27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) took the chair at 2 p.m., and read prayers.
-I ask for leave to make a statement onbehalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) relating to ministerial arrangements.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I wish to inform the Senate that the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) left Australia yesterday for Tonga. Mr Peacock will represent Australia at Tonga’s re-entry into the comity of nations and joining the Commonwealth of Nations, which will be celebrated during the period from 4th to 7th June. The Minister is expected to return to Australia on 10th June. During his absence the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) is acting as Minister for the Army.
Senator WITHERS presented from 745 citizens of Australia a petition showing that pre-school and atter-school education facilities are in urgent need within the Australian community; the shortage has become more acute as more mothers join the work force; and in advanced countries pre-school and after-school education are recognised as essential aspects of education for all children.
The petitioners pray that the Senate will take immediate steps to provide the necessary finance to enable State education departments and local government authorities to establish (a) pre-school centres; (b) after-school centres; and (c) facilities for training the staff for such centres.
Petition received and read.
Senator McCLELLAND presented from 1,116 citizens of Australia a petition showing that pre-school and after-school education facilities are in urgent need within the Australian community; the shortage has become more acute as more mothers join the work force; and in advanced countries preschool and after-school education are recognised as essential aspects of educationfor all children.
The petitioners pray that the Senate will take immediate steps to provide the necessary finance to enable State education departments and local government authorities to establish (a) pre-school centres; (b) afterschool centres; and (c) facilities for training the staff for such centres.
– I give notice that at the next sitting of the Senate I shall move -
Estimates Committee A -
Department of Supply
Prime Minister’s Department
Department of Cabinet Office
Department of Trade and Industry
Department of External Affairs
Department of the Treasury
Department of Defence Estimates Committee B -
Department of Housing
Department of Immigration
Department of Social Services (including Aboriginal Affairs)
Department of Health
Estimates Committee C -
Department of Works (and Tourist Activities)
Department of Labour and National Service
Department of Education and Science
Department of External Territories
Estimates Committee D -
Department of Civil Aviation
Department of the Interior
Department of National Development
Department of Shipping and Transport
Department of Customs and Excise
Estimates Committee E -
Department of Air
Departmentof Primary Industry
Department of the Army
Department of the Navy
Government Senators, three Opposition Senator-.. and one Senator from the minority groups, to be appointed by a subsequent resolution.
I ask for leave to make a short statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - ls leave granted? ‘There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The notice of motion as proposed would allow honourable senators to scrutinise estimates thoroughly and in depth before their examination and passage in the Senate. The Government
Parties appreciate that the committee system in the Senate might well expand in the future but are anxious that any new committee system should work effectively. Therefore it is believed that the Senate would be wise initially to deal with estimates committees, thereby gaining experience and expertise in the new proposed procedure rather than attempt a total committee system and possibly jeopardise irreparably any chance of success of such a committee system in the Senate.
– May I have leave to make a very short statement in reply to what has been said by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson)?
Thi DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Boll) - ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– We have heard with interest what has been proposed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I had some indication from him that this would bc proposed and I would suggest, since it concerns the same subject matter, that these proposals be dealt with as soon as possible. I would suggest that the proposal which I have on the notice paper for standing committees be dealt with tomorrow and I indicate thai I shall move tomorrow to have it brought on. There may he some slight modification but not dealing with the substance of the matter. The answers to what has been put by the Minister will be given tomorrow.
– 1 do not know whether 1 am completely out of order in responding to that statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - You will have to ask for leave.
– Very well, I ask for leave.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Supply)- What I have in mind is that general business will be considered after 8 o’clock on Thursday night and the Senate has the capacity to bring on a motion in the name of either Senator Murphy or myself. Also on the notice paper is a report from the President on what we term the Odgers proposals. It may well be that we could have a cognate debate on all 3 proposals. I would like to discuss that with the Leader of the Opposition during the afternoon.
– 1 give notice that on the next day of sitting I will move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act 1959-66.
I also give notice that on the next day of sitting I will move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to repeal section 66 of the Australian National Airlines Act 1945-66.
Further, 1 give notice that on the next day of sitting 1 will move:
That leave he given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Liability) Act 1963 and the Statute Law Revision (Decimal Currency) Act 1966-67.
I ask honourable senators to accept the reservation that I am not clear as to what that last measure refers but 1 am putting it forward as I have been given it by my colleague.
– by leave - I give notice on 18th June I shall move that:
The proposed new regulations 47E and 47F, as contained in regulation 2 of the amendments of the Military Financial (Pacific Islanders) Regulations as contained in Statutory Rules 1970, No. 51 and made under the Defence Aci 1903-66, be disallowed.
I ask for leave to make a statement in connection with the notice of motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances has been considering the amendments of the Military Financial (Pacific Islanders) Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1970, No. 51, over the past few weeks, and in the course of its inquiry has had discussions with officers of the Department of the Army who advised the Committee that the
Department would be prepared to amend the regulations to overcome the Committee’s objections. I have given notice of motion for the disallowance of these regulations as tomorrow is the last day on which such a motion may be tabled. This will allow time for the Minister to consider the matter and draft the necessary amendments.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Government noted the results of the general election in Ceylon wherein the United Front under the leadership of Mrs Bandaranaike was returned to office with an overwhelming majority? Has the Government also noted that part of the policy of the United Front is the recognition of the provisional government established by the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam as the Government of South Vietnam? Does the Government not recognise that the results of the Ceylon elections indicate a mass movement amongst the Asian people in opposition to the prolongation of the war in Vietnam and Cambodia by the United States and Australia? Does the Government also not concede that in view of the policy of the Government of Ceylon - an important neighbour of Australia, a democracy, and a fellow member of the Commonwealth of Nations - in continuing with a policy which is clearly opposed to the policy of the Government of Ceylon we are endangering our relations with this fellow Commonwealth country?
– I reply by saying that no country ever comments on the foreign policy of a friendly nation. What conclusions the honourable senator wants to draw from the foreign policy of Ceylon is a matter for him. Tt would be quite improper for a country which wanted to continue friendly relations with another country to comment upon and judge the foreign policy of that country.
– In directing my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate I refer to the disastrous earthquake in Peru. Has the Minister received any more up to date information than what appears in this morning’s newspapers? In view of the presence of Australia’s consular and trade representatives in Peru and of the visit of members of this Parliament to the meeting of the Inter-parliamentary Union there in 1968, will the Minister inquire whether suitable messages of sympathy have been sent and whether appropriate steps have been taken to extend aid to Peru in the recognised way?
– I am sure that all of us, like the rest of the world, have been distressed by the tragedy of the earthquake in Peru. I have made some inquiries from the Department of External Affairs and hope to be in a position to make a statement on the matter later. At this point, however, 1 can only join with the honourable senator, and indeed with all honourable senators, in expressing our profound regret at the tragedy which has occurred there.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. What kind of society is this Government creating when our top research scientists and university professors are to be paid about one-half of what is paid to aircraft captains employed by Qantas Airways Limited? Where is the social justice in this Government’s policies when people at the bottom of the scale, like the transport workers, have to go on strike to get a few dollars more to meet additional commitments caused by inflationary factors outside their control such as increased interest on repayments of home loans and hire purchase? When will this Government act to restore some sanity to our economy?
– As the Leader of the Opposition knows, we have industrial laws, which 1 always assumed the Opposition supported, to deal with awards in the fields of industry and commerce. I just wonder whether he is suggesting by implication that he and his Party no longer subscribe to those procedures. In any given circumstances one could go across the board in any community and find what would appear on the surface to be situations where there is imbalance: but that would be a very dangerous thing to use as an argument to destroy something which the political parties, and notably the Australian Labor
Party, have fought to create since federation - an orderly method of fixing wages and salaries.
– 1 direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. ls the action of the Government of Canada in lifting exchange controls likely to have much effect on Australia’s trade with that country? Will Canada’s action have any effect on the International Grains Arrangement insofar as it affects Canada’s wheat exports?
– I feel bound to say that the honourable senator gave me some foreknowledge of this question and 1 sought information for him. The Government as yet has not received full and precise details of the action taken by the Canadian Government. However, reports to hand indicate that the Canadian Government has decided to allow the Canadian dollar to float or find its own level. Given the present strength of the Canadian dollar reflected in heavy overseas purchasing of Canadian dollars, the action taken in effect amounts to a revaluation of that currency. Only the passage of time will permit a precise assessment of the impact of this action. However, a revaluation would normally be expected firstly to make Canadian exports more expensive and thus Canadian exports could be expected to be somewhat less competitive in world markets, including Australia; secondly, it would be expected to make imports into Canada more competitive with domestically produced Canadian products, and indeed, imports into Canada from all sources might be expected ro increase. Presumably Australia would share in such an expansion of the Canadian market.
With regard to the implications of the Canadian action for the International Grains Arrangement, to the extent that this may involve upward revaluation, ibc prices of Canadian wheat exports will increase in terms of foreign currencies. However, it can be expected that the Canadian Wheat Board will take the necessary action to ensure that its prices remain competitive. Finally, as minimum prices for Canadian wheat under the Arrangement are expressed in terms of United States dollars, those prices would not be affected.
– I preface ray question, which I direct to the Acting Minister for Immigration, by referring to an answer that I received on 5th May to question No. 274 on the notice paper. In dealing with Australia’s migration offices in Yugoslavia the answer said that it was unlikely that Australia would have offices in both Zagreb and Ljubljana as those cities are only 75 miles apart. I now ask: If Slovene migrants are receiving medical checks in Zagreb, why are not the medical clinics used where people may be examined over a greater spread of hours in the one day? ls the Minister aware that the present arrangements for examination by an individual doctor often result in that doctor giving vent to fits of temperament and the abrupt closing of his surgery, leaving intending migrants who have travelled 75 miles from Ljubljana to incur the cost of a night’s lodging in Zagreb while awaiting the doctor’s pleasure the next day? In the light of these happenings, will the Minister further consider the opening of an office in Ljubljana, or at least the diversion of medical checks in Zagreb from prima donna individual doctors to the more comprehensive clinic facilities?
– I recall well the answer to which the honourable senator has referred. I will now answer the question he has asked today. When an Australian migration office was established in Belgrade the medical director undertook as one of his functions the appointment in Yugoslavia of a number of Yugoslav doctors to a panel authorised to carry out on behalf of Australia medical examinations of applicants for unassisted migration to Australia. Doctors were appointed in centres where the number of migrant applicants was sufficiently high to warrant this action. Applicants living in neighbouring areas were then directed to the nearest member of the panel for examination. Had the matter involving one of the panel doctors, to which the honourable senator has referred, been reported by the person inconvenienced to the Chief Migration Officer or the medical director, immediate inquiries would have been made. The Chief Migration Officer in Belgrade will now be asked to investigate the matter and to take corrective action if necessary.
Now that the Yugoslav Government has ratified the agreement on the residence and employment of Yugoslav citizens, the question of decentralising selection activities will be considered in consultation with the Yugoslav authorities.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen a report that the new uniforms for Trans-Australia Airlines hostesses do not contain wool? Will the Minister seek from Trans- Australia Airlines - Australia’s national airline - an explanation why woollen material was not used in the new uniforms? Will the Minister ask members of the Australia Labor Party who wish to protect Australia’s wool industry by banning the export of merino rams whether they will now boycott TAA as a protest?
– One might have guessed that a question along the lines of that asked by the honourable senator would rear its head today. I read this morning’s newspapers with some interest. I notice that in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ Mr John P. Ryland, General Manager of TransAustralia Airlines, said that the new uniform will freshen and make the airline’s image even friendlier.’ 1 wondered what he meant by ‘even friendlier’.
– I thought that is what he meant. In a Melbourne newspaper a comment by a fashion writer said that the new uniform is certainly not the sort of style to send you soaring out of your scat when you see it walking down the plane’s aisle, it is a uniform and as such it is good, lt is neat and uncluttered and interlined with a crisp, sharp shape. I imagine it would be functional and comfortable to wear.’ That is the kind of comment that society is making about the uniform. From the little that I have .seen of the uniform in photographs I am attracted to it and particularly to those who wear it. This morning I obtained from the Australian National Airlines Commission a fairly long comment on this matter. 1 thought the announcement would arouse the interest of the Senate. With the sanction of my colleagues I shall read the comment that 1 obtained. I am conscious of the fact that there is a great interest in the new uniform on both sides of the chamber. The comment States that the new uniform is the product of nearly 18 months’ research within Australia and overseas. In that time the airline sought expert advice on the type of material and design and the practical considerations involved in order to produce a uniform which was both attractive and functional. Major considerations were ease of packaging, easy wash-and-wear qualities, non-creasing and suitability for wearing in all climates. The latter factor was tremendously important because of the variable temperatures and climatic conditions which hostesses experience in one day. Their flights throughout TAA’s network can take them from the southernmost ports to as far north as Darwin and Papua and New Guinea.
The material selected best met TAA’S specifications for colour definition and most suited the development of the 3-coIour uniform range. TAA is very conscious of the qualities of wool and of the national interest being served by using it. The airline believes it has demonstrated this by the fact that other uniforms worn by its staff have significant wool content. This is possible because of different requirements.
– Is the uniform highly inflammable, too?
– I do not put my cigarettes or cigars close to hostesses. I am very careful about that. Total TAA staff to whom uniforms are supplied, excluding dust coats and overalls, amounts to nearly 1,600 persons per annum. Hostesses represent less than one-third of this figure. Other uniforms have a substantial wool content. The receptionists’ uniforms in main offices also have a substantial wool content. I think that is a fairly definite comment and should cover most of the facts raised by the honourable senator. I will leave to the imagination of my colleagues the other part of his question about the problem of merino rams.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air or to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact that Australia is considering the purchase of the new Mirage FI aircraft to replace the current series of Mirage aircraft now being produced under licence in Australia, and that the
French manufacturer has made Australia a firm offer? Does this firm offer include - and does the Government insist upon - any such purchases being produced under licence, as at present, in the Australian aircraft factories?
– I shall answer the honourable senator’s question. It is true that the representative of the Mirage company, Dassault, is in Australia. Indeed, 1 had an appointment with him in his office at 9 a.m. today. It is true that his organisation is putting proposals to the Government for consideration in relation to a number of projects connected with the advanced trainer. Other organisations are also putting proposals to the Government about the trainer. It is equally true that no decisions have been made. Very properly, the Government and the relevant people in the defence complex, the Service departments and my own Department of Supply have to study these proposals. If we were looking at this question in a hypothetical way I would say to Senator Bishop and to the Senate that, as we are building the Mirage under licence, if any proposals in relation to a variant of the Mirage are under consideration it postulates that to an even greater extent than when we build the present Mirages under licence we would require that the Australian content be even greater than it is under the existing arrangements. In that way the work would flow into our various aircraft factories. Let us be frank about this. As we are already building Mirages in this country under licence, the French organisation has something to offer in terms of proposals. It is sufficient for me to say that its representatives are at present visiting this country, as representatives of other organaisations visit us from time to time, and they are putting their views to the Government and to the relevant departments as to Australia’s future aircraft requirements. Inherent in those views is the concept that Australia will be doing a greater amount of work in relation to these aircraft in its own factories.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has he any further information in response to the question I asked him yesterday regarding th-. discrepancy that is alleged to exist between the standards of meat inspection in the United States of America and the standards insisted upon by that country in countries which export meat to the United States?
- Senator Lillico asked me a question yesterday on this matter and I sought some information which I have here. The United States Wholesome Meat Act and the United States Department of Agriculture regulations governing meat inspection prescribe the standards and inspection procedures which are applicable in federally inspected meatworks in the United States. There are some State works in the United States which do not fully comply with the prescribed standards but these works must reach federal standards by 31st December 1970. In the meantime meat from these works may be sold in the State of production. Section 20 of the United Stales Wholesome Meat Act prescribes that no carcases, parts of carcases or meat products for use as human food shall be imported into the United States unless they comply with ail the inspection and building construction standards and all other provisions of the Act and regulations. Thus imported meat is expected to comply only with standards prescribed for meat produced in the United Stales. Imported meat of prescribed standards is eligible for interstate trade on the same basis as meat from United States federally inspected works.
Department of Primary Industry veterinarians who have visited the United States works in recent years are satisfied that the slaughtering standards expected in the United States federally inspected meatworks are the same as those required in countries exporting meat to the United States. Arrangements have been made for the Department’s veterinary officer stationed in Washington to visit a number of United States works handling mutton to observe and report on the inspection and slaughtering standards being applied.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I preface it by reminding the Minister that on 2nd June 1970 he advised me by way of answer to a question previously asked that the terminal areas at both the Townsville and Mackay airports are to be redeveloped in the nol too far distant future. Can the Minister now inform the Parliament on what date redevelopment will commence at the Mackay and Townsville airports?
– No, 1 cannot inform the Senate or my colleague Senator KeeNe of the precise date. What I have told him in answer to the question is the correct position. J am as concerned as he is that this programme should begin as soon a.-, possible. He has my assurance, us has the Senate, that 1 will be doing all I can to git the redevelopment into operation as soon as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Has an appraisal been made of the detrimental effects which would occur to our dairy industry, meat industry, dried and canned fruits industries and other primary industries in the event o! lit.; United Kingdom entering the European Economic Community? What steps are being taken to safeguard our rural export interests in the United Kingdom in the circumstances fo which I refer?
– The projected entry or non-entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community is a matter which has been before the eyes of Australia for some years now and which has been constantly under review by this Government. I do not think it k: appropriate at question time to say what the implications of such entry would be in certain circumstances. They would depend entirely on whether the United Kingdom entered, under what conditions it entered and whether there were any limiting sanctions in relation to this country. I believe that it would be far better to put the question on the notice paper and to obtain a considered reply. I would not want any answer that I gave to pre-empt any situation that may arise in the future.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Did the Commonwealth assist the States to establish additional wheat storages? If so, why were not the additional wheat storages made mouseproof? As I have just been on a tour of northern Victoria an J have seen millions of mice happily gorging themselves on wheat in the new wheat storages provided by the Commonwealth, I ask: i this the method that the Commonwealth has adopted to dispose of Australia’s wheat surpluses’/
– Towards the end of last year, just before harvest, there were repeated requests from Victoria for finance from the Commonwealth Government or the Australian Wheat Board - 1 think both bodies were approached - in respect of over-quota wheat storage. This is the storage to which the honourable senator is referring in the main. A short time ago I answered a question on this subject on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry. In that answer I gave the amount of money made available to Victoria for this purpose. At this stage I do not recall the figure, but I shall find out what it was. I will direct the remainder of the question to the Minister for Primary Industry.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation draw the attention of the Australian National Airlines Commission to the fact that wool posseses all the qualities claimed for the material used in the hostesses’ new uniforms, including the important one of non-inflammability?
– Yes, I certainly shall, with thanks to the honourable senator.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, refers to a Press statement under the heading ‘Must Find Cause of Low Wool Prices’ and dated 25th March 1970. Has the Minister received a report from the Australian Wool Board’s advisory committee on the cause of low wool prices? If so, when will copies of the report, which was promised before the end of May, be made available to members of the Senate?
– 1 spoke to the Minister for Primary Industry just before coming into the chamber about the report from the advisory committee of the Australian Wool Board. He has not received i: up to date. He is expecting it very shortly. When it comes to hand, I will ask him whether he will make certain information available to the honourable senator.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation inquire from TransAustralia Airlines whether it had discussions with or approached the Australian Wool Board to see whether there were suitable materials for the uniforms for the hostesses which would have all the requirements that were mentioned in regard to the new uniforms, including non-inflammability?
– I thank the honourable senator for asking this question. I have already started to do this. I saw in one of the newspapers a comment attributed to, I think, a Wool Board representative who said that it had a planning section or a fabric advisory section. So 1 have already started to ask some questions. However, I shall certainly direct the extra matters raised by the honourable senator to the attention of the Australian National Airlines Commission.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is il proposed in the forthcoming conference between the Commonwealth and State governments, during which I understand discussions will centre mainly on financial considerations, to have an additional element, namely, the problem of local government finance, covered in the discussions? Would it not be a reasonable and, in fact, desirable departure from the present pattern of these discussions to have present representatives of local government who are able to put the position of this third level of government fully because the outcome of these discussions will inevitably have a vital bearing on the future of local government in Australia?
– I believe that in any discussions which take place on a Premiers Conference or Australian Loan Council level it would be axiomatic that the Premiers would encompass in their submissions reference to local government because they are in fact responsible for the local government authorities within their States. If they were making submissions in relation to their financial needs, be they in respect of revenue or loans, such an ingredient would be automatically included. 1 cannot conceive of any circumstances in which a Premier would come to the conference table with a lack of knowledge on this aspect or, in fact, a brief which does not include these provisions. I should think that it would be quite inappropriate, when the Commonwealth and the States are holding talks, for the States to be putting a case and then to find thai the people whom they represent and who are sitting behind them want at some stage to go out front of them and muddy the waters, as it were. I would think that the most effective way for the Premiers to deal with the matter would bc to have their proper briefs, which would automatically contain representations in relation to the problems of local government.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Civil Aviation. ls it correct that the Government is preventing American airlines from securing the required service itrequency lor a new service from the United Slates of America to Australia in order, as Claimed in the newspapers, lc protect Qantas Airways Ltd at ail eo.si.s7 If so, does the Government believe that Qantas is of more importance than the national tourist indusin? ls the Government aware that the basic need for any airline to operate profitably is the securing of the necessary number of passengers? Does the Government recognise that in order to do this the company will be required to engage in considerable advertising? As this additional service would mean an increase in the number of tourists in Australia, which would mean more overseas currency .spending in this country, docs the Government nol consider, if it is genuine about the tourist industry, that this matter it of real importance?
– Quite a large number of the questions asked by the honourable senator will require a more detailed answer than I am able to give now. The honourable senator is entitled to have this information. But certain things can be said in answer according to my recollection of the questions. Firstly, I am quite sure - and 1 think my colleague. Senator Wright, will agree with me - that the Government is serious about its intention to stimulate tourist traffic into Australia. Equally, the Government is quite serious about its intention to maintain the viability and profitability of its international air carrier, Qantas, and it does not propose to give that away by allowing indiscriminate, undisciplined flights into Australia by all comers into the international air carrying field. The Government does try to negotiate with every responsible country and every responsible carrier for a fair share of the market and a fair estimation of what the growth in that market will be. It can be said that the Australian estimation of the future growth of traffic in the Pacific was considerably away from what the Americans estimated the growth iti the Pacific traffic would be.
We have the responsibility of living in a world of reality and dealing with real t rollie growth figures as distinct from those that it might bc thought could be achieved. We have made a reasonable proposition to share the traffic and to share the growth, on a reasonably safe estimate of what it will be, and this is the situation that we are now in. We await, therefore, the American response to the Australian position and we expect to receive it in duc course. So the answer is that we are interested seriously in stimulating tourism; we are interested in doing it so far as we can by using ow own air carrier Qantas: and we are interested also very much in maintaining the financial success, stability and expansion possibilities of that very great airline.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that the programme ‘This Day Tonight’ on ABC television arranged for 27th May was canceiled at the last minute at the direction of the Post master-General because Sir Henry Bolte declined to appear on the programme? ls it a fact that leaders of all political parties were advised prior to the day of the programme that it would be proceeded with provided that 2 party leaders were prepared to appear? ls it a fact also that the Leader of the Australian Labor Parly, the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party and (he Deputy Leader of the Country Parly arrived at the Ripponlea
ABC studios to take part in the programme and were advisedonly then that the programme had been cancelled?
– I think the question asked by the honourable senator is based on a question which was asked yesterday by Senator Greenwood.
– It has nothing to do with that programme at all.
– It would seem to me to be inquiring again about a programme shown recently in Victoria. I am getting information concerning the question which was asked yesterday by Senator Greenwood and I shall get information concerning the question asked today by Senator Poyser. In replying to the honourable senator I can say that I would be quite certain that the PostmasterGeneral would not have interfered in any way with any programme.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report in this morning’s Press that the Royal Navy fleet oil tanker ‘Ennerdale’ which sank on a sandbank in the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean is spilling oil into the sea, threatening the fishing industry and the coastline? As wrecks of this type constitute the greatest pollution threat to the Australian coastline, the Great Barrier Reef, the fishing industry, pearl culture and marine life generally will the Minister endeavour to have an observer from the Australian Government go to the Seychelles to see how the spillage is dealt with so that the information gained can be used in a possible future similar accident in Australian waters?
-I did read about the sinking of the ‘Ennerdale’ in the Seychelles Islands. I think the point made by the honourable senator is a good one and I shall direct it to my colleague the Minister for Shipping and Transport. WhatI wonder about personally is how one gets quickly to the Seychelles Islands, asI believe they are well away from any recognised civil air route. Also, would one be able to get there in sufficient time to gain information which might be helpful? I imagine that if there is any problem which is going to be in any sense a real problem it will be residual and one will be able to inspect the probability of damage for a long time thereafter. That is my understanding of the situation. I shall send the honourable senator’s question to the Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. I ask: Is it true that at a recent Housing Industry Association convention at Surfers Paradise the Minister expressed feelings of unhappiness about the prospect of a reduction this year in home building? In view of the criticism of the Commonwealth Government’s action in increasing sharply the bond interest rate, causing the tightening of money for home building purposes, and in view of the fact that one Liberal Minister at the convention is reported to have said: It’s a bit late for the Minister to be bemoaning the fact that the building rate has slowed and home buyers and builders are finding it increasingly difficult to get finance’, I ask the Minister: What action does she intend to take to rectify this serious matter which is affecting home building?
– It is quite true that at a recent meeting I commented on the decline in the number of new dwellings commenced, but I should like the statement to be considered in the light of the record housing figures which have been the order for the last few years. I would just remind the Senate that in 1967 a record number of 118,000 new dwellings were commenced. In 1968 the number of new dwellings commenced was 131,600. In 1969 the figure rose further to 144,500. In other words, the number of new dwellings commenced has risen by 22% in the past 2 years. These are very important figures. It is regrettable that at the moment there is some decline in the number of new dwellings commenced, but I draw the Senate’s attention to the fact that it is a decline from record housing figures. Of course, this matter is being given constant consideration by the Government and myself.
– Is the Minister representing the Attorney-General still of the opinion, which he stated in reply to a question asked by me some time ago, that in accordance wilh Part XII of the Patents Act. which concerns the marketing of Surprise peas in Australia, the reasonable demands of the public are being met by the holders of the patent rights? I ask the Minister: Could it nol be construed that because producers in this country have noi available to them this method of processing their product and because these producers are pan of the public to which he referred, the reasonable requirements of all the public are not being met by the holders of patent rights?
– I think it should be acknowledged that no answer which I might give impromptu 10 such <i question would really be very useful. The honourable senator would be belter informed by the Minister for Primary Industry of the fact that there has been a great excess of peas produced over peas consumed by the public during the last 12 months, and that is the major factor behind any disappointment felt by our growers.
– Can the Minister for Works inform the Senate whether work has commenced on extensions to the physiotherapy section of St Margaret’s Rehabilitation Centre at Felixstowe in South Australia? If so, what stage has the work reached? Can the Minister give an estimated date of completion?
– I shall have to check the liles to see what stage that project has reached. I shall happily do that and advise the honourable senator at the earliest possible date.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. I refer him to my question asked of him on 16th April this year when I inquired as to the progress of the committee of inquiry, known as the Administrative Review Committee, which was appointed in September 1968 to consider the scope and adequacy of appeal procedures available from administrative decisions. I now ask: Is the Minister able to say what progress this committee has made and when its report is likely to be received?
– That question was referred to the Attorney-General, together with all other outstanding questions, very recently. I have no doubt that the AttorneyGeneral will supply the answer as soon as inquiries are completed.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that there is, a serious situation al present in the dried fruit industry in Australia, and particularly in Victoria? ls he aware that it is the opinion of a majority of the growers that the key to the situation is the establishment c<t ;i marketing plan? Does the Minister realise that a referendum whs held under the auspices of the Commonwealth in regard to a marketing plan, but while a majority of the growers agreed with the establishment of the marketing plan the Commonwealth says that it will not implement it because a sufficient percentage of the growers did not vote? In view of the seriousness of the situation will the Commonwealth consider taking the opinion of the majority of the growers and establishing this marketing plan which growers feel is vital if their industry is to be saved?
– I am aware of the matters referred to in the first part of the honourable senator’s question as to the state of the industry and the marketing situation. But I remind the honourable senator that when the renewal of the stabilisation scheme was considered a proposition was put before the growers which they refused to accept in detail.
– A majority favoured it, but enough did not vote.
– Yes. The Minister gave further consideration to the matter and I believe that that is the position at the present time. There is no dried fruit stabilisation scheme at this moment but I am quite sure that the Minisler is giving sympathetic consideration to it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is it anticipated that the facility of subscriber trunk dialling to
Western Australia will commence on 1st July as previously indicated? If not, when may it be expected?
– I cannot give the honourable senator an exact answer to that, but 1 will make inquiries of my colleague and inform him just as soon as I can.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior read the text of the address given to the Canberra chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and the Royal Australian Planning Institute by Dr J. G. Mosley, the deputy director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, in which the speaker deplored the pre-occupation with motor transport and a failure to preserve sufficient pedestrian areas in our environment? Will the Minister take heed of this analysis and tell the National Capital Development Commission that the environmental ravishment of the Black Mountain region by the building of additional roadways is not warranted to placate a few impatient motorists who, if time is so vital to them, should get out of bed 30 minutes earlier and not bludge on people who want to preserve the best features of the Australian Capital Territory bushland?
– 1 listened with attention to the honourable senator and I thought for a moment that he was putting a case for going back to horses, but I do not think he was and I understand his interest. 1 shall direct his question to my colleague the Minister for the Interior and get a considered reply for him.
– As the Minister for Civil Aviation is probably aware, during last weekend not only was Perth Airport closed because of fog but so also was the alternate airport of Meekatharra. In view of this will the Minister give consideration to establishing a further alternative airport in Western Australia capable of handling jet aircraft? As there is some agitation in the town of Albany for the upgrading of the Albany Airport, will he consider the possibility of establishing either Albany or some other town in the southern part of Western Australia as an alternative airport to both Perth “< Meekatharra?
– I would be interested to learn from an examination of the records on how many days in a given year Perth and Meekatharra airports are both closed by fog. I do not know that and I will try to obtain the information for the honourable senator. I will have examined the proposition that an alternative jet airport might be established in Western Australia at Albany or at some other place to overcome this problem as well as to serve for normal expansion. The honourable senator may rest assured that the possibilities of alternative airports to cope with problems of this kind and with expansion requirements are always under review. As he would be well aware, a problem arises in the matter of priority and the availability of funds for the purpose.
– Is the Minister foi Civil Aviation aware that a recent meeting of pilots and small plane owners in Queensland strongly criticised the Department of Civil Aviation for the lack of landing and safety aids at Queensland aerodromes? Is he aware also that one of the most unsafe aerodromes in this regard is at Townsville? When will the Department take action to install safety devices al Townsville? What type of devices will be installed? When will the installation be commenced?
– I am most interested to have this comment. I have not heard of this before. 1 should be grateful if the honourable senator could let me have later any printed document, newspaper report or other information relating to this matter which I shall direct to the Department. Like the honourable senator, I am most concerned to maintain the present high standard of safety in this country. I shall have inquiries made about the matter.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. When the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr Trudeau, spoke to members of Federal Parliament at a parliamentary luncheon recently did the Minister note that Mr Trudeau referred to the assistance which the Canadian people and the Canadian Government had obligated themselves to provide to the Territory of Papua and New
Guinea? Did this comment strike the Minister as being unique? Is he aware of the areas of assistance and the limits of the assistance to which the Canadian Prime Minister referred? Has he observed any comment on or acknowledgment by the Australian Government or by the Australian news media generally of that announcement by the Canadian Prime Minister? Will he take the first available opportunity to inform the Senate of the details of this, the first instance when an overseas government has sought freely to assist Australia in the Trust Territory of Papua and New Guinea?
– I have not seen any subsequent publicity in relation to that aspect of Prime Minister Trudeau’s speech. I will seek some further information. As to the general purport of honourable senator’s question, I think that because of the protocol involved it should very properly go to the Minister for External Affairs for consideration.
– Is the Minister for
Civil Aviation aware that the Melbourne City Council decided recently to install parking meters providing for 1 hour parking, in lieu of all day parking, in an area adjacent to premises occupied by Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia, thus depriving employees of both organisations of parking facilities which are necessary by reason of the unusual hours they are obliged to work? Will he have this matter investigated with a view to providing parking accommodation for these employees whose irregular hours of work often preclude them from using public transport?
– I take it that the 1 hour parking restriction will operate for 24 hours a day. Is that what the question amounts to?
-I will get some further information from the honourable senator because I can see the point. If he puts his question on notice I will have inquiries made. If the situation is that the parking meters will operate at a time when people do not normally park their cars I do not think one would have much quarrel with his view. On the other hand, if the parking meters are to operate at a time when the area will have a concentration of normal traffic it perhaps will not be quite so easy to overcome the situation. I will ascertain the position in relation to parking accommodation for employees who have to work unusual hours.
– I direct my question to you, Mr Deputy President. I preface it by reminding you that I was informed many months ago that the possibility of including with replies to questions on the notice paper the date of the question and the date of the reply would be investigated. I now ask: What is the result of the investigation? Has the Government agreed to my original suggestion?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - I will look into the matter and reply to the honourable senator tomorrow.
(Question No. 319)
asked the Minister for Works, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 321)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
Have the Commonwealth Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation conferred with the New South Wales Police on the death threats made against a 24-year-old Yugoslav migrant vocalist, Bogdan Ivanza, because he participated in the 2WL radio programme ‘Voice of Dalmatia’; if so, what facts have emerged from am such investigation.
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commonwealth Police Force has been in touch with the New South Wales police in this matter. When Ivanza was interviewed by Commonwealth police officers. he was unable to give a sufficiently clear description of the persons who spoke to him and threatened him in a street near his home on the night of 22nd February 1970 lo enable further effective inquiries to be made.
(Question No. 349)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has provided the following consolidated answer to the honourable senator’s questions: fi) and f2). Article I of the Geneva Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Vietnam of 20th July 1954, provided that forces of the People’s Army of Vietnam (Viet Minh) were to regroup north of a provisional military demarcation line, fixed in part along the Cua Tung River but generally following the alignment of the 17th parallel of latitude, and that forces of the French Union were to regroup south of this line.
Under Article 14, provision was made for two separate civil administrations in the two regrouping zones. The agreement and the Final Declaration issued by the Conference recognised the provisional character of the demarcation line and that it should not be interpreted as constituting a political or territorial boundary. Nevertheless, developments since 195-1 have proved unfounded the. Conference’s conviction thai :he execution of the provisions set mil in the present declaration and in the agreement on the cessation of hostilities creates the necessary basis for the achievement in the near future of a political settlement in Vietnam’ (paragraph 6 of the Fina! Declaration). The present reality is thai two separate stales exist, and the division has received wide diplomatic recognition on the pur: of communist as well as non-communist countries. Some 60 countries have recognised South Vietnam, which is also » member of many oi the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations, of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. North Vietnam has diplomatic relations wilh more than 20 other countries. The United Nations General Assembly has passed resolutions recognising that the Republic of Vietnam is a peace-loving State qualified for membership of the United Nations. Although the Republic’s admission was vetoed by the Soviet Union in the Security Council, the USSR had itself put forward in the General Assembly in January 1967, a draft resolution for the simultaneous admission of both North and South Vietnam, arguing that, as in Korea, two separate States existed with different political and economic structures.
Will the Minister conduct a searching inquiry into the circumstances that caused radio station 2 WL at Wollongong to terminate a programme sponsored by the Australian Translators Association which comprised music and advice to migrants? In particular will he see whether the cessation of the programme was due to Ustashi bomb threats.
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me wilh the following information in reply:
I have had the Australian Broadcasting Control Board make inquiries into the circumstances which caused station 2 Wl. Wollongong lo discontinue a programme which had been presented over that station by Captain Dezelin of the Australian Translators Association Ltd directed lo the Yugoslav community in the area. The Board has obtained a report from the Manager of the station on the matter; the licensee emphatically denies that the discontinuance of the programme was due to any bomb threat or that any bomb threats were received. The Honourable Senator raised various questions about this matter in the debate on the adjournment in the Senate on 5th May. 1 will write lo him in (hat regard in the next few days. I have not been able to do so before because the Board was awaiting the report from the station.
– Yesterday Senator Bishop asked me a question concerning the level of employment of skilled staff at Woomera and the Department of Supply’s Weapons Research Establishment in the context of the ELDO commitment and the United States and Australian upper space research activities. I undertook to obtain additional information for the honourable senator and 1 can now tell him that of approximately 100 persons employed by the Department of Supply on ELDO activities in professional, sub-professional, clerical and industrial grades about half are expected to be redeployed at Woomera, Salisbury or elsewhere in vacancies existing or expected to arise in the natural course of events. Woomera experiences a high turnover of industrial staff and it is expected that normal wastage will produce sufficient vacancies to account for the balance of these employees. Therefore we do not expect the persons employed by the Department on ELDO activities will be out of work because of the completion of the firings at Woomera. I would point out that there will be a sizeable ELDO disposal programme to be undertaken which will engage the attention of sub-professional, clerical and industrial staff for much of the remainder of 1970.
(Question No. 286)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
Hasthe American Embassy in Laos been used as the headquarters for directing the bombing of northern Laos; if not, how has it happened that the United States has carried on a secret operation for 4 years without the knowledge of the Australian Government and the Australian Parliament.
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply:
The Government does not believe it is appropriate to comment on detailed aspects of the United States Government’s conduct of its foreign policy, nor to expand upon President Nixon’s statement of 6th April 1970, on United States policy in Laos.
(Question No. 295)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
In view of the present accord between Australia and Indonesia, has the Government sought to align itself with Mr Malik, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, in his efforts to convene a new Geneva Convention on Indo-China.
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply:
As the honourable senator will be aware Australia, at the invitation of the Indonesian Foreign Minister, took part in the Conference of Foreign Ministers held in Djakarta on 16th and 17th May to discuss means of ensuring the independence, neutrality and territorial integrity of Cambodia. Amongst other things, this Conference urged the Co-Chairmen and participants in the 1954 Geneva Conference and members of the International Control Commission, set up by the Geneva Conference, to co-operate in reactivating the Commission. The Conference urged the participants in the 1954 Geneva Conference and all other interested parties to consult together with a view to arriving at a concensus for the early convening of an international conference to find a just, peaceful and effective resolution of the present situation.
In addition, the Conference requested the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia to consult urgently among themselves and others, as well as with the Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference, on ways and means of reactivating the International Control Commission and of convening an international conference, and to initiate discussions with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President and members of the Security Council with a view to action by the United Nations.
(Question No. 350)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
Whom does Australia recognise as the lawful government of mainland China.
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply:
As the Australian Government understands the matter, neither the authorities of the People’s Republic of China nor the government of the Republic of China accepts any formula of recognition which would deny its claim to sovereignty over both the Chinese mainland and the island of Taiwan. As the honourable senator knows, Australia accords de jure recognition to the government of the Republic of China.
(Question No. 328)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Why is there a delay in answering question No. 290, in my name, which refers to a decision by the Government made five years ago.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator lo the answer given to question No. 290 on 2L. May 1970 (Hansard, page 1663).
– On 21st May, Senator Wilkinson asked me the following question, without notice:
My question is directed to die Minister representing the Prime Minister. As the General Assembly of the United Nations has designated 197! as the International Year for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination will the Government make an early statement on whether it will actively support this decision, which would be in line with Australia’s subscription to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1 said that I thought the question should properly be answered by the Minister for External Affairs, who has provided the following answer:
I refer the honourable senator to the answer which 1 gave to a question without notice in the House of Representatives on 7lh April 1970 (Hansard page 736). I also refer the honourable senator to the answer which I gave lo u question or, notice No. 752 in the House of Representatives (Hansard, page 1772).
– On 14th May Senator Fitzgerald asked me the following question, without notice:
Does the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs recall my question yesterday in which 1 called upon the Australian Government in take immediate steps through every available ch inni-1 to bring to the peace table the warring factions of the Middle East? In view of the renewed turmoil and further threat of hostilities in this area, can the Minister say whether he has any advice, as he promised to secure yesterday, as to what action the Australian Government has taken and, in turn, what plans (he Government has in mind lo attempt, in co-operation with other countries, to bring to an end this conflict which could affect world peace. 1 said that 1 did not have anything further to add to what I had said the day before but I promised to have the honourable members question referred to the Minister for External Affairs who has provided the following answer:
The Australian Government has taken and will continue lo take even’ opportunity open lo it, both in the United Nations and elsewhere, lo stress the need tor an end to the violence and destruction brought about by the present conflict in the Middle East. We have also made known, through informal and routine diplomatic channels, to both sides in the dispute, our concern about the present situation, and our belief that the most important first step is the cessation of righting, without which productive negotiations have little chance of success. However, Australia’s ability lo take any initiative in the Middle East dispute is limited. Australia is not a member of the Security Council, where the substantive debates on the Middle East situation take place. Nevertheless, the Australian Government will continue to support any constructive measures designed to bring about a ceasefire and a just and lasting solution to the present conflict.
– by leave - presented from 154 residents of the Stale of Victoria a petition showing that because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes, the population of kangaroos, particularly the big red species is now so low, that they may become extinct; there are insufficient wardens in any State of the Commonwealth to detect or apprehend those who break the inadequate laws which exist: as a tourist attraction, the kangaroo is a permanent source of revenue to this country; and it is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such ;i scale, when there is no provision being made for ils future.
The petitioners pray that the export of kangaroo products be banned immediately, and necessary steps be taken to have all wildlife in Australia brought under Commonwealth control. Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
Petition received and read.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I have been asked by the President of the Senate, Sir Alister Mc Muli in, to read the following statement on his behalf: In conjunction wilh the Speaker of the House of Representatives I wish to announce the appointment of Mr Andrew Leslie Moore to succeed Mr A. P. Fleming as head of the Department of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library.
Mr Moore is Official Secretary al the office of the High Commissioner for Australia in the United Kingdom and has from time to time acted as the Deputy High Commissioner. He is aged 56. and has the degrees of Master of Arts and Bachelor of Education. He was for some time Assistant Secretary of the Education, Arts and Sciences Section of the Prime Ministers Department, and was a member of the Council of the National Library. Mr Moore had earlier close links with library policies and development through his association with the National Library Inquiry Committee 1956-57 known as the Paton Committee, of which he was Secretary. It was the report of this Committee which proposed the separate establishment of the Parliamentary Library and the National Library.
As honourable senators are aware, the Library has undergone considerable development as a research and information department, involving a balance of work by professional librarians and by legislative research officers with qualifications in arts, economics, science, engineering, law, etc. A major task of Mr Moore will be to further this development in the interests of continuing improved services to members and senators.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I present the third report of the Standing Orders Committee which relates to new standing order 36 - Printing Committee.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That consideration of the report be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I sought leave to correct what I believe is a grave injustice done to a witness who appeared before the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse in Australia. I speak as a member of that Senate Select Committee. The Committee sat for 4 days last week in Sydney. Arising out of those sittings emanated what I believe is a shocking piece of misreporting. To my knowledge it appeared only in the’Canberra Times’. It is my belief that this news item was supplied by a news agency and that the newspaper did not have its own reporter present. This still does not absolve the newspaper from responsibility for its reporting. On Thursday, 28th May, Mr Bobby Limb, who is a well known television personality in Australia, appeared before the Senate Select Committee and gave evidence about an hourlong colour film he was to produce. The whole of the proceeds from the film, which it is hoped to sell overseas as well as in Australia, are to go to the Commonwealth Government to be used for the setting up of clinics to treat drug affected people. I will not read all Mr Limb’s evidence from the transcript but I must read the pertinent part to show that he was misreported.
Mr Limb in the course of his evidence to the Committee about this film said he had approached a number of people who were going to co-operate and give their services free to produce this film. One of them was Dr Harry Bailey who is a well known psychiatrist in Sydney. Dr Bailey spoke to Mr Limb of a girl who, for the purpose of the exercise, was known as Sonia. Mr Limb said:
Dr Bailey told me how she became hooked on drugs. She started at 13 years of age. . . . Sonia was deeply depressed. She was a very clever girl but she was depressed. She started off at a party when she was 13. She was a little depressed and a young man, a pusher, noticed this and that she was one who could be susceptible to drugs. She was given 4 amphetamines and from there she went on and on until she was taking 40 amphetamines a day. Then she went on to heroin and she was subjected to tremendous atrocities at Paddington. This shocked me tremendously.
Senator Wheeldon, a member of the Committee, interjected and said:
When you say she was subjected to atrocities, what do you mean?
Mr Limb replied:
I ask the Senate to please listen to this next part:
This comes not from her but from our interviews with Dr Bailey.
That was the interview Mr Limb had with Dr Bailey. That is where he obtained the information. Senator Wheeldon said:
This was some type of club, was it;
Mr Limb replied:
It was a pad at Paddington. She would clock on at school and then she would go to this place at Paddington and there she was initiated by 12 men in purple hoods around her and she stood in the middle of the floor. The whole floor was covered with mattresses and she was subjected to tremendous atrocities when she was 14 or15 years of age.
I have put that part in because whatI am going to refer to relates to the atrocities.
But I again remind the Senate that Mr Limb said that this information came not from her but from his interview with Dr Bailey. That was the evidence, f did not arrive in Canberra until the Saturday, 1 was shocked to read the report in the ‘Canberra Times’ of Friday, 29th May. The heading is important because it says:
TV man tells of ‘atrocities on girl’.
The heading is in quite large type. The article states:
Sydney, Thursday.- Television personality Bobby Limb spoke today of ‘atrocities’ carried out on a teenage girl drug addict by a dozen men al Paddington.
Please listen to this next paragraph which states:
Limb said he had witnessed the atrocities on a 14-year-old girl in a Paddington flat. He said they had been carried out by 12 men in purple hoods.
Having read that I was so distressed that 1 thought the least I could do was write a letter to the editor of the ‘Canberra Times’, which I did. 1 thought it was in fairly temperate language, I wrote:
I have read your report in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 29th May under the heading T.V. Man Tells of Atrocities on Girl’ which purports lo report evidence given before the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse in Sydney on Thursday, 28th May. Your report states that Mr Limb said he hud witnessed atrocities committed on a 14-year old girl in a Paddington flat.
As a member of the Committee who heard this evidence and who has the advantage of later checking it wilh the official transcript of evidence, 1 would like to flatly deny thai Mr Limb said that he had ‘witnessed’ this incident. In fact, the evidence was clear that Mr Limb had been told of this by a Sydney psychiatrist.
Mi Limb is performing a great public service in endeavouring to produce, with the help of a number of colleagues, a film directed to countering the drug problem, lt is in the course of his research for this film that this story was related to him.
I believe it is in the public interest for parliamentary committees to be open to the Press but at the same time I believe this places responsibility on the Press representative to fairly and accurately report evidence placed before the Committee. I trust thai you will take action lo correct this unfortunate incident.
Honourable senators can imagine my surprise yesterday morning when I opened the newspaper and found that not one word of my letter was printed. Because I was an interested person I read through the newspaper 3 times before I found this paragraph, which 1 now show to honourable senators, stuck in the bottom left hand corner of page 3 and with only the heading Corrections’. It read:
– lt is no different from any of the others.
– No; I believe that this is something that perhaps slipped through. The report came from an outside agency. But it is still inexcusable that it did slip through. As far as reporting is concerned, f have reached the stage where f wonder how wise it is for us to permit people to bc present at some of these hearings. If this sort of thing goes on, committees of inquiry will never have any witnesses coming forward voluntarily because potential witnesses will be frightened that they will be misreported. Then we will have to resort to issuing subpoenas. 1 raised this matter, first of all, because it was a scare headline that everybody would read and, secondly, because the newspaper may consider that it has now fixed the whole matter up by printing a very small correction. However, in seeking the opinions of a number of people here in Parliament House who read newspapers fairly avidly, I found that practically every person to whom I spoke had seen the original report damning Mr Limb as a man who would stand there and watch 12 men commit atrocities on a 14-year-old girl and do nothing about it; but, although the newspaper turned round and printed that small correction, of the people who saw the original report I did not strike one who saw the correction. So, with the permission of members of the Senate, I have taken this action to try to put the record straight. Mr Limb did not witness this incident. He was not a party to it. He was badly and incorrectly reported.
– by leave - I am pleased that Senator Branson has raised this matter in order to put the record straight.
– He is to be commended for doing so.
– He is to be highly commended for doing so. Not only is Mr Limb a man of great fame throughout the Australian community but 1 have the honour of being able to say that he and his wife and family are very close personal friends of mine. This matter arose on the Thursday, and Mr Limb rang me on the Friday to express his disappointment that this type of reporting could arise out of the proceedings of Senate select committees. According to what he told me, when he arrived at his home on the Thursday evening after appearing before the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse, he found that a number of people had been ringing his home seeking him and, in his absence, seeking from his wife details of the circumstances of the incident that is now the subject of report. 1 want to say on behalf of Mr Limb, his wife and his daughter that they are people whom I hold in very high regard and high esteem. They are outstanding Australian citizens.
The matter that Senator Branson has raised - for which he is to be commended - in my opinion only highlights the need for the establishment in Australia of an Australian Press Council to protect the rights of individuals, organisations and citizens who from time to time are reported incorrectly in the columns of the daily newspapers and in other mass media. This proposal for an’ Australian Press Council has the support of the Australian Journalists Association. Indeed, it could well be that the Senate should give consideration to the establishment of a Senate standing committee on the mass media in order to ensure that the rights of Australians who are reported incorrectly from time to time are adequately protected by the Australian Parliament.
– 1 present the report of the Eggleston inquiry into academic salaries. 1 ask for leave to make a statement relating to the report.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This is a report by Mr Justice Eggleston who, with 2 assessors, Professor D. P. Derham, C.M.G., M.B.E., and Mr M. C. Timbs, was appointed in March 1970 to advise the Government on the levels of academic salaries that might now be used by the Australian Universities Commission for the purpose of recommending grants for the recurrent expenditure of the universities. The academic salaries that are paid in each university are the responsibility of the governing body of that university and the State government concerned. The Government’s position has always been confined to its willingness to provide financial support for academic salaries up to certain prescribed levels. Those levels were last reviewed in 1967 when the Commonwealth decided to support new rates with effect from 1st July 1967.
Mr Justice Eggleston submitted his report on 7th May 1970 and his main recommendations are that the salaries for professors should be increased from $ 1 2,000 per annum to $14,400 per annum, an increase of 20%, and salaries for readers and associate professors should be increased by a like percentage from $9,900 per annum to $11,880 per annum. The report proposes an increase from $8,750 per annum to $10,500 per annum in the top of the range of salaries for senior lecturers, an increase of 20%, and an increase from $5,400 per annum to $6,318 per annum for the minimum of the salary range for lecturers, an increase of 17%. He recommends that the commencing date for the new rates should be 1st January 1970.
Mr Justice Eggleston also recommends that in future there should be automatic adjustments in academic salaries following national wage case decisions and states that the percentage increases recommended in the report are calculated on the assumption that automatic adjustments will be approved. The recommendations are in keeping with recent changes in salary rates payable to other categories of workers with which it is appropriate to compare academic salaries in universities and the Government has decided that it will contribute its normal share of any increases approved by the State governments up to the limits proposed by Mr Justice Eggleston, with effect from 1st January 1970. The Government will also, in future, support automatic adjustments to academic salaries in universities following national wage case decisions until the next periodic review. These decisions will involve contributions by the Commonwealth of $1 for each Si. 85 contributed by a State. All Premiers and State Ministers for Education have received copies of Mr Justice Eggleston’s report and have been informed of the Government’s intentions. It is for each State government to decide whether it will support the recommendations of Mr Justice Eggleston. In addition, Mr Justice Eggleston makes certain suggestions about the manner in which future inquiries should be conducted. These suggestions need further consideration and further consultation with the States and the Government has made no decision on those proposals at present.
– by leave - During question time today J asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) what kind of society is being created by the Government when it allows our top research scientists and university professors to be paid about one-half the amount which is paid to pilots employed by Qantas Airways Ltd. 1 referred also to those people at the bottom of the scale who have to go on strike in order to receive higher wages to meet the extra commitments imposed on them as a result of inflationary factors outside their control, such as the record interest rates on mortgages on houses and hire purchase commitments. I think it is a very serious matter, and one which should be of concern to the Commonwealth Government, that there is such a great disparity between the wage scales. Standards are being set by the Commonwealth Government.
We have before us a proposal whereby a senior lecturer will receive $10,500 per annum and other lecturers will receive such amounts as $6,318 per annum. At the top of the scale an associate professor will receive $11,880. Only a few days ago - this is why 1 referred to it earlier today - the Senate referred to the extraordinary amounts which are being paid to Qantas pilots. They may be entitled to them, if one takes certain views, but they are not entitled to them if one takes other views. However, L find it impossible to understand the relativity in society which leads to this result. Some people are being ground down and being forced into a position of industrial unrest. 1 refer to the people at the bottom of the scale. On the other hand, our top people, the research scientists and university professors who are in tremendous demand all over the world, are not being encouraged to remain in Australia. We are finding difficulty in attracting the best because of our wage scales. Yet we have quite incredible disparities. We read about the enormous sums some people receive by way of superannuation on retirement. I do not know whether these figures are correct. J. would like the appropriate Minister to advise me whether they are. But we read about some people receiving superannuation in the region of hundreds of thousands of dollars on top of their tremendous salaries. I think our society is setting standards which the Commonwealth should be concerned about. Moneys which are contributed by the Commonwealth to the States by way of different forms of legislation are being expended.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition say that these increases are too much?
– I am drawing the attention of the Senate to the anomalies which are being created in our society, lt is the responsibility of this Parliament to begin setting certain standards and to say what our society is aiming at. There is something radically wrong when university professors are being paid about one-half of what is being paid to people flying aeroplanes. I do not know what other honourable senators think about this, but it seems to me that there is something radically wrong in a society in which that result is being produced. The Government has a direct effect upon the result which is being produced. At some stage I think there will have to be further consideration given to these matters in order to ensure that there is proper relativity and that encouragement is given in the quarters in which it should be given. We should have careful regard for the standards we set for our young people, especially those who are looking for careers in various parts of our society. They should receive encouragement to go into those spheres which are most important in our society. Something should also be done to correct the terrible social injustice which is being done to those on the bottom of our economic scale.
– I agree with Senator Murphy. A serious position has been created in our community in relation to the. relativity of the emoluments which arc being paid to certain groups for the services which they are performing in the community. 1 think it is all bound up in what I might term a break down in the system of wage regulation which has operated in this community over the last 30, 40 or 50 years. Anybody who examines the industrial scene will see that we are rapidly developing a situation where the trade union official who is loyal to the arbitration system is likely to be shot at and comparisons to his disfavour are going to be drawn between his achievements on behalf of his members and the achievements of the trade union official who decides to ignore arbitration and go in for collective bargaining and, if collective bargaining fails, to go in for strikes.
Senator Murphy has compared the conditions of employment of airline pilots and university professors. Everybody knows why airlines pilots are receiving such astronomical sums in wages and remunerations. They realise that every day the aeroplanes are not operating could cost the operators millions of dollars and they realise that they possess industrial power. The airline pilots are determined to use their industrial power. Because of the immense sums involved they have been able to get away with their claims, which has meant that they now receive twice or three times what people who are also employed in responsible positions receive. The airline pilots claim that they occupy a dangerous position. Some of these people are engaged in vocations which involve a certain amount of danger and stress. The situation has been, bluntly, that the airline pilots and their organisations have decided that the way to gel what they want is to go on strike and cause the maximum amount of inconvenience to the community. 1 read the other day that the younger section of the air pilots organisation were suggesting that in future if air pilots intended to go on strike they should do so without warning- in order to cause the maximum amount of inconvenience to the community and to prevent any moves being made by the companies concerned to enable people who were travelling to complete their journeys. This is all bound up with the breakdown of the arbitration system.
I believe that the arbitration system has been misused by a considerable number of employers in recent years, that they were employing the penalty provisions in the arbitration system in a way in which they should not have been used. I believe in penalties, but I believe also that they should not be used capriciously or too hastily and that they should- not be excessive. I was one of the first to suggest that we needed reforms of the arbitration system. The Government has been very remiss in taking such a long lime to deal with these reforms, lt has allowed to come into existence a situation where it is accepted that no penal clauses will be used, even when they are justified. I agree wilh Senator Murphy that a very serious situation exists in this country, lt appears to me that if it is going to be remedied the first thing the Government must do is take very early action to put our system of wage regulation on a proper basis, it is vitally necessary that the Government take steps lo renew the prestige of the arbitration system with the employers and the unionists because I can see a situation developing where arbitration will be swept away and will be replaced by nothing less than the law of the jungle.
– I. present the 32nd report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, it being a report on the amendment of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations as contained in Statutory Rules 1970 No. 8. This report outlines the considerations of the Committee in relation to Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 2 on the notice paper, which will come before the Senate for consideration tomorrow.
Ordered thai the report be printed.
– It is with regret that I inform the Senate that yesterday a former member of the House of Representatives in the person of Mr Robert Johua M.C, passed away. Mr Joshua was elected to the House of Representatives for Ballaarat in 1951 and 1954 and was defeated in the general election in 1955. During portion of the time that the late Mr Joshua was a member of the other place he was Leader of the Australian Labor Party (Anti-Communist). The late Mr Joshua had a very fine war record. He was a man who had strong convictions and who brought his convictions to the Parliament where he expressed them vigorously. After passing from the parliamentary scene he was elected President of the Australian Democratic Labor Party in 1955 and he remained the President of that Party until he passed away. He gave service in accordance with his beliefs to the community, the Parliament and the nation. I think it is very fitting that we in this place should pay our respects to that service and to the man. On behalf of Government supporters in this place I wish to convey to his widow, his son, 5 daughters and about 30 grandchildren our sincere sympathy in the passing of the late Robert Joshua, a loving husband and father.
– On behalf of the Opposition I join with the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) in what he said and in expressing our sympathy to the family of the late Mr Joshua.
– I thank sincerely the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) for having made reference to the recent death of the former Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party and also for his expression of condolence to be conveyed to the widow and family of the late Mr Joshua. Honourable senators can imagine the feelings of my colleagues and myself when we received the sad news of the death of Robert Joshua. We received the news with a very deep sense of sorrow and with a sense of personal loss. Mr Robert Joshua was a member of the House of Representatives in this Parliament and from the time of the establishment of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, which was originally known in Victoria as the Australian Labor Party (Anti-Communist), was
Federal President of the Party until yesterday when he died. He had been ill for a few months only. He had taken a very active part in the workings of the Party and in the political life of Australia since he was defeated in Ballaarat in 1955. We feel with his death, an almost irreplaceable loss to our Party.
Robert Joshua was a man in every sense of the word. He was a man of political courage, personal courage and military courage. He possessed a kindly but firm nature which endeared him to all those who were privileged to know him. Bob Joshua had a distinguished war record and many years of political parliamentary service. He was wounded by shell fire twice in separate battles at El Alamein while serving as a major with the 2/32 Australian Infantry Battalion. He war awarded the Military Cross and later commanded the 2/43 Battalion in Lae and Finschhafen, and then the 13/33 Battalion in Australia until 1946. He had been promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He was wounded no less than 3 times during the War. He was elected to the House of Representatives as the member for Ballaarat in 1951 and reelected in 1954. He served with the Australian Labor Party until he and others within the Party reached the stage where they felt they could no longer serve under the leadership of Dr Evatt, principally because they believed a strong liaison existed between Dr Evatt and the Communist Party in Australia and beyond its boundaries. Mr Joshua led his colleagues
– I take a point of order. I ask Senator Gair to withdraw that last aspect of the statement which he has made. I regret having to do this, but I ask that he delete his reference to the reason why certain people left the Australian Labor Party. This expression of condolence will be sent on to Mr Joshua’s widow and family. I ask that Senator Gair withdraw that aspect of the statement.
– What I have said is historical fact, and there can be no disputation about it. That was the reason why these people left the party.
– 1 ask for the withdrawal of that statement. It is a reflection upon the Australian Labor Party - all of its members and its former leader. I ask that the reflection that was made on the late Dr Evatt be withdrawn.
– I withdraw only because of the circumstances of the ease. Mr Joshua has stood as the Democratic Labor Party candidate for the electorate of Ballaarat at every House of Representatives election which has been held since 1955. and he always secured a strong vote in a seat the result of which on each and every occasion has been determined by DLP preferences. I have referred to Mr Joshua’s military courage, as a soldier. He also had personal courage, too, and unlike so many more, he had the courage, as an officer of a private bank, lo get out on a public platform and advocate nationalisation of banking.
Mr joshua is a former State President of the Victorian Branch of the Democratic Labor Party, and he served on the Democratic Labor Party’s Central Executive continuously until last year. With an accountancy and banking background, he specialised in economics and financial policies. As Federal President of the DLP he presided at meetings of the DLP’s Federal Executive and Federal Conferences, and as VicePresident of the Party I felt honoured to serve under his leadership. Mr Joshua was a devout Anglican, and on Thursday he will be buried from the Anglican Cathedral in Ballarat.
In conclusion, I should like to say thank you to the major Press of Australia for the dignified manner in which it conveyed to the Australian public the news of the passing of a very distinguished Australian. But I express regret and deplore very deeply the fact that I newspaper which circulates in all States of Australia, and which carries a name which is symbolic of fair play, decency and mateship, contained a very brief news item on Mr Joshua’s death, in the course of which it said, in effect, that he was leader of the Democratic Labor Party only because he embraced a religious faith which was different from that of others on the Parry’s Executive. Bob Joshua was leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party from its inception because he was a man of great virtue, a man of exceptional qualities and a man with leadership qualities which commended themselves to those who had the choice of selecting a leader. 1 think that to smear Mr Joshua, by suggesting he was leader of the DLP only because he was of a different religious persuasion was mean, despicable and something to be deplored.
Bob Joshua was a great Austraiian. He was a man who loved his God, his country and his fellow man. He was a man who in al) his life endeavoured to do the best for this country and for the people who live within its boundaries. I join with the Leader of the Government in the Senate in supporting the expression of condolence to his widow. I sincerely thank the Minister for having made that expression here today. It is true that Mr Joshua did not serve in the Senate, but although we have no voice in the House of Representatives, I ami pleased to know that a similar expression of condolence was made in that House this afternoon, for which we in the Democratic Labor Party are grateful.
– I wish to speak because Mr Joshua was a Victorian, and I had a great deal of association wilh him both in the period when I was an official of the Australian Labor Party and later on when I became an official of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. Bob Joshua had 2 great characteristics; the first was kindness and the second was courage. He was a man who in my view never did a mean or contemptible thing. His courage was shown, as Senator Gair has said, by the fact that when he was a senior employee of a private bank he accepted the position of organiser of the campaign in Ballarat to support the measures taken by the late Mr Chifley lor the nationalisation of banking. I think this did Mr Joshua credit, but it also did credit to the bank that it took no punitive action against, him. lt also did credit to the bank that, after Mr Joshua’ lost his seat in the House of Representatives some years later, and although private banks normally are not anxious lo restore to their employment those who have left them, it got in touch with Mr Joshua and told him that his position was available if he wished to return. I think thai did credit to both sides.
I have spoken to men who fought with Bob Joshua in the Middle East and in New Guinea. They told me that he was a man of amazing courage and that on occasions when patrols were being conducted, no matter how close they were to the enemy he was always anxious to go a little bit further. He finished the war as colonel of a South Australian battalion, and a few weeks ago, just prior to Anzac Day, when he was mortally ill he insisted on travelling to Adelaide in the hope that he would be able to march wi:h his old comrades. When he got there he was so ill that he was unable to do so. I can only say that he was a man whose memory I shall always cherish, and in my view, irrespective of political views, he was a great Australian.
– (Victoria)- On behalf of the Australian Country Party 1 wish to join in the expressions of condolence to the bereaved family who survive Colonel Joshua. As President of the Australian Democratic Labor Party for many years he was known particularly well to Victorian citizens. I, as a former President of the Victorian branch of the Australian Country Party and one who, at the time of Colonel Joshua’s entry into the Victorian State Parliament, was associated with cur Central Council, followed very closely his activities. Indeed, my family was connected with the Victorian State Parliament at that time. Robert Joshua was very well known in rural areas, particularly in the city from which he came. He was an outstanding citizen of the State of Victoria and I think that to all those who have been associated with politics he was known as a man who by his own leadership led one of the smaller political parties in Australia to great fame. Indeed, 1 believe it was Colonel Joshua who set the foundations for achieving the strength which we must all agree the Democratic Labor Party holds in Australia today. Colonel Joshua was a man of great honour and was considered such in his district. He was respected in business, as I know, and he reflected great credit on the profession which he followed. My Party mourns his passing and deeply regrets the loss of such an outstanding Australian citizen.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - I will convey to the family of the late Mr Joshua the expressions of sympathy of the Senate.
Consideration resumed from 2 June (vide page 1883).
Clause 42. 42.- (1.) Sections 82r, 82s and 82t of the Principal Act are repealed and the following sections inserted in their stead: - “82r. . . . “82s- (1.) Where-
a contributor to a medical benefits fund lodges wilh the organization that conducts the fund a claim in respect of a professional service that has been rendered (whether before or after the contributor became a contributor) to himself or to one of his dependants;
the professional service was rendered on or after the proclaimed date, and during a period in relation to which this section applies in respect of the contributor;
under a provision included in the rules of the organization for the purpose of enabling this section and the next succeeding section to apply in relation to the organization, contributions were not payable by the contributor to the fund in respect of that period or the payment of contributions by the contributor to the fund in respect of that period has been waived; and
the organization pays to, or to a person on behalf of, the contributor fund benefit in respect of the professional service, there is payable to the organization by the Commonwealth an amount equal to the fund benefit referred to in paragraph (d) of this sub-section. “(2.) Where-
a contributor to a hospital benefits fund lodges with the organization that conducts the fund a claim in respect of hospital treatment that has been received (whether before or after the contributor became a contributor) by himself or by one of his dependants;
the hospital treatment was received on or after the proclaimed date and during a period in relation to which this section applies in respect of the contributor;
the contributor is a contributor for the approved scale of benefits in relation to the fund or for a scale of benefits greater than those provided by the approved scale of benefits;
under a provision included in the rules of the organisation for the purpose of enabling this section and the next succeeding section to apply in relation to the organisation, contributions where not payable by the contributor to the fund in respect of that period or the payment of contributions by the contributor to the fund in respect of that period hae been waived; and
the organisation pays to, or to a person on behalf of, the contributor, as fund benefit in respect of that hospital treatment -
the amount of fund benefit in accordance with the scale of benefits for which the contributor is a contributor; or
if that amount exceeds the prescribed amount, an amount equal to the prescribed amount and no more, there is payableto the organisation by the Commonwealth -
if the contributor is a contributor for the approved scale of benefits - an amount equal to the amount paid as fund benefit in accordance with paragraph (e) of this sub-section; or
in any other case - an amount equal to the amount that would have been paid as fund benefit in accordance with paragraph (e) of this sub-section if the contributor had been, when the hospital treatmentwas received a contributorfor the approved scale of benefits. “82r.- (1.) . . . “(2.) Where-
a contributorto a medical benefits fund lodges with the organisationthat conducts the fund a claim in respect of a professional service that has been rendered to himself or to one of his dependants (including where the determination is a Class A determination, a professional service rendered before the contributor became a contributor);
where the determination is a Class A determination - the fund benefit referred to in paragraph (d) of this section;
wherethe determination is a ClassB determination -twothirds of the fund benefit referred to in paragraph(d) ofthis subsection: or
where thedetermination is a Class C determination - one-third of the fund benefit referredto in paragraph (d) of this sub-section. “(5.) Insub-section(3.) of this section, ‘the prescribed amount’ meansthe amount (if any) by which the sum of the grossfeesand extra charges incurred in respectof the hospital treatment concerned is greater than the amount of Commonwealth and miscellaneous fund benefit payable in respect ofthehospital treatment. “.
– On behalf of Senator McClelland I seek leave to amendamendment No. 24 circulated in his name by the addition of the words:such excess to be paid by the organisationto the contributor.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I now move:
At end of paragraph (e) of sub-section (2.) of proposed section 82 r add the wordsplus any specified excess detailed in the Schedules, such excess to be paid by the organisation to the contributor’.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has now moved on behalf of the Opposition amendment No. 24 in my name with the addition of the words that he has enunciated. Might I suggest at this stage that the words added to amendment No. 24 be also added to amendments No. 25 and 26? I askfor leave to do so and I ask that the 3 amendments be taken together.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMANThere being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
At end of paragraph (f) of sub-section (2.) of proposed section 82t add the words “ plus two-thirds of any specified excess detailed in the Schedules, such excess to he paid by the organisa- tionto the contributor.”.
At end of paragraph (g) of sub-section (2.) of proposed section 82r add the words “ plus one-third of any specified excess detailed in the Schedules, such excessto he paid by the organisationtothe contributor.”.
I have done this in order to ensure that if the requests for amendment are carried the benefit that we suggest will accrue to the contributor and not to the organisation. The amendments relate to the subsidised contributors according to the Government’s present proposals. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) in his statement of 4th March pointed out that the Government had already introduced a scheme for the provision of assistance to families on low incomes in obtaining health insurance cover. The scheme which is based on the same general principles as those underlying recommendation 20 of the Nimmo Committee also extends to persons in receipt of unemployment and sickness benefits and to newly arrived migrants. In his statement of4th Marchthe Minister went on to set out specific details of the Government’s, proposals. But contrary to common understanding the Opposition suggests thatthe low income worker under the Government’s present ‘proposals still will have to find a sizable sum to meet the difference between the fee charged by the medical practitioner and the refund that he will receive from the Commonwealth and the fund. In addition, of course, so far as class B and class C determinations are concerned, in numerous cases they themselves will have to meet part of the cost of their insurance.
In New South Wales, under one table the normal medical fund contribution is 75c per week. Under a class B determination a subsidised person will have to find 25c a week for his medical insurance and in the case of class C he will have to find, I think, 50c a week. That is, of course, only in the case of medical insurance. We believe that once it has been established that low income earners come within the categories of poverty or want they should not be charged for health protection for themselves or their dependants. We suggest that these people, perhaps more than anyone else in the community, need a comprehensive range of health services, both medical and hospital. A class A determination applies to a person whose weekly income does not exceed $42.50, which is the minimum wage in Australia, or if a higher amount is prescribed for the purposes of this sub-paragraph the amount so prescribed. Class B relates to a person who has an income ranging between $42.50 and $45.50 and class C relates to a person whose weekly income ranges between $45.50 and $48.50.
The matter of low income earners was considered by both the Wedgwood Committee and the Nimmo Committee. For the benefit of the record I shall read paragraph 297 on page 85 of the Wedgwood Committee’s report which deals with the matter. It is as follows:
In these circumstances it now appears to the Committee that there is little point in making any specific recommendations in relation to noninsurance. However, the definition of those within the ‘low-income group’ is a matter of difficulty, as it is obvious that the drawing of arbitrary income levels, no matter how well established by research and inquiry, cannot segregate what might be described as hardship cases from others. The Committee believes mat there would be merit in relating the entitlement to receive this type of assistance to the principles upon which the Government assesses entitlement to age pensions, which in many cases carries with it eligibility to participate in the pensioner medical scheme. In addition, where a person believes that special circumstances of financial or other domestic difficulty exist, the Committee believes that machinery should be available, within the social welfare elements of Government administration, for the evaluation of such claims and the approval of special payments in such cases. Illnesses, both chronic and non-chronic, which present special problems, numbers of dependants and other similar considerations could be apparent justifications for proper variations of the pension principle in relation to health insurance subsidy applicants.
The Committee went on to express the opinion that subsidised health services should be made available to those who apply for them on the basis of the preceding 12 months income period. 1 point out that under the Government’s present proposals the subsidised worker, who in many cases has a number of dependants, will be much worse off financially under these arrangements than are people under the Pensioner Medical Service. The Nimmo Committee referred to this matter in some considerable detail. In paragraph 5.9 of its report it stated:
The viability of a voluntary health insurance scheme depends on its being practicable for every person in the community to secure coverage under it. It therefore follows that assistance to insure must be provided for these low income families. In our view assistance to the full amount of contributions for standard hospital and medical coverage should be provided by the Commonwealth Government to the head of a family with two dependent children where the family income, exclusive of child endowment, for a defined period, does not exceed the minimum wage payable under Commonwealth awards or the State in which they reside (with appropriate adjustment for assets). This amount should be reduced by $4 where there is only one child and by a further $4 where there are no children. Similarly where there are more than two dependent children in the family the amount should be increased by $4 for each additional child.
Therefore, as we read it the Nimmo Committee recommended that a person in this category with more than 2 children should be allowed for assessment purposes an additional $4 per week per child and would obtain health insurance coverage. Under such a proposal a person earning $58.50 with 6 dependent children would be entitled to receive some protection, but under the Government’s proposals once a person’s income exceeds $48.50 he has to find the wherewithal for insurance purposes.
– In other words, if he earns a little more money and has more dependants he is worse off than another person.
– Thai is right. Indeed there could be the anomalous situation of a man earning 558.50 a week with a wife and 6 dependent children to support not coming within the scope of protection whereas under the Government’s present proposal a man earning $42.50 a week with only himself and his wife to maintain would receive coverage.
– How do yon claim that your proposed amendment. overcomes that situation.
– We are suggesting thai so far as the class A determination is concerned the man should receive back the Commonwealth benefit, the fund benefit and the excess specified in the schedule, in other words, the amount of the common fee charged by the medical practitioner. In the case of a class B determination - that is, a person earning between $42.50 and $45.50 who has to find twothirds of the insurance cost - he should receive back the Commonwealth benefit, the fund benefit and two-thirds of the excess specified in the schedule. In the case of a class C determination he should receive back the Commonwealth benefit, the fund benefit and one-third of the excess specified in the schedule. We claim that this would assist him substantially to overcome the gap between the fee charged or the common fee specified and the amount he will receive by way of Commonwealth benefit and fund benefit.
I have mentioned the situation in relation to medical insurance. When you take into account medical and hospital insurance, a man earning between $42.50 and $45.50, assuming he sought to cover himself for the public ward charge of $10 a clay and if the schedule contained on page 85 oi the Wedgwood Committee’s report were adopted, would have to pay for medical and hospital insurance 49c a week in the case of class B determination and 98c a week in the case of class C determination. Frankly, people on such an income-
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I rise for the purpose of allowing Senator McClelland to continue his remarks on the proposed amendment.
Senator MCCLELLAND (New Smith Wales) (4.23)- I thank the Senate for its indulgence. The tables to which 1 have referred relating to hospital insurance are set out on page 28 of the Wedgwood Committee’s report. In order to cover himself for a refund of the public ward charge, which in New South Wales is of the order of SIO a day. the family weekly contribution would be 70c which returns a total benefit of $10.40. He paying one-third of that would have to pay his medical fee plus one-third of 70c, namely 24c, which means that be would have to pay 49c a week whereas a man earning between $45.50 and $48.50 would have to pay twice as much, namely of the order of 98c to $1 a week. We rhetorically ask: How are people expected to live on such an income and still find such a sum each week for insurance purposes? Il is beyond our comprehension. If a man in such an income bracket has as dependants a wife and 6 children he still would have to pay $1 a week for medical and hospital insurance, and at the same time he would be obliged to bridge the gap between the common fee specified and the refund received. Of course, if he visited a doctor who was not adhering to the common fee he would have to pay more than the excess appearing in the Schedules to the Bill.
We say that the present situation is fraught with anomalies. Whilst this Bill is not our cup of tea, nonetheless we believe that the amendments we have proposed will substantially reduce the intolerable burden imposed on low income earners. We say that a man earning the minimum wage of $42.50 a week or less should receive the Commonwealth benefit, the fund benefit and the excess specified in the Schedules. We suggest that people covered by the Class B determination should be paid the Commonwealth benefit and the fund benefit plus two-thirds of any specified excess detailed in the Schedules. As to Class C, we say that people in that category should receive the Commonwealth benefit and the fund benefit plus one-third of any specified excess detailed in the Schedules.
– Are you suggesting that the excess should come from Commonwealth funds?
– We are suggesting that the Commonwealth should be prepared to pay that amount in order to assist the low income earner over what could well be acute financial difficulties.
– That seems a little clumsy, to speak of the Commonwealth benefit and then of another benefit which would cover the excess.
– It would partly cover the excess because the low income earner has to contribute something in order to cover himself by insurance.
– Would it not have been more reasonable to suggest that an additional Commonwealth benefit, a higher Commonwealth benefit, should be paid to these people?
– That may be so, but the Labor movement believes that because the Government has decided to divide these people into different categories in conformity with its present policy - and I emphasise that the existing scheme would not be the Labor Party scheme if we were elected to Government - the proposal we now make would greatly assist low income earners, especially in Class B and Class C, to bridge the gap between the benefit and the excess specified in the Schedules. As to hospital benefits, it could well be that some people in Class B and Class C would not pass the means test for public wards in hospitals in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. I understand that only in those 3 States are means tests conducted for admission to public wards. In my own State of New South Wales the means test is conducted by using rental and dependant components. A worker with 4 dependants earning S58.50 a week could be paying a weekly rent of S7 or S8. He would not pass the means test for admission to a public ward. Under our proposal he would have to insure himself and his dependants for hospital coverage.
We believe that the amendments we propose will substantially assist low income earners in the 3 categories that have been decided upon by the Government. If accepted, they will ameliorate the hardships that are being imposed on a great number of low income earners. We say that it is in the interests of the Australian community that these people be protected and I have therefore moved the amendments proposed by the Opposition.
– We in the Democratic Labor Party feel great sympathy with the point of view presented by Senator McClelland. Unless strong reasons can be given by the Minister to reject the proposed amendments - and we will await them - our present inclination to support them will be followed. Senator McClelland referred to low income families. In that regard I wish to read a letter I have received from one of the best known friendly societies in Victoria. The secretary of that society wrote:
I want to place before you certain matters regarding the Bill to amend the National Health Act at present being considered. In particular I refer to those portions concerning the subsidised medical service scheme which was introduced with the purpose of helping low income families. The $39 weekly income was quickly outdated and became $42.50. The Bill now proposes to divide low income families into 3 categories: Class A, with income up to $42.50 weekly; Class B, with income over $42.50 weekly but not exceeding $45.50; Class C, with income over $45.50 but not exceeding $48.50. Medical benefits and public ward hospital benefits in Victoria are expected to cost a family $1.46 weekly. Class A will pay no contributions. Class B will pay one-third contributions and Class C will pay two-thirds contributions.
The two points I want to make briefly, Senator, arc that very few families in my experience whose income is under $48.50 weekly will pay the requisite contribution. They will continue to use public hospitals as at present for both medical and hospital treatment. The second point is that the proposed scheme, even if only a small number utilise it, involves the most complicated administrative procedures that could be worked out by any department, both for the registered organisations and the Department of Health.
My final comment is to ask: If the Government is sincere in its desire to help low income families, could not the means test for Class A be set at $48.50 weekly and this proposal for Classes B and C abolished? This could provide a real benefit for families who must by our present day standards be regarded as ‘the poor’.
Our feeling towards these low income people is that we ought to help them. We believe that we ought to await the Minister’s explanation. Having heard that, we will formulate our conclusions. At the moment we feel disposed to support the amendments proposed by Senator McClelland.
[4.32] - I am reminded that before the Senate rose last night the Committee was dealing with a proposed amendment closely associated in our discussions with the proposals we are now debating. I wish to remind the
Committee of the comments I made at that time. By subsidising benefits in full for unemployment and sickness beneficiaries the Government has placed them in the same position as other contributors to the medical benefits scheme, withcott their having to pay any contributions to funds. The only payments that they will have to make towards their medical and hospital care are the relatively small amounts they will have to pay for medical services. These will not exceed $5 even for the most serious operation and the services directly associated with it. when the doctors charge th,? common fee.
The Government is of the opinion that so far as the relationship of the patient to the doctor is concerned, these persons should be treated in the same way as anyone else. It is a basic concept of voluntary health insurance - I think it is necessary for me to stress this point - that the patient should make some small payment towards meeting the cost of the medical services he receives. However, it should be kept in mind that the fee for a medical service is a matter to bo settled between the doctor and the patient. As I have said, doctors are not bound to charge the most common fee and in the case of unemployment and sickness beneficiaries and low income families it is most likely that most of them will relate their fees to the benefit rather than the most common fee.
It has been the practice of the medical profession in the past to vary fees in accordance with a patient’s means and I can see no reason why this should not be done in future. As I said to the Committee last night, the abolition of the old rule limiting benefits to 90% of the charge will enable them to charge patients uo more than the benefits payable for the service. J reply, as 1 did in connection with the previous amendment, that because of the considerations which J have mentioned the Government cannot accept the amendment.
– I challenge the Minister’s statement that these people will receive benefits in full without having to pay any contributions to funds. Proposed section 82t(1.)(c) sub-section (i) reads: where the determination is a Class A determinationcontributions were nol payable by the contributor to the fund.
That covers a person in the category up to the S42.50 mark. Sub-section (ii) states: where the determination is a Class B determination - contributions were not payable by the contributor to the fund in respect of that period at a rate exceeding one-third of the rate that would have been applicable but for that provision.
A person in that category would have to pay one-third of the weekly contribution rate for coverage. A person in the category of a Class C determination would have to pay two-thirds of the amount for medical insurance coverage. In addition the person has to decide whether he wants to cover his family so far as hospital insurance is concerned. In addition to those payments a person in the low income bracket has to find the difference between the fund benefit and Commonwealth benefit on the one hand and the common fee charged by the medical practitioner on the other. It is all right to talk about the 55 limit applying to surgery, but the young child of a low income earner could get some infectious disease and require the daily visit of a medical practitioner for over a week or so. In that event the charge outstanding to be paid by such a low income earner would be quite staggering, and indeed astronomical, having regard to his income bracket. The Minister can talk about the $5 limit for serious operations and for services in connection with surgery, but the low income earner - the person in the $42 to $44.50 category - has to meet one-third of the insurance. A person in the Class C category - between $45 and §48.50 - has to meet two-thirds of his insurance. A substantial weekly amount is being spent by persons in each of those two low income groups for insurance purposes. In addition, if medical services are required the gap has to be breached. We say that our proposal will ameliorate a great number of the financial difficulties of those people. It is nol right for the Minister to say that these people will be covered without having to pay any contributions to funds.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [4.39] - I would not want the misunderstanding that seems to exist between the honourable senator and myself to continue. Maybe I did not express myself clearly enough when I commenced my comment. 1 tied it up with the comments I made last night in connection wilh the previous amendment.
I said that the same consideration would apply to amendments 24, 25 and 26 which all relate to the low income families whose benefits are subsidised to the full or to the extent of two-thirds or one-third. That is the point that I made last night. I endeavoured - and obviously not very well - to tie that up with my comment today.
– They still have to PaY
– Yes. I did no; want the honourable senator lo think thai I was endeavouring to create a false impression. The point I make is that the Government is extending this assistance. Al the moment those in the category above $39 are expected to pay the full amount, but the Government is extending assistance to those in the category below $48.50. We are assisting these people in this way.
Senator Dame IVY WEDGWOOD (Victoria) 14.401 - I think we become somewhat bemused when we talk about the $5 limit and the benefit that this will bring to people, lt certainly will be a great advantage to those people who would be paying for their medical or surgical treatment in private hospitals, or in private beds in public hospitals. When we deal with the low income bracket we have to consider that because of their low income these people have available to them the facilities of the public hospital. Their greatest charge most definitely is the every day risk of cover for themselves and their families. During the inquiry of the Senate select committee we found that by far the greatest burden on all families was the cost of recurring general practitioner services. The incidence of major surgery is not high, though it is high enough for the people concerned. Whilst I think that what Senator McClelland has put forward is a rather cumbersome way, the proposal to give further assistance to these people, I do not think we should run away with the idea that the limit of $5 will provide a very great benefit to the low income group.
– 1 would like the Minister to reply to the suggestion made by Senator McManus, which was contained in the letter he read. He suggested that the limit should be extended to include the $48 category, which would do away with the very complicated system which will result from having a 3-step differentiation. I know that the Department of Health has nol read properly Parkinson’s law, but other people have. Having 3 categories will mean a tremendous increase in staff in the benefit organisations. Increased staff is a matter of concern to them. It is not a matter of concern to the Department of Health. I would like to hear the Minister express herself on why the Government cannot accept Senator McManus’s suggestion. The different between $42 and $48 is not great.
The second matter to which I refer is the $5 maximum fee for certain operations. If the $5 maximum were to include all medical services, not only surgical services, Senator McClelland would not have had to move this amendment. At the time when the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) stated that no-one would have to pay more than $5 for any service - today it is limited virtually to operations - no-one thought that a patient, because he had a surgical illness, would nol have to pay more than 55 but if he had a medical illness he would have to pay hundreds of dollars. If a person has a medical illness quite often he is out of work far longer than if he had a surgical illness.
The Government should stop being political about these matters. Because one party suggests something or because another party thinks something, the Government will not accept such suggestions. If the Prime Minister says something, it has to be done. The Government should have a bit of common sense and realise that the $5 limit is a good idea, but it would be a better idea if it covered medical illnesses as well as surgical illnesses. As an example 1 take a coronary case - a person who has a heart disease. He may be off work for 3 months. He would have a tremendous bill for pathology, medical visits, electrocardiograph tests, etc. He would be off work about 3 times as long as a person who has a gall bladder removed. The latter person would be in hospital only about a fortnight and would be back at work within a month. He would have to pay only S5 for the excess treatment that he receives. It is grossly unfair and unjust. It goes right against the grain. I believe that in medical benefactions the surgical aspect should not be separated from the medical aspect. This is as bad as this Government’s attitude to psychiatric disease. I says that this is a special disease and it must not receive the same benefits as any other. 1 hope the Minister can give the Senate some sound reason, firstly, why the suggestion of the friendly societies which Senator McManus read out cannot be implemented - I suppose this is a matter of policy - and, secondly, why the maximum fee of $5 cannot include all medical diseases.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [4.46] - I would like to make one or two points. I listened with a great deal of interest to the letter read by Senator McManus and to the points which he raised. This is the first time that the Government has subsidised the insuring of low income families as it has done in this plan under which benefits are subsidised in full, or to the extent of twothirds, or to the extent of one-third. Senator McManus has suggested that the Government should delete the 3 sections and that all low income families should be subsidised in full. That is how 1 understood what he said. The Government has decided on this provision in the Bill as a matter of policy. 1 am very happy to bring the points which have been raised by Senator McManus to the notice of my colleague the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes). 1 shall advise him of the opinion which has been expressed in this place. Honourable senators will understand that with this Bill I am representing the Minister for Health and 1 must bring these matters to his attention.
– I rise only because I heard Senator McClelland say earlier that this was a very complex piece of legislation, f seem to recall that one of the major complaints by the Nimmo Committee was that the whole of the health insurance scheme was so complex that people could not understand it. 1 must confess that my own problems have been enormous on occasions when I have made applications to the fund to which I belong. I sense there is some improvement in some aspects of the scheme as envisaged in this legislation, but the provisions with which we are concerned here are so complex that it is very difficult even with the most attentive study to appreciate what is involved, lt is not made any easier when
Senator McManus introduces a concept different altogether from that put forward by Senator McClelland.
– I thought I presented a simple plan which would clear up the whole problem.
– I agree that Senator McManus’s proposal does have the merit of simplicity. I suppose, from the Government’s point of view, it has the problem of cost. I do not know what it would cost if all persons under a family income of $48.50 were to have, in effect, their contributions to a health insurance scheme paid fully for them by the Government.
– I think, Senator, you will agree that it is going to cost a lot of money, time and effort to administer the highly complicated system proposed in the Bill.
– I think there is a lot in what Senator McManus says, but I do not know how it works out in balance. As the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), said, this is the policy the Government has laid down. Insofar as there is an expression of policy in this legislation I think it is very difficult for the Senate sensibly to believe that it is something which can be changed without appreciation of these matters to which I have referred. I know Senator Turnbull would say: ‘The policy is wrong. Change it’, with that air of ease which comes to him sitting - I say without disrespect - as the independent in this chamber. I sense that the problem which Senator McManus has raised is different from the actual amendment which is now before the Senate, and his suggestion is one further complicated matter being added to an already complicated scene about which I rose to express objection.
Coming to what Senator McClelland has said. I sense that what we are concerned with here is a health scheme which is basically a voluntary insurance scheme, where the individual insures and as a result of what he obtains from his insurance Government assistance is attracted and he is thereby enabled to cover his hospital and medical costs.
– Part of them.
– I appreciate it’ is part of them, but it is the most substantial part of them. J have used this analogy before, and I think it is a useful analogy: A person pays premiums to insure his house and thereby avoid the consequences of some disaster to his house; so a person can insure to protect himself against the burdens, the heavy costs of medical charges and hospitalisation which he must undergo. The analogy is there. The Government has said that it will pay the contribution to the fund of those people who have an income under $42.50 a week. It will pay two-thirds of the contribution for those whose income is under §45.50 a week and it will pay one-third of the contributions of those whose income is under $48.50 a week. Senator McClelland says that all those people should have their contributions paid and, what is more, they should have some money paid to them so that it does not cost them one penny at all when they have a medical bill or when they have to go to hospital. That is how I understand the proposal. I oppose that proposal because if accepted the concept of insurance disappears altogether. What is simply being done is that these people are having their medical expenses totally met on a basis which virtually makes the State the provider. I appreciate there is an aspect of ideology or philosophy in this. The approach made by the Government has my support rather than the approach involved in Senator McC’lelland’s proposal.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [4.53] - Senator Greenwood is perfectly right. This provision is based on a voluntary health insurance scheme. I think honourable senators have lo appreciate that the Government is, for the first lime, assisting these low income families in this way. Menlion was made of cost. During my second reading speech I made the point, which 1 think is important, that it is estimated that some 84.000 families and 271,000 persons will be eligible for assistance because of the extension of the assistance, and that the additional cost in a full year will be S3m. I do not know that that would be the exact amount involved if the alteration proposed by Senator McClelland were accepted, but I imagine that the figure I have mentioned could well be doubled.
– Oh, no.
– I could not be held to that figure, but it would be a considerable increase. These are points which the Government must consider.
– 1 have listened to the Minister and 1 have discussed her proposal with my colleagues. We feel that the proposal which has been put forward in the letter which I read is obviously and very eminently the kind of proposal that should be put into effect. The Minister has said that she will report to the Minister in another place. I hope he will see for himself how our proposal will remove administrative costs and administrative difficulties. As this Bill will go lo another place and then come back here the Australian Democratic Labor Party proposes to vote for the Bill as it now stands, having heard the Minister’s explanation. But if nothing is done about our proposal in the other place - I hope this will not upset her-
– lt will nol upset me.
– If nothing is done in the other place we would favourably consider an amendment along the lines I have suggested when the Bill comes back here.
– If the Minister docs not know the answer to the question why there is a $5 maximum only for surgery procedure and not a $5 maximum for medical service, will she obtain the information during the suspension of the sitting for dinner and let the Senate have it later on?
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [4.55] - 1 have been asked to obtain a detailed comment on this matter. I will obtain it as soon as I can and give it to Senator Turnbull. My understanding is that the $5 applies to medical services, but I will have the point cleared up for the honourable senator.
Senator MCCLELLAND (New South Wales) 14.56] - I wish to reply to one or two observations made by Senator Greenwood in order that he will have a correct understanding of the attitude being adopted by the Labor Party on this aspect of the Bill. First of all, as I indicated earlier, this is not the millennium as far as the philosophy of the Labor movement on health insurance is concerned. Our amendments have been proposed having regard to the framework of the existing Government’s presentpolicy of voluntary health insurance. It is the existing Government that has chosen 3 standards in respect of low income earners.
Our proposal, in short, is that a person in receipt of$42.50 a week or less should have his contributions paid for him as we understand they are paid at the present time, should receive the Commonwealth benefit for any medical service he obtains, as he receives it at the present time, and should receive the fund benefit, as he receives it at the present time. But we say that he should also receive the difference, as set out in the Schedule, between the Commonwealth and fund benefits on the one hand and the fee charged by the medical practitioner on the other.
– Are you not saying that that should go to him directly or personally?
– No. It would go to the organisation for payment to him. That is the proposal contained in our amendment. We say that people who have dependent children and are earning the minimum wage, or perhaps less in one or two fields, are in a worse financial position than many people who at present have pensioner medical service entitlements. I refer now to the person in class B, who has a weekly income of between $42.50 and $45.50 and who, the Government has decided, should pay one-third of his insurance contributions. We say that if the Government wants to insist on that standard, well and good, but that person should receive in respect of a medical service the Commonwealth benefit and fund benefit, as he will now receive under the Bill, plus two-thirds of the difference between those benefits on the one hand and the fee charged on the other. Finally I refer to the person in class C who, the Government decrees, should pay two-thirds of the weekly insurance contributions. We say that he should receive the Commonwealth and fund benefits, as he will now receive under the Government’s arrangement, plus one-third of any excess detailed in the Schedule.
It is quite a simple proposition. It is framed in line with the existing Government’s present policy. I emphasise that if we were bringing in a Bill of this nature it would not be in conformity with these differentials in respect of low income earners. As I mentioned earlier, under the present proposals we may have the anomalous situation that a man who has a wife and 6 children dependent upon him and earns $58 a week is excluded from these categories, whereas a man who earns $42 a week and has only 1 person dependent upon him is roped in.
Our proposals are designed to ameliorate the problems of men with low incomes, particularly those with large families. We do not say that this is the millennium by any means, but we suggest that our proposals are a great improvement on the present proposals of the Government. We agree that the existing scheme is complex. In our opinion, it certainly does not carry out the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee, as the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) suggested in his speech on 4th March. But, be that as it may, because we believe that our amendments are an improvement on the Government’s proposals I have moved them on behalf of the Opposition.
That the requests (Senator McClelland’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator MCCLELLAND (New South Wales) 1.5.6] - As a further request for amendment I move:
After proposed section R2t insert the following new section: “82TA. For the purposes of sections eighty-two s and eighty-two r a person entitled to the benefits proposed under these sections shall not bc debarred from those benefits merely because he failed to apply for them by registering as a contributor provided he does so within two years of the first dale on which he otherwise qualified for medical or hospital benefit.”.
The Australian Labor Party’s request for an amendment in relation to this matter is designed so that a person will not be debarred from obtaining the benefits of the subsidised scheme merely on the ground that he failed to register as a contributor, provided he docs so within 2 years of having incurred the expenditure. We are given to understand that at present, in respect of people who are in fact insured, the health funds have rules to the effect that they will honour accounts up to, in some cases, 6 months after the account has been rendered by the medical practitioner. There are one or two cases where the rules provide that the accounts will be honoured within 12 months of the expense being incurred. The Labor Party believes that 2 years is a fair and reasonable proposition in respect of low income earners. After all, the Nimmo Committee reported that the present scheme is complex and beyond the comprehension of many. 1 know that Senator Greenwood agrees with the report of the Nimmo Committee in that regard. I certainly agree with it. The Wedgwood Committee also found that the scheme is somewhat complex insofar as a large number of the low income earners are concerned.
The people on low incomes have not had the benefit of much education. Indeed, they have enough difficulty in coping wilh the challenges of life as it is without having to sit down and work out their entitlements under the present scheme insofar as it relates to low income earning subsidies, lt is a fact of life that, through no fault of their own, some of these people can barely read and write let alone understand or try to comprehend the complexity of such a claim, especially where 3 differentials are involved. The Labor Party does not believe that because they do not know their rights under this proposal they should be penalised if they are able to ascertain their rights and register as contributors with a fund within 2 years, which is set out in our amendment. We believe that our amendment, which gives them a leeway of 2 years, is a reasonable position in such circumstances, bearing in mind, of course, the fact that the rules of some of the funds now apply a 6-months limit and in one or two cases it is a 12- months limit.
The Labor Party believes that, in those circumstances, 2 years is a fair and reasonable proposition. The Labor Party believes that some people should not be disqualified from receiving the medical and hospital benefit if they are roped in as contributors within that period. It is on that basis and for that reason that the Labor Party proposes this request for an amendment.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [5.10] - In replying to Senator McClelland, 1 wish to make some comments concerning the amendment which he has proposed. The honourable senator’s amendment proposes that unemployment and sickness beneficiaries and low income families should not be debarred from assistance under the National Health Act merely because they have not applied for the benefits. He has proposed that they be regarded as eligible for the assistance provided they apply within 2 years of the date of the treatment. The Principal Act and the Bill are silent on the question of the retrospective payment of benefits.
I have some facts regarding the categories and beneficiaries under the proposed arrangement. I refer to, firstly, unemployment and sickness beneficiaries who are covered by section 82s of the principal Act. These beneficiaries are eligible for fund benefits for the whole period of their unemployment or sickness plus an additional period of 4 weeks after they lose their entitlement to the unemployment or sickness benefit. A 2 weeks waiting period is applied to any beneficiary who is uninsured. Subject to this one exception, the beneficiaries may claim for benefits at any time for treatment they receive during the recognised period. The administrative machinery provides for these beneficiaries to be given an eligibility card immediately the unemployment or sickness benefit is granted. So, in their case, the question of retrospectivity does not arise.
Secondly, 1 refer to the low income families who are covered by section 82t of the principal Act. Families determined to be eligible by the Director-General of Social Services are entitled to receive benefits for the whole period specified in the determination. These benefits may be claimed at any time. Families earning less than $42.50 a week need not be members of funds, in the ordinary sense, to be eligible for benefits and may claim benefits at any time in respect of treatment received in the period specified in the determination. However, families earning up to $45.50 a week or $48.50 a week must be contributors in the ordinary sense of the word. Eligibility is not granted to low income families before the date of the application for assistance, and so provision does not exist for paying benefits in respect of any treatment received before the date of the application on which the Director-General of Social Services determines eligibility. The Department has been aware of the problem of identifying eligible families and has taken every step possible to inform social workers, almoners of hospitals, doctors and so on of the benefits available so that those who are eligible can be put in touch with the Department of Social Services. It is usual for hospitals to means test patients on admittance. It follows that where such patients are eligible for assistance as low income families they would be immediately put in touch with the Department of Social Services. Therefore, in this instance also, the question of retrospectivity does not arise. Efforts are being made to the fullest extent possible so that similar steps will be taken by individual medical practitioners.
J return to the amendment. It is apparent that there would be administrative difficulties in determining a person’s income position or means as assessed position at a time 2 years before the date of application. Therefore, from the angle of practicability, the amendment must be rejected by the Government.
– I think that Senator McClelland deserves credit for the object which he had in view in moving this amendment. We have had a good look at it and we have discussed it with people who are in this particular field. They have assured us, and we think that there is reason for their assurances, that this would involve the very serious administrative difficulties to which the Minister has referred. We feel that it would be dangerous to embark on this when it could involve such serious difficulties. Whilst we are in sympathy with the principle of the amendment, for administrative reasons we feel that we are unable to support it.
That the request (Senator McCIelland’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Before we leave clause 42 I should like to ask a question of the Minister, or of the Ministers advisers through her, in order to clear my mind on the method of administration of the insurance so far as low income earners are concerned. May I take it that when a low income earner has a claim which qualifies for a class A determination and he nominates a fund of his choice, the fund then pays him the fund benefit and the Commonwealth benefit and the Commonwealth then repays to the fund the Commonwealth benefit and the fund benefit? In other words, is any premium paid by the Commonwealth to the fund in respect of the insurance for a low income earner or does the Commonwealth meet the burden of the insurance by paying the fund benefit and the Commonwealth benefit? If this is the situation, is any fee payable by the Commonwealth to the fund for administration expenses? If a fee is payable as an administration charge, what type of fee would be involved? Is it the Commonwealth and nol the funds which carries the burden of insurance for the people who are subsidised?
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [5.24] - Perhaps I could clear up this matter for Senator McClelland by bringing to his intention section 82z of the Act which stales:
There arc payable lo a registered organisation, from lime to lime, such amounts, if any. as the Minister determines on account of management expenses reasonably incurred by the organisation in connection wilh the operation of this Division in relation to thai organisation.
Does that cover the point for the honourable senator?
– ls that lor the purpose of insurance’.’
– The Commonwealth is paying the contributions?
– The Commonwealth covers the cost of insurance and pays the Commonwealth benefit.
– The Commonwealth pays management expenses to the fund.
– lt pays the Commonwealth benefit, fund benefit and management expenses.
– It does not pay the contribution?
– No, it does not pay the contribution.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 43 to 46 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new clause 46a.
Senator MCCLELLAND (New South Wales) 1 5. 26] - I move:
This proposed amendment relates to section 101 of the principal Act. which refers to the appointment of Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committees. Section 101 (I.) provides:
There shall be a Committee, called the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, which shall, subject lo the next succeeding sub-section, consist of:
an officer, being a pharmacist, of the Commonwealth Department of Health appointed by the Director-General;
si. medical practitioners appointed by the Minister from among ten medical practitioners nominated by the Federal Council of the Australian Medical Association; and
a pharmaceutical chemist appointed by the Minister from among three pharmaceutical chemists nominated by the Federated Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia.
In addition, the Minister may also appoint a pharmacologist to be a member of the Committee. The Act provides that a member of the Committee appointed by the Minister shall hold office during the Minister’s pleasure. The responsibility of the Committee is to make recommendations to the Minister as to drugs and medicinal preparations which it considers should be made available as pharmaceutical benefits under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and to advise the Minister upon any other matter concerning the operation of this part of the Act referred lo it by the Minister.
In the opinion of the Opposition, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has very wide powers, in that it makes recommendations to the Minister as to the type of drug that will or will not be made available to the public under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. We believe that the names and qualifications of the members of the Committee should be made available to the Australian Parliament and thus to the Australian people. We believe that it is a very vital and important committee, so far as the health and well-being of the Australian community are concerned. We believe that it is not right that the Committee should be, as it were, a secret society, unknown to the Parliament and to the members of the public but known only to officers of the Department of Health, to the Minister and lo the members of the Committee. We believe that it is in the interest of the Parliament and the Australian people that the names and qualifications of those persons who are appointed under section 101 of the Act, to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, should be made public. That is the reason why I have moved the amendment on behalf of the Opposition
– Why do you say that Parliament should be informed? Would it not be covered if the information was required to be published in the Commonwealth ‘Gazette’ every time there was a change in the membership of the Committee? 1 am asking why von are moving an amendment which says that information is to bc made available to the Parliament and noi made public in the usual way.
– This information has been requested, as I understand it, from time to time by way of quest ion: to the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) in another place, and the Minister has stated that he refuses to make public the names of the members of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. We believe that as representatives of the Australian people, we anil the Australian people are entitled to know the names and qualifications of the members of the Committee Therefore, we seek specifically to write into the Act that Parliament shall be advised Of the names and qualifications of the persons appointed under the provisions of the Act. lt is a simple thing for Parliament to be advised who these people are at the present time and who they might be from time to lime in the future. We believe that it is in the public interest that this information be made public. That is the reason why 1 have moved the amendment on behalf of the Opposition.
– 1 support the amendment and 1 am foreshadowing another amendment which has been circulated and the terms of which I should like lo read out to the Committee.
– ls it relevant to the amendment proposed bv Senator McClelland?
– Yes. The reason why I mention it now is because I believe that as Senator McClelland’s amendment and my amendment are practically the same in substance, we could discuss them together, if the Committee so desire*.
– We will deal with the amendments separately. In that way it will be less confusing to the Committee.
Sena or TURNBULL- I will nol read out the terms of my amendment at this stage. The present position is thai there is nothing in the National Health Act which Mates that the members of h: Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisors Committee should remain anonymous. This is solely a mailer for the Department of Health and the Minister for Health. But every time we ask the Department and the Minister for the names of the members of this Committee, we are told that they want die names of the members io remain anonymous because drug companies could apply pressure to the doctors and pharmacists who are members of the Committee. This is just a part of the nonsensical attitude that is adopted towards the question of drugs by the Minister and the Department. A.s I will show later on, general practitioners have now adopted a derisive altitude !o .his Committee. The members of the Committee have mail.- so many mistakes thai it is little wonder that they wish io remain anonymous. I will quote later on mistake after mistake, ludicrous lo everyone except the members of the Committee. Yet every time we seek, in this chamber, io obtain the names of the members of the Committee, as I have done lime and time again, we are told thai they are honourable people, that they are leaders of the profession. That is true, because I know two of them. They have both been honoured by the Government. They are both honourable men. But something happens to them when they get in touch with the Department of Health. Their sense of humour disappears. The result is that 6 or 8 ludicrous suggestions have been made by the Committee, and lately a very serious anomaly has arisen, about which I propose to tell the Committee later on.
So now I can understand why the members of the Committee want to remain anonymous. But forgetting all that, I come back to the point that anyone in the Australian Medical Association can ask the Association for the names of the 10 medical practitioners whom it has nominated for appointment to the Committee. The pharmacists also nominate some of their members for appointment to the Committee. The Government then selects the members of the Committee from those pharmacists and doctors who have been nominated by their respective associations. I know of 2 members of the Committee. One of them is a leading physician in a capital city. That discription keeps him anonymous.
– Why do you keep them anonymous?
– 1 do not want to try to sabotage the Government completely. I could mention them, but if the policy of the Government is such 1 want to change the policy. I hope that when honourable senators have heard me speaking to this amendment and to the foreshadowed amendment they will agree that something should be done. The only reasons given by the Department and the Minister is that pressure would be applied to these men by the drug companies. These are honourable people. They are leaders of the profession, they are leaders of the pharmacists and yet the Minister gets up and says their integrity could be questioned if their names were made known to the drug companies. I have never heard such rot. it is just part and parcel of the stupidity of the Department of Health that it allows such a thing. I am sure that this is a ruling of the Department because the Minister is unaware of medical facts.
– Would it be very difficult for a drug company that wanted to know the names of these men to find them out.
– The drug companies know them. In fact, another name was given to me by a drug company - I do not know this person; 1 only know two - but 1 have not been able to verify it, nor have I tried to. But they know just as well. Everyone knows that they meet and so the results are known. One can also get indirect evidence as to who is on these committees.
– What is the attitude of the 2 members you know? Have you ever discussed it with them?
– No, because I have been embarrassed to meet them as I have been criticising them so severely in regard lo their attitudes. In fact, 1 am rather ashamed to meet one of them because he is such a nice person. I see him fairly frequently and it is a little bit embarrassing. I know that he is on the Committee and I presume he knows that I know and I have been criticising him for his attitudes. But we have raised in the AMA the decisions made by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and we have been trying to get them changed.
– What is the attitude of the AMA to this?
– The AMA has not had any official attitude as to whether the names should or not be published, lt has just ridden along with the Department of Health. There has never been any open movement or policy. I understood that it was going to be raised at one of the meetings but 1 do not think it has been done yet. A decision has already been made in one of the State branches of the AMA that the members of this Advisory Committee should be named. This is not dealt with in the Act; it is only a departmental decision. To say that the integrity of these people is in doubt is to me just sheer nonsense. My trouble is that I have to keep to this amendment whereas if I had given honourable senators the facts on my proposed amendment they would realise that it is time the members of this Committee were named. Why should any committee be anonymous? Every member of every sub-committee of the National Health and Medical Research
Council is known and yet here we have a Committee sei up by the Government and its members are unknown.
– Perhaps we should all be unknown.
– lt might be a great help, but then some of us might not be re-elected so perhaps we had better not go into that. 1 am supporting this amendment because I believe the time has come when everyone should know who the people are. Have we any confidence in them? Later on honourable senators will begin to wonder whether any doctor has confidence in them because what 1 will tell honourable senators in the next few minutes, I hope, will have the effect of showing that these people have, made ludicrous decision after ludicrous decision and the doctors in the AMA are seething about it. The recent one in regard lo the antibiotics such as ampicillin and lincocin and the urinary tract drugs such as negram and furadantin is making the doctors really irritable and honourable senators would be irritated, too, if they had io go to their doctors and be told that they could not have something because of a decision of a Committee which is not upheld by the antibiotics subcommittee of the National Health and Medical Research Council. So 1 support this amendment because I can see no reason why these names should not be published. This is a method of forcing the Government to change a departmental decision and make known to the public the people who are advising us on drugs that are to be used in under the National Health Act.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [5.40] - May 1 just clear up a point? Senator Turnbull said: T am supporting this amendment.9 He also said he was foreshadowing an amendment of his own which I thought was in connection with the same matter. Am I to understand that the discussion of and the support for this amendment by Senator Turnbull is indeed support for Senator McClelland’s amendment?
– No, it is a separate amendment actually but it is about the same Committee.
– I reply then to Senator McClelland’s amendment?
– The Government rejects this amendment, believing that because of the functions and the responsibilities of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee it is essential that the members be protected from the pressures that they would receive if they were known.
– Are there not pressures on you every day? Can you nol cope with them?
– I can cope very well, particularly with this matter at the moment. But may I go on? lt is quite true to say. as had been said, thai the function of the Committee as set out in section 101 (3.) of the principal Act is to make recommendations to the Minister from time to time as to the drugs and the medicinal preparations which it considers should be made available as pharmaceutical benefits. The people on this Committee are very highly qualified. They have the appropriate academic qualifications, wide experience and high standing in their profession and that, I think, is surely recognised. We believe that if this amendment was passed it could result in a situation in which men in the medical, pharmacological and pharmaceutical fields with the necessary attainments and professional standing would not bc willing to serve on the Committee and this, we believe, would be a very great loss indeed because these men are contributing a very great deal by their service on the Committee and their recommendations to the Minister and so I again say that the Government rejects the amendment.
– I press the amendment on behalf of the Opposition but 1 do not intend lo labour the arguments that I put earlier. But 1 draw the Minister’s attention to section 101 (2.) which states:
The Minister may also appoint a pharmacologist to be a member of the Committee.
We do not know in fact whether or not there is a pharmacologist on the existing Committee and I am wondering whether the Minister can enlighten us.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [5.43] - I am informed that there is one on the Committee.
Senator McMANUS (Victoria) [5441- My Party will not support the amendment. We appreciate the fact - and I believe that Senator Turnbull is right - that people in the profession or in the drug industry who want to know the names of members of the Committee will have no difficulty in finding them out at the moment but the feeling of members of my Party who have talked about it is that probably this will save the persons concerned approaches from many people who would want to consume a lot of their time and cause them an immense amount of trouble by putting all kinds of things up to them. Unlike other honourable senators I get approaches - strange to say, because 1 have no knowledge of medicine - from people who claim to have cures for all sorts of illnesses and they think that because I am a member of Parliament I can do something about it. I do not know why. because 1 am particularly healthy. All I can say is that everybody knows that there are many people in the community who feel that on a matter such as this it is their duty to get in touch with the individuals, to seek interviews with them, to write to them and all the rest of it. If I could see anything that could be gained by making their names public 1 would support the amendment but, quite frankly, I cannot see anything to be gained and by leaving them confidential I think that we will save them a little bit of the pestering that will be inevitable if their names are known.
– I rise- because the Minister referred to possible pressures that might be brought to bear upon those appointed to the committee if their names were known. However, after listening to Senator Turnbull it appears that their names are known, so there can be no fresh danger of pressure from drug houses. The Minister then claimed that their time would be taken up by handling the many requests that they would receive. All that the Opposition is seeking in this amendment is that the Parliament be informed. The names of the persons appointed to the committee will become public to those who follow the parliamentary proceedings, and they would come within a very narrow field. Considering the purpose behind the setting up of the committee it appears that the one who is afraid of pressure at this time is the Minister. The proposed committee will be only an advisory committee. The Minister decides what goes on the list. He can sit very complacently in his ivory castle and say: ‘I am advised by a committee of qualified experts in this field1. We would not know whether he was accepting the committee’s advice. The Minister has to make the decision on every occasion, so rather than justify any decision he may make to exclude something from the list he proposes to hide behind the claim that he has been advised to do a certain thing although he may not have been advised to do it.
We want to know only the names of the members of the committee so that we will be able to express an opinion on their capabilities and on whether they are the best and most qualified in the field. The Minister has assured us that they will be, but whether his opinion of their qualifications will stand against the opinion of members of the profession is another matter. From the evidence that has been presented to the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse it is abundantly clear that many questions of doubt arise as to the capability of a section of the medical profession to speak with authority on matters associated with drugs. It would seem that some kind of education was required within sections of the medical profession in relation to certain drugs. All that we are concerned about now is that the Minister makes the decision and he could evade his responsibilities by saying: ‘I am accepting the advice of my personnel’ when we could well be of the opinion, from our knowledge of the personnel of the committee, that they would not offer such advice. No one will know what will go on in the secrecy of the committee with the Minister being advised by a secret society. No one will know who or what the members of the committee are.
As the membership of most statutory authorities and advisory boards is known to the public I can see no harm in making public the names of the members of this committee. The Minister then would know that he had our support because we and everyone else would know that he had appointed the most qualified in the field. That would be much better than for the Minister merely to say that he had appointed the most qualified without anyone knowing who had been appointed.
– I must say that 1 find the arguments in favour of the. membership of any committee which will perform the functions of the proposed committee being open and subject to public scrutiny to be overwhelming. I would have thought that the basis from which one would approach this was not the basis Senator McManus mentioned of saying that if there were some good reason why the names should be made public he would support the amendment, but rather that things should be open and if there were some good reason why in a particular case the names of the members of the committee should bc withheld, that is the approach which should be adopted.
As 1 understood what the Minister said as justification for withholding the names of these people from the public, she said that they would be subjected to pressures from which they should be protected and, furthermore, if they were not protected from those pressures the Government might not get the proper professional people to come forward. 1 would have thought that members of a committee should be subjected to pressures in the sense that people who have complaints to make, information to seek or views to express should know those to whom they can go. In the course of its report the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs - the Wedgwood Committee - referred to the operation of this system which was described by the Commonwealth Department of Health in this way:
The drugs available nr> pharmaceutical benefits are determined by the Minister on the advice of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, which in addition to recommending drugs and medical preparations also recommends the maximum quantity nml number nf repeals that can bc prescribed and’ any restrictions lo apply to these items. Additions to the list of benefits can only bc made by the Minister on the Committee’s recommendations. This procedure enables the list to be adjusted in the light of experience and permits further drugs of proven value to be made available as benefit items.
If the members of the committee were known, people who had submissions to make could approach them. If, on the other hand, it is thought that those who have an axe to grind or a particular sectional interest to impose would bombard members of the committee with pressures of one kind or another, I think it is an over protective attitude to suppose that people should be protected from that kind of pressure. People are either strong enough to resist the pressures or they are not strong enough to resist the pressures. I would have thought that the old fashioned view that if they are nol strong enough they probably are not competent enough to carry out the job that they are charged to carry out would apply. I would be surprised also if people of the professional attainments from whom the Minister may select members of the committee were not prepared to offer themselves simply because the drug companies or others might know their names.
I feel that the principle involved in this amendment is worthy of support. However, I seek from Senator McClelland, as mover of the proposed amendment, some explanation or reason why he chose the expression: Parliament shall be advised of the names and qualifications of the persons appointed under the foregoing provisions’. As I understood him. he was seeking some publicity attaching to the membership of the committee. I would have thought that the usual procedure was to say simply: “The names and qualifications of persons appointed under the foregoing provisions shall be published in the Commonwealth Gazette’. As I understand it, that is the normal means of giving publicity to appointments of personnel or anything else that is done. I do not know whether there is any procedure by which Parliament can be informed other than by simply laying .something on the table. 1 would have thought that unless members of Parliament were attentive to what was happening those kinds of things would escape scrutiny more than would the publication of names in the Commonwealth Gazette. If the only thing that Senator McClelland is striving for is to make these names public. I suggest that he consider an amendment of that character rather than use the comprehensive phrase that is contained in the amendment he has proposed.
– What was the suggestion?
– I suggest that if the amendment which has been proposed was further amended to include words to the effect that the names and qualifications of those persons appointed under the foregoing provisions shall be published in the Commonwealth Gazette, that would ensure publicity - I understand that is the purpose of the honourable senator’s amendment - and the information would be in a form which I imagine would be more likely to bring it to the attention of people who would be interested in knowing what was going on.
– I am happy either way. I understand - I had to find this out for myself in regard to my own proposed amendment - that the reason why provision is made for Parliament to be notified is that if Parliament were not notified the Department of Health would be notified and the Department of Health would cover the whole thing with its own cloak of secrecy. Senator Greenwood’s proposal that the names be gazetted is just as good, so I do not mind. When the proposal states that Parliament shall be notified it means that the names shall be tabled, so either way it becomes public.
– The amendment I have moved on behalf of the Opposition was drawn in another place for the purpose of expressing a principle, namely, that the names of the members of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee be made public. Senator Greenwood’s proposition would bring about the result that we are seeking and we have no objection to reframing our amendment in accordance with his suggestion. I would be prepared to amend my proposed amendment and I ask for the leave of the Committee to do so.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I will amend my previous proposed amendment and move:
After clause 46, insert the following new clause: “46a. Section 101 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting, after sub-section(2b.) the following sub-section: - (2c.) The names and qualifications of those persons appointed’ under the foregoing provisions shall be published in the Gazette.’.”.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [5.57] - I strongly oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition. The Government rejects it. I have been quite surprised by some of the comments that have been made. The function of the Committee as set out in section 101 (3.) of the principal Act is to make recommendations to the Minister from time to time as to the drugs and medicinal preparations which it considers should be made available as pharmaceutical benefits. That is the whole purpose and importance of the Committee. It has a tremendously important task.
– Then why do you prevent it from being known?
– I have not finished yet. I am in full flight. I will come to that in a moment. Section 101 (4.) provides:
A drug or medicinal preparation that was not a pharmaceutical benefit under the National Health Act 1953-1958 immediately before the commencement of this sub-section shall not be prescribed as a pharmaceutical benefit in accordance with section eighiy-five of this Act unless the Committee has recommended to the Minister that it be so prescribed.
So it is clear that the whole strength of the Committee lies in the recommendations it makes to the Minister. It has a very great responsibility. If the names of the members are known they will be subjected to pressures by people seeking to have drugs and preparations included on the list. They will be approached by interested parties and pressures will be brought to bear upon them. As I said earlier, the members of this Committee are men of high calibre and we wish to retain their services. If the proposed amendment is carried it could result in a situation in which these men of high quality, working in the medical, pharmaceutical and pharmacological fields,’ with high attainments and standing, would not be willing to serve upon the Committee. We would then lose the benefit of the services of some excellent and very important people.
-I have been stirred into rising by the Minister’s final remarks. Why would men of eminence refrain from serving on a committee because their names were published in the Commonwealth Gazette? There can be no substance in that argument or in the argument about pressures upon them. The fact is that every doctor in Australia is pressured by the drug companies trying to sell him their wares. The names of men serving on health, industrial and commercial committees are known to the community at large, lt is true that pressures are exerted on those men. I speak with some authority as a member of the executive of an apprenticeship committee. My name and the names of my colleagues are published in the Government Gazette, lt is true that pressure comes from certain directions, but the members of committees have to determine the correct attitude to be adopted to a particular problem. I believe that there is no substance whatever in the altitude adopted by the Minister.
Silting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the silting I addressed my remarks to the pressures that are applied to members of committees. I think it would be an acknowledged fact of life that pressures of all descriptions are applied to members of committees, lt would not matter what walk of life one chose, one would find this to bc the case. Therefore it seems to me to be completely illogical for the Government to say that it cannot accept the amendment- moved by Senator McClelland because pressures might be applied to members of the Committee. Who knows whether the pressures that would be applied io the members of the Committee will be to the advantage of the Committee, of the health services or of Australia generally? For that reason I believe it is wrong for the Government to continue to adopt the attitude that it cannot accept the amendment. I am surprised that the Deputy Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator McManus) expressed opposition to the amendment. He would know of the pressures that are applied in the trade union movement. If one takes the pressures a step further than the trade union movement
– They have put pressure on me at different times.
– Yes, but you have not seen the light yet. That is to your disadvantage. It would be to your disadvantage that you have not seen the correct light.
If we take the matter a step further, if the Government does not want to publish the names because pressure will be applied why would it publish widely the names of persons appointed as conciliation Commissioners? To me it is completely illogical.
– That is not a true comparison at all.
– The Minister may have her thoughts on this matter. If she does not know what goes on in other spheres of life, that is her misfortune. The fact remains that pressures are applied in every walk of life. Honourable senators would he in exactly the same position. Pressure groups do see honourable senators to present a point of view, lt is for honourable senators to determine whether they should accept the point of view presented to them. They should make up their own minds and determine whether it is a good point of view in the interests of Australia or otherwise.
– lt is like making a decision on tariffs.
McClelland enters another realm. That would be exactly the same position. I repeat that it is futile for the Minister io hide behind the excuse that pressures would be applied to members of the Committee if their names were known. This happens in every walk of life. I repeat that I have some personal knowledge of the profession to which the Minister referred. Salesmen representing respective drug companies canvass the medical profession to seek support for the commodity they promote. They apply pressures. Under those circumstances J would hope - possibly a faint hope - that the Democratic Labor Party would change its attitude to the amendment and that honourable senators generally would vote in accordance with the wish expressed by the amendment.
– 1 rise to support the amendment proposed by the Opposition. I think it should be stated clearly-
– As redrafted?
– Yes, as redrafted. The proposition is a simple one. The amendment states that the names and qualifications of the members of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee should be made public. I can understand the anxiety displayed by the Minister who has the carriage of the Bill in this chamber. She has expressed opposition to the proposed amendment.I do not say this facetiously, but it could be said that during the course of the Committee debate on this important Bill - one of the most important Bills to come before the Senate - the Bill has undergone major surgery already. I do not believe that that is justification for adopting an attitude of opposition to a simple proposition.
J dwell for a moment on the important task of the Advisory Committee. It could be saidwithout argument that the decision made by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee as to whether and what kind of drugs may or may not be used and, to some degree, as to the extent to which they may be used, affects the medical profession throughout the Commonwealth. It could be truly said that the Committee has a very important task. It has a grave responsibility to the community as a whole. I do not think anybody would challenge me when I say that the recommendations of the Committee no doubt would be the exact basis ofthe decisions that the Minister for Health would make subsequently. To argue this would be purelyacademic, because the Minister realises - and in my view he should - that he has to rely on the advice of people who have the qualifications and capabilities to advise him on importantmatters. Therefore we see no justification for this Committee, which is of such great importance and which has -such great responsibilities, being cloaked in secrecy.
In the limited time I have been a member of the Senate I have heard Senator Turnbull from time to time criticise some of the decisions made by this Committee. I am not in a position to say whether Senator Turnbull was right or not. But that is not the point at issue. The point at issue is whether the people with the qualifications which enable them to be members of this Committee should be known to the public at large. I believe that if they were that fact would instil a great deal more confidence inthe Committee than evidently is the case at present. I suggest, with great respect to the Minister, that to imply that men of such calibre and of such high professional standing need protection by way of a form of secrecy is to impugn them. 1 am sure she would not intend this. But it could be implied that secrecywould impugn their professional integrity in that it would imply that they might be influenced by the pressures that have been referred to. My view is that that would not be the case at all. I do not believe that men of the professional integrity and with the qualifications required to serve on this Committee would do other than welcome the opportunity and see it as an honour to be selected for service on such an important committee. Therefore I say, as we on this side have said, that it is a simple proposition and one which we believe merits support and is justified. I support the amendment.
That the clause proposed to be inserted(Senator McClelland’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I have an amendment to make in regard to this clause, lt has been circulated but I understand that as a result of the last division I must add a few more words. I now move:
In new clause 46a, after ‘amended’ insert ‘(a)’, and al the end of the clause add ‘and (b) by inserting, after sub-section (3.) the following subsection: “ (3a.) When the Committee recommends that drugs and medicinal preparations should not be made available as pharmaceutical benefits under this Part, a copy of the Report of the Committee, setting out details of the drugs and medicinal preparations and the reasons for the recommendations shall be laid before each House of the Parliament within fourteen sitting days of its receipt by the Minister, and, if the Parliament is not then silting, within fourteen days of the next -meeting of the Parliament.”.’. lt may appear that 1 am using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. But the point is that unless we provide that the drugs and the reasons for their refusal be laid on the table of each House of the Parliament, the Minister may still say that it is not Government policy to announce what drugs have been refused. That is the reason for this rather long amendment when perhaps a more simple one could have sufficed. Let me give the Senate the reasons why it is time the public, and especially the medical profession, knew why drugs have or have not been placed on the list of pharmaceutical benefits and the method of placing these drugs on the list. I said before the suspension of the sitting that honourable senators will find that many of the reasons I am going to announce appear not only ludicrous but even farcical. The final reason 1 am going to give honourable senators is a serious one; it is that the list has never been referred to the antibiotics subcommittee of the National Health and Medical Research Council which the Government set up for this specific purpose. Without referring to the antibiotics sub-committee the Government has introduced new antibiotic restrictions which have proved to be absurd. It did this without consultation with the body it set up to advise it.
Most of the things 1 am going to say have previously been said in the Senate by me. It is all in Hansard. I have the copies of Hansard here if honourable senators want to look at them. We are told that this
Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee is a committee of specialists who are leaders in the profession and that therefore what they say obviously must go without argument. Let me refer honourable senators to a drug called Amesec which is a triple compound drug. I am sorry if I am taking time to explain this carefully but it is a difficult subject for non-medical people to understand. Amesec is a capsule that contains 3 different drugs. In 1964 the Minister said: ‘On the advice of this Committee, this capsule no longer can be prescribed’.
– Was it on the recommendation of the Committee? Do you know that for sure?
– Whenever we ask the Minister about these matters he says that the action is taken on the recommendation of the Committee. So, on the recommendation of this specialised Committee, Amesec was taken off the list. But no action was taken against another triple compound drug. It was left on the list. Within a few weeks of the first triple compound drug being taken off the list, a new triple cornpound drug was placed on it.
Before I refer to the reason that was given for not leaving the first one on the list. I must explain how we found out the reason. This action so incensed members of the medical profession that they attacked every member of this secret and nameless Committee and demanded a reply. The official reply, as it appeared in Hansard, was that no triple compound drug was suitable for every person in the community because each of the ingredients might need altering. It did not matter that this drug suited 98%, 95% or even 90% of people. It had suited them in the past. It had been on the list and it had been widely used. But suddenly it was off the list because, as the official reply said: ‘You cannot give triple compound drugs because you must prescribe for the individual. Each of those 3 drugs should be specially prescribed.’
– What is it called?
– Amesec. At the same time the Committee left on the list Tedral, I think it was. Then a few weeks later it added another one, namely, Theosec. Both of those are triple compound drugs.
So the Committee took one off the list because it was bacl for the public; left a second on; and added a third.
When the matter was raised in this chamber we again saw the stupidity of the Minister. According lo him. the Department is always right: it can never be wrong. We were told: ‘What is wrong with this anyhow? A general practitioner can write out the 3 ingredients and order them as a capsule.’ Can honourable senators imagine a general practitioner, instead of writing Amesec. writing cardophyllin, phenobarb and ethidrine? He had to write the 3 names and the dosage and then tell the chemist to make them up in a capsule. This is the action of a Government that says that it believes that the interests of the patients are always at stake. The result is that, instead of the patient buying 100 capsules of Amesec for 50c. because the general practitioner is allowed to prescribe only 12 capsules at a time, in order to obtain 100 capsules the patient has lo pay 50c roughly 8 times. So it costs him $4. That is apart from the irritation of every medical practitioner in Australia, the fact that every chemist has to make up the capsules in his dispensary and the fact that there is increased cost to the Commonwealth in making up each capsule, lt is a ridiculous position if every there was one.
In order to show further the ridiculousness of the position. I point out that these were triple compound drugs in capsule form, but for years and years - ever since 1 started practising medicine: - we have ordered triple compound medicines and even quadruple compound medicines. In fact, we could put in as many ingredients as we liked; but, of course, we had the right to alter them. Many of them were made up as stock mixtures. But not a word was said about that. So the absurdity of the position was that the Government took one drug off the list, left a second on and then put a third on. The final absurdity was that we had them in mixtures all the time; so it did not matter. However, we were given the reason for that action. Amesec has now been replaced on the pharmaceutical benefits list. Nobody has ever told us why. This is a drug which, it was said, should not be on the list because it is harmful. Yet it is on the list again after 2 or 3 years. Actually, I do not know how long ago it was taken off. The departmental officers could tell the Minister that. That concludes what I want lo say about Amesec.
Let me come to aspirin. Suddenly we have discovered that aspirin is no longer suitable for the general public of Australia, lt does cause bleeding in the stomach as one of its over-dosage effects. But that happens only when a person takes large numbers of lablets over long periods. So aspirin is no longer on the pharmaceutical benefits list.
– lt should never have been on the list.
– That is right. Yet a person can go out into the street and buy Vincents powders, Bex powders or any other aspirin he wants and there is no problem. The Government has done nothing about that. At the same time as it is said that aspirin is harmful and must not be prescribed, general practitioners are allowed to prescribe it for pensioners. I have pointed this out before. Where does the common sense come into this matter? A general practitioner is not allowed to order aspirin generally, but it is a general benefit for pensioners. Apparently it does not matter about pensioners. Apparently they can be bumped off as quickly as possible; so we can give them aspirin.
– What about giving them strychnine?
– lt is quicker. We also had the problem of phenacetin, which was found to cause kidney disease in cases in which 80 or more tablets were taken per day. The normal order by a doctor on prescription would be 4 times a day. So there is a big difference. But, because phenacetin causes a certain type of kidney disease, according to the Committee it must no longer be prescribed. So it is wiped off overnight, although we have been using it and eating it for years. Certain people take excessive dosages: so because of them phenacetin can no longer be ordered. Therefore, the Government substituted for it a drug called paracetamol. That is its generic name. Its common name is Panadol. It is not as effective as phenacetin. It has been shown that the end degradation product of paracetamol is exactly the same as that of phenacetin. If honourable senators want it, I can give them the reference to this matter and they cao read it for themselves and see that that is a fact. So, there is another absurdity in relation to this Committee.
I come now to the subject of specified purpose drugs. These are drugs that can be used only for specified purposes set out by the Minister in the holiest of holy bibles issued to all doctors - the pharmaceutical benefits list. It says that certain drugs have to be used for specified purposes. A few of them can be used by authority. A doctor can order these drugs only for the specified purpose set out in the book. If he does not use them for that purpose, the Department can query him and he can be charged for using a drug when he should not have used it.
There is a very good example of this in this very chamber. One honourable senator, because he had an upper respiratory tract infection, asked me to prescribe for him. I ordered a tetracycline which has come off the specified list. Normally I would have seen him in a couple of days and said to him: ‘Are you any better or not?’ He would have replied: ‘No’. Then I would have changed the drug.
– That does not say much for the prescription that you gave him.
– I point out that some Liberal Ministers have been very pleased with the treatment they have received with the same drug. I am referring to this case to show what happens. We had a break for 10 days; so I did not see this honourable senator until we came back, when he said to me: ‘That drug did not do me any so-and-so good. I am just as bad as I was before. In fact 1 am worse. Cannot you do something?’ I said to him: All right; I will put you on to Ampicillin’. That was strictly illegal because it was not for the specified purpose set out in the book; but I do not mind the departmental officers hearing about it. So 1 gave this honourable senator that drug, and today he is a new man - unfortunately. He is better. I want honourable senators to understand what is happening at present. I ask honourable senators: if you went to your doctor and he said: “1 can give you a tetracycline or Ampicillin; which do you want?’, what do you think you would say? You would, of course, ask for the best drug possible.
But the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee will not allow Ampicillin to be prescribed except in certain cases.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I rise in order to allow Senator Turnbull to continue with a discussion of my case.
– Thank you. 1 did not mention any names. As I was saying, here we have an example of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee telling individual doctors what they are allowed to prescribe to their patients. The Committee says that they cannot order Ampicillin unless it is for specific diseases. I point out to honourable senators that the Committee has not even provided a correct list in its book. I shall give honourable senators proof of this fact. The whole thing is nonsensical. This is another facet of the whole nonsensical business. The Committee says that doctors cannot order it. Surely the practitioner who is treating the patient is the one to decide what the patient should have. It should be remembered that time and time again the Department has stated that it is never on the ground of expense that it refuses the use of any drug. This statement has been made in this chamber bv a representative of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) and it has been made also in the other place by th2 Minister for Health. Tetracyclines were on the specified drugs list for years, but medical practitioners disregarded the Department’s instructions and ordered the drugs for diseases for which they were not supposed to be ordered. But they were used for the patient’s sake and not the Department’s sake. The Advisory Committee has at last agreed that Tetracycline should be no longer a specified drug.
Authority was required for the use of cortisone. One had to write to the Chief Medical Officer of the Commonwealth in the State in which one practised and seek permission to use it for the treatment of certain diseases. It was not even brought down one step and classified as a specified drug. However, it was released overnight for general use. No explanation has been given as to why drugs which the Department now says are suitable for everyone to use were denied to the patients of Australia. This is the action of a Government which keeps on telling us that this Bill is for the benefit of the community.
I turn to the use of barbiturates, which has again made a laughing stock of the Department. The Department said that i’was going to stamp our drug taking in Australia. Everyone takes sleeping tablets by the hundreds.
– Not everyone.
– Well, that is a generalisation. Many people, especially the majority of pensioners, take sleeping tablets. Because of the drug problem in Australia the quantity of sleeping tablets prescribed in each prescription has been reduced from 100 tablets, which is roughly 3 months supply if I tablet is taken each night, to 25 tablets. No consideration has been given to the pensioners. I do not know why. Often pensioners take two of these sleeping tablets a night, but let us assume that a pensioner takes I sleeping tablet each night. Instead of having to see his doctor once every 3 months for his tablets he has to go in once every 25 days. The Government, is supposed to bc worrying about the expense of its health scheme. It thinks that restriction of the number of tablets prescribed will stop drug abuse. How stupid can one get? As a result of this restriction the cost to the Department is the cost of 4 visits to the doctor when only sleeping tablets are involved instead of I visit. If a person wants sleeping tablets he has to go to his doctor 4 times and to his chemist 4 times. Pensioners are inconvenienced but they still get their sleeping tablets.
– Do they put them to sleep?
– I do not know. This restriction is designed to stop drug abuse. At the same time, with great facility, clarity and wisdom, the Department has decided that if a doctor orders 50 milligramme tablets instead of 100 milligramme tablets he can order 100 of them. Take, for example, a drug called Nembutal. It is usually ordered in 100 milligramme capsules. A doctor is only allowed to prescribe 25 capsules. A 50 milligramme capsule has been made and one is allowed to prescribe 100. In other words, one prescribes two at night instead of one. So you have a supply for 50 nights instead of 25. What is the reason for this? On the one hand the Government is stamping out drug abuse and making it harder to get drugs and on the other hand it is allowing patients to take two 50 milligramme capsules each night, which gives you a supply for 50 days instead of 25. No wonder the medical profession queries what is going on in regard to this Advisory Committee.
Then one comes to the psychotropic drugs. Tranquilisers are being used more and more every day. It is a fact of life that because of present conditions many people are going onto tranquillising, antidepressant, anxiety state drugs, but in its wisdom the Advisory Committee has decided that a doctor cannot order psychotropic drugs without a patient having first gone to the inconvenience of having to go to a public hospital or an approved hospital and being seen by a psychiatrist. The patient is then given an order to take to his own general practitioner, who then orders such drugs. But he can order only a 3-months supply. At the end of that time the patient must go back to the approved hospital or to a psychiatrist and get another order. What is the reason for this? I know it will bc very difficult for the Minister to answer my queries because medical problems come into it. Even the psychiatrists themselves are opposed to this requirement. However, the Department will not budge. Psychiatrists are specialists. I presume they know what to do. Do not say that it is because the Department is trying to stop general practitioners using such a drug because a general practitioner is entitled to order psychotropic drugs for pensioners. This is another example of the fact that general practitioners have 2 classes of patients. According to the Government, they can do as much damage as they like to pensioners, but they must nol treat anyone else with such drugs. Why is this so? I keep asking why it is so. The answer which is always thrown back is that, this is the recommendation of the Advisory Committee. The reason is never given. The only time an answer was given was in regard to the drug Amesec.
Then there is the question of the drug Intal. to which I referred recently. Intal is a new preparation which helps prevent asthma. The Department has :n its wisdom sent out a 4-page document in relation to it. Intal is not only a specified purpose drug but it is also a special authority drug. One cannot use it unless one gets permission from the Chief Medical Officer of the Commonwealth in the State in which one practises. One has to fill in the document to which I have referred and send it to him. He then decides whether one should have it. It is not the practitioner treating the patient who decides. The practitioner has seen and examined the patient but he does not decide. The decision is made by an officer of the Department. He is probably a drop-out from general practice anyway, although he may not be. This person sits in his office and makes the decision although he has never seen the patient. This is the man who says: ‘No, you cannot have it’. 1 can give honourable senators an example of what has happened. A general practitioner sent a boy of 16 years of age to his consultant physician who said: ‘This boy needs Intal*. The request was sent to the appropriate officer in the capital city, but permission to use the drug was refused. What is happening in this country is that the doctors are not treating the patients; the Department is treating them, lt is time this practice stopped. Not one honourable senator would stand up and support the Department in this regard because honourable senators know very well that if they went to their own doctor they would demand these things for themselves. Yet honourable senators sit here and do nothing about the matter. The Department is being allowed to adopt a big brother attitude, lt is telling the doctors what to do, although the doctors have to treat and care for the patients. The Department’s medical officers in the capital cities have not seen the patients, but they can do what they like. ] do not want to say any more in regard to this stupidity about the use of Intal, other than to say that a doctor is not allowed to order it unless a patient has been on 7.5 milligrammes of Cortisone for some time. This means that the patient is receiving fairly heavy doses of Cortisone, which is not a good thing. So you wait until you have almost bumped him off with Cortisone and then give him Intal to try to revive him. That might be exaggerating a little, but it is not far from the truth.
– A lot of rot.
– We will hear from the Minister. Let us come back to the final thing, which is a far more serious than ludicrous situation. I refer to the present situation regarding the latest anti-biotics and the new restrictions that have just been imposed for no reason whatever. There is a drug called lincocin in respect of which unrealistic restrictions have been imposed, virtually delisting it from the general practitioner’s use. The Pharmaceutical Advisory Committee has said, virtually, that a general practitioner may not use this drug unless he has performed a pathology sensitivity test to show that the germ is resistant to atheramycin and, if it is, he can use lin.cocin. The Committee also has imposed crippling restrictions on negram and furadantin, 2 drugs which are used commonly and have been used commonly without these restrictions. These are new restrictions. There were formerly restrictions, but these are new. Those drugs cannot be used until a pathology test has been carried out to determine sensitivity to sulphonamides. If the germs are resistant to sulphonamides the general practitioner may use lincocin. Did the Department stop to think of the cost of this to the patient? The Department is supposed to be thinking of the patient all the time and doing its best for the patient.
As a result of these restrictions a general practitioner may not order these very important life-saving drugs without first getting a swab, having a test done and making sure of the sensitivity. Every GP in this country laughs al this. When do we have time to carry out these tests? If you are sick do you want us to say: ‘Wait for a day or two; we will put you on some minor drug until wc find out the result of your test’. You would want the best treatment. The GP knows what is best, and that is where the matter should end. It is known throughout the country, except in the Department of Health, that it is very rare in general practice to do a sensitivity test in simple and pathogenic infections. Therefore, if the tests are not carried out the GPs and their patients are denied the use of these very effective agents.
– What do you mean by sensitivity test? ls it a case of allergy or being not responsive?
– It means that the germ is not responsive to that drug. All this is very good in theory, but in a busy general practice the doctor just does not have time and the patient wants to get better. The doctor know what is the best drug and will order the best drug. He will not tell the patient to wait and to come back in two or three days - depending on the service available - so that a sensitivity test can be carried out. While you are getting a sensitivity test you could have cured the patient. We break the rules all the time. Sometimes we give a drug and the patient does not get better. We know within two or three days that there is a resistance to that drug and so we change it. Before prescribing lincocin the doctor must ensure that a specified purpose is written into the book and the germ must be resistant to atheromycin before lincocin can be used. This drug is given by injection and is the most harmless of all the antibiotics. 1 am not setting myself up as an authority on this question; I shall tell the Minister the name of an authority if that is her wish. This is a drug of choice in pneumococcal infection and yet its use is denied. It has always been rapid in its effect and its action has always been gratifying in the treatment of staphylococcal infection. It is more effective than atheromycin and yet we are not allowed to use it. lt has no toxicity.
– You can use it.
– We cannot use it.
– You can use it but it does not attract a benefit. ls that not the point?
– Madam, I addressed an international conference of pharmacists only recently. About 300 or 400 pharmacists were present when 1 said: Put up your hands if any of you have ever dispensed an antibiotic, specified purpose 1, as a private drug’. They just roared with laughter, because no-one would do it. No doctor would do it either. Every doctor breaks the law in regard to this and orders the drug. Do you think your doctor would say that this was not a specified purpose so you can pay $6 for it? Of course he is going to mark it ‘SP’. That is the stupidity of the whole thing.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [8.45] - I feel that 1 should reply to a few points and then Senator Turnbull may continue with his remarks if he wishes. 1 refer first to a point in respect of which 1 rudely interjected. I thought the matter was important because he honourable senator kept on saying that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee says that general practitioners cannot use the drug. Surely the situation is that the doctor can prescribe what he wishes, but the PBAC recommends whether it shall attract the benefit. Surely that is the point that the honourable senator was raising. There is nothing to stop the doctor using the drug: it is purely a matter of whether it is to attract the benefit. That is the point that we should be discussing. I feel that the point put by the honourable senator was nol correct.
The first point I ask honourable senators to note regarding the amendment which is proposed is that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, on whose recommendations drugs are listed as pharmaceutical benefits, is a most eminent committee indeed. For good and valid reasons which I have pointed out already this afternoon in this place the names of the members of the Committee are not made public. But f would say to honourable senators that the Committee comprises the following persons: An officer of the Department of Health who is a pharmacist; six most eminent medical practitioners appointed by the Minister for Health from a panel of names submitted by the Australian Medical Association; a pharmaceutical chemist appointed by the Minister from a panel of 3 names submitted by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia; and a pharmacologist appointed by the Minister. The composition of this Committee in itself ensures that its recommendations are based on professional judgment of the highest order. In addition to the application of its very wide knowledge of these matters the Committee has available to it the advice of all the specialist medical colleges as well as information from authoritative overseas sources. I assure honourable senators - I am most positive about this - that the recommendations made by this Committee are soundly based on expert judgment applied in all respects in good faith.
– Explain Amesec.
– I have a few more things to explain. You happen to be a doctor and I am not, but I am trying to explain things to honourable senators. I think at this point it is the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee that we are talking about. 1 think it is quite stupid, if I may say so with respect, to try to draw red herrings into the debate by referring to one particular drug. Surely the point is that it is the Committee that we are discussing and not one particular drug which it might or might not recommend. This is the matter that I believe we are discussing at the moment.
Having regard to the point I have just made it can be seen that no good purpose whatsoever would be served by setting up what would be a relatively complex and time-consuming administrative procedure - often in the most technical terms - of the reasons underlying this responsible and objective Committee’s terms - or the reasons underlying this responsible and objective Committee’s recommendations. The sheer volume of drugs and medicinal preparations on which detailed reasons would need to be given would in itself create a task of very great magnitude. I might mention also - I think this is very important - that the disclosure of the reasons underlying the Committee’s recommendations would obviously open the way to endless dispute as to the validity of those reasons in an area where not only purely scientific data but also balanced judgment and personal experience are factors of considerable significance. This of course would add substantially to the work load of the Committee and would possibly create difficulties in obtaining suitably qualified people to accept nomination on the Committee. 1 believe it is tremendously important that we should have highly qualified people on this Committee. The amendment, I believe, could have serious implications in terms of public administration in general.
– In what way?
– Because I believe that we could lose so much of the benefit and value of the knowledge of the members of the Committee.
– Because I believe this, if we are asking these people to do these things, and I think this is absolutely right. Further points were raised by Senator Turnbull. Amendments to the restrictions applicable to pharmaceutical benefits are recommended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee on the basis of clinical experience with particular drugs and in the light of changes which take place in concepts of medical treatment. In this regard recourse is often had - and I believe that Senator Turnbull, who is a doctor, would appreciate this point - to additional expert opinion which is provided by the therapeutic committees of the various specialist medical colleges and societies. Opinion is drawn from a very wide area.
Senator Turnbull mentioned Intal. I think 1 would be right in giving them a reply concerning Intal. In the case of this drug, the Minister for Health, being aware of the difficulties that could arise from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee’s recommendation, appointed a select committee of eminent specialists in asthma to prepare (a) a booklet on Intal which has been made available to all medical practitioners; (b) an ‘application for authority to prescribe’ form; and (c) instructions for the guidance of Commonwealth Directors of Health in considering applications. Instructions and procedures laid down by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and the select committee of specialists for the supply of Intal as a pharmaceutical benefit will be reviewed by the respective committees in the light of experience in the use of this new drug. This seems a very reasonable, sensible and good thing. In some cases - and I think thai Senator Turnbull will agree with this - despite extensive investigation in both animals and humans prior to marketing, adverse effects of new drugs have become apparent only after extensive use by patients, and for this reason there is considered to be merit in restricting the availability of certain new drugs as pharmaceutical benefits for a period for use in approved hospitals which have adequate facilities for treatment and experienced stall and equipment to monitor the effect of treatment. This lo me as a layman seems to be a very wise and sensible arrangement.
Then we come to Bactrim, lt is interestin.: io note thai Bactrim has not been cleared for general marketing in either the Un.ted Stales of America or Canada, and Intal is not as yet marketed in the United Suites of America, although investigational trials have been under way for some time.
– For what reason is il noi available?
– 1 just informed the honourable senator that Bactrim has not been cleared for general marketing in either the United Stales of America or Canada, and lntal is not as yet marketed in the United Slates ot America although investigational trials have been under way for some lime. The drug is not available because of the investigations that are being carried out. 1 think this is tremendously important. 1 believe that all of us appreciate the importance of acquiring this knowledge before a drug is marketed. After listening to Senator Turnbull and appreciating his reputation as a doctor, I still must say that i believe the opinions he has expressed are after all his own personal opinions - to which he has every right. Bui 1 believe that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has lo make decisions on the expert opinion available to it. calling upon the resources which are available. I believe that we would be doing a very grave disservice if we accepted the amendment which Senator Turnbull has moved.
– If ever 1 have heard a case put up for accepting an amendment, it is the case put up by the Minister, because she stood there and said: Senator Turnbull has asked about this drug, that drug and the other drug, and the reasons why these drugs are not available as pharmaceutical benefits are this reason, that reason and the other reason’. She is saying thai not enough investigational procedures have been followed in the case of one drug, and another drug is not available generally in the United States. This is the very kind of information that Senator Turnbull is seeking to have made available.
The Minister stood there and said: ‘All of us are appreciative of this knowledge. We will know why these drugs are not made available.’ This is the very point of Senator Turnbull’s amendment. He is asking us to insert in the Bill a provision that when the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee recommends that drugs and medicinal preparations should not be made available as pharmaceutical benefits under this part, a copy of the report of the committee, setting out details of the drugs and the reason for the recommendations shall be made public.
The details will be published in this Parliament. So he is simply saying thai when drugs are not to be made available, we should be told so. Senator Turnbull and other medical practitioners will then know. Presumably those who are responsible for manufacturing the drugs may perhaps undertake investigations in order to satisfy the Committee. Everyone would know what the position is. Surely it is better that the reasons which activated the Committee in making a decision should be made public. If the members of the Committee arc eminent persons and if they are satisfied that what they are doing is right, why should they not give their reasons? Many eminent people in this country give their reasons for making decisions. Judges in the High Court of Australia give their reasons for their decisions. We stand in this chamber and give our reasons for decisions on public matters.
– When it suits you?
– Sometimes, as Senator Gair suggests, we keep quiet, but it is generally much better taken if we give our reasons for making a decision. Here are people making decisions which affect the practice of medicine throughout this country, patients and those who produce these pharmaceuticals. Surely we ought to know the reasons when a step is taken to reject a drug, lt is as simple as that. The proposal is that the reasons bc published in the Parliament. That seems fair enough, lt could have been suggested that the details should be published in the Gazette’ or something like that. But if they are tabled in the Parliament, we know that there will be persons in this Parliament who, if they are not satisfied with the decision, might perhaps take the matter up and do something about it. Why should the details not be published when they affect benefits which are available to the Australian public generally? I think this is a matter which the public is entitled to know.
These gentlemen on the Committee, if they are eminent and so qualified, should not find any difficulty in giving the reasons why drugs are rejected. Senator Turnbull was not suggesting, as I understand it, that every single thing should be made public. This is not what his amendment says. He was complaining about certain instances in which he thought that sufficient reason was nol given for rejecting drugs. I would say from my own experience of Senator Turnbull in the last few days that probably he has some sound reasons for advancing this case. But in any event the proposition is merely that when drugs are rejected, in the sense that a recommendation is made that they be not made available as pharmaceutical benefits, a copy of the report setting out the reasons ought to be tabled in the Parliament. We of the Opposition will support the amendment.
– This debate is interesting, I think, insofar as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) interprets the Minister’s remarks as supporting the amendment-
– Not quite, but advancing reasons which ought to be–
– Advancing reasons. I would have thought that Senator Turnbull’s remarks would condemn the amendment. While I am prepared to support the amendment I do not think we can let go unchallenged some of the remarks made by Senator Turnbull which I think at times reached the offensive stage when he referred to those in the Department of Health as possibly drop-outs from general practice. Of course, what Senator Turnbull forgets is thai the Department does not decide what drugs shall be on the list. The very section that he seeks to amend is not invoked because of information from the Department. The Act provides that the Minister shall decide what drugs go on the list and the Minister has an expert committee to direct him. We do not yet know who is on this Committee but we have now made provision so that we will know in the future, lt is presumed that the members of the Committee will be of the top class in their particular profession. The Committee includes a pharmacologist who knows the value and importance of drugs and the harm that they can do. His knowledge of them could extend beyond that of a general practitioner.
I think there are some dangers in taking the attitude that the general practitioner knows his patients and he is the one to know what to prescribe, because from evidence we have received on the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse we find that one of the most serious drug problems in Australia is caused by those dependent upon barbiturates that have been medically prescribed. Psychiatric hospitals at the present time are full of these people and we have had evidence from patients who are taking sleeping tablets to put them to sleep and antidepressant tablets to wake them up in the morning. Through the prescribing of the medical profession we have today a population which believes that everything can be cured by a pill.
There is a pill for every ache and pain without any inquiry into whether there is any solution to the problem. It is very easy for the doctor when he is hurriedly consulting to give a pill that will relieve the pain without trying to cure the cause of it. He is likewise under pressure from the patient whom he has got into such a psychological state that if he does not prescribe a pill he is regarded as an incompetent doctor. Therefore we have a community of drug takers in Australia today. But the biggest problem results from the prescribing of the medical profession and whether it is liked or not by those in the medical profession (here must be some overriding authority for the purpose of restricting this handing out of drugs at will by the medical profession. Whether doctors like it or not there has to bc some restriction. Senator Turnbull in his professional capacity has come under this restriction and he is kicking against it. I do not know whether he is one who looks upon the list of drugs as insufficient. I thought there was a list of drugs to cure all ailments but he finds that the variety of drugs he is able to prescribe is nol sufficient. I would say that he appears to be one of the medical practitioners who needs severe restriction on his capability to hand out drugs to all and sundry.
– On what basis do you assume that?
– I am assuming it on the basis that he cannot see the difference between prescribing a psychotropic drug to an aged person and prescribing it to one who will be taking it over the years and to whom it may do some damage. Having no medical knowledge I do not want to enter into a debate on this but I would say that the evidence that has been received by the Committee shows that there is an area where restriction on the medical profession as to free prescription of drugs and the type of drugs which they may and should be able to prescribe is necessary. This is not a matter of general practitioner dropouts as described by Senator Turnbull. It is a matter of an expert Committee with higher qualifications than the general practitioner - in some respects in different fields - which is making an examination of these drugs and recommending to the Minister. This Committee, whatever it may be called, under the Act has not normally the power to say what drugs should be taken off the list. Section 101 (3.) states:
The Committee shall make recommendations to the Minister from time to time as to the drugs and medicinal preparations which it considers should be made available as pharmaceutical benefits under this Part-
Thai is the power to say what drugs shall be made available - and shall advise the Minister upon any other matter concerning the operation of this Part referred to it by the Minister.
On the question of whether drugs should be taken off the list, the Minister refers the matter to the Committee, the Committee reports to the Minister and the Minister decides on the report of the Committee. What the amendment seeks is that when the Committee makes a report recommending the removal of a certain drug from the list the name of the drug and the information should be laid before both Houses of Parliament. Personally I can see nothing wrong with that. 1 do not think an expert committee - a committee comprised of professional individuals - would suggest the removal of a drug unless it had sound reasons for doing so. I do not think that it could see any harm in making the reasons available to members of Parliament or to the public. When one deprives a person of what he considers to be a benefit, one can do that only with a justification for one’s action. I would therefore say that these professional men who comprise the Committee would feel justified in making public the reasons they had.
I would just add one more point on the need for some control. It is in relation to suicides in Australia, although the numbers are not increasing. They are not suicides by gas, gun or razor. Today 50% of them are carried out with drugs which have been medically prescribed. This is factual and shows the necessity for some restraining hand. I would say that there is justification for some overriding restriction upon the freedom of the medical profession and we should see that we have an expert committee. We have moved an amendment so that we can satisfy ourselves that it is an expert committee and that these experts can justify taking a drug off this list by stating the reasons. I think we will have much better legislation by adopting this amendment.
– 1 hope that the Committee will not agree to this addition to the legislation. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) when offering the support of the Opposition to the proposed amendment gave as his reason the fact that the Minister in opposing the amendment had stated certain reasons why the Committee had taken action in respect of certain drugs which had been mentioned by Senator McClelland, who moved the amendment. We are deciding here and now whether, when the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has made a recommendation to the Minister for Health concerning putting drugs on or taking drugs off the list and the Minister has agreed with Committee’s recommendation, the names of the drugs and the reasons why they are being put on the list or taken off the list shall be tabled in order that the Senate may know the reasons.
Obviously, we will then debate the reasons and decide whether the Senate assembled here in the national Parliament agrees that this drug or that drug should be taken off the list of drugs available under the national health scheme. In other words, the insertion of this amendment into the legislation will mean that the Senate will be setting itself up as the body which ultimately will decide whether a drug shall be available under the national health scheme.
We will become the decision makers in respect of the availability of certain drugs, drugs that an expert committee containing doctors, pharmacists and pharmacologists have decided should not be available. We would be putting that provision into legislation which should last a number of years.
At present we have I medical man, a senator, proclaiming the reasons why this amendment should be supported, lt is interesting to note that the honourable senator in his speech in support of the amendment used the term ‘we’. 1 wonder whether the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners or any other of the integrated parts of the medical profession of Australia are included in the regal ‘we’ that the honourable senator used. 1 doubt that it would be the AMA. I doubt thai he would be the spokesman in the national Parliament for the AMA particularly as in his speech during the second reading debate he was, if 1 remember correctly, a severe critic of the Association, lt may be that at some time in the future the Senate will not have a medical man, a pharmacist or a pharmacologist in its numbers, yet if we add this amendment to the legislation we laymen would have the right to say: Although the experts have advised the Minister that this drug should not be available we believe that it should be available’. We would be giving ourselves the right to say that.
There is a further danger. The speech that we heard in favour of the amendment was a 30 minutes or 40 minutes talk on the rights and wrongs and the properties of various drugs prescribed either individually or 3 together or several mixed in a capsule. No real reason was put to the chamber why il should be the judge of what drugs should or should not be made available to the Australian public. We had 1 medical man giving his opinion on certain drugs which have been treated in a certain way over the years by the experts. Without developing this into a debate on drugs, I believe that I have given 2 cogent reasons why the Committee should reject this amendment. Finally I ask honourable senators not to make the Parliament the judge of what drugs shall be prescribed for the people of Australia under the national health scheme.
I, as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse, am not divulging any information that has been put to the Committee and which should not be divulged when I support the remarks made by Senator Cavanagh, who is a member of the Committee which is presently conducting its inquiry. No member of the reading public of Australia could deny that the bulk of the headlines given to evidence before our Committee in public session have been to the effect that the medical profession is largely responsible for the high degree of drug addiction in Australia. Sworn evidence has been given to the Committee in public, and it has been reported in the newspapers, that the people of this country are drug orientated. As Senator Cavanagh has mentioned, the people say: ‘There is a drug for this illness and a drug for that illness’. We have evidence to show that there are as many drug dependent people in Australia as there are alcoholics. Therefore, with all the sincerity that 1 can conjure up and for the reasons that I have given I ask honourable senators not to let us become the arbiter. Do not let the Senate become the place where opinions on drugs and drug taking can be debated by we who are laymen who have not sufficient knowledge to advise the people of Australia as to specific drugs. I. hope that the amendment will be defeated.
Senator TURNBULL (Tasmania) 9.I7] - / do not think I need reply to that last speech. Firstly, I do not think the Minister has read the amendment because she said that this will affect all drugs that go on the list of drugs. In fact it affects only those drugs which are rejected, so it is restricted to a certain number. As has been pointed out, these eminent people should not be ashamed of their reasons. Secondly, the Minister is rather naive in claiming that I am wrong in saying that you cannot use the drugs. She said: ‘You can use the drugs’. But of course she did not listen to me. f said that you can use them but you have to pay for them, and no doctor ever orders them privately.
– You did say you cannot use them.
– All right, I did say you cannot use them. I should have said that you cannot use them as a pharmaceutical benefit. The Minister is correct but she is just picking up a red herring which has no effect whatever on the argument. She keeps talking about the doctors on the Committee being of the highest order but I have given one example after another of the ludicrous decisions they have made and she has not answered them. She has not told us why they took amesec off the list, and left the others on. She has not referred to any of the drugs that I mentioned - phenacetin, the psychotropic drugs and so on. It is rather silly for Senator Cavanagh and Senator Marriott to talk about drug dependence and psychotropic drugs. These are the facts of life. The drugs will be used. If the psychiatrists are not allowed to order them in private practice what is the position? What stage have we reached when the Department tells psychiatrists what they should do? I am supposed to have introduced red hearings. All I say to honourable senators is this: Go and ask your own general practitioner. There is one point I should have mentioned. Senator Marriott asked whether I was using the royal ‘we’. Of course I should have, but when I said ‘we’ I meant general practitioners. I speak for many general practitioners, innumerable general practitioners, and if honourable senators only took the time to ask a general practitioner they would find that what I have said is correct.
The Minister went on to say that this Committee has advice from all specialised committees, but she did not answer me about the latest antibiotic restrictions. Were they referred to the antibiotic committee? Were the restrictions imposed as recommended by the antibiotic committee? 1 can tell honourable senators now that they were not referred to the antibiotic committee and the restrictions imposed are not what the antibiotic committee would want. So the Minister erred completely in that respect It is not her fault. She acts upon the advice given to her. The Minister said that some drugs can be monitored. Because I knew that this legislation was coming up for discussion I wrote to the Minister and asked whether the Antibiotics Reference Committee had met lately. I understand that it meets once a year. It has not met as yet this year but is to meet in June. No information was sought from the Committee in respect of the drugs to which I referred and I challenge the Minister to deny that
– Are you referring to the Antibiotics Committee?
– I am referring to the latest antibiotic restrictions regarding lincocin and ampicillin. We heard many platitudes from the Minister. She said that these drugs are subject to monitoring in hospitals. They do not have to be monitored in hospitals. They have been used in the United States and Great Britain for 2 or 3 years, but we have in Australia a Therapeutic Substances Committee which refuses to accept them because the inert base may not be the base it thinks is correct. Yet the very same drug was passed by therapeutic safety committees in Great Britain and the United States. Doctors in Australia may not prescribe them for our people while we await a decision of the Therapeutic Substances Committee which takes up to 6 months or in some cases 2 years to give a decision.
– Thalidomide was used in the United States and Great Britain for a long time.
– Apparently Senator Buttfield was not in the chamber the other day when I pointed out that even penicillin can cause deaths - sudden deaths - but we would not stop using it on that account. Thalidomide was not properly tested. I am talking about drugs that have been tested.
– How do we know whether a drug has been tested properly?
– Because these drugs have been passed by therapeutic safety committees in the United States and Great Britain. I want to mention Penbrittin again, which is the trade name for ampicillin. The Committee decided that the use of lincocin should be restricted as sensitivity tests were necessary. The Committee has now declared Penbrittin to be a specified purpose drug. Formerly it was used only in hospitals although it has been used in England for the last 2 or 3 years. It seems, however, that it is unsafe for Australians, perhaps because we would have different reactions. It has now been put on the specified purpose list, but the reasons given in the little bible that doctors have to carry does not give the complete picture. In fact, the Committee is now adopting a procedure the reverse of that it adopted for linococin It has to be resistant to Erythromycin because in urinary tract infection both Negram anil Furadantin are known to have a broader spectrum than ampicillin. Yet the Committee has placed restrictions on the use of Negram and Furadantin, and gives a different ruling for Penbritiin. No explanation is given.
Specialist’s are members of the Antibiotics Committee and if the use of any drug should be restricted it is Penbrittin. I am not saying that I want the use of Penbrittin restricted, but applying the same rules that apply to other drugs the Committee should restrict its use. I am glad that it has been released because it saved one of our senators the other day. In the list of pharmaceutical benefits for specified purposes one or two circumstances arc stated in which Penbrittin can be used. General practitioners are disregarding that straight away. No mention is made of acute pulmonary disease, which is the complaint for which it should be used. No mention is made of sub-acute bacterial endocarditis due lo strept. faecalis although Penbrittin is the best treatment for that. We are told that this Committee knows everything, but I have given 6 or 7 instances to illustrate that it does nol. lt is possible to get 6 or 7 different opinions from lawyers and the same is true of doctors. Because these people say that this drug should be used in certain circumstances you cannot use any other drug.
I forgot to refer previously to the drug companies who spend millions of dollars - and make millions of dollars - in developing drugs. They would like to know why their products are declared to be out. Surely that is sufficient reason for supporters of a private enterprise Government to vote for this amendment.
– That impressed me.
– That is something. You must be belter. The drug companies provide the drugs that save lives, but when a drug is knocked back they are nol told why. Surely it is reasonable that they be told where they are wrong. Only a slight alteration may be required in the base or some part of the chain reaction in the drug itself. But no reason is given to them. They get a refusal and thai is the end of it. I would now like to say what a wonderful job Senator McClelland has done in regard to this Bill. I understand that he had only 2 days notice.
– We have not finished yet.
– 1 know. Senator McClelland is not even on the Health Committee of the Labor Party. He has produced al! these amendments which are rather difficult to follow, I think the Committee will agree. He has mastered them all and has produced them here. Why he has done it to help the Government, I do not know, unless it is to make it a better Bill.
– It is for the good of the people.
– Yes, at least. Twelve amendments have been carried so far and I hope that another one will soon be carried. They will not affect Government policy but will help patients to gain a better life. ‘
– I presume that is why you voted-
– I voted against some proposals. We owe a debt of gratitude lo Senator McClelland for the work he has done. I think Senator Marriott accused me of moving this amendment. I did not. 1 raised the matter after Senator McClelland had moved an amendment that the members of the Committee should be named. That is why I was prompted to raise the matter of drugs. I would also like to [hank the Minister because she has had a very trying time. I know it has been very difficult for her. 1 may not speak again in this debate so I would like to thank the Minister for being rather well behaved throughout a tedious operation, especially in a field that is not covered by her own portfolio.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [9.28] - Senator Murphy seemed to be a little concerned about the way a number of the Committee would be voting. I would like to make il clear to him that I am opposing the amendment. I would not want to leave him in any doubt. I oppose it for the reasons I gave earlier. Senator Turnbull - he used words in this vein, if they are noi the exact words - challenged the Minister to state the time when the Antibiotics Reference Committee dealt with Lincomycin. In February 1965 the Antibiotics Reference Committee of the National
Health and Medical Research Council made a recommendation to the Director-General that Lincomycin should not be made available as a benefit at that time. I think that replies adequately to the comment by Senator Turnbull that a recommendation had not been made by the Committee.
– The Democratic Labor Party will support the amendment. We find it difficult to believe that it will do much good but we feel that it cannot do any harm. Personally, I wonder what all the row is about. I would hope that the national Parliament would spend 2 hours on future occasions on something more important than this matter. There has been a lot of talk about whether a particular drug ought to be prescribed. The amendment contains no reference to whether a drug ought to be prescribed. The amendment simply states that when a drug is not to be prescribed we ought to be told why. A considerable amount of the discussion tonight was a sheer waste of time. We should have debated more important matters.
Senator Dame IVY WEDGWOOD (Victoria) [9.30] - I had intended to rise to say what Senator McManus has said. I would not have thought that the publication of reasons why a small number of drugs - and surely they would be very few - should not be made available as. pharmaceutical benefits, would have been sufficient to encourage us to debate this matter for such a long time. I add to what Senator Turnbull said in congratulating Senator McClelland. He was a member of the Senate select committee. Although he was quite opposed to the basic philosophy behind the Committee’s report, he spent a tremendous amount of time on the work of that Committee. I think that during this debate he has proven that he has a complete grasp of the health requirements of the community. I endorse what Senator Turnbull said.
– We had hoped to wait till the final stages of the Bill before expressing our thanks to Senator McClelland, but this seems to have been brought upon us at this stage. We are extremely indebted to Senator McClelland for the careful way in which he applied himself to the large number of amendments. We are also indebted to other members of the Wedgwood Committee who participated at length in the debate. We are indebted to all honourable senators who have spoken and who have applied themselves carefully to these matters, which affect very many Australians. Contrary to what was said by Senator McManus, each amendment is important. This amendment affects a great number of people. Many honourable senators have been approached on behalf of people who have been deprived of benefits because some drug which was being prescribed was not on the list or because they were having difficulty as their doctor was not able to prescribe a drug which was on the list and they could not afford the drug that was being prescribed. These matters affect all citizens. 1 think the discussion of such matters - in the way in which the discussion was held tonight - is extremely valuable.
I repeat that we appreciate what Senator Turnbull and Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood said about Senator McClelland’s efforts. Every member of the Opposition is proud of the way in which he conducted the case on behalf of the Opposition, which has proved to be a case on behalf of the nation, for the improvement of this Bill. It is pleasing that the approval of Senator McClelland’s work in this regard has been acknowledged generally by the Committee.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Turnhull’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I seek leave of the Committee to move amendments No. 29 and 30 in my circulated list together.
– There being no objection leave is granted.
Proposed new clauses 46b and 46c.
– I move:
After clause 46, insert the following new clause: “46b. Section 113 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end of sub-section (1.) the following words: - ‘from six pharmaceutical chemists nominated by the Federal Pharmaceutical Services Guild of Australia’.”.
After clause 46, insert the following new clause: “46C. Section 115 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end of sub-section (1.) the following words: - ‘from six pharmaceutical chemists nominated by the Federal Pharmaceutical Services Guild of Australia’.”.
The first amendment relates to appointments by the Minister to the Pharmaceutical Services Federal Committee of Inquiry under section 1 13 of the Act. The present provision in section 113(1.) states:
The Minister may establish a Committee, called the Pharmaceutical Services Federal Committee of Inquiry, which shall consist of the DirectorGeneral and four pharmaceutical chemists appointed by the Minister.
The Australian Labor Party seeks an addition to that section. The additional words are: from six pharmaceutical chemists nominated by the Federal Pharmaceutical Services Guild of Australia.
Section 11 5(1.) of the Act at present reads:
The Minister may establish in each State a committee, called the Pharmaceutical Services
Committee of Inquiry for the State in which it is established, which shall consist of the Director, an officer of the Commonwealth Department of Health who is a pharmacist and four pharmaceutical chemists appointed by the Minister.
The Australian Labor Party seeks the addition to that section of the words: from six pharmaceutical chemists nominated by the Federal Pharmaceutical Services Guild of Aust ralia.
In support of the amendment I point out that so far as the Medical Services State Committees of Inquiry are concerned in section 110(1.) and (2.) of the Actthe Minister may establish in a State one or more Committees, each of which shall be called a Medical Services Committee of Inquiry, and each Committee shall consist of the Director and 4 medical practitioners appointed by the Minister from among medical practitioners nominated by the Council of the branch of the Australian Medical Association. In section 108 of the Act. in regard to the establishment of a Medical Services Committee of Inquiry,the Minister may establish a committee which shall consist of the Director-General and 4 medical practitioners appointed by the Minister from among 6 medical practitioners nominated by the Federal Council of the Australian Medical Association. In short, by the amendment which I propose on behalf of the Opposition we seek the same provisions for the nomination of a panel of pharmacists by the Federal Pharmaceutical Services Guild of Australia to the Minister, he to select 4 of these pharmacists for appointment to the Board, as at present apply to the Australian Medical Association so far as appointmentsto the Medical Services Committee of Inquiry are concerned.
When the Bill was in another place and clause 19 was under discussion the Minister there removed an amendment relating to the appointment of a Specialist Recognition Appeal Committee. At his request the Bill, when it was in another place, was amended by including proposed section 29c which provides that before making appointments to a Committee, the Minister shall request a number of bodies, namely, the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the Australian Council of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, to nominate a panel of not fewer than 3 medical practitioners for consideration for appointment. The Australian Labor Party says that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If it is good enough for the Australian Medical Association to submit a panel of medical practitioners for appointment by the Minister, then the same privilege should be given to the Federal Pharmaceutical Services Guild of Australia. It is for those reasons and in conformity with the other provisions which already appear in the Act that I move these 2 amendments on behalf of the Opposition.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [9.46] - In reply to the amendments which have been moved by Senator McClelland, section 113 of the principal Act enables the Minister to establish a Pharmaceutical Services Federal Committee of Inquiry, consisting of the Director-General or his delegate and 4 pharmaceutical chemists appointed by the Minister. Section 115 enables the Minister to establish a Pharmaceutical Services Committee of Inquiry for each State with membership of each comprising the Director, a departmental officer who is a pharmacist and 4 pharmaceutical chemists appointed by the Minister. The amendments are aimed at the membership of these Committees by requiring the Minister to make his appointments, in each instance, from panels of 6 pharmaceutical chemists nominated by the Federal Pharmaceutical Services Guild of Australia which, incidentally, is now known as the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. The Federal Services Committee of Inquiry has not met for at least the past 10 years. However, in accordance with existing policy, appointments to it would comprise 1 pharmacist from a panel submitted by the friendly society movement and 3 from a panel submitted by the Guild. The effect of the proposed amendment would be to deprive the friendly society movement of representation it now has on the Committee.
It has always been the practice for one of the appointed members to be from a panel submitted by the friendly society dispensaries and 3 from a panel submitted by the Guild. Again, this amendment would deprive the friendly societies of their representation. It is important to note that the State Committees inquire into the conduct of approved chemists in the friendly society and company sectors, as well as those who are Guild members. I suggest that surely honourable senators will reject an amendment which would deprive a significant number of pharmacists in the community from their existing representation on the Committee of Inquiry. I say again that the Government opposes this amendment.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party will not support the amendment. Members of my Party have a high opinion of the friendly society movement and the pharmacists who work in it. We are not prepared to support a measure which will deprive them of representation.
Proposed new clauses negatived.
Clauses 47 to 55 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Postponed clause 19.
After section 29 of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted: - “29a. - (1.) There shall be, in respect of-
– I think it was largely as a result of matters that 1 raised in the course of debate that consideration of clause 19 was postponed. In order to refresh the memory of honourable senators, I draw their attention to the fact that by clause 19 certain new sections are inserted in the Act. Those sections provide for the setting up of Specialist Recognition Advisory Committees and a Specialist Recognition Appeal Committee and the functions that those committees shall perform. I draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the members of those committees will hold office during the Minister’s pleasure.
This clause also provides that the Director-General has power to make his determinations irrespective of what the Committees recommend, as I think the Minister told me. Possibly this is not a matter of such moment as those that have engaged the time of the Committee over the past 2 hours, but I believe that it is important that, when a person is appointed to a committee and is required to discharge a statutory function - it must be a function of consequence; otherwise the committee would not be established - he should have some security of tenure so that while he occupies the position he may act independently. It may be taking the position too far even to suggest that the gentlemen who occupy these positions do not act independently. On the other hand it would appear to me that there should be an appearance of independence which comes from security of tenure and not from the simple holding of office during the Minister’s pleasure.
Likewise, I believe that, if a recommendation is made by a Specialist Recognition Advisory Committee as to whether a medical practitioner is to be recognised as a physician or specialist, the judgment of his fellows is a decision that ought to be regarded as having weight and to be acted upon. I do not know whether the Minister has adverted to this. Unless there is some reason why the Director-General should have the power to overrule a recommendation of either a Specialist Recognition Advisory Committee or the Specialist Recognition Appeal Committee, the appropriate course should be to allow the decision of that Committee to stand. That is a matter that was raised. Consideration of this clause was postponed to enable some consideration to be given to these matters. I would be grateful for whatever the Minister now has to say.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland- Minister for Housing) [9.53] - As promised, I have looked at these matters again. I have some further information, although the information 1 have is mainly what I gave before. Senator Greenwood queried the reason why the Bill provides for the members of the Specialist Recognition Advisory Committees to ‘hold office during the Minister’s pleasure’. It is usual to provide that appointments to committees of the nature of the Specialist Recognition Advisory Committees are to be for a fixed period of time or at the Minister’s pleasure. It is one or the other.
At the time of drafting the Bill it was decided to adopt the precedent set by section 101 of the principal Act in respect of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and section 119 in regard to committees of inquiry set up under Part VIII of the Act. In fact, all committees established by the National Health Act provide for appointments to be ‘at the Minister’s pleasure’. This in itself provides a sound reason for retention of clause 19 as it is at present drafted. Notwithstanding the precedents to which 1 have referred at the time of drafting it appeared that there was little between the 2 main alternatives available for fixing the terms of appointment of committee members. However, providing for persons appointed to hold office during the Minister’s pleasure’ also had the very real advantage, it is believed, of providing a degree of flexibility not present in providing terms of appointment for a fixed number of years.
It was reasoned that experts in particular fields, including the various specialties of medicine, are usually very busy people and therefore may be reluctant to serve on a committee for a relatively long period of time, such as 2 or 3 years, lt whs felt that such people may be prepared to accept a shorter term of appointment, for example, I year. Of course, it could quite validly be argued that a person who is appointed for longer than I year could resign from a committee; but here again it was felt - consideration was given to this matter - that once on the committee a person may feel that he has an obligation to continue for the full period of his appointment.
A further point is that these committees will comprise completely new representation in a field new to the National Health Act. After an initial period the Australian Medical Association and the various colleges which will be represented on the committees may feel the need to reconsider their own nominations. Conversely, should experience show that there are advantages in long term appointments to these committees, then the legislation will be of sufficient flexibility - 1 believe that this is an important point - to permit long term appointments to be made. So that was the reason why the terminology - ‘during the Ministers pleasure’ - was decided upon as against a fixed period of lime for such an appointment.
The second point that was raised by Senator Greenwood was the reason why the Bill does not make it obligatory for the Director-General to accept the advice of the Specialist Recognition Advisory Committees. In replying to that point with the information I have. I inform the honourable senator that il is usual for the power and responsibility of an executive act to rest with a Minister of the Crown or the permanent head of a department subject, of course, to the usual power of delegation. Throughout the national health administration and other areas of administration which come under the Minister for Health the pattern is followed of an advisory committee making recommendations to the Minister or the Director-General. Examples of such advisory committees are the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and the Commonwealth Health Insurance Council set up under the National Health Act, the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee set up under the Therapeutic Substances Act, the Tuberculosis Advisory Council set up under the Tuberculosis Act and the National Health and Medical Research Council.
More importantly, it is necessary to appreciate that the Specialist Recognition Advisory Committees will have functions which will vary considerably from those of the State Medical Practitioners Registration Boards in those States where specialists are registered, lt is possible that the Commonwealth will wish lo register as specialists medical practitioners who are not registered under State law as specialists. The Bill provides that the Director-General must recognise a medical practitioner as a specialist where the medical practitioner is registered as a specialist under State law. However, recognition under the National Health Act will not by any means depend solely on registration under State law and the Commonwealth’s criteria will, as necessary, be applied to medical practitioners who are not registered under State law. The criteria are set out in the Bill and include the doctor’s qualifications, his experience and standing in the profession and the nature of his practice. These criteria will permit medical practitioners who are fully qualified by training and experience to be recognised as specialists whether they practise as individuals or members of group practices, and will include those who practise their specialties on a full time basis or alternatively practise both as specialists and general practitioners or in some other area of medical practice.
A further point is that in some States the list of specialties specified by the Commonwealth for the purposes of the National Health Act will be more extensive than the specialties in respect of which medical practitioners are registered under State law. lt is quite possible that in those States where specialists are registered the same representatives of the profession could serve on both the Slate Registration Boards and the Recognition Committees to be set up under the National Health Act. In fact it would be logical if this was the case. I have brought out the difference in aims between the State registration of specialists and the recognition of specialists under the National Health Act so that it can be appreciated that some flexibility by the Department is necessary where an advisory committee applies the specified criteria perhaps a little rigidly and does not recommend recognition of a medical practitioner who the Commonwealth feels it would be preferable to recognise. For example, in those States in which the State law provides for registration a few medical practitioners are accepted at present as specialists for the purposes of the National Health Act who are not registered as specialists by the State concerned. Therefore, it is essential that such practitioners should continue to retain their recognition as specialists. I think the points I have raised are, indeed, an acceptable reply to the query raised by the honourable senator.
– Consideration of this matter was adjourned on a previous occasion. I do not think honourable senators have had a chance to focus their attention on the matter since then. However, having heard the explanation given by the Minister, I should imagine that if I were a medical practitioner I would be paying far more attention to clause 19 of the Bill. I notice that Senator Turnbull, who has been sitting in the chamber for a lengthy period paying great attention to the debate, is about to leave the chamber. 1 know that he has an urgent call to attend to but 1 say to him that it seems to me that clause 19, which has been adverted to by Senator Greenwood, is a very important clause indeed and I think that the medical profession should be paying more attention to it than it has so far.
Clause 19 concerns the recognition of specialists. Really it involves the professional life or death of medical practitioners in the sense that it concerns recognition of their specialist qualifications. As I understand it, and the Minister may correct me if I am wrong, the way the clause will work will be that, although an advisory committee may advise upon whether a man should be recognised as a specialist, it is open to the Director-General to decide, for reasons which seem fit to him, otherwise. The right of appeal to an appeal committee is provided. Apparently the determination of the appeal committee will prevail because provision is made whereby the DirectorGeneral shall make the appropriate determination in relation to the appellant.
What concerns me and, as I understand it, may concern Senator Greenwood, is that the members of both bodies, the advisory committee and the appeal committee, hold office during the Minister’s pleasure. Therefore, the bodies, especially the appeal body, which have power to determine whether the specialist qualifications of a member will be recognised - and I have no doubt that this recognition is as important in the medical sphere as recognition as a Queen’s Counsel is important in the legal sphere and recognition of some superior qualification is important in other spheres of life - have deliberately not been made independent. The traditional independence has been taken away from these bodies under this clause. The provision is that the members of these bodies will hold office during the Minister’s pleasure. With great respect to the Minister, I think that the explanation which she gave in relation to this aspect was not satisfactory. These committees, especially the appeal body, are of such importance that something will have to be done to ensure the independence of the persons who exercise the functions of these important offices.
In legislation as complex as the present Bill it is easy for extremely important matters to be passed over. The debate on this Bill is nearing completion. I do not know whether something can be done about the matter I have raised. Senator Greenwood has not moved an amendment, although he has adverted to the matter. I think it is a very important matter. 1 do not think that a matter as important as this one should bc left as it is. There is little doubt that if the determination of the Director-General is to become the determinant of the professional status of practitioners what I have outlined will be the practical position. Under the present conditions the recognition of professional qualification is left to a body whose recommendation is not binding on the Director-General. If an appeal is lodged it is forwarded to an appeals committee which comprises members who hold office only during the Minister’s pleasure. This is a very uncertain and, I would think, unsatisfactory method. There should bc some security of tenure. The persons who hold these offices should have some independence.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition not think that, if he is giving any thought to this argument, he should go on to the subsequent clauses, which deal with the circumstances in which the members of these committees are appointed? Surely it is a critical factor that they are drawn from the professional organisation itself? The Leader of the Opposition is suggesting by implication that if the Minister does not approve of the members of these committees he can dispense with their services. 1 do not think that that is real.
– The Leader of the Government has put an important consideration and I appreciate the force of it. But is it not also adding weight to the argument which has been put forward to say that once these people have been selected by such eminent bodies there should be some security of tenure and some independence of office? When they have been selected by their colleagues in such important bodies why should they be dependent upon the Minister’s pleasure in relation to their tenure of office? If they do not want to continue it is open to them to resign. This is a simple way of dealing with the Minister’s suggestion about them being busy-
– If their conduct is unsatisfactory the Minister must have power io replace them.
– It could be done if their conduct is unsatisfactory, but it has not been suggested that their appointment should be subject to satisfactory conduct. The appointment is not during good behaviour. If the proposal were put forward, that they should hold office during good behaviour or for a certain time subject to good behaviour, which is a well recognised phrase in law, it would be all right, but the appointment is during the Minister’s pleasure.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that they should be appointed for. say. 2 or 3 years?
– I should think that a reasonable course would be to appoint them for a certain time, subject to good behaviour or during good behaviour, which is no reflection upon the persons themselves. This is a well known term which is used very often in the statutes. But when office is held during the Minister’s pleasure it means that the Minister can dispense with the services of the office holder without any grounds or, in answer lo Senator Gair, any suggestion of misconduct.
– He could be deteriorating in health.
– Such a reason could and is often put. We have many precedents in this regard. The statute books are full of provisions which give persons some kind of independence and some security, but there is also provision for termination in the event of what Senator Gair has suggested.
– Lots of statutes contain that provision.
– But 1 would suggest, with respect, that this is not the normal situation when matters of such importance are dealt with. In any event, the standards which we should set for the medical profession should be such as require, as far as possible, that the determination of professional status shall be made by their own colleagues. Why should there be this intervention at this stage? Why should the membership of the appeal body be subject to the Minister’s pleasure?
– Bo:h committees are subject to the Minister’s pleasure.
– Both of them, yes. This is an important matter. It concerns the specialist status of medical practitioners. I should think that it is an extremely important matter. It is much more important than many of the other matters which are committed to bodies which have some independence and some security. I am in considerable sympathy with Senator Greenwood in regard to what he has said.
– I am heartened and emboldend by what Senator Murphy has said to move amendments to this clause. I do so because I share with Senator Murphy the concern that these committees are going to perform vitally important roles in the conduct of this legislation. The schedules to the Bill prescribe various types of professional services and in those services distinguish between general practitioners and specialist services, ft will become a matter of considerable moment whether a medical practitioner is to be regarded as a specialist or a general practitioner, lt is not an easy task to make that determination. I seem to recall that this was one of the areas of controversy which engaged the Ministers attention for many months before this measure was presented.
The way in which the Bill before the Committee endeavours to cope with the problem is to provide for the setting up of a specialist recognition advisory committee and subsequently a specialist recognition appeal committee to be manned by members of the profession who will have power to make this determination. With professional people this is an accepted mode of making distinctions of this character and it is one which obviously has the support of the Australian Medical Association. It is one which obviously appeals. Therefore it is important that these bodies should have the independence which is appropriate to the discharge of their function. For that reason there should not appear to be the risk that a person holds his office only for so long as he does what might be supposed to be required of him. I move: in proposed section 29a, paragraph (4.) leave out ‘during the Minister’s pleasure’; insert ‘for a period of 3 years, but he shall bc removable by the Minister in any case of misconduct or incapacity’.
In proposed section 29b, paragraph (3.), leave out ‘during the Minister’s pleasure’; insert ‘for a period of 3 years, but he shall be removable by the Minister in any case of misconduct or incapacity’.
In proposed section 29d, paragraph (4.), after the word ‘Act’ insert ‘in accordance with the said recommendation’.
The purpose of the last amendment would be that when the Director-General receives a recommendation from his specialist recognition advisory committee he would act in accordance with that recommendation in determining whether the medical practitioner concerned was to be recognised as a consultant physician or as a specialist. I take note of what the Minister said in her earlier explanation, that there are subsequent provisions in this clause which indicate that where a person is a specialist or a consultant physician, recognised as such under the law of a State, he shall have that recognition irrespective of what might be the Director-General’s intention or desire. Accordingly, those who are so recognised in a State have that statutory protection, but in accordance with the views that I expressed earlier, and as I understand the views expressed by Senator Murphy, it is appropriate when powers such as these are imposed - and it is a desirable course which should commend itself to the Committee - that the decisions of the committees should be acted upon and given effect to.
The only other aspect relates to the decision of the Director-General on the recommendation of a specialist recognition appeal committee. I take the view as appears in clause 19 in prospective section 29e, sub-section (5.), that when the committee allows an appeal the DirectorGeneral is obliged to make the appropriate determination. I should think that it would be scarcely arguable that the appropriate determination in the case is not a determination to allow the appeal. Accordingly, I move those amendments.
– I can see no great objection to having on the Specialist Recognition Advisory Committee and the Specialist Recognition Appeal Committee specialists holding office during the Minister’s pleasure. That is not unusual and it not without precedent. I am pleased that Senator Greenwood referred to the acceptance of a recommendation of these committees. If the Minister sees fit to establish these committees I think he should be obliged to accept their recommendations. I presume that the committees will be composed of men who are well qualified to decide on the qualifications for registration of specialists. I was listening to the Minister and I would like to address a remark to her. I heard her say that in the States where there is recognition of specialists laid down in Acts of Parliament the specialists approved by the medical boards in those States under the terms and conditions laid down by Parliament might not be registered in terms of the State requirement but might be acceptable for purposes of the National Health Act. I should like the Minister to explain to me the basis on which these specialists are recognised under the Commonwealth Act but riot recognised by the specialist recognition boards in the particular States for registration as specialists.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [10.18] - I should like to make a few comments about the period of time mentioned in the amendments proposed by Senator Greenwood. In looking at these amendments we must remember that we are considering a completely new Bill and that the recognition committees will operate in a field which is new to the National Health Act. After the initial period the Australian Medical Association and the various colleges represented on the committees may feel that they will need to reconsider their nominations. They may consider them and decide that there are advantages in long term appointments or that the appointments should be short term. The purpose of having the words ‘during the Minister’s pleasure’ was to provide a flexibility which would not be provided if a fixed term were prescribed. I suggest that if the amendment is carried it will have a reverse effect from what is intended and will limit the flexibility of the Bill. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) considers that the provision for the setting up of committees has advantages as it stands at present.
– I realise that the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) may want to consider the amendment as circulated, but I shall enter the debate for just a moment. It seems to me that an advisory committee is one thing and that a committee set up to perform a specific function might well be something different. The instrument of government through many departments provides for advisory committees. 1 have many advisory committees in my own Department. Some of the advisers are probably the most important people in the industrial and commercial heart of Australia. A Minister has such people on his advisory committees and he is grateful for their advice. But in the final analysis he reserves unto himself the right to administer an Act of Parliament and to perform his functions. For that reason I find some difficulty in accepting the proposals in the amendment put down a few moments ago by Senator Greenwood.
Of course, when we look at the 2 committees, we find that the Minister may or may not accept the advice of the Specialist Recognition Advisory Committees, and that the Specialist Recognition Appeal Committee is set up for the purpose of hearing appeals. 1 was interested to hear Senator Murphy’s argument, which almost postulated the fact that if the Minister did not like the advice of a committee he could get rid of it. Senator Murphy concentrated the main part of his argument on the Specialist Recognition Appeal Committee and indicated that it would seem the Minister has to accept that Committee’s advice. He made the suggestion, very gently 1 thought, that if the Minister does not like the advice of the Committee, he could get rid of it. There could well be reasons for the Minister feeling that the time has come for him to remove the members of one of the Committees. But the Minister would not get rid of them capriciously. Proposed new section 29c provides: (I.) Before making appointments to a Committee, the Minister shall request each of the following bodies to nominate a panel of nol less than three medical practitioners for consideration for appointment to the Committee: -
These are the bodies that will nominate people for these committees. The Minister will receive nominations from these bodies which, in fact, are essential to the Minister in the administration of the National Health Act of this nation. So the Minister is not going lo put himself in the position of removing from office a member of a committee unless he has good and valid reasons for doing so. The amendment which has been moved by Senator Greenwood suggests that the Minister may remove a member of a committee from office on the basis of misconduct or incapacity. In that case the Minister would find himself in a most difficult situation, because to remove a member of a committee from office the Minister more or less has to assert either that the person is incapable of doing his job or has misconducted himself. It might well be that this would be a barrier to the Minister in fact asking a specialist or a member to retire from an advisory committee, because it is a very grave thing’ to have to say to someone: ‘We do not want you on the committee because you are incapable or you have misconducted yourself.’ I find difficulty in accepting the amendment.
Senator Greenwood’s amendment seeks to include 2 provisions. The first is that a member of a committee shall hold office for a period of 3 years, and the second is that a member of a committee shall be removed from office by the Minister on the basis of misconduct or incapacity. I think that the whole of the Health Act provides for appointments to certain committees. I think this is as far as I want to go. I repeat that many of our statutes contain provision for the appointment of advisory committees. These committees do tremendous work. I think we will weaken these committees and their capacity to give good advice to the Government if we are to provide that the members of the committees stand the risk of being removed from office for misconduct or incapacity. I would think it would be far better for the Minister to have the right either to accept or reject the advice of these committees. T do not think that he should be inhibited in the way in which the amendment seeks to inhibit him.
– I should like to indicate thc attitude of the Australian Democratic Labor Party towards this amendment. We do not propose to support it, although we do not have the terms of the amendment before us at the moment. We believe that it could be a dangerous amendment to introduce into the Bil] at this stage. It does appear, at first sight, that there could be some justification for introducing these sorts of alleged safeguards for the professional standing of the people who are concerned. 1 take a step further the analysis which was made by the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson). He referred to recommendations coming back from these bodies. If any person who has been appointed to one of these bodies were dismissed by some whim of the Minister in accordance with the powers that he could exercise, I suggest that these bodies in themselves would be sufficient protection for the professional standing of the people on these bodies. I am quite sure that if a member were dismissed, these bodies would not nominate another person to take his place. It would be as simple as that.
Perhaps a Minister could, in a fit of irresponsibility, exercise such power of dismissal, which is unquestionably there. I think we have to recognise that in advisory panels of this nature there is such a thing as the personal incompatibility of people. It may be desirous that some change should be made. Does the Minister then have to prove misconduct or incompetency on the part of the person? That would be very bad indeed. Then one would get to the stage of arguing what constitutes incompetency. ls it suggested that if a person who is appointed to a panel degenerated into a state of alcoholism, that would constitute misconduct? Some people would say that it would affect his professional status and competency, and therefore he would no longer be competent. Other people might argue the reverse. One could take that a step further. If a member of a panel becomes an immoral person, does that constitute incompetency or misconduct in the course of his profession? I think that once we nominate these qualifications under which the Minister can exercise his right of dismissal, we bring in to the matter a concept of argument that should not be applied to a body which operates in an advisory capacity.
We believe that the professional status of the people who are involved is quite well protected. We feel it would be a very poor sort of a person who had reason to suggest that a Minister would exercise this power of dismissal capriciously. We think it is unlikely to happen, but if it did happen - and we have to admit that where the human factor is involved things can happen - we feel that the protection of the qualified person as a specialist is well afforded by the bodies that are behind him and which nominate him. We do not feel that these bodies would take very lightly any action which the Minister took capriciously. Of course, I admit that in the case of incompatibility of an officer with a particular Minister - where there is a clash of personalities - it probably would never get down to the stage where the Minister had to exercise his power of dismissal. The thing would be sorted out by agreement. If people on this level find that they cannot work together, usually some compromise is reached without the Minister’s power being exercised.
It seems to me to be reasonable that the Minister should have some power. But we cannot see how one can express it in legal terms in order to give complete protection to everybody without being involved in legal arguments that probably would never establish anything anyway. It is for those reasons that we cannot accept this amendment which so obviously has been conceived in haste. With the issues that are involved, probably none of us has had an opportunity at this stage to give the amendment the consideration and depth of thought that would be necessary to insure that the amendment in seeking to cure one ill did not impose an even greater evil in the Bill. For those reasons we would not be prepared to support the amendment at this stage.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [10.30] - i would just like to answer Senator Dittmer who raised a point about specialists. lt would not appear likely to be a case that would occur in Queensland where we have a well established Medical Practitioners Registration Board. Cases may arise where doctors have been accepted as specialists for the purpose of the present National Health Act but for their own reasons the doctors concerned have not applied for recognition under the law of their own Slate and these cases would need to bc specially examined under the amended Act. There is 1 State in which a doctor cannot be recognised as being a specialist in more than 1 field. An example of which I am told is where the specialist is a specialist in 2 different fields but in his own state he could not be recognised in the 2 Fields and therefore he would not apply for registration at all. I think that would be a case of a specialist who would be recognised under the National Health Act by the Commonwealth.
– I think this is an extremely important matter. As I indicated before, here is the position of the medical profession: The professional life or death of the specialists is at stake. We are moving into an area where there is more and more control by the Public Service of their activities and there is coming about an administrative system under which their professional qualifications are to be determined. They ought to be paying very great attention to the matter. Several members of my own Party in the other House who are members of the medical profession indicated their approval of what has been put by Senator Greenwood. I think that what he has put forward is a sensible endeavour to give some form of security to the members of the committees. They could always resign if they wanted to. The suggestions that somehow people would be afraid of going on committees because of lack of provisions to ensure their security of tenure do not impress me at all, nor does the suggestion about the possible cases that might arise. That applies in every sphere where this kind of provision is applicable, lt has no particular significance in the case of these committees because similar provisions occur all around the place. One might as well say that judges will nol go on the bench because they arc liable lo be removed for some kind of misbehaviour, misconduct or incapacity, so that is not a sufficient argument. As Senator Dittmer was impressed so am I with the proposition that the Director-General ought to be acting in accordance with the recommendations made by the Advisory Committee.
– Second lime round he is obliged to under the Act.
– But he is not on the Advisory Committee. He is on the appeals committee but 1 do not like the conjunction of the complete lack of independence of these bodies together wilh the provision that in the first instance he does not have to act on the recommendation. If he does on the second instance members of that body are subject to removal at the Minister’s pleasure. I indicate support for the amendment moved by Senator Greenwood.
– 1 do feel there may be some misconception about what are commonplace expressions in statutes. The expression that a person is removable by the Minister for misconduct or incapacity is not an unusual phrase, lt is the safeguard which a Minister has in order to give to him the power to remove a person who for some medical reason becomes incapable of conducting the affairs of the Committee and is unable to resign or for some reason does not want to resign, lt is the means whereby the Minister can take action. If there is a case of misconduct then obviously I would have thought a person disqualifies himself by his conduct from remaining on the committee. But it is a safeguard insofar as the power of a Minister to remove a person who is appointed for a particular term is limited to cases which are quite clear and acceptable as situations in which a person is removable. The mere fact that he may act in a way that the Minister does not like ought not be sufficient to enable the Minister to remove him. That is always the risk when we have the expression that a person holds office during the Minister’s pleasure. I agree with Senator Little that Ministers do not act capriciously and we expect that Ministers will act in a way which is fair and proper, but there are always occasions where some issue arises, contention develops and accusations are made in which the suggestion is there that maybe the act has been capricious. I know that Senator Little, speaking in the way he does on this occasion, can cast his mind back to the issue concerning the export of merino rams. I know it is not said that the Minister is capricious, but it clearly has been said in this place that the Minister has acted in a way which does not merit approval and that it should have been a decision taken in a different way.
– In that instance he did not have the control over him that these bodies have. They must renominate to the Minister any successor otherwise he finishes up wilh no successor.
– I appreciate that the analogy is not 100% accurate but still there is no control over the Minister in this case as in the example I cited. 1 cited it only because one cannot foretell the situations in which a problem will arise. I regretted Senator Little’s remark that the amendment was conceived in haste. Perhaps the language has only just been drawn but this whole issue was adverted to when this matter was before the Senate last week and it is not a matter which has come up. as it were, out of the blue. I would hope that the principles of the amendment would commend themselves to the Senate because I do feel there is involved not only the importance of the method by which a distinction is made between physicians, specialists and general practitioners but also in regard to committees of this character it is important to assert that there is some principle involved that members should have a security of tenure so that the work they do may be supposed to be done and be seen to be done in a manner which does not suggest they are under any undue influence.
Senator BYRNE (Queensland) fi 0.37]- I would like a little information from the Minister. As I understand the principal Act various components of the medical profession are consulted and asked to supply a panel, each of 3 names. From each panel the Minister shall select 1 to constitute membership of this Committee. Apparently a member may be removed at the instance of the Minister or for proved misconduct. I take it that the selection of a member from 1 branch of the medical profession is at the instance of that branch, if we had a fixed term of appointment and the Minister was noi given this opportunity to dismiss for good and sufficient cause - as I presume would be the basis on which he would remove - we could imagine 2 possibilities: first of all, that a member of the Committee had nol committed any breach of anything which would constitute misconduct warranting his dismissal but may have for some reason or another ceased to be a member of the body which originally nominated him, or disappeared or done something of that nature, or in some way breached the rules of the association whose nominee he was, in which case he ceases to be a satisfactory representative of that body on the Committee. It is not necessary to prove misconduct which would warrant his dismissal on any ethical ground or ground of medical misconduct but he is in fact the nominee of one of those components of the medical profession.
– He could be a non practising member.
– He may be a non practising member. Now, if we have a fixed term he may no longer be representing that body, no longer available or no longer suitable but he has a fixed term anil he has committed no act which would entitle thc Minister to dismiss him. Yet the Minister is disentitled to dismiss him even at the instance of the body that originally presented his name for membership. That would seem to be an extraordinary circumscription, as I see it.
– Would that nol bc advantageous?
– I do not know. 1 raised this and 1 would like the Minister’s comment on it. lt does occur to mc that a very difficult position would arise where we would have either a practitioner not practising or not attending or anything of that nature but there would be no breach. He might have been a most inattentive member of the Committee. The body which presented him might say: We do not think he is any longer a suitable member of the Committee but we have no misconduct proved which would warrant the Minister removing him’, and no-one could remove him for the fixed term. That would be an extraordinary situation yet it is a very real one which probably could arise in practice. For those reasons I think that to circumscribe the powers of the Minister except for good and sufficient reason would be imprudent at this stage.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [10.41] - What Senator Byrne has said is absolutely correct. The whole purpose and point of the legislation is to have flexibility. We believe that it would be of value and would give the Minister the opportunity to act in cases such as have been brought forward. I oppose the amendment.
– Order! Is it the will of the Committee that I take the 3 amendments proposed by Senator Greenwood together? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
That the amendments (Senator Greenwood’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Schedules - by leave - taken together.
– I move:
If the amendment is carried we then would make a consequential request as follows:
In clause 8. paragraph (b), after paragraph (a) of the definition of ‘professional service’, insert (aa) refraction performed by a registered optometrist; or’.
I ask for leave ofthe Committee to take both amendments together.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In this Bill the Government recognises the professional services of optometrists and the service that they render to the community in their profession. In the introduction to the Schedules optometrists are given the right of referral to ophthalmologists. I refer to item 6(a) of the Schedule set out on page 36 of the Bill, which states:
A reference in cither of the last 2 preceding paragraphs or in Part1 of the table in this Schedule to the referring of a patient to a specialist shall be read as a reference to a referral by a medical practitioner and -
where the specialist concerned is an ophthalmologist - shall be read as including a reference to a referring by a registered optometrist or a registered optician;
So for the first time in the National Health Bill the professional status of optometrists has been recognised by granting to them a right of referral to ophthalmologists. There can be no doubt about the professional status of optometrists in Australia. For instance, there are schools of optometry in Australia and New Zealand. I wish to refer to the situation in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
In New South Wales, shortly after the incorporation of the New South Wales University of Technology in 1948 an optometry course was transferred to the
Physics Department of that institution. From 1953 it was made possible through additional part-time studies to convert from the then diploma course to Bachelor of Science in optometrical services. The University of Technology was expanded into the University of New South Wales in 1958. By 1961 a 4-year full time course leading to the degree of Bachelor of Optometry had been commenced.
In Victoria, in conjunction with the University of Melbourne, a full time 4-year course leading to a diploma licentiate in optometric science was granted by the Australian College of Optometry, later the Victorian College of Optometry. In I960 the College moved from its limited rented premises to a new building in Carlton and became an affiliated college in the University of Melbourne with slight changes to its structure. The course was included amongst those offered by the newly formed Faculty of Applied Science, thus achieving degree status. I understand that until this year Queensland has conducted its course on a 4-year part time apprenticeship basis. This year it has become a full time course and along with other professional courses has achieved diploma status at the newly formed Queensland Institute of Technology. There can be no question about the professional status and standards of Australian optometrists.
Since the Opposition successfully moved at the Committee stage an amendment to extend the right of benefits to patients of ophthalmologists where glasses are prescribed, the Australian Optometrical Association and members of that Association in various parts of Australia have been in touch with us to say that if a right is not given under this Bill for the patients of optometrists to receive benefits for refraction services, those patients will be heavily discriminated against. The Australian Optometrical Association has asserted that as a result of the professional training of its members, acquired after years of study, and their experience, they are equally qualified as ophthalmologists in the field of refraction. They maintain that in order to prescribe glasses or other corrective visual appliances it is an inescapable and fundamental necessity to measure the power of vision. They point out that all optometrical registration Acts in the various States recognise that the measuring power of vision is clearly defined at law as an act of optometry.
This act of optometry may be performed by a legally qualified optometrical practitioner especially licensed to carry out the work, or by a legally qualified medical practitioner who is permitted to perform this act in the same way as a legally qualified medical practitioner is permitted to perform functions legally designated as acts of dentistry under the various Dental Acts throughout Australia. This being so, it must be obvious to everyone that the argument relating to benefits payable to patients when spectacles are prescribed does not relate to 2 different functions being performed by optometrists and ophthalmologists so far as the prescription of glasses is concerned, but indeed to an identical function prescribed by law and performed by 2 professional groups - optometrists and ophthalmologists.
In the present situation it is not a question of differential treatment for 2 different functions or even strongly similar functions, but of different treatment for an identical function. 1 remind the Committee that we are dealing wilh treatment of an identical function so far as optometrists and ophthalmologists are concerned. The Australian Optometrical Association has put to us that under the existing amendment to the Bill the profession of optometry would suffer significant economic hardship and that the status of the profession both in the eyes of the public and professionally would be manifestly inpaired if the proposed benefits were to be approved by this Parliament only so far as the prescription of glasses by ophthalmologists and not by optometrists was concerned.
The optometrists have pointed out that in countries like the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada and some parts of Europe optometrical services rendered by legally qualified optometrists are an integral part of health care programmes carried out in those countries. They assert that it should be the right of the Australian people to obtain a similar benefit. They point out that a study of the ophthalmic population in Australia clearly shows that large areas of population would have to cover significant distances and spend considerable time away from home in order to receive optometrical attention from ophthalmologists, whereas in the present situation people resident in cities would be able to receive with greater ease that attention and the proposed Commonwealth benefit for ophthalmologists’ services.
As I have said, the Government has already recognised the professional status of optometrists in this Bill by granting them the right of referral. The Opposition claims that by granting this request for amendment of the Schedules we would bc giving the patients of optometrists the right to receive the benefit at the general consultation rate. Officers of the Australian Optometrical Association have told mc that they would be quite happy with this type of arrangement if it were agreed to by the Senate. They appreciate that the difference in fees payable by patients to ophthalmologists would be smaller in that case than the fees payable having regard to the benefit that might accrue to a patient receiving the services of an optometrist. They are of the opinion that, having regard to the service they perform on behalf of the Australian people and having regard to the good will that exists between the Australian people and them, they will be able to meet healthily any competition that might come their way in this regard.
– 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 negative.
– -The Opposition believes that it is in the interests of the community generally, of patients and of optometrists as well as ophthalmologists that any discrimination now existing should be done away with completely. Because of the reasons I have enunciated I make the request for the amendment on behalf of the Labor movement.
– If the proposed amendment is carried a very wide field will be opened. I intend to move into the field, too. The policy of the Government, as far as I understand it, has always been that all benefit schemes should be related to the medical practitioner and that all paramedical fields should not be included. The Wedgwood Committee dealt with this matter. We of that Committee recommended that, as a group, physiotherapists should be included. Honourable senators may or may not recall that in my speech on the debate for the second reading of the Bill I pointed out that 1 thought that physiotherapists should be included. I was assured that the Australian Labor Party would not support my suggestion. Now the ALP has suggested the inclusion of another paramedical group. I will support the amendment. I will deal with that first.
I think honourable senators should discuss whether the Government intends to recognise all paramedical services. If the Government accepts this group, it is opening a very wide field. I am quite in sympathy with Senator McClelland’s amendment, because time and time again doctors refer healthy people - people not suffering from disease but who have eye problems - directly to optometrists. I have done it myself often. If I thought a patient did not need the services of an ophthalmologist I directed him straight to an optometrist. I do not see why, in such a case, the optometrist should not get a fee also. We have not considered whether the contribution rate will have to be increased if this amendment is carried. That may also come into the picture. I support the amendment. At the same time, I must support another amendment which I propose to move right now.
– Order! Would the honourable senator foreshadow this as a further amendment, because the Committee has an amendment before it at present?
– I thought we were dealing with the schedules as a whole. I will foreshadow it as an amendment if the present amendment is carried. I shall move that treatment be given at the request of a medical practitioner by a registered physiotherapist.
– What about the dentists?
– There will be a problem with dentists, too. As I said, a very wide field will be opened if optometrists are approved. I shall insist that physiotherapists be approved. They are an essential part of medical treatment.
– But what about the dentists?
– They are not as essential as the physiotherapists. These days every operation requires treatment afterwards by a physiotherapist. Doctors refer patients to physiotherapists. I foreshadow that amendment. I have another amendment which I foreshadow. I shall move that in Part 10 Division 13 certain items be deleted. I refer to item 7921, which is in the First Schedule, at page 31. 1 refer also to items 7925, 7929 and 8037. I do not see why the Government should support an operation to enlarge the mammary gland. That is all that item 7925 concerns. 1 think it is plain-
– Does the honourable senator intend to explain what he is talking about?
– Yes. Item 7921 deals with a mammaplasty, reduction or repositioning of the mammary gland. For those who do not know what the mammary gland is, it is the breast. The Government will contribute $96 for this plastic opera- tion. Item 7925 concerns a mammaplasty, augmentation, prosthetic (unilateral) - only on one side - and the Commonwealth benefit will be $81.I presume that if the operation is done on both sides the Government will pay $162. I think we have reached the height of absurdity when, in the National Health Act, we condone the fetish that has grown so much in the United States of America and here. I refer to the worship of the female breast.
– Order!I suggest that the honourable senator not develop his argument at the moment.
– I will not develop it. Honourable senators may not understand what a melonoplasty is. I will explain what item 8037 is. The Government, very cheerfully, will pay out$147 for a face lift. That is what item 8037 deals with. That is what our funds are being used for so that people can have a face lift or so that women may have their breasts made bigger or smaller, whichever they like, at the Government’s expense. 1 foreshadow those amendments. I shall move that thoseitems be deleted. I foreshadow another amendment. It is in Part 2 Division 1 item 210.
SenatorButtfield - Why is the honourable senator foreshadowing this amendment?
– I am asked why I am foreshadowing this amendment. I wantto do it only as an indication to the Government that the Committee will not support a discrimination between general practitioners and specialists. As honourable senators are aware, there are two different types of fees - one for general practitioners and one for specialists. This matter is argued backwards and forwards all the time. Item 210 relates to a confinement under the care of a specialist. I foreshadow this amendment because - although it is too complicated a matter to discuss in this short time - if the Committee carried the amendment that would be an ind cation to the Government that the Committee does not believe in differential rebates for items which are the concern of both general practitioners and specialists. The wives of most honourable senators - not all - probably were attended in their confinements by a general practitioner. For some honourable senators this would have been some time ago. Many honourable senators, without any doubt, had a general practitioner deliver their children. I am quitecertain that if they think about it they were quite pleased withthe job he did.
– So they will be in the future.
– Yes.but why is the generalpractitioner denigrated by being put intothe position in which the basic Commonwealth benefit is$7 less? According to the Government, his worth is $7 less than that of a specialist.
– He is not denigrated.
– He is.
– A specialist will be a specialist.
– Yes. and we are quite happy that ihe fees for specialists are higher.
– Order! I ask Senator Turnbull to confine himself to the bare outline of the foreshadowed amendments and to develop his arguments at a later stage.
– I give fair warning to the chamber that I am going to move that amendment merely to seek an indication - because there are many of these practitioner-specialist items - of how the Senate feels.
– I support what Senator McClelland has put forward. I ask the Minister whether the proposal by Senator McClelland to make this a benefit provision under the Act is sufficiently carried forward by what he has proposed. Does it require that the patient will obtain the fund benefit as well as the Commonwealth benefit? Should the appropriate amounts in relation to this particular item be inserted in schedules 2 to 7? Senator McClelland has called it item No. 8289. As I understand it, it will carry the Commonwealth benefit. Does it also require that the Australian Labor Party should insert in the second schedule, for example, the amount appropriate to a general practitioners - that being Senator McClelland’s intention - of $1.60, in the third schedule which relates to Victoria S 1-30, in the fourth schedule 95c, in the fifth schedule 90c, in the sixth schedule 90c, and in the seventh schedule SI. 10? If that were done would that be sufficient to carry with it the requirements in relation to the payment of benefits by the funds?
– The amounts should be inserted in the schedules, as you have said, and the fund benefits and specified excess should be inserted in the schedules.
– Is it necessary to have the specified excess stated as well?
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [11.12] - Yes, and I think I should reply to one or two points while this other matter is being looked at. Referring to the amendment moved by Senator McClelland I would say that sub-section (4) of Section (13) of the principal Act provides, in effect, that no Commonwealth benefits are to be paid for a consultation where spectacle lenses are prescribed. This provision has been in the act since 1953 and it was originally included to ensure that any single professional group was not given an advantage over some other professional group. Senator McClelland’s first amendment which was carried by this chamber would have the effect of providing Commonwealth benefit for services rendered by an ophthalmologist including those services where spectacle lenses are prescribed. One honourable senator commented about costs concerning this. I would say it is probable that this could cost in the vicinity of Sim.
Now we come to the second amendment which has been brought before the Senate tonight. The second amendment we are now considering would place optometrists on the same plane as ophthalmologists in so far as the payment of benefits for services resulting in the prescribing of spectacles is concerned. I wish to remind honourable senators of the original purpose of the legislation amendments before us. Honourable senators will realise that the Bill is intended to reconstruct the medical benefits scheme under the act. The hospital benefits scheme has not been looked at in any major way. Those provisions in the bill relating to hospital benefits or hospital benefit organisations are general provisions which are necessary as a result of the reorganisation of the medical benefits scheme. The Minister has said in another place in relation to the hospital scheme that the implications of the Nimmo Report - I think this is something we want to consider - are so far-reaching that the Government is not in a position to make decisions on them at this stage or to undertake reciprocal commitments with the States until the States’ attitudes have been clarified. The Government will continue its examination of the important issues raised by these recommendations, and actively pursue negotiations with the State Governments. Similarly, in connection with this the Minister has stated that the existing arrangements under which ‘ancillary benefits’ are usually provided from medical and hospital funds’ ordinary accounts have proved reasonably satisfactory. It also recognises that any proposal for new arrangements in relation to ancillary benefits’ must be considered in conjunction with the other proposals for an all-inclusive hospital fee system and the integration of hospital out-patient services into the health insurance scheme.
The Government has therefore decided to proceed with its examination of arrangements for the payment of these benefits in the context of other relevant proposals, and in the view of the Government the provision of benefits for spectacles is in the nature of an ancillary benefit. 1 do not wish to imply by this that the provision of assistance in this field by the Government may not be a good thing and of great advantage to the community, lt probably would be. But the point I wish to make is that this is not the time to force the Government into the area of ancillary benefits. The amendments which are being moved by the Opposition have resulted from pressures from individual professional groups and do nol constructively improve the medical benefits scheme, and I repeat the medical benefits scheme to which the Bill is directed. The amendment before us, the second amendment moved by Senator McClelland, would cost approximately Sim by way of Commonwealth benefit on current usage. If matching fund benefit were paid, there would in the long term, have to be a small increase in contributions. At some point we must look at our priorities of expenditure in relation to para-medical services.
If it is decided that Commonwealth benefit should be paid in these circumstances, then it could be argued that other para-medical services, such as physiotherapy - as was mentioned earlier - and home nursing which may on closer examination prove to be equally deserving, should also attract a Commonwealth benefit under the medical benefits scheme. I have already stated that the Government is considering the question of payment of benefits in respect of para-medical services and 1 am sure that the merits of the optometrists’ claims will also receive close consideration in conjunction with other para-medical services. Therefore 1 inform the Senate that the Government opposes the amendment at this stage. 1 would add in conclusion that it is essential that the provision of a benefit for any one para-medical service should be deferred until the relative merits of that service have been considered in conjunction with the overall question of benefits for para-medical services. 1 oppose the amendment.
– I think the point which has now emerged in this debate is one that can be read from the terms which have been used by the Minister. What the Senate has to decide is this: Into what category of service does the clinical examination of a patient by an optometrist fall? ls it in the nature of an ancillary medical service or is it in the nature of a para-medical service, or is it within certain bounds an actual medical service? We know that this is a Bill which goes to medical services, but we have seen during the progress of this debate an extension of that principle particularly in the area of the dental profession. Dentists have been included for those procedures which are of a quasi-medical character. That is for oral surgery, in ether words, whilst it is a service given outside the medical profession, if it purports to be or is essentially a medical service it attracts the benefit by virtue of the provision embraced in the amendment which hits been carried by the Committee.
Let us examine the service given by the optometrist against that background. The ophthalmologist conducts a total clinical examination of a patient which involves a clinical examination and diagnosis of all sorts of complaints. In association with that he may also investigate the possibility of the occurrence of refractive errors in the eyesight of the patient. That examination for refractive errors is considered to be a medical service, lt was in that field that the ophthalmologists found themselves in conflict with the optometrists. They realised that in that area of what they themselves regard essentially as medical practice they were at a disadvantage. There is a tribute from the ophthalmologists themselves to this area of their work, which is common with that of optometrists, being of a medical character.
Undoubtedly, there is this shadowy area in which the optometrist and the medical practitioner - the ophthalmologist - both move. In the area of the discovery and examination of refractive errors they do operate a medical service. If that is so, on the principles which are implicit in the whole of the Act, in the amendment as it relates now to oral surgery by dentists and in the acknowledgment by the ophthalmologists themselves, there must be no alternative but to recognise the service given by the optometrists in the area of refractive errors, the discovery and examination of them and prescription for them as a medical service - not of a para-medical nature and not of an ancillary nature, but an actual medical service.
Against that background I believe that it is not advancing a comparable situation to advance the position of the physiotherapist or somebody of that character because the service rendered there is obviously not a service which is performed by a medical practitioner and no area of his practice embraces that type of service.
– Wait a minute. Many of them do perform it.
– Generally, it is not the function of a medical practitioner. In fact, it is a para-medical service at the best or it is an ancillary service at the least. The work of an optometrist does not fall into that category. It is acknowledged by the ophthalmologist himself as being essentially a medical service. If the function of this Bill is to provide for medical services, it seems quite logical that the examination by an optometrist for refractive errors and the prescription of spectacles as a consequency should be recognised as something to be embodied in the Bill.
For that reason and without unduly delaying the Committee, I say that we believe that this is a principle that can W2 be embodied in the Bill and it is timely that it should be so embodied. Undoubtedly the question of cost will occupy the mind of the Government. But I do not feel that this is one of the matters that should be left aside for the examination which has been mentioned by the Minister and which will occupy the attention of the Government in relation to ancillary services. I cannot see that this service falls into this category. It falls into the category embraced by the Bill. It is logical that it should be embraced in this provision. Therefore, we support the amendment.
– I appreciated what Senator Byrne had to say, but I did not follow the semantic exercise in which he engaged and by which he came to the conclusion that the services rendered by the optometrists were properly to be classified as services of a medical character. I would have thought that they were optometrical functions. They are not medical functions in any sense in which people regard medical functions. 1 believe that it is important that we recognise that optometrical services are services of a paramedical character. That is the way in which they have always been described. That is the way in which our medical friend Senator Turnbull referred to them earlier. He regarded the entry of optometrical services and benefits to patients in respect of them into this scheme of the Act as being the entry of a new field of service altogether. He indicated that he proposed to link the physiotherapists with the optometrists.
I believe that there is a vast difference between the function which is performed by the ophthalmologist and that which is per-formed by the optometrist. In the first place, the optometrist is a university graduate who has been to a school of optometry. He does a 4-year course. He is concerned with the science and the care of vision. On the other hand, the ophthalmologist is a medical practitioner who has done his 6-year medical course and has taken another 4 years in which he has gained specialist degrees. It is generally accepted that a person has to have a 10-year background before he is an ophthalmologist.
– Like Aldous Huxley, he is concerned with the art of seeing.
– He is, but he is also a doctor and what he has to do covers a vast and wide range of activities. When we look at the Bill before us, particularly at Part 10, Division 6, we find that there are no fewer than 60 separate items representing attendances, treatments or surgical procedures which an ophthalmologist may undertake and for which there is a benefit. There can be no question that the ophthalmologist renders a medical service. What existed prior to the amendment agreed to by the Committee last week was the fact that, if any one of those treatments for which person can go to an ophthalmologist resulted in spectacles being prescribed, then no benefits were payable. That I could not see as having any merit. It denied to a patient, when he went to a doctor, what he would reasonably expect to receive in the way of the benefits for which he was insured, and no adequate reason was forthcoming.
I know that since that amendment was carried there has been a great surge of activity by optometrists. I want to make it quite clear that I believe that optometrists ought to be included, along with physiotherapists and those who provide other classes of services which are of a paramedical character, in a comprehensive health scheme. But because no paramedical services are included in this Bill at the present time, whilst I recognise the case that the optometrist can put forward - just as f recognise the possibly superior case that the physiotherapists can put forward - I fail to see why the case of the optometrists should bc linked with the case of the ophthalmologists. Whilst the ophthalmologists are concerned with eye disease, to express it broadly, and the optometrists are concerned with problems of refraction, I believe that there is a vast difference between their training and the scope of the services they perform.
For those reasons I do not propose to support this amendment. But I say that fully appreciating the case that can be made by the optometrists and accepting what the Minister has said, namely, that this whole range of paramedical services is a subject of review. I believe that to support the optometrists and not to support the physiotherapists would be inconsistent. I believe that one can put the physiotherapists and the optometrists together as being within the whole field of paramedical care and accept the Minister’s statement that this matter will be attended to as a future programme, which I hope will be pursued all the more strongly as a result of what has occurred in the debate on (his Hill.
– In the light of what was said by the Minister and in order fully to effectuate what has been put by Senator McClelland if the Committee were disposed to accept his proposed amendment, I move the following amendment to his proposed amendment:
At the end of the amendment add the following: ‘at the end of the Second, Third, Fourth,
Fifth, Sixth a’nd Seventh Schedules insert in the first columns the number 8289 and in the second columns the amounts $1.60, $1.30, 95c, 90c, 90c and SI. 10 respectively’.
That would mean that the amounts payable under the Act in respect of general practitioners by way of fund benefit-
– I suggest that this amendment could be incorporated in Senator McClelland’s amendment by leave, which would mean that we would have only one vote.
– Very well. I am sure that Senator McClelland would accept that. On his behalf I ask for leave to have the amendment I have just moved included in his amendment.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted for Senator McClelland’s amendment to be amended accordingly.
– What is the effect of that?
– It was intended originally, and the matter has been argued on this basis, that the fund benefit as well as the Commonwealth benefit would flow on. This consequential addition to Senator McClelland’s amendment is required in order to ensure that this is so. The amounts would be as for a general practitioner. In the light of how the matter was considered by the Committee, f think that that course will clarify the situation. I do not w.’sh to add anything to Senator McClelland’s exposition of the matter except to say that the Opposition supports it.
– The question is: ‘That the request, as amended by leave, be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move the amendment which has been circulated in my name in the following terms:
In the First Schedule, after Division 14 insert the following new division:
Division IS 8290 Treatment given al the request of SI. 10 a medical practitioner by a registered physiotherapist’.
As a consequential request, I move:
In clause 8 paragraph (b), after paragraph (aa) of the definition of ‘professional service’, insert (ab) a treatment that is rendered by a registered physiotherapist and is expressed to be rendered by a registered physiotherapist; or’.
As a result of the previous amendment the field of paramedical services has been opened up. If anyone deserves to be included in the provisions of the national health scheme it is the physiotherapist. Senator Byrne, in his usual style, put up a very good case for the optometrists. He almost convinced me that the testing of eyes is a medical matter. Actually, it is not; it is an optometrical procedure. If the Committee is prepared to accept the fact that the services of optometrists should be included in the provisions of the National Health Act or the McClelland Health Act then there is no reason why the Committee should not be prepared to accept the inclusion of the services of physiotherapists. Most operations which are performed today require the services of a physiotherapist.
– May 1 interrupt for a moment? Does the honourable senator intend that the fund benefit as well as the Commonwealth benefit-
– I shall have to add the extra bit which the Leader of the Opposition added. I do not know where it would come in.
– May I suggest to the honourable senator that-
– What about leaving it at the moment? If this amendment is carried it will result in another consequential amendment.
– The matter could easily be fixed up if the honourable senator were to adopt the proposition of adding to the end of his proposal the following: at the end of the Second. Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Schedules insert in the first columns the number 8290 and in the seco’nd columns the amounts of $1.60. $1.30, 95c, 90c, 90c and $1.10 respectively.’
– Thank you. I will accept that proposal.
– There being no objection, leave is granted for Senator Turnbull’s amendment to be amended in the terms outlined by Senator Murphy.
– As I was saying, the services of physiotherapists are of great value when operations are being performed.
The services of physiotherapists are essential when chest diseases are involved. They are used in emphysema and asthma cases as well as in bronchiectasis. The services of physiotherapists are essential when disease of the lung is involved. In this case benefit would accrue only if the patient has been referred by a medical practitioner. I wish to point out also that the services provided by a nurse in the surgery of a general practitioner are included. 1 cannot see any reason why the same principle should not apply in relation to the services of physiotherapists. I believe that the services of physiotherapists should be included in the provisions of this scheme. I cannot see the logic of including the services of an optometrist and excluding the services of a physiotherapist. Therefore, I move accordingly.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [1 1.34] - I replied to this proposition in my comments on the previous amendment, but I think 1’ should repeat what I said earlier. The Government is considering the question of the payment of benefits in respect of paramedical services. I am sure that the merits of the claims of the physiotherapists will receive close consideration, along with the claims of other professions and groups which provide paramedical services. Therefore, the Government opposes this amendment. In conclusion, I repeat that it is essential that the provision of a benefit for any paramedical service should be deferred until the relative merits of that service have been considered in conjunction with the overall question of benefits for paramedical services in general. I think this is a very important factor. However, it has been forgotten in our discussions this evening.
– Perhaps 1 should indicate to the Committee that, in making the suggestion which I did to Senator Turnbull, I assumed that by suggestion $1.10 in his amendment he was intending that the amounts to be paid should be those which are appropriate to general practitioners. I have suggested additions to the Schedules which are appropriate to meet that course. It was found necessary to do the same thing in regard to the services of optometrists. I do not know whether Senator Turnbull wanted the fund benefit to apply. That is what 1 have suggested. 1 do not know whether this was the intention of Senator Turnbull.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party does not support this amendment for the reason which I indicated in my approach to the previous proposal. The DLP supported the amendment in relation to the inclusion of the services of optometrists in the scheme on the ground that it was an area of medical service which is shared with ophthalmologists. However, the DLP regards the services of physiotherapists as being essentially paramedical ancillary. Therefore, in the logic of the situation, it agrees with the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin). As the inclusion of all paramedical ancillary services are being considered by the Government, the Democratic Labor Pary does not see any reason why the services of physiotherapists should be included in this Bill. While the DLP accepts the desirability of the inclusion of this provision, it is unable to vote in favour of the amendment. The services of physiotherapists are very often costly because they can be required for prolonged periods of time. The inclusion of this provision in the national health scheme should receive the early consideration of the Government. It is hoped that the Minister’s intimation to the Committee will mean that it will not be very long before a Bill is introduced into the Parliament which provides for the inclusion of such services in the scheme. However, the DLP is unable to support the amendment which seeks the inclusion of these services in the provisions of this Bill.
– I wish to seek some information in relation to this amendment in case it is carried. Frankly, one cannot in many respects oppose an amendment of this nature. It is deserving of serious consideration. Various arguments have been put forward. I suppose the situation is that no honourable senator who is present nor any adviser of the Government knows the extent of the extra financial burden which will be imposed on the Government and the medical benefit funds if the amendment is accepted by the Committee. It is also not known what will be the extent of the extra burden on the subscribers to the medical benefit fund. They may have to pay more for their medical benefits. There would be a further revenue loss, a minor one, in the taxation collected by the Government, too.
One of the problems involved when one is dealing with amendments which come in at a late hour in the consideration of legislation is that one has had no forewarning. As one has had no forewarning one is unable to do any thorough homework on such an amendment. My recollection of parts of the Bill which refer to services that are provided is that a limit is put on the number of visits that will attract the fund and Commonwealth benefits, but that when that number is exceeded a different fund benefit and Commonwealth benefit are payable to the patient. We all know of cases where physiotherapy has to be given daily or weekly over a period of many years to people who are financially distressed because of the medical service and treatment that they require. All I ask is that Senator Turnbull give us an idea whether his amendment would mean that every visit to a physiotherapist, over an endless period of time, if that were required, would attract the full fund and Commonwealth benefits as proclaimed in the amendment. Would it not be wise and right to put a limit on the number of visits that would attract benefit?
– I would like to reply to the very sound suggestion made by Senator Marriott. It is true that physiotherapy may go on for a considerable length of time, but the longer it goes on the greater is the burden on the patient. From that point of view the Government should accept the amendment. I can see virtue in Senator Marriott’s idea and I suggest that when Senator McClelland’s National Health Bill goes to the House of Representatives it might be amended there, because in that place they will have time to put in a limit to the number of visits that will attract a benefit.
– You want the same rate for the physiotherapist as for the GP?
Senator Dame IVY WEDGWOOD (Victoria) [11.43] - Whilst it is true that the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs did recommend the payment of a benefit for physiotherapy it recommended also a stabilisation of fees and a limitation of the period for which benefits would be payable. I feel that it would be wrong to take this one paramedical service in isolation. Therefore I remind honourable senators of what the Committee said just prior to making the recommendation with regard to physiotherapy. I think this is important. Paragraph ISO states:
The extension of Commonwealth and fund benefit payment to all types of ancillary services is no doubt an ideal solution to the problems raised by ma’ny conntributors, who lend to believe they should have insurance for every possible service, but the Committee believes that it will continue as an ideal rather than a reality because such an extension would obviously increase contribution rales to a level which is unlikely to be acceptable to the insuring community.
In that, the Committee raised a warning that it would not be possible to include a wide range of paramedical and ancillary services without running the risk of the contribution rising above that which would be acceptable to the general public. Therefore I would nol accept that amendment in isolation.
– Before putting the question I should like to clarify the position and make sure that Senator Turnbull agrees what Senator Murphy set out as being included in the amendment. The amounts were $1.60, $1.30, 95c, 90c, 90c and §1.10. ls that in accord with what the honourable senator is moving?
– This is a very important amendment which comes to us late at night, it is now 11.45 p.m. 1 believe that Senator Marriott made this point. The matter is of very great importance and, speaking for myself, I have very great sympathy for what is proposed, but members of the Opposition have not had a change to consider this as a body. We would like the opportunity to do that. I feel that we cannot have that opportunity tonight. I do not know whether our colleagues in the other place are having supper at the moment while we are considering this, but in any event we do not seem to have much opportunity to deal with it tonight. May I suggest that 11.46 p.m. is a fitting time for the Senate to adjourn. This would give honourable senators an opportunity to look at the amendment and consider it overnight.
– Could we have some indication of what other amendments are likely to be moved?
– Perhaps if there are others we could dispose of them. I understand that there are no more from the Opposition.
– I have 2 small amendments that we could dispose of quickly.
– I am sure that the Government would prefer to proceed, because this measure has to go by message to the other place. By proceeding with it now we might give the other place an opportunity to deal with it. We would prefer to have a vote on the amendment at this stage.
– May I suggest that this is a serious matter. Whether we on this side ultimately decide to support the amendment and whether the Committee as a whole decides to support it, even if it comes to us late, the honourable senator who puis it forward is entitled to have a proper consideration of it by the Committee. We arc a considerable number of persons in this chamber and we feel that we should have an opportunity to give proper consideration to it. We would like that opportunity and we ask the Committee to give us the opportunity to consider the matter in the same way as the Government often asks for such an opportunity. We would like to consider this matter overnight. We want to consider what is involved in it and, no doubt, lnc Government wants to consider it. My colleagues and I feel that that is what we need to do. I suggest that, subject to dealing with the other amendments which Senator Turnbull might have, we should report progress.
– I do not want to oppose any suggestion that the leaders may have about adjourning. My reason for rising is that my mental arithmetic is not working too well at this stage and I have not had the good fortune to see any accounts from physiotherapists. I have no idea how much a visit to a physiotherapist costs. The point is that we are laying down in a schedule what a fund will pay and what the Commonwealth will pay as a benefit, but I doubt whether we know how much a physiotherapist will charge. Therefore I ask whether we are laying down amounts that are insufficient to provide a fair return or whether we are laying down amounts which will mean that the return for physiotherapy will be greater pro rata than that for other medical services. 1 believe that this is another reason why we should talk about this in the brightness of another day.
– I want to make it clear that I am appreciative of the fact that the Committee has gone beyond its normal time, but we are all in this together. We have a job to do and we have a scheduled time when we expect to conclude the sessional period. We are very close to getting the Bill into an amended form in which it can be sent by message to another place. The mechanics of it are that when it goes to another place members of that place will have to make up their minds on what they will do and a report will then come back to this place. It is really important from the Government’s point of view to dispose of the Bill tonight. It may be that we could defer this amendment for a little while and deal with Senator Turnbull’s other 2 amendments. This would give the Opposition time for a quick contemplation of Senator Turnbull’s first amendment. That may be the solution. But having gone past the normal finishing time of 11 o’clock - it is now 10 minutes to 12 - I think that if we can conclude consideration of this Bill within the next 10 or 15 minutes it would be in our interests and in the interests of all the people who ultimately will benefit from the National Health Bill.
Senator Dame IVY WEDGWOOD (Victoria) [11.51] - May I reply to a question raised by Senator Marriott? In paragraph 153 of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs the following appears:
On the question of cost, the claim has been made, based on treatments for the year 1967-68, and an assumed benefit of 75 cents per treatment, that the cost to the Commonwealth in that period would have been $600,000, and that this would have been offset by other savings, such as less claims for hospital benefits and lower claims for tax deduction.
That gives some idea of the cost at a figure of 75c. It can be calculated from there.
– Do you want to insist upon our dealing with this matter now?
– 1 do not want to insist on anything. I am trying to do it by persuasion. If 1 am forced into the position of insisting, I do not think I will prevail. I put it to the Leader of the Opposition that if he has some problem, he may be able to resolve it while we deal with the other 2 amendments which Senator Turnbull proposes to move.
– I suppose we can be realistic here. The Australian Democratic Labor Party has indicated on this occasion that it does not propose to support the amendment. I do not notice any indication of support from elsewhere. If that is the practical position, I suppose that if we add up the numbers, even if we support the amendment it looks as if it will be defeated. That seems to be the practical position, lt may be then that we should go ahead. We have not had an opportunity to consider this. My feeling is this: We support it in principle. I have some reservations about the general practitioner rate, the charges and the number of services which would be covered. On the other hand, I can see that even if the amendment were carried, it would be merely a request. The principle would be preserved and the matter could be dealt with in the other place. The question as to amounts and so forth could be cleared up. So we would simply be dealing with it in principle, without being tied to the matter. I think that as a practical proposition we should put the amendment to a vote. Even if it were carried, we would still have an opportunity to consider our attitude on the matter in the other place, and after a decision was taken by ourselves and our colleagues. We would support Senator Turnbull’s amendment.
– The question is: That the request, as amended by leave, be agreed to. Those in favour say aye, to the contrary no. The Committee will divide. Ring the bells. (The bells being rung)
– No division is required.
– It was carried on the voices.
– I would not say it was carried on the voices.
– The noes had it.
Committee will divide. I cannot tell whether it was carried.
– On a point of order. Mr Temporary Chairman, could you please inform me who were the 2 senators who called for the division? I believe it is necessary for 2 senators to call for a division.
– I could not tell on the voices which side won. In those circumstances, I called for the division. I will put. the question again and you can decide now. Those in favour say ave. to the contrary no. I think the noes have it.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I move:
In the First Schedule, Part 2.- Obstetrics, Division 1. - General, delete item 210. 1 move this amendment simply to test whether the Committee agrees with the principle that those items which are regarded as general practitioner items should not attract a higher rate for specialists. I do not want to go into the question more fully than that, because if the Committee agrees with the principle, some 30 or 40 items have to be altered. One item is the obstetrical item - the ordinary confinement item. I should say that throughout Australia more confinements are carried out by general practitioners than by specialists, yet specialists attract an extra fee of $6.60 for carrying out this procedure.
– What about specialists in obstetrics?
– There is no such thing as a specialist in obstetrics. If honourable senators examine what happened with their families they will find that in most cases general practitioners delivered their children. To save the time of the Committee, all I want to do is to test whether the Committee believes in the principle. If it does, the Government will be able to rectify the position in another place. I do not want to labour the point.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [11.59] - The Government does not support the amendment.
Thursday, 4 June 1970
– I only have one more point and this is the question of the aduration of the breast. 1 refer specifically to items 7921, 7925. 7929 and 8037 which refers to face lifting. Could we have an explanation from the Minister as to why national health funds should be spent on these operations?
– Because we like buxom women.
– Well, I intend lo move that these items be deleted but 1 am waiting to hear from the Minister. She may have very good reasons why we are spending this money. I do not mean anything personal but there may be some reason why these items should be left in.
[12.2 a.m.]- Items 7921, 7925. 7929 and 8037 are medical services carried out by medical practitioners and patients receive accounts, lt cannot be assumed that all services are purely cosmetic as suggested by Senator Turnbull. We do not support the proposed amendment.
Senator TURNBULL (Tasmania) f 1 2.2 a.m.] - That is balderdash. I used the wrong word, I. think, for the wrong area. Would the Minister ascertain from her advisers how many cases of face lifting are done for medical reasons? Now, just give me one. Of course they are done by medical practitioners. Who else could do it? That is a stupid answer to be given. Perhaps the Minister could give us a definition of melonoplasty because I do not think she is quite right. While she is getting that may I point out that items 7921, 7925 and 7929 deal with a reduction or repositioning in a mammaplasty or an augmentation or prosthetic device.
– These are pretty hard to understand when we hear them let alone when we do not.
– These items are items where we are going to increase the size of the breast by prosthetic methods or by putting in plastic or decrease it by other methods of reduction. 1 just cannot see that they are medical items or that they are a necessity in a health scheme. We may as well adopt the British system and give wigs and false teeth and be done with it.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [12.3 a.m.] - The comment to which 1 rose to reply concerned the repair of faces. Senator Turnbull discussed operations on faces - face lifts or whatever they might be - and 1 would just inform him that a proportion of these services are plastic repairs and also are done as a psychiatric medical service. I do not think there is anything funny about this. If people have been in very bad accidents or have had very serious damage done to their faces they would want to have a damaged and scarred face repaired in some way. This is the way in which it has been interpreted.
– I have no objection to any item being put in for the repair of a face damaged in an accident but a melonoplasty is not a repair to a face damaged in an accident. It is a face lift. It is a plastic operation designed for one purpose only and therefore the Minister is quite wrong. She mentioned that for psychiatric reasons one must have a breast filled-
– I certainly did not say that.
– The Minister said that the face lifting was done for psychiatric reasons.
– I was speaking about the faces because you had discussed the other one previously and I understood you were concerned about face repair. This is the point to which I was replying. I do not want to be misrepresented.
-I am sorry. The Minister’s remarks in regard to psychiatric reasons for having a face lift apply also to abortions because there are considerable psychiatric hazards in those cases and 1 do not see any item in here about that. So I do not agree with that at all. Anyway, the Minister’s definition of melonoplasty is wrong. It means every facial repair no matter how big. It is not mentioned here. But there are items for facial repair in a section further back whichI just cannot find at the moment. Melonoplasty should not be in at all unless the Minister can give a better reason. Neither should the plastic operations on the breast be in. So I move:
Pan 10. - Operations. Division 13.- Plastic and Reconstructive, delete items 7921, 7925, 7929 and 8037.
– Senator Turnbull mentioned two separate things, or so it seemed to me. He referred to item 8029 and then he referred to melonoplasty which is item 8037. It may be that I am confused. It may be that he said it by mistake but I am not following what he is talking about at the moment.
– I referred to items 7921, 7925, 7929 and 8037 which is the melonoplasty.
Question resolved in the negative.
Schedules agreed to subject to requests.
Title agreed to.
Bill agreed to with amendments and subject to requests.
Bill reported with amendments and requests; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to raise a matter which I consider to be of considerable seriousness concerning recruitment by the Public Service Board and the actions of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in relation to such recruitment. I have in my possession negatives, two of which have been reproduced, of photographs taken of documents which were obtained from the Public Service Board and which were passed to me by the Sydney University student newspaper ‘Honi Soit’ which in its issue tomorrow will be printing an article concerning the matters to which I am to refer.
– Is that tomorrow or today?
– It will be appearing on Thursday, which is now today. On 14th December 1965 Hall Barry Greenland, who was then living at 44 Kensington Road, Summer Hill, New South
Wales, made an application to join the Commonwealth Public Service as an administrative trainee. Mr Greenland was then 21 years of age having been born on 25th October 1944. He had had quite a good academic record while at secondary school. He had held a New South Wales State bursary. At the university he had held a Commonwealth scholarship. When he took his leaving certificate he won prizes for modern history and Shakespeare and at the end of 1965 he completed the degree of Bachelor of Arts with honours in history.
In his application he set out various other extra-curricular activities in which he had been involved, amongst which were the following: Editor of ‘Honi Soit’ in 1964; President of the Sydney University Australian Labor Party Club in 1965; education officer of the Sydney University Student Representative Council in 1964; member of the Bankstown Civil Rehabilitation Committee, and member of Student Action for Aborigines. He was interviewed by a Mr Harris, a member of the staff of the Public Service Board. In his report dated 30th December 1965 Mr Harris made various comments on Mr Greenland’s academic qualifications. At the conclusion of his report he said:
Overall impression: A very likeable person. The Sydney University ALP Club is a rather radical group and Mr Greenland is a self-confessed Marxist. However his radicalism is a little conventional and it may be more of a role than a conviction. He has charm, intelligence and enthusiasm and would in my opinion bea refreshing addition to the training group.
On 7th January 1966, 8 days after Mr Harris had signed his report, a minute was prepared by Mr A. B. Milne, who I understand is Secretary of the Public Service Board, and was addressed to a Mr Meyer, who I understand is an Assistant Commissioner of the Public Service Board. The document is headed ‘Commonwealth of Australia, Minute Paper’ and bears the notation ‘In confidence’. It is addressed to
Mr Meyer and is as follows:
Mr Hall Greenland ; Applicant for Appointment as Admin. Trainee
Mr Hall Greenland was interviewed last week by Mr Harris of our Sydney office. I gather he is a BA (Honours) of Sydney University.
I gather too that on the interview report Mr Harris indicated that Mr Greenland has expressed some rather definite political views.
ASIO have come forward in responseto PSI’s request for a quick check with advice that
Greenland is unfavourably known to them.I told the PS1 office Sydney (Mr Howard) that we would not be proceeding with Greenland’s appointment.
I understand Greenland’s application is now with Mr Lisle and I would be pleased if you would see that no action-
The words ‘no action’ are underlined - is takento offer him appointment
It is signed ‘A. B. Milne’ and is dated 7th January 1966. There is a notation in the corner over Mr Milne’s initials ‘not to be appointed’. I view this matter very seriously for a number of reasons. The first is that although the interviewing officer, Mr Harris, was sympathetic to Mr Greenland’s position and in fact recommended that he be appointed to the Commonwealth Public Service, he apparently found it necessary in the course of his report to make particular reference to the fact that Mr Greenland was at that time, or had been shortly before that time, the President of the Sydney University ALP Club. It seems to me to be a matter which should not be open to consideration by any employer, and particularly the Commonwealth of Australia, as to what political party or political organisation a person applying for employment belongs.
Mr Harris went on to say that Mr Greenland was a self-confessed Marxist. Use of the word ‘self-confessed’ indicates the attitude which apparently is taken by officers of the Public Service Board. Marxism is a theory of history and of philosophy which has survived many vicissitudes over the more than 100 years of its existence. 1 do not think it needs Mr Harris of the Public Service Board or anyone else to apologise for people who subscribe to it or to say that when they say they are Marxists they are self-confessed Marxists because amongst some powerful western European countries at present we find people like Herr Willy Brandt, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr Bruno Kreisky, Chancellor of Austria and Mr Olaf Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden, who are also Marxists; not, I would think, self-confessed Marxists but people who are proud to be described as Marxists.
I presume that the reason the word Marxist’ is used here is because there is the common confusion in a number of people that in order to be a Marxist one needs to be a member of the Communist Party or some other organisation. But that is not the case. In any event, even if it were it seems to me that as there is no law which states that the holding of these political philosophies is contrary to the law, it is quite improper that any comment should be made on them. It would be just as improper to describe Mr Greenland as a selfconfessed Rotarian or a self-confessed Liberal or a self-confessed Methodist as to refer to his having been a self-confessed Marxist and to discuss his presidency of the Sydney University ALP Club.
From the attitude which Mr Harris has otherwise adopted it does not seem that this is the kind of matter that he would be raising in his own right. It seems that this is a matter that he has raised because he has been under some instructions from his superiors to raise it. What 1 find much more serious than this is the fact that because Mr Greenland quite frankly and without making any secret of it raised the fact that he had been President of the Sydney University ALP Club and that he subscribed to the Marxist theory, this was then referred by Mr Milne, Secretary of the Public Service Board, to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to find out what the Organisation thought about it. Mr Milne in the minute which he directed to Mr Meyer said:
ASIO have come forward in response to PSI’s request for a quick check.
It certainly must have been a quick check because the report by Mr Harris was dated only 30th December 1965. In the meantime there had been the New Year holiday and on 7th January, a little over a week later with the New Year holiday intervening, not only had Mr Milne, Secretary of the Public Service Board, received the report from ASIO which had been requested by the Public Service Inspector, but also he had made up his mind that Mr Greenland should not be appointed. What did ASIO say in ils report which resulted from this quick check? It said that Greenland was unfavourably known - unfavourably known to some person who works in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
Who actually comprises the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, what are their qualifications and what is the personality disorder which has led them to take up this occupation which would be shunned by any normal person is a mystery to most of us. We do not know what problems they have which have caused them to follow this career, but we do know that merely because Mr Greenland is unfavourably known to these people who belong to :he so-called and rather jocularly called Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, he is deprived of the employment he had chosen for himself as an administrative trainee with the Commonwealth Public Service.
I believe that the facts speak for themselves. But there is something else I should like lo add. Since the events which occurred early in 1966 when Mr Greenland was refused employment by the action of the Secretary of the Public Service Board because he had received a report from ASIO that Mr Greenland was unfavourably known to that organisation. Mr Greenland has become quite a well known figure in dissenting student movements in Sydney. No doubt he was included with members of the Australian Labor Party and others to whom solemn words of advice were directed by Government supporters and various other persons who said that there should be no unlawful actions during the protests against the war in Vietnam. We were told thai we are living in a democratic society in which people are free to express their dissent, that all people are equal inside I his society in their right and ability to put forward whatever doctrine they choose to advocate. We were told that not only was there no necessity to engage in this country in any unlawful political action, but also that it was quite wrong, because means are open to all citizens of whatever political persuasion to pursue the objectives they consider desirable. This case is evidence thai: thai is not so.
As far as I understand the position, this is the first occasion on which we have been able to produce documentary evidence thu a man has been refused employment by the Commonwealth for no other reason that is revealed in the available documents than that he was President of the Sydney University Australian Labor Party Club and told the person who was examining him when he applied for employment thai he was a Marxist. This case will become known because this is the sort of matter which is agitating the minds of a great many Australians and particularly yoting Australians. As I have said, this matter will be referred to in the issue of ‘Honi Soil’, the Sydney University newspaper, to appear later today. Is there any wonder that there is disrespect for the law? Is there any wonder that there is disrespect for an established institution when it is clear that violence is being done to people because of opinions that they hold. To deprive a man of his livelihood because of his political opinions is to do violence to him. Richard Hofstadter, an American historian, said recently:
Now as always the primary precedent and primary rationale for violence comes from the established order itself. Violence is, so to speak, an official reality.
What has been done to Mr Greenland in this instance is violence. It is the violence of the State which prevents him from carrying out an occupation to which on his academic and other accomplishments he is entitled. He is prevented from carrying out that occupation because of the political opinions that he holds. For as long as this practice continues no one can seriously or honestly claim that Australia is a democratic society or urge the people to follow legitimate channels of dissent, when they know that when the social misfits in ASIO become aware that they hold opinions which are not popular, and that knowledge is passed to their prospective employers, they will be denied the occupation of their choosing.
I have nothing further to add on this matter. I have photo copies of the documents to which I have referred. The Government or a Minister may wish to deny their veracity. In order that it may not appear that I am wishing to conceal anything, and so that a proper check may be made with the Public Service Board, I seek leave to table the photo copies of the documents which I have in my possession.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– It is characteristic of Senator Wheeldon that he would presume to offer to the Senate at 20 past 12 in the morning an argument involving events up to 3 years old, without giving the slightest notice of his intention.
– Senator Wheeldon cannot be blamed for the time of the morning that we adjourn.
– 1 am just pointing out the disadvantage to which he puts any Minister who would be wishful of providing the facts to the Senate. The honourable senator expressed as one of his purposes that his allegations would get publicity. I say only that they will be noted and considered. 1 had planned to move under standing order No. 364 for the documents to which he referred to be tabled. That is now unnecessary.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Senate adjourned at 12.26 a.m. (Thursday)
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 June 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700603_senate_27_s44/>.