guaranteed?
– The honourable senator asks whether I will give an assurance that the Dartmouth project will give more water than would Chowilla Dam to South Australia in years of drought.
– I asked: Does the agreement provide for an extra quarter of a million acre feet in each and every year?
– I have the honourable senator’s question. The agreement provides that the South Australian Government will receive an extra 245,000 or about a quarter of a million acre feet of water a year over and above what it would get from Chowilla. It has been worked out by the authorities that in times of drought, according to the information that was fed into the computer, in 1 year in 60 or in 1 year in 50 South Australia will receive from Dartmouth about 150,000 or 200,000 acre feet less than it would get in normal circumstances. This will still be more than it would receive in normal circumstances from Chowilla. On the question of salinity, I inform the honourable senator that in periods of drought, to which he has referred, Chowilla would have a higher saline content over a longer period than Dartmouth.
– The Minister should check his information.
– I will, but I believe that what I have said is correct.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I refer to the Fill contract and remind the Minister that according to an answer which he. gave to me on 12th August this year, in addition to the Si 83m already paid under the contract, without the delivery of a single plane, within the next 2 or 3 weeks a payment of the order of SI 5m is due for the quarter ending 30th September 1969. That is quite apart from the payment of a further $9m due at the end of the year. I am referring now only to the sum of S15m to be paid before the end of this month. I remind the Minister that that sum would buy us fifteen high schools at Sim each.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! The honourable senator is giving information. He must ask his question.
– 1 am drawing the Minister’s attention to the fact that it is a very large amount of money which could do a lot for this country. Will the money which is due for the quarter ending 30th September be paid before a decision is made about cancellation? Does the Minister really think that the people will be willing to put up with this for much longer?
– Injected into that series of questions and statements were political implications. For that reason 1 suggest that the question be put on notice.
– J direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that the Government’s pensioner medical benefits scheme requires the co-operation of the medical profession? Has that co-operation always been freely given? Does the Government’s repatriation medical benefits scheme require the co-operation of the medical profession? Has this co-operation always been freely given? If those two medical benefits schemes work because the medical profession co-operates with the Government, what reason is there for believing that the medical profession will not co-operate with a Labor government?
– The answer to the first four questions is yes.
– No, it is not.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! The honourable senator has asked his question.
– Since the honourable senator disputes my answer, I have nothing further to say.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development refers to the Chowilla Dam. How is it that the Commonwealth refuses to provide finance to build both the Dartmouth and Chowilla dams when it accepts that the continuance of the Chowilla project may be a work for the future and grants S20m to the New South Wales Government to build the Copeton Dam? Has the Minister seen a statement about the recently expressed disappointment by the Premier of New South Wales that the Chowilla Dam was not being continued when New South Wales works and finance had been geared for the project?
– The Commonwealth Government has to take a responsibility in providing finance for water conservation throughout the whole of Australia. In answer to a question yesterday I mentioned the large amount of water that had been conserved throughout Australia since this Government came to office. I have only to mention a few schemes like the Ord River scheme for which we are supplying a considerable amount of the finance, some by way of loan and some by way of grant. We are supplying some of the finance for the Dartmouth scheme. We are also supplying finance for the Copeton scheme and for the Nogoa scheme. In his last policy speech the late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, announced that the Government would make available 1 think $50m in the next few years for the conservation of water throughout Australia. The whole of that money has been allocated. In addition, many millions of dollars more have been allocated for water conservation. In view of the fact that Australia is so short of water and that we have to provide finance for many schemes, it would be completely ridiculous for us to undertake two schemes in the one area at the one time when one would probably meet the requirements of the area concerned for the next 10 or 15 years. The Minister for National Development has made it quite clear that we shall do one scheme. When that is completed we could look at the other. I understand that that is the correct Australian approach to water conservation and I believe that the honourable senator would agree with this proposition.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. What is the purpose of the research being carried out at Monash University described as microbiological and immunological studies of pathogenesis and virulence in leptospirosis? What is the interest of the United States Army in this research work? Why is it paying for the research? Is this research being carried out with the knowledge and consent of the Government?
– Somewhere amongst my papers I have a photostat copy of a letter that was written by a professor of the Monash University in which he made it abundantly clear in response to a statement that was made at a symposium in South Australia that the work that was being carried out was completely medical research.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Will the Government, as a matter of urgency, arrange for an immediate reassessment of drought effects and losses in Queensland? Can the Minister use his good offices with the Treasurer and the Government to make an immediate cash grant to enable those most affected to obtain at least sufficient relief to live and possibly save enough of their stock to build up herds and flocks when rain eventually falls?
– AsI have said here many times before, the correct procedure in these cases is for the Premiers to approach the Prime Minister. This is the normal procedure. If a State believes that there is a state of national emergency it makes representations through its Premier to the Prime Minister and the whole position is evaluated. This has been done by other States in more recent years and I would suggest that it is the proper procedure to adopt in this instance.I am assured that once a State makes representations in this way for special assistance by way of special grants and so on because of a national emergency, there is no delay in the Commonwealth’s coming to a decision as to whether the circumstances merit special assistance by way of special grants.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It relates to the forthcoming debate on the Estimates. Will the Minister see to it that the appropriate Ministers arrange that departmental reports and all relevant documents are in the hands of honourable senators before the debate on the estimates for their respective departments takes place? Sometimes these documents arrive only minutes before the debate starts; sometimes they do not arrive at all. Last year I had the experience of waiting for the very important report of the Joint Coal Board until a minute or two before the debate started.
– Within my limitations, I will do what I can to try to meet the situation. Last year, I think, some question arose about the failure to obtain a report from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board or a similar authority. Speaking for myself, I know that the Department of Supply document has been printed and, I hope, circulated. Ministers are most anxious that wherever practicable, these special reports shall be in the hands of honourable senators because the reports facilitate the progress of a debate and very often limit the time that would be taken in the debate because the information which otherwise would be sought by honourable senators is to be found in documented form. To the extent that I can help in this matter. I will do so. I readily appreciate the significance of Senator Ormonde’s proposal.
(Question No. 1292)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
Did the fact that Marianne Faithfull had film star status result in a more tolerant attitude being taken by the authorities to happenings that led up to her hospitalisation in Sydney.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Department of Customs and Excise adopted the same attitude toward Miss Faithfull as it adopts to any incoming passenger. I cannot, of course, speak for the actions taken by any other authority.
(Question No. 1345)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the. honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1394)
– by leave - asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The current rate of exchange is 131 VN $ to one Aust.$
(Question No. 1416)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am aware of the statement made by the President of the Victorian Farmers Union, Mr A. Wood. As indicated in my reply to a similar question by the Honourable Member for Corio I am shocked that so irresponsible a statement would be made by the elected leader of a farm organisation.
The Victorian Farmers’ Union is affiliated with the Australian Wheat Growers’ Federation, the acknowledged spokesman for the wheat industry, which has faced up to the vexing problems of marketing and storage of wheat in a situation where supplies exceed available market outlets by proposing a system of delivery quotas.
Each grower would be entitled to deliver wheat up to the full amount of his quota and to receive payment for it. The underlying purposes of the quotas are to bring production into line with market outlets and to preserve the orderly marketing system which has served the industry well and, through it, the stability of the industry.
If industry leaders prompt growers to disregard the Federation and to market wheat outside the Australian Wheat Board they risk bringing about chaos in an industry which has a proud record of orderly marketing. Fortunately other industry leaders are not of the same mind as Mr Wood and have already made it clear that they do not accept or condone his attitude.
The wheat industry is faced with a difficult set of circumstances. This calls for responsible attitudes, not statements based on fear of what may happen. At this stage of the season no one can know the size of the crop, a fact which will readily be acknowledged by anyone with long acquaintance with the industry. Drought conditions in Queensland and Western Australia have already cut crop prospects and there is doubt whether either State will be able to fill its quota. It remains to be seen whether there will be substantial quantities of non-quota wheat.
The Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act provides for penalties for illegal trading in wheat.
The Government has supported the delivery quota proposals to the extent of arranging for finance to be made available to the Wheat Board to meet first advance payments to growers and various operating expenses. The implementation of quotas, including allocations to farms or farmers, is a matter for the States.
(Question No. 1431)
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.
(Question No. 1458)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I have ascertained that some members of the Commonwealth Film Unit sought permission to visit the facility. Permission was refused. However, members of the Unit did take some film of the facility from outside the perimeter fence. Sincethe Defence (Special Undertakings) Act prohibits taking of photographs or making sketches, the film has been destroyed.
(Question No. 1478)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
In view of the Minister’s statement in relation to alterations to the penal sections of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the decisions of unions not to pay fines imposed under these provisions, and the possibility of stoppage of the Australian work-force if any attempt is made to collect fines imposed, will the Minister prevent the inevitable inconvenience to the public that work stoppages cause by not insisting upon recovery of fines until such time as amending legislation has been considered by Parliament.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The recovery of fines imposed by the Commonwealth Industrial Court is not a matter falling within my administration and is within that of my colleague, the Attorney-General. I would, however, draw attention to that part of the statement of the Attorney-General and myself of 25th August 1969, in which we indicated that nothing we had otherwise said in that statement could affect the payment of fines already imposed under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
(Question No. 1417)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
In view of the growing complexity of information required by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, which imposes an unduly large amount of work on many small business undertakings, will the Government give consideration to modifying the requirements.
– The Treasurer has obtained the following information from the Commonwealth Statistician:
It is presumed that the question refers to information which is sought by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics in respect of the economic censuses now being conducted.
These censuses will replace the annual collections of mining and factory statistics and the periodical censuses of retail establishments and other services. Wholesale establishments have also been brought within their scope. For the first time the censuses will be held on a co-ordinated basis and will use standard statistical concepts and classifications throughout. The uniform statistics obtained should be very much more useful both for Government and business than the separate collections replaced.
It would not be possible to modify the census requirements at this stage. In planning the new censuses, however, the task which is required of businessmen has been clearly recognised and the data items specified in the returns have been restricted to the minimum number consistent with the needs. A number of new forms are longer than those used in each separate census in the past. This is partly due to the fact that to assist the respondent a new presentation has been adopted which provides greater space and larger print, and in which more comprehensive instructions are now placed next to the relevant questions. To simplify the reporting task as far as possible shortened forms have been adopted for use by small businesses. The new forms were designed following extensive inquiries made by the Bureau during the past three years of a large number of representative businesses in Australia regarding their accounting practices and the availability of data in their records.
It is not intended that small businesses should undertake complex special analyses to provide the information required. In case of difficulty, businessmen have been invited to contact the Bureau of Census and Statistics for advice as to how to adapt the data available from their records without undue trouble. The Statistician has also indicated on the returns that where necessary careful estimates will be acceptable. If returns are completed on this basis the work involved for individual business should be minimised.
(Question No. 1429)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
The distribution of the book ‘Wool Disposals 1945-52 - The Joint Organisation’ written by Sir Edwin McCarthy is in the hands of the Australian Wool Board. The answers to the specific questions are as follows: 1 (a) Federal woolgrowers’ organisations each received two complimentary copies. State affiliated organisations each received one complimentary copy, (b) No copies have been made available directly to members of the Commonwealth and State Parliaments, (c) Complimentary copies have been sent to:
Chairman and Executive of the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
The National Library (3 copies).
Commonwealth Parliamentary Library.
All State Libraries.
All University Libraries.
All State Departments of Agriculture.
All Agricultural College Libraries.
National Council of Wool Selling Brokers (2 copies).
Australian Council of Wool Buyers (2 copies).
All major country newspapers (for review).
Professors of Agriculture and Agricultural Economics at the Universities of Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, New England, Monash and Australian National University.
Members of the Australian Wool Board and appropriate staff.
Australian Wool Board Library.
Members and staff concerned of the former Australian Wool Realisation Commission.
Individuals formerly concerned with Joint Organisation operations.
Woolgrower organisations have not ordered any copies for distribution to their members. Some individual woolgrowers have bought copies.
1,300 copies are held in stock at the Australian Wool Board.
Booksellers have not been informed of the availability of the book. It has always been the Wool Board’s intention that the history should be regarded as an authoritative reference and there has been no consideration of its being regarded as a commercial venture.
The New Zealand Wool Board obtained 200 copies. The South African Wool Board was asked some time ago to indicate its requirements, but has not yet done so.
250 copies were distributed gratis to members of the International Wool Textile Organisation, wool trade organisations in England, some Governmental libraries in the United Kingdom, the International Wool Study Group and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
AH Australian universities have received copies. There has been no distribution to secondary schools because of limited supplies of the book. Moreover, it is doubtful whether distribution to secondary schools would be warranted in view of the specialised nature of the book.
Free distribution of the book to all woolgrowers would be a costly undertaking. Besides, a wide free distribution as described in the answers to questions 1, 5 and 6 has been made already. The kind of blanket distribution proposed could well result in copies being sent to many persons to whom the history would be of little interest, which would obviously be wasteful. Anyone who is interested in obtaining the book can obtain a copy from the Wool Board at a nominal charge. For the foregoing reasons the Government is not prepared to arrange a free issue of the history to all woolgrowers.
(Question No. 1463)
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
and (2) The numbers of applications for home savings grants received, approved and rejected in each financial year since the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964 came into operation on 28 May 1964 are as follows:
and (5) Statistical data relating to the cost of home construction per square throughout the Commonwealth is not available.
– For the information of honourable senators 1 present the report of the National Radiation Advisory Committee on biological aspects of fall-out in Australia from French nuclear weapons explosions in the Pacific from July to September 1968. Honourable senators will observe that the National Radiation Advisory Committee, after considering the data on radiation doses for the whole body and to the thyroid, concludes that fall-out over Australia in the 1968 series of French nuclear tests in the Pacific is of no significance as a hazard to the health of the Australian population.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the following paper:
First annual report of the Department of Education and Science for the years 1967 and 1968.
Also, pursuant to section-
– Mr Deputy President, the Minister is dealing with separate matters. It is customary after each matter to give any honourable senator who wants to move a motion in respect of any of these matters the opportunity to do so. I suggest that that opportunity be given, instead of dealing with these matters in globo.
– Not on the presentation of papers.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Does the Leader of the Opposition wish to move a motion in respect of one of these matters?
– Yes the annual report of the Department of Education and Science. I ask for leave to move a motion to take note of that paper.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - The
Leader of the Opposition is quite in order. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order as to whether it is the practice of the Senate for a Minister who has two or more papers to present to resume his seat after the presentation of each one. This is a procedure in which I suggest one should not be interfered with-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! There is no substance in the Minister’s point of order.
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work:
Stores buildings at St Marys, Botany and Waterloo, New South Wales.
I ask for leave to make a short statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The summary of recommendations and conclusions of the Committee is as follows:
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
As some honourable senators will be aware a review of the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act and Regulations has been in progress for some time. Although some progress has been made it has not been possible to reach the point where amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act affecting the provisions throughout Australia can be presented to the Parliament for consideration before the forthcoming general elections for the House of Representatives. The Government’s intention is that the review should be resumed immediately after the election and taken to finality as soon as possible. In the meantime there are some provisions which affect only the Northern Territory which it is possible to make now and which the Government considers should desirably apply for the forthcoming election, thus bringing the Northern Territory into line with the rest of Australia.
The first of the provisions is the subject of this Bill. It deals with the position of a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory who wishes to stand for election to the Commonwealth Parliament. In the case of a member of a State Parliament the position is quite clear. Section 70 the Commonwealth Electoral Act debars a person from nominating for election to the Commonwealth Parliament if he is at the date of nomination or has been within 14 days prior to the date of nomination a member of the Parliament of a State. If a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory were elected to the Commonwealth Parliament it is possible, though not certain, that he would have to resign from the Legislative Council to continue in this Parliament.
The Government believes that there should be no uncertainty in this matter. Just as it has been thought wise that the member of a State legislature should not be eligible to stand for election to this Parliament so it is considered that a member of the legislature of the Northern Territory should not be able to nominate. Accordingly the Bill provides - and this is its sole purpose - that no person who is at the date of nomination or was at any time within 14 days prior to the date of nomination a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory shall be capable of being nominated as a senator or as a member of the House of Representatives.
The second change that is being made does not require action by the Parliament. I take this opportunity, however, to announce that the electoral regulations which apply in the Northern Territory are being amended so that at the forthcoming House of Representatives election it will be possible for electors of the Northern Territory to vote as absent voters at any polling place in the Territory. At the present time electors can vote in person at a polling booth only in their own electoral district. The only alternative is to record a postal vote which, except where the elector resides more than 5 miles from a polling place in his electoral district, requires either an application for a postal vote or personal attendance before the Returning Officer at Darwin or the Assistant Returning Officer at Alice Springs. These provisions were appropriate when the electorate, spread over a very large area, was also thinly populated. The number of electors in the Northern Territory has however risen from 8,735 to 21,662 over the last 10 years. It has therefore been decided to extend to the electors in the Northern Territory the same facilities for absent voting as are available to other electors of the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Senator Keeffe) adjourned.
– I move:
I ask honourable senators to facilitate the debate in Committee by referring to the line of the Estimates about which they require information from the responsible Minister.
It will be understood that the Minister will have advisers with him, but it is not always easy to get the information immediately when honourable senators make 6 or 7 requests for information in one short burst. Another thing that should be understood is that where information cannot be obtained immediately a process has been clearly laid down by myself as Leader of the Government, which other Ministers understand and are quite happy with, whereby the information is forwarded to the honourable senator through the department concerned.
There is sometimes a tendency for honourable senators to refer to an appropriation for administrative expenses for the purpose of making a point which perhaps has not been made in the Budget debate. It does not necessarily follow that because Ministers are dealing with estimates they are obliged to respond to the point that is being made. It is a matter of judgment for the Minister concerned. The Minister in all cases will do his best to answer queries on the spot, and where he cannot he will see that the answers are forthcoming subsequently. I repeat that where the device of referring to an appropriation for administrative expenses is resorted to with the indulgence of the Chairman - I am not against it - it does not necessarily follow that a second reading debate will ensue. We must not allow our consideration of the Estimates in Committee to become what is known as a Budget debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Divisions of proposed expenditure be considered in the following order:
Department of Supply, $94,527,000
Department of Housing, $5,746,000
Department of Housing, $56,000,000
Repatriation Department, $306,855,000
Repatriation Department, $110,000
Department of Customs and Excise, $25,055,000
Department of Customs and Excise, $116,700
Department of Works, $62,614,000
Department of Works, $80,380,000
Civil Defence - Repairs and Maintenance, $8,800
Civil Defence- Buildings, $14,500
Prime Minister’s Department, $41,506,000
Prime Minister’s Department. $103,300
Department of the Cabinet Office, $242,000
Department of Trade and Industry, $32,130,000
Department of Trade and Industry, $430,000
Department of the Treasury, $71,499,000
Department of the Treasury, $9,301,500
Advance to the Treasurer, $20,000,000
Advance to the Treasurer, $20,000,000
Department of External Affairs,$7 1,002,000
Department of External Affairs. $1,362,200
Department of Defence,$23,524,000
Postmaster-General’s Department, $57,657,000
Postmaster-General’s Department, $233,228,000
Department of Immigration, $63,935,000
Department of Immigration. $5,901,600
Department of Health, $27,825,000
Department of Health, $3,210,000
Department of Social Services, $32,685,000
Department of Social Services,$292,000
Department of National Development, $39,839,000
Department of National Development, $38,233,000
Department of Shipping and Transport, $82,212,000
Department of Shipping and Transport, $49,830,000
Department of Civil Aviation, $60,895,000
Department of Civil Aviation, $6,000,000
Department of Primary Industry, $68,814,000
Department of Primary Industry. $5,296,000
National Service - Rural Occupations - Reestablishment Loans and Vocational Training, $547,000
Department of the Interior, $87,713,000
Department of the Interior, $72,138,700 Civil Defence, $765,600
Department of Labour and National Service, $12,371,000
Department of Labour and National Service, $454,000
Administration of the National Service Act, $1,305,000
Post Discharge Resettlement Training, $5,000
National Serviced-Vocational Training - Technical Training, $310,000
Department of Education and Science, $109,071,000
Department of Education and Science, $15,233,000
National Service - Vocational Training - University Courses, $443,000
Department of External Territories, $100,209,000
Department of External Territories, $40,000
Attorney-General’s Department. $16,106,000
Attorney-General’s Department, $ 1 34,000
Department of Air, $281,289,000
Department of the Navy, $226,044,100
Department of the Army, $397,619,000
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That, in relation to each Division in the particulars of proposed expenditure, the Chairman shall put the question: ‘That the Committee take note of the proposed expenditure’.
Department of Supply
Proposed expenditure, $94,527,000.
– I will relate my remarks to various items of appropriation under the heading Administrative Expenses’ in Division 720 - Administrative. I regret that after my confrontation with the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson) here last year, this year it appears that no more details are given in the estimates than we had last year. I do not want to be difficult about this. I do not blame the staff of the Department of Supply. I think the onus is on the Minister to see that when problems are encountered, something is done about them. I seek further information about the appropriation of $736,000 for postage, telegrams and telephone services. This seems to be abnormally high, but perhaps there is an explanation. The appropriation for this item last year was under-spent by a fair amount. An appropriation of $736,000 is quite a lot of money for any department to spend on postage, telegrams and telephone services, particularly in view of the fact that the total appropriation for the Department is about $95m. I refer also to the appropriation of $170,000 for training of personnel. If the Minister would prefer me to ask only a couple of questions at a time perhaps he could indicate that through you, Madam Temporary Chairman.
– I think the Minister would prefer you to group your questions, as long as there are not too many at one time.
– Does Senator Keeffe wish to have a break-up of the appropriation for postage, telegrams and telephone services?
– Yes. I complained because I think it is abnormally high. There may be an explanation, but I think we should have a break-up of the appropriation to give an indication of how much will be spent on each account for postage, telegrams and telephone services. I have referred to the appropriation for training of personnel. Last year the appropriation was under-spent by about $30,000, and this year’s appropriation has been tailored to last year’s expenditure. Am I to assume that the charges have been reduced, or are fewer people being trained? Perhaps the training has been streamlined. I cannot imagine the background for the reduced appropriation and certainly no information is given in the estimates to indicate what is happening in this regard.
In item 06 there is an appropriation of $179,000 for disposals expenses. The Auditor-General’s Report refers to the expenses associated with disposals. I will need to consult another document in respect of this item and perhaps I could look, it up while the Minister is replying to my other questions. An appropriation of §72,000 is made for advertising in item 07. This represents a fair increase on last year’s expenditure. Will the Minister advise whether advertising is done by the officers of the Department or whether an outside agency or agencies are employed? If outside agencies are employed, will the Minister give details of those agencies?
I turn now to the appropriation of $251,000 for incidental and other expenditure. In the past I have referred to this item as the petty cash account and I do so again this year. Last year’s expenditure was $172,150 and this year the appropriation is increased to $25 1.000. I believe we are entitled to know how that sum is to be spent, but nothing is shown to indicate that. I am seeking from the Minister complete details of how it is expected the money will be spent in the current financial year. I wiM leave it at that for the moment to enable the Minister to answer some of the queries T have raised. I will refer to the appropriation for training of personnel in conjunction with other matters when I rise again to speak.
– I would like the Minister in due course to provide some information about the appropriation for -‘Other Services’ appearing in Division .720 - Administrative. T will refer a little later to Division 730 - Working Capital Advances. I ask specifically that it be remembered that there is no particular urgency about this matter. I do not mind receiving the information in writing in due course. I am conscious of the importance to the Senate of the Estimates debate. I believe it is a significant function of great importance. I do not want to be involved in inquisitions calling for instant answers. I would be grateful to be told why there is no appropriation at all this year for the item ‘Other Services - For Payment to Trust Funds’. This item relates to supply projects for other governments, ls there none at all this year? I also would like to know why there is no appropriation for working capital advances. There is no appropriation at all for advances to the various workshops, Central Drawing Office and factories of the Department. Does this denote a change in procedure or that there is no work to be done? Perhaps that could be explained to me in due course. 1 do not mind waiting for an answer to be given later in writing.
– 1 want to alert the Minister that 1 will be raising some matters relating to Division 720 - Administrative. 1 think I should alert, his officers now as the matters I will raise will take a little time to answer. I am raising these matters at the instigation of the State Secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Transport Workers Union. I am also prompted by a rather lengthy answer I received some months ago in reply to a question asking for a break-up of the mileages covered by Commonwealth cars from the car pool in Sydney. The answer showed that at least 40% of the mileage was covered by hire car services paid for by the Commonwealth. 1 am realistic enough to appreciate that some supplementary services are necessary. However, Mr McBeatty of the Transport Workers Union and myself believe that when the supplementary services are covering 40% of the mileage it appears that there is a case for the employment of additional Commonwealth car drivers at the car pool in Sydney.
The other instance that I have in mind was when the despatcher or someone else sent the driver to another location to pick me up instead of to Martin Place and he arrived a bit late. My plane was due to leave at noon. I said to the driver when he arrived: ‘It is all right. Take your time. I do not want any speeding to the airport’. He contacted the despatcher and seemed to be in bother so I intervened and said to the despatcher: ‘Look, I am not interested in the driver breaking any records but I would like you to telephone ahead to TAA and suggest that the company make arrangements for me to travel on a later plane’. The fellow had the hide to get on his haunches and say: ‘That is not our function’. I said to him: ‘You have made a complete foul up of it. If this were a car from the Commonwealth pool and the driver an employee of the Department of Supply you would be beefing your head off about Government mismanagement, but because you are a private hire car operator you think you are almost God Almighty’. After that discourse I got a little bit of action.
I feel there is justification for additional appointments to be made seeing that private hire car operators are getting over 40% of Government business in this field. I am sure everyone knows that the Commonwealth car drivers maintain a very high standard of safety in their driving, and if it is good enough for them to maintain high standards these buccaneers - some of them anyway - who operate as private hire car operators should be required to match that standard. I do not blame the drivers; I blame the despatchers and those higher up who try to get the best of two worlds. In view of the fact that 40% of Government business in this field is going to private hire car operators I hope the Minister will see the justice of my request that additional permanent appointments be made. At the same time I suggest that some action be taken to inform the operators that they should try to be a little more reasonable and not overload their drivers in this field where there seems to be such ruthless competition.
– Senator Keeffe directed his remarks to the increase of §4,000 in the allocation for postage, telegrams and telephone services referred to in Division No. 720. Having regard to the magnitude of the Department of Supply and the tremendous volume of work that it does, I think it is reasonable to regard this as a normal increase in expenditure. Expenditure in 1969-70 is expected to be maintained at the previous year’s level when costs of a full year’s operations following separation of central and Victorian regional offices were brought to account. As you know, there has been a movement from the Victorian regional offices into central office which tends to distort figures in all of these administration costs.
The honourable senator asked me for a breakup of the amount of $736,000. For his information, telephone rentals - PABX - other than official telephones in private residences amounts to $71,000; metered telephone calls including subscriber trunk dialling $467,000; trunk line calls $27,000; official telephones in private residences $4,000; postage and franking machine charges $72,000; telegrams and cables $1,000; teleprinter and telex charges including rental $78,000; and other expenditure including installations, $16,000, giving a total of $736,000 for the year 1969-70 as compared with an actual expenditure in 1968-69 of $732,211.
Senator Keeffe referred also to item 07 which relates to advertising. He pointed out that the proposed allocation represented an increase of about $15,000 over last year, and he asked who did the advertising. The advertising is arranged by the SubTreasury in Sydney with agents such as Hugh Berry and Co. and Gordon and Gotch (A’sia) Ltd. The proposed allocation is made up of $37,000 for personnel advertising in connection with the filling of vacancies, and $35,000 for contract tenders. I do not think they need any explanation. If we have something to buy or sell we have to go through the normal advertising process. Actual expenditure in 1968-69 was $56,822. As has been said, for this year the allocation is $72,000. 1 think that covers the point of Senator Keeffe’s question. The increase results from the decision to charge all personnel advertising for the Department in the first instance to this item with effect from 1st July 1969. Recovery in terms of section 36C of the
Audit Act will be made from departmental factories and establishments, lt is expected that approximately $13,000 will be unrecovered at 30th June 1970, necessitating appropriation to cover this amount. 1 gather that there is a hiatus in terms of recovery, so the estimate has to make provision for charges which have not been recovered. No doubt it will show up in subsequent estimates. I imagine that at 30th June every year there will be an amount, unrecovered.
The allocation for the training of personnel is the same as actual expenditure last year, as was mentioned by Senator Keeffe. He wanted to know whether that was a routine way of handling this aspect of expenditure. In 1968-69 some courses and overseas traineeships were cancelled. This is an ebb and flow procedure associated with what might emerge in a particular establishment where it might be felt that a special need exists to send a technician, a scientist, an administrator or some other person overseas. lt tends to ebb and flow. As I have said, in 1968-69 some courses were cancelled for good reason because of the normal work flow. Breaking up the allocation, fares and all expenses in relation to overseas training, excluding salaries and allowances, amounts to $27,000; tuition fees for cadets $26,000; staff training course expenses $69,000; departmental post-graduate studentships $25,000: membership of learned societies $2,000; study assistance in the form of refund of fees for approved courses S 1 8.000; and other expenditure S3.000. Actual expenditure in 1968-69 was SI 69,01 3 mid the allocation this year is $170,000. I might adel that several weeks ago New South Wales had what is called Apprenticeship Week, lt was brought out then that in the Department of Supply we have 1,200 or 1 .300 apprentices. Bearing in mind the magnitude of the Department and the variety of roles that we carry out, that is quite a significant number.
Senator Keeffe referred also to incidental and other expenditure for which this year there is an increased allocation of $79,000. Without going through all of the items covered by that amount I mention that the cost of maintenance of purchased A DP equipment is estimated at $47,000 and the cost, of public exhibitions at $22,000. As honourable senators know, from time to time we show the flag by displaying various aspects of our activities. Following representations made by, I think, Senator Devitt, we are providing an exhibit in Devonport associated with some school activities there. In various States certain aspects of our activities are shown either in the field of space, in relation to Antarctica or in connection with our defence laboratories. There is an annual appropriation for this sort of thing, lt is very valuable. Indeed, we have at times put on a modest display in Kings Hall. Expenditure is incurred on all of these things, lt is proper expenditure. There are many matters in the Department which are of great interest.
An amount of $43,000 is provided for consultants fees. An appropriation of S3 1,000 is made for films for production or reprints. These are some of the amounts in the sum of $251,000. An amount of $4,000 is provided for the reimbursement of factories of costs incurred in the rearranging of stocks for defence catalogue identification. All in ali, these represent a miscellaneous bag of items which, to avoid the necessity for striking a line for each one of them are put under a total estimate. This is the normal practice, I imagine, in every department and in every business; otherwise a line would need to be struck for every item. I think that that covers the matters raised by Senator Keeffe up to the present, time. I understand that he intends to raise some more matters. 1 will deal with those when he has raised them.
Senator Mulvihill talked about the transport problem in Sydney. He drew attention to the percentage of hire vehicles that we use. We have a problem. We have a fleet to handle our ordinary volume of traffic. lt would be completely uneconomic for my Department to maintain a fleet of vehicles to serve the needs of our peak periods. We keep a basic fleet. At the moment, we are refurbishing that transport fleet. It would be quite uneconomic to keep a fleet which would cope with demands at our peak periods.
– It is over 40%.
– I know that it is over 40%. 1 had a look at it because the honourable senator excited my interest in the figures. 1 sought some information on the matter. From the standpoint of sheer economics it is better for us and better for the purposes of revenue to have a basic fleet than to have an all-over coverage. We can take up the slack by using private hire vehicles. I am sorry that the circumstances arose of which Senator Mulvihill has complained. 1 know that he is a very tolerant man. He must have been aggrieved to the point where he had to say something about the matter in the Parliament. 1 think that the hire operator was on fairly safe ground in what he said. Very often in these matters, as we know in this place, it is not what is said but the way in which it is said that counts.
– The hirer made the mistake, not the Department of Supply, yet he was trying to pass the buck back to the Department of Supply. That is what I resent.
– Yes. Members of our staff are very fine officers. They go out of their way to give courteous and good treatment. As a general rule 1 would say that if for no other reason than the fact that we arc an important client for this hiring establishment the hirer would set out wherever practicable to give my Department efficient and courteous treatment. Sometimes things go a little off the wire. 1 do not think 1 can say any more about the matter. Senator Cotton is not present in the Committee at the moment. Therefore, I think I will give him his answer by other means.
– J wish to deal with development and technical services in regard to defence research and development establishments. I do not wish the Minister to think that J am unresponsive to the intimation that he made earlier to the Committee that, in speaking to the estimates, we should not deliver second reading speeches, repeat budget speeches or make remarks that should be made during the consideration of the Budget. 1 appreciate the remarks of the Minister. I think, that it is quite appropriate that the intimation should have been made. 1 am prompted to comment on this section of the estimates in view of the statements that were made by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his Budget Speech as to the Government’s forward looking defence policy and that Australia is to plan ahead for the 1970s. 1 quote from the Budget Speech:
As my colleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), has announced, the defence programmes of the future will not be limited to set 3-year periods but will always look 5 years ahead and be kept under constant review. In accordance wilh this concept, studies have been undertaken in the Defence Department and the equipment and works proposals have been brought forward and approved for inclusion in this Budget. Studies are continuing on other projects and as these are approved they will be admitted to the programme, and so on.
I should have imagined that one of the basic components of Australia’s contribution to forward defence planning would bc found in development and technical services, particularly in developm-si.it services. 1 am not only intrigued but also somewhat taken aback fo find that there has been, as against the appropriation for last year of S6.479m and an actual expenditure of $5,392,266. a reduction in the vote so that the appropriation for this financial year is S4. 174m, which is a reduction of about 33i%. I have heard a slight intimation from the Minister as to what this may involve. But I would be interested to know what was voted under this special heading in the last financial year regarding development and technical services which in the aggregate involved an appropriation of $6.479m, what the actual expenditure was in the components and why there has been this very substantial reduction in the appropriation for the coming financial year.
We are concerned, as has been made evident in Budget speeches on other occasions, at the general reduction in the defence vote which we think, on analysis, is more substantial than the figure of 5% which has been announced, taking into consideration rises in salary and the payment of salaries and emoluments. To find that there hits been a 33i% reduction in a vote for development and technical services, leaves me quite dismayed unless an acceptable explanation for this is offered. Therefore, I ask the Minister whether he will give me those details of the provisions for last year and the reasons for the great reduction on this occasion as well as the components which make up the new appropriation.
– Madam Temporary Chairman, f take the opportunity to speak now although I understand that Senator Keeffe has a number of matters to raise. I wish to speak on the general question of Government factories and the maintenance of production capacity. I refer in fact to the reduction in the vote in this respect which, 1 presume immediately, is the result of the declining activity in government factories. I mention particularly the aircraft factories at Fishermen’s Bend and Avalon. I would like the Minister to supply if he can a statement in respect of the number of existing staff compared with the number over the last 2 years or 3 years.
I also ask the Minister to forecast whether any recovery is likely to take place in the amount of work which these factories will do in the future and which will ensure that there will be continued activity in the production of aircraft. As the Minister well knows it is very important that the capacity to produce aircraft in Australia should be continued. I think I was criticised recently when I said that our Australian factories could produce very sophisticated equipment. What we do not wish to see is these factories which are able to produce aircraft like the Mirage and the Macchi trainer and various important devices lose their capacity to do so. I will not refer now to the very important work in the fields of electronics and missiles which is being done now by the Department. It seems to me that with the declining vote for this Department we are reaching a situation where the number of personnel engaged will be reduced. We do not wish to see a position reached where this great capacity which has been built up over the years will be reduced.
Recently the Minister has stated that the Government is considering a possible AngloAustralian project. Also, following a visit of the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) to Europe there was a report that there could be work in respect of an AustralianFrench project. These are very important matters. My basic concern is as to our future capacity to produce aircraft and the relationships that have been developed under the new and revised defence arrangements to ensure that the Services do not make package deals overseas for requirements which can be met within Australia. The Minister knows that some departments have bought such items overseas in the past. I remember that twelve Porter aircraft were bought overseas. Neither the Government Aircraft ‘ Factory nor the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation got the order. It was said that they could not supply the aircraft in time. There ought to be forward planning to allow these important government and private interests to produce the goods.
I should like to know also to what extent we are still servicing in Australia missiles and other electronic devices which are manufactured overseas, particularly in America, by private manufacturers who have sole control over their development. One of the first of these was the Tartar missile in about 1966 or 1967. In respect of these devices we coul’d be on the end of a rope. The American private manufacturers may develop a new device. All that we are supplied with is the know-how on servicing it. A Service using these items might be quite unwilling to use the new and changed device. I should like to know to what extent we have developed arrangements with overseas suppliers to enable us to produce what is necessary. I know that this has been done in respect of the Ikara missile.
I refer also to the matter that Senator Mulvihill raised in relation to stores and transport. The Minister has told us that there has been some difficulty about the Woomera project and the Department’s forecast for the future. I have been advised that there is some chance that members of the stores and transport staff, particularly drivers, will become redundant, that the regular transport drivers are not being replaced and that some people in an acting capacity, including supervisors, are being used increasingly to drive Service cars and transports. Is it intended to allow this to increase? As Senator Mulvihill said we are concerned that an increasing amount of the work of the Commonwealth motor pool seems to be done by taxi organisations. Is it the policy that this should continue? Is it proposed that regular transport drivers in the pool, and in the stores and transport section generally, will not be replaced and that some of the work will be done by other staff?
– My comments relate generally to Division 720. The Minister may care to clear up some points for me. Over the past year I have directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy questions about the acquisition of certain defence equipment. This would probably flow better under a query to the Minister for Supply. I had placed great hope in the proposition that the Government would give close attention to the acquisition of another aircraft carrier. For many months I have expressed the view that the problems that face us on the Indian Ocean side of Australia call for some fast mobile strike equipment to be placed at the disposal of the Defence Services. 1 had taken some interest in naval activities and it appeared to me that the problem could be met by the provision of an aircraft carrier or more than one. I appreciate the problems that face the Government’s advisers in deciding in which manner expenditure will be made. The Minister will recall that on three occasions I alerted the Government to the fact that the British Government had made known that a British aircraft carrier that was apparently redundant but not very old was available. I should like the Minister to outline the steps that are usually taken to investigate this type of thing, what advice is given to the Government and how it reacts to that advice. I still recommend that serious attention be given to this matter.
Perhaps at the outset of the debate on the Estimates I should give credit to the Minister and to the Department of Supply for efficiency in estimating. The amounts that are voted under the various headings indicate to me that the Department is looking very closely at its expenditures. Last year the total appropriation was about $100m and the expenditure was over $92m. This year a moderate increase on last year’s expenditure is proposed. I suggest that it is in line with the increase that may be expected in salaries, although 1 note that under Division 745, which is under the control of the Department of the Interior, a reduction’ is proposed in the appropriation for acquisition of sites and buildings. Perhaps the Minister may clear my mind as to the reason for that decrease. It appears to me that there has been a definite attempt not to proliferate the staff of this Department. As a member of the Parliament I am interested in the fact that private enterprise views with some concern the growth of government expenditure and the proliferation of government employment over the years.
– And permitting other private enterprise like margarine production.
– The honourable senator’s mind is very often choked with such a product.
– You talk more about margarine than anybody else in the Senate.
– The honourable senator is reading the papers the wrong way.
Order! The Committee is considering the proposed expenditure for the Department of Supply.
– I give credit to the Department for what appears to be an attempt to control this proliferation. The Department is very important to the Australian community in general. The general view presented by private enterprise and those in the community who are on the earning end is that government expenditure needs to be controlled. Private enterprise has to compete with governments for employees. The pressure on salaries in the community generally increases when government employment proliferates.
Sitting suspended from .12.45 to 2 p.m.
– In paying credit to the general accounting of the Department of Supply as evidenced in the Estimates I had attempted to make a call generally on government departments, in the national interest, to bring greater efficiency into their activities. In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Supply 1 was not indicating particularly that there is any reason to criticise the management of that Department, but I had commented on the requirement of the community for many years that employment by the great departments be contained. Even in the Department of Supply the utmost is required in management technique to ensure that we achieve from those who are employed by the Department the utmost efficiency in the running of the Department and in the expenditure each year of about $100m. I think there is a demand in manufacturing industry for this.
I have indicated the problems relating to employment and have said that the growth of numbers within the Public Service places pressure on private industry. To an extent the escalation in costs of production and the wage rises that have occurred have been brought about by the proliferation of employment within the Public Service. It is probable that problems in the primary industries brought about by rises in costs over the last few years have been contributed to by the expense of government. So that it will not be necessary to repeat myself in relation to other departments, at the outset of this debate on the Estimates I call for greater efficiency within government departments, whether it is in relation to the control of personnel or expenditure.
While referring to efficiency generally 1 should mention that my attention was drawn quite forcibly to the report of the Public Service Board. Perhaps it would be worth reiterating where control should be applied. It is fair to say that sometimes as 1 walk to Parliament House from my accommodation in Canberra at 8.30 or later in the morning, when public servants generally are at work, I can see through windows that work is not under way. This is perhaps a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes after commencing time. There is an obligation on those who are managing departments to do something about this. In one of the large Commonwealth buildings in Melbourne on a bright sunny morning of a cold day I have noticed people’s backs showing through every window. I do not decry the Public Service, but I do decry those who should be controlling the efficiency of those employed in the building. I acknowledge that this occurs also in large private industries and in small industries, and I realise that we will never achieve the ultimate in efficiency from some of those individuals.
– The honourable senator is rather straying from the estimates for the Department of Supply.
– I do not believe so, Madam Chairman; I am directing my remarks to expenditure. I stated at the outset the division of the Estimates to which I was speaking. I have said that there was an increase in expenditure this year when compared wilh previous years. I think it is important in an Estimates debate, when departments are seeking larger amounts of money, to endeavour to bring about greater efficiency within the -departments, not only on the part of individuals but also by the departments as a whole. Although I give great credit for the manner in which departments are conducted, it must be admitted that there are flaws which can be remedied. I propose to refer to the Public Service Board report on the question of efficiency. I believe that this is of importance and no doubt the Minister will be anxious that these remarks be placed on record. At page 5 of the report the Board said:
The application of modern methods, systems and management techniques has two aspects. First, individual managers must be made aware of these techniques, trained in their use and encouraged to apply them when appropriate opportunities arise. Second, existing work practices should be reviewed in order to detect any inefficiencies and avenues for improvement.
– The honourable senator is now referring to the Public Service Board report which relates to the Public Service generally. I remind him that we are dealing with the estimates for the Department of Supply. I ask him to relate his remarks to the Department of Supply.
– It is with pleasure that I do so at your direction, Madam Chairman. I refer to the report of the Auditor-General where reference is made to the Department of Supply, but I point out that matters which appear in the report of the Public Service Board have great relevance to this matter. I had not intended to refer to the Auditor-General’s report at this stage, but at your suggestion, Madam Chairman, T shall do so. The AuditorGeneral drew attention to delay by departments in the payment of accounts. At page 319 the report states:
Reference was made in paragraph 287 of my Report for 1967-68 to delays in payment by some departments of accounts for transport services; and to the action taken to secure prompt payment as required by Treasury Directions.
Although some improvements in the payment of accounts was evidenced following the presentation of my Report, a recent Audit review disclosed that, according to departmental records, the position had again deteriorated with the result that the amount of overdue accounts at 29 June 1969, $389,050, was comparable with the amount outstanding at the close of the previous financial year. The Department has indicated to my office the steps it is taking to obtain a more satisfactory position with regard to this matter.
As you will know, Madam Chairman, the efficiency required in an enormous department such as the Department of Supply has relevance. If there is comment by the
Auditor-General in relation to a particular matter within a department it is as well for us to bring it forward in this debate, if it is not brought forward elsewhere, to impress public servants and the Public Service generally that they must aim at greater efficiency. I understand the problems in the Public Service, but what I have said is important. May I mention another matter referred to at page 309 by the AuditorGeneral in relation to production. I am afraid that I am not putting things in order because of your ruling that I was straying from the point. I would very much have liked to refer briefly to matters of efficiency in the methods, systems and management techniques which were devised by the body which controls the efficiency in the Department of Supply and other departments, that is, the Public Service Board. I refer to the following passage on page 309 of the Auditor-General’s Report under the heading Production’:
The Department operates the following undertakings which are administered by a Board of Management for Production appointed by the Minister pursuant to the Supply and Development Regulations.
Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– 1 refer again to the first item that 1 reviewed when 1 first spoke in this debate. 1 told the Minister at the time that I would not pursue my inquiries relating to item 06 which provides for disposals expenses until 1 had found the relevant section dealing with this matter in the Auditor-General’s report. It is interesting to note from the AuditorGeneral’s report that receipts for the current financial year are expected to increase by $400,000. Receipts for the year 1968-69 totalled $2,094,000-odd. This year it is expected that they will increase to $2,491,000. I have continually criticised the method of disposals and my criticism was justified recently when I was talking to a business man who had just acquired new premises. When I asked him what he was going to do with them he said he was going to use them to sell disposals goods. He said: ‘It is not a bad lurk; there is a good profit in it’. The Minister knows, just as I do, what we obtained for some Dakota aircraft that were sold last year. They were sold at give-away prices, and although the Minister said then that he could not tell us what the price was, he knows that the amount which was received was well below the real value of these aircraft. I also know that it was. I am positive that it was only a fraction of the true value of the aircraft. When they were sold on the overseas market recently the person who was concerned with the deal made a handsome profit. 1 note that tenders close today for the sale of 2 VIP Viscount aircraft. 1 hope that these aircraft will be disposed of at prices somewhere near their market value, not for a price which represents but a fraction of what they are worth, as seems to bc the tendency when the Government disposes of goods. I felt that I ought to mention that particular aspect again. Next year when we are discussing the estimates, the present Government will not be responsible for what is provided because it will then be in opposition.
Senator Webster referred a moment ago to inefficiency in the various government departments. He said he had been moving round looking through windows to see whether the public servants were doing their work. I do not criticise the public servants. The great majority of them are conscientious people who are doing their jobs effectively and well. If there is anything wrong in this department then I submit Senator Webster would have been better occupied sheeting the responsibility home to the Minister, not blaming the public servants who have to carry on their work from 9 in the morning till 5 in the evening, or whatever their hours may be.
– He was not directing his remarks to the Department of Supply; he was referring to all departments generally.
– I realise that, but he included the Department of Supply in his remarks, and in effect he was criticising his own Government. Senator Webster is seeking to interject again. He makes me sick at the best of times and I am not going to answer inquiries from him now across the chamber.
I refer now to page 309 of the AuditorGeneral’s Report where mention is made of the internal audit. I should like the Minister’s comments on the internal audit so far as it relates to both Victoria and
South Australia. I do not propose to elaborate those points now but would like to know what action has been taken by the Department to tidy up the internal audit. The excuse given for the present position is insufficient trained personnel to fill the very responsible positions involved. I suggest that an investigation ought to be carried out with a view to offering higher salaries in certain categories of employment in order to attract competent people to perform, the internal audit work.
I have no wish to make it difficult for the Minister to reply to me, but I should like to refer to one or two other matters briefly. I shall take the opportunity of speaking on them later during discussion of the proposed expenditure for this Department. A moment ago the Minister read a list of some of the items that are covered under miscellaneous expenditure, amounting to $200,000. For the benefit of the Minister’s advisers I propose applying the same scrutiny to the provision of $44,400 under Division 727 for incidental and other expenditure, to the provision of $1,435,000 for overtime under Division 729 and the provision of $390,000 for incidental and other expenditure under that division. I propose referring also to the provision of $222,000 for other expenditure under Division 722. These items represent a total provision of over $lm for expenditure on what might be termed miscellaneous account. Earlier the Minister gave a list of the items included in the expenditure of $25 1,000 for incidental and other expenditure under Division 720. If the Minister is prepared to have incorporated in Hansard details of the expenditures provided for in the various divisions to which I have just referred I shall not pursue those matters any further now.
I realise that I was a little embarrassing to the Minister last year when I followed all these expenditures right through to the last packet of tacks. I do not want to have to do that again this year. Nor do I want to have to go through the awkward procedure of writing to the Minister seeking details and then having leave to have them incorporated in Hansard refused, as happened last year with the result that time had to be taken up during the adjournment debate on two evenings in order to have the details published in Hansard, and even then they were so voluminous that their publication had to be spread over issues for 3 or 4 days. I ask the Minister to have the details which I am seeking incorporated in Hansard on this occasion.
I should like some information with relation to another matter. Under Division 722 there is provision for what is baldly termed ‘Reserve capacity maintenance,’. The amount under-expended on this item last year was $1,212,812. Why was this amount not expended? Again, why is such a large sum provided for this year. Certainly it is slightly less than the amount actually expended last year, but it is still high.
I come now to item 02 of division 722 - Rearrangement of Capital Facilities. I take it this is what was referred to briefly by the Minister when he was replying to me earlier. If that is so, I do not want any more information on it. But if there are some additional factors involved under this heading, I would like further details.
Item 03 of the same division relates to Other Expenditure’. Here the provision amounts to $222,000. The amount actually expended last year was $200,778. I should like some information on this item. That, I think, should be sufficient for the Minister to answer now without making the task too difficult for his advisers. I reserve further remarks concerning the provision for this Department until later.
– I admire Senator Keeffe’s modesty. In the last 7 or 8 minutes he has certainly pelted in so many inquiries that the research necessary to answer him will be considerable. I agree with the honourable senator’s suggestion. I will ask leave to have incorporated in Hansard details concerning ‘Other Expenditure’ provided for in item 03 of division 722. The honourable senator will then be able to glean from those details the information he seeks.
Senator Keeffe referred to the internal audit. Staffing difficulties have been experienced in Victoria and South Australia. As the Committee will know, no department is the master of its own destinies so far as staff is concerned. To obtain staff representations have to be made to the Public Service Board. The need for staff has to be established to the Board and the final decisions are taken on the background of recommendations made by the Public Service Board. There have been difficulties. The Department is seeking a solution for the difficulties. No doubt the normal procedure will operate. If a case for additional staff can be made out, I am certain that the Public Service Board will agree to appoint staff at the appropriate levels to overcome any difficulties involved.
In relation to the disposals expenses, Senator Keeffe referred to the disposal of Dakota aircraft. He drew an analogy between the disposal of those aircraft and the current oiler of sale of two Viscounts from the VIP flight. At the time of sale of the Dakotas, explanations were given as to the reasons for sale. It has to be understood that aircraft are offered for sale under conditions prescribed by the Department of Civil Aviation. It is quite possible that for an obsolescent aircraft it could-
– Are the aircraft obsolete?
– Please let me develop the point that 1 wish to make. Aircraft arc offered for sale under terms and conditions prescribed by the Department of Civil Aviation, not by the Department of Supply. In the case of the sale of one of the Dakotas one of the conditions was that it bad to be exported. It could have been sold by auction or by tender. But it had to be exported. It is conceivable that profits could be made. The Viscounts offered for sale are part of the VIP flight. The whole concept is different. Tenders for their sale will be called. The honourable senator can take it as axiomatic that they will not be given away at bargain prices. The world market will be broached in relation to their sale. I think it would be quite wrong to imagine that there would be any prospect of these VIP aircraft, which have been decreed as no longer necessary, being sold for anything less than a fair and proper price, bearing in mind their condition. That does not suggest that the Dakotas were not sold for a fair and proper price, bearing in mind the terms and conditions under which they were sold.
Some other matters were raised by Senator Keeffe. He referred to reserve capacity maintenance. In relation to his comments, I have certain information which, with the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate in Hansard.
Item 01 - Reserve Capacity Maintenance. The provision is based upon Factory budgets compiled on the anticipated work load 1969-70 as at June 1969.
A net reduction of $169,000 in estimated requirement in 1969-70 compared to expenditure in 1968- 69 is forecast chiefly due to the following factors:
Item 02 - Re-arrangement of Capital facilities - $275,000
An amount of $275,000 has been provided to meet the cost of re-arranging production facilities in Government factories and annexes. The rearrangement of plant and equipment in all cases is designed to reduce production costs. “
The chief factor in the increase in provision above 1968-69 expenditure is a requirement at Ordnance Factory Maribyrnong to transfer the Sheet Metal Section to No. 2 Machine shop.
Item 03- Other Expenditure- $222,000
The provision under this item is to cover miscellaneous costs which are not chargeable to production. The increase in estimated expenditure 1969- 70 compared to actual expenditure in 1968-69 relates chiefly to overhauls of Commonwealth owned plant in Industry.
I gather that Senator Keeffe will ask further questions. I know of one that he has in mind, about which I promised to obtain some information. I have that information.
In the meantime I want to refer to Senator Webster’s contribution to the debate. He used the procedures by which we debate these matters to talk of matters of Government policy in relation to the acquisition or non-acquisition of an aircraft carrier. Quite clearly, when dealing in Committee with these Particulars of Proposed Expenditure, it is not appropriate for me to comment on such matters. However I point out that it is perfectly competent for any honourable senators who want to deal with diverse matters on a wider canvas, to do so when the Appropriation Bill is in Committee. Here I am under tremendous pressure to provide answers to particular questions. I think that is the way in which we shall have to try to handle the situation.
The honourable senator made some reference to efficiency in operations and to the Auditor-General’s report. I wish to make it quite clear that the outstanding accounts referred to in the report are not the fault of the Department of Supply as the result of falling down on the job. As I understood the Auditor-General’s report, not the Department of Supply but rather the departments that were a little slow in settling their accounts were admonished. In general, the Department is particularly conscious of the need to maintain efficiency in all sections of its activities. As regards manufacturing, the Department has developed a number of techniques. Industrial engineering is employed extensively. Numerically controlled machines are gaining greater use. As regards research and development, the development of the Ikara weapons system is an example of the use of special management techniques such as Pert. On the administrative and clerical sids, the Department has drawn on external consulting services to develop clerical work measurement techniques. The Department is a large and diverse one. Within its framework, we are trying to keep abreast of all the modern techniques of management.
Senator Webster referred to a drop in the vote for the acquisition of sites and buildings. I am sure it will be appreciated that acquisitions are made intermittently which, of necessity, results in variations in the appropriations. Therefore, the appropriations do not necessarily reflect changes in everyday departmental activity. Prior to the suspension of the sitting I mentioned that we are looking at appropriations in term of 12 months estimates. In any big undertaking there is a tremendous overflow before and after the start or finish of a 12-month period. In 1968-69 the amount of $800,000 was provided to allow the Department of Supply to take over from the Department of the Interior ownership of its regional headquarters in Swanston
Street, Melbourne. These premises have been occupied by the Department for almost 20 years.
In the current financial year we are seeking an appropriation of §650,500 to allow the vacation by the Department of Supply of an area of land at Bunnerong belonging to the New South Wales Government. The staff and the storehouse will be relocated at St Marys. The proposal was examined recently by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. I am sure that Senator Mulvihill will be interested in this. He is a great believer in the Commonwealth releasing Commonwealth-held land owned by the States for return to the States and the Commonwealth making other arrangements. As I recall this expenditure, it is related to the Department’s big storage areas at Heffron Park, Bunnerong. The Department is a tenant of the State of New South Wales, lt is going ahead with a plan to reduce the area of storage and at the same time to move the residue to St Marys. To do that a constructional job and, regrettably, a time factor are involved. I think it is a step in a direction that we would approve.
Senator Bishop raised some very comprehensive matters. I am sure he would be the first to recognise that he did. I propose to narrow them down to a few matters. He asked a question about the reduction of staff in transport services at Woomera. As the Committee knows, the joint United Kingdom-Australia agreement, which we were successful in renegotiating last year, operates there. Tt will run for a period of time yet. Because of some curtailment in part of the work being done at Woomera under the joint agreement, there has been some reduction in the demand for vehicles there. But I have been informed that because of the high turnover of staff at Woomera - I am referring to just the natural turnover - it has been possible to adjust to a lower level by not replacing staff rather than by retrenching staff.
– I do not know, but I will make some inquiries about that. Senator Bishop put to me questions in relation to the aircraft industry. I have a number of papers on this subject, and it is a matter of judgment as to which one I use.
The Government’s policy of supporting a defence aircraft industry in Australia is well illustrated by its past record, in relation to the Government Aircraft Factory, and its very real interest, in terms of capital investment and projects, in the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, the Hawker-de Havilland company and all related areas. There has been substantial Australian production in respect of every aircraft adopted by the Services since World War II where the numbers required have justified tooling up in Australia. As I have pointed out in the past, we always have to make a judgment as to whether a type of aircraft that we need justifies the capital expenditure, the time factor, the tooling up and all the rest that is involved.
Current employment is running at about the 8,000 level, which is well above that which applied in 1961, before the Mirage went into production, which was about 6,500. A great deal of effort is going into the development of suitable projects for the industry. The Turana, which is a small pilotless target aircraft required by the Royal Australian Navy, will provide both the Government Aircraft Factory and industry with a useful addition to the design and manufacturing work load.
Earlier in the year I announced the approval by Cabinet of Australian participation in the GAC1.00 project. This is a small transport aircraft. The situation there is that once the General Aircraft Corporation in America says that it has sufficient orders to justify making the capital investment involved, the Government Aircraft Factory, which has a contract to build the wings, will begin to do so and will export them. The Corporation had a mission here about a month ago. I saw the members of the mission. They were able to tell me that they had some orders and that they hoped to make a firm decision within 2 months on the form the ultimate project would take. So, we are on the threshold of decision in relation to that matter. That would provide some work load for the Government Aircraft Factory.
Another project is the design study of a close support advanced trainer aircraft. This has been in progress jointly with the British Aircraft Corporation for the past 15 months. As honourable senators know, we have experts overseas and wc have put up taxpayers’ money for the study work that is going on in that connection. This project is at a critical stage, too, because there is now some suggestion of a rearrangement between the British Aircraft Corporation in England and the Macchi group in Italy. As we built the Macchi aircraft under licence from the Italian company, although this is a complex situation we are in a very strong position, once this matter is resolved, in relation to a possible British Aircraft CorporationMacchi project.
Honourable senators have to understand that because our requirement in Australia is very limited it is not an economic proposition for us to set about building these very sophisticated aircraft. We can do something in regard to smaller types. The design team at the Government Aircraft Factory has been working on a twin-engined light fixed wing aircraft known as project N. That aircraft is aimed at filling a number of military close support roles as well as meeting a likely commercial demand. Work is going on in relation to that study also. I know that we are all straining at the leash to get around to the point of decision on these matters. But this is not an easy field. We are at a critical stage in that study, too, at the present time. We are giving a lot of thought to this industry. We are looking all the time for a work load. We are getting extra work load.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I seek information on the appropriation for purchases of stores and materials under Division 732. What are these stores and materials for? Do they include the Fill, or does the appropriation for it come under the Department of Air?
– It comes under the Department of Air.
– Thank you. I wish to mention another point, which crops up everywhere; I am not talking about the Department of Supply in particular. I know that in this debate we are dealing with what are called estimates. But the appropriation for this item looks like sheer guesswork. Last year the Department asked for $4,078,000 and spent $3,132,820, or about 75% of the amount it asked for. [n computing our provisional tax, the Commissioner of Taxation allows us an error of only 10%. Here the error is about 25%. This year the Department is asking for $2,450,000. I know that the answer to such questions usually is that it has something to do with the computer. Would it not be better to buy an abacus?
– I direct my remarks to the appropriation for machinery and plant in Division 737. 1 seek information on a passage on page 27 of the annual report of the Department of Supply, which states that the Department has 607 ancillary vehicles such as cranes, aircraft tow-motors, etc. 1 do not expect to receive it now, but at some time within the next week or so 1 would like a breakup of the various types of cranes that the Department has. 1 would like to know whether these various vehicles are lent out to private enterprise or are solely for government use.
While I am on my feet I wish to comment very briefly on the sidewalk superintendent remarks that were made by Senator Webster. I notice that I am flanked by Senators Cavanagh and Bishop, who are both former trade union delegates. A worker’s output, in my experience, is always assessed over 8 hours and not at a given time of the day. That applies to all workers, whether they are white collar workers or manual workers. If I walked into a workshop and saw a boilermaker, who had been working in a confined space, stand up for a few minutes, I would not accuse him of scrounging. Like many others on this side of the chamber, when I became a senator I suddenly found that I had a typist to work for me. Some typists can do in 4 hours what other typists will take 6 hours to do. But the work of all typists is assessed on the basis of an 8-hour day.
This clamouring for greater productivity leaves me completely cold. In company with Senator Byrne and others, I was in Mackay recently. We were shown the new methods of handling sugar. There is now a minimum of operators there, but the price of sugar has not been reduced. I do not say that in any disparagement of the sugar producers of Queensland. I have never seen any of the adjustments made as a result of the efforts of people with these mythical titles make any difference to the cost to the taxpayers. The usual result is unemployed or redundant workers, and then you are in more trouble. 1 support Senator Keeffe in his strictures. Anyone at a building site in Martin Place can look down at the excavations and see somebody stop work for 5 minutes. Actually, this applies to us here. Do we work flat out from whistle to whistle? That was the attitude in the nineteenth century when Britain was the workshop of the world. She might have been the workshop of the world then but nobody looks back with pride at the way in which people were exploited. This is 1969 and if company directors can get a nice air conditioned office I want to see the people in the lower echelons work shorter hours. We are in the computer age and we can still achieve these production targets without whistle to whistle production.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Supply to the proposed expenditure for the Antarctic Division, particularly the hire of ships and aircraft. When 1 first came into the Senate I was amazed to find that we hired ships to ply between Australia and the Antarctic. As far as I can see we are still doing it. The amount sought this year is $687,400, or a reduction of $16,000 on last year’s expenditure. The policy of the Government has been to hire these ships, I refer to the ‘Nella Dan’ and her sister ship the Thala Dan*. We read about them in the newspapers. They carry out their normal activities in the Antarctic, and very often they hit the news when they rush somebody who is sick back to the mainland.
Is it the Government’s policy to continue hiring ships which I think, and I believe most honourable senators agree, ought to be owned by the Government? Over the period I have been in the Senate the Government has spent enough money on the hire of ships and aircraft to buy two of these ships, or four if you like. I do not know the estimated cost of building them. But the shipbuilding industry at Garden Island, Cockatoo Island and other places round the Sydney waterfront that I visit could well do with a contract to build Antarctic ships. But we continue to hire them from Denmark, I think. I might be completely on the wrong track, but my second question is this: Does the Department of Supply become involved in aerial crop dusting?
– We have no association with crop dusting.
– I will leave my remarks at the point I made about the Nella Dan’ and her sister ship, which are being hired.
– I want to continue where I left off a few moments ago. This may be my last broadside on this particular section of the Estimates. I commend Senator Ormonde for raising the hiring of ships for the Antarctic; I had it marked down myself to obtain information. But I want to delve a little deeper. I want to see this proposed expenditure broken up. I want to see whether the hire of the ships or the aircraft is the cause of greater expenditure than necessary. I would like to know the total involved in each case. I want to reiterate the thought already expressed by Senator Ormonde, because this expenditure on the transport of scientists and material to the Antarctic goes on year after year. Perhaps the Minister for Supply can prove to the Senate that it is uneconomic to have our own ships and aircraft. But on the other hand the Australian shipbuilding industry is lagging. There are boilermakers, plumbers, ship’s pipe fitters and others who could be employed in the industry, all of whom are just as capable tradesmen as are any who are available overseas. This industry needs all the encouragement we can give it. I hope we will hear some comments on this by the Minister.
The next item I wish to deal with is Incidental and other expenditure’ in Division 727 - Antarctic Division. This item was overspent last year by $10,000. Why was it overspent by $10,000? This year’s provision is about $17,000 under the estimate for last year and about $27,000 below the actual expenditure. So I hope that when we deal with the appropriations next year we do not find that we have overspent by $20,000. This amount might be peanuts, but a lot of taxpayers contribute to the expenditure on these sorts of things.
My next query relates to the defence research and development establishments. There is a statement in Division 729 showing that we spent about $1.5m on overtime last year. This year there is an appropriation of $1,435,000. This seems to be a substantial sum to expend on overtime. Does it mean that we are understaffed? We can not have people working overtime indefinitely because of physical reasons and also because of the additional costs that we incur. The man who has to work overtime continually eventually finishes up as an inefficient servant. In fact, trade unions have fought for years for the elimination of overtime but today it seems to be the fashion. There is no reason why it should be carried on in a government department to what is apparently an excessive amount.
There is also a reference in Division 729 to materials and stores which I think could be a little more detailed. I accept the Minister’s offer a few moments ago to have the details incorporated in Hansard. He does not need to read them, as long as he gives me an assurance that we can get this information. There is again an increase, although admittedly a small one, in the appropriation for establishment services. Perhaps we might have a little more detail on this and also on the item ‘Development and technical services’. This item shows a decrease of about $lm. If the Minister is happy about it, we might have some explanation of that. We might also have some details of payments to the Munitions Production Trust Account. I also refer the Minister to the operations of ammunition factories. I have failed to find anywhere a statement that we are manufacturing ammunition in Australia today for the Mirage fighters. Is it now being manufactured in Australia under licence or have we still to depend on the whim of France to get ammunition for what is left of our Mirage fighters?
– Is this 30 millimetre ammunition you are talking about?
– I am not sure about the size, but I think that is correct. Finally, I asked here yesterday why tenders were being called for the supply of poultry, beans, potatoes, bread, butter and things like this to the Mary Kathleen area. I understand that the Minister has some information on this. I hope that it can now be brought forward. Perhaps, with your permission, Madam Temporary Chairman, I might ask the Minister a direct question. Is the Minister’s Department responsible for the hire of Avis and other hire company cars?
– I do not know about Avis as an organisation, but I will find out.
– I ask the Minister that question directly now but if the answer is no I shall put it aside until the appropriation for the correct department comes up for discussion. If the Minister is responsible for it I want to know more about it but I will not embarrass him by giving him the details now and criticising it. 1 will leave it at that point. I hope the Minister can oblige me on this, and I will let it rest in peace.
– Perhaps 1 had better deal now with some of the queries, as the list is mounting. Senator Byrne asked me - it seems a long time ago - a question about the appropriation for development and technical services. He referred to a reduction in costs. This item relates mainly to expenditure on the joint United Kingdom and Australia project at Woomera and Salisbury. I referred to this matter earlier in respect of transport. We have a work load at Woomera as a partner in that project. I have here a list of figures setting out details of the various works. In the main, the variation reflects an expenditure reduction against Jindivik production and development $866,000; maintenance and operation of trials aircraft by the Royal Australian Air Force $300,000; and the Royal Australian Navy Ikara project $518,000. This reduction is offset by increased requirements for the maintenance and operation of target aircraft $96,000, the hire and repair of aircraft $46,000, and general development tasks $179,000. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard a series of figures setting out the information requested by Senator Byrne.
– I was interested in a falling away apparently represented by the figures.
– Tt ebbs and flows. The United Kingdom Services may say that they wish to develop a project such as the Turana project, a new project which is coming on. It is the same in the aircraft industry. The Services may have a requirement for refitting, or rearrangement, or work to be done on a type of Service aircraft, and so the work load varies. This is an inevitability of a big undertaking, lt is an everyday occurrence for big industrial undertakings to live with. It is what they like to call ‘the order book’, for want of a better expression. In talking to an industrialist at any time one might say to him, in the vernacular: ‘How is your order book?’ It varies. With a huge undertaking like the Department of Supply and its big industrial complexes, of necessity there are variations. A simple example is the Mirage or Macchi programme. When we reach the end of the Mirage programme, unless there is a requirement and something takes its place there will be a falling away in our requirement and our aircraft establishment.
The art of the exercise is to be able to keep the work load and to place the requirement from the Services. In that way it is possible to regulate the industrial undertakings. It is not such a simple matter when it is necessary to produce on an annual budget, or in respect of a 3-year or 5-year defence programme. It gets a little hard to follow.
Senator Ormonde and Senator Keeffe referred to Antarctica. It is true that we charter the vessels ‘Nella Dan’ and ‘Thala Dan’. In 1969-70 this cost us about $518,400. Aircraft charters cost about $167,000 and expenditure was involved in the hire of Army dukws, and so on. In considering as a matter of logistics whether instead of chartering shipping we should buy our own, the first thing to appreciate is that we charter the vessels for use in Antarctica, but in the off season the company which lets the vessels out on charter uses them for Arctic Circle work. If we were to buy ships exclusively for our own use in Antarctica, unless we were able in turn to let them out on charter for other work at a certain time of the year, the economics of the exercise would clearly be unfavourable. I ask honourable senators to bear in mind also that the cost of an icebreaker ship to suit our requirements would be about SI 2m, without regard to its manning, or maintenance and repairs. 1 do not think I need to deal in further detail at this time with the associated expenses.
It is fair to say that until now we have regarded our existing arrangements as being the most economic from the point of view of expenditure of taxation revenue. The most logical step is to charter the vessels, bearing in mind that at one part of the year they go out of our charter and are used by the Danish Government or another government for charter work in the Arctic Circle. There has been a slight variation in costs. There is a magnificent spirit of cooperation in Antarctica. We engaged in some rescue work, I think for the Russians or the French. They had problems in their territory and we had to come to their aid. It resulted in a significant variation in costs. In turn, if our people get into difficulties through being icebound, or through aircraft failure or in a whole variety of ways, we get co-operation from the other treaty countries in Antarctica.
The story of Antarctica and Australia’s claim to sovereignty there is one which could, given time, be set out in a statement in the Senate by me. It would be of very real interest to honourable senators. We are doing very important work there and it is an excellent place for the training of our scientists and technical people in all the studies and disciplines associated with that area. Some day the economic advantages to be gained from that area will be more direct.
Reference has been made by Senator Mulvihill to a Department of Supply booklet in respect of ancillary vehicles. He asked whether the vehicles were hired out to private enterprise. The answer is no, they are solely for government use. Senator Keeffe referred to the amount of overtime worked in research and development. The main part of the overtime is incurred at Salisbury and Woomera in relation to the various joint projects. Many trials demand work outside ordinary hours and overtime payments are incurred. For instance, a European Launcher Development Organisation firing or another firing involves the count-down arrangement around the clock. Everything is built up to the point of blast off. Of necessity overtime must be worked.
– What proportion does that overtime constitute?
– I do not know. Perhaps we could find out. It would depend on the nature of the project and the timing. I refer, for instance, to a Skylark or some such firing. As blast off time approaches the overtime ratio will increase. It becomes a problem. Senator Keeffe yesterday at question time asked me about the situation at Mary Kathleen. I promised to get some information for him. My information is that tenders have been called by the Department of Supply for a period contract for provisions on an as-required basis at Mary Kathleen. Tenders closed on 9th September 1969. The provisions are to be supplied to a British Army trials team of about forty which is visiting Australia for about 3 months in order to carry out comprehensive tests on some United Kingdom light armoured vehicles under what are termed hot and dry conditions. Senator Georges will appreciate that at Innisfail, for instance, the climatic conditions are suitably hot and wet for tests on certain materials. There will be some Australian Army participation in the trials at Mary Kathleen. No secret weaponry testing is going on there. I am quite certain that when Senator Keeffe visits Mary Kathleen he will find that there is nothing there to disturb him. He will see the British Army vehicles being tested in hot and dry conditions. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard information relating to Divisions Nos 720/2/10, 727/2/08, 729/2/09, 729/2/05, 729/2/06 and 729/2/08. The mass of figures covered by those Divisions relates to matters raised by Senator Keeffe.
The reduction reflects deletion of provision for compensation payments ($23,750 in 1968-69) and a decrease of $3,500 in expected costs associated with cosmic ray work performed by the University of Tasmania on behalf of the Division.
Item 09: Incidental and Other ExpenditureIncrease $39,000
The major factors in the increase are expected expenditure on advertising (+ $9,000) and workers compensation (-f $15,000).
The estimate of $115,000 for contributions to research covers the following grants:
Item OS: Materials and Stores - Increase $185,000 The increase over 1968-69 expenditure is attributable to an increase in direct purchases at Weapons Research Establishment.
Item 06: Development and Technical Services - Reduction $1,218,000
The variation in the main reflects expected reductions in expenditure against Jindivik production and development (–$866,000) maintenance and operation of trials aircraft by RAAF (-$300,000), RAN Ikara Project (- $518,000) offset by increased requirements for the maintenance and operation of target aircraft (+ $96,000) the hire and repair df aircraft (+ $46,000) and general developmental tasks (+$179,000).
Item 08: Establishment Services - Increase $88,000 The major hem contributing to the increase is an estimated $77,000 expenditure for bulk distillate, charged in 1968-69 ($85,000) to Item 07. The distillate is required for heating purposes and is not associated with vehicle running.
Shortly we will have the answers to Senator Keeffe’s questions and we then will be able to tie the two together.
– I shall direct my remarks to that portion of Division No. 729 which relates to the development of technical services. On page 315 of the Auditor-General’s Report we see that expenditure by the Defence Standards Laboratories charged to this Division amounted to $4,318,065. I was of the opinion that that sum covered all defence research carried out in Australia, but I was surprised to discover not so long ago that defence research in Australia is not completely under the control of the Department of Supply and that a sum of $1,137,000, which is over one-quarter of the amount Australia is spending here, is being spent by the United States Department of Defense in Australian universities. The purpose of my questioning is to ascertain whether this research is being carried out in Australian universities with the knowledge of the Department of Supply, of the people who control the expenditure which is shown in these estimates. To me this is very important because if we have no knowledge of this, if we do not properly understand the experiments, if the officers of our own Defence Standards
Laboratories do not recognise what is going on, then I think we will find ourselves in rather a dangerous situation.
– You are referring to something that clearly does not come within the estimates of the Department of Supply. You are using these estimates as a vehicle for a debate which has nothing to do with the Department of Supply.
– I question that. The amount of $4m which is shown here is for expenditure on defence research in Australia.
– In the Department of Supply.
– In the Department of Supply, and I should imagine that the Department of Supply would be responsible for all defence research of this nature.
– Only the research that comes within the framework of these estimates.
– 1 was endeavouring to clear up this matter during this debate and so avoid the necessity of raising it on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. I have asked several questions - three, I believe - and I am now about to ask my fourth. I thought that since the Minister’s advisers were here he might be able to obtain the information I am seeking. Has the Government knowledge of this experimentation? I feel that it is a responsibility of the Department to know this.
– Madam Temporary Chairman, with all gentleness I must intercede. Senator Georges is completely away from the estimates for the Department of Supply. I repeat - I am sure the Committee understands this - that the only estimates with which I can deal are those relating to matters within the framework of the appropriation for my Department. In the honourable senator wants to speak on the motion for the adjournment, I will be present and we can sort it out then although I do not like adjournment debates. The matter he has raised really has nothing to do with the Department of Supply, and I suggest with great respect that we cannot allow a general debate on a matter which may be quite valid - I do not know - but which is on another level. I will be present when it is raised.
– 1 accept that but 1 insist that it is within the responsibility of the Minister to supervise ali expenditure on defence research in this country.
– 1 refer the Minister to the increased allocation for advertising. Last year it was $58,000 and this year it is $72,000. I have looked at this item in the estimates over the years and it appears to me that the Department’s advertising and advertising methods have not changed. 1 assume that all of this advertising is newspaper advertising of a type because the cost of that is approximately the same as the allocation. Has the Department ever considered changing its methods and getting better value for this expenditure? Is it still using the classified columns whereas a display advertisement might be better? Does the Department look at that kind of thing in this regard? I get the impression from the figures that the Department has been doing the same thing for years, irrespective of whether it gets results.
– You would know that we must advertise.
– I realise that but sometimes if a man is advertising for a wayward wife he puts the advertisement in the ‘Bulletin’. Is the Government doing that kind of advertising, advertising for things it does not want to find? Seriously, however, I am interested to know whether the Department is getting value for the money it expends on advertising. Does this advertising cover only the personnel side of the Department’s activities or does it include advertising for the Navy, the Army and for sales of departmental and surplus material?
– It includes contract tendering and advertisements relating to the sale of articles.
– I will be very brief. I seek a straight yes or no from the Minister to the queries I raised in relation to Division No. 727/2/08 which relates to incidental and other expenditure in the Antarctic Division, Division No. 729/2/09 which covers incidental and other expenditure in defence research and development establishments, and Division No. 722/03 which refers to other expenditure in government factories. When the Minister was replying to queries on other matters raised a moment ago, 1 did not hear him say that detailed replies would be available on these questions.
– I will have those incorporated in Hansard.
– Very well. My other question is this: Does the Department of Supply use Avis Rent-A-Car vehicles?
– Madam Temporary Chairman, I have sent for information on the last matter raised by the honourable senator. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I will incorporate in Hansard replies in relation to the matters just mentioned by Senator Keeffe.
– I wish to refer in general to the Antarctic Division. Senator Ormonde drew attention to one item regarding this Division and Senator Keeffe said that he would take the matter more deeply. I think that it should be taken more widely. A feature of the provision and expenditure in relation to the Antarctic Division is that it indicates, if I could use some sort of pun, that the vote appears to be frozen in this respect. In 1968-69, the appropriation was $2,614,400. Expenditure was $2,534,832. Almost to the same dollar, there is a similar provision this year. The report by the Department of Supply in relation to ils Antarctic exploration and involvement is rather limited. But it would appear that no major extension of this work is contemplated and that, over a period of years, this has fallen into some sort of a fixed pattern which may represent the higher water mark of our intentions in this area.
The Minister was good enough to intimate in reply to Senator Keeffe that he thought that perhaps a paper ought to be presented at the appropriate time in relation to this matter and that this might be of some value to us. I certainly think that that would be the case. There is an awakening world awareness of the significance of the north and south polar regions. We were very early in this field. It would be rather disturbing to think that we have committed ourselves to a certain point and do not propose, intend or aspire to commit ourselves any further. That would appear to be the story which is spelt out by the regularity of the recurrence of almost the identical financial provisions in this field, now over 3 years, presuming that the expenditure last year and the appropriation for 1968-69 had the same relation with the expenditure in the previous year, which was repeated in the expenditure in 1968-69 and was further repeated almost to the dollar in 1969-70. As I say, this would be rather a matter for concern if it indicated that we did not propose to commit ourselves any more deeply or widely in this part of the world. If Senator Anderson pursues the thought that he had in mind to present to the Senate at an appropriate lime a paper on this subject, I personally would welcome it.
– I wish to remind the Minister that I also asked him for some information about transport and other staffs, not particularly those at Woomera but those who may become redundant because work has slackened off at Woomera. I would be interested in any figures that the Minister bus in regard to this matter. I take it that most of the skilled men who have been retrenched at Woomera are members of the staff of the Department of Works. 1 would appreciate it if the Minister could give me any figures regarding any men on the staff of the Department of Supply who have been retrenched and indicate whether they have been re-employed since in other departments.
I wish to ask the Minister again a question in relation to the servicing and development of missiles. The Minister will recall that on a couple of occasions I have posed questions in relation to some of our defence supplies including the first Tartar missiles. The development rights for these missiles were held by private American manufacturers. This meant that they could make changes to these devices and that all the Minister’s Department had was the knowhow about servicing. Since these items have been brought into Australia and are serviced by technicians from the Department of Supply, I ask the Minister: To what extent today, have we rights over the development of them, other missiles and various electronic devices? Are we still in the same position as before? Are these items still subject to the control of people outside
Australia? If this is so, this is a policy which could seriously affect the use of them within Australia. If the Minister cannot give me the answer to that question now, it is all right.
I wish to ask one or two further questions. The first one is in relation to the airframe repair workshops at Parafield and Northfield which, according to the latest report from the Department of Supply, are to be closed down although according to Division 730 regarding working capital advances some amount of money has been appropriated to keep these workshops operating. I wish to know how many workers have been retrenched from these plants up to now and whether there is any possibility that the workshop at Northfield will continue to operate because of the proposed projects of which the Minister spoke earlier.
In his answer to me earlier, 1 did not hear the Minister mention anything about the consideration that is being given to participation by Australia in a French project to make components for a French aircraft. 1 understand that this proposal flowed as a result of the visit by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) to Paris.
My last series of questions is in relation to Woomera. Can the Minister tell me whether any appropriation is to be found in the estimates in respect of the proposed United States-Australia telecommunications station, which may be a separate matter -
– I did not hear the honourable senator. My attention was diverted.
– I am talking about the space project concerning the United States-Australia telecommunications station which it is proposed to install at Woomera. 1 ask the Minister whether in fact this will be a part of the responsibility of the Department of Supply. If it is, the Minister went on record some months ago as saying that there would be an expenditure of $2m by Australia on this project. I wish to know whether in fact the estimates contain any amounts which are proposed for this work.When will work on this station commence?
I come now to a question that I asked the Minister some months ago. I do not think that this question was analysed. The question is whether, when this station is in operation, it is likely to interfere in a technical way with the present rocket operations at Woomera. I mean by that whether, apart from its location and apart from the use of staff, consideration has been given in a technical sense to the possibility that these operations may interfere with the performance of rockets at the Woomera rocket range.
– 1 ask the Committee to dispose of the estimates for the Department of Supply reasonably soon. The Committee has had a reasonably good bite at them. It is inevitable that, working under the pressure that we are, I will miss replying to certain matters, but 1 reiterate my assurance that before the day is over I will be looking at the report of the debate to see whether 1 have not covered certain matters. I certainly will see that some information goes into the record on those matters.
A question was asked about the use by my Department of Avis Rent-A-Car vehicles. In some remote country centres, we very occasionally use these cars on a hire without driver basis. Avis Rent-A-Car System Pty Ltd is not a contractor for the Department of Supply in the metropolitan areas. Senator Byrne took me up on the proposition that we should have a further paper on the role of Australia in Antarctica and on our Antarctic Division. I certainly will do that. It is true to say that the appropriation for the Antarctic Division has been fairly static at approximately $2.6m per year. This has happened for a number of reasons. It does not predicate any loss of our role in Antarctica. Without developing the matter at this stage, I would say that we have made a claim for sovereignty in Australian Antarctica. Therefore, before this comes to an issue in 1990, I think the time is, I believe that everything we do in Antarctica must bc geared to the proposition that we are laying a claim.
– We must show a continuous association.
– Yes. We must show this association and our continuing intention if our claim to sovereignty is to be a valid one. I certainly believe that a paper should bc produced and I will set about to do that.
– I thank the Minister,
– The other matter concerned the Northfield machine shop. Senator Bishop raised this matter with me. The arrangement for the closing down of the airframe repair workshop at Parafield, South Australia, took place on 1st August 1969. It did not affect the associated Northfield machine workshop which at that time had a satisfactory work load. Although the work load at Northfield has deteriorated since the decision in November 1968 to close Parafield, studies are being made at the present time of potential sources of work for the machine shop. We are hopeful that it will remain open.
Senator Bishop referred to the Macchi aircraft in relation to the potential for the aircraft industry. The present situation is that the current RAAF requirement for a close air support/ advanced trainer aircraft is insufficient to justify either local development or local manufacture. Participation by the Australian industry in meeting the requirement is therefore almost certainly dependent on an overseas market being obtained. We have been attempting to generate interest by overseas manufacturers in collaborative efforts. Discussions have taken place with both British Aircraft Corporation and Avions Marcel Dassault. The Committee is aware that a small team from Australia has been working in England on the proposal at the works of British Aircraft Corporation. There has also been mention in the Press of the collaborative arrangements entered into between that company and Aeronautica Macchi of Italy - the designers of the Macchi trainer adopted by the RAAF and being manufactured in Australia under licence. Australia’s position is safeguarded under that arrangement. Interest by the Italian Air Force in the advanced trainer could assist in providing a viable base for the project. I am hopeful that the proposal will shortly be at the stage where it can receive consideration by Ministers. We are feeding this project through the British Aircraft Corporation. That Corporation is negotiating with the Macchi group and we have another link with Macchi. We believe that in all of the circumstances there is a greater possibility now of a requirement which will justify the establishment of this type of aircraft, a close air support/ advanced trainer. We would be in a position to do a considerable amount of work on our requirement.
There was a question about guided weapon repair facilities at St Marys. We hold a licence from the General Dynamic Corporation to repair Tartar missiles at that facility. I think that a more general angle was raised which I should like to look at. I think there were wider implications in regard to a variety of missiles. I shall obtain an answer for the honourable senator in relation to that matter. Senator Bishop asked also about a project in the Woomera area, This is being handled by the Department of Defence and is not involved in the estimates for the Department of Supply in the current year. For obvious reasons 1 am not in the position to make any comment on it. Certainly before any activities for the Woomera establishment are accepted the question of possible interference with other activities would have to be closely examined. If I have missed dealing with any questions they will be picked up later and 1 shall provide a reply.
– I get the impression that the Customs House in Sydney has something to do with the Department of Supply.
– Nothing at all.
– I thank the Minister. For years I have been driving past Richmond airport. Is it a fact that the Service aircraft stationed there are out in all sorts of weather and are never under cover? Commercial aircraft are usually under cover, ls there any explanation for this? ls it due to carelessness by the Royal Australian Air Force or has it not to look after equipment as well as commercial airlines look after their aircraft?
– If I may respond by way of interjection, this matter is not within the administration of the Department of Supply. 1 suggest that the honourable senator direct the question to the Minister representing the Minister for Air.
– My query earlier about Avis cars was, I think, well placed. If the Minister will undertake to obtain certain other information I shall be happy to cease operations in connection with the Department of Supply. I should like to know the total cost for the previous 12 months of, firstly, the hiring of cars in Australia; secondly, the hiring of cars in Queensland; thirdly, the hiring of cars in Townsville, north Queensland.
– lt will take a little time. We did the same exercise for Senator Mulvihill in relation to the hiring of cars in New South Wales but in the fullness of time we will get the answers.
– Before the election?
– I would think so. After all, elections come and go. Wc are senators.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Department of Housing
Proposed expenditure, $5,746,000.
Proposed provision $56,000,000.
– In some instances appropriations are reduced by certain amounts. I seek information as to what is covered by the reference to amounts to be received from’ war service homes purchasers and borrowers in respect of technical and legal services. Such amounts are referred to in two places. I presume that the reference is to technical and legal services provided by the Department to purchasers and borrowers, for which the purchasers and borrowers pay. Provision was made for this item last year. In the first instance we appropriated $290,000 and expended $3)3,261. In the second instance we provided $41,000 and expended $41,685. In the estimates for the Department this year, we express no expectation of receiving anything. I should like to know whether these, services which were previously available are being cut out. I should like, too, some explanation of the provision for widows’, relief services and the type of service provided. I cannot recall getting information previously on this subject.
– Was that not the subject, of an amendment the interpretation of which we discussed last year.
– That may be; I cannot recall. It was in operation last year when an appropriation of $126,000 was sought, and an appropriation of the same amount is sought this year. I wish to raise with the Minister a question about the construction of flats for migrant transitory accommodation which is referred to in Division 845. It will be seen that last year $2,490,000 was appropriated for this purpose but that $718,543 only was spent. This year an appropriation of $ lm is sought for the construction of this type of accommodation. Apparently it is not expected that we will build as many flats as we built last year. We must assume that we are meeting the requirements in this regard.
It will be remembered that it was decided that flats would be built for migrants to accommodate them for their first 6 months of residence in Australia. A reference to these flats appears at page 120 of the report of the Auditor-General and a table sets out the number of fiats proposed and the number constructed. In Sydney it was proposed to build 100 flats but only 78 have been built. In Melbourne, where according to Senator Poyser there is a great need for accommodation for migrants, it was proposed to build 100 flats, but only 44 were built, 18 being still under construction. In Perth it was proposed to build 100 flats but only 36 were built. In Tasmania it was proposed to build 50 but only 12 were built. The only ones under construction at present are the 18 in Melbourne. Throughout the year less than half the flats proposed were built, which would suggest that it is not proposed to continue, to provide this type of accommodation at the same rate as was proposed for last year. Obviously very little was done to construct flats last year because only $718,543 was spent on their construction. Has the Department gone cold on the idea of providing transitory accommodation for migrants in flats7 If not, why were they regarded last year as being urgent when there now appears to be some slackening in the construction rate?
– Paragraph 125 on page 119 of the report points out that the Commonwealth may purchase suitable existing properties or erect flats.
– 1 realise that, but the figures that I have cited are based on statistics that were compiled from departmental records. I assume that the figures I mentioned would include flats purchased as well as those constructed. The point I make is that apparently it is not intended to purchase or to erect as many as were previously proposed.
I should like to ask a further question based on the Auditor-General’s report relating to the National Welfare Fund. The report shows in paragraph 124 that payments for homes savings grants, a scheme administered by this Department, amounted to $13,299,117 in 1967-68 but had declined to $13,015,481 in 1968-69. This reveals that the scheme is declining in popularity because not as much was paid out for this purpose last year as was paid in the previous year. One would have expected this scheme to require a greater expenditure last year because a greater number of homes would have been built last year than in the year before. I ask the Minister whether this is a reflection of a situation in which fewer people are qualifying for the homes savings grant because of a restriction placed on the value of a home which qualifies for a benefit.
– I direct my remarks to the summary set out in relation to the Department of Housing. I am particularly intrigued at the provision for salaries and payments in the nature of salary. On a quick calculation as I read the summary, in 1968-69 the appropriation for salaries, including overtime and the salary for the Secretary, was $4.302m and the expenditure was $4.278m. The provision for this year is $4.592m. The actual net expenditure in 1968-69 was $3.714m, which was $600,000 below the appropriation for that year. This year, as I have said, $4.592m is sought, this being an increase of $800,000 on the actual expenditure last year. So although there was an under-expenditure of $600,000 last year, it is proposed to increase the appropriation this year by a further $200,000. I should like to know why such a major provision was substantially under-expended and why it is now necessary to provide for such a large increase this year. Perhaps I am not reading the figures correctly, but I should be interested to have the Minister’s comment.
[3.37] - I reply first to Senator Cavanagh who asked about the amount to be received from the War Service Homes Insurance Trust Account. This figure represents the proportion of salaries of officers and employees engaged either fully or part time on work associated with the War Service Homes Insurance Trust Account which will be charged to the fund. The additional cost for 1969-70 is due to approved increases in salaries and the fact that additional labour will be involved during the year in completing the conversion of all insurance accounting and statistical records to the automatic data processing system.
The second part of his question related to amounts to be received from war service homes purchasers and borrowers in respect of technical and legal services. This amount includes technical fees charged to applicants for war service homes for architectural services rendered by the Department and also a small component for administration expenses incurred in ensuring that each applicant receives a good title to his property. From 1st July 1969 the War Service Homes Trust Account has been abolished and recoveries for its purpose will be credited to ‘Revenue, War Service Homes, Other’. Senator Cavanagh referred also to the widows relief services. I inform him that the amount that he mentioned represents assistance to widows, widowed mothers and certain wives of eligible persons as provided in sections 29aa and 39a of the War Service Homes Act, which he will recall was a matter that we discussed in this chamber last year. With the abolition of the Widows Relief Trust Fund from 1 st July 1 969, that expenditure is now charged to this appropriation and receipts under the scheme which were formerly paid to the Widows Relief Trust Fund are now credited to ‘Revenue, War Service Homes, Other’. Senator Cavanagh asked about the migrant flats. I will answer him as best I can with the information I have here. If he requires any further information I shall give it to him later. The honourable senator would be interested to know of the great work being clone for these people coming to Australia. They now have an opportunity of living in excellent migrant flats for the first few months they are in this country. In this way the migrants are being done a great service in that they are being helped to settle into the community happily. The flats have been sited in areas in which our newcomers will be close to employment, close to shopping facilities, close to schools and all the other things which make it easier for them to settle in this country.
As the honourable senator will know, the maximum period for which migrants may remain in these flats is 6 months. Few of them have been unable to find accommodation in that period. The honourable senator would be interested to know, too, that experience in New South Wales where we have the largest number of flats and where the scheme has been in operation for the longest time, is that the average length of stay in the flats by migrants is 4i months. Experience in that State so far has shown that of the 88 families who have been in flats only 5 have returned to hostels, 4 of them returning while their homes were being built. They were all in their own homes within 8 weeks. The only remaining family in this particular group moved to rented accommodation within 10 weeks.
To give a picture of the progress that has been made in this work, I give the following particulars of the position as at 31st August:
The honourable senator also mentioned the homes savings grant scheme. I think we all appreciate that the homes savings grant legislation has been of tremendous assistance to our young people. We very much regret that in some cases applications cannot be accepted because the applicants do not fulfil the required conditions. We do our best to publicise those conditions. The booklet ‘A Grant for your Home’ is available at post offices, banks, building societies and the Department of Housing. We have also published pamphlets which are printed in four other languages - German, Greek, Italian and Dutch. In this way we endeavour to ensure that young people do get to know the conditions and are made fully aware of what is required. But, unfortunately, as honourable senators know, young people do not always do what is required and their applications cannot be accepted.
The estimate for 1969-70 is much the same as the amount actually paid in grants in 1968-69- $13,015,481. Should it transpire that the total amount of grants to successful applicants in 1969-70 exceeds SI 3m additional moneys can be provided from the National Welfare Fund. I think one thing that we should look at is what has been paid out since the inception of the scheme. The scheme is now 5 years old. Since its inception and up to last week, we have paid out $65,188,715 to 150,812 young couples. One encouraging point to remember is that in paying out this amount of over $65m we paid it to young people who had saved three times that amount. That it is a worthwhile achievement, and I commend the young people for it.
Senator Byrne referred to the appropriation for departmental salaries. The appropriation for salaries in this division for 1968-69 was $4,302-970 less $538,000 receipts with respect to the War Service Homes Insurance Trust Account and receipts with respect to technical and legal services, giving a net appropriation of $3,764,970. The actual net expenditure after allowing for receipts was $3,714,473, leaving a net difference of $50,497. The actual expenditure on salaries fell short of the moneys provided by $24,379 while receipts exceeded the amount shown in the appropriation by $26,118.
– I direct my question to the matter of the administrative expenses for migrant transitory accommodation - furniture and fittings - and for migrant transitory accommodation - repairs, maintenance and other running costs. I note that last year the appropriation for furniture and fittings was $280,000 and only $179,000 was spent. This year the appropriation is $138,000. What is the reason for this? Is this reduction in expenditure from what was appropriated due to the fact that a certain number of homes were not built or is it due to the fact that some homes purchased already had furniture and fittings? I shall refer to this item again shortly when I deal with the Auditor-General’s Report.
The expenditure on repairs, maintenance and other running costs shows a reverse picture. Only half of what was appropriated last year was spent. Last year the appropriation was $18,000, of which $9,000 was spent. This year the appropriation is $35,000. Is this increase due to the fact that this year expenditure is expected to increase because of increased buildingoperations or is it due to the fact that the Government intends to buy more dwellings and therefore it will have more expenses for repairs and maintenance?
I refer also to the amount to be received from the War Service Homes Insurance Trust Account. Last year the appropriation was $97,000. The expenditure was up slightly on that figure. This year the appropriation is only $72,000. In respect of the amounts to be received from war service homes purchasers and borrowers in regard to technical services, last year the expenditure broke about even with the appropriation. This year there is no appropriation. I seek the reason for this. 1 turn to the Auditor-General’s report and deal with the paragraph dealing with transitory flats for migrants. I note, as was pointed out by Senator Cavanagh, that only eighteen are under construction at present, and that these are in Melbourne. There is a breakdown of completed ones in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Tasmania. With regard to Tasmania I note that 50 were proposed and only 12 were completed. This is the greatest variation in the figures for any of the areas. I ask the reason why this is so. Paragraph 125 of the AuditorGeneral’s report states:
Under the scheme, the Commonwealth may purchase suitable existing properties or erect flats on land owned or acquired by the Commonwealth. 1 question whether in Tasmania there has been a greater purchasing of property as against erection of buildings. I would be pleased if the Minister could answer these questions for me. I note that the expenditure on construction of migrant flats has increased by some $451,000. Last year there was a variation between the number proposed and the number completed. This time last year, when we were dealing with the Estimates, questions were asked about the possibility or probability of the Commonwealth acquiring some of these transitory flats. I must say that I am particularly pleased that this scheme has been put into operation effectively. I do question whether the variation in figures has been due to the purchase of extra properties as against the erection of buildings.
– I take advantage of the estimates for the Department of Housing - and I refer my remarks to the administrative expenses - to make reference to an answer to a question that I have had on the notice paper for some time and to which I received an answer today. The question related to the number of applications for assistance under the Homes Savings Grant Act that were received in each financial year since the Act came into force, the number of applications that were approved and the number of applications that were rejected. It would appear that comparing the year 1964, when the scheme first came into being, with the latest figures provided by the Department, the ratio of rejections to approvals has increased somewhat alarmingly.
For the sake of brevity I will quote the figures and then I will seek some explanation from the Minister. In 1964-65, 25,000 applications were approved - and I speak in round figures - and 2,000 applications were rejected; a ratio of 1 rejection to 12 approvals. In 1965-66, 29,500 applications were approved and 4,000 were rejected; a ratio of 1 rejection to 7 approvals. Comparing those 2 years one can see that there was a substantial increase in the number of rejections compared with the number of approvals.
In 1966-67, 27,700 applications were approved and 2i400-odd were rejected; a ratio of 1 rejection to 13 approvals. We all well remember that in that year the original scheme devised by the then Menzies Government was amended. In 1967-68, 32,500 applications were approved and 2,900 odd were rejected; a ratio of 1 rejection to 16 approvals. In the last financial year, 1968-69, 30,500 applications were approved and 4,297 were rejected; a ratio of 1 rejection to 7± approvals. The ratio changed in 12 months from 1 in 16 to 1 in 74. I think the Department has a responsibility to the Parliament and to the Australian people to .offer some explanation as to why there was a substantial increase in the number of rejections compared with the number of approvals in the last 12 months. If the reason is that conditions which existed in 1964, when the Act was originally devised, and as it was amended a couple of years later, now are found to be too stringent I suggest that the Government should give some consideration to a relaxation of the conditions in relation to a young couple’s ability to obtain assistance under this Act. For instance, one might pose this question: In terms of ratio, does the increased number of rejections relate to the age barrier of 36 or does it relate to the fact that homes savings assistance now is limited to $15,000?
Since the scheme came into existence in 1964 home building costs have increased substantially. Land prices, particularly for metropolitan and urban blocks, have increased astronomically. I venture to suggest that the $15,000 limit just is not sufficient having regard to today’s prices of land and to the increases that have taken place in the building industry between 1964 and 1969. I venture to suggest, too, that it would be very difficult indeed to buy a block of land within a reasonable distance of Sydney and build a reasonable home on it for $15,000. Land in the southern suburbs of Sydney, some 12 to 15 miles from the heart of the metropolis, now costs anything from $8,000 to $10,000 a block. If a young married couple purchase such a block of land and contemplate building on that block of land a house with a value comparable to the price of the land certainly it will cost them much more than $15,000. I suggest that the figures supplied to me by the Minister today as a result of my placing the question on the notice paper certainly need amplification and explanation by the Department.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is on the same subject and relates to another question that I asked and the answer with which I was provided. I asked the simple question: ‘What is the average cost of home construction per square today?’ I received the following answer from the Department of Housing, which has an appropriation of nearly $6m for 1969-70:
Statistical data relating to the cost of home construction per square throughout the Commonwealth is not available.
Frankly, I suggest that if we are to run a department it should be run properly and if we are to have a department we should have a proper department. It is just no good for the Minister, acting on behalf of her Department, to come into this Parliament and give the answer that she gave. namely, that statistical data relating to the cost of home building throughout Australia is not available to the Commonwealth Department of Housing.
– It would have to be worked out on a town by town basis.
– One could go to the State housing authority in each State and look at its annual report. This information is set out in the annual reports of the various State housing authorities. One could ring up the Master Builders Association in each State and ascertain from it the average cost of home construction in each State. One can find in the annual report of the War Service Homes Division an estimate of the cost of building a home in each of the capital cities in Australia. I suggest to the Minister and Senator Young - if he wants to make a speech he may do so later - that it is just not good enough for the Department or the Minister to say–
– The honourable senator asked for the cost per square.
– That is the yardstick for building costs in Australia today. If I go to any builder and ask him how much it will cost to put an extension on my home, he will say: ‘On the average, a brick veneer home costs $550 a square and a brick home costs about $600 a square’. But apparently the Department has not this sort of information available to it. If it is to be a properly administered department and if it is to be an efficient department able to cater for the housing needs of the Australian people and able to keep up to date with -the cost of building in order to assess whether the homes savings grants scheme is sufficient or otherwise, it should immediately put into operation a scheme whereby information of this nature will be available to the Commonwealth, the Australian people and the people engaged in the building industry.
– I relate my brief inquiry to the appropriation for administrative expenses and the appropriation for capital works and services. I relate it particularly to the comments on the Department of Housing in the Report of the Auditor General. Paragraph 123 of the report refers to the
National Welfare Fund and expenditure therefrom for homes savings grants and advances to the States during 1968-69 under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act. Information concerning those advances is given in paragraph 37 of the report. I note from that paragraph that advances from the Loan Fund during 1968- 69 totalled SI 26m, compared with $122,840,000 in the previous year. I am interested in what that figure represents in units constructed. I would like that information, if it is available at this time, on a State by State basis and showing whether there has been any movement up or down. Of course, I am particularly interested in the position in South Australia.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [4.6] - Firstly, I refer to the War Service Homes Division and the estimate of the amount to be received from the War Service Homes Insurance Trust Account. This represents the proportion of administrative expenses of staff engaged full time or part time on work associated with the war service homes insurance scheme to be charged to the insurance fund. The amount of the annual charge is determined in the light of a separate costing of the year’s insurance activities. The reduction for 1969-70 reflects the savings in other than labour costs which result from the greater use of the automatic data processing equipment. There has also been a decline in the number of insurance inspections to be carried out. The estimate of amounts to be received from war service homes purchasers and borrowers in respect of technical services represents the administrative expenses component of fees charged for the preparation of plans and specifications, valuations and reviews of plans etc. by technical officers. Following the abolition of the War Service Homes Trust Account from 1st July 1969. these receipts are now credited to Revenue - War Service Homes - Other.
Let me reply now to both Senator Cavanagh and Senator Young. T believe that this will cover the queries raised by both of them.
– ‘T have not raised a query since you last spoke.
– No, but the honourable senator raised this point earlier. He said that we spent only about $718,000 on the construction of migrant flats last year, although $2,490,000 was appropriated. He pointed out that this year we estimate that $lm will be spent. Under the transitory scheme for migrant flats, $2,490,000 was provided last year for the construction of flats. During the year the Metropolitan Planning Ordinance in Victoria was brought into operation. This required permits to be obtained by the State Housing Commission as well as by other builders of flats in the State. Delays were experienced in obtaining the views of surrounding residents and obtaining the permits for flat projects. This resulted in a considerable carry over of expenditure for the year. It is estimated that in the current year a programme costing $lm can be achieved under the planning requirements of the various States.
The scheme physically commenced in February 1968. Twelve flats were in service by the end of June 1968 and seventy-two were under construction. I have already given the details concerning the various flats. By the end of June this year, 170 flats wore in service and eighteen were under construction. We expect to have 240 flats in service by the end of June 1970 and to have a further ninety under construction. Senator Cavanagh suggested that we were going cold on the flats scheme. I believe there is no basis at all for that suggestion and that in fact the reverse is the position. T suggest that this is obvious from the Budget and the information I have given.
Senator Young referred to the fact that a lesser number of fiats was built in Tasmania than the fifty previously allowed for. I point out that twelve flats were provided in Burnie and Devonport in 1968. Honourable senators will recall that I have already listed the places. Provision was made for further flats to be built in Hobart and Launceston, but difficulty was found in achieving a satisfactory rate of tenancy in the Burnie and Devonport flats during the year. The proposal to build further flats in Hobart and Launceston was therefore postponed, pending a further appraisal of the need for these flats in the State. This appraisal is being pursued by the Department of Immigration and the Department of Labour and National Service at present. 1 draw the honourable senator’s attention to that because these flats are the concern not only of my own Department but the Department of Immigration and the Department of Labour and National Service. We will decide whether to build additional flats in Tasmania when this appraisal is completed. I think the honourable senator also referred to the item ‘Migrant transitory accommodation - Furniture and fittings’ and the cost of repairs and maintenance to this accommodation. The honourable senator will appreciate that the answer 1 am giving is tied up with the programme I have already mentioned. This item covers the purchase of furniture and fittings for 112 flats to be erected or acquired for newly arrived migrant families. The second item is the cost of repairs and maintenance to the accommodation provided for these migrants. The increase in the 1969-70 Estimates is due to an increase in the number of flats being provided. This, of course, ties up with the point I made a moment or two ago.
– Did I understand the Minister to say that these 112 flats were erected or acquired?
– Yes, they would be erected or acquired. Questions were raised about the homes savings grant scheme. Senator McClelland, in a question to which I replied today, made a point about the number of rejections. My understanding of the point he raised was really as to what the main reasons for these rejections were.
– And the increase in the number of rejections.
– The reasons for the increase in the number of rejections in 1968-69 are explained in detail in the report which I tabled at the beginning of this week. The information is contained at pages 1 to 3. To give a brief resume, the main reasons are that about 1,800 or 5% of the applicants were disqualified because they had failed to designate their savings bank account as a homes savings account, or had failed to do this at least 3 years before the prescribed date. Honourable senators will recall that one of the conditions is that the account must have been in existence for at least 3 years. A further 765 or about 2.2% of the applicants were disqualified because the value of their homes exceeded the allowable value of SI5.000.
– 1 wish to refer to Division 310. My question concerns the amount to be received from the War Service Homes Insurance Trust Account. Another honourable senator may have asked this question, but I will ask it again anyway.
– That has been asked.
– Would you like it? It would be no trouble.
– If it has already been asked I can see the answer in Hansard. I refer now to the Auditor-General’s report, in particular to homes savings grants. 1 have had a problem brought to me within the last 2 days and I thought it would be appropriate to bring it up here rather than go through the usual correspondence channels, lt deals with two young people who, 2 years ago, bought homes from the South Australian Housing Trust. They had qualified in every respect regarding the homes savings grant but were told by the bank manager who was handling their problem that they would not be eligible for the grant because the home was bought from the South Australian Housing Trust. I was wondering whether this is correct or not. Although it was a Housing Trust home and their time had expired it was about 2 years ago - has the Minister any discretionary power if it can be proved that the wrong information was given to these young people? Could the case be looked at further if they made the application? They have not made the application up to this point.
– I just want to elaborate on the two questions I asked previously about which I thought the Minister could have replied more fully than she did. My purpose in asking the question about migrant hostels-
– Flats or hostels?
– Flats. My suggestion was that the Department had gone cold on the idea. I quoted from the Auditor-General’s report which would suggest that there was some lag in proceeding with them. The Minister’s statement seemed to clarify the position, and I take it that there are figures which show that the scheme is well under way and that the proposed work is nearing completion. I was interested in the Minister telling us of the value or the acceptability of the flats and how they made conditions better for migrants. She also explained that the migrants were not over-prolonging their stay but got different accommodation within the period for which it was visualised that the flats would be made available. It could well be that the construction of flats was more successful than we anticipated at the time of the decision to construct them.
Our experience could justify some consideration by the Department to furthering this type of transitory accommodation and even the extension of this programme to South Australia where it was not brought into effect because it was thought that that State had a reasonable standard of hostel accommodation. But even the hostel accommodation in South Australia cannot be compared with individual flats, and with the passing of the years these hostels are deteriorating somewhat. I had a report from a previous inspector of Finsbury who visited there last week and came to see me. He said that the accommodation was not up to the standard it had been years ago. Perhaps the Department could look into the question of extending the flat scheme for migrants while they are waiting for placements, particularly to South Australia.
The question of home savings grants is one that must always cause concern and some work for politicians because there is always a section of would-be applicants who miss out on this type of finance. The Minister has informed us of the efforts to advise everyone of this scheme and to make it publicly known. Whilst I would have thought that the high rate of rejection mentioned by Senator McClelland may have been caused by the limitation on the value of the property purchased, it would appear from the Minister’s reply that there is this bugbear of not qualifying if the savings account is not designated for home purchase.
This has happened since the commencement of the scheme, on many occasions on the advice of a bank manager. A person has opened an account on the advice of the bank manager when considering purchasing a home only to find that he is debarred from receiving the Commonwealth benefit because he has not had this special account. Why it is necessary to have this sort of account 1 do not know. The Minister claims it is necessary to create a pool of money that is available for housing. Some method of. control over bank operations would have the same effect without depriving the individual of the benefit which the legislation seems designed to provide.
The case raised by Senator Drury concerns someone who has purchased a house that does not qualify because it is built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement with money loaned at 1% less than bank interest. Because of this they do not attract the Commonwealth subsidy of $500 provided by this scheme.
In most of the other States these moneys are directed to building societies, but in South Australia they go to the State Bank or the Housing Trust. However, the reduction in the interest rates charged on those moneys is not passed on to the purchaser of a home in South Australia. He is at the same disadvantage as a purchaser in any other State. He is not getting the value of the reduced interest rate charged on moneys -advanced under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. When 1 explored this question 1 discovered a peculiar angle. Interest is payable on money borrowed from the State Bank in South Australia at the rate of 7%, but if repayments are made within the first 8 days of each month the rate is reduced to 6%. Interest is charged on money borrowed from the South Australian Housing Trust at 6%, but is increased to 7% if the repayments are not made within the first 8 days of each month. So in effect in South Australia the interest rates payable are the same irrespective of the organisation from which the money is borrowed.
The Housing Trust is the main house constructing authority in South Australia at present, especially for those income earners whose means are such that they buy homes within the price range which attracts the home savings grant. The Housing Trust in South Australia sells on low deposits and offers second mortgage loans. Because home purchasers in South Australia buy from the main home constructing authority there they do not receive the benefit of the Commonwealth home savings grant. The Minister has recognised and is concerned that so many people are missing out, but the publicity has not been sufficient to bring about a solution to this difficulty. Serious consideration should be given to means of permitting people to qualify who borrow money from banks which make money available for housing authorities.
There are no building societies in. South Australia and the circumstances of housing finance differ from those in other Stales. The Housing Trust builds homes for sale and I submit to the Minister that it should be recognised as a housing authority in respect of the home sayings grant that flows to people in other States who borrow money to buy a home. Moneys advanced to the South Australian Housing Trust by the Commonwealth are not so much directly for the purpose of building homes as they are for the purpose of financing the operations of the Trust
The Trust has said that any savings it can make in its operations are used to provide more amenities for purchasers in the form of footpaths, roads, or development of the site. But such purchasers do not get the benefit of the cheaper interest rate payable on the moneys advanced to the Trust and because purchasers obtain their finance from the Housing Trust they do not qualify for the home savings grants, in South Australia purchasers of homes from the Housing Trust get neither the benefit of cheaper interest rates nor the home savings grants.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [4.23] -Senator Drury referred to purchasers of homes who do not qualify for the home savings grants. I draw his attention to page 9 of the booklet which sets out the position very clearly. Young people who are interested in obtaining the benefit of the grant, as I said earlier, would do well to study the booklet. Purchasers of homes built by the South Australian Housing Trust financed by the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement do not qualify for the home savings grants, as Senator Cavanagh has just pointed out. These funds are made available to the States, at a concessional rate of interest. This information is set out in the booklet and before young people purchase homes they can determine whether they will be eligible for the grants.
Senator Cavanagh referred to the migrant flats scheme and asked about its future and its possible extension to South Australia. This is a policy matter. The Ministers concerned with the scheme are pleased with its results. I can assure the honourable senator that any consideration for future extension of the scheme will involve a study of the claims of South Australia. They will be given every consideration. Unfortunately Senator McClelland has left the chamber, i wish to refer to his comments about a reply to a question he asked about the average cost of home construction per square. He said that he was told in the reply that statistical data relevant to the cost per square of home construction throughout the Commonwealth is not available. I want now to add to that reply. It is true that no general statistics are available on the cost per square of dwellings throughout Australia. Probably estimates could be made for various areas and methods of construction and it would be possible to obtain information from State housing authorities about the costs they are incurring. However, the honourable senator asked for general figures and these are not available. Further, costs per square vary according to the size of a home and the nature of the site, as well as other factors. Because of these variable factors it is really impracticable to work out a cost per square applicable throughout the whole of Australia. Senator Davidson asked for information concerning Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement figures. We are unable to give them to him at the moment but we will see that he gets them as soon as possible.
– 1 seek some guidance from the Minister. I could relate my remarks to the appropriation for the administrative expenses of the Department. As Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin will be answering questions about the estimates of the Department of Immigration perhaps she could tell me whether I should pursue now or then the matter of whether migrants are fully conversant with all aspects of the home savings grants scheme. I would like to know whether banks have been properly briefed.
– The honourable senator can ask his question both now and during discussion of the estimates of the Department of Immigration, if he wishes.
– I wish to refer to the case of Mr Panagopoulos of Bankstown. I have referred to another case of a person living at Leichhardt. I am not taking umbrage at the ruling the Minister has given that these people do not have the necessary qualifications to meet banking requirements. However, I would like to know whether there has been consultation between the Department of Housing and the Department of Immigration to instruct banking institutions on giving uniform advice. I have made some private checks. I have spoken to employees of the Commonwealth Bank and various private banks. I have the feeling that in some banks the manager and staff are on the ball in enlightening people about housing finance. Others are quite lackadaisical.
People living in the electorates of Blaxland, Dalley and Leichhardt approach members of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, senators and members of Parliament generally. In the light of some of these cases with which I am familiar I am wondering whether top level discussions are contemplated between officers of the Department of Immigration and Department of Housing and representatives of the banks on how to advise these people of their rights.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [4.30] - First of all I think I must repeat that we do our best to see that all people who are interested obtain the booklet ‘A Grant For Your Home’ which is available free of cost from banks, building societies and the Commonwealth Department of Housing. We also produce a smaller pamphlet in the languages I mentioned earlier. As well as other information that is given to migrants, the homes savings grant scheme is explained. The position is made clear. In 1968-69 the Department, in conjunction with the Department of Immigration, made special efforts to bring the savings and residency conditions to the attention of new settlers. First of all, there was the publication of leaflets in Italian, Greek, German and Dutch. They were supplied for distribution to new settlers. Articles and advertisements were inserted in the Department of Immigration publication The Good Neighbour’. I believe that the steps we have taken have reduced very considerably the problems of newcomers to Australia.
In addition. I recall that last year I explained on a tape recording some of the points of interest for new Australians. We have officers who go out and explain the homes savings grant to a variety of people. They go to all areas where we think there might be people who could be assisted, i have been particularly pleased recently to see in publications of organisations in which I am interested - I suppose that is why J noted them - information about this matter. The Girl Guides Association produces a magazine called ‘Cooee’ which has devoted a whole page to the homes savings grant, explaining how young people can make themselves eligible. That is all part of our publicity. We are always very concerned when people fail to get the grant because they have not understood the conditions. 1 suggest to honourable senators that they assist in ensuring that any young people they know have the publications and, if they are migrants, that the publications are in the language that they understand.
– The Minister did not answer my question regarding the number of properties which were acquired as migrant transitory accommodation. Can she do so now?
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [4.33] - In 1968 some 12 flats were purchased and none were constructed; in 1969 there were 86 purchased and 84 constructed; and the estimate for 1970 is that 108 will be purchased and 132 will be constructed. A survey conducted by the Department of the Interior in 1967 indicated that it would not be possible to purchase flats of the type required. Later it was found possible to purchase 12 flats in New South Wales and they were purchased as we were anxious to obtain flats either by purchase or by constructing them. Subsequently the position changed and more private flats became available in 1969 for purchase. In fact 86 were purchased, 54 being in New South
Wales and 32 in Victoria. We hope to purchase another 76 in New South Wales and 32 in Victoria in 1970.
I have visited various places where flats have been constructed or purchased and I should like to pay a very high tribute to the officers of my Department, of the Department of Immigration and of the Department of Labour and National Service who, with great dedication, have realty endeavoured to find the best accommodation possible, paying due regard to siting so that families can send their children to school, visit the baby health centre or do whatever else is necessary. As I said earlier, 1 believe that when these flats have been acquired the officers concerned have always held the very firm desire to obtain the best for the families moving into them.
– Apropos the Minister’s reply to Senator Young, the Auditor-General in his report referred to the purchase by the Commonwealth of a block of 12 flats at Eastlakes at a cost of $109,600 which was charged to Division No. 921/1/08 under the control of the Department of the Interior. He mentioned that the Eastlakes flats were occupied in April 1968 and during the remainder of the financial year Si, 854 was credited to revenue in the miscellaneous area of the Department of Housing. From April to the end of the financial year is 3 months and with a monthly revenue of $51.50 the cost of a furnished flat would be about $4 a week. Can the Minister state the exact rentals that migrants arc being charged for these furnished flats?
– The rent is $16 a week for a 3-bedroom flat and $14 a week for a 2-bedroom flat.
– That does not accord with the Auditor-General’s figures of $1,854 for 12 flats for 3 months.
– It depends on how many 2-bedroom and 3- bedroom flats there were.
– I again direct my remarks to matters relating to administration. I understand that the Minister sent an officer to interview Mr D. Clarke of Hammersmith Street, Homebush West, who is one of the tenants of the war service homes - not all homes in the area are war service homes - which could be menaced by the resiling of power lines in the Homebush area as a result of the markets development scheme there. I take it that the Minister has not been able yet to evaluate the report and the problems confronting these people. I know that the Minister made a statement on 27th August in which she referred to the reluctance of the War Service Homes Division to get into a battle with State instrumentalities, but I interpret her act in sending a field officer to the area and joining with other groups in trying to save this area as an indication that the matter is still alive. Is the Minister awaiting a further report?
– The honourable senator raised the case of Mr Clarke during a debate on the adjournment. I think the best thing for me to do is to discuss this matter with him personally.
Proposed expenditure and proposed provision noted.
Proposed provision, $110,000.
-I refer to that item in Division No. 464 which relates to pensions and allowances for incapacitated ex-servicemen and their dependants. Last year the appropriation for this purpose was $126,478,000 and expenditure was $125,644,101. The appropriation for 1969-70 is $124,071,000. The appropriation for this item has decreased. I dare say that this might have been brought about by some unfortunate pensioners passing on. I ask the Minister why it is that, when a serviceman makes an application to the Repatriation Department for a pension, that pension is withheld for 2 years?
I wish to speak about a particular case. This concerns a man who was a prisoner of war in Burma. His case was taken up recently with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar). The man enlisted at the age of 16, was discharged from the Australian Imperial Force because of his age, rejoined later and was captured in Singapore. As I said, he was a prisoner of war in Burma. After the war, this man worked as a crane driver on the wharves at Port Ade laide. He was discharged from this job because he was medically totally and permanently incapacitated for work due to his war service. He applied for a pension. He received a service pension because of incapacity. Then he applied for the TPI pension. This was refused. He was granted an intermediate pension 2 years after he made his first application.
This man was discharged from his place of employment. During the previous 5 years, he had lost a considerable amount of working time because he was not able to do his job properly. Members of the gang with whom he was working helped him as much as they possibly could. Finally, he was paid off with all the benefits that are due to a person who is discharged from the wharves after he cannot work any longer. I wish to know the answer to this question: Why, after a person makes an application for a pension, does it take 2 years before he is granted any redress whatsoever and why, when redress is given, is the person granted only the intermediate pension rather than the TPI pension? As I said previously, this man was discharged because he was medically unfit to work. He was totally and permanently incapacitated. Also, he received a war pension. I am wondering whether the Minister can find out or give some reason why this man was not granted the TPI pension?
– Mr Temporary Chairman, I wish to raise a matter relating to Division 466 - Other Repatriation Benefits. I refer to travelling expenses for medical treatment for which the appropriation this financial year is $2,410,000. Is any supervision ever exercised over this item or any other similar item? I query whether any supervision is carried out on expenditure under this item and a number of other items that are to be found in the estimates. I well recall the case of a friend of mine, a full ranking colonel, who is a serious citizen of Launceston. He is the manager of a very large company. Following service in the Middle East, he suffered from amoebic dysentery. He was required to go to Hobart for an annual checkup and X-ray. Mind you, there are very good radiologists in Launceston, but this man was not allowed to go to a private
Launceston radiologist. He had to go to Hobart. This makes work at Hobart, lt is a sort of Parkinson’s law.
This man who had to go to Hobart for this X-ray is a well, active and highly physical fit man. He skis, plays golf and does everything else. He was required to have this checkup and X-ray to see that this disease had stopped. So, he receives an order to appear at the Repatriation Hospital in Hobart for 3 days. He has to go into hospital. He asked: ‘May I drive down? 1 am a very busy man.’ First of all, I should mention that he asked whether he could have his X-ray in Launceston. The answer was no. He asked whether he could drive down to Hobart and have the X-ray on the same day but again the answer was no. He was told: ‘We must have you here for 3 days before you are X-rayed to make sure that you are healthy and that you are not taking in other food.’ I point out that, after all. a person must stop eating only 1 2 hours before a barium meal enema. The hospital admits him for 3 days. This fills a bed in the hospital for 3 days. Because an extra bed is occupied the hospital increases its status.
Having given up his work for 3 days to go down to Hobart, this man was allowed to go out every day because there was nothing for him to do in the hospital. 1 come now to the day he was to have his X-ray. He was required to go in a taxi from the hospital to the private radiologist for his X-ray. He said: ‘Look. I have been walking around the city all the time. Would it not be just as easy for me to walk to the radiologist?’ Let me be generous to the Repatriation Department in this respect. Let me say that the distance from the hospital to the radiologist is less than a quarter of a mile. I would say that it is an eighth of a mile or about three city blocks. But let us say that the distance is a quarter of a mile. This man had been walking around the city for the last 2 days. But he was told that he must take a taxi. This adds to the expense as well.
He asked: ‘Why do 1 have to go in a taxi when I am quite capable of walking there?’ He was told that many of the inmates at the hospital, when they had an appointment with a radiologist or a consultant in the city, used to wander off to the hotels in town. Therefore, the practice of taking a taxi was a sure method the Department had of getting persons to a specialist or a radiologist. The man pointed out that he was not a drinker, and that he had not had a drink for ages. He was quite a senior person. He had commanded a whole battalion in warfare. He now was managing a company in peacetime. He asked whether the hospital could not accept his word of honour that he would go to this place and have his X-ray. After all. he had come down for this specific purpose. But no. He was told that he had to go in a taxi.
Having gone in a taxi to the radiologist, he had to come back in a taxi. He was permitted to take the taxis to make sure that he did not go to a hotel. Having returned to the hospital and having been readmitted after his X-ray was taken, he was allowed to go back into the town and, I suppose, he could have gone to a hotel. Is this not just plain stupidity? Is there any other word for the story that I have just told?
– lt is a good story.
– The story is a true one. I could get the person to vouch for it. The point is-
– Order! Senator Cameron, return to your seat. You must not interject from another senator’s seat.
– Would the honourable senator like me to wait for him to get there so that he can interject? If I can hold the fort a bit longer the honourable senator may return to his seat and possibly interject again. I cannot remember what he said. The point I wish to raise is this: Here is an item in the estimates regarding the expenses of travelling for medical treatment. Everything is carried to the greatest absurdity. But the story that I have told is a true story. The man himself said that he would be prepared to give an affidavit to that effect if it was wanted. This sort of thing goes on. Senator Cameron has returned to his seat. Does the honourable senator want to interject?
– I rise to make a point of order. I did not interject on that occasion, Mr Temporary Chairman, when I was accused of doing so. Now I have returned to my seat.
– The honourable senator’s statement has been noted.
– I have finished my story. I wish to make the point that this is carried to the most peculiar, stupid position that could arise in any departmental bureaucracy.
[4.49] - I think it was Senator Drury who raised a point about a difference in the amounts of money paid in the administration of repatriation benefits. This difference is brought about for the reason that war pensions are paid fortnightly from cheques or paid into a bank account each 12 weeks. In 1.968-69 there were five bank payments in lieu of the normal four bank payments. This has led to the reduction in the estimates for 1969-70 by $7.9m. However, the effect of amending legislation passed in 1968-69 was to add $6.3m in a full year. The total effect, a reduction of $1.6m, was brought about by the number of payment dates and the effect of the amending legislation.
– My comments are related to Divisions 462 and 460. First 1 should like to raise with the Minister the matter of air conditioning particular wards at the Dawes Road hospital in South Australia. I had occasion on behalf of some ex-servicemen and an association to make representations to the South Australian Director last summer about the very hot conditions during a hot spell in wards which were very old and which generally could not be air conditioned because of the type of structure. On inspection with a resident medical officer we found that the solariums could be air conditioned. There was a promise that the matter would be taken up with the Department of Works and consideration given to seeking an appropriation to have certain work done. The ends of the two wards in question get the early morning and the afternoon sun. As there would not be much construction involved it was stated that consideration would be given to putting airconditioning plants in the ends of the wards and the patients could go into the solariums at various times. I should like to know whether there is an appropriation for this work to be done as recommended by the resident medical officers.
The next matter relates to the responsibilities of the Repatriation Department in connection with the vocational training scheme for national servicemen. The Department has the responsibility to modify this scheme which comes under the Defence (Re-establishment) Act which has been recently modified. I should like to raise a number of matters which concern me very much. The report of the Department at page 34 shows the number of applications received and rejected. Will the Minister supply details showing the number who receive full time training and the number who receive part time training and also whether they were successful in getting employment in the occupation in which they were trained? The Minister will probably remember that this scheme is very limited. It is not like the post war reconstruction scheme whereby applicants were able to receive training and qualify as tradesmen. The only provision that exists for national servicemen at present is for 12-month full time courses or 2-year part time courses. All that they receive are allowances. There is no subsidy, in employment, as there used to be, to the employer to ensure that these people can be trained as returned servicemen were formerly trained.
– There is no guarantee that they will be accepted.
– That is true. That is a very important aspect. 1 am wondering whether consideration has been given to the basic obligation of the Department to find employment. If a young fellow makes application to the Department to be trained, the regional committee requires him to guarantee that he can secure employment in which he will use the techniques that he may have learned during his service. The guidelines are set out very fully on page 33 of the report. The last one seems to me to be the most important for young people who might have lost an opportunity in civil life but acquired some special skill during their national service. They must have acquired during national service experience and skills which would be wasted or not fully used in civil life without additional training. I should like to know how many discharged national servicemen have applied in South Australia for training under the provisions of this Act and, where applications were refused, whether they were refused because the exservicement could not guarantee employment. If a young man is entitled to training there ought to be an obligation on the Department to train him and secure employment for him in the capacity for which he is fitted. He should be in exactly the same position as that in which all of us who were on active service were placed and he should be entitled to the same conditions. Is the Government reviewing the position?
A related matter is the provision of free rail travel for the families of national servicemen who were in the railway service. I hope that the Department will make representations to the various Commissioners for Railways for the dependants of national servicemen who are railway employees to receive rail passes. At present the dependants of a youngster who is taken out of the railways to serve overseas are not entitled to the rail passes which they would have had if he had continued to work in the railways. There is a possibility that the Commonwealth Railways could offer this privilege to the families of these young people who are serving.
The Returned Services League has made repeated requests for some sort of committee to inquire into repatriation matters. The current report of the League refers to representations to the Government for the appointment of a non-parliamentary committee to review the Repatriation Act. I connect that with the resolution of the Senate that a select committee be established to inquire into repatriation matters. I raise this matter today partly because of the current controversy about the administration of benefits to ex-servicemen under the Repatriation Act. As the Minister knows, some people have charged that some repatriation authorities administer too liberally the provisions of the Act. On the other hand, as many of us know, the strictures on many applicants are such as to prevent them from getting what we believe to he their entitlement. I should like to know whether, because of the representations of the RSL and the discussion in the Senate, any new consideration has been given to an inquiry, which would provide an opportunity to be heard to those who think that many exservicemen have not been properly treated and also to those who think that provisions have been applied too liberally.
Finally, I should like to refer to the competence of doctors as to knowledge of active service conditions, so far as this relates to the examination of ex-servicemen. This is a very important matter which has been represented to the Government on many occasions. I am of the opinion that in many cases the doctors upon whose recommendations applications must often be determined finally are not familiar with the type of conditions that a serviceman would experience on active service. Many of these doctors do not recognise or understand the sorts of conditions in which servicemen were required to serve and because of this, in my opinion, they are not properly qualified in many cases to determine the origins of physical or mental disabilities. When I raised this matter some time ago with Senator McKellar he told me that in relation to medical officers employed or requested by the Repatriation Department to examine applicants there were proposals that they would be instructed, advised or brought up to date on the sorts of conditions which a man might suffer while in the Services.
Broadly, the Minister for Repatriation accepted, as we all do, that any service overseas in the defence forces must to some extent affect a serviceman. For this reason, anybody whose job it is to decide an applicant’s entitlement to a disability pension should be well advised as to or be familiar with the conditions in which these young people serve. Consequently I should like the Minister to inform me whether consideration of this aspect is currently being given by the Directors or by appropriate committees of the Repatriation Department. I am quite sure that if consideration were given to this aspect, many of the charges which are currently being made could be nailed and we would find probably that many of the cases which ex-servicemen bring to us as senators would be more properly dealt with.
– I relate my remarks on the estimates for the Repatriation Department to Division 460 - Administrative. The matter that I propose to raise is a hardy annual. I refer to what I claim is the injustice to applicants for repatriation pensions or for recognition of a disability as being war caused. 1 endorse the contention stated by Senator Bishop and supported by Service organisations that there should be some inquiry into the Repatriation Act, although I hold the view that the Repatriation Act is one measure which seeks to give the utmost to a returned serviceman. I know of very few ways in which the Act could be improved. My criticism is of the administration of the Act. Having decided upon the provisions of the Act, we should ensure that its administration and decisions made under the Act are in competent hands.
Senator Bishop questions the competency of certain medical officers, but I would question the competency of tribunals to interpret the Act properly. I have in mind a man who applied for recognition of his hypertension as being war caused. The repatriation tribunals which heard his application and appeal decided that his condition was not war caused and his claim was dismissed. Since then he has had five medical opinions, three of them being from specialists, and four of the five opinions were that mental stress and emotional upset could contribute to a condition of hypertension. Another repatriation doctor, while not denying that this was a possibility, said: In my opinion this man’s complaint is not war caused. The normal reason for hypertension is heredity or overweight.’ But both those causes have been disproved in this man’s case.
The opinion expressed by the specialists is now supported by the latest research in the Hallstrom Institute of Cardiology at the University of Sydney. The cardiology department of the university, which is led by Professor P. I. Korner, has given the opinion that this man’s hypertension could have been caused by his war service. This opinion is based not on text books but on research being carried out in the cardiology department of the University of Sydney at the present time. Obviously if we could place this mass of evidence before an impartial tribunal, with the aid of the provision of section 47 of the Act which gives the benefit of doubt to an applicant, this man must succeed in his claim. But because his case has been decided by a tribunal, it can only be reconsidered under section 64 (7.) which states:
If, at any time after a decision of an Appeal Tribunal made under sub-section (3.) or sub-section (6.) of this section, the appellant submits to the Commission in writing any further evidence which in the opinion of the Commission, is material to, and has a substantial bearing upon, the appellant’s claim, the Commission shall reconsider the claim and, if the claim is refused by the Commission, the appellant may, . . . appeal in writing to an Appeal Tribunal . . .
First the Repatriation Commission has to make a decision. In the case to which I have referred, four medical opinions, including three from specialists, were that this man’s condition could have been caused by his war service, but it has been held by the Repatriation Commission in South Australia and by the Appeal Tribunal that the medical opinions are not material to and do not have a substantial bearing upon his claim.
His claim having been decided, what can be brought before the Tribunal to meet the requirements of the section which requires evidence which is ‘material to, and has a substantial bearing upon’ a claim? An opinion expressed by the leading specialist in the State, in addition to an opinion from the professor in charge of research at the cardiology department of the University of Sydney, does not meet the requirements ‘is material to, and has a substantial bearing upon’. Can the Minister tell me what is needed to meet the requirements of that section so that this and other cases may be reconsidered? I appreciate the difficulties of the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who is representing the Acting Minister for Repatriation (Mr Swartz), but with the assistance of the officials from the Repatriation Department she may be able to help. While we are discussing the appropriation for this Department and before we are asked to vote money for it, we should have an answer to my question about a situation which I believe is denying justice to some man.
I want to know what sort of evidence would come within the requirements of section 64 (7.). A doctor’s certificate supporting a claim does not come within that provision. What else is there? Question No. 1506 which was placed on the notice paper early this week asks about this matter, so there can be no suggestion that the Department has not had sufficient notice of this question. The man to whom I have referred meets all the requirements of the Act, but because his case was decided - perhaps justly decided - on the evidence before the Tribunal, it can be decided only by an Appeal Tribunal; but we do not know what would enable the Commission to consider any new evidence that could be brought before the Tribunal. The evidence that we have brought, it is suggested, is not material to and does not have a substantial bearing on the case. For a long time now I have been requesting the appointment of a judicial tribunal capable of interpreting the Act. Although the Minister points out that the members of the tribunal are selected from a panel of names submitted by the ex-servicemen’s organisations, it could well be that the organisations recommend men who are not capable of giving the judicial interpretation required of them in the discharge of their duties. This could be where the weakness lies.
I wish to raise one other matter which has given rise to a great deal of publicity throughout Australia. 1 refer to a book written by a Dr Whitington who was with the Repatriation Commission in South Australia. In that book Dr Whitington asks for a review of the Repatriation Act, claiming that malingerers, no-hopers, drunkards and others who are not entitled to them were enjoying benefits under that Act. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) described the book as scurrilous rubbish. I think we all know of cases in which people who would appear not to be deserving of them are in fact receiving benefits under this Act. But I point out that no-one receives benefit under the Repatriation Act without first having submitted medical evidence to support his claim. If men who are not suffering a warcaused disability are in fact receiving some benefit under the Act, then that is no reason for criticising the Department; it is good ground for condemnation of the medical profession.
Again, if there are men not suffering warcaused disabilities who are enjoying benefits under the Repatriation Act, there is no need to apologise for that fact. This happens because of the provision contained in section 47 of the Act under which there is no obligation on the applicant to prove that his disability was war-caused; the obligation is on the Department to prove that it was not. This provision is only in keeping with our tradition that it is far better that a number of people not entitled to them should receive the benefits than that someone who is entitled to benefits should be denied them. Every precaution is taken to ensure that benefit is not denied to anyone who is entitled to receive it. But, despite all the safeguards written into the legislation, clear evidence can be submitted that today many men who, under the provisions of the Act, should be entitled to receive benefit are in fact being denied it because of the way in which the Act is being administered.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [5.13] - Senator Bishop asks about air conditioning of a hospital in South Australia. It is not the policy to air condition all areas. Air conditioning units, either major or minor, are installed in particular areas depending upon the nature of use. They are installed in the areas of greatest need such as intensive nursing care areas. Provision has been made in the current Estimates for sixteen window-type units to cost approximately $6,300 for the South Australian establishment of the Department.
I am sorry that Senator Turnbull is not in the chamber. He referred to the expense incurred in travelling to receive medical treatment. He mentioned a particular case. It is difficult to comment about an individual case without knowing all the circumstances. Therefore, it is impossible for me to answer the honourable senator. The overriding principle in the control of travelling by patients is that before expenditure is incurred a medical certificate is required to determine that travel is necessary and that the mode of travel should be permitted. These certificates are considered before the person concerned is given assistance.
Senator Bishop referred to the training of doctors. Doctors do not determine applications for acceptance of disabilities; they give advice on medical aspects of the claim to the independent determining authority. Many of our medical officers are themselves returned servicemen and would have a good knowledge of service conditions. Training courses are conducted for the younger doctors to acquaint them with the spirit and provisions of the Repatriation Act. The honourable senator will be interested to know that a series of four training films to assist in this training by depicting typical conditions encountered on service in all three Services has recently been completed and these films are in use for the training of the younger doctors. The honourable senator raised one or two other points but at the moment the information he requires is not available to me. I shall give it to the honourable senator as soon as 1 am able.
– I rise at the instigation of a Mr J. C. Caines, Treasurer of the New South Wales Branch of the 9th Division, Royal Australian Engineers Association and former editor of the Customs Officers Association Journal. In a very lengthy letter to me Mr Caines raises two matters on which I would appreciate advice from the Minister. First he claims that if not a written law, an unwritten law operates in conjunction with repatriation legislation. To support this he mentions his own case. He stales when he made a claim for deafness caused by an incident that happened at El Alamein in 1942 somebody wrote across his papers: “All men 55 and over are deaf. He states that when he inquired as to whether this statement referred only to applicants for pensions he received a reply in November 1966 stating: ‘No. It applies to all men in general.’ lt is unfortunate that Senator McKellar is not able to be present. Mr Caines said that Senator McKellar always cracks jokes about giving a man the benefit of the doubt. The benefit of the doubt was not given in this case. I mist the Minister will look into this matter.
Mr Caines is not only looking at the past in his letter; he deals also with the future, which is more important. He says that when a soldier is sick but not evacuated to hospital, no record is kept of his illness. Obviously this applied in his case, for he says that during World War IT some incidents were not recorded because of a breakdown in medical records. He is now anxious to know what is the position today if a soldier fighting in Vietnam suffers an injury and is not sent to hospital. Is his injury recorded, or will he have to undergo the same experience in the future as Mr Caines has had to do? Will he have to fight to establish his claim? If any of our troops fighting in South East Asia suffer what might be termed a field illness, is this fact recorded for future reference?
– I refer to Division 460. Let me say at the outset that of the many complaints that I receive in my office a substantial number relate to repatriation problems, and it is alarming that this should be so, especially when we think of the number of problems confronting many other sections of the community. On very many occasions I have found the Repatriation Department to be extremely helpful, but on other occasions 1, like the applicant, have been at a loss to understand why a claim should be rejected. 1 refer in particular to the case of a soldier who was in Singapore during World War I.I. When our troops were overrun in Singapore, all medical recirds were lost. This man claims that he suffered an injury in Singapore and his injury was noted on his medical record. Due to the fact that the records were lost, the Department was unable to grant him a military pension. Therefore, the claim was rejected.
He was advised that, if he had any additional information, he should make this available. He wrote to two friends of his - one an ex-officer and the other an exprivate - with whom he had served in Singapore. They furnished statutory declarations to the effect that they could recall his sustaining an injury in Singapore. He went to a specialist who said that, from what the applicant had told him of the war injury, the applicant’s present complaint could have been due to war service. In those circumstances T question whether this applicant has had the benefit of the doubt. He can produce no other evidence. He obtained two statutory declarations - one from an officer with whom he served and the other from a private with whom he served - that he sustained this injury in Singapore. The military records were lost. In view of those circumstances, he should have been awarded a pension entitlement. Added to those circumstances is the fact that a specialist said that, from what had been related to him, the injury sustained could have manifested itself into the present complaint. I know the Department has to be extremely careful in these matters. I think we would all appreciate that. It appears to me that on occasions the benefit of the doubt is not given to the applicant. I offer a suggestion to the Minister that perhaps we should be able to find out why an applicant has not been given the benefit of the .doubt. 1 recognise the dangers inherent in that course of action. Nevertheless, I believe that some body, apart from the Department, must be satisfied that the applicant has not been denied his proper entitlements.
Another aspect which I believe should be ventilated is the plight of a wife who visits a returned serviceman in hospital. 1 wonder whether we appreciate the expense involved in such visits. Obviously a wife would like to visit her husband each day. If she Jives some distance out of town, by the end of the week the cost has run to a substantial amount. When I relate the circumstances to Brisbane, the Minister will know of what I speak. A wife living at Kelvin Grove would have to go to town in the bus. The cost for that journey would be 15c. To go to Greenslopes she would pay another 15c. Then she would have to pay the cost of the return home. The cost would be 60c a day. Quite frankly, unless the couple made the most of their opportunities in life, they could not always afford 60c a day. As a result the wife is denied the opportunity of visiting her husband in hospital. I do not know whether the Department has ever considered this problem. I believe it would have been sympathetic to the problem if it had been raised previously.
I know that these matters can be abused. Nevertheless, I believe that there should be some inquiry by the Department into the circumstances of a family where the husband is hospitalised. Even if the benefits granted applied only to totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners, that would be some relief in the right direction. I know a young lad who frequently has to go to hospital. He is a TPI pensioner. When his wife visits him in hospital she has to pay approximately 60c a day. At the end of the week this amount assumes some proportions, taking into consideration the pension that they receive. I offer those suggestions. At the same time I pay tribute to the doctors and the staffs at the repatriation hospitals I have visited. I believe they do an exceptional job. Therefore I pay my tribute to the work being done in those hospitals.
Senator KEEFFE (Queensland) 15.25] - I want to raise three or four matters. In my elaboration of some of them 1 think J will have to be rather critical. I am sorry that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) is not present. Firstly, I would like to obtain additional information about the medical sustenance allowances and about the expenses of travelling for medical treatment. I wonder whether the Minister would obtain for me figures as to the number of persons involved in both cases. The petty cash account item shows an appropriation of $1,639,000 for this year. Last year the actual expenditure was S 1 ,45 1 ,590. I ask for an explanation of the variation in figures. In relation to the payment for services of registrars, police and officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department and in relation to the fares and expenses of war pensioners under review, again T respectfully request that this information be set out in more detail. I do not necessarily want that information read to the Committee. I would agree to it being incorporated in Hansard. I believe that we ought to know how this money is spent.
In relation to fares and expenses of war pensioners under review and in relation to expenses of travelling for medical treatment - which this year has an allocation of almost $2m in round figures - I have some criticism to offer. I live in Townsville. Year after year since I have been in this House I have sought the setting up of a regional office because of the large number of people in the area who need medical treatment. Some, because they cannot get immediate attention from the Repatriation Department, do not get the medical treatment to which they are entitled and which they need physically. They worry about having to travel to Brisbane and the expenses associated with this. I know that there is only one regional officer for repatriation in Queensland. To me it seems significant that when we are looking for people to take into the Army we can set up offices anywhere in order to get recruits. When a man has been discarded by the Army he has been discarded by this Government too. He is faced with endless physical problems if he seeks medical treatment.
Only a few months ago a Townsville man who on every occasion had appealed against the very lousy pension that had been allocated to him was to have his case heard by an appeal tribunal. He was requested to appear before the tribunal in Brisbane. He was too ill to travel from Townsville to Brisbane to have his case heard. Ail the Department gave him was a 100% general pension. If ever I saw a case in respect of which a full total and permanent incapacity pension should have been awarded, it was this case. He was too ill to travel to the tribunal. The result of the hearing was conveyed to me shortly afterwards. A few days after the tribunal heard the case, but before I received notification of the result, the man died at his home. This is part of the inhuman side of repatriation.
Let me refer to three or four other instances that I believe should also be investigated by the Repatriation Department. There is no more appropriate time to raise them than in the debate on the estimates of the Department. In this chamber some months ago I pointed out that ex-servicemen in the employ of the Department of Supply were not allowed to join the Provident Fund because of injuries that they sustained in the service of this country. As a result of the publication of my remarks in Hansard, I received a letter from a gentleman in Western Australia. Whilst I do not intend to state his name publicly, for fear of some victimisation of him, I will in confidence supply his name and address to the Minister for the purposes of an investigation. This is what he said:
I have read with interest your questions concerning Provident Funds in Hansard. . . .
He then gave the Hansard reference. I point out that this letter relates to people employed in the department whose estimates we are now debating and which should be looking after these people. He continued: 1 have now seen Senator Anderson’s reply . . which, I imagine, hardly tells you anything of which you were unaware, nor does it really answer your question.
The fact is that some ex-servicemen are being debarred from contributing to Superannuation or Provident Fund because of war caused accepted disabilities and I believe I am in this category. At present, myself and one other ex-serviceman in my Sub-section of 22 clerks in the Repatriation Department in Perth cannot contribute. That makes 2 for a start, and no doubt there are many other temporary clerks in the same position throughout the Commonwealth Public Service.
This Government has been shouting from the roof tops what it is supposed to have done for people who have been injured or the dependants of people who have lost their lives in the service of this nation, lt is hypocrisy from start to finish. Reviews of pension rates have been called for recently. These people are entitled to have their pensions reviewed. Because pensions are costing the Government more now, as it has to allocate money for veterans of Vietnam, it is paring down the pensions of the older veterans. This is totally unfair. This gentleman continued:
To my mind, the number of ex-servicemen, as requested in Part One of your question, could have been just as readily obtained as the answer to Part Two, by inquiry by the Public Service Board through the Public Service Inspector’s Offices in each State, who surely must know how many are employed, who they are, and if they are temporary because of war caused accepted disabilities.
Honourable senators will recall that I was advised by the Minister that because of the amount of research involved this information could not be given. Yet here is a man who is employed in the Repatriation Department and is able to set out very clearly the manner in which this information can be obtained. Obviously he is an intelligent type. He continued:
My own position is as follows . . .
I enlisted in the RAAF on 25th September 1944 and was discharged ‘on completion of engagement’ on 23rd March 1961, after 16i years service and attained the rank and classification of a Sergeant Clerk Medical.
During the above period I served wilh the Japanese occupation force from March 1947 to September 1948 and again in Japan during the Korean War from September 1951 to June 1954 and later in Malaya during the Emergency from March 1958 to March 1960, in all a total of approximately 6J years overseas.
Then he went on to point out his disabilities which have been accepted. He continued:
On 8th May 1961, about 6 weeks after discharge, I was accepted by the Public Service as a Temporary Clerk and commenced employment with the Repatriation Department in Perth where I have been continuously employed since.
In other words, he has been there for more than 8 years. He went on to say:
At that time I was informed by the Public Service Inspector’s Office, Perth, that my application had been accepted under Regulation 153 of the Public Service Act and my eligibility to accept would expire on 3rd May 1977. In the same letter of 88 May 1961, I was informed that 1 was eligible for Permanent Appointment but there was a long waiting list and 1 would be further advised when my name came up for consideration.
A probationary permanent appointment was offered by the Public Service Inspector, Perth, in a letter dated 18th November 1963. 1 was subsequently medically examined by a Commonwealth Medical Officer, and in a letter dated 19th February 1964, I was informed by the Public Service Inspector, Perth, that the offer of Permanent Appointment had been withdrawn as 1 did not meet the prescribed standards of medical fitness for appointment to the Commonwealth Public Service.
Here is a roan who sustained his disabilities as a result of serving in the Royal Australian Air Force for more than 16 years; yet this beneficent Government says to him: ‘You are a crock. We do not want you. We will not let you join the Provident Fund. It is just your bad luck’. This gentleman said in his letter:
In a letter dated 23rd March 1964, I appealed against the above decision. However, the Public Service Inspector, Perth, on April 14th, 1964, advised me inter alia - “If you wish to appeal against this decision, the matter can be submitted by this office to the Public Service Board for review. However, in doing so, it would be necessary that you support your appeal with medical evidence.
I am not able to discuss with you the medical reasons for the withdrawal of your appointment. However, if you desire, your private doctor would be able to contact the Commonwealth Medical Officer at the Department of Health, to discuss the reasons for rejection. The views of your own doctor together with any other medical evidence considered relevant could then be furnished in support of your appeal”.
A further appeal dated 26th July 1964, together with a medical certificate from my Repatriation Local Medical Officer produced the reply dated 22nd September 1964 - “Referring to your letter of 26.7.64 relating to your medical fitness of appointment, it is advised that the matter has been fully considered by the Public Service Board but it is regretted that it is not possible at this stage to vary the original decision. The Board has advised, however, that you may lodge an application for re-appointment in December 1965 when further consideration would be given to your medical fitness”.
On 1st December 1965, following a letter from the Public Service Inspector, I was medically examined and later accepted on probationary appointment with a medical review to be conducted in a further 12 months to confirm my Permanent Appointment.
The Public Service Inspector, Perth, on 10th December 1965, advised me as follows:
Consideration has been given to the report of the Commonwealth Medical Officer following your recent medical examination in connection with your application for re-appoint ment to the Commonwealth Service. It has been determined that you may be offered reappointment as Clerk £621-1,381, Third Division, Repatriation Department, Western Australia with a commencing annual salary of £1,381.
However, it should be noted that you will be required to serve a. probationary period of eleven months, at the expiration of which you will be required to undergo a further medical examination. If the report of the Commonwealth Medical Officer following that reexamination or any further examination he may request, reveals no disability which would debar your acceptance for permanent appointment, you will be required to contribute to the Provident Account, particulars of which arc furnished in the attached form and not to the Superannuation Fund which provides for a pension upon retirement.
If you are prepared to accept appointment under these conditions, would you please forward your early written advice to this office.’
I accepted the appointment in a letter dated 5th January 1966.
Although paragraph 2 of the letter of 10th December 1965 states that I would be required to contribute to the Provident Fund if I was considered fit for Permanent Appointment in a further 11 months, the Repatriation Department commenced to deduct Provident Fund payments from 23rd December 1965.
However, on 15th December 1965, my Duodenal Ulcer perforated whilst I was on annual leave and I was admitted to the Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, for operation - termed an oversew - and was subsequently discharged and returned to work with the Department on 17th January 1966.
In November 19GG I was re-examined by the Commonwealth Medical Officer, Perth, as per the requirement in the letter of 10th December 1965. The C.M.O.. on learning of perforation of the ulcer, examined the operation scar, commented on its neatness and discontinued the examination - at the same time informing mc that the disability was grounds for permanent rejection as a permanent appointee and that 1 would receive a refund of my Provident Fund payments.
Provident Fund contributions ceased with effect from 24th November 1966 and I later received a refund by cheque.
Since joining the Repatriation Department in 1961, except for the period 15th December 1965 to 17th January 1966, my absences from work for my war caused disabilities have not totalled, at the most. 5 days. Roughly 33 days out of a total sick leave entitlement of 96 days, at the rate of 12 days per year for 8 years. Not bad really.
I heartily concur in the view that he has expressed. The letter continues:
My position therefore, is that, at the age of 43 and after almost 25 years of government service I remain a temporary clerk in the Repatriation Department with no possibility of promotion because of my temporary status, and unable to contribute to a Superannuation or Provident Fund because of my accepted disabilities sustained on active service.
This situation seems hardly fair to one who, had he elected to continue on service with the RAAF, would now, after 20 years contributions to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund, have been eligible for payment of a Superannuation Pension on discharge, war caused accepted disabilities notwithstanding.
That, I believe, in a complete indictment of the way in which the Repatriation Department handles these things.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMANOrder! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I rise for the purpose of allowing Senator Keeffe to complete his remarks.
– That is a clear example of what goes on in the Repatriation Department. Each year I have stood in this place and have railed about the smallness of pensions and about the inhuman treatment in some cases.
– Your Party wants to introduce a national health scheme-
– When Senator Greenwood returns from Vietnam he will not be entitled to a pension because he will do nothing to deserve it. But 1 must say that this is a case that ought to be examined. When these allocations of finance for the various departments are being sorted out each year, the Repatriation Department is one department in relation to which something ought to be done to make sure that a proper entitlement is made. The matter goes further than this. In replies that I have received to questions asked in this chamber in the last few weeks it has been pointed out that there are 15,738 pensioners from World War I who are receiving a pension at a rate of less than 75%, that is, a pension of between 10% and 75%. But there has not been one allocation over a period of many years to keep up the value of the compensation being paid to these people. It is true that in the last Budget and in the Budget before that there was an increase in certain special circumstances for people receiving a pension of between 75% and 100%, but the people themselves have to be able to prove that they have greater disabilities. I am aware of only four cases in my own district that have gone through my office in which such a grant has been made, and one of them has since been withdrawn.
The total cost of repatriation pensions has been increased by only a very small amount. But the position is even worse than that. As a result of World War II there were 141,180 pensioners. I am included in this category; I come in the 75% bracket. There has been no increase in this pension bracket. We have heard a lot of comments about the 5% decrease in the defence allocation, but if this money had been transferred to these people, who have earned it, it would have been some small compensation for what they have suffered. In the Korean War and the Malayan conflict - for the life of me I cannot understand why the Repatriation Department cannot keep these figures separate - another 2,642 people qualified for a pension. The Minister says that figures are not maintained separately for these two groups. This shows that something is wrong. The Government can keep separate figures for the conduct of a war but once it has discarded the serviceman it can no longer keep separate figures. I think this is an indictment of the Department. I do not blame the employees in the Department; this is a result of the inefficiency and hopelessness of the Minister in charge of the Department. As a result of the Vietnam War 1,376 ex-servicemen now come into this category.
I make an appeal for the whole of the repatriation pension system to be reviewed. We on this side of the chamber asked a long time ago for a Senate select committee to be set up to inquire into this matter. The Government has continually ducked and dodged the issue because it is afraid of what will be publicly exposed at any hearing of such a committee. The Government has stood over some of the ex-servicemen’s organisations until it now has them in the state where they are asking for an independent inquiry. This is because of intimidation by this Government. This is what most of the ex-servicemen’s organisations want. They hope that an independent committee or a Senate select committee or some other sort of committee will be set up. But the Government is not even doing this. Why will the Government not appoint such a committee? Is it because of the cost? If it cost 5100,000 or even $200,000, we can find nol only in the appropriation for this Department but in the appropriations for other departments money that would be better spent to ascertain the real needs of ex-servicemen
The Government’s role in the Parliament is limited; its role as a government is probably limited too. But would it hurt at this stage to set under way an inquiry to see what the requirements are? But because of the involvement in Vietnam which this Government gloats over we have today 67 widows, 67 young women, most of whom would be under the age of 25 years and who, unless they remarry, will go through life without a husband as a result of casualties sustained in Vietnam. There are 117 children who never will be able to say at night time ‘Goodnight Dad’, as they have no father because of the people on the Government side who have continued to warmonger, who have continued to send away young kids in the hope that they get killed in Vietnam.
– That is an absolutely ridiculous and outrageous statement.
– I object to that statement. Senator Keeffe has just said that members of the Government hope that men will be killed in Vietnam. 1 believe that is an insulting statement and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Senator Keeffe, did you use those words?
– I do not know that they were used exactly that way; but in the sense that I used them, yes I used them.
– I must ask you to withdraw them.
– If Senator Marriott will go outside and ask that the forces from Vietnam be withdrawn, yes, I will withdraw it.
Order! You must withdraw in an unqualified way.
– 1 will not.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMANWell, I must name Senator Keeffe.
– At the request of my Whip I will withdraw if it is offensive to honourable senators.
– Order! Not at the request of the Whip.
– 1 think Senator Marriott has made it quite clear that these words are offensive. They are offensive not only to Senator Marriott but all other members of the Government and I believe they should be withdrawn.
– Senator Keeffe, will you withdraw the words you used?
– Madam Chair, I have apologised to the Senate. I think, that I have complied with the Standing Orders.
– No, you must withdraw. You have apologised, but will you withdraw?
– I distinctly recall-
The TEMPORARY CHAiRMANOrder! The matter cannot be debated.
– Senator Wright withdrew with qualifications the other night and got away with it.
– If Senator Keeffe will not withdraw I must leave the chair and report to the Senate.
– Senator Wright said ‘In deference to the Chair I will withdraw’ and you let him get away with it.
– I am doing the same as Senator Wright did the other day. I apologise to the Senate. I cannot do more. I have complied with the Standing Orders.
– May I have the indulgence of the Senate to ask what more is required of Senator Keeffe?
– I have asked Senator Keeffe to withdraw without any equivocation or qualification.
– I understand that Senator Keeffe has withdrawn without any qualification.
– I have said that I apologise to the Senate if what I have said is in any way offensive.
– You must withdraw the remarks that you made, Senator Keeffe. I give you a final chance. Will you withdraw?
– When Senator Wright was asked-
– No. I am asking you to withdraw your remarks.
– I have withdrawn in exactly the same terms as Senator Wright did.
– I cannot allow a debate on the matter.
– I apologised in the same terms as Senator Wright did. 1 cannot do more. 1 have complied with the Standing Orders. 1 think it is shocking that this sort of thing is done.
– You will withdraw in an unqualified manner. This is the last opportunity I shall give you, Senator Keeffe. If you do not withdraw, 1 shall name you and report to the Senate.
– If you do the same to Senator Wright I will be happy.
Order! J name Senator Keeffe. I suspend the proceedings of the Committee in order to report to the Deputy President that an offence has been committed by Senator Keeffe.
In the Senate
Temporary Chairman, Mr Deputy President, 1 have to report that during the proceedings of the Committee Senator Keeffe committed an offence in that he refused to withdraw a statement after being requested to do so.
– Mr Deputy President, under the provisions of standing order 440 I ask that Senator Keeffe be called upon to stand in his place and make any explanation or apology he may think fit.
– Mr Deputy President, I believe that any words that I used were in conformity with what I personally felt and in conformity with the Standing Orders. An objection was taken by Senator Marriott. I do not want to make this personal, but it is his main occupation. So I apologised to the Senate. Now I believe that my apology was completely in accordance with the Standing Orders. I feel a lot for these kids who are dying for this country. Y believe that what I said was said with sincerity and was not intended to be offensive. 1 hope that that is accepted as an explanation. Wherever I have offended against the forms of the Senate, for that I apologise.
– Mr Deputy President, 1 came into the chamber in sufficient time to hear the Temporary Chairman categorical!)’ call upon Senator Keeffe to withdraw and apologise. I listened to her repeat it and give Senator Keeffe a second opportunity and a final opportunity so to do. He has still failed to comply. I move:
– Mr Deputy President
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman - There may be no debate. I will have to put the motion.
– I seek leave to make a statement. The reason is that the Minister did himself speak and he did not simply put a motion. He did speak on this and therefore 1 ask for leave to speak on it also.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I was not here when the statements to which exception has been taken were made. Senator Keeffe has said that he apologised to the Senate for the statement he made.
– On the instruction of his Whip.
– Apart from the instruction of his Whip, when I was in the chamber he said on several occasions that he apologised to the Senate for the statement he made. Surely that ought to be taken as being a strong enough purging of whatever he is supposed to have done. I regret that I did not hear the statement, but Senator Keeffe has said that he apologises. Surely whoever has been offended, and the Senate, ought to take this as being enough. He has indicated that on an earlier occasion the same thing was done by Senator Wright and on that occasion was accepted. If he did infringe the Standing Orders by being offensive in some way, surely it is enough to say: ‘I apologise to the Senate’? If a senator was suspended for some reason surely the Senate would always regard it as enough that he apologised. This seems to me to be the strongest that can be done when a senator says:I apologise for what I have done.I apologise to the Senate.’ He has said that in an unqualified way.
– No, it was qualified.
– As I understand it, his apology was unconditional. He has said: I have done as much as I can to withdraw it. I have apologised completely to the Senate.’ He has said that he has conformed with the Standing Orders. Surely that ought to be enough. Is not this what the Standing Orders require? Standing order 438 refers to a number of infringements and to a report to the Senate that a senator has committed an offence. Standing order 439 provides that the Chairman may suspend proceedings and report to the President. Then in standing order 440 this provision is made:
When any Senator has been reported as having committed an offence he shall be called upon to stand up in his place and make any explanation or apology he may think fit, and afterwards a Motion may be moved-
Senator Keeffe stood here and we heard him say:’I apologise for what I have done. I apologise to the Senate.’ What more is a senator supposed to do in conformity with standing order 440? That is the stage we have moved to, and he has apologised. I should think that in those circumstances as a matter of fairness it should end there. He has not refused to apologise, he has apologised and that ought to be enough. The motion ought not to be carried because he has apologised to the Senate.
– Not unreservedly.
– It. was unreserved. It does not matter. Everybody knows that on many of these occasions a senator who makes a strong remark may still believe the remark, but if he apologises that is enough. He has put no qualification on his apology. He has apologised in absolute terms and that is what standing order 440 refers to - an explanation or apology. He has gone further than the explanation, he has apologised. I. think that ought to be accepted. I ask the Leader of the Government to consider the facts in the light of standing order 440 and that this not be persisted with. But if it is persisted with, we will be compelled to vote against the motion, and I ask the Senate to do so, as a matter of fairness in the circumstances.
Question put -
That Senator Keeffe be suspended from the sitting of the Senate. (The Deputy President - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Ayes . . . . 26
Noes . . . . . . 22
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Keeffe is suspended from the service of the Senate for the remainder of the sitting. (Senator Keeffe thereupon withdrew from the chamber.)
Silting suspended from 6.5to 8 p.m.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Honourable senators, prior to dinner adjournment, Senator Keeffe was suspended from the sitting of the SenateAs this is the second occasion on which Senator Keeffe has been suspended during this session, his suspension pursuant to standing order 441 is for the period of1 week.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
Rescission of Order of the Senate
– I move:
I do so for these reasons: First, it is an anomalous situation that Senator Keeffe was sentenced, if I might use that term, to suspension for the remainder of the sitting, that is today-
– And tomorrow.
– No. Normally it would be for the remainder of the day.
– The statement made by the Deputy President in good faith - he was not aware of the circumstances of the earlier suspension - was that Senator Keeffe be sentenced to suspension for the remainder of the sitting. This suspension procedure is an example of the incidental judicial power of this Senate. Although we are a legislative body, we have an incidental judicial power to deal with discipline in the Senate. I suppose that it is anomalous that in any kind of judicial proceeding a sentence should be imposed - and that is what it is - in the face of the Senate and in the presence of the senator concerned that he is suspended for the remainder of the sitting day and then, he having been suspended, we find that that sentence was in error. That is what it amounts to in substance.
– It was not in error.
– It was in error in the sense that it is now said - and I think rightly - that the proper term of suspension was 1 week according to the Standing Orders. But in error and in good faith it was said to be the remainder of the sitting of this day. Well, that produces a curious situation. From the conversation I hear it appears that some honourable senators do not seem to have appreciated the position. Senator Keeffe was suspended from the sitting of the Senate by the Deputy President for the remainder of this day, whereas, in actual fact, as the Deputy President has stated now, under the Standing Orders, if untouched, the suspension would be for 1 week. It is quite anomalous and it is something that is quite wrong that in fact after a senator has been dealt with on the basis of a suspension that everyone thought would be for the remainder of this sitting and after that the senator was told by the Senate through the Deputy President, without dissent from that statement, that the suspension was for the remainder of the day’s sitting, we are informed that the suspension in fact is to be for a week.
We have two matters to be considered. There appears to be an error in that order. It is quite wrong that anyone should be dealt with on this basis. When I use the word ‘wrong’, I am saying that it offends the senses that this should be the result of the order, exactly as it would offend if it occurred in some other kind of proceeding.
The other aspect of this matter is to be found in the way in which the Senate approached it. The senator had committed an offence in the Committee in that he had not withdrawn a statement when called upon by the Temporary Chairman to withdraw. It does not matter, I think, what the nature of the statement was because, in this sense, it is proper to say that, he being called upon to withdraw and that instruction not being dissented from or set aside, the failure to comply with that instruction probably can be regarded as an offence to the Senate and it was properly reported to the. Senate.
In the Senate no occasion was presented to the senator to withdraw. In fact, the statement could not be withdrawn because the Committee was no longer there. It was the Senate dealing with the matter then. That was not the occasion for withdrawal. Standing order 440 requires explanation or apology then. No doubt exists that, whatever happened in the Committee, Senator Keeffe did apologise to the Senate. His apology remains in force. The honourable senator is not here now. He cannot be here. Speaking on his behalf, I repeat that apology to the Senate.I would ask that in the light of the fact that an error has been made which gave an atmosphere of unintended unfairness to the matter as a result of which the Senate obviously voted on the motion unaware of this error it is reasonable in all the circumstances that the suspension be lifted. I suppose an alternative presents itself. One could say that the Senate should lift the suspension as from tomorrow. But I would ask that, in the light of the apology whichI have repeated on behalf of Senator Keeffe and in the light of all the circumstances, the Senate agree now to the lifting of the suspension.
– Mr Deputy President, I would suggest thatI take the adjournment of this debate. I might challenge what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has put on a number of counts, not on the matter of substance in relation to the circumstances in which Senator Keeffe was suspended but on procedural matters. I might well take challenge with the Leader of the Opposition on procedural matters.I think that I would like to talk with leaders of parties in the Senate and that I would like to talk with members of my own Party. In the circumstances, I suggest that the debate be now adjourned.
– For how long?
– I may use the forms of the Senate to bring the matter forward at a later hour of the day. At this point, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed (vide page 758).
Proposed expenditure, $306,855,000.
Proposed provision, $110,000.
-My further comments relate to war and service pensions and allowances. I take up the case with which Senator Keeffe was dealing before the incident about which we have just had a discussion. I refer to the case that Senator Keeffe mentioned and the injustice to the ex-serviceman concerned. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) will recall that this is the case of a man who served in the Second World War. When the war concluded he had joined the occupation forces in Japan. Later, he transferred to the Korean forces and, in the post-Korean period, he served some further period in the Services. Instead of being rewarded for his service when he applied to work for the Repatriation Department he found that he came under special conditions which had been prescribed by the Public Service Board. The Minister might remember that I have raised this matter before. It is a question of health and physical standards being set by a special department for officers and employees who work in all Commonwealth departments. Recently I raised the matter of technicians in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department who had been disqualified from service because after having accidents and being compensated they found that their health and physical standards were not acceptable for work within the Department. We found on inquiry that the standards had been recommended to the Commonwealth Medical Officer by the Public Service Board.
The man to whom Senator Keeffe referred had served in the Army. He had received certain disability payments from the Repatriation Department and he obtained employment with that Department. However, the standards that he had to meet to obtain permanency were set not by the Repatriation Department but by the Commonwealth Medical Officer on instruction from the Public Service Board. So even if the Repatriation Department had wanted to make him a permanent officer it could not do so because of a set of regulations of procedures which the Government has accepted. I have put it to the Minister previously that it is most improper for persons who have performed good service to be rejected in this way. A person may have given good service and be able to perform the duties of a technician or tradesman in the Department of Works but because he fails to reach the overall medical standard prescribed by the Public Service Board he cannot be employed except on a temporary basis. The cases that came to my notice were not of ex-servicemen. As everybody will recall, the Department of Labour and National Service is appealing to employers and industry generally to take physically handicapped persons. The persons to whom I refer were absorbed into private industry and did their jobs very well.
What occasioned Senator Keeffe’s reaction, I think, was that an ex-serviceman who was specially qualified and could do the job, who had a long war record and had suffered a disability, found that he could not be accepted as a permanent employee by the Department that one would expect to look after him. In fact, he was disqualified for membership of the Provident Fund. This is a case that ought to be considered very seriously along with those that I have mentioned. Within the Repatriation Department an ex-serviceman ought to have an ordinary claim if not a special claim for employment. The Minister should see that some other department does not set the medical standard to which such a man must conform. This is the sort of thing that triggered Senator Keeffe’s reaction which we now have occasion to review. The Minister will remember that she wrote to me to the effect that the matter was not one for the Department of Health and that the standards had been decided by the Public Service Board. This obviously is quite wrong. If the Government has a policy on general standards of employment and if it has a policy on repatriation and the care of ex-servicemen it should see that any routine regulations within the Service are altered to ensure that justice is done to persons in the circumstances described by Senator Keeffe.
[8.16] - Senator Cavanagh and Senator Milliner have raised the matter of completeness of medical service records. If in the past medical records were not as complete as they are now or if there are at any time omissions, the ex-serviceman’s own statement and any supporting evidence are taken into account. Senator Milliner referred to a case in which on the basis of a man’s evidence that an event occurred a specialist expressed a favourable opinion, but the honourable senator did not say whether there was medical evidence to the contrary. The fact that there may be contradicting evidence does not necessarily leave the determining authority in doubt but if it is in doubt the case has to be allowed. Senator Cavanagh asked whether tribunals were competent to interpret the Repatriation Act. Chairmen and members of entitlement appeal tribunals are all returned servicemen and are aware of Service conditions. The chairman is a lawyer who knows the Repatriation Act and its implications. All medical and other evidence is placed before tribunals and it is their responsibility as independent authorities to decide a case on the evidence which is submitted.
Senator Mulvihill raised a point regarding medical records of service. Procedures for recording medical incidents on war service are the responsibility of the armed Service. It would seem undeniable that for their own treatment purposes the armed Services will have as complete a record as possible, but undoubtedly the circumstances of service sometimes preclude the keeping of a full record, lt is against this background that the onus of proof provision has been enacted by this Parliament. Senator Bishop asked about the vocational training scheme for national servicemen. Training is provided where it is necessary or desirable for satisfactory re-establishment. The Government has provided a right to re-establishment in employment. Most national servicemen are able to take advantage of this. If a national serviceman is able to exercise this right but needs training he gets it. For example, we are providing training for accountancy and bankers’ institute examinations. If he has no immediate employment he is trained for the employment of his choice. If it appears that there are prospects of employment he does not have to guarantee that he can get employment, and the Commonwealth Employment Service is available to help him.
Before discharge national servicemen are interviewed and their re-establishment prospects discussed with them. Training by placement with an employer in subsidised employment has not been provided. This was provided after the 1939-45 war to meet the special shortages resulting from that war. This was by arrangement between the representatives of industry, employers and unions. Regarding the cases disallowed, I shall see what details can be obtained and give them to the honourable senator. A very high percentage of claims is being allowed. Senator Keeffe asked several questions and I have more information for him.
– He wants to know these things before the Estimates are passed.
– Why not let him in to hear for himself.
– I thought the honourable senator could read Hansard.
– He wants the answers before the Estimates go through.
– I am doing my best. I have not started to answer his questions, so I suggest that I be allowed to continue. Honourable senators opposite will not deter me if they want to talk at the same time as I am speaking, but I have always found it more interesting to listen to one person than to a chorus. Senator Keeffe in dealing with Division 460 asked questions about medical examinations: payments for the services of registrars, police and officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department; and fares and expenses of war pensioners under review. The detailed information sought by the honourable senator on all these items is not readily available, but it will be obtained and made available to him as soon as we can get it. The honourable senator in referring to the payment for services of registrars, police and officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department, asked for additional information in respect of the provision of $23,000 for 1969-70. This item relates to payments for search fees for verification of births, deaths and marriages and reimbursement to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department of expenses incurred in administering pensioners’ telephone rental concessions. The reimbursement for the Postmaster-General’s Department for the above service is $16,200, and for the other services it is $6,800.
Senator Keeffe sought information also on fares and expenses of war pensioners under review. This item covers fares and travelling expenses of war and service pensioners who are called upon to attend for medical examinations in connection with claims for pensions or for review. It includes similar expenses for appellants to the war pensions entitlement and assessment appeal tribunals. The estimate for this item is $173,000. I shall obtain for the honourable senator the additional information that he sought in respect of this item. The honourable senator sought information about incidental and other expenditure for which the estimate is $192,000. I inform him that the main items included in this amount are freight and cartage, $61,000; repairs and maintenance of office machines, $17,000; compensation and legal costs, $20,000; printing of departmental publications, $10,000; advertising, maintenance and rent of parking areas and expenses of maintaining vehicles, armoured escort charges, etc., $84,000.
Senator Keeffe sought information also on medical sustenance allowances for which the estimate is $2,410,000. I inform him that this item provides for the payment of a sustenance allowance to eligible exservicemen while receiving treatment for a war-caused disability or undergoing investigation. Approximately half of this amount is for inpatient treatment and half is for outpatient treatment. Details of the number of claims on which the estimate is based are being obtained for the honourable senator. He asked for this information and we are getting it for him. He referred also to expenses of travelling for medical treatment for which the estimate is $1,890,000. I inform him that this estimate covers the cost of travelling for the purpose of medical treatment for entitled ex-servicemen and their dependants. This amount includes fares of $1,250,000, subsistence and accommodation $140,000, and ambulance services $500,000. Senator Keeffe wanted further information which I do not have at the moment but which I shall obtain for him. I believe that that covers most of the points raised by the honourable senator.
However, there is still one question raised by Senator Keeffe on which Senator Bishop also made a comment. This related to the Provident Fund and the Superannuation Fund. These funds are not under the control of the Repatriation Department but are applied as part of the conditions of Public Service employment. Whatever applies under the Public Service Act applies to all departments. Any war incapacity which brought about any disadvantage in employment would be taken into account in assessing compensation paid by way of war pension, but this is a Public Service rather than a Repatriation matter. Senator Keeffe referred also to the provision of a regional office of the Repatriation Department. The Minister’s attention will be drawn to the point raised by the honourable senator on this matter.
– I propose to refer to Division 464 and to discuss some matters related to war and service pensions and allowances. When I spoke previously I should have addressed my remarks to this Division rather than to the one that I announced then. As 1 was not present at the beginning of the Minister’s reply I did not hear her complete answer to questions that 1 have raised. However, 1 have asked my good colleagues the nature of her reply and the only thing that 1 can gather is that she did not reply to the pertinent question I asked about giving justice to a man who has been deprived of justice. I understand also that no answer has been given to my question about what ‘is material to, and has a substantial bearing upon’ a claim. I mentioned earlier that a certificate from a specialist saying that a man has an entitlement is not evidence which is regarded as being material to and having a substantial bearing on a claim.
The man to whom I referred earlier has to present something as evidence, so will the Minister tell us what evidence he can present under section 64 (7.) of the Act? The Minister will not get away with it by simply evading the issue and talking about the onus of proof clause which has no application to this individual until he can have his case reheard. The onus of proof clause enters into a claim only at that stage. 1 am also much concerned that an honourable senator has been evicted from this chamber because he put so many questions to the Minister about the Department and because he said that he had a real sympathy for the kids that are being sent to Vietnam. That was the honesty of the man who has been evicted from the chamber, but all that he can get in reply to his questions is that further details will be sought and information supplied. We are being asked to approve an expenditure of §306in for this Department but we do not know whether it is being spent correctly or not. We do not know the Department’s method of expenditure.
The purpose of a debate on the Estimates is to enable us to ask questions and to be given information so that we may approve the expenditure for which approval is sought. But all that we are told is that details will be supplied. These are important questions and the estimates for the Department cannot be passed .until we receive replies to the questions that have been asked. We have reached a stage where exservicemen are growing older and we are getting more disabled servicemen from Vietnam. Figures in this connection were given in reply to a question by Senator Keeffe this week when he asked how many casualties from Vietnam were at present in receipt of a war pension. It will be noticed that the estimate for service pensions is reduced this year, despite the fact that the pension has been increased. Honourable senators will recall that we had a debate in this place during which the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) was criticised for complaining to a chairman of a repatriation tribunal that he was allowing too many appeals to go through.
Last year we passed an appropriation of $126,478,000 and the Department spent $125,644,000, which was very close to the amount appropriated. This year the provision for pensions and allowances for incapacitated ex-servicemen and their dependants has been reduced to $124,071,000. Does this indicate the extension of leniency to ex-servicemen? ls it an indication that there will be a decrease in the number of ex-servicemen receiving pensions despite our obligations to the soldiers who are serving in Vietnam? What is the policy of the Department? Why is there a reduction in the provision for this item of expenditure?
The provision for payment of pensions and allowances for seamen and other civilians is also reduced this year. Is it hoped that there will be an increase in the death rate of those receiving these pensions today? What is the explanation for this reduction? ls if-made out of a desire to deprive as many people as possible of their entitlement under the scheme? Surely the Government appreciates that claims for war disabilities must increase. All these points have got to be explained before we can agree to pass the estimates. ! min now to item 09 of Division 466 which relates to Returned Services League - grant for employment placement activities. It would seem that we grant the sum of $5,300 each year. I should like from the Minister some information as to what service we get for this grant. As to the estimates generally, I submit that what has happened in this chamber justifies a much closer scrutiny of the estimates for the Repatriation Department than would have been necessary had the unfortunate incident of this afternoon not happened. There is some feeling on this side of the chamber that an injustice was done to one of our members. One wonders why this action was taken. Every item of expenditure for the Repatriation Department must be explained to our satisfaction. It is not good enough to tell us that departmental officials who come into the chamber to assist Ministers have not got the information with them but that they will get it. The officials of other departments have been able to answer our questions.
We have a responsibility to discharge. We cannot agree to the voting of $3 60m without knowing the reasons for seeking this money. It is not good enough to tell us that the answers we seek will be incorporated in Hansard. They may be, but all honourable senators know just how much trouble we experience in obtaining replies to simple questions. In particular, 1 ask the Minister not to dodge the issue but to explain what is meant by sub-section (7.) of section 64 of the Repatriation Act.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [8.33] - I shall deal first with Division 464. 1 have already furnished a reply in connection with this expenditure this afternoon. I shall reply again. Apparently Senator Cavanagh either was not present or did not understand what I said. Let me give it to him again. War pensions are paid fortnightly by cheque, or each 12 weeks into a bank account. In 1968-69 there were five bank payments in lieu of the normal four. This reduces the estimate for 1969-70 by $7.9m. However, the effect of amending legislation passed in 1968-69 for the full year in connection with increases in various rates of pensions added a further S6.3m. The total effect is a reduction of $1.6m. As I said at the beginning of my reply, this is because of the reduced number of bank payments in the year.
The honourable senator then asked for information relating to item 09 of Division 466 - Returned Services League - grant for employment placement activities - $5,300. The purpose of this appropriation is to provide for grants to the Returned Services League to subsidise the activities of the League’s employment service. The original estimate for 1968-69 was $5,300. In that year, the total amount of the appropriation was not expended. The expenditure in that year was $5,280. The provision for 1969-70 is $5,300, which represents an increase over the amount expended last year. Funds are provided under this item to meet regular payments of $440 each month to the Returned Services League.
– 1 relate my remarks to Division 464 - war and service pensions and allowances. I very deeply regret that Senator Keeffe is not able at this stage to pursue the line of inquiry that he was making with regard to service pensions as a result of the Vietnamese war. According to figures provided to Senator Keeffe by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) there are some 67 widows receiving pensions as the result of the loss of their husbands in the Vietnam war and, as at 30th June last, there were some 117 children receiving pension assistance as the result of the loss of their fathers in the same conflict.
According to another answer provided to Senator Keeffe by the Minister for Repatriation the annual liability for pensions in force as at 30th June 1969 as a result of casualties sustained in the Vietnam war was $291,018 in the case of ex-servicemen and $171,652 in the case of their dependants. I am sure every honourable senator will agree that this is a matter that must be of grave concern to Australia and Australians generally. I deeply regret that Senator Keeffe who, with all the sincerity at his disposal, was expounding the case on behalf of these unfortunate people, is no longer able to pursue the matter because of an unfortunate incident that took place.
I wish to continue my remarks under this heading by referring to a specific case that has come to my notice and in which I feel a terrible injustice has been done to an ex-serviceman as the result of a bureaucratic determination on the part of the repatriation authorities. It concerns the case of a Mr W. B. Hill of Church Point in New South Wales who enlisted when he was 37 years of age and did not make application for a repatriation pension until 1966 when he was 61 years of age. He made a claim 3 years ago, when he was 61 years of age, with respect to an inguinal hernia complaint and, as a result of his application, received a pension.
On 30th June 1968, some 2 years later, at the age of 63 years and 4 months, he entered Concord Hospital for an operation for the condition for which he was receiving a pension. Two days after admission to the hospital, and the night before the operation was scheduled to take place, he had a gall bladder attack. On the advice of the Repatriation doctor, who filled in the form for him. he made a claim for the gall bladder condition. Incidentally, according to Mr Hill, the doctor completed the form for him. When the doctor asked the patient how he attributed the gall bladder condition to war service, according to Mr Hill, he replied that he would have to be a miracle man to establish such a condition after 23 years had lapsed between his military service and the time of the discovery of the complaint. This portion of the questionnaire was therefore left blank. Once the gall bladder condition was discovered, he was told that the inguinal hernia operation could not be performed until the gall bladder complaint was cleared up. He was discharged from the Concord Repatriation Hospital about a week later. Some weeks after that he was advised that his claim for a gall bladder condition had been rejected but that he could appeal. He stated that he did not appeal because, quite regardless of the prospect of success, at that stage he was in too much pain with the gai! bladder condition and with the inguinal hernia complaint to be worried about conducting appeals.
In August 1968, about 6 weeks after he had been admitted to Concord Hospital originally, the gall bladder was removed at Hornsby District Hospital by the surgeon who had treated him at Concord Repatriation Hospital - the gall bladder operation being undertaken in a private capacity.
After recovery from the gall bladder operation he entered Concord Repatriation Hospital in October 1968 - 2 months after the gall bladder condition had been operated on. An operation was performed to cure the hernia condition. On 6th June 1969, some 3 years after he had been granted a pension - and bear in mind that at that stage this man was 64 years of age - as a result of a medical examination, at the request of the Repatriation Department, the Repatriation authorities diagnosed that this man did not suffer an inguinal hernia but suffered an umbilical hernia. He was advised that it was not thought that the umbilical hernia was connected with the symptoms of his recent attacks and that the authorities would await the recurrence of the symptoms before determining definitely one way or another. At the age of 64, 3 years after the pension was first granted, his pension for an inguinal hernia ceased because it was then diagnosed that he did not have an inguinal hernia but that he had an umbilical hernia. Because of his symptoms, apparently this could not be attributed to his war serive.
I raised this case to show the financial loss incurred by a man who served his country in a time of need and who did nol apply for a Repatriation pension until he was 61 years of age because he was a sincere man who was able to carry on during his working life. At 64 years of age. 3 years after he was granted the pension, suddenly it was taken from him because of a difference, according to my constituent, between the original diagnosis and the diagnosis made 3 years later. This was wrong. I suggest to the Minister and to the Department that the Department should be very wary indeed about denying a man over 60 years, who is in receipt of a pension, the continuation of that pension.
I further suggest to the Minister and to the Department that when a man of 60 years makes application for a pension and the pension is granted, it should not be taken from him when he reaches the age of 64 or 65 - a time when a man who has served his country in time of war is looking forward to retirement and to a continuation of his pension. I regard this kind of situation as very serious. I think that the Department’s attitude is unjust to the exserviceman.
I strongly suggest that this case indicates that the Department is not administering the onus of proof provision as it should be administered in the interests of exservicemen generally. I bring this matter to the notice of the Minister and the Department in the hope that cognisance will be taken of the matter about which I have complained and that justice will be restored to the constituent on whose behalf I speak.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [8.45] - I listened with interest to the points raised by the honourable senator. At this moment it is quite impossible for me to give a reply on individual cases. I ask the honourable senator to give me the full details of the case and I will put them before the Acting Minister for Repatriation (Mr Swartz).
– Under ‘Administrative Expenses’ I also query the method whereby many exservicemen are denied their rights to Repatriation benefits. I join with Senator McClelland in Saying that the onus of proof provision is not being used in the manner in which the Act prescribes and that, in fact, the onus is still on the applicant to prove any claims he may make. A number of people have complained to me. I must admit, right here and now, that any cases I have put before the Repatriation Department and before the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) have failed. I know that two cases should have been successful.
The Department has become so dogmatic and so loath to admit that it was wrong in these cases that it has refused to grant a pension to one person whose application is of over 20 years standing. He is still without a pension despite the fact that he was hospitalised by the Army. He was discharged as unfit. He was unable to receive the Commonwealth employment benefit because at that stage he was still under the control of the Army. The Department has rejected his claim that his injury was caused by war service. The Department has put into the mouth of that man words and language that he never understood or knew anything about. Afterwards the Department claimed that it had an admission from him that he suffered from Osteomyelitis prior to enlistment. I challenge the Repatriation Department to establish quite clearly that this man suffered from this disease prior to enlistment. If in fact he did, how was he classified Al and taken into the Australian Imperial Forces?
The Minister has studied this case on two occasions. He has perused the file. On both occasions the claim has been rejected because the tribunals have finished wilh this man. This poor devil has to find substantial evidence or some kind of evidence that will be new to the tribunal and that will be to his benefit. When one asks the Minister and the Department what type of new evidence or material is required, they will not give any kind of definition in any shape or form as a guide to how this man can obtain new material and evidence. In my book, this is an obvious case where a pension should be granted. If we had an ombudsman, he, after examining this file, would immediately take the matter up and say that this man has suffered a great injustice. Hs had a football injury in the early 1930s. He was hospitalised by the Army; he received surgery and he was discharged from service. Yet the Repatriation Department has used that injury as a reason why he should not receive a pension. This is on record in relation to my representations on his behalf.
I have another case of a man who recently had to retire from his occupation because of ill health. He has contracted a number of illnesses. It is my view and the view of his medical advisers that at least three of those illnesses are associated with his service with the Royal Australian Air Force. That has been substantiated by his commanding officer and the medical officer who served with him. The Repatriation Department is still asking this man to provide further evidence that is material to his case, despite the fact that he has been able to submit signed documents including letters from the commanding officer and medical officer of his unit to the effect that he suffered these injuries, contracted these diseases or wasted away as a human being because of his service to the country.
This man was an officer. He has explained to me that on many occasions, because of the shortage of officers and men in his unit, and the fact that the Japanese were attacking Australia, he went into the mess and received medical treatment off tha cuff. The fact that he received treatment was never listed in the medical reports because he did not attend sick parade. He was giving service to this country beyond the call of duty. He was doing so to such an extent that his health ran down, but he continued to defend this country as an officer of the RAAF. This case will be put to the Minister within a week, with a large file indicating quite clearly that he is able to submit additional evidence which he was not permitted to submit when he made his appeal to the tribunal. This evidence is on record.
This is the kind of thing that is happening. This is the situation that the onus of proof provision has reached. In fact the onus of proof is not on the Repatriation Department and the Department does not give the ex-serviceman the benefit of the doubt. In fact the onus of proof is on the appellant or the ex-serviceman who is making the claim.
If we examine the figures contained in the annual report of the Repatriation Commission in order to see the number of successful appeals made by ex-servicemen from the First World War, the Second World War and even the Korean conflict, we find that the ex-servicemen are missing out rather badly on appeals. This is because one doctor obviously does not want to admit that another doctor has made some kind of error. In respect of the 1914-18 War the number of appeals outstanding as at 30th June 1968 was 569; the number lodged during the year was 1,889 - making a total for action of 2,458; the number allowed was 142; and the number disallowed was 1,508.
– How many?
– The number allowed was 142, and the number disallowed was 1,508. In effect, appeals by these old diggers, many of whom are over 70 years of age and should be receiving medical treatment as of right without having to prove that their disability was caused by their service in the 1914-18 War, are being knocked out at the rate of about 14 to 1.
In respect of the 1939-45 war the number of appeals outstanding as at 30th June 1968 was 2,651; the number lodged during the year was 9,174 - making a total for action of 11,825; the number allowed was 1,161; and the number disallowed was 6,257. These figures show the kind of deal that exservicemen are getting before these tribunals.
– That is giving them the benefit of the doubt.
– Yes. 1 have yet to meet one of these ex-diggers who have come to me who has not a real and sound bleat against the attitude that the injuries or illnesses from which he is now suffering cannot be traced to some action in Flanders in the First. World War, the Middle East in the Second World War or some other place. In some cases we have been able to trace them back and find out from people exactly what happened. I had one case in which a man was crushed by one of the lumbers. Because at that time he did not attend sick parade, but instead continued to fight in Flanders-
– He was too conscientious.
– Yes. Because he was conscientious and continued to fight for Australia, there is no record of his injury, despite the fact that three persons, who have since died, would have established that he was there. Yet this man was ridiculed before the appeal tribunal and made to appear as a liar. He would be one of the most honest and sincere men I have every met in my life. Yet he was ridiculed and almost called a liar by the tribunal that was hearing his appeal. If he told me that this happened, 1 would believe that it happened. If he could name people who were there when it happened, I would not want to know whether they were alive or dead; all I would be doing would be looking up the Army records to see whether those persons did serve with him.
This man is 73 years of age. He is in his last years of life. Yet the appeal tribunal says to him: ‘You are an old liar. Get out of this place. You are a malingerer’. That is the type of treatment that this man received. I am satisfied that he received it, because he is a man for whom I have tremendous respect. If the Minister wants details of this case, she will receive them. This is the kind of treatment that these people are receiving when they are old and unable to defend themselves.
In the case of the Korean war, one would think that there would be evidence that would give greater credibility to the cases of ex-servicemen. In respect of that war, the number of appeals outstanding as at 30th June 1968 was 47; the number lodged during the year was 168 - making a total for action of 215; the number allowed was 25; and the number disallowed was 103. This war occurred in very recent years. I have yet to see mcn who go along and try to get something for nothing. Most of these people are men of dignity and men of honour who have suffered because they have fought for this country. They want nothing for nothing. They believe that they have a case, but in most cases the appeal tribunals are not prepared to repudiate the previous decisions of other medical officers. 1 believe that what has to happen is that we have to have the inquiry for which the Opposition asked and which the Senate agreed should be established, with the task of fully examining the Repatriation Act, instead of having the complete pretence that we have at the moment, namely, that the onus of proof provision operates in favour of the appellant. Of course it does not. It is a complete farce. The appeals record in the annual report of the Repatriation Commission indicates quite clearly that it is a farce. My own personal experience of people who have come to me has proved to me quite conclusively that, unless people have a really cast iron case - and who has after 50 years? - they have no hope of receiving any sympathy or acceptance of the disabilities from which they are now suffering.
I want this matter cleared up completely. I am not satisfied that the number of successful appeals, as set out in the annual report, is proportionate to the number of persons who are suffering from injuries and illnesses caused by war service and are therefore eligible for pensions. I am satisfied quite conclusively that the cases of many people who deserve the consideration of the Department are being rejected.
– I enter this debate on behalf of Senator Keeffe. I believe that, having made an overall statement of criticism of the Government and in spite of the fact that he abased himself and apologised he was ejected from the Senate. One can only arrive at the conclusion that he was ejected to cut short the criticism that we can expect.
– Order! The honourable senator must not canvass a decision of the Senate already taken.
– 1 will continue then merely to state that in spite of what was said in anger and what was felt in anger - I will not canvass the decision of the Chair - I feel somewhat odd about this, because honourable senators will recall that some few days ago when I also in anger spoke against the opposition and even-
– Against the Government, you mean.
– It is our opposition. It is an opposition to the country itself and that is why I termed it the Opposition. I feel that the Government is the greatest obstacle this country has faced for many years. But in spite of the fact that 1 made a statement and even named an individual I survived. It is quite understandable that members of the Australian Labor Party should stand and strongly criticise the Government on repatriation matters. We have always stated that if a government is to declare war, if a country is to fight a war, if a government is to send men to a war, then it must accept the full responsibility for the care of the men who suffer in this way. Yet this Government, as has been outlined by Senator Poyser, denies justice to the men who fought and to the men who suffered. Some time ago I addressed a question to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) upon notice. [ asked him:
I thought that was a reasonable enough question to put on behalf of a person who suffers the inconvenience of DOt having any transport facilities to go to receive medical care. What answer did 1 get? I got an answer that placed the responsibility for this service to a TPI pensioner upon the State government, upon the State transport authority. The answer I received from Senator McKellar was this:
The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
to (4) Concession fares for private travel by T. & P.I. pensioners are not provided by die Repatriation Department, but by the relevant transport authorities themselves. In the circumstances, i am unable to assist the honourable senator.
I want to know then what is the purpose of Division 466 in the proposed appropriation for the Repatriation Department in which under the beading ‘Other Repatriation Benefits’ provision is made for $41,310,000? Even with that vast amount of money facilities are not provided to TPI pensioners and to people receiving a war pension to travel for medical attention. The responsibility is placed upon the State departments. Here is highlighted the approach of this Government to pensioners under the Repatriation Act. It could not care less. The less it can do the better; the more responsibility it can pass on to somebody else the better. Surely it is reasonable to expect that if a TPI pensioner who lives at Cooktown needs medical attention he should receive transport facilities and the cost of travel to the centre of medical attention. Yet we are told that it is the responsibility of the State authorities. The State authorities have enough responsibility on their plate. So why should they carry the burden of something that is the responsibility of the Repatriation Department? This Government is a government, as I have said before, that can easily make a decision for war but which is not prepared to accept this responsibility.
Any honourable senator here will tell you that the majority of cases that come to his attention are repatriation cases. Even today I was handed a document of appeal by a person who sought a repatriation benefit; it is an exposition of agony. There is evidence of indifference on the part of the Government, indifference to the needs of those who fought in the war. There is sufficient wealth and affluence in this country, sufficient money is made by the exploita tion of mineral resources, sufficient money is made on the stock market and sufficient taxes are reaped by this Government to be able to provide justice to everyone who suffers illness and is in need because of war service. I suggest to the Government that as soon as possible it should look at these matters. If sufficient funds are not available then it ought to provide finance to make certain that these people receive what they deserve.
– I refer again to the provision in Division 464 for war and service pensions and allowances and the two broad questions [ put to the Minister. I remind her that f asked what could be done about the changes in the provisions for the vocational training of national servicemen. I read out what they are entitled to at the present time and drew a contrast with the provisions which exist for ex-servicemen of the Second World War and the Korean War. The second point that I raised related to the medical standards which had been established by the Commonwealth Public Service. Senator Keeffe spoke about this matter. I put it to the Minister that when she replied to me all she told me was what I had told her. That is all, exactly that. She repealed the sort of premise which I put to her when 1 asked her what consideration the Government proposed in the circumstances that we mentioned - ‘that is, the need to effect some improvements in re-establishment provisions for national servicemen. They ought to be treated no worse than the way in which ex-servicemen from the world wars and the Korean War were treated. All those people were entitled to be re-established m jobs and to be retrained. If they were employed by a special employer in a position where they were learning a trade, for example, the employer would receive a 60-40 subsidy.
I know of a case in Adelaide where a young man wants to be retrained. An employer is willing to take him and to train him. He is eligible for training under the South Australian Apprenticeship Commission precepts but the employer will not take him because he will not receive the same sort of subsidy which ex-servicemen from the world wars and the Korean War had. I want to know what the Government plans to do about these matters. This was the basis of Senator Keeffe’s remarks. Why is it necessary for the Repatriation Department, or for that matter any other department, to accept medical standards laid down by the Common wealth Public Service, while the Government does not advocate those standards in private employment? The fact is that the Government urges all sorts of private employers to employ people who are not quite up to a particular physical or mental standard. It has come about in the Commonwealth Public Service - in the Repatriation Department as with the case Senator Keeffe mentioned and in other departments - that men are being dismissed and going outside the Public Service to get employment in private firms because those private firms apply differing physical and mental standards.
In the case of an ex-serviceman surely the Repatriation Department or the Minister ought to be able to say that where he can perform his job, particularly if he is a disabled ex-serviceman, the standards set down by the Commonwealth Public Service Board should not apply. It is as clear as that. I cannot make it any clearer. We ask the Government and the Minister: What are you going to do about it? What do you personally think about it? Do you think it is reasonable? If you do not, what action can you take to change the present policy?
– I again wish to relate my remarks to Division 464 - War and Service Pensions and Allowances. I am not satisfied with the replies I have been given and my protests have been repeated by Senator Bishop. It is not good enough to treat senators as wc are being treated. Replies are not being given to the particular questions asked. As Senator Bishop has just said, to repeat a question is regarded as furnishing a reply to the question that has been asked.
– T did reply to the question, and Senator Bishop knows that I did.
– I have asked: What evidence can be presented to a repatriation board which is material to or has a substantial bearing upon an applicant’s claim? What evidence? That is all. tell me the evidence. There is a stranger in the House, Mr Temporary Chairman.
– My attention is drawn to the fact that there is a stranger in the House. That may not be technically correct, but in case it is, I ask that he leave.
– We want answers to these important questions. The Minister has a responsibility to advise us. We are approached by people outside the Parliament who ask questions on these matters and we seek to tell them of the - evidence they should present to a tribunal. Senator McClelland and Senator Poyser have spoken on this subject. Surely it must become clear that there is something wrong with the situation, in the light of the protests made about repatriation tribunals. When I have taken up cases with the Minister himself he has not been able to say that those cases have not been supported. All he has been able to say is: ‘1 have faith in the tribunals.’
I do not think anything will be heard from the Government about the request that a judicial body be permitted to investigate in respect of war service. Parliament has passed a very generous provision in section 47 of the Act, relating to the onus of proof, but the Government has counteracted that generosity because the tribunals do not apply the provision in the proper spirit. But the Minister sits behind the scenes and says that he has faith in the tribunal, even though he knows that they are not carrying out the legislation as Parliament intended it to be applied. Surely these protests justify an inquiry being held into the whole question. The Minister should state the Government’s future intentions in respect of the tribunals.
The figures supplied in the answer given to Senator Keeffe last Thursday show that nine ex-servicemen have received total and permanent incapacity rates of pension for service in Vietnam. One ex-serviceman is receiving the intermediate rate following service in Vietnam, and 146 ex-servicemen from Vietnam are getting 100 per cent war pensions; 1,397 are receiving pensions at rates between 10 per cent and 95 per cent. Sixty-seven widows lost their husbands oh service in Vietnam. They must struggle through life rearing, educating and keeping 1 17 children in good health. We do not know how many applicants to tribunals failed to establish entitlement to pensions.
Senator Keeffe is sincerely determined to fight for justice for these people. A man on a 70 per cent repatriation pension himself, he has been thrown out of the Senate because of his sincerity in debating the estimates of the Repatriation Department.
I thank the Minister for the reply that she gave to my question on Division 464. As she stated, it had been replied to before. The difference in appropriation is due to an extra pay period, but it is not reflected in pensions and allowances for widows and other dependants of deceased exservicemen. It is not reflected in the appropriation for service pensions, the appropriation for which is increased this year. Perhaps the Minister can explain those items.
– You are inquiring about pensions and service pensions?
– The appropriation in item 02, pensions and allowances for widows and other dependants of deceased ex-servicemen. It may well be that the increased appropriation is because of the increased pension rate, but in that case one would expect it to apply similarly to other appropriations. I repeat that the Minister has a responsibility to administer the Act. We have done all it is possible to do to submit evidence to reopen a case where a man has a claim. Other honourable senators have referred to other cases in this debate. In the case of a man who cannot comply with the requirements of section 64 (7), evidence of three specialists that his disability is due to war service was ruled by the Commissioners and a tribunal as not being material to or having a substantial bearing on his case. I appeared at the last hearing before a tribunal. I wanted to submit further evidence, as Senator Poyser did in another case. But the Chairman of the Tribunal refused permission because, he said, it was an appeal under section 64 (7) of the Act, in which case any further evidence has to go to the Commissioners. He said that it was the function of the Tribunal only to determine whether the fresh evidence was material to or had a substantial bearing on the case. And of course, it did not, because it was only the opinion of specialists that the Tribunal was wrong!
This Government is paying for research on blood circulation at the University of
Sydney. That research, which includes investigation of the causes of hypertension, supports the evidence submitted by this man with his application for a pension. Yet with the greatest authority available in the land supporting the evidence it is not possible to get another hearing from a tribunal. The Minister complacently says: ‘I will defer this and give an answer at another time.’ These matters involve human lives and principles. People are suffering and seeking justice which they were promised at the time of enlistment. Young men who have been conscripted into the Army are justified in seeking better treatment than has been dealt out to their grandfathers and fathers who fought in other campaigns.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [9.18] - I again point out to Senator Bishop that I have replied to his question.
– You told me only what I told you.
– No, I told you much more than you told me, and I will tell you again because I think it is important. It is a pity that you are not able to understand it, because it is the answer to the problem about which you are concerned. I repeat it. Training is provided where it is necessary or desirable for satisfactory re-establishment measures. The Government has provided, as a right, re-establishment in employment, and in practice most national servicemen are able to take advantage of this. If a national serviceman is able to exercise this right but needs training, he gets it. For example, we are providing accountancy and bankers institute examinations. If he has no immediate employment he is trained for the employment of his choice.
– Public Service jargon; that is all it is.
– If it appears that there are prospects of employment, he does not have to guarantee that he can get it and the Commonwealth Employment Service is available to help him.
– What does that all mean? It is only Public Service jargon.
– I think those are points which are worth noting. They seem clear to me and I can understand them.
– That is all you talk about.
– If you cannot understand it I shall repeat it because it seems to me to be pretty clear. If a national serviceman has no immediate employment he is trained for the employment of his choice. If it appears that there are prospects of employment, he does not have to guarantee that he can get employment and the Commonwealth Employment Service is available to help him. Before discharge, national servicemen are interviewed and re-establishment prospects are discussed with them. Training by placement with an employer in subsidised employment is not being provided. That was a feature of training after the 1939 war to meet special shortages resulting from the war. It was done by arrangement between industry and employers representatives and the unions.
I shall obtain details regarding cases disallowed when they are available and, as I have said, I will give them to the honourable senator. Surely that is a plain and sensible answer to the points Senator Bishop raised. Then he asked about the high percentage of claims disallowed. When I obtain that information I will pass it on. I think those are all very interesting and important points.
– You are only telling me what I told you.
– Not a bit of it. My information is much better than yours. I have been provided with information which I think answers the questions raised by Senator Cavanagh. I appreciate the points he raised. His concern for people and their problems is, I am sure, shared by all honourable senators.
– You cannot break through these people.
– I thought I was making a perfectly sound comment when I said that we all share concern for other people’ problems. That is correct. I appreciate the points Senator Cavanagh has raised.
– They starve on appreciation. We want something better than that.
– The cases mentioned by the honourable senator already have been before the Repatriation Board, the Commission and the Entitlement Tribunal. Further and material evidence has to be considered in the light of the claim and of the evidence already available. Such evidence is-
– Tell us what it is.
– Do you not know what evidence is? Such evidence is submitted to the Commission in the first instance but the final decision rests on appeal to a tribunal. This is a matter for the independent authority to decide.
– Again Public Service jargon, not clear English.
Senator Poyser, you must cease interrupting.
– I desire to direct my remarks to Division No. 460 - Administrative. This afternoon and tonight honourable senators on this side of the chamber have disclosed many anomalies which exist in the Repatriation Act. This supports the case advanced by the Australian Labor Party for the establishment of a Senate select committee. I foreshadow now that I intend to propose a motion regarding this matter. Would the Minister like me to do it now or to wait until she has finished answering questions that are asked on the estimates? I would be quite happy to accede to any request she makes. The motion will be circulated.
– I have no strong feeling about this. Perhaps the honourable senator would like to finish his remarks and then proceed to the motion.
– Very well. On 19th September 1968, almost 12 months ago, Senator Bishop proposed an amendment to the Repatriation Bill 1968 which was put through this House in the form of an appropriation. Senator Bishop’s amendment was carried by 26 votes to 24. As I have said, 12 months have passed and the proposed committee has not yet been set up. The Government has done nothing about it. I do not know whether it is afraid to appoint such a committee, but the Australian Labor Party believes that there should be a change in the system that has been adopted by the Government over the years. I believe that a committee such as is envisaged by the Australian Labor Party in the motion which I have foreshadowed will do just that. Senator Bishop’s motion on 19th September 1968 was in these terms:
At end of motion add - but the Senate is of the opinion that a Select Committee of the Senate should be appointed to examine and report upon the adequacy of the rates and allowances proposed, and all other aspects of repatriation affected by the Bill, and in particular report whether the amendments to be made by the Bill to the Repatriation Act are sufficient’.
The proposed amendment was hotly debated in the chamber and, as I have said, when the vote was taken it was carried by 26 votes to 24, a majority of 2. The amendment I now move is as follows:
At end of motion add - and recommends to the Senate that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon all aspects of expenditure on and in connection with repatriation, including the adequacy of the rates and allowances provided for and all other aspects of repatriation, and in particular the operation and adequacy of the Repatriation Act and the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act, such committee to commence its inquiry not earlier than 1st January 1970’.
It will be seen that that is a little different from the amendment which was proposed last year. This proposal includes reference to the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act. That was done because I feel that returned soldiers have suffered by reason of the provisions of the Act and something should be done to help them. They are very dissatisfied with the deal that they are getting. There have been many deputations to members of Parliament in South Australia as well as in other States where the scheme exists. That proves that something will have to be done, and I believe that a committee such as is envisaged by the Australian Labor Party will do it.
I shall not go into detail on all aspects of the anomalies which exist in the Repatriation Act. Senator Cavanagh, Senator
McClelland, Senator Poyser, Senator Georges and Senator Bishop have touched on them. The time has now come when something should be done to remove the anomalies. If we look at the annual report of 1968 of the National Executive of the Returned Services League we find at page 22 under the heading ‘Repatriation’ that this organisation also has pressed for a committee to be set up to inquire into this matter. Its request is not along the same lines as that of the committee proposed by the Australian Labor Party. The RSL seeks an independent non-parliamentary committee. So it seems that, at any rate, a committee should be set up, whether it should be a parliamentary committee or a non-parliamentary committee.
Let me read from this report what the RSL says about the setting up of this committee. The report states:
By resolution of the 53rd National Congress, the 1969 War Pension Plan is based onthe Plan for 1968 with the addition of the request for a non-Parliamentary Committee of Review as Item No. 1.
The 1969 Plan is as follows:
The report continues to deal with repatriation hospital, medical and pharmaceutical benefits. It is essential that a committee of some description should be established. I do not know why-
– Has the honourable senator my motion before him?
– I state there: ‘such a committee to commence its inquiry not earlier than 1st January 1970’. I think that this would give the committee the opportunity to be set up.
– But all committees go out of existence when the Parliament is prorogued?
– This would still give us the right to appoint the committee when we return. Rumours are going around this place. I do not know how true they are. According to one rumour we will return before Christmas while another rumour indicates that we will return early in the new year. Whichever is correct, I feel that the time is ripe for such a committee to be set up. Why has the Government not done something about the committee that was agreed to in 1968? Twelve months have gone by. All the things about which honourable senators on this side of the Committee have spoken about today and tonight existed at this time last year. They still exist. Nothing has been done about them.
Honourable senators know that when an applicant makes an application or a request to the Repatriation Department as regards pension entitlements or increases in pensions, or when they make such an application for an ex-serviceman, more often than not a very terse note is received in reply in which it is stated that the request or appeal has been dismissed and that no action will be taken on the part of the Repatriation Department. What happens then if the applicant concerned wishes to make an appeal? As Senator Cavanagh has pointed out on more than one occasion here today, the applicant must produce new evidence that is relevant to his application. How can new evidence be obtained by a man of 65 years of age or 70 years of age who is an ex-serviceman from the First World War? In many cases, some servicemen from the Second World War were sick in the Army but they never reported to their RAP - that is, regimental aid post - and consequently no record was kept of their illness. Now, later in life, these illnesses are coming back on them but they have no redress because no records have been kept of their earlier illnesses. I feel that the Committee should give consideration to the motion that I have moved tonight on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. I hope that the Committee will carry it.
Rescission of Order of the Senate
Debate resumed (vide page 760).
– Mr Deputy President, honourable senators will forgive me if I reiterate a little of the background to the matter now before the Senate. The circumstances are that this afternoon a senator was suspended from the service of the Senate. He was suspended in accordance with the provisions of the Standing Orders. In accordance with the Standing Orders, he was called upon in the Committee to withdraw certain remarks. He was named by the Temporary Chairman. Progress was reported. A report was made by the Temporary Chairman to the Senate.
Then, in accordance with the Standing Orders, the senator was called upon to give an explanation or apologise. The senator rose in his place and made a statement. In fact, he did say:’I apologise’. He did not acknowledge, in his explanation, the order that was put upon him by the Temporary Chairman in the Committee to withdraw. Then, I, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, pursuant to the Standing Orders, moved for his suspension. My motion was put to a vote and it was carried. The Presiding Officer then stated that the senator, whom he named, was suspended from the service of the Senate for the remainder of the sitting.
At 8 o’clock, the Presiding Officer, on taking the Chair, pointed out that, under standing order 441, because Senator Keeffe had been suspended previously during the session - this was the second occasion on which he had been suspended - his suspension would operate for a period of 1 week. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) then moved that the order of the Senate suspending Senator Keeffe from the sitting of the Senate be rescinded. So, we have the situation that the Senate expressed its will by a vote taken at approximately 6 o’clock. It decided, by a resolution, to suspend the senator. We then lifted for dinner and after the resumption, actually within 5 minutes in terms of sitting time, Senator Murphy, having been given leave, to conform with the Standing Orders, moved that the vote of the Senate be rescinded. The Government cannot support Senator Murphy’s motion. He gave a number of reasons for it. They were, as I understood them, technical reasons. One argument was based on the fact that, because Senator Keeffe in fact committed the offence in Committee, when he was named, and the report was made to the Senate and he was called upon to give an explanation, he could not in fact withdraw because at that stage he was in the Senate. I find that an extraordinary argument to follow. I do not accept it. The Government does not accept it.
There was also a point made that because the Presiding Officer said that Senator Keeffe would be suspended from the service of the Senate for the remainder of the sitting, that introduced another element, because at 8 o’clock he said that in fact Senator Keeffe was suspended for a week. This is a matter upon which the Presiding Officer himself may wish to comment. I do not know. I do not accept that as an argument either, because standing order 441 makes it perfectly clear that when there is a second offence the period of suspension shall be 1 week. However, I do not propose to dwell upon the circumstances. The fact of the matter is that the vote of the Senate was taken and the senator was suspended. My view as Leader of the Government, and the Government view, is that we cannot support the motion of rescission moved by Senator Murphy.
– Do I take it that we are now discussing the motion for rescission?
– As I understand this case - I was not here when the offensive remark was made-
– Well, the alleged offensive remark. I ask honourable senators to bear with me awhile and think of the emotional build-up to this particular remark. During the period that I have been in the Senate many senators have said grave things about other senators, about rulings, etc., and they have not been asked even to withdraw. The extent to which one is permitted to go would depend upon the type of individual who seeks a withdrawal.
This particular remark in a repatriation debate, which had reference to what was believed to be the will of sections from the Government side on the treatment of 20- year-old children, found someone sufficiently thin skinned, mean, low enough to ask for a withdrawal.
– You are getting as low as the other fellow.
– From that arose a demand for a withdrawal.
– I raise a point of order. I have never asked for a withdrawal of any remark since I came into the Senate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Order! You can make your explanation afterwards.
– I want a withdrawal of Senator Sim’s remark. He claimed that Senator Cavanagh was getting lower than the other fellow. I want a withdrawal of that remark.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - I am afraid that I did not hear it.
– It is unfortunate that the statement should be made, but the statement that Senator Poyser objected to was made. He has asserted that it was made and it has not been denied that it was made. Even if you yourself did not hear it, Mr Deputy President, it nevertheless was made, and I do not think that the senator who made the statement would deny it. I heard the statement; it was made. You being assured that the statement was made, and it is not being denied that it was made, I think that in fairness a withdrawal ought to be called for, otherwise the proceedings of the Senate will be liable to become increasingly disorderly, I would ask that you require the senator to withdraw his statement.
– Because I believe in the dignity of the Senate and the upholding of the Standing Orders-
– 1 raise a point of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The Chair will adjudicate. I call Senator Sim.
– If offence was taken by Senator Poyser I withdraw.
– I raise a point of order. I want an unqualified withdrawal from Senator Sim.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I call Senator Cavanagh.
– Having decided that issue, Mr Deputy President, you bring up an important point. I wonder did the Temporary Chairman hear the statement of Senator Keeffe which he was asked to withdraw.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! If you want a repetition of my not hearing an interjection and you want to go through what we have just gone through you should keep on interjecting as some have been doing, and talking in loud voices. If you want me to adjudicate as you hope I would can we have silence while Senator Cavanagh is making his remarks?
– Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I only want to say in relation to the remark which has been withdrawn that if the statement ‘you are getting lower than the other fellow’ was a reference1-
– I must rise to order. The honourable senator must not reflect on the ruling and withdrawal.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I ask you, Senator Cavanagh, to think over your remarks and rephrase them.
– I am not in any degree reflecting upon either the ruling or the withdrawal. I am commenting on some remarks that were made in this chamber.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! You cannot canvass my ruling. Just go on and speak to the motion.
– Very well, Mr Deputy Chairman. When I was rudely interrupted I had got to the point where I was about to say that Senator Keeffe shows great emotion on the subject of returned servicemen at any time. Senator Keeffe has played his part in the defence of Australia. He has a 70% repatriation disability for which he receives benefits. He suffered as a result of service as a young man. For him this subject is a matter of some great emotion. He is much concerned at the slaughter that is going on. His own questions have brought out what he considers to be a useless waste of life in Vietnam at the present time. It is not only what he considers; it is what will be accepted, I feel confident, by the withdrawal of troops which has commenced. Figures given to Senator Keeffe in answer to questions on the last Thursday on which we sat show that nine young men in Australia today are receiving a TPI pension because of their service in Vietnam. One is receiving the intermediate rate pension as a result of his service in Vietnam; 146 are receiving the 100% war pension as the result of their service in Vietnam; and 1,397 have disabilities entitling them to a pension of between 10% and 97% of the full general rate. How many of those men were conscripts we do not know; nor do we know how many did not have a call to duty. Repatriation pension entitlements for exservicemen from Vietnam are costing Australia $291,018 per annum and an additional sum of $171,652 is being paid to the dependants of ex-servicemen. These amounts do not include medical costs, which cannot be assessed.
– I rise to order. Are we permitted in this debate on a motion to rescind a decision of the Senate to canvass the estimates for the Department of Repatriation as a whole?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I shall have to hear a little more argument from Senator Cavanagh before deciding that question. I ask Senator Cavanagh to link his remarks with the motion.
– We have just had an announcement that the Government does not support the motion to rescind the decision. That is the hard fact of the matter. The Government has made that decision and we cannot succeed if the motion is put to a vote unless in the Government ranks there is someone with sufficient sympathy, sufficient idea of justice and sufficient conscience to reject this decision, whoever made it, and to see that justice is done. This cannot be achieved with the help of Senator Branson because he has hardened his heart to anything that I might say. However, there might be someone in the Government ranks with a grain of mercy in his soul.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I do not think the honourable senator should make a reflection of that nature.
– I am endeavouring to show that there are reasons and justification for Senator Keeffe acting as he did. It was an incident that would never have happened on any other question. Is this not deserving of some consideration? The point I was making was that Senator Keeffe was seeking information on the basis of information that had been supplied to him. That was in his mind at the time of this incident, as were also the answers which he had been given on the last Thursday that the Senate sat.
I conclude my remarks on that aspect by saying that Senator Keeffe was aware also that as a result of the conflict in Vietnam there are in Australia 67 young girls who have to raise, educate and maintain in good health 117 orphaned children. These were the thoughts that Senator Keeffe had in mind. As I was not in the chamber at the time I am unaware of the answers that he was getting to his questions, but I do know that since I have been in the chamber there has not been a decent reply from the Minister on behalf of the Repatriation Department to any question that has been asked on the estimates for that Department. This creates a wrath among responsible Opposition senators and it is as a result of interjections in this atmosphere that Senator Keeffe made his remark.
– There were no interjections.
– ‘If that is so I apologise. As a result of the treatment that Senator Keeffe was receiving he made the remark with a determination so that when he was asked by the Temporary Chairman to withdraw the remark he refused to do so. The matter was then reported to the Senate. When the honourable senator had time for reflection he did all that he possibly could to correct the situation, but despite that, not because of a decision of the Senate but because some individual asked for a withdrawal, the honourable senator was suspended and ordered to remain out of the House for a week. The honourable senator has a responsibility and a duty to ex-servicemen, as every honourable senator has, whether he is on this side or on the Government side of the chamber, to ensure that they receive justice. But, because of the multitude of questions he wanted to ask, Government supporters voted en bloc for the purpose of getting this questioner outside the chamber so that he would not irritate the Department on these repatriation issues. That is the score on Senator Keeffe.
I appeal to honourable senators opposite, now that they have had an opportunity to consider this whole question in a cool, calm atmosphere, to support the motion to rescind the decision. Senator Keeffe’s remark was said in the heat of the moment. It was something that should not have been said, but Senator Keeffe showed his remorse when he had an opportunity to do so. However, there was a desire that Senator Keeffe should not be in the chamber while the estimates for the Repatriation Department were being considered. 1 suggest that it is the lack of co-operation between the parties in this place that creates hostility in the Opposition. In the interests of the good working of this chamber I appeal to some Government supporters or members of the Democratic Labor Party to consider this motion in the light of the facts and the emotions that influenced Senator Keeffe.
– I ask the Senate to rescind the motion for the suspension of Senator Keeffe. I propose to refer to the circumstances surrounding this incident which occurred before the suspension of the sitting earlier tonight. I should say that if we were to examine any issue to which the Senate has applied itself during the 69 years of federation it would be realised that the matter of Vietnam and of our soldiers being there, with which is involved the conscription issue, would be the most divisive and controversial and one of the worst situations that has been found in this country. It is a situation in which not only honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber but honourable senators on this side are divided. The churches, communities, brothers and sisters are divided on this highly controversial issue.
As has been explained, Senator Keeffe was evidently carried away when he developed his thoughts and expressed to the Committee what he thought about the Government’s policy on Vietnam. In any democratic parliament throughout the world it will be found that the essence of democracy is for a man to be able to express his views. Those views may not always be expressed in the choicest of language. But let us consider this incident calmly. First, Senator Keeffe expressed his views and exception was taken to them. The Standing Orders were not fulfilled as the words used were not taken down by the Clerk. Under standing order 271 there should have been a direction that the words be taken down, but this requirement was not observed. Standing Order 271 states that ‘the Chairman shall direct them to be taken down’ in order that they may be reported to the Senate, but this was not done. The Standing Orders were not observed in this case.
– But the senator did not desire them to be taken down and that is the condition upon which that standing order operates.
– The standing order says that the Chairman shall direct them to be taken down.
– Only if the senator asks that they be taken down. He did not ask for them to be taken down.
– The objecting senator did not ask for them to be taken down.
– Therefore the Chairman has no power to direct.
– According to the Standing Order the Chairman shall direct the words to be taken down in order that the same may be reported to the Senate. The requirements of the Standing Order were not fulfilled. Although our gracious Madam Temporary Chairman fulfils the position of chairman very well, she failed in this particular case to carry out the Standing Orders. The next situation that we face is a report of misconduct being made to the Senate. Senator Keeffe felt that he was carrying out the Standing Orders. Standing Order 440 reads:
When any senator has been reported as having committed an offence he shall be called upon to stand up in his place and make any explanation and apology he may think fit. . . .
Senator Keeffe stood up in his place and made an unqualified apology.
– I insist on stating that Senator Keeffe made an unqualified apology. Would you have accepted an unqualified apology? That is what the Standing Orders call for.
– Read standing order 438 (c).
– That Standing Order does not say so, but if he used objectionable words they should have been taken down. That is the point. I want you to be reasonable about this.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The honourable senator will address the Chair.
– I think I had better address you, Sir. I would much prefer to address you. The position is that the words were not taken down and the objectionable words were never stated. Senator Marriott did not repeat the words or ask that they be taken down. The point I am making is that we are asking for reason. A very difficult situation has arisen in a very emotional setting over a matter that will not be resolved in perhaps the next 50 years. That is the question as to whether the Senate, the Government and the Parliament have been right in their overseas policy with regard to Vietnam. This is a highly controversial matter immersed in and surrounded by emotion.
I submit on behalf of Senator Keeffe that he has fulfilled the requirements of the standing order. He has to rely now on the feelings of the Senate as to whether he has done what was required of him by the Standing Orders. I honestly believe - and I think this will be confirmed by my colleagues - that if Senator Keeffe had the opportunity to come before you he would apologise unreservedly to the Senate. The other day Senator Wright was asked to withdraw a remark, and he said: ‘In deference to the Chair, I withdraw.’ That was accepted graciously by the Chair, and it was not queried by us.
After all, these things happen. I am quite certain that if Senator Wright had that time over again he would not say the things he was asked to withdraw. But these things do happen in this chamber. I do feel that we can resolve this matter. We are men representing our fellow men in this Parliament. One of our colleagues has transgressed and has apologised. I ask that the Senate grant whatever concessions can be granted to cover the situation and so let us get on with the business of the Senate.
– I support the remarks of Senator Murphy and Senator O’Byrne. I think I know as much about the matter as anybody does because I was in the Senate at the time. I agree entirely with those honourable senators who have said that Senator Keeffe was very much disturbed over the matter that he was presenting. This is no idle argument. The case about which he spoke is one about which I myself feel strongly.
Honourable senators might recall that the incident happened when he was discussing a claim by an ex-serviceman who had given 10 years service in the Army, who had been in the Second World War, who had been in the Occupation Forces in Japan, who had served in Korea, who had served in the Army in the post-Korea years, who had obtained employment in the Repatriation Department and who had obtained compensation by way of pension for his disability. When he went to work in the Repatriation Department, which is a department set up by the Government to award compensation to ex-servicemen who are injured as a result of war service, he found that the very department that was commissioned to protect ex-servicemen was penalising him in that it would not give him the status of a permanent employee because of some rule laid down by an outside body - the Public Service Board.
That is the basis of Senator Keeffe’s objections. In discussing the matter, he got very emotionally involved and, as a result, said some words which were not intended in the sense that Senator Marriott accepted them in making his objection. Senator Keeffe’s intention was to describe a situation where young men were being conscripted to go overseas to Vietnam and get killed, or where they would be killed in some circumstances as a result of war service.
I heard almost the whole of the argument. Senator Marriott objected to the words, and I agree that in some circumstances some people would feel that the statement meant that the Government, or Senator Marriott, was in fact sending people to be killed. What Senator Keeffe said, in fact - this is as I heard it, and I was in the chamber - was: ‘Under instructions from my Whip, I withdraw’. The Hansard record reveals that that is what he said. So far as I am aware, there is no obligation on him under the Standing Orders to say anything more or less than that. He withdrew because standing order 438, paragraph (cj, requires him to do so for it refers to an honourable senator who uses objectionable words and refuses to withdraw such words. Senator Keeffe in fact withdrew the words and the only objection anyone might take - it would be a petty one - would be to his use of the words: ‘Under instructions from my Whip’. Who can honestly argue that an instruction such as this might not be given in lots of cases outside this chamber once a man had taken certain action? Many honourable senators in this chamber, both those in government and those in opposition, would be instructed very frequently by their party to do certain things. So Senator Keeffe would be instructed anyway whether you like it or not.
Senator Keeffe did withdraw the words that were complained about and the objection that he used the additional words: Under instructions from my Whip’ seems to me to be too petty to warrant the imposition of this sort of penalty on a senator who is himself an ex-serviceman. In effect, he is required to suffer a second penalty in that he loses one week of service in the Senate instead of one day.
I ask honourable senators to consider the circumstances in which repatriation matters are discussed on all occasions. In every instance when these matters are discussed in the Senate the debate is charged with emotion, and so it should be. In the same way, the debates on the Vietnam question are frequently charged with emotion. These are subjects which give rise to strong feelings. Many men who have served in the armed forces are acutely aware of the position. In my reading of the Standing Orders, Senator Keeffe did all that was required of him. He did in fact withdraw and, following his withdrawal, there was some interchange of words when the position developed into one contrary to what might be argued to be the principles of the Senate.
– Really, if this is the sort of conduct that goes on in the Senate, it is no wonder the Australian people have a poor opinion of politics. When party politics come in, obviously reason goes out.
– You are in a party.
– I am not interfering in this. We have heard from a member of the House exactly what was said. Is there any difference between saying ‘in deference to the Chair’ or ‘in deference to the Whip’? What is the difference?
– The honourable senator asks: ‘What is the difference?’ He does not understand.
– No, we do not have the brains that the Minister has. The Minister, who is so puffed up with his importance since he became Minister, can address the Chair so fluently now, but so many months ago when he was not Minister he was just as disloyal to that side of the House as those about whom he now speaks.
– Keep going.
– All right, try to get me roused and I will talk about you. I regard this debate as one of the most petty debates that we could have. One side wants to score against the other side. Neither side is thinking. If one side wants to score a victory and it has the numbers, it wins.
– in reply - I suggest that the truth of what Senator Turnbull said could be demonstrated no better than by the interjection which occurred while he was speaking. The Minister for Works (Senator Wright) interjected that Senator Turnbull did not know the difference between withdrawing and saying: In deference to your ruling, Mr Deputy President, I withdraw’.
– On the advice of the Whip.
– Or ‘in deference to the Whip’. Senator Keeffe said:
I have withdrawn in exactly the same terms as Senator Wright did, and I apologise in the same terms.
Senator Keeffe was referring to a previous occasion when Senator Wright was called upon to withdraw. This was on 21st August 1969. Page 232 of Hansard shows that the Minister made an offensive remark.
– He sits on the right side of God now.
– That is right. The Hansard report reads:
– I think the Minister is going further than he should and I call upon him to withdraw.
– In deference to your ruling, Mr President, I withdraw the words although I am in the presence of honourable senators who yesterday glibly referred to other honourable senators as being infamous and who talked about terrible injustice and so on.
Another example of what is accepted by the Senate is what Senator Sim said.
– I withdrew unconditionally.
– That is fair enough. The honourable senator interprets what he did as an unconditional withdrawal. What did he say when he was called upon to withdraw? He said words to this effect: Because I believe in the dignity of the Senate I withdraw the statement if it is offensive to honourable senators’. That is what he said.
– Fair enough.
– That is fair enough. In good faith the honourable senator regards that as an unconditional withdrawal. What was said by Senator Keeffe when he was required to withdraw? The remark made by Senator Keeffe was not ‘on instructions’; the remark was not even as strong as that. Senator Keeffe said:
At the request of my Whip I will withdraw if it is offensive to honourable senators.
I am quoting from the Hansard report. 1 contend that that is a withdrawal, that it should be accepted and that should be the end of the matter. The Temporary Chairman said:
Not at the request of the Whip.
Senator Keeffe said:
Madam Chair, I have apologised to the Senate. I think that I have complied with the Standing Orders.
The Temporary Chairman thought otherwise. Senator Keeffe was reported to the Deputy President because he did not withdraw the remark. In accordance with Standing Orders Senator Keeffe was called upon to explain or apologise. He rose and he apologised.
– He was called upon by the Presiding Officer to apologise.
– He was called upon to explain or apologise.
– Would the honourable senator read out what Senator Keeffe said?
– Yes. The Hansard report states:
– Mr Deputy President, under the provisions of standing order 440 I ask that Senator Keeffe be called upon to stand in his place and to make any explanation or apology he may think fit.
– Mr Deputy President,I believe that any words I used were in conformity with what I personally felt and in conformity with the Standing Orders. An objection was taken by Senator Marriott. I do not want to make this personal, but it is his main occupation. So I apologised to the Senate. Now I believe that my apology was completely in accordance with Standing Orders. I feel a lot for these kids who are dying for this country. I believe that what I said was said with sincerity and was not intended to be offensive. I hope that is accepted as an explanation. Wherever I have offended against the forms of the Senate, for that I apologise.
That was an apology. If anyone is quibbling about that, Senator Keeffe intended that to be an apology without reservation or qualification. I am authorised by him to say here and now - he cannot say it because he cannot be here - and I convey to the Senate that he does apologise as he intended. He apologises without reservation or qualification. On that basis I ask that the Senate accept that as an apology. The matter is one for the Senate. Fair enough, let this be the end of the matter. I ask the Senate to support the motion. If it is not carried, it will be a blot on the Senate, however unintended. The fact is that in the carrying out of the incidental judicial process of this Senate the honourable senator’s suspension was increased. The honourable senator was sentenced to 1 day’s suspension, which suspension was not in accordance with the Standing Orders. He was told that he was suspended for a day. Is the situation now to be that the honourable senator, in all the circumstances, is to be suspended for a week? I have conveyed his apology. Honourable senators have heard what happened. Is there anything wrong with Senator Keeffe saying, as he did, that at the request of the Whip he withdraws? Is there anything wrong with him saying that at the request of anyone he withdraws if it is offensive to honourable senators? We have to couple that statement with an apology which, as I have said, is unreserved and unqualified. Surely honourable senators ought to be looking at this matter now as individuals because they will commit them selves individually by what they do in regard to the exercise of this incidental judicial process of the Senate. I think it is fair enough that, as a matter of reasonableness and justice, the suspension ought to be lifted. I ask the Senate so to resolve.
That the order of the Senate suspending Senator Keeffe from the sitting of the Senate be rescinded (Senator Murphy’s motion).
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Consideration resumed (vide page 774), on motion:
That the Committee take note of the proposed expenditure.
Proposed expenditure, $306,855,000.
Proposed provision, $110,000.
Upon which Senator Drury had moved by way of amendment:
At the end of motion add: ‘and recommends to the Senate that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon all aspects of expenditure on and in connection with Repatriation, including the adequacy of the rates and allowances provided for and all other aspects of Repatriation and in particular the operation and adequacy of the Repatriation Act and the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act, such committee to commence its inquiry not earlier than 1st January 1970.’
– I second the amendment moved by Senator Drury. I do not intend to engage in a long argument on the merits of it. I point out to the Committee that a similar amendment was carried last year. On two or three other occasions on which we have debated repatriation matters this issue has been raised. So the matter has been tested previously. In fact, last year the amendment was carried; but despite that the Government did not take any action on it. In my view the case for the setting up of a select committee on repatriation has been put pretty well and it should not be necessary to argue it tonight. The basic arguments raised in the submissions of the ex-service organisations and in our submissions in this chamber are that many ex-servicemen are not receiving the benefits of the Repatriation Act, as was intended, and that there has been such a long gap since the last investigation that a new one should be made.
The only real investigation that has been made was made in 1943 when the Labor Government, which was in power at that time, appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Mr Pollard. In the meantime the only inquiries that have been made have been made by special government committees. Requests have been made fairly frequently by all the ex-service organisations, including the Returned Services League, for certain modifications of the Act. The arguments for those modifications have been canvassed again tonight. They are pretty well recognised.
Added to this controversy about repatriation have been the recent allegations to the effect that some people are receiving benefits under the Repatriation Act when they are not entitled to them. I put it to the Committee that the setting up of a select committee would give anybody who felt that there were some injustices and that too liberal a policy was being adopted by the government committees a chance to come before the select committee and put his arguments on these matters. There is no doubt that many ex-servicemen are not receiving what they should receive, namely, entitlements under the Repatriation Act for war caused disabilities. Many of the reasons for this are related to the absence of records of what happened during the service of these men in the armed forces. Many of them are related to the fact that no witnesses are available. Everybody knows now that if an ex-serviceman makes an application and fails to secure a pension or a reassessment of his pension he is forced to go outside and obtain additional evidence in writing from medical sources and so on, when in fact the onus should be the other way.
The only difference between our present proposal and the amendment that was carried last year is that Senator Drury has proposed an investigation of the War Service Land Settlement Act. I think the reason for this is pretty well known. Representations have been made to Ministers by soldier settlers in several places. For example, the former Minister for Primary Industry received a number of deputations from soldier settlers on Kangaroo Island, in the Loxton area and in Zone 5 in the south east of South Australia. Those deputations complained about the great disabilities of soldier settlers arising from new valuations which had been placed upon their properties by the South Australian Lands Department. In each state the Lands Department acts for the war service land settlement administration in relation to these matters.
The issues have been canvassed pretty well. They related to rentals that were too high for the settlers to pay and disabilities in relation to the blocks that the settlers had in the Loxton area. Their representatives are still writing to Senator Drury and others, complaining that they cannot make a living on these blocks. In many cases the blocks are being sold, as people in the Department know, because they say they are uneconomic. In regard to Zone 5 in South Australia, as far as I am aware, legislation is still pending. I see Senator Cameron looking at me with interest now. No doubt he knows something about this. There were deputations to the Government - to the Labor Party certainly - about the law case in which they were contesting the new rentals which had been applied. When Mr Corcoran was Minister of Lands in South Australia he promised that any variations resulting from the court application would be applied to soldier settlers on Kangaroo Island. Kangaroo Island has been the centre of a long and vexed complaint. Most of the South Australian senators - the Labor senators anyway - have been across there at different times. We have had representations from there. The Returned Services League has been a party to these representations. South Australian Ministers have been on Kangaroo Island but still the soldier settlers over there are not happy about the position.
The only way in which these complaints can be rectified is by setting up a special committee before which these problems can be investigated properly and without too much heat. Anybody who has taken part in the debate in this chamber today must agree that if we had placed before a committee the repatriation issues which we have argued across the chamber today it would have been much better for everybody, because none of the incidents we have witnessed would have occurred and the possibility is that the matters which are complained of would be better analysed. For these general reasons I suggest that what honourable senators ought to do, to be consistent with what they did before, is to support the amendment proposed by Senator Drury.
The only other point I wish to make is that no great stress is placed upon this committee’s operation. We believe that it would be reasonable to give any government the chance to bring it into operation perhaps in the new year. Whatever legal arguments might be obtained about the Parliament being prorogued, the point is that this would be a firm determination of honourable senators and it would follow earlier determination. Surely we should accept what we have accepted before and carry out this analysis, which is long overdue.
[10.33] - First of all, I wish to speak to the amendment which has been moved. In speaking against this amendment I remind honourable senators that there is always a continuing opportunity for review of the system by the Parliament. I also remind honourable senators, of course, that the regular introduction of amending legislation provides the occasion for parliamentary discussion, and there are other forms such as notices of motion, questions and speaking on the debate for the adjournment of the Senate by which these matters can be brought up. Within the Department possible changes are always under consideration and are made if they are warranted. I remind honourable senators that the Government has set up a special ex-servicemen’s committee of the Cabinet which annually receives and considers proposals presented to it by the Returned Services League. There is also a Government Members Exservicemen’s Committee which makes submissions to the Government on repatriation affairs generally. There is a continuing contact with the many ex-service organisations and other organisations - for example, Legacy - which are interested in repatriation and repatriation pensioners.
Repatriation, medical and related services are developed in the light of advancing knowledge and in the light of the needs of the people concerned - the patients. I believe that all these are points which show that there is always a continuing opportunity for review and a continuing concern for these matters. I have two other points to reply to. I presume, Mr Temporary Chairman, that having made a comment about the amendment I can reply to other points raised. Is this in order?
– I want to refer to the matter of war and service pensions and allowances which was brought up by Senator Cavanagh, and to reply to his comments about the payment of cheques. The fact that there is one bank payment less this year compared with last year is reflected in the estimate for the division as a whole. The total reduction because of that is $ 1.1.1m. While the total increase in Division 464 is shown as $5m, in fact the increase excluding the bank payment factor is of the order of $16m. There is an increase in all four items in Division 464 if the bank payment I have mentioned is taken into account. I hope that clears up the point that was concerning Senator Canavagh.
Senator Georges raised a point regarding travel for ex-servicemen who are receiving attention. My reply to Senator Georges is that where an ex-serviceman is required to travel for the purposes of receiving medical attention to which he is entitled his fares are paid, and where he incurs expenses for meals or accommodation an allowance is paid to him. This applies not only to TPI pensioners but to all pensioners. Then the honourable senator referred to Question No. 1362 which he asked. I remind him that this question did not refer to travel for medical treatment. It mentioned concessions granted by the operators of road and rail services to TPI pensioners but stated that similar concessions were not available for air travel. These kinds of concession are made available by State government authorities and private operators and not by the Repatriation Department as part of the repatriation system. I come back to the first point in my reply to the honourable senator, which was that where this assistance is required for travel for medical attention it is given.
– Do you give them air travel?
– I think we give them any type of travel as long as it is satisfactory.
– Then why this reply? It simply says-
– I think the honourable senator is talking about two different things. This is what I tried to explain to him. In his question to me he asked about travel arrangements for persons receiving medical attention. I informed him of the assistance given. Then I referred the honourable senator to his question No. 1362, and I am informed that in that question he did not refer to travel for medical treatment.
– I would say you are quibbling.
– I do not think I am quibbling. I think I am giving the honourable senator an answer.
– Paragraph 3 of question No. 1362 refers to occasions when TPI pensioners are too ill to travel by other means.
– I think that the honourable senator has another point to raise. He should raise it in the proper manner and then I will answer it.
– I regret that I have to refer again to the nature of the replies we are getting, particularly on the point that I raised. I accept the figures given in the Minister’s reply in relation to Division 464. I can accept that But again this year we are adopting the procedure of previous years and are just passing these appeals to a tribunal without the Minister for Repatriation accepting the responsibility which is rightly his. I asked what type of evidence was material for entitlement under a particular claim. The Minister replied that the entitlement must be considered in the light of the particular case. I think that is a way of evading my request to be told what type of evidence is necessary: The Repatriation Act provides that any ex-serviceman with a war caused disability is entitled to treatment or a pension according to the degree of disability. This is not necessarily established by the production of evidence. The onus of proof provision, section 47, states in part: (2.) It shall not be necessary for the claimant, applicant or appellant to furnish proof to support his claim, application or appeal but the Commission, Board, Appeal Tribunal or Assessment Appeal Tribunal determining or deciding the claim, application or appeal shall be entitled to draw, and shall draw, from all the circumstances of the case, from the evidence furnished and from medical opinions, all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant, applicant or appellant, . . .
That is the only time that action can be taken upon an inference. Section 47 goes on: and in all cases whatsoever the onus of proof shall lie on the person or authority who contends that the claim, application or appeal should not be granted or allowed to the full extent claimed.
The provision applies to all appeals. Let us not consider only the case I have mentioned. Let us consider the case of an exserviceman who claims that he has a disability which is war caused. It is not necessary for him to produce any evidence. The claim is sufficient for the Commission and a tribunal to consider. In the case to which I have referred, after the tribunal considered it, it came to the conclusion on the weight of evidence that the man’s complaint was not war caused. That was the end of that particular application. The man concerned then obtained the opinions of four medical specialists that the tribunal was wrong. If the tribunal had disregarded those opinions and said that it did not accept them, it would as a group of laymen have been contradicting the medical evidence of specialists. It did not do that. The tribunal acted in accordance with section 64 (7.), which states:
If, at any time after a decision of an Appeal Tribunal made under sub-section (3.) or subsection (6.) of this section, the appellant submits to the Commission in writing any further evidence which, in the opinion of the Commission, is material to, and has a substantial bearing upon, the appellant’s claim-
If the Tribunal had said that all the medical evidence was wrong it would have been held up to ridicule. But on no occasion did it say that. It said: ‘This is not material to and does not have a substantial bearing upon the appellant’s claim. Therefore we do not disagree with it but we cannot consider it’. That is the position we have reached now. The ex-serviceman concerned has seen either four or five doctors, three of whom are specialists in the particular complaint. Those specialists say that the man’s disability could have been caused by war service. Against those opinions is that of a Repatriation doctor who relies upon the book ‘Diseases of the ‘Heart and Arteries’ by Evans, printed in 1960. He quotes the opinion of Friedberg in his text book and what was said by Piatt, a practitioner, in July 1964. To find out what they did say I went to the Parliamentary Library, the staff of which ascertained that the books were not available from the National Library. They gave me three books on heart disease, all of which contain views differing from those of Evans, Friedberg and Piatt. These are prominent medical men in their field. One comes to the conclusion that the cause of hypertension is unknown in the medical world.
There are many theories. Professor Korner of the University of Sydney is conducting experiments. Hypertension is rare among natives in New Guinea. Following experiments Professor Korner has come to this conclusion:
The problem of whether a patient with essential hypertension could sutler from a raised blood pressure because of mental stress is a very difficult one. Current medical opinion on the whole inclines against it, but I believe that our findings suggest that it is entirely possible and the matter should therefore be considered an open question.
– Entirely possible in what way?
– That it could be caused by mental stress. While medical opinion was strongly against the view, research has discovered that medical opinion may have been wrong. It frequently happens. Medical opinion has to change at times in respect of different diseases. In the case to which I have been referring three specialists, two other doctors and Professor Korner state that he has a claim. The tribunal says in effect, that he might have the best claim in the world but it is unable in its interpretation of section 64 (7.) to consider the evidence. Section 64 (7.) does not require the tribunal to look into the evidence to discover whether it is right. When a report from a specialist on a particular disease is presented, stating that in the specialist’s belief the disability is war caused, it is not for the tribunal at that stage to decide under section 64(7.) whether the specialist’s opinion is correct. It is for the tribunal to decide whether the fresh evidence is material to and has a substantial bearing upon the appellant’s claim. It does not have to consider the medical opinion at all. This is what is happening in the application of the Repatriation Act.
It has become very obvious that the Act is not being properly interpreted. This has been plainly pointed out. Rather than the Minister contradicting anything that I say or a specialist says, those opinions must be considered in the light of that particular case. Opinions vary greatly. In cases where it has been found that an applicant has no case, any further medical evidence must be surely material to the claim, irrespective of whether it is right or wrong. It must be material to and have a substantial bearing upon the case and should permit the tribunal to reconsider the evidence and make a decision. Before the application reaches a tribunal it is rejected by a Commissioner. I do not know whether the Commissioners act in the same way in each State. The Commissioners are acting under the direction of the Minister. We have not detailed the facts of this case before. No matter what the other circumstances may be, can anyone visualise a case in which a man has a medical certificate to show that he has a disability which, in the opinion of the medical practitioner, was due to war service and which could not be interpreted as being material to or as having a substantial bearing on the case? It would be hard to visualise such a case but that is the interpretation the Minister has given of section 64 of the Act. The Minister suggests that I should be content with that evasive reply.
– That is not evasive. That is an accurate statement.
– It evades the question I asked. Let me put it this way: Would a specialist’s report on a man to the effect that the man had a disability which, in the specialist’s opinion, was caused by war service be regarded by the Minister as being material to or as having a substantial bearing on the case? Can the Minister conceive an occasion when that would not be material to or have a substantial bearing on the case? The training of ex-servicemen was raised by Senator Bishop. Let me go a little further. During the last war I was a member of a post-war reconstruction training committee. Men in one of the skilled manual trades were placed in employment after six months full time training in a school, and 40 per cent of their wage was paid by the employer and 60 per cent by the Government. The 60 per cent subsidy was paid by the Government on the basis that the 6 months intensive training made the employee, a returned serviceman, 40 per cent proficient in the particular occupation. Every three months I think there was a 5 per cent alteration in the basis of the subsidy and after 5 years service the subsidy cut out because the trainee was regarded then as being an efficient tradesman.
Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I am certain now that I was fobbed off in the reply given by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) to question No. 1362 on the notice paper. The question was evaded and was not answered in a proper manner. The relevant parts of the question are as follows:
Senator McKellar’s reply was in these terms:
I was referring to air travel by TPI pensioners who were too ill to travel by any other means - are not provided by the Repatriation Department but by the relevant transport authorities themselves. In the circumstances, I am unable to assist the honourable senator.
When I spoke earlier I asked the Minister why it was the responsibility of the State transport authorities to provide free transport facilities for TPI pensioners who had to travel from one place to another for health or any other reasons. I stated that I thought this was an imposition upon the State authorities. That aspect has not been answered. I also asked why the Repatriation Department was not prepared to use some of the $41,310,000, which is mentioned in Division No. 466, to provide free transport facilities for TPI pensioners within the States, especially air travel for those who were too ill to travel by road or rail. For some reason the Minister has replied that if they travel for medical attention they receive free transport but if they travel for any other reason, even if they are very ill, they receive no concession and have to throw themselves upon the mercy of the State. If they are too ill to travel by road or rail and have to travel by air, the TPI pensioners have to bear the full cost.
In this matter, as in all other matters, the Repatriation Department is not treating pensioners, especially TPI pensioners, as it should treat them. That has been the crux of the Opposition’s argument tonight. We claim that the Repatriation Department is falling far short of what it should do for these men. I ask clearly: Is the Repatriation Department prepared to accept responsibility for providing transport for TPI pensioners who are too ill to travel by road or rail? Is the Repatriation Department prepared to accept the cost of all transport for TPI pensioners wherever they wish to travel?
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [10.57] - I reply again to Senator Cavanagh who raised the point about what is evidence which is material to and which has a substantial bearing on a case. I really cannot add any more to what I have said already, but I will repeat what I have said because I believe that it is the complete answer to the points he raised. I believe that this answer is completely clear, accurate and to the point. The provision to which Senator Cavanagh has directed his remarks refers to cases which already have been before the Repatriation Board, the Commission and an Entitlement Tribunal. What is, therefore, further and material evidence has to be considered in the light of the claim and of the evidence already available.
– You told me that.
– But you did not understand it and I am telling you again.
– But you have already said that.
– I think this is very clear and to the point. I listened to the honourable senator when he spoke and I suggest that he should listen to me now.
– I was seeking an answer.
– If the honourable senator really wants this information he had better listen to it. The material about which we have spoken could be evidence from doctors or from people who served with the person concerned. Such evidence then is submitted to the Commission in the first place but the final decision rests on appeal to a tribunal. This is a matter for the independent authority to decide. I think that is perfectly clear and answers the point Senator Cavanagh raised about this evidence. Just in case there was any misunderstanding, I want to correct an impression which Senator Cavanagh may not have meant to give when he was speaking. He referred to influence by the Minister. Neither the Commission, a tribunal nor any other determining authority is ever made subject in any way to influence by the Minister. I think that has made the point clear.
I now want to speak to the point made by Senator Georges.
Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Temporary Chairman having reported accordingly.)
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - 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.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 September 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1969/19690911_senate_26_s42/>.