27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator MULVIHILL presented from 292 citizens of the State of New South Wales a petition showing that due to higher living costs persons on social service pensions are finding it extremely difficult to live in even the most frugal way. The petitioners therefore call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate to 30% of average weekly male earnings, plus supplementary assistance in accordance with Australian Council of Trade Union’s policy and by so doing give a reasonably moderate pension.
The average weekly earnings for adult male unit wage and salary earner means the figures issued from time to time by the Commonwealth Statistician and published quarterly.
The petitioners pray that the Senate will take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in their petition so that citizens receiving the social service pension may live their lives in diginity.
Petition received and read.
- Mr Acting President, I direct a question without notice to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Mindful of the sizeable grant made by the Commonwealth Government to the Sydney City Council for the construction of the Chifley Square Memorial Fountain, 1 ask the Minister: Can he give any explanation for the abnormal delay in completing this project?
– As I promised Senator Mulvihill, I have sought information on this matter. I have been informed by the Prime Minister’s Department that there have been delays. There have been delays in relation to the contractual arrangements entered into, and I would not wish to explain what the basis of them is. They are to do with aspects of the work going on there. Also, as honourable senators know, there has been industrial trouble in Sydney in relation to the builders’ labourers. This was not the primary problem. It was related to materials and the application of materials. I am informed that a conference was held on the site on 2nd June with the architect for the project and it was estimated that, in all the circumstances, the fountain should be completed within 4 or 5 weeks. That is the latest information up to as late as yesterday.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Does he agree that it was unreasonable for Canada and the United States to place a ban on all mutton exported to those countries, whether the particular abattoirs conformed to the regulations or not?
– Mr Deputy President, 1 do not think it is right that I should say whether I believe the Canadian or the United States Government is unreasonable or not. The facts are that there is a Wholesome Meat Act in the U.S.A. which stipulates standards and conditions under which meat must be prepared. The question of food standards and the hygienic preparation of food is a public issue in the United States. The standards are being rigidly applied to all abattoirs there which qualify for Federal registration. It is for these reasons that the Americans are compelling foreign countries to meet these rigid standards. I understand that negotiations are proceeding with the meat industry and the United States veterinary services to have certain approved abattoirs here re-listed within a short period of time.
- Mr Deputy President, my question is directed without notice to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. I ask her whether she had previously seen the article published in last Sunday’s Sydney ‘Telegraph’, which I forwarded to her yesterday, with the heading, ‘A Mother’s Heartache’ - a photo depicting a young boy, watched by his deserted mother, hunting for a warm jumper in a garbage bin. I ask the Minister: In view of the further statement to this picture, ‘There is only one horror worse than the indignity this woman was suffering: the fact that there are thousands of others with the same problem’, will she bring this matter as one of urgency to the attention of the Minister and request an immediate allocation of funds or any other assistance to the Smith Family, the St Vincent de Paul organisation and other organisations helping these unfortunates. Further, will she commence investigations and report to Parliament on the extent of poverty in Australia, which is believed to affect over 10% of our population.
– Yes, L have seen the article referred to by the honourable senator and I thank him for sending it to me. lt is a very sad situation, and one has the greatest sympathy for the mother, who is a deserted wife, but 1 think I should say in answer to the honourable senator what is being done to assist in this particular field. Under the States Grants (Deserted Wives) Act 1968, the Commonwealth is responsible for payment of up to half of the payments made by the States to deserted wives. In the case, let us say, of a widow with 3 dependent children, I under the age of 6, the pension payable would be as follows: Widow’s pension, $17; mother’s allowance, $6; payment, first child, $2.50; payment second child, $3.50; payment third child, $3.50; child endowment, $3, making a total payment of $35.50. lt can thus be seen that the payment to a widow in the circumstances above amounts to $35.50.
In regard to the issue of poverty raised by Senator Fitzgerald, let me comment that in any society where the standards of living are constantly rising it is only natural that the criteria of poverty rise accordingly. The matter, naturally, is one which the Government has under constant scrutiny, and is always ready to act upon accordingly. I might also add that all the other matters raised by the honourable senator are under investigation by the Government. 1 am informed by the Minister for Social Services that he will let me know the results of these investigations as they become available so that I can inform the honourable senator. We of course feel the greatest sympathy for deserted wives who not only have problems which they face in bringing up their families but have other obvious difficulties as well.
– I address my question without notice to the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities. Has the Australian Tourist Commission assessed the value to the tourist industry of the work of the National Trust which strives to preserve some of this nation’s many and valuable historic buildings, and has it given any consideration to seeking Commonwealth financial support to the Trust for this purpose? The Minister would be aware of the generous support given throughout Australia by people who are keen to preserve this part of our heritage, and of the support given by State and local government. If this aspect has not been considered by the Tourist Commission, would the Minister agree that this is a field of worthwhile endeavour to which it could give some attention before the buildings fail under the machinery of the wreckers because of the lack of finance to have them purchased for posterity? 1 ask. in the word of the ‘Hobart Mercury’, could those of us in the new city - Canberra - help save an architectural heritage and by financial help save those things which should be safeguarded because of their nationally intrinsic values?
– I acknowledge at once that the honourable senator has brought to our attention a subject of very great importance and great appeal. In answer to the part of his question as to whether the Tourist Commission has assessed the value of the National Trust to the tourist industry, 1 am not aware that any specific or particular consideration has been given to that as a project and I am not aware that the Commission has invited Commonwealth financial assistance to the Trust. If that were to be considered by the Commission, 1 would prefer it to be initiated by an invitation from the Trust itself, but I undoubtedly recognise the great value of the work that the Trust is doing for the purposes of the tourist industry in the preservation of homes and buildings of historical and architectural interest. It provides a very great contribution to the appeal of our tourist product. 1 wish to inform the Senate that I have never effaced from my mind the impression made on me when visiting Korea last year, where I was informed that out of the revenues of that comparatively impoverished country no less than $4m had been appropriated for the preservation of works of historical and architectural interest. We saw work actively going on in respect of some of their buildings, including one significant shrine.
– 1 desire to ask a question without notice of the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Minister observed reports that North Vietnamese forces have now seized an area of the country of Laos and that these forces are establishing their bases to supply their troops in South Vietnam to replace the bases which were destroyed by the American and South Vietnamese campaign against the bases in Cambodia? Does this further instance of the cynical aggression of North Vietnamese troops against countries in their area prove once again that any complete withdrawal of allied forces from South East A si:, would not result in peace but would rather result in a further aggressive effort to dominate those countries in the interests of Communism?
– It is true, as indicated by Senator McManus, that I have read reports which, I believe, suggest and establish that there have been actions in Laos by North Vietnamese forces which are calculated, as was the case in Cambodia, to give support for the North Vietnamese actions against South Vietnam. That this is what has happened is, I think, an accepted fact, and I think this is just one more justification, if indeed one was necessary, for the action taken by the United States forces in relation to Cambodia, lt is the same sort of problem, lt is a matter of military strategy and something that has to be met. The honourable senator went on to ask me to comment about the withdrawal of forces from Vietnam. This matter is, of course, st big policy matter, lt is quite clear that there is. to be some withdrawal of forces, affecting not only United States forces but also our own forces there. Bui I agree with the honourable senator entirely that at all times there has to be regard to the effect of any such withdrawals so as to ensure that they will not prejudice the long-term security of South Vietnam. It has to be done in that context. I am quite certain that is a military question and it has to be looked at in that context.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will he ask the Prime Minister to indicate when agreement is likely to be reached with the Queensland authorities on the appeal by the Queensland Premier to set up a rural reconstruction board? In view of the prolonged nature of the drought in that State and the disastrous financial position facing farmers and graziers, will the Prime Minister consider treating this request as a matter of extreme urgency?
– I am informed that the Premier of Queensland has requested Commonwealth assistance for the setting up of a scheme with the aim of assisting in the rehabilitation of primary producers affected by the long drought and depressed markets. Apart from financial assistance, the Premier’s proposals could involve amendments to the Bankruptcy Act 1966-1968 and the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Act. Honourable senators will appreciate- that a number of complex issues are involved. 1 will convey the honourable senator’s request to the Prime Minister, but in the meantime I assure him that the matter is being examined with all possible speed.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government, refers to the answer given to Senator McManus. I ask the Minister whether his answer to the honourable senator in relation to withdrawals and the threat about the activities in Laos indicates some change of opinion by the Government; that it may not withdraw its promised quota of Australian troops from Vietnam, having regard to the announcement by the President of the United States of America that, despite the military difficulties, there will be a recognised withdrawal of United States troops.
– No, it does not. I am not suggesting that it in any way qualifies the decisions that have been taken-. What I was purporting to say was that the type of problem that Senator McManus projected would have been taken into account as a normal development, and necessarily so.
-I desire to ask a question of the Leader of the Government. In view of the States’ unanimous approval and acceptance of the mirror legislation provisions in respect of offshore petroleum resources and the expressed intention of the Government, as I understand it, to have the off-shore mineral resources and other direct State interests covered in like manner, as between State and Commonwealth, after legal interpretation of basic sovereignty rights, will the Commonwealth initiate a further conference with the States to arrive at mutually satisfactory conclusions in this complex matter?
– In the hubbub of conversation in the chamber I am not certain that I heard the honourable senator’s question clearly. As I understand it, he asked whether further conferences with the States were to be held. If the question is directed to off-shore minerals as distinct from offshore oil problems, my understanding is that as recently as a few days ago a conference with the States was held. Therefore, there is no suggestion that there has not been and is not a taking into account of the points of view of the States. I think we will have to wait for a statement from the Minister for National Development about that conference. For that reason, it would be improper for me to pre-empt what he may report to the Government.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry inform me whether any further consultation between the Australian authorities and the United Stales authorities has been held at to the reasons advanced by the United States administration for banning the importation of Australian mutton into the United States? Is it not a reflection on Commonwealth and State health authorities that a charge of uncleanliness is made against a section of our food producing industry? What steps are being taken by the Commonwealth health authorities to investigate the charge of uncleanliness in mutton for home consumption?
– Section 20 of the Wholesome Meat Act prescribes that no carcasses, parts of carcasses or meat production for use as human foods shall be imported into the United States. The United States is asking that its laws be adhered to. I have told the Senate that hygiene and killing conditions in the United States are very burning matters with the United States people. However, Australia has complied very well with the United States requirements. Department of Primary Industry veterinarians have visited United States works in recent years and are satisfied that the slaughtering standards accepted in the United States federal works are the same as those that the United States requires of exporting countries. At present arrangements have been made for our veterinary officers stationed in Washington to visit a number of United States works and to observe and report on the inspection and slaughtering standards being applied. Representatives of our meat industry and of the Department are meeting to try to see what works can be relisted so that they can continue to export mutton from Australia. As soon as they reach an agreement as to what works can go back on the list, we will be able to export mutton. We hope that this list will be available in a very short time.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, refers to the answer he gave me yesterday to my question as to whether he would confirm or deny the authenticity of documents purporting to be photostat copies of Public Service documents that I tabled in the Senate last week. He may recollect that in his reply he said: I make no comment on the authenticity of this. I question the propriety, in my own mind, of making public a Public Service document’. What is the meaning of the second sentence in the answer? Does it mean that a Public Service document was tabled? If it does not mean that, what does it mean?
– It means exactly what I said.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, follows the Press reports of the Canadian ban on the importation of Australian mutton into that country because of the presence ot some organisms, ls it a fact that these organisms are not considered harmful to humans? Can the Minister say whether the same strict standards of hygiene apply to Canadian abartoirs and inspections of Canadian meat for home consumption? is it not a fact that the balance of trade between Australia and Canada is adverse to Australia, with Australian imports from Canada in 1968-69 amounting to approximately $153m whilst Australian exports to that country amounted to approximately $67ni? If the ban on Australian mutton is to continue and raking into consideration our adverse balance of trade with Canada, will the Government give consideration to Australia reducing its Canadian imports and importing from other countries that are importers of Australian meat, with the hope of developing further markets for Australian meal, particularly mutton?
– That is a very long and comprehensive question which could not possibly attract a reply from me at this point of time. I suggest that it go on the notice paper.
– ls the Minister representing the Attorney-General aware that a Mr C. Allen, public relations officer for the Comalco company, was largely responsible for the offering of parcels of preferential shares to VIPs? Did that gentleman make similar offers to members of the Commonwealth Public Service? If so, did he breach the Public Service Act?
– I have no knowledge of Mr Allen or of whether he made any proposals for offering shares, whether they were preference or not, to VI Ps. I have no knowledge of whether he made offers to members of the Commonwealth Public Service. I have not had the opportunity to consider the hypothetical case as to whether that would be in breach of Public Service regulations. Therefore, I decline to give an opinion in answer to a question without notice.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate had drawn to his attention the report in the Australian National University magazine ‘Woroni’ that the Federation of University Liberal Clubs at its annual council meeting held in Melbourne last week passed a motion urging the Australian Government to withdraw its troops from Vietnam immediately? ls he also aware of the fact that the same Federalion of University Liberal Clubs condemned the hysterical and emotional reaction of many Government members of Parliament - not all - to the Vietnam Moratorium, although it was noted that some members had not allowed themselves to indulge in such reaction? 1 hand to the Minister a copy of the magazine.
– I certainly am not going to respond to a question when a copy of the article on which it is based is handed across the table to me. I should like to read it first.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - I draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the gallery of a parliamentary delegation from Yugoslavia led by Mr Milos Minic, Vice-President of the Federal Assembly. On behalf of honourable senators I extend to them a very cordial welcome.
Honourable Senators ; Hear, heart
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. If a Commonwealth Public Service document is stolen and copied, which in itself, as I understand it, is a dishonest action and a breach of the Public Service Act. is a senator who tables what purports to bc a copy of the document guilty of aiding and abetting the Commission of a felony?
– For what it is worth I would say that I should not think so because a senator might have been handed a document taken in the circumstances postulated by . the honourable senator, that is to say stolen and copied. Such document may give rise to a duty to have the subject matter of the contents examined, cither by public inquiry or by parliamentary representation. I would -not. adopt any view as to that involving complicity in the original crime.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General furnish me with any further information regarding the difficulties that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has apparently encountered in acquiring television rights of the current world cup soccer events in Mexico?
– The honourable senator asked me this question yesterday and I said that I would endeavour to get further information for him. This I have been able to do. The PostmasterGeneral has advised me that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is still negotiating with the Mexican authorities to try to obtain videotapes of the matches of most interest to Australia, particularly those in which the English team is playing, but there is a problem here of exorbitant price.
– Would the Minister representing the Attorney-General be prepared to express an opinion, in the event of the Government’s off-shore legislation being agreed to by the Parliament, as to the reported contention of the South Australian Premier that it would take a decade or more of High Court cases before the validity or otherwise of legislation could be established?
– I would think that such a suggestion is mere nonsense. Such a decision should be procurable without fuss and without undue cost within 6 or 9 months and it is a matter upon which, I would think, the High Court could give a decisive and simple answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry and follows along the lines of previous questions asked by Senator Prowse and Senator Young. Is the Minister aware that caseaus lymph adenitis, the organism that the United States authorities complained about, .has been known to be present in Australian mutton for 30 years and has not been considered harmful to humans, but is now classified as harmful to the American consumer? Is it to be taken that the presence of this organism in Australian mutton will now debar our mutton from domestic markets as well as other markets of the world? Would the Minister have an investigation made as to whether this damaging image being created by the United States authorities is not the result of interested United States meat lobbyists seeking protection for their own products?
– I think last week or the week before I answered a question in regard to cysts in meat, which is what the honourable senator referred to, and I indicated then that these were not harmful to human beings. I will most certainly bring the honourable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Primary Industry and have an answer prepared.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an article in today’s edition of the ‘Australian’ concerning shipping freight charges between Australia and Europe in which the chairman of Overseas Containers Limited is reported to have stated that a significant increase in rates must be imposed? Does the experience gained through our national participation in overseas shipping business indicate justification for an increase in rates?
– I have not seen the article referred to but I shall have it turned up. I must say that in common with the honourable senator I would have some concern about any proposal that an increase in shipping rates to the United Kingdom would be taking place without very, very close and exact scrutiny. I am sure this is what will be conducted by the Department of Shipping and Transport, drawing upon the knowledge which it is increasingly accumulating because of its investment and involvement in shipping.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. Is the Minister aware of the Victorian Housing Industry Association survey this week which showed that Victorian housing commencements had fallen by 35% since the beginning of May? As a consequence of this drastic decline in home building the Victorian Sawmillers Association has announced that many saw mills may soon have to close down or lay off many employees. Will the Minister give urgent consideration to initiating remedial measures designed to arrest this disastrous trend in the home building industry?
– Yes, 1 am aware of a decline and, as I have mentioned in this chamber before, we have been meeting regularly with people from the building industry. A report of these meetings is placed before the Government. First of all. the seasonal reduction in finance for lending towards the end of the financial year started earlier this year and this, of course, means that there is a drop in the number of approvals and commencements. This has produced a decline in this quarter but I can assure the honourable senator that the matter is being given full consideration.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Can the Minister say how long it will be before colour television is introduced? Further, can the Minister give an assurance that colour television will not be introduced before existing services are extended to distant country areas such as that of the upper Eyre Peninsula in South Australia?
– I think the honourable senator will be aware that the Postmaster General has already made a statement concerning this matter. Time must be given before any decision is made about the introduction of colour television. I cannot give any further information at the moment but I will pass on to the Postmaster-General the points raised by the honourable senator.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. Will his Department undertake a search of the register of the recent Comalco issue to ascertain whether any person in a position of public trust took advantage of the preferential offer of shares?
– I shall refer the question to the Attorney-General and ask him to consider it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Does the Federal Government feel that it has a responsibility for certain health aspects of the Australian public or is the protection of the health of the Australian people a matter for Slate jurisdiction? Having regard to the rejection by America of supplies of meal from certain Australian abattoirs, is there not a great urgency resting with the Commonwealth Government to ensure that all edible foods which originate from abattoirs in this country are of a reasonable health standard? ls there any interest by the Commonwealth Government in the production and purity of edible and inedible tallow? ls it a fact that the quality of edible and inedible tallow should be a matter of very great importance to the public at the moment? Is it a fact that no process of significance is at present used in most Australian abattoirs to differentiate between edible tallow, which proceeds to the making of certain foods, and inedible tallow, which has its end use in industrial manufacture?
– The honourable senator has Wrought forward some very important issues in the question he has asked. Because of this, I think it is important that it should bc put on the notice paper so that I can get a detailed answer from the Minister for Health.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services and follows on a question asked earlier by Senator Fitzgerald. Will the Minister advise the Senate whether Directors of the Department of Social Services in each State are clothed with discretionary powers enabling them to grant monetary aid to persons in urgent need for the provision of food, clothes and shelter in cases where such needs have not been satisfied by the already overtaxed resources of church and other charaitable organisations?
– I will get a detailed reply for the honourable senator about this matter.
– I should like to direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. May I draw his attention to questions on notice and point out that only one question is to be answered today? May I also draw his attention to the notice paper, which shows that some 500 questions remain unanswered.
– That is wrong. Where did you get the 500 from? That is the progressive total.
– At any rate, the notice paper shows that many questions remain unanswered. As we are drawing rapidly to the close of the session, can the Leader indicate when we may expect answers to questions which have been for several weeks on the notice paper, and can he assure us we are not now following the practice in another place of allowing many hundreds of questions to accumulate without answer?
– I can assure the honourable senator that we are not following any practice that will allow questions to accumulate. Every effort is made to get answers to questions asked by honourable senators. In case there should be any misunderstanding about this matter, 1 point out that questions . are numbered from the beginning of the sittings, and therefore the number represents the progressive total. All that that conveys is that, in the number of sitting days we have had, something of the order of 485 questions have been asked. I think this reflects great credit on honourable senators and the Senate generally in their desire for information. I think it is a great tribute to 5 ministers that they have been able to cope with 485 questions. If you divide 485 by 5 you will get some idea of the extent of our problems.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Air without notice. Has the Minister power to authorise out of court settlements in a case where a Royal Australian Air Force bus injures a civilian.
– I understand that the answer is no.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate as the representative of the Treasurer. Have any measures been taken by the Commonwealth Treasury to meet the growth of hire purchase company repossessions which will be the sequel of the Government’s policy of increasing bank interest charges to such a high level? Also will the Minister consult the Treasurer with a view to introducing a moratorium on repossessions and bankruptcy during the period of the current economic squeeze?
– First of all, I assume that any matters relating to hire purchase are within the sovereignty of the States. Therefore, if it is felt that some undue influences are at work in relation to the hire purchase industry that is a matter primarily for the State Government’s concerned. For that reason, I do not think the question is one for the Treasurer.
– Mr Deputy President, I direct this question to the Minister who represents the Minister for Primary Industry in the Senate. In respect to the causes of rejection of Australian mutton on the Canadian and United States of America markets, does the Minister regard research thus far made into the avoidance and eradication of cysticerosis to have been given sufficient emphasis? If not, will he take up with the Minister the necessity for an intensive research programme to overcame this basic problem?
– At present a sub-committee of the Australian Agricultural Council standing Committee is looking at this matter. It is also looking at possible ways of overcoming this disease.
– On 3rd
June Senator McManus asked me whether the Commonwealth assisted the States to obtain additional wheat storages and if so why the additional storages were not made mouse proof. On 4th June he asked me a further question about the damage caused by mice. 1 would like to tell Senator McManus that the Minister for Primary
Industry stated on 18th September 1969 that he had come to an arrangement with the Australian Wheat Board about the provision of finance for additional storage in the States which required it, provided that arrangements could be made with the bulk handling authorities. The Australian Wheat Board has advised that it made $1,575,000 available to the Grain Elevators Board of Victoria for the provision of additional storage for wheat of the 1969-70 harvest and that the whole of this amount hasbeen utilised.
The Grain Elevators Board is the Victorian handling authority and it, rather than the Wheat Board, is responsible for the siting and erection of wheat storage facilities. The Wheat Board has advised also that at this stage it is not possible to make a worthwhile assessment of the extent of losses as a result of mouse damage to wheat in storage, but it has stated that the losses will be relatively slight in relation to the quantity of wheat in store.
asked the Minister representing the Min ster for the Army, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1)The Director-General of Recruiting, Department of Defence, provides paid advertising support, most recruiting literature and Combined Services Recruiting Centres for the three armed Services.In addition to the general cover given by the Director-General ofRecruiting the Army undertakes the following special recruiting activities directed towards its own needs. Apart from the response to advertising and at enlistment centres, the majority of recruiting stems from planned mobile recruiting tours, display activities, and talks given at school ‘career’ nights, service and youth organisations, and school parent-leather groups. Some young captains who are graduates of either the Royal Military College or the Officer Cadet School with recent operational experience in South Vietnam are selected for special training including a course in public speaking. They are attached to Recruiting Units in each State where they tourfor approximately eight months lecturing in schools on the value of Army career bused on training at the Royal Military College, Officer Cadet School and Army Apprentices School. Furthermore the Army sponsors visits by schoolboys, headmasters and officers of cadets to these training establishments.- Recruiters are located in
Newcastle, Geelong, Hobart and Launceston where, because of the absence of recruiting units, they are required to establish contact with the community. A project has recently been initiated, in one of the larger States, in which each school leaver is contacted by letter and invited to discuss his Army career prospects with an Army Careers Officer. Although Scholarships to the Royal Military College are not included in the Recruiting vole they are of great assistance in recruitment for the College. All soldiers and officers connected with regular recruiting are specially selected and specilaly trained.
In addition the Director-General of Recruiting, Department of Defence, has expended the following amounts on advertising through all media an Army Recruiting.
Senator PROWSE (Western Australia)In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act. 1969. I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Post Office Administrative Centre. Stage1, at Brisbane. Queensland.
Senator Dame IVY WEDGWOOD (Victoria) 110.521- On behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, I present the One Hundred and Seventeenth Report relating to Your Committee’s One Hundred and Tenth Report.I also present the One
Hundred and Eighteenth Report relating to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the financial year 1968-69.
Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to make a short statemnt.
The Deputy President (Senator Bull)There being no objection leave is granted.
In these circumstances your Committee believes it is timely for departments to be reminded again of the principles relating to estimating that have been formulated by the Department of the Treasury and endorsed by your Committee. These principles are:
The importance of skilful estimating by all concerned cannot be over emphasised. The one hundred and eighteenth report shows that there were shortfalls in expenditure which arose from delays in the placing of orders, administrative laxity, misunderstandings and clerical errors. Your Committee hopes that all departments will remain vigilant to ensure that problems of this nature are minimised.
Your Committee would also invite attention to the fact that some witnesses appeared before us inadequately briefed on matters of fact referred to in departmental submissions. This is time wasting and we would hope that the Secretary, Public Service Board, will again circularise all Permanent Heads, regarding the importance of thorough briefing and accuracy of departmental submissions by those officers in departments who are likely to be concerned with the preparation of material for us or who may be required to appear in person at future public hearings. We would remind the Parliament that under the provisions of its establishing Act, your Joint Committee of Public Accounts does have very wide terms of reference, independence of action and the requirement to report directly to the Parliament itself. We believe that the work of the Public Accounts Committee over the past 17 years has been a significant factor in ensuring that the Parliament has the means of maintaining an appropriate role in the financial administration of the Commonwealth. I commend the reports to honourable senators.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I move:
That, of course, will come on after we deal with the message, as the first item of business I propose will be the message relating to requested amendments to the National Health Bill. I am moving to postpone Orders of the Day Nos. 1 to 5 until Order of the Day No. 6 has been dealt with because there is a mechanical amendment in the latter that we must deal with so that it can go back to (he other place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Pursuant to Contingent Notice of Motion No. 1, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The purpose of this is simply to bring on and deal with the matter relating to proposed committees at 8 p.m. My intention is that the motions which have been moved would all come on and be dealt with on the understanding that when we completed them we would take the necessary action to move on to Government Business.
– I do not resist this proposal. In fact, I was going to do this in another way, because I wanted to be certain that if we disposed of the matter relating the proposed committees we might then proceed under General Business with Government Business. This would be on the clear understanding that if there was still time available this evening after we had disposed of the committee proposals we could then go on with the Government Business paper. This motion will bring about precisely the same result as I hoped to get, so I do not think there is any point in my resisting it. Although it is being done in a different way from what I had in mind, it achieves the same result.
The only other point to which I draw the attention of the Senate is that we still have a matter, on which Senator Gair has the adjournment, to get standing order No. 68 out of the way. This standing order means that we are inhibited if we want to introduce another Bill after 10.30 p.m. I think I would need to bring that on, and I sock leave to bring it on and dispose of it now.
– Can we not meet that when we see how we go tonight?
– Last night there was perhaps one Bill that could have been introduced and disposed of quickly, but we were inhibited because of this standing order. I think we, by which I mean the whole Senate and not the Government, should put ourselves in a position of manoeuvrability.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment in request No. 4 and had not agreed to the amendments in request Nos 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7.
Consideration of message.
[11.0] - Mr Presient. I wish to make some general comments regarding the 7 requests for amendments to the Bill that were considered in the other place yesterday and the 12 amendments to the Bill made by this Committee which are yet to be considered by the other place. As honourable senators are well aware, the parliamentary procedures for dealing wilh requests and amendments made by the Senate to a single Bill - as is the case with the National Health Bill - provide for the requests only to be d:a!1 with by the other place as a first step. The amendments are dealt with at a later stage. Because of this procedure, which prevents the requests and the amendments being dealt wilh in the one stage, it is important to advise a: this point of rime of the altitude overall of the Government to the total of 1.9 requests and amendments that are involved.
The first point 1 wish to stress is the need to have these requests and amendments viewed in their proper perspective, lt could be inferred that the relatively large number involved is a reflection of the unacceptability of the Bill - and therefore the new health benefits plan. However this is by no means the case. Firstly, the basic principles of the health benefits plan as framed bv the Government and as contained in the Bill have remained unchanged. These include the legislative provisions for the common fee approach as a means of ensuring adequate benefit returns to patients, the proposals for differential benefits as between specialist and general practitioner services and the major changes in the Commonwealth’s relationship to the insurance organisations. No amendments have been accepted in these areas. This must be taken as an indication that these fundamental principles are regarded as being sound and of course the Government is gratified to find that this is so.
The second point I wish to make regarding the requests and amendments is that only 7 of the total number of 19 are directed to the Bil! itself. The remaining 12 - and I repeat 12 out of 19 - are directed not. to the Bill but to the Principal Act. One of the most important requests made by the Senate is for an amendment to the Act to provide the Commonwealth benefit of $2 a day for all patients, whether or not the individual patient is insured. As honourable senators are aware, the Bill is aimed basically a! authorising the new medical benefits plan and vouches on hospital benefits in only a consequential way. As the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) has already advised in the other place, the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee regarding hospital benefits had implications of such a far reaching nature that the Government is not in a position to make decisions on them at. this stage and will not be able to until the States’ attitudes have been clarified. The Minister advised at that time that negotiations with the States would be actively pursued. Despite the vigorous pursuit of these negotiations, they have not reached a stage where the Government can formulate and bring forward its proposals in the hospital benefits area. Notwithstanding this, the Government is agreeable to dealing with the matter which is the subject of the amendment to which 1 have referred - to pay the Commonwealth hospital benefit of £2 a day for al! patients - in advance of a number of related matters.
Briefly the request - No. 5 in the schedule of requests - is to substitute the word person’ for the word ‘contributor’ in section 46 of the principal Act with the intention of making every patient in hospital automatically eligible for the Commonwealth hospital benefit of $2 a clay. Membership of a hospital benefits fund would no longer’ be a requirement. Speakers to this amendment in the Senate directed their comments mainly to the situation in Queensland where no charge is made on public ward patients. It was claimed that Queensland is disadvantaged as compared with other States due to its adherence over the years to a policy of free public hospitalisation. The Government is sympathetic in this argument and has been ever since the Nimmo Committee submitted its view that Queensland’s policy gives full effect to the Commonwealth objective of affording the community adequate financial protection against the cost of hospital treatment. This view was strongly endorsed by the Wedgwood Committee.
The specific terms of the amendment requested were clearly directed to the Queensland situation but the amendment went further and proposed the payment of the Commonwealth $2 a day benefit irrespective of whether the patient was insured’ or and irrespective of whether a ho.spit.al charge was made. The Government is not prepared to accept an amendment in the wide terms requested. However, the Government is prepared to sponsor a further amendment to the Bill to provide for” the payment of the Commonwealth benefit of $2 a day to hospitals in all cases in which no charge is made to patients. Under this amended proposal the benefit would be payable in respect of each such patient,’ whether or not the patient is insured, lt is proposed that this benefit will replace, where relevant, the present Commonwealth benefits paid in respect of such patients. At present, these patients are eligible for the Commonwealth $2 a day benefit if insured - and there will be no increased payment for these patients - or the 80c a day benefit if uninsured. The proposal is that in future the patients will not be classified separately in this way but will all attract the Commonwealth hospital benefit of S2 a day for patients where no charge is made.
The Commonwealth benefit of S5 a day paid to hospitals on behalf of pensioner patients where no charge is made would not not be affected under the proposal. The mechanics of the payment of the new benefit will be that it is paid direct to the hospitals concerned in the same manner as the 80c benefit is paid now and not through hospital benefit funds. Thi. proposed arrangement will apply of course in respect of any hospital in any Stage, lor example, an infectious diseases hospital, which follows a practice of treating patients without charge. If, following this explanation, the Committee decides not to press the request as originally made, I propose to move a new request for an amendment along the lines I have mentioned.
I wish to return now to the other requests for amendments and amendments made to the Bill. Generally, these are directed to particular questions and do not involve wide ramifications. The objectives of the amendments are beyond question and my one regret is that each is being brought foward in isolation and not as part of a complete review of the legislative provisions contained in the Act with which the Government will be persevering.
The Government is prepared to accept request for amendment No. 4 and amendment No. 1 relating to the provisional payment of Commonwealth medical benefit in third party and workers compensation cases and amendments Nos 3, 4 and 5 relating to the Specialist Recognition Advisory Committees, No. 6 relating to the agreement with the Australiana .Medical Association for the pensioner medical service and No. 9 relating to the furnishing of information by applicant medical and hospital benefits organisations. No. 8, which is connected with request No. 5 dealing with eligibility for hospital benefits, is acceptable in a modified form, as is No. 10 relating to the registration of insurance organisations, in addition, the Government is prepared to partially accept amendments numbered 1 1 and 12 dealing respectively with the annual returns of insurance organisations and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. The remaining requests for amendments and amendments are not acceptable to the Government.
In summary, the Government is prepared to accept 9 of the 19 requests and amendments in the form presented by the Senate or in a modified form. It will present an alternative proposal for 1 of them and is prepared to partially accept a further 2. The Government is unable to agree to 7 of the amendments. The decisions of the Government are evidence of its determination to improve the health benefits plan in all its aspects as well as its wish to have this Bill passed speedily and given royal assent so that needless delay does not occur before increased benefits are payable to those in the community who incur expenses on medical treatment. As I emphasised earlier, none of the amendments is directed to the new basic principles of the medical benefits plan and I ask the Senate to give speedy passage to the Bill. Before the Committee proceeds to the consideration of the separate requests, I suggest to the Committee that requests Nos 1 and 7 which deal with refraction tests by ophthalmalogists and optometrists be dealt with together and that requests Nos 2 and 3 which deal with services rendered by oral surgeons also be dealt with together.
– The attitude of the Opposition will be to oppose the alterations mentioned by the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin). I take it that everyone has discussed the proposed alterations. We discussed them last week at very great length and there would be no need to repeat the arguments unless there is something fresh in relation to the modifications. Otherwise whatever is to be done might more sensibly be done by putting the matter to a vote, so long as we can proceed slowly and carefully to be sure of what we are doing in this procedure.
– Is it the wish of the committee that requests Nos 1 and 7 be taken together and that requests Nos 2 and 3 be taken together? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Request Nos 1 and 7 -
In clause 5, at end of the clause add the following paragraph: “(c) by omitting from sub-section (4.) the words other than an attendance at which an examination of the patient’s eyes is made in consequence of which spectacle lenses are prescribed’.”.
Request No. 7.
In the proposed Schedules, First Schedule, after Division 13. insert the following new Division: “Division . 14 8289 Refraction performed by a registered optometrist 1.10’.
Second to Seventh Schedules (inclusive), at end of each Schedule insert in the first column the number ‘8289” and inthe second column the amounts ‘1.60’, ‘1.30’, ‘0.95’, ‘0.09’, ‘0.90’ and ‘1.10’. respectively.
[11.12] - I move:
– The Opposition does not accede to the motion proposed bythe Minister. (The bells being rung)
– I would ask that this be recommited. I think that I have made an error as the Minister in charge of this Bill because I understand now that when I rose I should have made a statement onthe matter. This was entirely an error on my part. MayI ask that this be recommitted so that I can give the reason why we do not want the request pressed? This was an error. I ask for leave to make a statment.
– The result of the matter raised by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin is that she has asked that the division be called off and that further consideration be given. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Ministerfor Housing) - by leave - I move:
In doing so, I would like to make these points:
Request No.1 is for the deletion of the long standing provision that Commonwealth benefits are not payable for a consultation at which an eye specialist prescribes spectacle lenses, while request No. 7 proposes the payment of Commonwealth and fund benefits at the rate applicable to a general practitioner consultation for refraction tests carried out by optometrists. The provision not to pay benefits for eye specialists in these cases was first included in the National Health Aci in 1953 as a result of strong objections by the optometrical profession to the proposal to pay Commonwealth benefits for sight-testing examinations if they were carried out by medical practitioners. As the Act now stands, therefore, optometrists arc placed on the same footing as ophthalmologists so far as Commonwealth benefits are concerned, in other words Commonwealth benefits are not paid for any al tendance al which spectacles are prescibed either by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. This is regarded as an equitablesituation for the two professional groups involved.
However, if request No. I relating to ophthalmologists were agreed to in isolation, ophthalmologists wouldbe placed in an advantageous position as comparedto optometrists and it would be. of course, a logical extension to extend the payment of benefits to eye refractions carried out by optometrists. At first glance it would seem that request No. 7 would bring about parity between the professions and provide a solution tothe problem. But I would point out to honourable senators that one only has to look at the proposals in more detail to see that this is not the case. Taking New South Wales as an example, the position would be that patients who visited an ophthalmologist would receive Commonwealth benefit of $4.25 and fund benefit of $4.25, a total of $8.50 from a common fee of $11.00. while optometrists’ patients would receive$2. 30- $1.10 Commonwealth and $1.60 fund benefit - towards the usual charge of $8.50. Thus a person visiting an ophthalmologist would only pay $2.50 while a person visiting an optometrist would pay $5.80.
There is sizable expenditure involved in the proposed amendments and on a point of principle the Government is concerned at the effect on budgeting that is involved in proposals of this nature. The estimated cost to the Commonwealth of paying the benefits for these services by both doctors and optometrists is estimated to be$2m but, as I have already explained, the 2 professions would still not be in an equal position. To provide Commonwealth benefits to optometrists equal to that proposed for ophthalmologists would cost the Commonwealth some S4m. Insofar as fund benefits are concerned the payment of fund benefits for optometrists services - they are already paid for ophthalmologists - would necessitate an increase in the rates of contributions to most funds, if not immediately, then after a short time.
As I indicated in my opening remarks, the Government is not prepared, nor is it reasonable to expect it to do so, to change a long standing policy of this kind without having an opportunity for investigation of the proposed change in detail along with questions of a similar nature, such as the provision generally of ancillary medical services under the health benefits plan. As I have advised honourable senators, a full scale review of ancillary services is proposed by the Government with the ultimate aim of bringing legislative proposals before Parliament. The Government is fully aware of the merits of the case and because of this and the sincere desire to ensure the best overall conditIons an overall review is essential before ad hoc decisions can be taken in specific areas of ancillary services. We must determine priorities in this area. Who can decide objectively at this point of time whether benefits for patients who have- had spectacles prescribed should be provided before benefits for patients receiving other costly health services such as physiotherapy and home nursing. For these reasons the Government is not prepared to accept these amendments.
– I think the Committee might have had a more charitable view of the Government’s attitude if the explanation had not been given by the Minister. As it is. she has said that the problem is between the 2 professions, but it seems to us that the professions are both happy for these amendments to go through. They are not objecing at all. That is my clear understanding of the matter. It is the patient who will gain as well as the 2 professions if these amendments are made. The reasons given by Senator McClelland during the original debate fully answer what the Minister has said and to us it is disheartening to hear of these overall reviews of these matters by the Government which then puts it ofl year after year. The whole question of medical and hospital costs has been the subject of enough inquiries to energise the Government into doing something about having its own inquiry into these matters. It should have attended to it long ago and it is obviously going to be a Kathleen Mavourneen as far as the Government is concerned. For the reasons that were given by Senator McClelland and canvassed here we ask that the Senate should reject the motion of the Minister.
– I am glad that the Minister took the opportunity to make a statement upon this matter because I was one of those who felt that a statement should be made and I thank her for having done so. I might point out that when we were considering the original Bill we all realised that the increased benefits which would be available to people represented a very considerable advance in the Bill. We therefore had to temper 2 things, firstly, the urgency of getting the Bill into operation and, secondly, the urgency also of trying to improve it. The position is that the House of Representatives has made certain decisions. It has approved about half of what was suggested by the Senate. The attitude of my Party could be summed up in the words: ‘you cannot win them all’. We have to realise that there were 3 or 4 very important provisions which involved considerable expenditures of money. I have listened to some very eloquent statements in this House and 1 have read eloquent statements made in the other House to the effect that the Senate undoubtedly had the right to offer requests, but that, on a question affecting money where there was a difference between the two Houses, the will of the House of Representatives should prevail. I have heard that that is the fixed and determined attitude of the Australian Labor Party, possibly deriving from experiences in 1930 during the depression when Sir Robert Gibson and other people were able to exercise influences in regard to the Senate which defeated the will of the House of Representatives.
– You have heard wrongly if that is what you have heard.
– lt could be that I am wrong in my understanding of what was said and it could be that what was said was presented in such a way that it was not clear to those who listened. The situation that we face in our Party is this: You cannot win them al). We all know the attitude that has been taken in regard to the rights of the House of Representatives finally to determine issues involving expenditure.
We were particularly interested in the request involving the $2 payments and in the one involvng workmen’s compensation, which is a very important one for the average unionist. The Government has gone a long way. But we were quite entitled to express our view that provision should be made with regard to spectacles. But we had sympathy with the attitude of the Government that in dealing with dentists and spectacles we were enter ng a new field. We felt that there is a good case to be made by the Government for going into the paramedical field on the basis of a general survey involving physiotherapists and other people, and going into the dental field on the basis of a general survey of the whole area. Therefore, we supported the request from this Senate to the .House of Representatives. The Government has conceded a good deal, but it is firm on this: If it :s to enter into dentistry and the paramedical field, it must be on the basis of a general survey. We are now prepared to accept that attitude.
In regard to the ophthalmologists and the optometrists, there will no doubt be a feeling of disappointment among them, but i have read and I have had made available to me details of interviews that they had with government authorities in which they were promised that this matter would be surveyed at an early dale. So, in the circumstances, on the basis that you cannot win them all. we are prepared to compromise and accept the substantial aids the Government has given. Naturally, Senator Cavanagh, with that kindly attitude that he always assumes, has said that wc sold out. I can remember a similar occasion when the Labor Party made a firm stand on the Aged Persons Homes Bill. We supported the Labor Party and when the Government said it was unable to do anything about it and a deadlock existed, I was approached by members of the Australian
Labor Party, who said: Look, in the interests of the aged people we shall have to give in on th s and we hope that you people will not rub it in and accuse us of having sold out.’ What happened? When the Australian Labor Party said that in the interests of the aged people it would withdraw its opposition, as we are doing on this occasion, :t said: ‘We hope you will not be so mean, miserable and contemptible as to accuse us of having sold out.’ I got up in the Senate and said: ‘Wc could easily have made political capital out of it by saying that the Australian Labor Parly had sold out, but we did not do so.’
But I would not expect that magnanimous attitude from the Labor Party members, who now say that we have sold out. They have driven everybody mad year after year by statements that the policy of the Australian Labor Party, delivered by Mr Calwell, Mr Whitlam and Senator Murphy, is that where there is a question involving the expenditure of sums of money, the will of the House of Representatives should prevail. So I am pleased to see their attitude, which is one of complete opportunism, where they will soil out on a fundamental principle of policy because they believe in this case they will have a temporary advantage.
The Labor Party says it is Socialist and then before every election promises that, if elected, it will not do anything socialistic. lt says: ‘Our Federal policy is aid for schools- in South Australia we can promise aid for schools and in Victoria we can say to our executive “We will not have aid for schools” ‘. I am nol surprised at the Australian Labor Party adopting this attitude, because on every occasion it will alter its policy to suit the prevailing winds of circumstance.
– 1 rise to order. The remarks of Senator McManus are quite irrelevant, lt is obvious that if he goes on in this way these matters will be answered and we shall then go on for hours and hours and be diverted from the subject of the Bill. If he wants to say these things, let them be said at some other time.
– I have already said them.
The Chair is master of relevancy and I allow Senator McManus to go on. I thought he was being irritated, but the matter is over now.
– Senator McManus has made an apologetic speech explaining why the Democratic Labor Party is retreating from the attitude adopted when the matter was first brought before the House.
– Like you did on the postal charges, and walked out.
– Why was it that the Democratic Labor Party supported the request for the amendment that was moved by the Opposition? According to Hansard, it was on the basis that this was discrimination in legislation so far as patients of medical practitioners are concerned; that it was unjust so far as the patients who are contributors to medical benefits funds are concerned; that it was unfair; that it was anomalous. It was on these bases that the Democratic Labor Party supported the Opposition, which does not intend to retreat from its original stand on this matter because we still say that the legislation as it will appear if this motion is carried will still be discriminatory and still be unfair, anomalous and unjust.
Let me deal with one or two observations made by the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) on the mater. She said, I think, that the Government intends to have a full-scale review of ancillary benefits with the ultimate aim of bringing down legislative proposals to Parliament. This provision has not been included in the medical scheme since 1952 and, apparently, as 1 understood the Minister, at the request of the ophthalmologists and the optometrists. But today both the ophthalmologists and the optometrists are pressing the proposal. It is not only a question of whether the ophthalmologists get an advantage over the optometrists or the optometrists get an advantage over the ophthalmologists; it is a question of whether the people who are contributors to voluntary health insurance funds go to a person in these professions for a medical service and find they are excluded from health benefits when seeking such a service. It is very wrong that people who seek treatment for their eyes and are prescribed glasses, cannot claim the health benefit.
Now this to me, frankly, is an absurd situation. Irrespective of what the Minister has said and despite the fact that she claims that one section of the profession might be placed at a disadvantage compared with another.I point out that both the ophthalmologists and optometrists are in favour of both requests for amendments as they were moved by us when the Bill was originally before the Committee. On the basis of discrimination against patients, and on the basis of anomalies so far as contributors to medical benefits funds are concerned, the Opposition presses the requests.
– I desire to speak only briefly. When this matter was before the Senate on the first occasion I supported the amendment which would have enabled a patient who went to an ophthalmologist to receive a benefit if as a result of his treatment spectacles happened to be prescribed. I did not, on the other hand, feel that a patient who went to an optometrist for some refraction as a result of which spectacles were prescribed should receive a benefit with the same justification that could be advanced in favour of the ophthalmologist. My view was, very shortly, that the ophthalmologist is a medical specialist, and under a Bill which is providing medical benefits a patient who goes to a doctor ought to have expected - and I think still ought to expect - to receive a benefit for whatever treatment and costs he has to bear. But a person who goes to an optometrist, like a person who goes to a chiropractor or a physiotherapist, is moving in an area which is not a strictly medical field. That person is really moving in a paramedical field. What the Government has been saying with regard to this paramedical field is that any benefits which are to be paid to patients in that area will naturally be enormously expensive and will have to be undertaken comprehensively. That viewI fully share.
The Senate, in the approach it has adopted, has equated the ophthalmologists and optometrists and regarded patients who go to either of them and their eligibility for benefits, as being in a similar or identical position. I find myself in a curious position. I look at the viewpoint of the patient who goes to the ophthalmologist as being different from the viewpoint of a patient who goes to an optometrist.
– You could ask that they be separated.
– I know, and I appreciate that; but notwithstanding that, I feel that the point has been made, l am sure that the matter has been given consideration and in those circumstances I feel in my position that I cannot persist with my viewpoint further when there has been consideration given to it. If I might express a further view, I do not go so far as to say that in all respects the House of Representatives, as the House of government, must have a paramountcy in every issue involving financial matters. To put that forthrightly and without qualification would be to take a stand which ignored what are the plain constitutional provisions. The Senate, under the Constitution, has a clear power with regard to money Bills which come up from the House of Representatives, 1 would have thought that the time might well come when the Senate would wish to exercise that power; but I would have thought that if it ever were to exercise it it would only be under circumstances of the utmost urgency and importance. A Senate doing that would recognise the consequences of any action. Insofar as there is a very considerable sum of money involved in these amendments -I understand that it would certainly be in excess of$2m - I would have thought that unless the case is of a superior kind, whichI cannot claim for this particular case, the Senate should defer to the House of Representatives.
Question put -
That requests (SenatorMcClelland’s) Nos1 and 7 be not pressed.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [1 1.44] -I move:
These amendments are directed to the definition of ‘professional service’ in the Bill, which reads:
A medical servicethat is rendered by, or on behalf of, a medical practitioner; or
A prescribed medical service that is rendered in an operating theatre of an approved hospital bya legally qualified dentist or denial practitioner approved by the Director-General for the purposes of this definition.
This definition varies from that in the principal Act in that it recognises for the purposes of paying medical benefits, prescribed services rendered by dentists in an operating theatre of a hospital.
The first amendment requested is for the deletion of the words ‘in an operating theatre of an approved hospital’ from the definition. The effect of this amendment would be that medical benefits would become payable for the prescribed services, irrespective of where they are carried out. For instance, benefits would be payable for services carried out in private dental surgeries. The Government, in recognising some services provided by dentists for benefit purposes in the manner proposed, sponsored an important addition to the medical benefits plan. It arose from the recommendation of the Nimmo Committee that medical benefits be paid when a specialist oral surgeon carries out a procedure for which an operating theatre at a public hospital is required and used. During its considerations of this recommendation, the Government extended the proposal so that services performed in an operating theatre in any approved hospital, whether public or private, would attract medical benefits. The essence of the Government’s intention in this matter is that in a situation where Commonwealth benefits are not payable in respect of dental services generally, the concession ought to apply only to those procedures which can be and are undertaken by both medical practitioners and oral surgeons, lt is anomalous that patients receiving identical services could be recognised for benefits in one situation and not the other, depending on the professional status of the person rendering the service.
The Nimmo Committee, in paragraph 15.3 of its report, considered it was not practicable ro bring all services rendered by oral surgeons into the medical benefits scheme and the Government accepted this view. In sponsoring this amendment, it was claimed that the services in question are equally as well performed in a dental surgeon’s surgery as in a hospital. However, on the basis of the experience in Canada which influenced the Nimmo Committee in this matter, the view was taken by the Government that it is desirable in this new area of benefits, initially at least, to limit the benefits to services that can be clearly identified as being . quasi-medical in nature. These services can be identified in this way if they are actually carried out in a hospital.
The second amendment requested is for deletion of the words ‘approved by the Director-General for the purposes of this definition’. The effect of this amendment would be that the benefits would be payable for any of the prescribed services rendered by any registered dentist or dental practitioner. The Government’s policy in relation to the Bill as it stands is that benefits should be restricted to patients of oral surgeons who are competent by experience, qualification and status to carry out any of the procedures prescribed. The difficulties the Government faces in this area is that not all States have registers of oral surgeons with higher degrees and in any case it is known that a number of dental practitioners without higher degrees would properly be recognisable for the purposes of this proposal, for example, by virtue of holding hospital appointments. In these circumstances it is impracticable. at this stage, to include in the Bill specific criteria for the recognition of dental practitioners for this purpose. This and other matters affecting the provision of these services are being negotiated with the Australian Dental Association with a view to developing an agreed procedure for identifying oral surgeons. The Government is not disposed to accept either amendment at this point of time.
– Wc persist in the same view as we have expressed. After all, this has to be a prescribed medical service performed by a legally qualified dentist or dental practitioner. The Opposition has made a reasonable proposal. The Minister has not suggested how much extra cost would be incurred if the amendment were carried. I think it would probably not be a great deal. The amendment, if accepted, would add consistency to the measure. These considerations were put strongly by Senator McClelland, and we see no reason to depart from them. If the Government had wanted to consider these matters, it had ample t me to have investigations made, lt has all sorts of research services that could have been put to work. The Government ought to have faced up to these matters instead of simply putting them off. Here again, if the request is nol insisted upon, and the Government does not accept the amendment, the patient will suffer financially. 1 should perhaps say in reply to what was said earlier by Senator McManus that the altitude of the Australian Labor Party, as has been demonstrated in a number of measures dealt with by this chamber, is that we will endeavour to carry out the platform and the policy of the Party whenever and wherever we can in the interests of the people of Australia. We have demonstrated that, whenever it has been conducive to that end, we have been prepared to reject financial measures in this chamber. One that readily comes to mind is that relating to aircraft passenger landing charges. There has been a whole hose of others. History shows that over a period of some 10 years the Australian Labor Party has in this chamber opposed in whole or in part over 100 financial measures, so the tradition is very well established that there is no policy against opposing financial measures in this chamber, whether they be taxation or other money bills. Indeed, the contrary is true.
– Did you not take a point of order?
-I understood the Chairman to rule that discussion of such a measure was not irrelevant, andI am acting consistently with that ruling. I do not think there is any point in pursuing those matters any further. I do not intend to enter into something that may lead into a wide-ranging discussion which may move into the sphere of something that is irrelevant, and even if it is not irrelevant, it may not be helpful to the consideration of these matters. In the circumstances, I would ask the Committee to insist upon the requested amendments on the grounds which were so ably put by Senator McClelland, and also in part by Senator Turnbull.
– I will not deal at any length with the issue involved in this question dealing with dental operations. As Senator Murphy said, it is still very much the same. 1 have already expressed our policy. Our attitude therefore depends upon the arguments which I put forward previously. I accept Senator Murphy’s suggestion that we will probably all be batter off if we do not have a dog fight on this other issue. I have expressed my view, and he has expressed the view of his Party. All I can say is that I relied on statements by Mr Calwell, Mr Crean and Mr Whitlam. Senator Murphy tells me that they were not the policy of his Party.
– I do not know which statements you are referring to. The policy is on record.
– Well, the situation is thatI relied upon those statements. If another occasion occursI shall be very pleased to put them forward, but I agree that we will probably be better off and get through things much more quickly if we leave that until another time.
That requests Nos 2 and 3 (Senator McClelland’s) be not pressed.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [11.58] - I move:
This amendment is directed to section 46 in the principal Act, which is:
– (1.) Where a contributor (that is a person who is insured wilh a registered hospital benefits fund) receives hospital treatment in an approved hospital, there is payable, subject to this Part, Commonwealth benefit of two dollars for each day on which that contributor is a qualified hospital patient.
The purpose of the amendment is to substitute the word ‘person’ for the word contributor’ for the purpose of making every patient in hospital automatically eligible for the Commonwealth hospital benefit of $2 a day. Membership of a hospital benefits fund would no longer be a requirement.
Speakers to this amendment directed their comments mainly to the situation in Queensland, where no charge is made on public ward patients. It was alleged that
Queensland was disadvantaged as compared with other Slates due to its adherence over the years to a policy of free public hospitalisation. At this point, the Government is sympathetic to this argument and has been ever since the Nimmo Committee submitted its view that Queensland’s policy gives full effect to the Commonwealth objective of affording the Community adequate financial protection against the cost of hospital treatment. This view was strongly endorsed by ihe Wedgwood Committee.
I can appreciate that, to a person who has not followed the debate on this Bill, the immediate reaction will be: ‘Then why hasn’t the Government acted’? The reason was given in my statement earlier today, and it is that the Government wished to complete its negotiations wilh the State governments before formulating its proposals on the hospital benefits arrangements and introducing amending legislation.
The change will not affect the Commonwealth benefit of $5 a day paid to hospitals on behalf of pensioner patients where no charge is made. The mechanics of the payment of the new benefit will be that it is paid direct to the hospitals concerned in the same manner as the 80c benefit is paid now and not through hospital benefit funds. The arrangement will apply, of course, in respect of any hospital in any State - for example, an infectious diseases hospital - which follows a practice of treating patients without charge.
Senator MURPHY (New South Wales - Leader of the Opposition) 1 1 2.41 - The amendment requested by the Senate on the motion moved by Senator McClelland was very desirable and was intended to confer great benefits throughout Australia, lt is pleasing to see that the Government has indicated that, if this request is rejected, it will through the Minister move something which is very close to what Senator McClelland originally moved, which was adopted by the Senate. We would press our original request for amendment because, by Senator McClelland’s proposal, extra benefits will be conferred throughout Australia. We appreciate that, by the Minister’s foreshadowed request for amendment, benefits will still be conferred throughout Australia, primarily in Queensland, lt seems that whatever happens a very great benefit will be given to patients in Australia and particularly in Queensland. In the financial sense perhaps this will be the greatest benefit that will be conferred by the Bill when it is ultimately passed.
I think, we are all indebted lo Senator McClelland for the way in which he pui his proposal. We are also indebted to the Wedgwood Committee for its careful con’sideration and its report on this matter which formed the basis of our proposals. I think we are indebted to the Government for going so far towards meeting Senator McClelland’s proposal. While we will vole to adhere to what was put by Senator McClelland, if that is defeated we will support the request foreshadowed by the Minister. Although it does not go 100% of the way towards meeting what we ask, it goes a very great deal of the way. We acknowledge the Government’s action in going so far towards meeting the proposal.
– As one who supported Senator McClelland’s proposed amendment, I indicate that the amendment foreshadowed by the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents the Minister for Health in this chamber, is acceptable to the Democratic Labor Party. I too commend the Government for having seen the justice of the proposed amendment. As a Queenslander who played a very important role in the establishment of a free hospital system in Queensland, I naturally was concerned - and had been for some time- to note that Queensland public hospitals were being treated less favourably than public hospitals in other States. In the main, patients in those hospitals were not subscribers . to a medical benefits society. That was understandable because Queenslanders had become accustomed to a free hospital system. They, particularly the aged and the middle aged, had no real reason to join a medical benefits society. I could not see the justice of discriminating against hospitals and paying them only 80 cents per patient per day as against the $2 per patient per day that was being paid to public hospitals in other parts of Australia. I have no reason to delay the debate other than to say that the decision of the Government to move the proposed amendment will meet with general approval throughout Queensland in particular and throughout Australia in general. I commend the foreshadowed proposed amendment to the Committee.
– As Senator Murphy indicated, if my original request for amendment is not accepted by the Committee, it is our intention to support the foreshadowed request for a proposed amendment which has been circulated by the Minister and which will be moved shortly. I understand, and we all know, that not only will people in Queensland benefit considerably from acceptance to a degree of our proposal but also in other States people in certain public wards, such as infectious diseases wards, where no charge is made, will receive the benefit of the proposed amendment that is to be moved. It was quite obvious to me and to all other members of the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital costs when we took evidence from a large section of the Queensland medical and hospital fraternity, that Queensland was labouring under great difficulties because of the inadequacy of assistance given by the Commonwealth to that State. So few people in
Queensland were insured because free hospitalisation was the order of the day in that State.
Not only for that reason did we move the proposed amendment but also we moved it because of other matters set out in the Nimmo Committee report and in the Wedgwood Committee report. I mention this to explain why we request that our original proposed amendment be adhered to. Paragraph 433 of the Nimmo Committee report pointed out that a number of submissions were made to the Committee by persons who objected to being members of health insurance organisations on the grounds of religious conviction. The Nimmo Committee pointed out that it was impressed with the sincerity of these people’s convictions. It believed that there was a case for a special arrangement under which such persons could be paid$2 a day instead of 80 cents a day. 1 imagine the number involved would be quite infinitesimal. Because of their conviction and because of the recommendation of the Nimmo Committee we want to ensure that that kind of situation will not be embodied in the legislation of the States, other than Queensland, by the Government’s proposed amendment. For that reason at this stage we press our original proposed amendment.
I also point out that the Wedgwood Committee gave considerable consideration to this situation. At page 33 of its report this was said:
Briefly, the Committee believes that the provision of the amount of 80c per day has, to some extent at least, a negative effect on encouraging insurance, and is of no significant advantage. It was a benefit initialed in 1946 (when the amount was 60c per day), raised in 1948, and absorbed, somewhat paradoxically, into the present scheme in 1952.
I emphasise these words:
It has no place in this scheme.
I mention those matters to amplify the reasons why we press our original request. If it is not adhered to by the Committee, we will support the proposal to be moved by the Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [12.15] - I seek leave to move together the requests and amendments circulated in my name.
– Is leave granted’.’ There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
Thatthe House of Represeniatives be requested to make the following amendments:
After clause 20, insert the following new clauses: “20a. The headingto Division 3 of Part V. of the Principal Act is amended by insert ing before the words’Insured Patients’ the word ‘Certain’. “20b. Section 47 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (2.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-section: - “(2.) Commonwealth benefit under this Division in respect of any day is nor payable to the organization unless and untilthe organization has paid to Ihe contributor, or tothc proprietor on behalf of the contributor, otherwise than byway of hospital fund benefit, an amount equal to the amount of Commonwealth benefit.”. “20c. Section 49 of the Principal Act is amended by adding al ihe endthereof the words “or under Division 4a of this Part’.’”.
After clause 21, insertthe following new clauses: - “21a. The heading to Division 4 of Pari V. of the Principal Aci is repeaicd and ihe following heading inserted in ils stead:-
Division 4. - Certain Uninsured Patients, and Pensioners, in ApprovedHospitals.’. “‘21b. Section 33 of the Principal Act is amended -
by adding al the end of sub-secdon (2.) the words ‘or under Division 4a of this Part’;
by omitting from paragraph (b) of subsection (3.) the word ‘or’: and
by omitting paragraph (c) of sub-section (3.). “21c. After Division 4 of Part V. of Ihe Principal Act the following Division is inserted:-
Division 4a. - Patients treated without Charge in Approved Hospitals. 55a. Subject to (his Part, where the proprietor of an approved hospital certifies in the authorised form that no fees were charged in respect of some or ali of the qualified hospital patients in that hospital during a specified period, there is payable to the proprietor of that hospital, in respect of each patient to whom the certificate relates, Commonwealth benefit of Two dollars for each day on which the patient was a qualified hospital patient in that hospital during that period. 55b. A Commonwealth benefit under this Division is noi payable in respect of a qualified hospital patient for any day for which Commonwealth benefit is payable in respect of thai patient under section fifty-four of this Aci.’.”. and:
Omit clause 4, insert the following clause: “4. Section 3 of the Principal Act is amended -
by omittingthe words -
Part II. - National Health Services (Sections 4-11).’ and inserting in their stead ihe words -
Part II. - National Health Services (Sections 9-11).’; and (b)by omitting ihe words -
Division 3. - Insured Patients in Approved Hospitals (Sections 46-52).
Division 4. - Uninsured Patients and Pensioners in Approved Hospitals (Section 53-55).’ and inserting in their stead the words -
Division 3. - Certain Insured Patients in Approved Hospitals (Sections 46- 52).
Division 4. - Certain Uninsured Pa ienls, and Pensioners, in Approved Hospitals (.Sections 53-55 ).
Division 4a. - Parents Treated without Charge iti ApprovedHospitals (Sections 55a-55b).’.”.
– The Minister has moved arequest for an amendment which is numbered (I) on the paper circulated in her name. She has also moved a request for un amendment which is numbered (2) and which deals wilh consequential matters th:it arc simply relabelling, providing headings and so forth. I take it that the matters in the amendment which is numbered (1)are simply consequential, too.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMANThat is my understanding.
– And also the amendment numbered (2).
– Yes. We indicate that we support these, as being the request indicated in what the Minister has just said and the consequential matters in regard to that. For the reasons outlined before by Senator McClelland and myself, we will support what is being put.
Senator CANT (Western Australia) [12.18 - I am wondering whether copies of the paper headed ‘Requests and Amendments to be moved by Senator Rankin if the Senate decides not to press request No. 5 previously made to the House of Representives”’ can he circulated to senators.
– It was circulatedlast night.
– We have not copies.
-Could a copy be given to Senator Cant?
– There was no copy on my table this morning.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Request No. 6.
In clause 41, after paragraph (b), insert the following paragraph: (ba) by omitting from paragraph (e) of subsection (2) all words after “Social Services Act 1947-1969”; and’.
[12.19] - I refer now to request for amendment No. 6. The Act at present provides for low income families to be assisted with the costs of contributing for medical and hospital benefits and, as honourable senators are aware, the National Health Bill proposes extensions to this assistance. The relevant provisions are set out in the new section 82t in clause 42 of the Bill. The bases of assessing eligibility are weekly income for families below pensionable age and ‘means as assessed’ for families of pensionable age.
In explanation of section 82q (2) (e) to which the request is directed, I advise that the Social Services Act provides for certain forms of income to be ‘exempt income’, that is, not included, when calculating the means as assessed’ of a person for pension purposes. The forms of income specified in the Social Services Act to which section 82q (2) (e) relate are: (a) sheltered employment assistance; (b) rehabilitation allowances; (c) tuberculosis allowances; (d) certain Service pensions paid under the Repatriation Act; and (e) age or invalid pensions. The National Health Act, however, provides for these forms of income to be included when calculating the ‘means as assessed’ for low income families. The amendment would have the effect of providing that, for families over pensionable age, eligibility would be based on means as assessed identical with that applied under the Social Services Act. Means as assessed for the purposes of the National Health Act would then not include any income falling with the categories I have mentioned.
Families with means as assessed under the Social Services Act equivalent to$47 or less a week are eligible for age pensions, plus enrolment in the pensioner medical service. Families with means as assessed under the Social Services Act equivalent to between $47 and$70 per week are eligible for what we have come to term taper pensions, but are not eligible for enrolment in the pensioner medical service. The figures I have just given are by way of illustration and are based on afamilyof husband and wife and would vary if the family included one or more dependent children, or conisisted of 1 parent and a child. A further relevant provision is in section 82u(l.)(b) of the National Health Act which excludes pensioners enrolled in the pensioner medical service from low income family assistance.
It follows, if honourable senators have been able to trace these provisions through, that the amendment would affect only a very small number of applicants whose means as assessed are equivalent to between $47 a week, which is the eligibility ceiling for the pensioner medical service, and $48.50 a week, which is the eligibility ceiling for low income family assistance under the Bill. The real point at issue is that the amendment would create anomalies by providing assistance with the cost of health insurance for some applicants whilst other applicants in similar financial situations would be denied assistance. To assist honourable senators appreciate this point, I have circulated a table setting out comparisons between 3 typical families. If the income falling within the categories I have listed above were excluded when assessing eligibility, then it would place the recipient of the income in an advantageous position as compared with other families.
A further anomaly affecting the position of applicants above pensionable age compared with applicants under pensionable age would arise from the amendment. Eligibility for assistance is to be determined for applicants under pensionable age on the basis of total weekly income which includes any pension and other allowances. It would be anomalous to have pensions etc. taken into account in making determinations for applicants under pensionable age, but not to have these sources of income taken into account when determining eligibility of applicants over pensionable age. Although the amendment would involve only a small increase in the cost of providing assistance to low income families, the Government rejects the amendment on the ground that it would introduce a number of anomalies as between families in similar financial circumstances. With the concurrence of honourable senators. I incorporate in Hansard the table I have circulated to honourable senators.
Thetable below illustrates the effect of the amendment on three familiesAB and C.
Family A is of pension age and receives a pension.
Family B is of pension agebut is not entitled to any pension (e.g., because residential qualifications under the Social Services Act are not satisfied.)
Family C is under pensionable age.
Therefore. I move:
Thatthe request be not pressed.
– For the reasons that were put forward before by Senator McClelland, this request is pressed. The figures that the Minister has put forward are interesting. Perhaps they would have been more useful had we had them on the last occasion on which the Committee considered the matter, because that would have given an opportunity for an analysis to be made of them. I am not convinced by these figures. The suggestion is that a pension should be taken into account as part of a person’s income. It is clear that in many other pieces of Commonwealth legislation that principle is not followed. Those who are engaged in the law must be familiar with the fact that for very many purposes pensions, amounts received under insurance policies and so forth are not counted, if this simple principle that the Minister now seeks to have applied were to be applied, it would represent a grave departure from the principles that are applied in many other parts of the law. That is the reason why what seems on the face of it to be a rather simple sort of answer given by the Minister was not given originally and does not cause us to change our attitude in adhering to the request for the reasons put by Senator McClelland previously.
That request (Senator McClelland) No. 6 be not pressed.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 4 June (vide page 1984), on motion by Senator Anderson:
Thai the Bill be now read a second lime.
– The Opposition does not oppose this Bill. This measure arises out of those rather hardy annuals that we read about from time to time when the Premiers of the States travel forth in the glare of publicity to Canberra to discuss their requirements, never get what they want and go back home again. I do not want to go deeply into this matter, particularly in view of the period that we are going through. I suggest to the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson) that in future years the submissions from the Premiers should be made available in some way to this Parliament. There may be some difficulties on a departmental level in doing this, but it seems to me that we approach all these measures with a tremendous lack of knowledge. When the Premiers corns to Canberra to discuss these things with the Commonwealth there should be built up behind these people a much greater body of information than we have today.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission is one body which over the years has fitted into the scheme of special financial assistance being provided to the States. Anybody who has read the reports of the Commonwealth Grants Commission over the years could not fail to be tremendously impressed with the work of the Commission. The Commission’s reports have been the basis on which Governments have worked, particularly in the days when there were 3 claimant States. It seems to me that as we get into this very rapid development in Australia we have to take a much broader look at the problems. All honourable senators remember the talks that we had on water, for example. It will be remembered that the Australian Labor Party proposed at the time that there should be a national plan for water and a body which could look at the question of water as a whole. This idea could be extended to many regions. If we had backing the Premiers and the talks that take place bodies such as a national water organisation, a national roads organisation or a national finance organisation, everybody would come to the talks with a much better knowledge of the subjects.
If a State is pressing for a dam and there is an agreement that the State should receive special grants to enable it to construct that dam, 1 often wonder whether this is a correct procedure. Perhaps another State should have an additional water supply or perhaps another State should be embarking on another form of development rather than one involving water, lt seems to me that, because this has to be welded with the pressures within a State and probably the politics at a particular time, there is a very great need to set up behind these talks and behind the whole field of Commonwealth-State relations overall bodies to look at the development of Australia as a whole. Without going deeply into this matter - if we did open this debate up all sorts of things could come into it - and because we are not opposing the measure 1 do not intend to say very much more. I merely suggest to the Minister that in future debates of this kind any documents should be laid before the Senate, particularly the propositions that are put forward on behalf of the States by the Premiers. In the long term view - this is something that ought to be talked about at these meetings - some body of opinion should be developed. I have referred to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I know that it had special facilities and a special job, and I do not want to be bound to what it connotes, but a type of body such as that could be recommending to the Premiers and to the Commonwealth Government overall forms of development rather than having to look each year at what any particular State wanted. The Opposition does not intend to ho’.d this Bill up in any way.
-! wish to indicate on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party that we have no objection to this Bill. I join with Senator Willesee in saying that if we opened up the full ramifications of Commonwealth and State financial relations on a Bill of this character we could be here a long time debating it. However, I take some umbrage even at the titles that are appended to such Bills. In this instance it is the States Grants (Special Financial Assistance) Bill. To me this seems to be one of the corner stones on which the whole of the confusion that exists today in Commonwealth and State financial relations rests, the idea that the Commonwealth is making a grant to the States. Of course, the States are only the people, and the people are only the taxpayers who provide the money to the Commonwealth, and when the Commonwealth returns to the States for the people of the States some of the money that it has collected from the people of the States it does not make a grant at all. We have other instances where it is alleged that the Commonwealth makes a loan and then the States get into a situation of such tremendous indebtedness that they can no longer afford to pay the interest on their own money that has been loaned to them by the Commonwealth. In expressing that criticism I do not want to open up all the ramifications of this but I do believe that each time these pieces of legislation come before us we should give some thought as to whether we are getting towards complete confusion when we turn the States into the role of medicants so that they have to come begging for grants. However, we have no objection to this Bill.
– in reply - I thank the Senate for the speedy passage of the legislation. I have taken note of the observation made by Senator Willesee about providing some further additional information and that will be passed to the Treasurer (Mr Bury) for consideration. I have to tell the Senate that there will need to be a request because of a typographical error in the Bill in the modest amount of $500,000. In clause 3 (b) the reference to $1,000,500 should be a reference to $1,500,000. The word ‘thousand’ has obviously been omitted. When we get into Committee I will just formally move the request and I am sure the Committee will then give the legislation a quick passage through the Committee stage because the Bill now, of course, has to go to the other House for the acceptance of our request. It is only a formality, but I am grateful to the Senate for the speedy passage of the legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Clause 3 provides for payment to the Sta;es of S 13.5m. Sub-clause (a) related to the apportionment of $12m. Sub-clause (b) reads:
One million five hundred dollars shall be paid to the State of Tasmania.
Request agreed to.
Bill reported with request; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 4 June (vide page 1986), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Australian Labor Party - which is always eager to support and encourage any benefit to assist those in need - supports the Bill for it does extend benefits which we will not oppose. But may 1 give some advice to the Minister and express some criticism on the Bill before I propose our amendment, which I believe should be supported by every honourable senator in this Parliament. This Bill provides for a $2 subsidy for every $1 subscribed from private or local government funds for capital expenditure on training institutions for handicapped children. We have, I am pleased to know, the Minister’s assurance that the greatest flexibility will be exercised in the administration of the Act. Whilst we accept as important the urgent need for capital grant subsidies for schools and residential accommodation, I draw the Minister’s attention to the staffing needs of these institutions, which are of even greater importance. Running cost subsidies should go hand in hand with capital subsidies. Organisations do not regard as their real problem the raising of capital expenditure for buildings to help the handicapped child. The tremendous problem is the recurring expenditure, how to pay the specialised staff - the physiotherapist, the speech therapist, the occupational therapist, the psychologist and the nursing staff at these homes and the staff who visit families who have children in need of care. There are also the social welfare workers who assist parents in the education of handicapped children.
These are the pressing problems which cause very great concern for everyone associated with this work. No doubt many other matters will be mentioned, but we have the Ministers assurance that every aspect will be looked at. This, as he has said, is the first thing to do, not the only thing, with which we on this side concur entirely, in discussing the problem of the handicapped in Australia, that is, those who are physically and mentally handicapped, we must realise that we face a tremendous problem. No words of mine would do justice or pay proper tribute to those dedicated parents, teachers and church organisations and all the other people engaged in this work. My heart goes out to those unfortunates, and particularly to their families. It is not a case of one’s heart ruling one’s head; it is a case of decency and humanity. The Minister is right in this respect when he says: ‘There is still so much to be done’. The Minister estimates that there are some 50,000 handicapped children in Australia. This is only an estimate, for the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) in replying to a question in the House of Representatives in May of this year advised that the number of handicapped children in Australia is not known. There are no complete statistics in any State or in the Commonwealth of the mentally or physically handicapped, each government is doing something, but difficulty in securing full information is being experienced in every State. All are eager for Commonwealth involvement. This is a community undertaking, and States have no fear of an impersonal bureauracy in Canberra. This is a matter where information is not known, and from our point of view it is one of the most serious questions concerning the people of Australia at present. In the latest figures of the World Health Organisation, Australia has an estimated 300,000 mentally retarded children. These children are divided into 3 categories - mildly, modestly and severely retarded. lt is further estimated that every 78 minutes a child is born in this country which falls within one of these categories.
These are challenging figures. That is why we have moved our amendment for a full and complete inquiry. This is an urgent matter. The sooner help is given, the greater the chance of making those afflicted useful members of society. The longer we delay investigation, the less chance there will be of helping those in need. I personally have witnessed great searches that have taken pine. for a little one lost. We have searched dale and glen looking for a person who is lost. This is a situation of a similar character. How many little ones will continue lost unless we thoroughly and urgently investigate all aspects of this great problem? [ therefore move, as an amendment to the Bill:
That at the end of the motion there be added: “’, but the Senate is of the opinion that a Committee of the Senate should inquire into and report upon ali. aspects associated wilh the provision of assistance to handicapped children”.
Should this amendment be carried by the Senate, T will give notice that a select committee of the .Senate be appointed to inquire into and report upon the problems of the mentally and physically handicapped persons in Australia and to make such recommendations as it may think fit. The committee shall consist of senators to be appointed by a subsequent resolution. I regret that the forms and procedures of the House will not allow me to do this immediately, because I felt it was a most important matter - something to which we should have proceeded immediately.
Much information could be made available to a Senate committee by governments, both Federal and State, for 1 believe the Minister has agreed to the setting up of an interdepartmental committee consisting of the Department of Social Services, the Department of Health and the Department of Labor and National Service, to survey this whole field. Further, all this information and much more could be made available to a Senate committee. We have seen statements forwarded through various channels - from the Australian Council of Mentally Retarded and from Victorian and New South Wales teachers. As a matter of fact I have a document, given to me by Senator Bishop, which deals with South
Australia’s problems. There are many documents of this nature available and I know they are readily accessible.
In moving this amendment I sincerely believe that no matter ever introduced into the national Parliament is more necessary than the proposal entrusted to me today. I do not believe there is one member in this place or one person in the whole of Australia who is not concerned with the problems of mental retardation or the physically handicapped child or adult. It has often been said, so correctly, There but for the grace of God go I.’ I know it affects every person, who could rightly think ‘There but for the grace of God goes one of our children.’ There is not a parent, mother or father to be - yes, grandparents - whose first thought does not centre on the newborn baby’s health, physical and mental; and so it will be until the end of time. Hence this resolution to try to do something to deal with this very important problem immediately. Let us set up this committee as early as possible so that this matter can be dealt with without delay. This is not a Party political issue but I honestly say the help we are requesting today echoes all the humanitarian principles upon which our Party is based.
This committee of inquiry which we request should report upon every incidence, status and condition of handicapped persons, including children disadvantaged because of physical or mental disability, chronic illness, or injury; and upon the adequacy of existing Commonwealth and State social welfare legislation. It should recommend such legislation and administrative measures by the Commonwealth as the inquiry sees fit. I may be questioned in respect of this amendment. Senators realise that this is one of the forms of the House that allows these matters to be dealt with. It is urgent, because Parliament rises within days; it is urgent because the Government at this time is preparing its budget estimates, and preparing plans for the next 12 months.
We believe that a special select committee of the Senate could best investigate this matter, therefore this has my full support and approval, for I have outlined our intention when this statement is adopted by the Senate. The report of the Senate Select
Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs, termed the Wedgwood Committee, has gone into details on the matter of physically and mentally handicapped people in chapter 10. Whilst it does not go all the way with our recommendations, the differences would be very slight. The Wedgwood Committee report on Medical and Hospital Costs recommends that the Commonwealth should conduct a thorough general inquiry into the problems associated with the special character of the treatment of the mentally handicapped of all ages for the purposes of establishing the most satisfactory and practical form of assistance. The report continues in paragraph 255:
The Committee makes no specific recommendation as to the most appropriate form of assistance, as insufficient investigation appears to have been conducted into the problems, and the Committee itself could not undertake such a task.
I repeat that there has been insufficient investigation conducted into this problem, of the mentally handicapped. That is the great tragedy of this matter with which we are faced at the moment. I am quite certain that the amendment we propose will overcome the great problems we are faced with.
I do not for one moment want to detract from the work of the States, limited as they may be, or from the tremendous tasks of the voluntary organisations - there are private as well as religious organisations carrying on this work - and parents connected with this work throughout Australia. It may be argued that this, as a health matter, is therefore one for the States. The New South Wales Minister for Health only recently appealed for joint Commonwealth and State responsibility in health matters. May I, with all the sincerity within me, plead to the Government to accept more of this responsibility? The problem before us is of great concern to every Australian. I ask: Is the Government not concerned with the Hong Kong flu vaccine? Of course it is. Let us not forget that tuberculosis was once a monopoly of the States until taken over by the Commonwealth. I am not desirious of taking any power from the States. They would welcome this help and co-operation, as so recently announced by the New South Wales Minister for Health, and I am certain that goes for every
Minister of Health throughout the Commonwealth. We will not by any means be cutting across any form of assistance in this way. I hope Government spokesmen will not try to claim that the Commonwealth has not the power to do as the motion requests. Let us not be held up to ridicule. Professor Geoffrey Sawer, an acknowledged constitutional authority, said the problem could easily be overcome by the Commonwealth’s making a grant for this purpose, it being the chief moneyraising agent in Australia. But surely to heaven, if we can appropriate motley for roads, as we can do. it is important and more urgently necessary that we should appropriate money for this cause. ] feel thai the field of mental and physical handicapped is one of the great problems and one of the issues which we are concerned with here today. I am sure that none of us can feel happy that we have done enough to help.
On checking records I find that it was in 1954 that I arranged an interview with the Prime Minister of the day, Sir Robert Menzies. The present Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Anderson, joined me in this interview. I might take the liberty of reading a report of newspaper articles which appeared at the time and which made reference to our joint venture and our joint deputation. Talking of the deputation, it said:
They comprised a deputation of two to Prime Minister Menzies, whom they found sympathetic once he had been informed on this almost unknown area of Australian tragedy. They did nol want the dynamic provided by the Subnormal Children’s Welfare Association replaced with the impersonality of ihe State. They wanted merely: An officer of the Commonwealth Education Department directed to investigate the best overseas methods of conveying some form of instruction to subnormal children; research through the Health Department into the causes of subnormal births; and a grant of £1,000 a year to enable the association to function Federally and a Commonwealth subsidy for capital expenditure on a pound-for-pound basis to erect centres and schools for the children to the limit of £10,000 in any one year. If Menzies should grant their request it will be a trifling thing measured against die magnitude of the decisions he has to make and the funds he has to administer on behalf of the taxpayer and the Commonwealth. It will probably go unnoticed in the welter of Government decisions that are poured out. But. if favourable, it could possibly, by strengthening the association’s capacity to care for subnormal children, bring relief from fear and worry to a handful of families scattered throughout Australia. For Fitzgerald and Anderson it probably will not mean a vote. But to the onlooker it will provide another example of how, under the parliamentary system, any cause, however small and seemingly unimportant, finds champions and in such things lie the justification for the system.
I suggest that the deputation we had to the Prime Minister of the day did not go in vain. We spoke also at that time of the unfortunate asthmatic sufferers and I recall that in May 1962 Mr Menzies, the Prime Minister, amended the Public Service Act. I am advised by officers of that Department that today some 8,000 people who are affected by forms of asthma are now members of the Public Service. May I say this was made possible to the result of the Boyer report, which gave consideration to these people who were in need and who were to some degree, physically handicapped in that way.
So, whilst at that period it did not appear that we had achieved a great deal from our personal interview with ihe Prime Minister, we were given assurances that sympathetic work would be carried out and I am certain that a lot of the ground work we did on that occasion bore fruit. Ten years later it was highlighted by the Benn case in Western Australia. 1 initiated the discussion of a matter of urgent public importance, namely, the need for a national inquiry into the problems of the mentally retarded children of Australia. May I add that the present Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Anderson, then a New South Wales State member, himself moved an adjournment motion in the New South Wales Parliament back in 1952, and as a result teachers were ultimately provided for retarded children in schools within his area. Therefore, this question was raised from time to time, and whilst people may not have appeared to make great progress in the matter at that time, results have been achieved.
Sitting suspended from I. to 2 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was relating my own interest over the years in the problems of the mentally and physically handicapped. I pointed out that in 1954, when a member of the House of Representatives, I organised a deputation with Senator Anderson to see the Prime Minister of the day, who was then Mr Robert Menzies. Also, in 1964 a motion was moved by myself for adjournment of the Senate to discuss the need for a national inquiry into the problem of mentally retarded children in Australia. In 1 969, as you, Mr Deputy President, will recall, my notice of motion that the Senate considers there should be an inquiry into and report upon the problems of mentally and physically handicapped persons in Australia lapsed when the Parliament was prorogued for the election. In 1970 the motion was again placed on the business paper of the Senate.
During the luncheon adjournment 1 was asked whether I had any personal reasons for being interested in this matter; in effect, whether I had a physically or mentally handicapped child. Thank God, I have not, though like all grandparents I am conscious of what can happen in these circumstances and know that many senators are just as much concerned about this problem as I. Let me here express concern for parents who have known the tragedy of a handicapped child and I believe that proper scientific treatment, which should be available, may be able to bring some benefits to these people I mentioned also that Senator Anderson, when a member of the New South Wales Parliament back in 1952, moved a motion for adjournment of the Legislative Assembly to debate these problems, and that by so doing he was largely responsible for the provision of teachers for retarded children in New South Wales, and particularly in the area that he represented.
Honourable senators will recall that in 1964 in this chamber I moved a motion for adjournment of the Senate to discuss a definite matter of public . importance, namely, ‘the need for a national inquiry into the problems of mentally retarded children in Australia’, and in the debate on that motion senators on both sides of the house expressed their strong opinions on these issues.
Since then, as I have mentioned, following the Boyer Committee report and amendments to public service regulations as a result of which some thousands of public servants have been given employment, some legislation has been brought down to deal with these problems. I give as examples the States Grants Mental Health Institution Bill 1964, which is partially relevant, and the Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Act 1967. There are also several other pieces of legislation and also the Bill before us.
In my attempts to obtain information in this matter 1 went to the Commonwealth Health Department and the Department of Health in New South Wales and in other States, and I am pleased to report that this was readily made available to me. I thank those departments, and I thank also the Swedish Ambassador, Mr Petersen, for his very valuable information and the policy adopted in his country in the tackling of this problem. The major point I make is that information is readily available from governments throughout the world to help this government. The world today is undergoing great scientific changes and Australia cannot be left behind. However, I remind the Senate that the Commonwealth Government is the only body that can harness this information. Therefore, 1 appeal to the Government to accept this amendment for the setting up of a Senate inquiry. It is not easy to ascertain information concerning affected people or to secure advice from sufferers such as the blind, deaf and dumb people, cerebral palsy cases, mentally and physically handicapped persons, spastics and quadriplegics. The Department of Social Services and the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics have only a few figures, and therefore only thorough inquiry and investigation will reveal what help is required. Recently, as honourable senators know, I was able to secure the film ‘The Foal’, which was shown in the Senate club room. It was one of the Marcus Welby, M.D., series and portrayed an autistic child and the terrifying implications of this complaint. Autistic children pose a grave problem today. This is a comparatively new field. It is estimated that there are 1,500 autistic children in Australia. These figures are based on comparable figures obtained from England and the United States of America. I might add that there arc twice as many autistic children as blind children, and more autistic children than deaf children. Its cause is unknown. For the benefit of some senators who on different occasions have asked what an autistic child is, an autistic child is a child who lives in a world apart, completely divorced from his social, physical and emotional environment. He is unable to use language as a meaningful. form of social communication. It is becoming increasingly evident that the earlier the autistic child can be diagnosed and helped, the better the chance will be of returning him to society. So it is with all these complaints. If we can get these children early enough, there is hope that something can possibly be done for them.
As honourable senators will appreciate, I sought advice regarding the people affected in the various categories from the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. A senior officer advised that this information was limited, no comprehensive figures being available, but he believed the Commonwealth Department of Health had made a study, though again this material was also limited. Again. I say that the need for a national inquiry is urgent. The committee should examine the needs of mentally retarded people in the fields of education, health, research, institutions, workshops, guidance clinics and staff training. It will be less costly for the Government to act quickly in these days of great medical advancement than it would be to stand idly by and neglect to do anything when there is so much to be done.
The United States of America has made much progress in this field. The late American President, John F. Kennedy, who was unfortunately assassinated in 1963, stressed in an address to the Congress on this subject that mental illness disables ten times as many people as diabetes, twenty times as many people as tuberculosis, twenty times as many people as muscular distrophy, and six hundred times as many people as infantile paralysis. America spends $20m on the problems of mental retardation. I believe that had the late president lived, America would have been spending a great deal more on this problem. President Kennedy said that the care of mental retardation, and research into the causes and cure in America, had been too long neglected. This disability strikes people in all walks of life, whether they have money or not. The fact that almost 3% of the population is affected cannot be passed over lightly. For those afflicted and their loved ones the problems are intense.
In the case of the physically handicapped, despite progress a great deal more investigation is urgently needed into all aspects of the help necessary for sheltered workshops and also for the people who live in hostels.
Many of these establishments cannot afford the financial losses that they are sustaining. There is a need for additional payment of social services, and a further lifting of the means test would be a great help. Additional assistance is needed to meet cost of physiotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. Desperate help is needed in the daily running costs of day these unfortunates in these centres have to centres. We must remember that many of be totally fed. They have to be minded, disciplined, indeed toiletted, and if possible, educated. I repeat that desperate help is needed to meet the daily running costs of these centres. I want honourable senators to remember that the healthy handicapped persons do not qualify for admission to convalescent homes. Quadriplegics, people who have lost use of limbs, present the greatest needs. Many can be trained. Many require day and night service 24 hours a day. [ know that this presents a tragic picture, but it must bc faced by society, for we are dealing with human beings: they are people, not things. We must all be made conscious of our responsibilities, for any one of us or our own loved ones could be the next affected.
Leading doctors have pointed out to mc the urgent need for correct and immediate attention in accident cases. Might I just add in conclusion that this is a humane problem, not a party-political problem, lt may be too late to help many of those who are deeply afflicted and for whom nothing much has yet been done, but it not too late to get to the root of this great problem, which is already affecting and will continue to affect trie lives of so many people in the years to come. We want an inquiry into this matter, not because we feel that this Government or any other government has been deficient in its duty towards the mentally and physically iti but because we feel that such an inquiry could yield results which could help not only in the treatment of those who are ill but, much more importantly, in the prevention of a great deal of such illness in the community. It is rather startling when we realise that a great number of people in Australia are affected in this way. I appeal to the Government to institute this inquiry, for I assure it that a Labor government is pledged to do this.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- ls the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I believe that the Government is due for congratulations for implementing this measure. If Australia claims with some pride that it contains an affluent society, there is surely reason for the Government of that society to devote resources to the cause of assisting the less fortunate in the community. That is particularly so, I believe, regarding this measure, as those who are to be assisted are in general those who require assistance for a handicap which is generally not of their making. Again, I believe the interest of the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has encouraged this and like measures to be presented to the Parliament for approval. In the last few years it has been very noticeable to me that we have had measures before, the Senate which at least our society has not previously seen for the assistance of aged persons and handicapped persons. In many other measures we look most appreciably at this type of assistance, i his measure perhaps directs our attention to the fact that society is becoming more aware of the problems that we face in our community. One need only reflect back to one’s early childhood to remember the nasty references we may have made to some children who came along to school who were referred to as dummies. Because they happened to have some affliction they were basically outcasts of our society, and this is not so many years ago. Each of us as a child would have been involved in that type of feeling.
Today there is a greater acceptance of these children, and indeed this measure is again pushing ahead Federal assistance for the first time in attempting to build institutions where they can be housed. I note that the Director General, where he is satisfied that training is provided or proposed to be provided at any premise for handicapped children who, by reason of their handicap, are in need of training for which special facilities are required and that training so provided or proposed to be provided will meet that need, may for the purposes of this Act assist with the training so provided or proposed. That is the basis of this present legislation. I know that the type of institutions to be assisted are in general charitable organisations and, I imagine, come mainly under the heading of religious organisations. I believe special attention should be drawn to the fact that there is the opportunity for local government or, as is proposed here, local governing bodies to be assisted by this measure. It is important that charitable bodies be encouraged in this matter. I have had some interest over a number of years in this matter as I have been fortunate to have been since 1954 part of the management of the largest school for deaf children in Victoria. The Victorian School for Deaf Children was some years ago known as the Victorian Deaf and Dumb Society, and the changed name is again an indication that society has changed its views. This institution, attended by persons who were born deaf and because of that deafness were never able to hear a voice and therefore were not able to activate their own vocal chords and so became dumb, was at one time known as the Deaf and Dumb Institute. The Victorian School for Deaf Children carries out the ideas which are proposed to be assisted by this Bill. 1 believe it is important that emphasis be placed on the fact that the management of these organisations should be related to church bodies or charitable institutions. In the housing of children these days I am certain that unless there is a love content present among people who are likely to run the organisation the problems that arise for these children in their later life are made even greater by the fact that, because of their affliction, they must be away from their families, lt brings one to realise that the assistance that may flow in future years from this particular measure is not only assistance for the children but, indeed, for a child being born with some affliction. If one looks at the areas whereby this affliction-
– Affliction is hardly a fortunate term, is it?
– Well, the word does not apply, for instance, if the child is injured in a motor accident, but if the child is born with some affliction - and this is the point that I wish to mention to the Senate - the assistance flows not only to the parents of the child but to the other children who may be within the family or, indeed, to the close relatives and people of the particular family from which the handicapped child comes. There is a real need for our society today to take some action in this matter. Again. I am prompted to say that I believe this is the first instance when the Commonwealth Government has entered into this particular field. I. feel - in fact I am certain - that Victoria and I believe every other State have not achieved a sufficient survey of this problem within the community. Also, they have not given sufficient attention to supplying the facilities necessary for those children who may require special schools for the treatment of their illness, whether they be institutions for deaf children, blind children, spastic children or those who have an autistic problem, as was mentioned by Senator Fitzgerald, and certainly those who have multiple sclerosis, who we know need very special care.
There is a particular problem, but I wonder whether it strikes the Senate that perhaps the community is not directing its attention to doing all it oan to halt the problem within the community. 1 wonder whether we are taking sufficient action in relation to the road toll, which undoubtedly today is causing injuries to children who will want the facilities we are talking about. We all should be very critical of the attitude which State governments and the Federal Government are adopting towards the incidence of the road toll today. One could refer to the number of deaths on our roads, but the number of injuries caused on our roads is so much greater than the number of deaths. A great number of people are requiring hospitalisation and the assistance which is being provided under this Bill. Something must be done to overcome the road toll.
I have asked a number of questions concerning drugs in this chamber without receiving any great benefit from the answers. I have directed a number of questions to the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes). 1 suppose that on at least a dozen occasions I have asked what our Drug Evaluation Committee is doing. I believe that there is in the community today a problem which has direct reference to the Bill which we are discussing. We saw the cases overseas involving the birth of deformed children because the mothers were taking thalidomide. The result was that handicapped children were born. I wonder whether this matter has impressed itself on our minds? One of the problems concerns drug companies attempting to promote a particular drug on the market and to have it accepted within the country without knowing what the eventual effect of the drug will be on the community. How interested are we in this problem? I believe that we are filling the community up with pills, drugs and chemicals when I suppose we have absolutely no idea what their effect will be on the community in JO or 20 years. These drugs have been approved by what I should imagine is a most wonderful body of men who are attempting to do their best by releasing particular drugs to the community, although they do not know what the effect of the drugs will be.
Recently in this chamber 1 asked questions concerning the effect of a certain drug. Today we find that there is great consternation concerning this matter overseas. Indeed, 1 recall that in reply to the last question I asked on this matter the Minister for Health replied that the American drug administration had found it necessary to require companies which were selling their drug to print a 700-word pamphlet which was to be issued with the sale of the drug, so that the user of the drug would know the likely harmful effects which would follow from taking it. I do not believe that drugs should be released to the community for the purpose of testing the result of taking them. I realise thai this is a very difficult problem to overcome. In fact, I suppose that one mast say that seeing we cannot make tests on human beings in a laboratory we have to allow drugs on the market to see their effect. That is in short what we are doing. I believe that this is the area in which we need some control. Some of the potents that we have in the community today, and some of the chemicals which are being applied on rural lands and which are flowing into the water that we are likely to drink may result in the birth of handicapped children in the future.
I am delighted to support the measure which provides assistance for handicapped children. There are a number of matters in the Bill, such as the purchase of land, which 1 would like to query. Great power of approval is being put into the hands of the Director-General. He will be the sole arbiter in these matters. These questions appear to me to present certain problems, but undoubtedly they were introduced by the Department in an attempt to achieve economy in this matter. I congratulate the Government for introducing this Bill which I feel will be of great benefit to the people concerned. From the many Victorian charitable institutions that have been in touch with me on this matter. I know the measure is welcomed by them with open arms.
– I briefly enter this debate to express a few views and to exercise my right to speak as seconder of the amendment. I think that the amendment is important. While we do not intend to oppose the Bill, we express the opinion that a select committee should be established to inquire into all aspects associated with the provision of assistance to handicapped children. I think that the pertinent words are ‘all aspects’. Subsequent questions which we will raise concerning the Bill come within this definition. lt would appear that the Bill is not wide enough to cover the many questions that Senator Webster raised, such as the prevention, if there is any prevention, of the birth of handicapped children, lt is a fact of life that we are seeing the birth of increasing numbers of handicapped children. Whether we are doing the best we can for them under this legislation or not: is another question. I cannot make the poetic contribution, thai the mover of the amendment made. I think that he is to be congratulated on his understanding of handicapped children over a period of time. When he referred to his earlier activity regarding this matter, possibly he was .too impressive. Senator Webster referred to the necessity to provide these children with love and affection. He said that is why voluntary organisations are required 10 look after them. I do not know whether that is correct but it is something that should be inquired into.
I do not really know the meaning of the word ‘love’. When we apply it to children 1 think we really mean ‘sympathy’. I think it could do untold harm to try to raise these handicapped children, who are deserving of sympathy, by treating them differently from other children. In the State of South Australia, from which I come, there are government institutions for handicapped children and many of them have specially trained teachers. I think that these institutions are achieving a result as good as that achieved by voluntary organisations. The weakness in the Bill is that it does not make provision for these government institutions which have a responsibility to educate and look after children, whether they are disabled children or otherwise. Therefore, there could be a tendency in the future for governments lo transfer this type of activity lo voluntary or religious organisations. 1 do not know whether the people in such organisations would give greater love and affection than that provided by teachers who are specially trained for this work. I think it would be a great pity if we reached the stage where there was a tendency for governments to get rid of their responsibility for educating and looking after these children, to hand it over to voluntary organisations, through the governments’ financial inability to make provision for these children. Perhaps the governments might find that there is greater benefit to bc gained by establishing other organisations which would qualify to receive assistance under this Bill. lt should be the responsibility of society to look after disabled children. Parents should not have to bear, the burden of looking after them. Only now is the government to provide a $2 for $1 subsidy for capital expenditure. Assistance is not to be provided for the maintenance of the institutions or for any other purpose, lt is simply for capital expenditure. It is insufficient, to my mind, for the purpose of honouring our responsibility to disabled children, lt places a disadvantage on disabled children in a depressed area which cannot provide the necessary accommodation, or as good accommodation or schooling, as can a more affluent area in our cities. This is another question that needs to be looked into by the Government.
As Senator Fitzgerald said, he does not have a disabled child but as a humanitarian he takes an interest in the subject. I had an early interest in these children because very many years ago it was one of my voluntary efforts 1 day a week to take the rubella children to a pre-oral kindergarten run by the State for the purpose of trying to rehabilitate these children into society, so that they could perform useful functions in life. Those who are concerned - they form an association comprising mostly people with disabled children - have protested against this legislation. They are high in praise of the government organisations that are looking after disabled children. In her second reading speech the Minister said:
The role the States have played both directly and by assisting the voluntary organisations to continue and extend their activities is readily acknowledged. They have borne the major burden. This measure will not only provide a direct source of assistance to the voluntary organisation but it will also indirectly assist the States by freeing them from the need to provide capital subsidies to voluntary bodies or at least greatly reduce the need for them to do so.
Later on she said:
No Government could hope to duplicate the type of service that is provided by parents and those who dedicate themselves to supplying the needs of these children because no Government service could supply the love and sympathy and understanding that is every bil as necessary as the classrooms, the play areas and the special equipment that these children require.
I think that is an ill considered statement and that the Minister has not taken into consideration what is being done in special schools conducted by the States, as I understand it, of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. I now wish to refer to the people who are most concerned with and are most active in retarded children’s activities. I received a letter from a Mrs I. D. Nies, the Secretary of the Mentally Retarded Children’s Association, of Maud Street, Unley, South Australia. Mrs Nies, incidentally, is Secretary-Treasurer of the Mentally Retarded Children’s Society of South Australia Incorporated. In protesting about the Bill, she points out that her committee expresses its concern that the Act, while providing a subsidy on capital expenditure, makes no provision for subsidy on the maintenance of the assets. She points out that maintenance and running costs are very often a more substantial part of the total cost. Regarding the point that she makes about recognition of Government organisations, she encloses a letter from a Mr Gordon Geeves, the President of the Australian Council for the Mentally Retarded, in Canberra. On 6th April this year Mr Geeves wrote to the Minister seeking a consultation on the measure now before the Parliament. That letter, referring to the proposed Handicapped Children (Assistance) Act 1970 states:
In regard to the new Bill, may we request you to give further consideration to one aspect of this provision which we feel may not be as equitable as you would wish. We refer to the exclusion of State Education Departments from the benefits of the Act as defined by section 6 of Part 1.
He went on to say:
The Commonwealth Government has heretofore declined to grant assistance in this direction on the grounds that education is the responsibility of the State governments. The various State governments have afforded assistance in a variety of forms. In South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania the Education Departments have accepted the responsibility to provide free education for all children. The other States have provided financial assistance to enable parents and Health Departments to co-operate in providing training centres and more recently to enable parents to provide schools staffed by Education Department teachers. This assistance is better than nothing at all but falls far short of the standard set by the first named States which provide properly established schools staffed by departmentally trained teachers for all children, handicapped or not.
There we have the President of the Australian Council for the Mentally Retarded being higher in his praise of the government institutions and the government staffs than are the officials of the Department who talk about love, sympathy and affection. This needs thorough investigation. What contribution to the handicapped child is made by love, sympathy and affection. Is the child better off with these things? Mr Gordon Geeves’s letter pertinently points out:
In 1959, in Geneva, Australia was a signatory lo the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, Principle 1 of which reads:
The child shall enjoy all the rights set forth in this Declaration. All children, without any exception whatsoever, shall be entitled to these rights without distinction or discrimination on account of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or social origin, property, birth or other status, whether of himself or of his family.
As that organisation points out, surely this extends to the disabled child, too. If we have an obligation for the education and the welfare of the able child, we have at least an equal obligation to the disabled child, and it should not be a question of a 2 for 1 subsidy to voluntary contributions where schools are provided. Obviously if the voluntary contributions are not forthcoming there is no subsidy from the Commonwealth.
On receipt of this letter I rang Mrs Rigby in Canberra. Mrs Rigby is apparently the
Secretary of this organisation. She supplied me with the reply from the Minister to the letter that Mr Gordon Geeves had forwarded. The Minister repeated parts of the second reading explanation but made no suggestion that any discussion would be for the purpose of any variation or change in the Act. The result was. I understand, that there was no interview with the Minister by this Association, although the Minister, as appears from the correspondence, said that he would be happy to discuss any aspects wilh the 2 representatives as suggested. They apparently thought it was useless to see the Minister. Of course, that is supported, as I say. by the. national organisation, as disclosed in the letter forwarded to me from the South Australian Branch of the organisation, which is actively interested in this question, lt is followed up by correspondence from the Federation of Parents and Citizens Association of New South Wales, which also expresses the same concern. The restrictions in this Aci artsuch that Government organisations are not assisted: only religious and other voluntary organisations are assisted. In 3 Stales Ihe Governments are doing a good job but with financial stringencies it could well be that they will have to hand over the commendable work that they are doing at the present lime to voluntary organisations although these organisations may not give a service comparable with the present service. However, assistance will not bc granted to voluntary organisations which are operating on borrowed money. Of course, a group of parents who have disabled children and who arc interested in the welfare of their children generally collect for such a cause. They are able to erect the necessary buildings only if they can arrange a loan, and unless that loan exceeds one-third of the capital cost they can receive no assistance under this Bill.
The legislation proposes the inclusion of local government bodies in the list of approved organisations. But this brings only an added difficulty to South Australia. A similar extension was made in the aged persons homes legislation, but the South Australian Local Government Act does not permit local government bodies to use council money for other than set purposes. Those purposes do not include the provision of aged persons homes or assistance for disabled children. There is, however, a committee known as the Local Government Revision Committee which advises the Government on suggested alterations to the Act. This Committee, I think on my representations, looked into the question of the Aged Persons Homes Act and advised the Government that the Local Government Act in South Australia should be extended to permit a council to spend money on the provision of aged persons’ homes. However, the Government, I think after pressure by vested interests, refused to adopt that recommendation. Now that there has been a change of Government in South Australia we are hopeful that it may be possible to have the Local Government Act extended. I hope that il may be even further extended to permit the expenditure of money for the purpose of assisting handicapped children. In ibis way the Government may be able to carry on activities in this field. We do nol want to get to the stage in South Australia at which provisions for aid for these children in affluent suburbs will be different from those in working class suburbs in which charitable moneys for these purposes are not very readily available.
I thought Senator Webster raised a point which is well worthy of note. Recently the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances has drawn to the attention of the Senate several matters which stress the need for parliamentary control in various fields rather than executive administrative control. In the past we have allowed this latter type of control to infiltrate. I gave an illustration yesterday to show that this is quite a wrong trend. Anyone who comes under a law passed by the Parliament must be assured that he can receive justice, so that his rights under that law are equal to those of. his next door neighbour. If he is denied such rights he should have recourse to law. The case I quoted yesterday came under the administration of the same Department as the legislation we are now discussing. No doubt there have been many cases of people who have received apparently unjust treatment although that treatment was quite justified by the relevant legislation. The case I quoted yesterday concerned the question whether a man is entitled to unemployment benefit when he is unemployed and not engaged in or supporting a strike. In such a case he should be able to go to law and obtain redress. But when the legislation says that things have to be done to the satisfaction of the Secretary of the Department concerned, or some other official, then there is no recourse to law if that official is not satisfied. Under the legislation now before us an organisation may meet the intentions of the legislation in every respect and still bc denied benefits if the DirectorGeneral is not satisfied. Clause 7 says, inter alia: approved project’ means the purchase or proposed purchase of land . . .
such amount as the Director-General is satisfied is the cost of making any alteration to any building or other improvement on the land that the Director-General is satisfied are necessary . . .
Coming to clause 8, we find the following provision: (1.) Subject to this section, where the DirectorGeneral is satisfied that -
Clause 9 says: (1.) The Director-General may, in his discre tion, on behalf of the Commonwealth make a grant of moneys . . . and the Director-General again is required to exercise his discretion. The clause goes on: (3.) For the purposes of the last preceding subsection, the amount of the funds of an eligible organisation available for expenditure towards the capital costs of an approved project shall be deemed to be the sum of the moneys (if any) expended . . . that the Director-General is satisfied -
So that we see throughout this legislation a general requirement that the DirectorGeneral is to be satisfied, or a general provision that the Director-General shall determine. Whether or not a grant will be made is a matter completely for the decision of the Director-General. A voluntary organisation may comply in every respect with the requirements, but it will receive no grant if the Director-General is not satisfied, or even if he is satisfied, fails to make the required determination. If a person feels aggrieved as a result of a decision of the Director-General he has no recourse to law because the law requires that he shall satisfy the Director-General and obviously he has not done so. On the other hand there may be another organisation which has done only what the rejected organisation has done but which has managed to satisfy the Director-General and has received a grant. There is no recourse to an impartial arbitrator to decide that both organisations must be justly treated. I know that this kind of procedure has been going on for a long time without any critical incidents, but the illustration I gave yesterday shows that these things do happen. It is possible for a man to be victimised or penalised, and in such a case that man would be able to obtain redress if he had recourse to an arbitrator. The aims of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee must be borne in mind by all parties. This is a measure that, given more time, I am sure we would have examined more critically, with condemnation of certain clauses. I make an earnest appeal to all in the Senate, whether Government or Opposition - for this is not a party matter - to support a thorough inquiry into this question to see whether there is a solution, whether we know all the problems and whether we can contribute anything to preventing an increase in the number of disabled children in our community.
– The Democratic Labor Party favours this legislation. I suppose it would be as wrong to go overboard and say that everything in the legislation is good as it would be wrong to damn it with faint praise. This, of course, is a relatively new field. 1 think that mankind has been trying to deal with many of the other difficulties of life, such as poverty, for some centuries, but this is a problem that has. in terms of time, only recently been recognised: and. even when recognised in the beginning, there was little that people thought could be done about it. particularly in relation lo those children whose affliction when they were born seemed to be of a mental character. 1 use the word ‘affliction’ with some reservation, because I do not know whether it was a good term that was used by Senator Webster. I am one of those who subscribe to the idea that no perfect child is born. Each of us is born with afflictions, but in this instance the afflictions a*e obvious, to some extent, and some relief and assistance can be given, lt may be said, too. that the child who ultimately grows to become an apparently normal adult and then becomes an alcoholic was born with an affliction thai, was not recognisable at the time; little recognition was given to it until it was far too late. We should get to the crux of this question. We have come a long way in the last quarter of a century or so on this matter. I. have seen many things in my lifetime, and one causes nic to say to Senator Cavanagh that, if he does not recognise the quality of love in life, 1 do. We can see it in this field more than anywhere else. If he asks me to define il, I may have difficulty, but it is the love of parents who I know who have had spastic and even mongol children, and their dedication and refusal to abandon those children to institutions. If honourable senators wanted to go further, I suppose wc would find that our progress in this field was built on love before il was built on any practical expressions of that love. The Nurse Cavells and the Father Damiens went out with little else to assist them into a field that required nol only their personal courage but. in the case of Father Damien, who went amongst the lepers when everyone else had given them up, a pioneering of something that was based wholly and solely upon his love. His own knowledge would have warned him of ihe tremendous personal risks involved in dedicating his whole life to thai cause.
Whilst I would not like to dissect and define Move’, if we want examples of it there are plenty in the history of mankind. We have come a long way with this question.
I was a member of a family in which there was a spastic child, a younger sister to me. That child was loved and she died at the age of 7; but I am not one of those people who subscribe to the theory thai her life was useless. She left behind her many things that perhaps in my own case may have been the beginning of learning at least some responsibilities towards the rest of humanity.
Some of us, of course, live a lifetime and do nol leave that much behind us; yet a child who was born a spastic and died at the age of 7 can be the beginning of erecting a monument that may one day be a credit to mankind. I say that because, being interested in this problem for a lifetime because of that, 1 questioned recently many parents as to how they stand on some of the more modern ideas of curing some of the other alleged problems that beset mankind and whether they would have preferred never to have a spastic child. Invariably, we got from those people who have lived a life of dedication that they would not have avoided the experience and the opportunity for anything in the world. That should lead us, as human beings, to approach with caution some of the slick answers to the great and terrible problems that are sometimes produced - answers which suggest that the way to cure the problem is to destroy it.
– To legalise abortion.
– Yes. 1 think that conies very well into this category. I think it is a short-sighted policy because we can now look, at the success in this field not only in this country but in other countries that have led us. The mover of this motion referred to the tremendous impetus that work in this field gained in the United Slates of America because a man was elected President who had had the problem in his own family - if it should be called a problem.
Compare what has been done and the successes that, have been achieved wilh these people in Australia with what happened during a particular political period in Germany. There this type of problem and other types of problem involving adult people who were mentally ill were handled by destroying the problem. One should proceed with extreme caution in thinking that there are easy ways to solve w’-.at are sometimes loosely, in my view, called the problems of mankind.
I wonder whether this really is a problem. Senator Cavanagh referred to it as a responsibility. Yes, 1 think it is also that, but I think it goes further than that; it is an opportunity as well for mankind to get to grips with something and to endeavour to find solutions, and it can find solutions. My youngest sister was a person not badly afflicted, as 1 recall. I was about 4 or 5 years older than her and had to accept quite a deal of responsibility in the family. I have seen similar children today who have been able to go to special schools where they have been able to develop other parts of the brain to take over the portion of the brain that has been damaged and, by the time they are 14 or 15 years old, they have grown into what we regard as quite normal people. In many instances they are far more normal than the person who has had every opportunity and throws it away through weakness of character, for which he too is not responsible.
– Many of the spastics are of a very high mentality.
– Yes, that is true, because the damage to the portion of the brain may be in the motor section of it or in some other section that has nothing at all to do with the mental capacity to cope with a good education or anything else. These things were not known 30 years ago. Such children were all regarded as backward or silly and, because nobody tried, there were no successes.
– They were regarded as idiots and treated as such.
– That is true. I suppose now we can look back and say that anybody who adopted that attitude was an idiot. That is where we should be careful about our whole mental approach to the problem. It should not be one of sympathy or that we are doing something extraordinary in extending to these young people the opportunity to overcome their particular affliction, because it is not a hand-out from the Government on behalf of the able people who are paying taxes: it is an investment. Many of these people can become highly useful members of the community.
We should not look upon this measure in a charitable sense. In agreeing to this measure we are accepting this matter as our responsibility. The caring for handicapped children requires a dedication which many of us as normal human beings, unless we have a personal interest in this subject, are incapable of understanding. But once one becomes personally involved in the caring for handicapped children it is a different matter altogether. The character, strength and love which can be developed within a family as a result of a problem such as this is amazing. Mankind should never run away with the idea that all it has to do is set up shiny institutions equipped with chromium instruments in order to solve the physical and mental problems of humanity. Such institutions may contribute to a large degree to the solution of some of the physical aspects of the problem, but in doing so mankind is creating for itself a monster which will ultimately destroy it.
I believe that the Government should also encourage those persons who are prepared to provide assistance. I believe that most of these persons will admit that they are prepared to extend this love and dedication and to meet their responsibilities because of a personal interest in the problem. I am sure that Senator Fitzgerald will support me when 1 say that so many of them are still interested long after a member of their own family or their own child has passed out of the ambit where they can be assisted or have been assisted to the fullest extent possible and are dedicating themselves to helping others because they have become involved in the problem at (his level. I believe it is essential that such people should be encouraged to provide assistance. They should not be frustrated and torn away from such dedication because of the lack of the necessary financial assistance of governments.
The Australian Democratic Labor Party supports this Bill for the reasons 1 have given, lt supports the legislation not because charily will bc extended to a section of the community which needs it but because we will be giving the community an opportunity to grow and develop into a more worthwhile community which will be lo the well being of each and every one of us. Many a person who is allegedly born normal in the future will owe a great deal to those handicapped children we are assisting at present who some people say were not born normal. The DLP also supports the amendment which has been moved because it believes that the amendment will open up an opportunity for us to acquire greater knowledge of the problem itself, lt will also give us an opportunity to contribute lo the solution of this problem. The DLP sees in the amendment a chance to widen our knowledge of every aspect of the problem and to acquaint other people of the opportunity that they have to assist in the worth while task which lies before humanity in this respect. The DLP hopes that the amendment and the Bill will be carried by the Senate.
[3.5] -in reply - I thank those honourable senators who have contributed to the debate for the speedy passage which they have given to this legislation. 1 think wc all appreciate what this measure will mean to handicapped children. I should imagine that at one time or another all honourable senators have been closely associated with this kind of work. We have all seen the tragedy of children who are born nol so well equipped as other children not being able to take their place in the family circle and in the community at large. These young children have had to be trained so that the) can take a part in the community and can live a happier and fuller life. This legislation is, of course, directed to that purpose, lt also carries out another of the promises which the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) made in his policy speech. He said:
We shall give capital assistance on a 2 for I basis lo approved institutions which give training for the various kinds of handicapped children.
The Prime Minister enumerated some of them as being the blind, the deaf, the spastic, the crippled and the mentally retarded. I should imagine that all honourable senators would be aware of the great work which has been and is being done in this field throughout the length and breadth of Australia by voluntary organisations. 1 think it is a very good thing that a Bill of this nature should come before the Senate because not only will it result in the provision of the assistance outlined in the Bill but it also gives us an opportunity to express our appreciation to the dedicated people who have served in this field and given the love, affection and care which is so necessary in assisting handicapped children.
I wish to refer to one or two points which were raised by honourable senators. Senator Webster raised Ihe question of the wide powers which are given to the DirectorGenera! of Social Services under this Bill. I would like to draw his attention to clause 5 of the Bill, which provides:
The Director-General has, subject to any directions of the Minister, the general mm, nitration of Ibis Act.
I draw Senator Webster’s attention to the words ‘subject to any direction^ of the Minister’, which are quite important. One or two points were raised by honourable senators - 1 think 1 would be right if I said that they were raised mainly by Senator Cavanagh, although Senator Fitzgerald did touch upon them - in connection wilh the voluntary organisations and the State schools and organisations which are assisting handicapped children. I have been supplied wilh information which indicated that in all States there are voluntary organisations which assume some responsibility for the training and accommodation of handicapped children, including those below school agc and others of school agc who are classified as non-educable by the Slate authority. This Bill will reduce the need for the States to provide capital subventions to voluntary bodies to allow them to devote more funds towards assisting handicapped children in other ways. To that extent I think that this legislation is helping in both of these areas.
Representations have been made - I suppose they have been made to some honourable senators - urging that the Bill be amended to provide for grants to be made towards the cost of facilities provided by State governments as well as by voluntary organisations. I think the reply which the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has given in relation to this aspect should be repeated in this debate. He said that it is not proposed that the Commonwealth should intrude into the education programmes of the State governments. The States are assisted by other means towards meeting the cost of education and it would therefore be inappropriate for them to be brought within the provisions of a Bill which is designed to achieve a limited and specific objective. I believe the Bill will be of assistance in the areas to which we have been referred today. Reference has been made to letters which have been written concerning this legislation. I should like to refer to 2 of those letters because they show the appreciation of the organisations who will benefit. Mrs Mary Towers, the Secretary of the New South Wales Council for the Mentally Handicapped, wrote to the Minister for Social Services in the following terms:
The N.S.W. Council for the Mentally Handicapped 19th May 1970
The Hon. W. C. Wentworth, MP
Minister for Social Service,
CANBERRA, A.C.T. 2600
Dear Mr Wentworth,
Handicapped Children (Assistance) Bill 1970
It is the desire of the Executive of the NSW Council to convey to you, on behalf of 65 NSW organisations we represent in the mentally handicapped field, our sincere thanks for formulating and presenting this Bill to the Federal Parliament.
The benefits that will stem from this measure are virtually incalculable and cannot fail to give new heart to all groups who have striven for so long to give handicapped children a chance to live as well as they can.
We do not intend to go into any detail or stress any special point Our wish is that the Bill will be accepted in its entirety and implemented without delay.
Our thoughts will be with you al the Third Reading and may success attend your effort.
NSW Council for the Mentally Handicapped (Sgd) Mary Towers (Mrs)
I wish to quote also from a letter received from the Chairman of Aid Retarded Persons, New South Wales. He wrote:
It affords me considerable pleasure to advise you that at a meeting of the Society’s Executive Committee held recently, it was unanimously resolved that on behalf of Aid Retarded Persons New South Wales I extend to your good self our felicitations and hearty commendation on the enlightened prospective legislation (the Handicapped Childrens’ Assistance Bill) now before the Federal Parliament.
As a society, we have good cause to be thankful for the financial assistance we have received from your Government by way of grants to help cover our workshops and equipment. Although it is unlikely that the provisions of this Bill will affect our Society, we recognise its worth to other bodies in an area hitherto largely unassisted.
Please accept deepest thanks from myself, fellow members of the Society’s Board of Honorary Directors and members of Aid Retarded Persons NSW for your efforts and, if we may add, your humanitarian and national outlook.
I have some information which may influence the thinking of honourable senators on the proposed amendment. The Government has already set up an interdepartmental committee comprising officers of the Departments of Social Services, Health, and Education and Science to survey the extent of handicapped children and the facilities available to them. In those circumstances the Senate may feel that there is no need to establish a Senate select committee to inquire into this field. If it is felt that it is necessary to establish a Senate select committee, honourable senators may feel that it would be better able to function after a report is received . from the interdepartmental committee. I think it is important that honourable senators should be aware of the existence of that committee which is carrying out a survey of handicapped children and the facilities available to them.
– When is a report expected from that committee?
– I cannot give a date. It will probably take some time.
– Will the report be available to senators?
– I could not answer that, but I will refer the question to the Minister for Social Services. I have given that information about the interdepartmental committee for honourable senators to consider. Honourable senators may well feel that if a select committee is set up it would be much more effective if it waited to receive a report from the interdepartmental committee. I have endeavoured to touch upon the points which have been raised and to answer the questions that have been asked of me by honourable senators. I would conclude the few words I have had to say by reminding honourable senators of the words of Mrs Mary Towers, which appeal to me very much. She wrote:
The benefits that will stem from this measure are virtually incalculable and cannot fail to give new heart to all groups, who have striven for so long, to give handicapped children a chance to live as well as they can.
I believe those words reflect the spirit of this legislation and the wishes of the Senate.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Fitzgerald’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Bull)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– In response to a request by one of the bodies which is concerned with handicapped children, I would ask the Minister whether she will give the assurance expressly here in the Committee of the Senate that the provisions of the Bill extend to cover autistic children. By that request I do not suggest that the position might be otherwise. I would think there is little doubt about it. In fact I think there is no doubt about it, but I have undertaken to do this, and 1 am sure that an assurance from the Minister will help to allay the feelings of some people who might be concerned. I ask the Minister to give that express assurance now.
[3.22] - I am very glad to speak on this matter. I understand perfectly the fear that has been in the minds of some people who are concerned with autistic children because I have worked with them myself and they have approached me also. I am glad to draw attention to the second reading speech and confirm now, asI reply to Senator Murphy, that it mentions among the various people spastics and autistics, the profoundly deaf and so on. I can assure him thai autistic children will be included among handicapped children.
– I rise to draw the Minister’s attention to the definition of handicapped children in clause 4 and to put forward a submission put to me in the hope that in due course it will receive attention. The definition reads: “ handicapped child “ means a person who is suffering from a physical or mental disability and -
It has been put to me that the institutions, the homes and the people who look after these children receive many of them at a very early age, and that they continue on. After they turn 21 their eligibility in the terms of this Bill applies only where there is a continuance of the training that they have been having before. Sometimes there are special facilities. New procedures become available and of course there would be strictly no eligibility under this legislation. Perhaps at some later stage when further consideration is given to this measure, consideration could be given not only to extendingthe definition to cover children who have attained the age of 21 years as in the terms of the Bill but also to including a provision thatthe DirectorGeneral shall recognise as handicapped children persons who, by reason of their handicap, require special training or special facilities to be made available to them. That is the point which has been put to me.
– I would think the clause would cover it.
– I hope thai will be the way it is interpreted.
– They could not interpret it otherwise.
– It would require a very wide meaning io be given to the words’approved training’. I understand this was mentioned in another place, where the Minister felt that generally it could be treated flexibly. I hope it can be treated flexibly. I have raised this matter because it was put to me. I see the force of it. I sensed that the definition was not as wide as it could be. I hope the Minister will take up this matter with the Minister for Social Services and that some attention can be given to it.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) 3.26] - I would like to inform the Senate that where an organisation’s primary purpose is to provide training for handicapped children or to provide residential accommodation for such children, then the fact that organisations were, as an incidental to that primary purpose, providing training or accommodation for a few adults, who do not come within the definition of handicapped children, would not affect their eligibility for assistance under the Bill. That may not answer all the points raised by Senator Greenwood, but I think it answers the problem concerning adults who have been trained.
– 1 think if that is the way it is interpreted, it covers my point.
– It appears to me to cover it.I am glad that we have got that answer.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill lon motion by Senator Dante Annabelle Rankin) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2nd June (vide page 1833), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Billbe now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports this Bill, and at this stage I do not intend to speak on it for very long. I wi sh to make only two points. Although the Opposition supports the Bill, I feel that it should be pointed om that, as with so many matters related to education in particular and to government budgeting in matters of this nature in general - in this case a very substantial figure of $30m is provided for a service, namely, the addition to and development of existing teachers training colleges - there appears to be no system whereby such large sums are arrived at. Sofar as I can gather from reading the speech of the Minister in the other place, and that of the Minister representing in the Senatethe Minister for Education and Science, I have not been able to discover whythe sum of $30m was selected. It would seem quite apparent,I should imagine, that in such important matters as education, there should be some appropriate commission which would, on the basis of needs, as has been done in the past with the Grants Commission, assess the requirements of these matters, explain them lo the Parliament, and then appropriate whatever amount of money is available and required after having considered the needs of the educational system - in this case that part of the educational system which deals wilh teacher training.
The other point I wish to make relates to clause 7 of the Bill which provides as a condition for the making of such grants to the States as are specified in the Schedule to the Bill that it is incumbent upon the States to admit to the teachers colleges private students in such a number as will result in the number of private students at teachers colleges in the State in that year being not less than 10% of the number of students at teachers colleges in the State whose admission to the colleges is attributable to the expenditure of grants under the Act. Further provision is made in clause 7 (b) that, if there are not sufficient applicants to attend these colleges as private students, the percentage may consequently be reduced. I do not think anybody could seriously object to persons who are not going to be bonded to Education Departments being admitted to teachers training colleges and trained to become teachers. I think most people who have given any great attention to the problems of education are convinced that one of the great deficiencies in our educational system at the present time is the bonding of teachers whereby, because a person has trained to become a teacher for the purpose of entering a State Education Department, he is bound to serve- for a certain number of years in that Education Department on the completion of his training unless he is prepared to refund to the Education Department a quite considerable sum of money by way of a bond.
This is a disability under which people who are trained for no other profession labour. If. somebody is trained with the assistance of Commonwealth or State moneys to become a lawyer, for example, he is not compelled to work in the Crown Law Department, or if he is trained as an architect he is not compelled to work for a State or Federal housing department on the completion of his degree. Although there are cadetships which are available and which I should imagine would have some similarity to the bonding of teachers who are being trained within teachers training colleges, this is not the only means available to people who wish to follow these professions. Apart from a very small number of private teachers colleges, the only way in which one could obtain a teacher’s qualifications was to attend a State teachers training college and consequently be bonded to an Education Department. Clause 7 of the Bill provides for the admission to teachers training colleges of certain persons who shall be eligible to teach in private schools and who will not have to enter into this bond.
As I have already said, I am not opposed, and neither is the Labor Party, to those persons, irrespective of their number, entering teachers training colleges, but I think it is worth pointing out that there does seem to be an anomaly involved. Although admittedly the same sums of money are not available to the unbonded teachers who are training to become teachers in private schools as are available to those bonded students who wish to enter Slats Education Departments, it does seem to he something of an anomaly that within a teachers training college there are certain students who are bonded to teach within an Education Department and other students who are not bonded. I trust that this is the commencement of steps which the Commonwealth, which does control the moneys available for Education Departments, will be taking to see that at some time in the not too distant future all of those persons who enter teachers training colleges will be able to do so without having a bond inflicted upon them so that after they have obtained their qualifications they will be free to practise their profession in whichever field they wish or not to practise it if they decide to. do something else. As it stands, there are only certain trainee teachers who do have this right allocated to them, and these are the teachers who are to teach at schools other than State schools. However, I suggest that it is implied, and it has led one to the conclusion that there are being placed on those people who wish to enter State education services disabilities which are not placed on those who wish to enter the teaching profession as teachers in private schools of one form or another.
Although I may well be wrong on this, I have not heard any satisfactory explanation for the fixing of the figure of not less than 10% as the proportion of non-bonded trainee teachers to the number of bonded trainee teachers, without any maximum being fixed. This seems to be a rather extraordinary approach. Possibly the Minister will be able to say something about this when he speaks subsequently. Unless I have misread the Bil) - and I have tried to read it as carefully as I can - it seems to me that although a minimum figure of 10% is fixed, which may be varied if there is not a sufficient number of applicants to make up the 10%, there is no maximum whatsoever. This, too, would seem to be one form of anomaly.
However, this Bill makes provision for quite a substantial sum of money to the States so that they can engage in teacher training, lt is well recognised that the facilities available for teacher training throughout the Commonwealth are far short of what they ought 10 be, and in some States they ure worse than in others. As I have already said. 1 am unable to judge why the particular figures set out in the Schedule were fixed - why, for example, 59m is allocated to the State of New South Wales whereas S9.5m is allocated to Victoria, or why 53.6m is allocated to South Australia but only $3m is allocated to Queensland and Western Australia. What study was made in order to determine these figures? The reasoning behind the selection of those figures is noi known, and 1 would suggest that at some time in the future provision ought to be made for a commission of inquiry to inquire into the whole matter of education and arrive al these figures according to standard criteria and some sort of fixed principle rather than what seems lo have been done here. 1 am noi suggesting there is noi good reason for it but am merely presenting the Senate and the House of Representatives with details of a number of sums of money, which may or may not be adequate. However, this money is being made available, and it is certainly not the intention of the Opposition to prevent its being made available. The Opposition intends to support the Bill.
– The Democratic Labor Parly, too, supports the Bill, and it is very pleased indeed that the Commonwealth has decided to direct its attention and resources lo assisting to solve the very serious problem of providing an adequate supply of teachers. This problem is becoming more difficult every day as the number of schools, particularly secondary schools, increases. There is a continual drain on the existing forces available for the teaching profession, first of all because private industry and private schools are frequently able to offer more attractive opportunities to teachers in the State system and also because there is a considerable drain on our teaching forces from countries such as Canada which appear able to offer more attractive conditions.
We have ail read in the Press of the grave difficulties associated with the attempt now to provide an adequate supply to teachers for our schools. In my State of Victoria daily one reads letters of protest to the Press from parents who say that their particular school is inadequately staffed. The situation is that the Government is adopting desperate expediencies, some of which include the sending to schools of teachers who are not properly trained or whose training is not properly accepted by the staffs of the schools, in the State of Victoria we have had more than one strike where teachers have refused to accept and to work with persons who have been sent to the school by the State department, not because the State department wants to send them there, but because it is desperate and it sends along whatever materia! is available, sometimes without having a great deal of regard lo the suitability of the person sent. Therefore, it all boils down to ihe fact that there is a very serious shortage of teachers, and the only way to get leachers is to build more leachers’ colleges and lo make the terms and conditions of employment more attractive.
I would say, as one who was a teacher and who went through the depression years, that the conditions of teachers generally in this country are infinitely superior 10 what they were when I began to teach and for the greater part of my teaching career. Teachers continually are claiming that in comparison with other professional people - and teachers insist on being regarded as professional people - they are entitled to better standards of remuneration and so on. However, be that as it may, the main point we are considering is the provision of adequate teachers’ colleges to train teachers in the future. Senator Wheeldon raised the question of the reservation of 10% of ihe places in teachers’ colleges for intending students from private schools. This mailer was given a good deal of consideration a couple of years ago. and I understand that the organisations, religious or otherwise, which provide a considerable number of leachers for private schools, were consulted upon this matter. Some of them, as in New South Wales, said that they would be satisfied with a provision of a percentage of the places in State teachers’ colleges. Others, as in Victoria, said that hey preferred to erect their own colleges.
Senator Wheeldon made a point which interested me. He referred to the question of bonding students, that is, giving them, as it were, a training scholarship on the condition that for a period of years they serve with the State teaching service. I remember that this issue was raised probably for the first time in Victoria by the union of which I was a member, that is, the Affiliated Teachers’ Union which, more than 15 or 16 years ago, took strong exception to this practice on the grounds that because of their bonding, students frequently were directed to take a course which they did not wish to take. They wished to take the course for which they themselves felt equipped and in the direction of which their own interests lay. I think that there was something to be said for that. But some very good brains in the community, with a particular bent in a certain direction , were, because of the bonding, informed that they would have to go in another direction because there was a shortage of teachers in that direction.
– What happens if a majority wants to go in the one direction?
– I know that is a possible situation, but the fact remains that one should consider not only the requirements of the service but also the individual and his outlook. I think that at times the interests of the individual were overridden, more than they should have been, by the demands of those who said that the interests of the department required something else. At any rate, most of the teacher organisations have followed the example which was set by my trade union. They now oppose bonding. But I suppose one must weigh against that the fact that those who are prepared to be bonded get considerable advantages. It must be admitted that even in these days some students would not be able to complete courses, because of lack of funds, unless facilities were made available to them by the departments.
Senator Wheeldon raised the question of a place being reserved for a private student in a State teachers’ college. He said that that student would receive an advantage over a student who was there as a State student, because the private student would be in a position practically to chose his own course.
– I was not suggesting any sort of unfairness.
– No. J am not suggesting that Senator Wheeldon was being unfair. He appeared to me to raise the question as a matter of interest and discussion. But I point out that there are also considerable advantages which a State student receives but which a private student does not receive. If the two of them go to the same State teachers’ college - one as a State student who is bonded and the other as a private student - the State student receives a very considerable maitnenance allowance which the private student does not receive. I should think, myself, that this is a matter which ought to be considered by the Government. Where there are 2 students who are both training in the teaching service, whether they teach in a government school or an independent school they are teachers making a contribution to the educational services of the country. One is paid during the period of his training and the other is not paid. I happen to know that this is a very sore point with the authorities concerned. I point out that these authorities largely build independent schools with their own money, they largely provide for them with their own money, but then when they have to train young people as teachers they find that a maintenance allowance is not paid to the student who proposes to teach in a private school.
I should like the Government to inquire into whether this position should not bc altered. I suggest that when people are training to become teachers so that they will make a contribution to the educational service, they should be put on the same basis and each of them should receive an allowance which is necessary for his maintenance. However, this Bill is a step in the right direction and I support it.
– in reply- The Bill provides a quite substantial Commonwealth contribution for the purpose of providing teachers’ training colleges over the next triennium. Speeches made in this debate have referred to various matters upon which I want to comment with some brevity. First of all, it is said that clause 7 of the Bill requires that not less than 10% of all the students at teachers’ colleges shall be students not bonded to the Slate school system. I think it is true, as Senator Wheeldon inferred, that no maximum number is provided for private students, but if the State operates a policy of bonding students for its own departments, it is not likely gratuitously to increase [he figure of 10% unless it has a surplus of accommodation for students in the teacher training colleges.
Criticism has been made of the policy whereby States require a bond, from their students. 1 believe it is relevant to consider in relation to this point the fact to which Senator McManus referred, that is, that the Stales provide not merely places for their own students but also a maintenance allowance. Up to date I do nol know of any Slate that feels that it is able to provide that allowance without imposing some corresponding obligation on the student to give service for a limited period in return. But whatever be the merits or demerits of that, so far as I know, it is a field of State educational policy into which the Commonwealth has not sought to trespass. It is not part of the Commonwealth’s function to use the assistance thai we give to these colleges as a leverage to alter policy matters of that sort. I should think that we would all recognise in this chamber that State Education Departments have the skill, experience and competence to formulate a policy appropriate to the situation. The question of where the colleges under this Bill are to be established is a matter entirely for the States to decide, and we do not attempt to restrict the States in that regard.
– This lever is being used though, is it not, in order to make the provision for the minimum 10% of private students’? The principle of the lever is being used in clause 7, I think.
– No. I would nol think it is at all an analogous proposition. It is reasonable to say thai we have 2 systems of education - State and independent - and it is reasonable to sary, surely, thai these colleges, once established, shall provide a proper complement of teachers for each of those systems. That is simply one of the twin objectives to which the colleges are directed.
Now with regard to the other matter thai was mentioned, namely, that some sort of examination was required by a commission similar to the Australian Universities Commission, I remind the Senate that the Government started off with its assistance to the States on the basis of- the report of the Murray Committee, which was responsible for setting up the Australian Universities Commission. Apart altogether from the money provided under this legislation, the Government does provide assistance to the universities which has ranged from a total of $33. 8m in 1963-64 to $68. 7m in the present year, lt is also clear that in many colleges of advanced education assistance is given to teacher training.. So we have had the benefit of all that, and when it comes to Ihe particular application to ihe specific training colleges for teachers, the Martin Committee has considered that and we have been supplied with the desirable figures as that committee projected them, lt might be reassuring to the Senate if I told it the progress of achievement.
With regard to primary teachers, it was indicated by ihe revised report of Professor Martin and his Committee that 42,100 primary teachers were required in 1964. rising to 51,500 in 1969. The actual teachers available totalled 44,800, and this rose lo 53.400 in 1969. The corresponding figures for secondary teachers are as follows: 26.900 in 1964, rising to 39,700 in 1969. In fact, the actual number was 28,200 in 1964 and 42, MX) in 1969.
Those figures do not suggest that there is the great scarcity of teachers that seems to be indicated by the continuing troubles that we have in Victoria, for instance. In regard lo the supply that is being maintained through the universities, let it be placed on record that whereas in 1963 university teacher trainees totalled 6.300, by 1968 that had almost doubled to 1 1,600. Of the total teacher trainees - that is to say, university and otherwise - the figure increased from 20,593 in 1963 to 29,237 in 1968. I have other figures to confirm that the position is being improved from time to time. In the actual application of these objectives the Department of Science and Education engages in continuous and very practical consultations with the Departments of Education in the various States, and each of these programmes - the dissection of which in Ihe Schedule Senator Willesee said he had no basis for understanding - is worked out on a basis of practical considerations. Various matters are taken into account. I could briefly refer to the main considerations. These are, first, the building projects that are proposed by each State; secondly, the population in each State; thirdly, the performance of each State in carrying out its present triennium programme; and fourthly, the need to provide adequate funds to complete existing college projects and the funds provided under the Colleges of Advanced Education Act for development of teacher education during this triennium in the 3 States. Those figures for colleges of advanced education, of course, are taken into account.
To indicate that one cannot take any formula, let me state that a new college in Western Australia or South Australia costs about $3m, while in New South Wales or Victoria, where residential accommodation is included, the figure is much higher. In fact, it runs as high as$8m in New South Wales. A major project for extension, as distinct from entirely new construction, might range from$1. 5m to $2m. It is obvious that with projects so sizable individually as that we have to plan well in advance. These programmes have been arranged in consultation with the States, taking into account all those factors. They aggregate the S30m that the Bill makes available for the purpose. I think therefore that the Senate is right in acknowledging that the Government is making a substantial contribution to the expansion of this programme in a most important field of education by providing this assistance for the establishment of colleges for teacher training. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I have just one question concerning the contract that was let for the construction of the teacher college in Launceston. I understand that the tender was not the lowest offered. I am wondering whether the Minister will comment on whether there could possibly be a greater Commonwealth surveillance of contracts let for the construction of colleges. It would appear that there may have been political reasons why the contract was let in the north of the State. Will the Minister comment on this?
– I have no first hand knowledge of the particulars of the contract to which the honourable senator referred even though it refers to a college in the north of the State which both he and I represent, but I ask him to understand that the Government does not lay down the procedures whereby contracts for construction of these colleges are awarded by the States. The tendering and contracting procedures are at the present time strictly matters for the States, and only if we found that the money was being frittered away or being spent in a manner that was not economic and efficient in a general sense would we seek to close up any loophole that might exist in that respect. When the scheme was first introduced the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), who was then the Minister for Education and Science, wrote to each State suggesting that if delays were likely to occur because the State Public Works Department was unable to undertake the work in the normal way the. Commonwealth would have no objection if outside contractors were used on its projects. But, of course, that was no indication that the normal safeguards to ensure economic and sound tendering procedures should be dispensed with. I have not felt it my duty to inform myself as to the particulars of the actual contract referred to by the honourable senator and I have no reason to believe that in that respect the purpose of the Commonwealth was in any way unfulfilled.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 4th June (vide page 1981), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Acting Deputy President-:- -
– I hesitate to interrupt, Mr Acting Deputy President, but 1 was told that the message in relation to the National Health Bill was in fact here and now I understand it is not here. When it arrives 1 would like to dispose of it quickly, and if this debate is likely to proceed for any great length of time we could perhaps proceed to a debate on another Bill.
– .1 will be happy to facilitate the business of the Senate and to allow the interruption of this debate when the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) wishes it. This is a Bill to amend the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act 1959-62. That is a very important enactment, lt affects all those in Australia who use the airlines whether inside or outside Australia and, of course, it affects the airline operators themselves.. The Bill provides for the implementation within this country of certain international conventions which are referred to in the Bill and it makes certain consequential provisions in relation to those international conventions. One is the Warsaw Convention as affected by the Hague Protocol. Then there have been certain other arrangements which have been entered into internationally which may affect our passengers who proceed elsewhere. This enactment, which we are proposing to amend, has been the subject of consideration on earlier occasions. In 1959 it was dealt with and subjected to a great deal of attention by the Senate. During the debate criticism was directed at certain of the provisions. Again in 1962 it was subjected to attention and to criticism.
The main burden of the criticism of the enactment is that by reason of the international conventions there are strict limits applied to the liability of airline operators in the event of an accident resulting in injury or death to the passenger. This affects the passenger if he is injured and it affects the dependants of a passsenger if he is killed. There may be cases where persons who are not passengers could be injured. But 1 take the simple case of the passenger. There are also certain restrictions in regard to baggage and so forth, but the real problem is the limitation of the liability of carriers in relation to passengers. These laws do something which I think ought to be avoided wherever possible, and that is to put a strict and a low limit on the liability of the carriers in the event of an accident even where there has been negligence, except in some cases where the negligence is of a particularly gross nature. For the ordinary case the limits are there.
The limit at the moment is $15,000 both for interna) flights and when travelling outside Australia, except in the United Slates where the United States Government took the view that the limits were unjust, lt insisted upon the international airlines which were going to and from the United States or stopping at any stage of a flight in the United States agreeing to higher limits. The United States threatened to denounce the convention unless this agreement was reached, as it was reached in 1965 and 1966. At the moment we are operating in Australia in such a way that, if there is an accident on an aircraft, even where there is negligence the limit that may be recovered by an injured person or by his dependants if he is killed is $15,000. Of course, this is an absurd limitation, for 2 reasons: The first is that, because of the nature of aircraft, the accident may well lead, as may a motor vehiole accident, to severe injuries, such as spinal injuries, where the damages may be very much in excess of $15,000 for medical and other expenses, which are not at the moment recoverable under our national health scheme. Apart from that, the damages may well run into sums of $50,000, St 00,000, or more for an ordinary citizen.
The other absurdity is that there may be an injury that is not very serious, such as a broken leg, which may involve $2,000, $3,000 or perhaps $10,000 in damages and the person involved gets full recovery, whereas a person with a very serious injury of over S 1 5,000 does not.
The purpose of this Bill is to increase those limits, both domestically and internationally, to $30,000, but the injustice still remains. Even now, that $30,000 does not meet the serious cases and in an ordinary common law action in the courts it would be common for a young working /nan who is injured - and his widow and children if he is killed - to recover more than $30,000. This would be quite common. The amounts would often be more than $30,000. So the limits are still too low. With inflation, which is continuing apace, within a short time the limits will be as unjust as the $15,000 is now. There will still remain the vice that less serious injuries will be compensated for in full, and the more serious ones only partially. What is to be done about this? As far as the international convention is concerned, it is difficult for us to do anything about it. We could seek to amend the Act, which would put us in breach of the international convention. We think we should not seek to take that course in relation to these international controls.
– Does America gel a special dispensation under the convention?
– America took this course. It may be for the benefit of the Senate if I read a question’ that was asked by Mr Whitlam in the House of Representatives of the Minister for Civil Aviation, because it goes to the heart of this matter. The question was asked on the 19th September 1968 and is reported at page 1239 of the Hansard of that House. The question and answer read:
Mr Swartz. ; The following answers are now supplied:
Several countries, including Australia, made representations to the United States pointing out the serious effects that denunciation of the Convention would have for civil aviation. After protracted negotiations, the Government of the United States approved an interim agreement made between the international airlines operating to that country, including Qantas, and a number of United Slates domestic carriers, whereby the carriers agreed that the limit of liability for death or injury to passengers on services including s point in the United States as a point of origin, destination or agreed stopping place was raised to $US75,000 including legal fees and costs, or$US58,000 exclusive of such fees and costs where the claim is brought in a country where costs are awarded in addition to damages. The United States then withdrew ils notice of denunciation of the Warsaw Convention.
That was the course taken in the United States, because of the obvious injustice of these limits. What ought to be done about it?
– Actually, it would be within the context of the level of damages normally awarded within the United States.
– Yes, that is so, and possibly having regard to its need to keep in line with what was happening around the world. Yes, we think there ought to be a similar kind of provision in relation to the international carriers operating in Australia. Perhaps the figure of $52,000 was suggested, which is the Australian equivalent of that $US58,000. Of course, $A52,00O is now much less in terms of real money than was the $A52,000 back in 1966; but the real solution to this problem, as we see it, is that Australia should press for a revision of this international convention to achieve 2 things; firstly, an increase in the limits which are imposed on the damages claims where negligence does not have to be established, and secondly, to press for unlimited damages where negligence is proved. We think that in Australia the suggested limit that the Government is proposing for the domestic airlines of $30,000, while it could be increased, is a practical measure and that, if that is left, the appropriate course is to press for a removal of the demand for the right to proceed for the actual damages where negligence can be proved.
– But surely the honourable senator would agree that it would be a desirable development in the law of compensation for damage such as this for Australia to move towards doing away with fault liability?
– If the honourable senator means should we provide for full recovery of damages without the necessity of proving negligence, I would agree, but I cannot agree that we should be left in the situation where, although we do not have to prove damage, there is a cut-off point where the most serious injuries are inadequately compensated and the less serious injuries are fully compensated. The honourable senator is in effect suggesting that the limit should be removed.
– I wanted to hear the Leader of the Opposition’s views about this aspect.
– The honourable senator asks me what we should be moving towards to achieve perfection. Aircraft are in constant use. They have become part of our daily life. Although we do not have very many accidents we know that sooner or later one of us must suffer injuries. Surely the burden should fall on the whole community of compensating a person who suffers such injuries. We should be in a sense insurers for those who suffer loss, regardless of whether it is $10,000 or $150,000 if they, or their dependants in the case of death, can prove to the satisfaction of a tribunal that they should recover such loss.
– What is the rule of law with regard to car accidents?
– The rule of law in regard to car accidents is that if one proves negligence one recovers damages without any limitation.
– As assessed by a tribunal.
– Yes. Inherent in what has been said to me by Senator Rae is whether I approve of removing the necessity to prove negligence. I do. A case of a passenger injured in a car accident who is unable to prove negligence to the satisfaction of a tribunal is so rare that one thinks of it in modern days as an extremely slight possibility.
– Would you confine your principles only to passengers in motor vehicles or would you extend it to include operators of motor vehicles?
– I would not like to pursue the question if the person concerned has been negligent. But if it is clear that he has not been negligent, I would say that he should be able to recover, regardless of whether he has been able to establish the negligence of some other person. I think that this would be a sensible development of the law. But in this instance we are talking about people who may be injured while travelling on aircraft.
– Innocent victims.
– Innocent victims, yes. I think the desirable goal of the law ought to be to enable the full recovery of damages without the necessity to prove negligence. But as I comprehend the practical situation - and I am not unacquainted with the circumstances of a number of these cases - it would be rare that a person injured in an aircraft accident would be unable to win a case if success depended merely on proving negligence.
– On a commercial aircraft.
– On a commercial aircraft, yes. If an aircraft crashes it would be rare for a person to be unable to say that the res ipse loquitor principle applies, if a person suffers an injury in such circumstances it would be an extreme rarity if he were unable to recover damages.
– On that aspect, J do not think that, there have been any such claims. If the limit of $15,000 is so low it is surprising that there have not been.
– I assure the honourable senator that such claims have been made. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later hour of the day.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Message received from ihe House of Representatives intimating that it had made the amendments requested by the Senate and that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a third time.
[4.25.1 - In relation to the interjection of Senator Gair prior to the interruption, I would like to point out that if he were a passenger in a friend’s motor vehicle or a commercial motor vehicle or anything like that and he suffered serious injury as a result of the motor vehicle running off the road, he would have to prove the negligence of the driver. But in virtually every case a passenger would be able to prove the negligence of the driver and he would recover fully for whatever damage was occasioned to him. Regardless of whether it was personal pain and suffering, medical expenses or an injury which prevented him from performing further the important services he now performs - the services provided by all honourable senators is important - he could recover whatever the tribunal assessed as his economic loss or whatever the defendant or his insurer was prepared to agree to in lieu of the tribunal assessing damages. But if Senator Gair were to suffer a similar injury in an aircraft accident he would get no more than $15,000 at the moment, although it is proposed thai the limit will be increased lo $30,000. I am subject to correction on this aspect, but I think that the limit includes whatever legal expenses may be involved in the recover)’ of damages. Therefore, if Senator Gair went to court and was awarded a verdict in the sum of $60,000 he would be paid only-
– That is not the practical situation, is it?
– Regardless of the procedure adopted the liability will be limited to $30,000.
– But it is a pure assessment of damages up to $30,000.
– That is what I am saying. I am saying that a person claiming damages would be limited to 830,000. I am not quite sure, but I think that that figure includes the legal expenses. A very severe limitation is imposed upon citizens in this respect. This matter has excited the attention of other honourable senators on earlier occasions. On 18th March 1959, Senator Wright moved an amendment to the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Bill. His remarks appear at page 457 of Hansard of that date. He proposed to insert the following provision:
Nothing in this part shall exclude or limit the liability of a carrier or his servants or agents, for damage resulting from negligence.
On 1 0th May 1962, Senator McKenna, on behalf of the Opposition, moved:
That the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to incorporate, in relation to Australian domestic air services within Commonwealth competence -
the general principle of unlimited liability at law for negligence on the part of airline operators in respect of passengers, cargo and baggage, and
al least the same minimal liabilities for safe carriage of goods, registered baggage and passengers’ hand luggage as al present operating under the Warsaw Convention.
The Opposition believes that the present situation should be corrected. There are other matters in relation to this Bill, but this is the substance of it. The Opposition has taken note of what has been said by the Government and appreciates the situation in which the Government is placed.
While agreeing in certain respects with the proposal of the Government we think that a rider ought to be added to the Bill rather than that we should endeavour to alter its provisions in respect of international activities. We think the rider ought to take the form we have set out in a proposed amendment. I move:
At end of motion add - but the Senate is of opinion that the limits of liability under International Convention arc unjust and therefore requests that the Government take action to have the injustice rectified by pressing for a revision of the International Conventions to increase the limits applied in the absence of negligence and to remove the limits where negligence is proved and, in the meantime, to take action similar to that taken by the United States Government in 1965 and 1966, that is, to obtain agreement with the international airlines operating to this country and our international airline, whereby the limit of liability for death or injury to passengers on services including a point in this country as a point of origin, destination or agreed stopping place will be raised to an amount of $5.2,000.00 (Aust.) exclusive of legal fees and costs’.
Honourable senators will note that the phraseology follows closely that which was referred to in the question addressed to Mr Swartz, former Minister for Civil Aviation in the House of Representatives, in regard to activities in the United States of America and the answer furnished by him.
– What is your judgment behind fixing the amount at $52,000?
– That is the Australian equivalent of $US58,000. The first part of the proposed amendment is a proposal of the Opposition that the Government should press to have the injustice rectified by a revision to increase the limits applied and to remove the limits where negligence is proved. Apart from whoever else may say it, we suggest that the Senate should indicate this view to the Government. The latter part of the proposed amendment provides for action similar to that taken by the United States Government. 1 do not wish to deal with the matter at length. I regret that it is not possible to have a very careful examination of this measure and the accompanying measures in other respects. This Bill and the related Bills contain many matters which call for attention. I am rather astonished at some of the provisions included in these Bills. Speaking partly in anticipation, I advise the Senate that if we do succeed in gaining an appropriate system, one of the matters which might be looked at at an appropriate time concerns the other provisions of these Bills. I think certain of them call for attention by this legislative chamber. At the Committee stage of the debate 1 shall move some appropriate amendments relating to the internal position.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Is the motion seconded?
– Yes, I second the motion.
– I think it would probably facilitate proceedings if 1 were to reply generally now, giving such material as I have with me. At the Committee stage, as Senator Murphy has suggested, other material can be used and we will endeavour to obtain answers for the queries that are then raised. I think we all understand the problems involved through the pressing limits on time. I also understand that had this Bill been introduced at the beginning of the session it may have received greater attention by honourable senators who are interested in this field. I understand that we are to deal with the 3 related Bills by separate vote, but we are discussing the general principles in this area. The other 2 Bills are supporting Bills and I understand that the Opposition has no objection to them.
– The proposal which 1 will be making as to the internal position under this Bill I would hope to be moving also in relation to the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Liability) Bill.
– Thank you. There are certain practical realities in this overall matter. Constitutional issues have called for the proposal as such to be submitted to State governments and to receive their approval. This has taken some time, but approval has been obtained. If a change is voted for by the majority of this legislative chamber, the whole measure will once again have to go back to the State governments for consideration and for approval of the change, or disapproval. This is one problem that can be foreseen. I have with me some other material which can be dealt with later on if necessary. It relates to the costs of operators. I said in my second reading speech that it is very likely that an opportunity will occur for this matter to be again examined next year after the conference to which 1 referred has been held. It is to be held early in 1971. In my second reading speech I said:
If the proposed international conference results in a new convention or protocol on carriers’ liability, the Government will consider whether il is appropriate for Australia lo become a party to it, in which case a suitable proposal will be submitted to the Parliament. This will also provide an opportunity to review again the domestic limit of liability in the light of what is decided internationally.
Some comments were made about the position in the United Slates of America. 1 think I should mention that the industry in the United States operates under what are described as the Bermuda Rules. The operation of those Rules really means that it is an open go for all, everywhere, in every way. This is very suitable for a very large country with a tremendous capacity to channel air traffic, both in its own country and outside it. but it has to be very carefully watched as a general proposition by a small country trying to maintain ils competitive position as against ‘.he huge operators. Australia therefore works very closely within the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which is setting down rules for all carriers regardless of size, to which they can conform and remain viable. I think that is a sensible policy for a small country to adopt.
I do not wish lo delay the Senate but 1 think I should deal wilh a couple of other matters. Senator Murphy referred to unlimited liability on proof of negligence by a carrier. The Warsaw Convention principle of liability makes a carrier liable for proven damages irrespective of whether the carrier is negligent. Hence the passenger or his dependants do not have to go through the lengthy and costly process of proving negligence to substantiate a claim for damages as is the case, for instance, in respect of motor car accidents. lt is normally very difficult to prove negligence in an aircraft accident. As this places a passenger in a more advantageous position than a passenger in any other vehicle, the Warsaw Convention gives the carrier some protection by having a limit on the carrier’s liability. This is the principle incorporated in the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ I Liability) Act. If the Act also provided for unlimited damages when negligence is proved, as well as the existing provisions, an air passenger would be in a far more advantageous position than any other passengers and the air carriers would be doubly vulnerable.
– Why should they be so advantaged if it is so difficult to prove negligence? Why should they be so concerned if it is so terribly difficult to prove negligence?
– I am unable to delve into the legal mysteries of this problem wilh Senator Murphy. I am trying to state the practical limitations of the problem as seen by the Department and its advisers, who are nol without some experience in these problems. They would have 2 types of liability, I am told, an automatic one with a limit on damages where damage is not proved, and an unlimited one if negligence is proved. As far as is known, this dual system is not applicable in air transport elsewhere in the world. This proposition was put forward in 1 959 when the legislation was debated in the Senate, lt was not accepted then. That is the information 1 have to give on that.
I think at this stage one might make some extra comments before mentioning Senator Murphy’s general proposal for an amendment. The brief history of ihe carriers’ liability legislation is that the Warsaw convention which deals with this liability in international aviation was made in 1929, and Australia gave effect to this convention in the Carriage of Air Act, 1935. In 1955 the Civil Aviation (Carriers Liability) Act approved ratification of the Hague Protocol to the Warsaw Convention and applied similar principles of liability to domestic airline operators in so far as Commonwealth law was effective. Prior to that, most of the domestic airlines except TransAustralia Airlines contracted out of liability lo passengers but provided free insurance of $4,000. The Act made the airline liable for damages up to a maximum of SI 5,000, a tig ti re which now applies and which it is proposed to increase.
I think the Senate will be able to judge that what one could have done in this case would have been, obviously, to reason that this matter has stood since 1955, that there will be a conference next year in 1971, and to ask: Why not leave the whole thing alone until 1971, see what the international situation discloses and then make such changes as we can live with within the
ICAO structure, our own domestic cost price structure and that of the international competitors of our air carrier? Having said that and having equally made the point that we must watch this situation between ourselves and the States - we have had to get agreement with them - my feeling about this matter is that, while I understand the motives behind Senator Murphy’s proposed amendment and what it intends to express, I would not be able to accept that proposition. It is essentially a proposal for the Government - not the Minister - to take action similar to that taken by the United States Government. The international airlines operating to the United States agreed to raise the limits of liability for their passengers travelling to and from or within the United States. Now, I know, even in the little time I have had in the Department, that we have a different set of operating criteria on all these things from those in the United States. I know that the American authorities work under Bermuda rules which in effect allow them to do anything they feel they want to do, and at times it is difficult to get confirmation within the ICAO structure. We on the other hand, as a small country, work within the ICAO limits and have always done so. This is our great protection in maintaining the competitiveness and the growth potential of our own international air carrier, which is after all not a large one. I think it is ninth in the world. The big ones are big indeed.
This would appear to us to involve a threat by the Government - by this Government - to denounce the Warsaw Convention and the Hague Protocol. I could not agree with that myself. I certainly would not do so. The Government would have to have it recommended to it. I cannot see a case for me to recommend it to the Government. This could not be done without very careful consideration by the Government at all its levels of all the implications.
An international conference will be held early in 1971 and a working parly will leave Australia in a few days to deal with some of the material for the agenda of that conference. This conference early in 1971 will discuss revision of the Warsaw Convention in a number of respects. Australia will undoubtedly participate in that conference. Between now and then, the Government will determine its position on the limit of liability it can support. In the meantime it may be premature to take action as suggested, particularly as the limit for the United States passenger is related to economic circumstances in the USA and would be excessive as a general rule in Australian conditions. Having said that, I think I ought to ask the Senate to decide at this stage on this issue. As Senator Murphy indicated, he wishes to discuss some other matters in Committee. This would undoubtedly give him and any other senator the opportunity to raise matters and for me to endeavour to provide answers. I suggest, however, that I am unable to accept that amendment and even unable to recommend it to the Government.
– I think there is some confusion as to whether the debate has been closed by the Minister at the second reading stage or whether we are speaking on the amendment.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- No; the debate has not been closed.
– The Minister spoke to the amendment. He was hoping it might be closed.
– Do not make that suggestion. I do not do that. I was trying to indicate the Government’s intention early, so that the Senate would know what it intends to do.
– I thought the Minister hoped that if nobody else got up, the debate on the second reading might end.
– No. It is open to the Senate to continue the debate now or to debate it further in Committee.
– 1 wish to speak very shortly. The points Senator Murphy raised are of interest and come to immediate attention when the provisions of the civil aviation legislation are being considered, and certainly when amendments to it come before the Senate. It is proper to compliment the Minister upon introducing this measure so soon after he has assumed his portfolio, and in taking some action in these areas where for quite a long time there has been this outstanding problem which has called for some action. As I see them, the points raised by Senator Murphy are not as clear-cut as he put them. I appreciate that with this amendment a new concept has entered the field. It was not there before. Previously the carriers’ liability provisions of this legislation related to what one might describe as commercial airlines operating throughout Australia and, to an extent, internationally. As a result of this Bill, the chartered operators will also be bought within the scope of the legislation. That introduces a distinctly new element. There will be small aircraft concerning which questions of negligence may be more easily identifiable readily and may, by the very nature pf things, more readily arise than one would suspect would be the case with commercial airlines. Accordingly the problems which arise from a limit of liability will become more readily appreciated. Senator Murphy said that surely if there is any injury experienced as the result of an aircraft accident involving the major commercial lines, it stands to reason that it must have happened as a consequence of negligence. I think he said the old doctrine of res ipsa loquitur would apply. I am not sure it is quite as easy as he said, though I appreciate it is an area of debate upon which opinions will differ. For my part, I would have thought it would be very difficult to establish that an aircraft crash was due to negligence because of the difficulty of pinpointing any area in which there had been some omission or some act committed which should not have occurred.
– Res ipsa loquitur might supply the answer.
– As I said, that is the way in which Senator Murphy approaches this. On the other hand, as I have always understood that doctrine, it arises only where the only conceivable explanation, the only reasonable explanation, is that what occurred must have occurred as the result of someone’s negligence, someone’s omission. I think it is fair to suppose that in the case of a number of aircraft-
– I think you are taking it a little further than you should.
– I am putting it as I appreciate the position. With a number of aircraft accidents one is unable to say whether they are due to negligence or to factors over which nobody has any control or, if there is control which may be exercised, whether in all the circumstances that control has not been properly exercised. Notwithstanding that, accidents happen. I agree with the Minister that it would be difficult to establish negligence, and I think that is the basis of the absolute liability and the limit of damages which is to be found in these Conventions. I appreciate that this principle was established many years ago and that views may have changed in the meantime but, as 1 say, there must have been some good reason why this principle was adopted and generally accepted throughout the world, although I think it is difficult to establish that negligence did in fact occur. If that be the case, surely it is a fair thing that whenever an aircraft passenger is injured a measure of damages should be available to him. That sort of situation applies in regard to the relationship between employer and employee as expressed in workmen’s compensation legislation.
– But he has his civil remedies then.
– I agree wilh Senator Rae that there are civil remedies, to which I will come in a moment, but I think the basic fact is that what is involved in the situation of the passenger of the aircraft operator is comparable with the position which exists between employer and employee as expressed in workmen’s compensation legislation. I think this whole situation becomes considerably changed when one considers the operation of charter operators. The provisions of this Act will now apply to charter operators: as I understand it, these people have been brought in because it has been observed that they are using the general principles of contract available to them and contracting out of liability by limiting their liability if any accident should occur. I should have thought it was appropriate that the Government should regard this as a field in which it should impose the same son of principle as applies in regard to commercial airlines. One result is that if a person is injured in a private or charter aircraft accident he will find that, even though he can demon.strate negligence, he will not be able 10 proceed for negligence but will simply have a claim for damages, which damages will be fixed at 830,000.
– That is. a 530,000 maximum.
– That is, if he could show that his damages might be §60,000 or $100,000 he would not get more than $30,000. On the other hand, if he can show a loss of only $15,000, that is the sum he will receive. This is an area to which I believe some attention should be directed. After all, much of the publicity which has emanated from the airlines wit’hin the jurisdiction of the Minister’s Department suggests that it is safer to fly than to drive. If that be so, it seems anomalous that if one is injured in a motor car accident one is entitled to recover from the defendant or the defendant’s insurers whatever be the amount of damages one has suffered. Some people have received shocking injuries and have received correspondingly large awards of damages. 1 am not suggesting for one moment that the plaintiffs in such actions are not entitled to receive these large sums, but if a person can receive damages of $100,000 or even larger amounts as a result of a motor car accident I do not see why a person involved in an accident in what is called a safer means of travel should be limited to damages of $30,000. This appears to me to be the vexing area.
I can appreciate that, generally speaking, there should be a limit such as is imposed by the current provisions of the Act in regard to commercial airlines. I can also appreciate that at the present time there is good reason why that limit should be raised to $30,000. However, I find it difficult to understand why, if a person can establish negligence in that situation, he should not be entitled to pursue his claim and recover such amount as he can show he is entitled to receive on an assessment of damages. It may be that from the very nature of things those claims would not have been for more, but sometimes they would have been.
– Can I suggest something that might fortify what you are saying? Under the Convention there are the 2 remedies. He can sue for his full damages if he can show that he suffered the damage as a result of something done by the carrier or his servant or agent, without intent to cause damage or recklessly with knowledge that the damage would probably result, and there is a provision about the servant.
– I take it Senator Murphy is referring to a section of the original Act?
– Yes, Article 13 in the Principal Act at page 30.
– That does not apply to the Australian legislation.
– 1 am speaking about the general principle of the legislation. There is a provision-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Order!
– 1 am indebted to Senator Murphy for his fortification but I am not alive to the point he is making, which he can make in the Committee stage. For my part, 1 would have thought there were problems in this area which ought to receive attention. As I understand the Minister, the revision of the Warsaw Convention and the Hague Protocol is about to take place within the next year or 18 months, and it follows from that that there will be further measures brought into this Parliament. I hope this is an area that will receive the Government’s attention, and the attention of the Minister if he should be present at the Convention which discusses these matters, because I certainly feel that the position needs rectification. In a way I regret that Senator Murphy moved his amendment at the length at which he has moved it. If he had left it at the first 4 lines or so, in which he says that the Senate is of opinion that the limits of liability under International Convention are unjust and therefore requests that the Government take action to have the injustice rectified, 1 would have been surprised if that did not command the general acceptance of the Senate. That indicates that there is a situation that we feel ought to be rectified at some future stage.
– It is open to you to move an amendment to my amendment.
– I appreciate what Senator Murphy has said, but I realise one should take sparingly opportunities of that character which are offered. I think what the Minister has said on the amendment is a general approach, and I support it, but I do feel that the expression of concern at the existing provision is an appropriate expression, because it would reflect what my view is.
– We support the Bill, and we believe that the
Minister has been properly directed. 1 think there is no need for me to add anything to the comments already made, but rather I will refer to the attitude that we adopt on the amendment. We are not prepared at this stage to support the amendment, because actually it does not eradicate the evil as outlined by Senator Murphy at all but merely extends to some extent the sum of money that may be gained, and this still could be, of course, quite inadequate for a person injured in an air crash, for instance. We all know that in the modern type of aircraft the possibility of injury is not as great as the possibility of death, so we could say that in the circumstances all the amendment does in the finish is merely suggest by a more complicated and probably difficult method of negotiation that the Government should set out not to eradicate the wrongness of the principle that in fact there should be a limitation on the amount of damages for an injury but merely to lift it by some figure. This would reflect itself in tie airways’ fares, because they would have to pay higher premiums to meet higher demands and, with the greater risk that may be thrown on to an insurance company, there would be an increase in fares. There is nothing to stop an air traveller from insuring quite separately from the insurance automatically taken for him by the airline company that happens to be transporting him. I think that Senator Murphy would agree with me when I say that we would be kidding ourselves if we believed that the company was actually paying for the insurance. The premium for the insurance must reflect itself in the fares that the airline charges. Therefore this amendment, if it were carried, would succeed only in transferring the liability to the customer to insure himself for a greater amount than that in which he is involved at the moment. That would be the practical effect of the amendment.
Let us have a look at what the amendment might do, without receiving any further information than that which we have before us at the moment. If it were attempted - and indeed strongly attempted - to implement Senator Murphy’s suggestion, to the extent that the Government believed that it had to do what the amendment says it should do, where would it finish, particularly with the one Australian international airline? There would be rare occasions on which somebody who booked to travel internationally by Qantas Airways Ltd travelled on a Qantas aeroplane for more than one section of the journey. This would mean, of course, that Qantas would have to go into all the ramifications of its agreements, even those with internal airlines in other countries. People might fly on a Qantas ticket. They might fly from Athens to Rome on a Greek internal aircraft that happened to be going to Rome. They might finish up travelling on aircraft from Swiss Air, Air France or the Italian airline, although they had booked the travel with Qantas in Australia. We see great ramifications involved in the amendment.
– I do not think that follows.
– The Australian Government may have negotiated an international agreement for Qantas while America, which has a far larger population than Australia, may have been able to negotiate a separate agreement because American airlines may be selling thousands of airline tickets a year while Qantas may be selling hundreds of tickets. Probably the ratio is far greater than that. America’s economic power in the airline industry may have enabled it to negotiate a separate agreement without destroying its airlines. But as I see it, without some evidence to the contrary, without any expert information coming from the airways I should have thought that Qantas could find itself in a great deal of trouble in offering to Australians the type of service that it wants to offer in competition with other international airlines. I should like to hear Opposition senators on this matter before I made a decision, and we are not able to hear them this afternoon.
If I thought that we were abrogating the right of Australian airline travellers to receive adequate insurance, I would say all right, the matter is serious enough for us perhaps to contemplate the steps which Senator Murphy suggests, but that is not the situation as it exists at the moment. If any of us feel that the coverage which we automatically receive from travelling on an international airline is inadequate there is nothing in the world to prevent us from paying extra premium to insure ourselves against the possibilities of incurring some injury. This, of course, virtually is all that the amendment would achieve. But instead of our paying the premium ourselves it would be mandatory to pay a higher price for the airline ticket that we purchase, which would include the amount of the premium.
Everybody will agree with the principles which Senator Murphy has outlined, but the amendment seeks only to increase the amount of insurance. Perhaps it makes the position fairer, if one puts it that way, but it does not eradicate the injustice. All that the amendment does is to seek to increase the amount to $52,000. I have seen some of the damages that have been awarded in motor car accident, cases which 1 do not think are comparable with airline accident cases because third party insurance and comprehensive insurance on motor cars are entirely different to airline accident insurance. But even if we adopted the amount of $52,000 which is provided in the amendment, it would not be very much for the type of injuries which one could receive in an airline crash. If one were injured as badly as one usually is in an aeroplane crash, the difference between $30,000 and $52,000 would not mean a great deal.
I think we all would accept the principles that were outlined by Senator Murphy. However, we do not consider that his amendment is a very practical proposition at this time without far more evidence than has been disclosed to us to indicate that it would be possible to negotiate such an agreement without damaging what is a very real Australian asset - our own international airline. We believe that the Bill itself is an absolute necessity. We compliment the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) so early in his career as Minister for giving attention to this matter and bringing down a Bill which, if it does not go as far as Senator Murphy wants it to go, at least provides for a situation which is much better than that which exists today. We will support the Bill.
– I too support the Bill and oppose the amendment. But in speaking to the Bill I want to make a few remarks, which are not so dissimilar from a number of the remarks made by Senator Murphy and other speakers, to show that there is no great difference between the attitudes being adopted. 1 think that it is more a difference in what steps are required to achieve a result. i believe that the present limit of $15,000 is so unreal as to be urgently in need of amendment. I have felt this way for a sufficient length of time to has-e asked a number of questions, of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) and of his predecessor, as to when some review and some alteration was going to take place. i have been informed, that consideration was being given to the question. Now we see the fruits of that consideration. The limit is being increased from si 5,000 to $30,000, which is a very substantial and highly desirable increase, but i think that it can be regarded only as an interim increase, as the Minister pointed out in his second reading speech. As has been mentioned previously, the Minister said:
If the proposed international conference results in a new convention or protocol on carriers’ liability, the Government will consider whether il is appropriate for Australia. to become a parly to il, in which case a similar proposal will bc submitted to the Parliament.
The important part follows:
This will also provide an opportunity to review again the domestic limit of liability in the light of what is decided internationally. i would be the last to believe that we should in any way hamper the Australian Government’s ability and facility to negotiate freely in the international field in relation to this problem. For that reason I believe that it is undesirable to approve Senator Murphy’s amendment because 1 think the Government should be given the utmost freedom in its negotiations. But as soon as the negotiations have been concluded, I trust - and 1 understand this from what the Minister has said - that this matter is likely to come back before Parliament. In fact, it will come back before Parliament. Then will be an appropriate time for us to give final consideration to the question as to what is the most desirable amount. At the moment $30,000 is better than $15,000. and I am happy that the figure is to be doubled. 1 do not like to do anything which will in any way hamper the Government’s position in relation to the international situation which I understand to be complicated. Qantas Airways Ltd is operating in countries such as the United States where the value of awards is very high as opposed to those awarded in the less developed countries where the amount likely to be awarded to an insured person would never be s 15,000, let alone $30,000 or $52,000. So there is a necessity in an international agreement such as this to consider all the various possibilities of the likely liabilities of the various airlines and to reach something which is a fair compromise. For that reason I do not support Senator Murphy’s amendment. But I do want to make a few remarks about this problem.
First of all, we have the situation, which has been discussed by Senator Murphy and Senator Greenwood, in particular, where the legislation has, since its inception, taken away the common law right to sue for damages for negligence. Where a person can prove negligence in the normal situation he can get judgment for an unlimited amount of damages, and the amount he can recover depends upon whether the person he sues is insured or not or whether he is completely insured or whether he is limited in insurance. But I remind honourable senators that it is not many years past since we achieved the result that in motor car accidents there were not to be limits imposed cn the amount of insurance, awarded. For a long time there were limits on third party insurance, and there were limits on comprehensive insurance in relation to passengers.
There was the situation a few years ago where a person could obtain an award - to take a figure from the air - of $30,000 for being a paraplegic, but he could not recover that $30,000. The amount that he could recover varied from State to State. It might have been $5,000 or $10,000. So far as 1 know those limits at last have been done away with and people can recover adequate amounts of damages. They can recover from the insurance company the full amount of the. award which is assessed bv the court. But here we have a different situation. We are taking away the right to sue at common law.. Instead we have a situation where a person does not have to prove liability: we only have an assessment of damages. I think it is acceptable that there must be some quid pro quo. I think it is acceptable that where we take away the likely defendant’s right to defend an action we must not at the same time impose on him, certainly not of necessity, an unrestricted liability. I think it is not unreasonable to say that we can look at a situation where we take away the right to defend; we can look at it from the point of view of saying that we will impose some ultimate maximum amount which will have to be paid.
– You seem to be satisfied that the right to sue does not exist under this Act.
– Thank you for the interjection, Senator Greenwood. So far as I know, this question has never been tested. So far as I know, the common opinion amongst the legal profession in Australia is that this is not one which is a good punt, if I can put it that way. It is one which is an argument that could be put in extremis. But there are not many litigants, particularly in view of the fact that the average situation in an aircraft accident is that there are widows to deal with. There are not many widows who for the faint possibility of succeeding in showing that they can bring an action for negligence are going to say, T will bring that action and risk the total costs of that action’, as opposed to accepting damages up to the limit which is provided without proof of negligence. I think that whatever the possibilities may be, the reality is that nobody, except in the most exceptional circumstances, is likely to test that question, and the legislation on the face of it does exclude an action for negligence.
– Perhaps we should go back to camels.
– I only remind the honourable senator of the saying that it was a committee that produced the camel instead of the horse. But even the camel train had its accidents, I understand. Let us have a look for a moment at this question of how real is $30,000 as an absolute maximum, even bearing in mind what I have just said about some quid pro quo for the fact that one does not have to prove negligence. In using the table of present value of economic loss which is published in the Australian Law Journal, we find that $30,000 is the equivalent of the basic wage for 20 years.
– Based on the 5% table.
– Yes, which notwithstanding recent events I think is still more real to use for long term purposes than the 6% one recently published. If we have a situation of a widow claiming damages under these provisions, unless she falls into a category of being the widow of someone who was on not much more than the basic wage and who was over 45 years of age, the $30,000 is unreal. One can imagine that the average person who is likely to be injured in an aircraft accident and who has a widow who claims, is likely to be earning a great deal more than the basic wage and may very well be substantially under the age of 45. I believe that$30,000 is so unreal asto require very serious reconsideration at the first possible opportunity; but as 1 said earlier, I accept completely what the Minister has said as to why nothing should be done at this stage. However, I want to make these remarks because I believe that the matter is going to be reconsidered and I think it is useful for us to discuss this subject at the moment for the purposes of later reconsideration.
-If there were any negligence, such a person would carry pretty heavy other insurance. It is not quite the case you are presenting.
– That may or may not be so. There are many young people who find it very difficult to carry much other insurance, and there is this situation, as I am sure any other lawyer in practice will agree, that the vast majority of people who travel in public transport believe that they are insured and that they can claim. They may not be justified in so believing; mostly they are not justified in so believing in relation to air transport.
– There is a limitation even on our railways.
– The average person, before undertaking travel by car, rail, air or ship does not read the small print on the ticket to see what the insurance limit is. People understand that there is insurance provided, and they understand that they can claim in those circumstances if they are injured. Sometimes injured persons or the relatives of deceased persons get the greatest shock of their lives when they find out that there is a limit and a relatively low limit on the amount that can be claimed. So there is a duty either to provide a reasonable limit or else to make sure by way of notices, by way of publicity, by way of education, that members of the public do know that it is necessary for them to take out some extra form of insurance. 1 have discussed with various people concerned with the administration of the airlines in Australia the question of the press the button insurance tickets which are available in the United States of America, and it seems that there are many undesirable elements in relation to that type of insurance. It has led to many deaths and is perhaps something that we should try to avoid.
– A person can insure his wife and then put a bomb in ihe aircraft.
– I know that Senator Murphy says that in jest, but unfortunately it is all too true, for this sort of thing has been shown to have happened in a very considerable number of cases where this type of insurance is readily available.
-It might be vice versa, with the wife rather than the husband.
– Whichever way it is. a lot of innocent people are killed as a result. I do not believe that it is desirable to adopt the attitude They can take out insurance, therefore they should.’
– 1 do not suggest that; I am only saying that as an alternative that is still available.
– I agree completely, but practically speaking, people tend not to realise this sort of thing and tend not to take out adequate cover. I realise that you would do so. Senator Little, and I certainly would do so, but there are many people who have not thought about this side of it.
– You will also agree that people will have to pay more if the insurance limit is raised.
– Yes, butI think we should look at the figures involved. Without quoting exact figures, I understand that the increase to $30,000 will mean that the total premiums paid by the two major airlines will constitute, at the rate of S30.000. about half of one per cent of their operating costs. If the figure is increased to $50,000, the percentage of total operating costs applicable to the insurance will still be very small. So the effect on fares will be minimal; in fact, it would be a matter of cents only. I do not think the problem about passing on the cost is a real problem. 1 think that a responsible legislature trying to look to the general interests of the people would say that for the sake of a few cents extra on an airline fare it would be better to give people an adequate cover.
As I have said before, there is one very good reason why this amendment should not be agreed to at the moment, and that is that at this stage Australia is in the position of having to negotiate in the international sphere and 1 do not think that any encumberance should be placed on Australia’s freedom to negotiate. For this reason, I oppose the amendment. It has been said by Senator Greenwood and others that we have the possibility of recovering damages without proving negligence, and negligence in relation to airline accidents is a somewhat mythical situation. They say it would be difficult in the average circumstances to prove negligence. With that I disagree. This is an oft repeated myth, I feel, and if one has a look at the accidents which have taken place in Australia, say since the end of the Second World War,, in relation to airlines then there would be very few in which it would not have been possible either to sue the airlines or the Department of Civil Aviation, or both, or to rely upon the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. There may have been one or two, but the number would have been very small.
An argument that is used against the preservation of a right to sue in negligence is that it creates a delay, and this I would like to rebut briefly if I may. I feel that even though it may involve a delay which will amount lo the difference between the time taken at present for the assessment of damages - say from some months to a- year - and the time taken for an assessment of liability and damages - say from a year to 2 years or perhaps even more - that delay is likely to appear negligible once one receives at the end adequate damages. The delay is short when one thinks that perhaps for another 20, 30, or 40 years the person concerned will have to live with the results of the accident for which he receives those adequate damages. I do not think it is any argument at all to say that if we retain a right to sue in negligence we are creating a position of undue delay. I think it is much more important to look at it from the point of view of saying: ‘Well, do we want a scheme where we do not have to have the worry of negligence at all and we can get reasonable compensation in the light of current awards, or do we want to have the situation where we must prove negligence - we can - and then get an unlimited award?
If the situation is as I understand it - and I mentioned this earlier this afternoon - that other forms of public transport, in particular road transport have been able to reach a situation where unlimited damages are available to persons who are injured as a result of that transport system then I do not know why our very refined air transport system should not also be able to undertake such a system of compensation. I notice from the figures produced in the report of the Department of Civil Aviation for 1968-69 that Australia’s record in relation to passenger fatalities on scheduled airline services is very substantially lower than the world rate. The Australian rate is less than one third of the world rate. 1 ‘do not think that Australia could say the same in relation to road transport. In fact, I think Australia’s record in relation to road transport is shocking. If we can have a system whereby people can be adequately compensated in relation to road transport, with our shocking rate, then surely as a community we can afford to provide adequate compensation to people in the air transport field where our record is excellent? I do not by any means want to say that this is a bonus for excellence or an imposition as a result of excellence, but it means that the rate which is likely to be charged by insurance companies to Australian airlines with their record is likely to be substantially lower than the rate of insurance which is charged to the airlines in other parts of the world that have a much poorer safety record.
When Senator Murphy was speaking earlier I did interject when he gave the impression that perhaps he did not accept the principle of no fault liability in this type of assessment. I was interested to hear that he does accept this as a desirable objective. I think that this is another reason why we should not say, as perhaps some have thought at times that we should preserve the right of the common law action in this field. It is one which has perhaps moved a little ahead of the rest of the field of compensation for injuries. We have liability without fault in this field. The next step in this field is not to go back but to go forward by making a reasonable amount of damages available for the people who can make use of the provision of liability without fault.
In summary. I accept the word of the Minister when he says that this is a matter where it would not be desirable for Australia to be hampered by any such resolution as has been moved by Senator Murphy. Notwithstanding the fact that I think most of us agree that it is desirable that so as soon as possible consideration should be given to raising this limit to a realistic level, and bearing in mind that the cost of doing so will be an infinitesimally small percentage of the operating costs of the airlines and will not be imposing an undue imposition upon them, I urge the Minister to take the first available opportunity to give further consideration to this as soon as the international negotiations have been concluded.
That the words proposedto be added (Senator Wriedt’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator T. L. Bull)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I now move:
At end of motion add - but the Senate considers that the International Conventions should be revised to increase the limits applied without proof of negligence and to remove the limits where negligence is proved’.
There are one or two pointsI wish to raise in consequence to the previous discussion, and in particular the matter of unlimited liability. As I understand it, any airline operator or charter operator is at liberty to make unlimited his normal liability policies if he so desires by the payment of an additional premium. I believe that this is normal practice. I am at a loss to understand why this cannot be applied in the requirements under the Actit was Senator Rae, I think, who said it was a myth that the cause of airline accidents and the responsibility for negligence cannot be determined. I think Department of Civil Aviation findings indicate otherwise: they can with reasonable accuracy be determined. It is also a myth that flying today is safer than driving a motor cur. I think it has been disproved, particularly in the United States where the situation is roughly comparable with that in Australia, thatflying is ever so much more dangerous.
– They are running into one another.
– Yes, they have that problem. We have a similar situation here, so it is obvious that adequate cover should be provided for people using airlines. Reference was made to the Workers Compensation Act, where unlimited liability may be extended to provide a greater cover for employees. It seems to me that there is no reason why unlimited liability should not apply in aviation also.
The other aspect on which I want to touch is that raised by Senator Greenwood, namely the extension of this Act to cover charter operators. This seems to me to be an important provision, because we know that the incidence of accidents in charter operations is considerably higher than in normal regular public transport, and the requirements of charter operators, both in the operations and qualifications of their pilots and maintenance requirements, are not as high as those of regular public transport.
As to whether sufficient consideration has been given to the impact on the insurance market of this extension to charter operations, the Minister in his second reading speech referred to an increase in premiums of the order of $250,000. How was this figure arrived at? At present, for example, the insurance rate on RPT aircraft is $90 a seat a year; for charter aircraft I understand it is S105. So, when this is absorbed into the overall cost structure, as far as insurance is concerned, we find that, with the number of charter aircraft in Australia, this alone will exceed the $250,000, without even taking into account normal airline operations. This suggested to me that perhaps there is room for more consideration to be given to the whole question of charter operations, and I hope the Department will give some thought to upgrading certain requirements of the operations of charter aircraft.
– I have no intention of closing the discussion; I want only to provide information. Senator Wriedt has raised, a couple of issues and I will give him the information about this. In the second reading speech to which he refers, there is an estimation of the increase in premium cost. It reads:
This will cost the airlines about $230,000 per annum in additional insurance premiums.
So that the reference in the second reading speech is only to the cost to the domestic airlines of Australia; it did not have regard to the estimated costs that might accrue to charter operators and commuter operators, that being a little more difficult to assess. But, as the honourable senator has asked for this, it may help if I give him some figures from my notes. This concerns the domestic operators. The cost of insuring against the present limited liability of $15,000 is about $260,000 per annum for the domestic airlines. If the limit is raised to $30,000, this cost will double to $520,000 per annum, and there are various calculations beyond that. For instance, for a limit of $50,000 the total premium cost is $760,000 per annum.
Senator Rae referred to the fact that this did not add up to a lot of money expressed against the sort of revenue figures of the airlines, but I have it here that on a basis of $30,000, as the Bill provides, the total added cost to Trans-Australia Airlines would be 11% of its 1968-69 profit and 12.5% on a $50,000 limit. In particular, charter operators, of whom there are 500 licensed in Australia, it is estimated that the additional insurance costs when, they are brought under the provisions of the Act will be about 1% of revenue for a $30,000 limit or at least 10% to 15% of the gross profit. The financial burden will be correspondingly greater with a higher limit. Therefore, it will not be a light matter, as the honourable senator has suggested, for the domestic and charter operators having regard to the stress it will place upon their profit figures. I do not think that I need to canvass again - although I will do so if honourable senators want me to - the objections the Government has to the amendment which has been proposed by Senator Wriedt. I can canvass the same ground if honourable senators wish me to do so, but I do not think that there is any need for me to do so. It seems to me to be running ahead of events. I do not think that the amendment is necessary. Accordingly, I can find no reason to accept it.
– Perhaps the Senate should be informed of what appears in the Warsaw Convention. Article XIII of the Second Schedule to the principal Act provides that paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 25 of the Warsaw Convention shall be deleted and replaced by the following:
The limits of liability specified in Article 22 shall not apply if it is proved that the damage resulted from an act or omission of the carrier, his servants or agents, done with intent to cause damage or recklessly and with knowledge that damage would probably result; provided that, in the case of such an act or omission of a servant or agent, it is also proved that he was acting within the scope of his employment.
In other words, under the international convention there is the possibility of suing for damages. One can either take the amount which is provided - the limited amount - without proof of negligence or sue.
– The right to sue is fairly limited.
– The right to sue is hedged around with these difficulties. One has to prove, in effect, that something was done recklessly and with knowledge that damage would probably result. I remind the Senate that even in this instance it would be possible to establish a case. I know of a case in which 2 passengers sued a great international airline.
– it is hard to think of one case which has occurred in Australia in the past 20 years.
– These passengers would have established their cases. They did not have to be put to proof of it, but they would have established it. This example was in relation to a serious accident in which a number of Australian passengers were involved.
– With the Australian control as it is, it is hard to imagine when this provision would apply.
– This matter was external to Australia, lt did not involve Australia’s national airline. But it shows that, in principle, even the Convention recognises that in some circumstances there should be the right to sue and there should be unlimited damages. Surely if one can show that the act was done with intent to cause damage or recklessly and with knowledge that damage would probably result the limit, on damages should be removed. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) said that there would be difficulties in demonstrating negligence. If this could be proved why should the limit on damages not be removed? Why should it be restricted? We should not approach the matter on the basis that the Convention provides a system whereby there is no need to prove damage to obtain a limited amount. It has been conceded that there will be circumstances in which one should be able to sue for the full amount of damages. The intent of the amendment is to provide that a person will be able to get the full damages if he seeks and takes upon himself the burden of showing that the damage to him - in the event of death the burden would be placed upon his relatives - was occasioned by actual negligence. The Opposition is of the opinion that this is a desirable result to achieve internationally, as well as in Australia. Now that the problems which were suggested in relation to taking the action which was taken in the United Slates of America have been removed the Senate should support Senator Wriedt’s amendment.
– I oppose the amendment. To say the least, I was very surprised to hear Senator Murphy speaking in the way he did in support of the amendment because if ever there were a retrograde step in the field of the payment of compensation to victims of transport accidents it would be to revert back to the aspect which Senator Murphy referred to of having to prove negligence - or the corollary of that which is to leave it open to people to prove negligence and obtain damages. I should have thought that the general legal thought in the world is moving towards the payment of damages and compensation without having to prove liability. Admittedly the corollary to this course is the taking away of the right to sue when negligence can be proved. I think it would be a most retrograde step to adopt this amendment. In at least one field of transport Ihe situation is being developed where adequate compensation can be recovered by people without having to go to the trouble, expense and delay of proving negligence.
– ls it not involved in raising the limits?
– But the Leader of the Opposition has added a second limb and the second limb is the part to which I object at the moment. I think it is going backwards instead of forwards.
– If the honourable senator thinks that there should not be any limit at all and that there should not be any need to prove negligence why does he not move an amendment to that effect?
– For the very reason, as I said when speaking to an earlier amendment, that I think that this is the wrong time to move any such amendment.
– it is always the wrong time, lt was the wrong time in 1959 and 1962, it is the wrong time in 1970 and it will be the wrong time in 1975 if the Government is still in office.
– The situation at the moment is that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) has said that Australia is engaged in international negotiations and there are problems in relation to those negotiations which are very serious insofar as Australia’s participation in world air transport is concerned. I would not like the Senate to do anything which would hamper Australia’s position. But I accept the Ministers undertaking that this matter will be reviewed as soon as possible. 1 believe that the Senate can accept the Minister’s undertaking that this will happen rather than take the retrograde step to whichI have referred. Most of the progressive parts of the world, including a number of the provinces of Canada and areas of the United States of America, as well as many of the eminent lawyers of Australia are developing, implementing or advocating that we get to the stage where one can recover compensation without proof of fault. This amendment is a most unfortunate development. Its acceptance would be a retrograde step. I oppose the amendment.I oppose it with all the strength I can muster. I hope and trust that no honourable senator in this chamber will say that we should go backwards in relation to this problem and not forwards.
Thatthe words proposedto be added (Senator Wreidt’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator T. L. Bull)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to move some amendments which in some instances involve the insertion of new clauses. Copies of the proposed amendments have been circulated. It may be desirable that the proposed amendments be dealt with together. I will indicate the purpose of the proposals. They seek firstly to provide in this legislation that in Australia no limitation be placed upon liability where actions for negligence have been commenced. Some of the proposed amendments relate to the principal Act and it might be convenient to look at the Act. Section 29 of the Act reads, in part: (1.) Where this Part applies to the carriage nf a passenger, the carrier is liable under this Part, and not otherwise-
If provision is to be made for action otherwise, the words ‘and not otherwise’ need to be deleted. The second proposed amendment provides for changes in respect of clauses 6a, 6b and 6c. It is proposed that the following new sub-section be added to section 32 of the principal Act: (3.) The preceding provisions of this section apply in relation to liability of a carrier (including liability in respect of baggage) under a law (including the common law) -
There may be a liability under a statute and not the common law: other than this Part arising out of carriage of a passengerto which this Part applies in like manner us they apply in relation to liability in accordance wilh this Part.
The preceding sub-sections of section 32 relate to agreements tending to relieve a carrier of liability; that is, the contracting out provisions. In other words, our purpose is to prevent a carrier such as a charter operator seeking to contract out of liability by printing advice to that effect on the backs of the tickets. As honourable senators are aware, all the carrier needs is a good lawyer and a printer to print the tickets.
– Some lawyers are better than others.
– But a passenger does not have much choice or say in the matter. It seems to the Opposition that whatever is the law in these respects ought to be the law generally.
– Senator Murphy, as it seems to be your intention to take all the proposed amendments together, I suggest that you seek the leave of the Senate to do so.
– Yes. I ask for leave of the Senate.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– We seek to have section 33 of the principal Act repealed, and that is also a consequential amendment. I do not think it is necessary to refer to it in detail. Sub-section (1.) provides that in an action against a servant or agent, that servant or agent can avail himself of the limits of liability. If they are to be removed, the sub-section has to be deleted. Sub-section (2.) of section 35 suggests that the liability is in substitution for any civil liability, and that also should be deleted. The amendment which is proposed, apart from inserting the new clauses, is to insert a provision that the principle in this Part that other liabilities are to be excluded is altered and in substance other liabilities will not be excluded. Those provisions’ ought to carry into effect what has been proposed - that the position in Australia ought to be that the limits of liability should not apply so as to prevent a person bringing an action under the common law or by statute other than as provided by the Part. I do not wish to traverse the argument. I think it has been sufficiently explained.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking Precedence of Government Business
Debate resumed from 4 June (vide page 2074), on motion by Senator Murphy:
The following Standing Committees be appointed, to be known, unless the Senate otherwise orders, as - (a)T he Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence;
And on motion by Senator Anderson:
Unless otherwise ordered, the annual Estimates, as contained in the Papers presenting the Particulars of Proposed Expenditure, shall on motion be referred for examination and report to 5 Committees, which are appointed by this resolution. The Committees shall deal with the Departmental Estimates as follows:
Estimates Committee A -
Department of Supply
Prime Minister’s Department
Department of the Cabinet office
Department of Trade and Industry
Department of External Affairs
Department of the Treasury
Department of Defence
Estimates Committee B -
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 ofthe Interior
Department of National Development
Department of Shipping and Transport
Department of Customs and Excise
Estimates Committee E -
Department of Air
Department of Primary Industry
Department of the Army
Department of the Navy
Unless otherwise ordered, each Committee shall consist of eight Senators, comprising four Government Senators, three Opposition Senators, and one Senator from the minority groups lo be appointed by a subsequent resolution.
Each Committee shall elect a Government member as Chairman.
The Chairman may from time to time appoint another member of the Committee to be Deputy-Chairman and the member so appointed shall act as Chairman of the Committee at any time when the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the Committee.
In the event of an equality of voting, the Chairman, or the Deputy-Chairman when acting as Chairman, shall have a casting vote.
Three members of a Committee shall constitute a quorum.
A Senator, though not a member of a Committee, may attend and participate in its deliberations, and question witnesses unless the Committee orders otherwise, bnt shall not vote.
The Committees shall sit in open session, unless otherwise ordered, may sit during any adjournment or suspension of the Senate, and may adjourn from time to time.
In considering the Estimates, the Chairman shall, without motion, call on divisions of expenditure in the order decided upon and declare the proposed expenditure open for examination.
The Committees may ask for explanations from Ministers of State in the Senate, or officers, relatingtothe items of proposed expenditure.
1) The resolution referring the Estimates to the Committees may fix a day for the reporting of their proceedings to the Senate, by which day the final Reports of the Committees shall be brought up.
The Report of a Committee shall be presented tothe Senate by the Chairman and, if considered necessary, may propose the further consideration of any particular items. A reservation by any member of a Committee may be added to the Report.
The Reports fromthe Committees shall be received by the Senate without debate and their consideration deferred until consideration of the Appropriation Bills.
A Hansard report of Committee proceedings shall be circulated, in manner similar to the daily Senate Hansard, as Soon as practicable after each day’s proceedings.
The foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, shall have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
And on motion by Senator Gair:
The Senate accepts and approves the principle of standing committees of the Senate appropriate to various areas of departmental administration.
The specific committees to be established be those recommended in the Standing Orders Committee’s report of 17th March 1970.
The actual establishment of the total number of committees, pursuant to that recommendation, be done over a period of not less than 12 months and not before 3 of the said Committees selected by the Senate for first establishment have actually operated and report of the operation of these Committees his been presented to the Senate by the President.
That are portbe presented to the Senate by the Presidentnot later than the commencement of the firstsession of 1971 as to the administrative, accommodation and skill, requirements for the establishment of the total number of committees proposed pursuant to the report of the Standing Orders Committee.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Before the Senate resumes the debit te on standing committees I wish to remind the Senate that the Standing Orders were suspended to allow matters relating to the establishment of standing committees to be considered concurrently. Pursuant to that suspension of Standing Orders there are 3 matters before the Senate. They are not amendments one of the other. At the conclusion of the debate a question will be put on each motion in turn.
– by leave - It may happen that if one motion is decided it will not be necessary to proceed with the others. However, I think we can sort that out at the end of the debate.
– Last week I spoke for a brief time and indicated to the Senate my support in principle for the various proposals which had been put before it. I think on all sides of the Senate there is agreement that what we are seeking is a more effective and efficient operation of the Senate and a better use of the qualifications of senators. There is little doubt that the pressures of Parliament today have increased enormously, as have its - complexities. I think the strength of Parliament is its ability to meet changing conditions and bring into effect the reforms necessary in these circumstances. I think ever since Magna Carta one of the great challenges has been the power of Parliament over the Executive, and this has been a constant battle. It was a constant battle in the early days of the United Kingdom, when it was the power of the king and the power of Parliament. 1 always remember that in 1908, which is in reasonably modern times, Sir Winston Churchill referred - when he was out of office, I might add - to the challenge of the power of the Executive over the power of Parliament. 1 think we are all conscious of the need at all times to ensure that the power of Parliament is the supreme power. This is a problem that has exercised the minds of legislatures throughout the world. As Mr Odgers and the Standing Orders Committee in its report prepared for us have reminded us, many legislatures in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada and New Zealand have adopted, in ways to suit their own conditions, the committee system. No other country has the same ‘conditions as ours has, and we must be prepared to adapt our system to suit the conditions in our own country. This we are endeavouring to do. We have before us the success of our select committee system, which I think has served the Senate well. It is interesting to note that in the other place-
– There is a tendency for a proliferation of select committees.
– I was going to mention that, but first I was going to say that in another place there is a move to establish select committees. In my view the most appropriate place for these is the Senate, which is to my mind becoming more and more a house of review and a house of investigation. My friend and colleague Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has just reminded me, and I hope us, of the proliferation of select committees, perhaps in some areas that are inappropriate for examination by select committees. Although they have served us well, I believe we have to move now into new areas.
Before the Senate there are 3 proposals - those put forward by Senator Murphy, those put forward by the Democratic Labor Party and those put forward by the Government. I do not want to speak at length, but I want to say that the strength of our parliamentary government and our institutions depends on their readiness to change to meet changing conditions. I believe we are today faced, as we all recognise, with changing conditions, and we have to examine new means to meet those conditions so that Parliament will operate effectively. This chamber above all should operate effectively in what I believe is its main function - as a house of review, a house of investigation. Frankly, I am attracted by the proposal put forward by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson). I am attracted by it for one reason - simplicity. We propose in the first instance 5 committees to consider the Estimates, and these committees are based upon the ministerial responsibilities of the Ministers in the Senate. It seems to me that this is a sensible approach because, as I would envisage, these committees would meet at the one time and therefore the Ministers would be available. Instead of going from committee to committee they would be available to attend committees investigating the ministerial responsibilities of which they themselves were responsible rather than having them split up over a number of committees. I say that because of its simplicity this appeals to mc. and this is what 1 support. Therefore, 1 submit to the Senate that the proposals of the Leader of the Government have, because of this one factor, an appeal to me.
We could argue the proposal of the Leader of lbc Opposition (Senator Murphy), who lumps his committees into the various areas in which they would operate. I do not think they would operate as effectively as the proposals put forward by Senator Anderson, and after all we seek the most effective operation. I think we all agree that our first step is to establish Estimates committees and I, and 1 think others in this place, have become concerned over recent years al the rather farcical debates taking place on the Estimates, which go on week after week and become political forums rather than an opportunity to seek information. People are more and more inclined lo try lo make political points. Surely the Estimates debate is not the time for this; it is a time to examine government expenditure in all its various complexities, nol a time to make long speeches trying to gain political points on both sides.
I think it is generally agreed that as a first step in the establishment of committees it is desirable to set up Estimates Committees to consider the Estimates away from the distractions of radio, away from all the elements of publicity, where they will be able to do this most effectively. Therefore, I think as a first step we should set up Estimates Committees and see how they work. I do not want to speak at any length, but I want to say that Ihe success or failure of this approach will depend upon the approach of all honourable senators. If they adopt a flexible approach, not a political one, the Committees will be successful. We on this side have been chided on recent occasons with not having the courage to oppose the Government. As one who voted against the Government the other day, I want to say that honourable senators on this side have clone this, but 1 have never seen a member of the Opposition vole against the decisions of his caucus. I am not saying this in a political sense; I am concerned with relating to an examination of the work of committees.
Members of the Opposition have no flexibility or right to oppose the decisions made at their caucus meetings, whether the decisions be made in another place or at a joint meeting with members of another place. All members of the Opposition arc bound to accept those decisions, lt ill becomes them lo chide senators on this side who are not bound by decisions made anywhere. This is their responsibility. All I am saying is that they should not chide us on this particular matter. This is their political decision, their Party decision, lt is their right to make these decisions, but (hey should not chide senators on this side on this particular matter. Senators on this side are able to cross the floor and vote against the Government without any fear of action being taken against them. This does not happen on the Opposition side. If these Committees are to work effectively, as we hope they will, there must be acceptance of the fact that decisions will be made on their merits, not merely in accordance with some decision taken in a caucus. If the Opposition members have no freedom to make their own decision, I fear that these Committees will not work as I hope they will work. If anybody on a Committee is bound by some decision as to how he should act and vote as a member of that Committee, I feat that this committee system will not work as we all hope it will.
There I stop, but I think this point should be made. After all, the Press reports are true lhat it was a very narrow decision which enabled the Opposition to support these proposals for a committee system. This is the way the Opposition works. 1 am not criticising, I am just making the point. I believe the effective operation of these Committees depends on us. As members of select committees, which in the main are non-political, we have learnt to work together and to try to judge things on their merits - not to be bound by decisions made outside. I do not want the Opposition to think that I am playing politics on this matter. I am not. I say again that the success or otherwise of the committee system depends on the freedom of honourable senators on both sides of the House to judge matters on their merits. I feel confident that this can be done, but it can be done only if we arc prepared to go into this committee system gradually so that we all learn how to operate it effectively. In recent times we have become used to the word gradualism.
– It is not a new term. Cautious is a better one.
– Senator Gair suggests the word cautious. Cautious is one word, gradualism another. I think they mean the same thing. I think it is an approach we have learned by working together, cooperating to make a success of this system.
– Who is in a position to know when to start?
– I do not want to enter into an argument about it. Senator Gair can put his own case. The setting up of the Estimates Committees will be our first responsibility in the Budget session. I would like to see the establishment of several of the standing committees which have been suggested to cover various areas of responsibility. Here, I feel we should move into this area either cautiously or gradually, so that we do not reach a situation where the Committees will not work.
– Does the honourable senator say that throwing the Estimates to the new Committees will be a gradual process?
– No, 1 think it is a necessary first step.
– It is not gradual.
– Senator Cavanagh is expressing his view because his leader has put it forward. If he does not agree, let him say so. I respect the honourable senator’s view. I think the Estimates Committees will be the first step to make it possible for a sensible examination in detail of the estimates of the various departments. The Estimates are not a political problem; they are a matter for information and for examination. In dealing with the Estimates, it is not a matter of playing politics, though they have become a matter on which politics have been played.
In my opinion the first step should be to establish the Estimates Committees. I commend the approach by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) in this, but only because of the advantage of simplicity. Then I would like to see several standing committees established along the lines envisaged by the Standing Orders Committee, in accordance with the report presented by Mr Odgers. These standing committees should be grouped in a sensible manner, having regard to the various portfolios and matters which are relevant to one another. The Senate would, where necessary, refer Bills to ‘ these committees, which in the main would take over the responsibility of select committees. Senators on these committees would over a period gradually develop expertise in matters in which the committees were interested.
Honourable senators know that we go on select committees with little knowledge of the subjects we are asked to investigate, and it becomes a matter of learning. One could well imagine that over a period of time, members of a committee would develop expertise upon the subject with which they were dealing almost week by week and month by month. I commend this approach to the Senate. I believe, as senators have learnt on select committees, that it is a good thing for members of the Government, the Opposition and the Democratic Labor Party, and Senator Turnbull, to work together. Let honourable senators learn to work together on the major issues as they have learnt to do on select committees. This spirit of co-operation will produce a better Parliament and a better system.
So, Mr Deputy President, I support the approaches that have been made. I support the proposals put forward by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I support the view that standing committees, as well as the Estimates committees, should be set up - two or three to begin with. Let us gain experience and see how they work, and move on from there. Let us adopt the sensible approach so that we can achieve what I believe honourable senators on both sides of the House hope to achieve - a very successful working of the committee system, which can only be to the advantage of the Senate and must lead to a more effective working not only of the Senate but of the entire Parliament as well. It will make the best use of the qualifications of honourable senators.
– I am very pleased to see this move for the appointment of committees of the Senate. 1 think it is a forward step towards bringing honourable senators outside of the Ministry into much closer contact with the work of the Parliament, lt should give honourable senators an opportunity to serve the Senate in a much better way than has been the case. I think that the committee system in this chamber, in whatever areas it has been used, has proved an excellent way in which to conduct the business of the Senate. Senator Sim referred to the formation of these Senate committees and he said it was to be hoped that Opposition senators would noi come on to the committees with a direction from somebody somewhere outside the Parliament. My own feeling is that ihe division of the Senate into committees could overcome the problem experienced in the past when some honourable senators have come into this chamber with fixed minds. 1 know it might be said this is airy-fairy or wishful thinking, but time and time again I have heard honourable senators. who have served on a committee which has consisted of senators from all parties, say how surprising it was to see honourable senators from the various political parlies working together and arriving at decisions. I think thai one of the most important aspects of committees is ihat by working closely together like this honourable senators get to know each other, they get to understand each other, and I think they can appreciate the other person’s thinking and his ideas. Because of this I think that we bring ourselves closer to each oilier and we therefore arrive al a better decision.
Over a period of years, and more particularly in recent years, select committees have been a feature of the Senate. I think thai those honourable senators who have served on these committees have found, in general, lhat most honourable senators work to try to understand the question which they have been asked to investigate. I have found that a similar situation has existed on other committees comprising members of the various parties with which I have been associated. I have served on the Join Committee on the Australian Capital Territory and on a couple of select committees. Ever since I came into the Parliament in 1 949 I have been a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and, as honourable senators know, for over 17 years 1 have served as Chairman of that
Committee, lt is a standing committee of the Senate, lt consists of honourable senators from most sections of the Senate.
– Who is the Australian Democratic Labor Party representative on the Committee?
– There is no representative of the DLP on the Committee, and I am sorry that there is not. At one time Senator Byrne, who sits behind Senator Gair, was a member of the Committee, but at that time he was not a member of the DLP. He was a sterling and splendid member of that Committee, and he gave great service to it. Although he belonged to a differed political party to me, I can say quite truthfully that never at any time did he take political stand on any matter. I want to say in fairness to the members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee who have been on the Committee during the time that I have been a member of it - and 1 have said this to my own colleagues, including Senator Greenwood and others - that I have never seen a member of Ihe Committee try to gain political advantage from the Committee, lt is a Committee on which a member could gain some political advantage. Probably an Opposition senator could try to gain something iti the expense of the Government, i think that my colleagues on the Government side who are members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee will agree with me when 1 say that no member of the Committee has tried to gain some political advantage from it. That is evidence to me that members of select committees or standing committees, such as the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, can work well together, irrespective of their political beliefs.
I think that Senator McManus, another colleague of Senator Gair, served on the select committee which inquired into ‘the question of payments to maritime un:ons. I was also a member of that committee. We also had a very fruitful and happy association on thai committee. Therefore, if the proposal to establish committees of ihe Senate is accepted in the right spirit and if honourable senators who are appointed to the committees work on the right basis for the good of ihe Parliament and of this country, I believe that a first class job can be done in relation to the legislation that is introduced into this Parliament. To me there seems to be an opportunity within the confines of the committee room for members of the committee to call before them the various people associated with the legislation and other people whom members of the committee might want to question. The system will open up a facet of investigation and research which has not been open to us as members of the Senate participating in debates in this open forum. I think that the committee system offers much greater scope to get information which is necessary for members of the Senate in order to make right decision upon matters.
I think that we owe credit to the Standing Orders Committee of the Senate which originally considered this matter. I think that the Clerk of the Senate, Mr Odgers, is entitled to receive congratulations and appreciation for the work which he did in helping to guide the Standing Orders Committee and in the formation of the proposals which have come before us. We have 3 motions before us. I do not think that we should consider these motions on party lines because I believe that when the committees are working, as 1 said previously, they must adopt a non party attitude in dealing with legislation. As I have said, we have 3 motions before us. The first is from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). We have a second motion, which is the Government’s motion, referring to the appointment of Estimates committees. Then, of course, we have the motion from the DLP which fits in, to a very great extent, with Mr Odgers’ proposition. I think that I like the Opposition’s motion best and then the Democratic Labor Party’s motion. I feel that possibly the Opposition’s motion is more positive in that it indicates that the committees should be set up in a definite fashion. The Democratic Labor Party tends to arrive at practically the same decision, only it seeks partially to introduce the system and then ultimately to develop it to fulfilment.
– We have regard to the capacity of being able to do it and to do it efficiently.
– Yes. I am sure that a lot of thinking has been put into Senator Gair’s proposition, but my own feeling is that we should make a positive decision so that when we make it, it is firm, and then we can proceed to develop the system along certain lines. I feel that if we were to commence with two or three committees, at some time the excuse could be used: ‘Oh, well, it has not worked and therefore we do not proceed with the proposition’. I should like the entire system to be introduced from the beginning.
– Establish the committees and continue them even though they are failures.
– Of course, that is what is said, and I can quite understand that with a new system such as we are proposing there may be a feeling that it might not be a success.
– You do not start your car at 60 miles an hour. You start in first gear.
– I know that Senator Gair is being sincere in what he says on this matter. I appreciate the sincerity in his thinking on it, but I am thinking that there could be elements in the Parliament who might say: ‘We do not want this system,’ and then after a trial period they could say: ‘It has not been successful. We should forget about it.’ Therefore, I would far sooner see the system introduced in toto, on a permanent and fixed basis. As to the fear that the system will not work, I think we have to remember that in the Senate we have 60 senators who are responsible people. Therefore, I cannot see why the committee system should fail. I think that the various committees that have been established in the Senate have been a success. The select committees have done a very good job and their reports have always been commended. Then we have the standing committees. Senator Marriott is the chairman of a very important committee, the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, which has done a very good job. I find that every time committees have been set up by this Senate they have excelled themselves and brought down excellent reports, which goes to show that senators have the ability to do this job.
I know that with something new there can be a fear complex that it may not succeed. But I do not have any feeling that this proposal will not succeed. If it succeeds in the British Parliament, if it succeeds in the Canadian Parliament, and if it succeeds, as I understand it does, in New Zealand, are we to consider ourselves inferior in our capability to handle committees for consideration of legislation? Are we inferior to those other Parliaments? I would say thai members of those Parliaments would be fairly representative of the people of their countries, just as I think we are of ours, and I do not sec that there should be any fear about our committees failing. If we have faith in ourselves, if we feel we are capable enough, why not make a definite decision now in a complete way so that we can get a committee system going?
I think this is a wonderful opportunity for the senators of this country to perform a service to their people in a much better way than possibly they have in the past. They will have a closer and greater responsibility for legislation and a much better knowledge of its origin and purpose. I feel that this movement is possibly the greatest step forward that has been taken by this Parliament of Australia since its inception in the early part of this century. I believe that whatever proposition is accepted ultimately, the Parliament and the people will say when they look back on this occasion that this has been the greatest event and the greatest day in any parliamentary history. I believe that this will be the situation if this Senate accepts this principle of having committees to deal with the legislative work of this Parliament. It would be a great tragedy if we lost this opportunity to implement this proposition in its fullest way.
As I have said, I think both the first and the last of the propositions have very fine ideas and principles behind them. However, I feel that, weighing one against the Other, the first proposition from the Opposition Leader really has more definiteness about its commencement. To me it is something which will give more permanency and continuity to the work of dividing this Parliament into committees to make a much closer investigation of legislation. I think it should be clearly set out that when these committees function they should not be treated as committees which receive payment for committee work. Their job would be part of the parliamentary work in which we now participate, but done in a different way. Because the committees would be on parliamentary legislative work, consideration would have to be given to having some arrangement whereby the Senate would not sit while the committees were meeting, so that the committees could work in the most effective way and committee members would not lose opportunities to participate in the work of the Senate itself. These things should be clearly set out. Subject to that, I propose to vote for the proposal put forward by the Opposition.
Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) [8.36J - Mr Deputy President, the area of inquiry which is opened up by these three propositions is enormously wide. One part of this area relates to the general purpose of the committees and the achievements which might be expected of them. Another obviously relates to the relationship of these committees and the decisions they report to the Parliament. When I say ‘the Parliament’, I emphasise the house of government, which is in the House of Representatives. Another pan of this area relates to how these committees most effectively work. Do they in fact take the place of the Senate for a time or do they act in an ancillary way complementary to ordinary Senate debates? I appreciate that all of these things cannot be canvassed in a reasonable time in a discussion on these matters. I personally feel that the committee system should be given a trial. But I have the gravest doubts as to whether it will work in the way some people expect. Speakers have been eulogising the various things which can be done by committees but I think they will come up against, in the long run, the rigours of the Party system. I appreciate fully what Senator Wood has said, what he seeks to achieve and the way in which he views the committee system working, but with all respect to him and with all respect to Senator Murphy, I think that there is a degree of unreality about the optimism which they express.
I believe that we have to tread fairly cautiously in this area if there is to be any success attending the committees. We should not believe that we can impose a committee system on the Senate, as it were, overnight. A committee system is essentially inquisitorial; it probes, it seeks information, and that is not the pattern of our legislative activity. What do we do when we ask these questions and get our answers? We report to the Senate. But what form is that report to the Senate to take? Do we recommend a proposal, and if we recommend a proposal how do Government members fare when it happens that that proposal is contrary to some policy which the Government has laid down? How do Opposition members fare if in a sincere and enthusiastic way on their committee they come out with a proposal which they genuinely believe in but which runs counter to something which their Caucus has decided or will decide? Which is going lo prevail? I feel - and I trust I am not loo harshly realistic about this - that what would prevail would be the view of the party; the view of the Government which some members will support or of the Opposition which other members will support. 1 know that much enthusiasm for the proposal has been generated by the experience of senators on a number of Senate committees, f think the Senate can look back and point to the activities of some committees and say that the work done there has been worth while. One can take the Vincent. Committee on Australia’s television and broadcasting, and one can indicate that there was a general concensus among the members of lhat commitee as lo certain proposals that were recommended. There has been, of course, the committee on the metric system of weights and measures, and there have been the commit.ee on air pollution and on water pollution. These committees have come forward with proposals which I think have won commendation; but they were in by and large non-controversial areas. There were some areas of dispute and, I suppose, idealogical conflict. An honourable senator says that health was one, and I agree, but generally speaking they were not areas of hot political controversy. I feel that the committee system in the Senate is likely to founder in the areas of hot political controversy, and if a committee system is to be worth while it would have to go into cooler areas.
– You would be speaking with some experience.
– I think every one of us must assume, when considering the situations which may arise, the difficulties with which one can be confronted. One is not necessarily relying on experience or being particularly far-sighted in assuming what can arise.
– You are being realistic?
– I hope I am being realistic, and I hope that this committee system will be trea:ed cautiously and realistically, because if it is to achieve things - and I believe il can achieve some things - we cannot go into it on a basis that once we establish the committees all will be well. I think we have to proceed cautiously. My attitude conies down to this: I support, with considerable reservation as to their ultimate effectiveness., the proposal for Senate committees. 1 join with others in commending the report which has been submitted by the Standing Orders Committee, and which was in fact the work of Mr Odgers, because I think that it has set out a persuasive case for a committee system. 1 think ihe broad framework which that Committee proposes is one that is practicable providing we proceed with it in a cautious manner and with some regard to the matters which I have already mentioned. Mr Odgers set out in his report what is the real purpose of a committee system. On page 3 he said:
If I may comment on that part of the report I think that the core of it is that it is important to Parliament in its consideration of public affairs. Undoubtedly the Parliament gives consideration to public affairs but it gives consideration lo these public affairs broadly in the form of debate on resolutions or on Bills and it does so within a pattern or formula which we have become accustomed to and without which our system would not work; that is the party system. At the turn of the century there was a fond belief amongst many of the founders of the Constitution that by setting up a Senate which represented State’s rights the States would be protected, but that view has never been realised because, as Alfred Deakin said, the great issues of principle would divide the senators and not the issues of State. So I believe that within the Committees these great issues of principle - the party system - will divide the senators. Though 1 recognise the value of getting information to assist in the consideration of public affairs in debate, 1 think it is a very limited objective in terms of what may be ultimately realised.
Having said that, may 1 turn to the particular motions? I feel that there is so much about Senator Murphy’s motion and proposals which to me is uncertain and not clarified that we would only be burdening ourselves with further problems if his motion were at this stage in its present form to be adopted. For example, does he propose in the setting up of his Committees that they shall sit when the Senate is sitting Or does he propose that they shall meet during a suspension of the sittings of the Senate? That is not clear. Furthermore, when one considers his motion, the activities of these Committees will be dependent upon a prior resolution of the Senate. Paragraph 2 of his motion states:
A Standing Committee shall be empowered to inquire into and report upon such matters as are referred to it by the Senate, including any Bills, Estimates or Statements of Expenditure, messages, petitions, inquiries or papers.
I ask: what are’matters referred to it by the Senate’? I suppose the word ‘matters’ comprehends almost anything which the Senate regards as contentious or possibly contentious. Nevertheless there has to be a resolution of the Senate and we may well find that, if a proposal is made that a matter be referred to a Committee, that the Senate will divide on its traditional lines and we may find these Committees are set up, watting for work to be done, and every time there is a prospective issue which could go to a Committee there is a debate on whether it should go.I feel that that is one area that ought to be resolved in the actual framework that we are establishing rather than leave it for a later date. Then there is a reference to particular matters which may be referred to it such as:
It is meant to be comprehensive I am sure, but I would have thought it would be an unfortunate situation if all that these Committees had referred to them were certain papers that were laid in the Senate, or petitions, these being regarded as noncontroversial matters. If this were so the Committees would have very little effective work to do and very few effective achievements open to them. Senator Murphy also said: . . I am firmly of the view that we now should seize the opportunity to set up a system of standing committees. Let us gain experience. We will have no difficulties when we come to the budget session of assigning the Estimates to the system which is suggested. We can send the committees some or all of the Estimates. We do not have to send all of them. There are no problems.
I think, with respect to Senator Murphy, that there are many problems which he has not canvassed. He said further:
Of course, sometimes a Bill might be sent to 2 committees. For example, there might be rural Bills such as excited the attention of the Senate last year. Those Bills contained certain provisions about entry into premises. Such Bills might be sent to 2 committees for consideration - the committee concerned with industry and the committee concerned with constitutional and legal matters.
One can certainly agree that they might be sent to 2 committees but what is to happen when both those committees report? We may well find that the emphasis of each committee’s report will be on a different area. I suppose it would be. Then we have the problem of marrying them in some way in the Senate and I think that again is one of the problems which has to be worked out. Again, a problem which I think some attention must be given to is whether or not these Committees are to receive submissions from organisations and persons who desire to put a view to the committee. I suppose this is essentially a procedural matter for each Committee to deal with for itself. It is certainly what Mr Odgers envisaged in his report as to what would be one of the functions of a Committee. But i feel that in the way in which it is left at the present time whether or not this procedure of the Committees is to be worked out as the Committees decide or as the Senate desires them to proceed is not clarified.
On the other hand, as I view this matter, I feel that the proposals which have been put forward by the Minister for Works (Senator Anderson) are immediate and practical. They permit some experimentation. They are an area of trial, but the important thing as I see it is that they are in an area where the Senate has been accustomed over many years to ask questions and to probe to get information of the character which the Estimates committees will be seeking. There are, of course, under Senator Anderson’s proposals 5 Committees to which will be referred the Estimates of Expenditure inthe Budget papers. We know from past experience that we go through a ritual day after day and week after week of senators standing up and asking the Minister a question, the Minister getting advice from his advisers, and after a few other people have asked questions he proceeds to give the information that he has been given, lt is a timewasting procedure in which information is elicited in as elementary - and, one might say, archaic - a method as one could imagine. If all of that was to take place in a Committee I believe that senators would get some expertise in asking their questions. The Ministers and their advisers would likewise develop some expertise in knowing what it was senators wanted and bc better equipped to answer these questions. If it is information which is sought then it will be very readily obtained.
I think the other advantages of what is proposed by Senator Anderson are that the Estimates, whilst they do not stand referred to this Committee are. in accordance with his motion, now before the Senate to be referred by motion to 5 Committees. That is a formal motion and the Senate, if it adopted Senator Anderson’s motion, would be now agreeing that the Estimates were to go to the Committee, automatically as it were, lt is quite clear from his resolution that the Committees shall sit only during adjournments and the suspensions of the Senate, and instead of having the Senate sitting and possibly one Committee sitting, the Senate will adjourn and the Committees will sit until they have to report again. The procedure is generally laid down; the person who is to be chairman is stipulated and it regularises a procedure which the Senate hits seen in recent years whereby the Budget papers and the Estimates are discussed before the Bill of which they form part has come into the Senate, and that is contrary to the best usage. This proposal will ensure that the Estimates are discussed by the Senate only when the Bill comes before the Senate. Therefore, what Senator Anderson has proposed will constitute a meaningful exercise, lt will permit a greater understanding of the estimates of expenditure and it will necessarily involve » greater appreciation of the three Appropriation Bills and why we have them; it will mean a greater appreciation of all the intricacies of government financing and, above all, it will provide information that honourable senators wish for.
On ihe other hand, whilst it does those things. 1 recognise that there will be a trial of the way in which the Estimates committee works. There will be a basis of judgment of how other committees will be able to work. Those committees will permit, as the Odgers report indicated, a continuing surveillance in certain fields and an awareness that the Senate is a watchdog, both in the Public Service and at large; it will undertake a survey or examination at the appropriate time that is now carried out only by the Public Accounts Committee but at some much later time after these Estimates have been presented.
On ihe other hand, it will bc administrative oversight rather than policy-making. Therein. I think, lies its real danger; therein lies the area in which any com.mittee system is liable to confound the intentions of those who promote it. After all, a government is required to be responsible to the Parliament. If we have a committee that probes, as committees will probe, and seeks information and. on the basis of that information, seeks to set up its judgment as preferable to the judgment of the government, it is throwing out a challenge to government that no government of any political colour would be prepared to tolerate. What, therefore, will ihe committees do in the way of reporting to the Senate? Will they divide, as I said earlier, on party lines or will they, within themselves, adopt an objective approach and allow the Senate to divide on party lines in due course?
These arc the basic problems thai ihe Senate will nol be able lo overcome. Gelling back lo the area from which I started and taking this last point a little further, one of the realities of this Senate is that we have an Opposition which as a mailer of policy and practice extending over many years is a party which is bound by its Caucus and by its outside executive. Until that issue is resolved, 1 cannot see thai this committee can be other than a vehicle by which the Opposition will utilise every advantage to pursue its own political ends. lt cannot be otherwise. If members of the Opposition recognise that fact, as honestly they should, they must accept that the com.mittee system will be for them a further vehicle in pursuing the objective of any Opposition - that is. lo get on to ihe treasury bench.
Senator Murphy has, of course, put forward his proposals in all sincerity. He recognises there is an area in which Parliament can work more effectively. On the other hand, he, as any other member of his Party, is bound by his Caucus, and 1 sense for my part that that will always be the reason why the committee system will not work. How can government with government members who are prepared to work objectively and look at the work of the committees in terms of how government administration can best be improved be prepared to accept a report in which it knows that the members of the Opposition party who a». on those committees are subject to Caucus decisions and have made decisions which, irrespective of the facts, are designed to put forward their own particular party beliefs?
These are not matters we can overlook; they are part and parcel of any committee system, because the committee system is part of Parliament. If Senator Murphy says that instead of one Senate we shall have 7 little senates, we shall have the same divisions of the large Senate reflected in the little senates. These matters should be borne in mind, but I agree that the committee system must be given a trial. I feel that on that basis one must hopefully look forward to its achieving some of the objectives set out for it. But, realistically, 1 believe the committees will not do it and on that basis, whilst expressing general support, I have the greatest reservations about their ultimate efficacy.
– Mr Deputy President, this is the senior parliamentary institution in this country and it has arrived at the general agreement that there ought to be a system of standing committees in order that its functions may be carried out more effectively than they have been in the past. I think we are proud of the way in which this Senate has attended to its affairs over recent times. We feel that the Senate is becoming very effective, that it is carrying out its functions on behalf of those who elect us better as the days go by. I think that this step which we are proposing will be a considerable advance. It is something that will enable us all as individuals to participate more in the legislative process, more in the supervision of the administration as a whole. It will enable us to function much more effectively. We have heard the discussion on this. We have all read a great deal about this and we are all indebted to Mr Odgers for his report on the matter which came through the Standing Orders Committee - and a very learned, thoughtful and important contribution it was indeed.
I personally am extremely indebted also to the legislative reference section of this Parliament which over a period of some 6 months has done much research for me on this very topic and into the workings of this system in various parts of the world, not only into the theory but also into the practice of it, and into the questions of how many members could be on committees, how they could work and all the kinds of problems to which Senator Greenwood has adverted. Of course, there are problems and always will be in any legislative institution. How could it be otherwise? It is perhaps more important that we have the committees and investigations in depth into the hot areas rather than into the cool ones. Is that not the very area where we need the facts to come out to discharge some of the heat and let us know what the circumstances really are, to learn more about these topics and to arrive at a decision that is the best that can be reached in the interests of the people?
– I am concerned about the fact that your Party must be subject to Caucus control. I do not think we can avoid it, given the hot issue.
– In answer to Senator Greenwood’s interjection about Caucus control, I would like to point out that, as far as I know, the Australian Labor Party has never given a direction to the members of any committee during the time I have been a member of the Senate.
– Will the Leader of the Opposition undertake not to give any direction to members of committees?
– 1 wish the honourable senator would not interrupt. The attitudes of political parties has been raised. It is all very well for Senator Greenwood and other honourable senators opposite to talk about caucus control and so on, but there is a great deal of democracy in the Party to which 1 belong. In many ways the Liberal Party of Australia should emulate some of the democracy which is practised in the Labor Party. At least when the Labor Party is in government it selects its own ministers from among its members. The Labor Party has a system whereby its members are, as has been suggested, subject to ihe democratic decision of their fellow members, whereas there is a tendency in other political parlies for the members to be subject to the will of one man whom they elect. Such a matter ought not be intruded into the debate by way of propaganda against the Opposition because the Opposition has been consistently trying to improve the workings of this Parliament. I think the Opposition has shown this by its deeds in this chamber.
Honourable senators on this side of the chamber have endeavoured as much as possible to improve the status of the Parliament and to ensure that there is a restoration of parliamentary democracy iri Australia. That is what we have set out to do and that is what we have done. 1 do not think that honourable senators should criticise each other on this aspect because almost all of us are trying to achieve the same purpose; we are trying to make the Parliament work effectively, particularly the Senate. By the establishment of a system of standing committees we will do a great deal towards achieving this purpose. It is true that we will have problems, but no doubt problems are experienced in this respect in other parts of the world. However, the universal experience is that committees of this nature are needed if the parliamentary institution is to carry out its function. If a system of standing committees is not established in the Senate it will break down because the Senate cannot cope with the pressures of modern government. All around this chamber there is agreement that in theory a committee system is good. Let us carry it into practice. We have an opportunity now to set up a committee system. Therefore, let us set it up.
I listened with attention to the remarks of Senator Wood. I have, as everyone knows, the greatest admiration for the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. I am conscious of the success which has been achieved by this standing committee which is, I think, the only substantive standing committee to have been appointed by the Senate itself. It is not a joint committee nor a statutory committee but simply a standing committee of the Senate. It owes its success in very great measure not only to the permanency of the membership of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, particularly its Chairman, but also to the fact that there has been skilled staff available to assist it and the Committee has been able to engage its own counsel. The element to which Senator Wood referred has been a not unimportant factor in the committee’s success. I refer to the fact that the members of the Committee are not paid for their services. The members who serve on the Committee, and serve very well, do so because they want to carry out this important function. The Committee could operate in a hot area. 1 have no doubt that some of the matters considered have elements of heat in them, but heat is discharged when one starts to consider the facts.
– It is an area in which members of the Opposition can say something. This is how it appears to me. All of the sittings of the Committee are in relation to matters of government, lt represents an objective approach by Government Senators.
– Insofar as the Opposition-
– You are not in government.
– In order to give Senator Sim an example of what is happening in this country of which he is unaware, 1 point out that the Labor Party is so much concerned about the carrying out of these principles, regardless of whether it is in Opposition or in government, that at its last federal conference the Australian Labor Party actually adopted as part of the Party’s federal platform the standards which have been laid down by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. Regardless of whether it is in government or in opposition the Australian Labor Party has pledged itself to the maintenance of these standards. I do not think that there could be any greater assertion of the intention of the Australian Labor Party. But let me not be diverted any more.
I believe that the Senate should adopt a committee system, but it should not be established in some half baked fashion which will not enable the system to operate properly. The Senate should have a committee system which covers a wide range of matters. In this way the Senate could consider a matter in the committee of the whole, which is the normal practice, or send the whole Bill or some part of it to one of the committees. If a committee system were to be established we would have the vehicle by which to do this. The establishment of such committees does not mean that they will commence by engaging in all sorts of inquiries. They will conduct inquiries only when the Senate says that they should do so. I should think that this system would be desirable. If the Senate considers that there should be a system of standing committees it should adopt my proposals.
The categories which are outlined in my proposals are an attempt to cover the range of the Senate’s functions in the best way I could. I considered what was put forward in the Odgers report. I studied carefully what is done in other areas of the world. I had research undertaken. In this way I have tried to get a range of committees which will cover the responsibilities of the Senate. I have invited criticism of my proposals, but there does not seem to be any real criticism of the spread or the categorisation. But even if there were to be criticism in the future it would be simple enough to change this aspect. This should not present any real problems once we have established a committee system. Once such a system is established I think it will stay. The feeling I have about the proposal of the Australian Democratic Labor Party is that it is an attempt to go only part of the way towards the establishment of a committee system. All sorts of things could happen to upset such a system that it would be very difficult-
– But it agrees with the principle.
– I know the DLP agrees with the principle. A lot of people have agreed with the principle of a committee system for a long time. I believe that the hour has come for us to establish such a system. Time does not wait for anybody. In respect of the machinery aspect of the proposals which have been put forward, I should think that they will be acceptable. I have not gone through them in detail, but I think the Democratic Labor Party’s formal proposal in relation to the mechanics of a committee system follows closely the Opposition’s proposal. The Senate will be discussing shortly some very important matters which would enlarge the scope of the committees and enable the Senate to act in a way which would considerably improve its efficiency and the efficiency of the committees. I would ask honourable senators to support the proposal which I have made. I ask that the question be put to a vote.
– 1 find myself-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Is it the wish of the Senate that this motion be put?
– lt is my assumption tba after Senator Murphy’s motion is put to the vote, whatever its fate may be, it will be incumbent upon me on behalf of Senator Anderson to move his motion and then to speak to il. lt will then be put to the vote. Then it will be incumbent upon the Democratic Labor Party to move its motion and to speak to it. I believe that not one of us is inhibited from making his own proposal in his own right, irrespective of the fate of the others.
– Unless one motion is carried.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- My interpretation is that Senator Murphy has closed the debate on motion No. 1 by speaking in reply. That motion will now be put and then the Senate will go to motion No. 2, in which case Senator Anderson, or Senator Cotton, will have the right of reply.
– Is Senator Murphy’s motion now before the Senate?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes.
– Irrespective of the fate of that motion, any senator of the Democratic Labor Party can move his motion and speak to it.
– Subject to this: If my motion is carried 1 might take the point that you cannot put up an inconsistent motion. If one is carried, that is the end of it.
– 1 am following the ruling given to me by the Chair. Subject to your changing your mind, Mr Deputy President, I would accept that ruling.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - We are working under the suspension of Standing
Orders. I think that this is the only way it can properly be dealt with.I put the question:
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Bull)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The question now is: ‘That Senator Anderson’s motion be agreed to’. Senator Cotton, are you replying on behalf of Senator Anderson?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Cotton will close the debate on motion No. 2.
– I have a particular proposal. 1 ask for leave of the Senate to amend the motion standing in the name of Senator Anderson by inserting a new paragraph (1a) as follows: (1 a) A report shall be presented to the Senate notlater than the commencement of the first session of 1971 as lo the operation of the committees and their administration, accommodation and staff requirements.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Before this matter is put I wish to say briefly - I have not spoken before - thatI think one ought in this debate to commend the work of a great number of people in this Senate who over many years have worked in committees. The development of the committee system is not the work of any one individual. The Senate has for a long time done singular work in committees and, as I have said, this is the product of the work of many people. Proper credit and understanding should be given to many people who have from time to time developed the Senate into the institution it is.
– Hear, hear!
– It is true that latterly we have seen the development of more and more committee work, and it is equally true that some has been highly significant and very important. We are all proud of that. It has been my view that as Australia develops and there is an increasing independence of this country the problems it faces are increasing, and there has to be a chamber of Parliament in which the long term interests of the Australian people and their sentiments, hopes, aspirations and long term needs reside in the minds of its members. This is what the Senate ought to be and it is what it is becoming. Those of us here today have a lot to be grateful for that our forebears in this institution have made it possible for it to become like it is, and I hope we will always be able to develop the Senate to be a really useful servant of the Australian people and, in particular, to consider their long term interests. That is why I have been concerned to study the 3 proposals carefully.
I have no wish to denigrate in any degree the people who brought them forward, whether they originated in their own minds or were the product of the thinking of some other person; this is the process that ought to go on, and it is all good. But we are dealing with very grave and wide issues tonight - tremendous issues not to be lightly considered. We are at a time of change in the historical pattern of the Australian parliamentary scene, and if we accept this proposal we cannot do so lightly. This is no light matter. The whole institution we know is going to change, and change dramatically. We would not want to look back on this historic day and say to ourselves, ‘What a disaster. A great opportunity, a great enterprise, taken on in a fit of emotional wishfulfilment without a full sense of the reality of what is being taken on.’
The sheer amount of work involved properly to prosecute the proposal in Senator Murphy’s motion from what I call day 1 has. I hope, been taken into account adequately by those who support it. Please understand this - I do not say this in any sense of being critical but I say it in the sense of the fact that there are 60 people here, some of whom have other responsibilities, some of whom can serve more actively than others, some of whom contribute more wisdom when years have made it difficult for them to give the time and energy, and some of whom are young and can give all the time and energy necessary but have not the same store of wisdom. This makes a composition of people who do not make up 60 in fully effective numbers. If this is to be done well, these will be called on to do a tremendous amount of work - much more than some imagine. Those of us who have served actively in some of the major Senate committees we have had in the last 3 or 4 years have had this borne in upon us.
– We note the absence of many. too.
– That is right, but it has become a matter of great and genuine concern to us that we should not allow the Senate and senators to take on more than it and they can do and in the process diminish the Senate’s status and performance. That is my concern. I have many unanswered doubts about all this. Only time will resolve these things. What I should like to see is the adoption of the proposal of Senator Anderson or Senator Giar - I am not really concerned which one it is. It seems to mc that this is a better starting point, and I think we could handle that. If we do it really well, and I believe we can. it could lead to a greater development of this.
Senators know that the committee system is so highly developed in some parliaments of the world which shall be nameless that those parliaments sit only on about 1 day of the year. Do not be in any doubt about this. One has to be careful. One must have the principle established in one’s mind that the full store of knowledge that exists in an assembly is needed on some of the important occasions. There is a limit to what can be done by committees. My reservation, said in all humility and in the sense that I am anxious to do all I can for the institution of which I am proud, is that it is easy to start something but it must be remembered that the important thing is the finishing of the job, not the start. I hope that the thoughts I have put will bc taken as I have expressed them. I put to senators that the proposal of Senator Anderson is fundamental in the first stage of the Senate’s taking the first opportunity to do a job that it can do well, and in this way it will be doing a service to the people of Australia and the Parliament. This would be a sensible way lo begin without trying to take the whole meal in one mouthful.
Senator MURPHY (New South Wales - Leader of the Opposition) 9.26 - I am indebted to the Senate for adopting the proposal I pui forward on behalf of the Opposition. I am very conscious of ihe fact that all over this chamber there has been general support for these proposals. We have endeavoured to put forward what we thought was the most appropriate proposal, and all over this place there was support for it. In the initial period the support was not confined to my Party but came also from Government members, members of the Democratic Labor Party and Independents. There have been some differences of opinion, but I think they are minor in relation to the general principle. I do think, however, thai Ihe proposal now before us is quite inconsistent with the decision which has been taken, and as a matter of common sense the Senate must reject it because, if one says there are going to be too many committees - and it has been decided to have 7 - one cannot go ahead and establish ano’.her group of committees, lt just does not stand. I therefore ask that this matter be disposed of.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - The question is that Senator Anderson’s motion as amended be agreed to.
Question put -
That the motion (Senator Anderson’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Bull)
Majority . . . . 1
Questioned so resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Gair, do you wish to proceed with your motion?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
The Standing Committee on Trade, Industry and Labour; and
The Standing Committee on Health, Welfare, Education and Science - and those Committees are hereby appointed.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - The position, as 1 see it, is that 2 motions have been carried by the Senate. This has happened because we are working under the suspension of the Standing Orders. Earlier tonight when I took the Chair I. indicated that this procedure would be adopted. For the benefit of those honourable senators who were not here when we began to discuss this matter tonight, perhaps 1 should repeat what I said so that they know actually how we are operating. I said that before the Senate resumed the debate on standing committees I wished to remind the Senate that the Standing Orders were suspended to allow matters related to the establishment of standing committees to be considered concurrently. Pursuant to that suspension of Standing Orders there were 3 motions before the Senate. They were not amendments one of the other. 1 said that at the conclusion of the debate a question would be put on each motion in turn.
– We in the Opposition will oppose the motion for the very reason which was just advanced by Senator Gair in an interjection before J commenced. He said that it would be the greatest farce of all time. That is the reason why we will oppose the proposition that he is putting forward. If it were carried he would make it the greatest farce of all time. The Senate has carried the proposition which was put by me. That was to set up certain standing committees. They are to be permanent standing committees. Very well. That was the will of the Senate. Next the Senate agreed to the proposition of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) which was to set up certain committees to deal only with the Estimates. It was a decision of the Senate to do that. I think it is an unwise decision for the Estimates to be taken in that way, to be dealt wilh by these committees, but the 2 propositions can stand together. But the proposition just put forward by the Australian Democratic Labor Party cannot stand with the proposition which has already been adopted by the Senate. It is clear whyit cannot stand. Let us examine the proposition carefully because this great Senate does not want to be a farce at all. This is a very serious mailer, lt will be a farce only if Senator Gairs proposition is carried.
– Senator Murphy has never served on a committee. He knows nothing about them
– That is not right. He has served on committees. He was on the printing committee.
– Now you are making a farce of il.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! Honourable senators will cease interjecting.
– lt is all very well for Senator Rae to giggle. I served with other members and senators on the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications which operated during 2 parliaments. It operated for a very long time and was one of the most successful of the joint select committees set up in this Parliament. As I understand it, every single one of the Committee’s recommendations was adopted by the Government of the day. A considerable number have been carried into effect. 1 do not think that Senator Rae should laugh at this Committee which operated before he came into the Parliament. The proposition which has been put by Senator Gair now suggests that 2 standing committees be established - 1 on trade, industry and labour and 1 on health, welfare, education and science. If that is done, it would clearly conflict and cut across what has already been adopted by the Senate. Indeed, the other matters which are said to be adopted in principle, however meritorious they may be, do not fit in with what has already been adopted by the Senate.
No-one wants to make a farce of the Senate. The proposition was put and I thought fairly argued in this Senate. The proposition came forward from the Standing Orders Committee. I moved a motion in the Senate. I agreed that the motions be dealt with. There has been a fair debate over last Thursday night and tonight. The question has been put to a vote. The Senate in its wisdom has seen fit not only to agree to the establishment of joint standing committees, but because of its recent decision which I thought was unwise, also to agree to the establishment of Estimates committees. No-one wants to make a farce of this Senate and adopt a proposition which is utterly inconsistent with the proposal which has been carried.
– lt is not.
– lt would be completely inconsistent to adopt it. I regret to see that the proposition was put forward, since it is plainly, on its face, completely inconsistent to propose the establishment of other committees which are quite inconsistent with those which the Senate has agreed to establish. As the debate has ranged wide and has been fairly conducted, I would ask the Senate in its wisdom to reject a proposal which will just make nonsense of what has been decided, if we were now to set up, after fair debate, something which is inconsistent. If Senator Gair’s interjection is right, that this will make a farce of it, he is seeking to make a farce of what has been solemnly decided by the Senate. i would ask the Senate not to do that. The proper course is to adhere to what has been decided in the first place and to reject Senator Gair’s proposal.
– A rather extraordinary position has arisen. We must first of all remember that this whole debate has taken place under the suspension of Standing Orders. The very purpose of that suspension was that 3 resolutions germane to the same matter might be presented and debated together and voted on separately. Now there is nothing to suggest that there was any priority in time for one resolution against the other. The very mode of presentation, the very suspension of the Standing Orders and the avowed purpose for which that was done was that the Senate could register its opinion on each of the propositions in isolation. There was nothing to suggest that the Senate, having registered an opinion on resolution A, would be precluded in any way by that decision from registering a concurrent or contrary opinion on resolution B or, for that matter, on resolution C. I would suggest that Senator Murphy is quite aware that that is the position and that was the temper and will of the Senate in the suspension of the Standing Orders, so that these resolutions could be discussed and determined in that way.
I am sure that if Senator Murphy’s resolution had not been the first resolution but the second, and if the Government’s resolution had been carried, Senator Murphy would not have argued, as he did tonight, that he was precluded from putting his resolution forward and having a vote taken on it. In those circumstances there is no estoppel operating now against the Senate in logic or commonsense or observance of proper forms from proceeding to a decision on the motion now before the Senate. That can be logically and completely done. If the Senate in its wisdom chooses to carry the motion that we have proposed and if it finds itself in contradiction with Senator Murphy’s motion, or with the Government’s motion, that is a matter to be resolved subsequently and the 3 matters are to be coalesced in some way. That obviously will be the expressed will of the Senate.
But I take the second point of Senator Murphy, that our motion is completely contradictory of what was propounded in his motion and carried by the Senate. Our motion goes beyond that. Admittedly, on the actual number of committees to be appointed and their designations, we differ from Senator Murphy’s motion. Our motion goes further than the mere selection of committees, the numerical designation of them or the nomenclature under which they operate. We go to the processes of establishing them, and we use the specific words that the committees shall be established in a certain order; not that they shall be appointed only, but that they shall be established - that is, brought into actual viability - in a certain order. There is no proposition of that character in the motion that was propounded by Senator Murphy. If the Senate should see fit to carry our resolution, the interpretation obviously and logically open to such resolution of the Senate is this: It is that part of our resolution in particular that honourable senators want put into operation and on which they were not invited to vote because of the terms of Senator Murphy’s proposition. It may well be in addition that they prefer the 6 committees that we propose rather than the eight that Senator Murphy proposes.
– lt is seven.
– It may be that they will take Senator Murphy’s 7 committees but that they prefer our six plus the processes of establishment as a matter of prudence. Mr Deputy President, we have got into this extraordinary position in a situation in which the Senate should be demonstrating the greatest sense of responsibility. The whole purpose of this exercise is so that the Senate in the approach to the discharge of its high parliamentary duties can show the greatest sense of responsibility and give the greatest, mode of investigation possible to the examination of the processes of government. Surely the first thing we must do is not by our own action contradict the very things that we want to investigate, namely, an imprudent and irresponsible embarkation upon the expenditure of public moneys. Here in the establishment of a parliamentary process unique in this country after 70 years of Federation, Senator Murphy’s motion proposes that, without any experience at all, without any testing of the ground, wc immediately establish 7 committees which must be available for the references that may be made to them at any time: and if that is so then the committees must be standing by adequately stalled and with all Ihe administrative and office appointments that are required for the proper and immediate operation of such committees.
– And they will take the inexperienced senator.
– Exactly. There will be the difficulty and cost of getting staff and accommodation. Surely this process commands the greatest demonstration of responsibility and prudence by this chamber. We make a farce of the whole of this exercise if we ourselves are Ihe first transgressors against the very process which it will bc Ihe object of the committees to investigate, that is, the wrong and indefensible expenditure of public moneys and bad public administration.
We accept the principle of standing committees; we accept the principle of committees on the Estimates for the next Budget; but. we say this: proceed festina lente - proceed slowly. We should sei about the establishment of two committees; let the personnel receive some experience; let ihe senators receive some experience in serving on these committees, and let them have the opportunity of displaying whether the committees can or cannot meet in Senate meeting time. What are the demands made upon Senators? Are they altogether too much? In other words, can we proceed to even more committees? All those things can be found out only by the processes of experimentation, and that is the very purpose of our motion. I have no doubt that the Senate in its wisdom wants to express its opinion on thai, even though in so doing it may contradict in part a resolution which is carried in another field and which makes no reference to this proposition.
I would say, Mr Deputy President, that the functioning of these committees and their success or failure will depend in large measure upon the administrative staff that will be set up and the ability of senators to give their time to ihe functioning of these committees. Whether they can do that cannot be discovered unless some committees have operated for some time. For that reason we have suggested that 2 committees be immediately established. We have been asked why we select these 2 committees. As honourable senators will realise, they are most significant committees in two areas of public administration. One is the standing committee on trade, industry and labour. Honourable senators can understand the matters thai come within that heading, as shown in the report of the Clerk to the Standing Orders Committee. There are such things as the primary industries and trade. Then, of course, there are the eleemosynary committees on health, welfare, education and science. We could have selected first for specific establishment the committee suggested on external affairs and defence; but for the very reason that this is a period of experimentation and that what we call the hot subject committee might have the effect of precipitating situations that might result in the destruction of the committee system in its infancy, we have deliberately avoided that I think, again, that prudence dictated thai thai should be the approach to the committee system.
As Senator Branson reminds me. another matter that affected our thinking was that there was already a Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and it would seem to be foolish and an unwarranted expenditure of public moneys to set up a committee lo trespass on the field of a very significant committee which is adequately staffed, both in parliamentary and administrative personnel.
So, Mr Deputy President, 1 would say that the Senate must approach this motion in complete isolation. It is a motion that stands within the four corners of its own terms. It contemplates the establishment of a certain number of committees and their actual introduction by a process governed by prudence and discretion. The Senate is entitled totally to disregard the resolutions which have been carried and to carry this one; and if 3 resolutions are finally carried they must be identified together and a solution must be found between them. It is the process to which the Senate itself subscribed when it provided for the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable these resolutions to be carried. To abandon that and to render any resolution on this matter ineffective would be an abandonment of the decision we ourselves have taken.
For those reasons, I appeal to honourable senators to regard this for what it is: a motion for the principle of committees, the number of committees, the designation of committees and the machinery by which they shall be implemented. Unhesitatingly I say that our motion embodies in the fullest degree the real wishes of the Senate and the real exhibition by this chamber of that degree of prudence and responsibility that should always characterise its deliberations. For those reasons, I strongly commend our motion to the Senate.
– I shall be brief, but as Senator Murphy had something to say about this matter I should also like to do so. I thought it was only to be expected that in a Senate composed of the Labor Party, the Liberal and Country Parties and the Australian Democratic Labor Party the members of those parties would have their own right to express their own views and employ their own talents to do so, I cannot see that anybody should make any claim against them for doing so. It seemed to me perfectly proper and what I would expect to happen because, after all, the Senate is not a one man band. At least, I hope it is not.
I for my own part, without wishing to be offensive, would have preferred a situation in which the Labor Party senators could have freely expressed their own views, because amongst them we might have found some opinions which might have helped us all in our deliberations. What I think we want from the Senate is a true combination of views. What is really needed is a consensus, and we might end up by getting a consensus in this way. However, we do not want this chamber put on a course by little more than half its votes at any one point of time without the balance of the Senate being really in agreement and willing to go along and work for that particular pattern of operating.
- Mr Deputy President, as I think I indicated before, had the first motion not been carried I would have supported the present one, because both motions have much merit. However, the first one was carried, and in my opinion the usual practice is that when 2 motions are identical in general effect the first one should take precedence, having been carried, and the second should be dispensed with. That is the practice in most organisations or bodies. I do not think that the motion in relation to the Estimates, which was carried, was necessary. However, it can live with the first one. To carry the third motion together with the first and second motions would produce a ridiculous position. I supported the first motion which was carried.
– He knew that you were going to support it.
– Do not worry-
– That will not get you the presidency.
– I want Senator Gair to know that I will not sell myself to anybody. I am not prepared to make a speech in this place to win support from Senator Gair or from anyone else. I think in fairness it can be said that my attitude in the 20 years or so that I have been in the Senate has been one of honesty and sincerity. I have never sought position or pandered to anybody for a position. I do not think anybody could say that I have aimed for a ministerial post in this Party. We will be reaching a ridiculous situation if this motion is carried as well as the first and second motions. Who then will sort out what the Senate really means?
– lt will go back lo the Standing Orders Committee.
– Senator Rae suggests that it will go back to the Standing Orders Committee, in other words, the honourable senator is indicating that the Standing Orders Committee is above the Parliament. So far as I am concerned it is not above the Parliament, lt is the Senate which which should make a decision as to how the Senate should operate. I propose to show the conflict between these 2 motions. The first motion set out the different committees to be appointed and the interpretation is that those committees are to be set up as soon as possible, meaning in the immediate future.
– Do you not have the same situation with the other two?
– No. 1 did not vole for the second motion because I thought the first one was complete in itself. However, 1 felt that the second motion could Jive with the first motion, but I. do not accept that the third motion can live wilh the first and second motions. Let me analyse the situation for honourable senators. The first motion carried set out the committees and indicated that they were to be set up forthwith, or as soon as possible. But the third motion lo which we are now speaking indicates that the committees shall be set up over a period of not less than 12 months, lt. indicates further that the committees are to be set up in accordance wilh the report of ihe Standing Orders Committee. My recollection is that the report does not set out exactly the same committees as those mentioned in the first motion which we carried. If anybody can tell me how this can be interpreted as a direction from the Senate, if the 3 motions are’ carried, he is better than I am at sifting out what is really intended, lt would be impossible to interpret the 3 motions as one. Yet that is what will have to be done if this motion is carried.
– in your opinion, who resolved the first 2 motions?
– The first motion mentioned different committees and that motion, if I remember correctly, dealt with matters relating to finance. Those committees relating to finance could also cover the committees in the Government’s motion. But this motion conflicts with the first one in particular and in those circumstances 1 cannot see why the Senate should now consider it, having carried the first motion.
– You are reflecting on a decision of the Senate.
– lt was a decision of the Senate, to which you subscribed, lo consider il in his way.
– I am saying that normal practice, where a motion is in conflict with a motion already carried, is to register automatic dissent.
– But the Standing Orders have been suspended.
– 1 am talking about this motion.
– So are wc.
– Lel me say in plain English that if Ihe Senate carries this motion, having already carried the first 2 motions, it makes the situation look ridiculous.
– It is saying to the public of Australia that the Senate does not know its own mind, that it doss not know what it wants. I suggest that the Senate should speak clearly on these matters. Having made a decision as to what the committees should be, their processes and so on, we should stick to that decision and reject any further motions which will merely develop complexities, misunderstandings and difficulties. The motion should be rejected. I shall oppose it.
Senator BISHOP (South Australia) 1.10.6] - I support what Senator Murphy has said. Senator Murphy said that the resolution moved by him and carried by the Senate is not inconsistent with the second motion proposed by the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) and that it is possible for both these propositions to operate at the one time. But let us consider the effect of the motion proposed by Senator Gair. The first clause of his motion states:
The Senate accepts and approves the principle of Standing Committees of the Senate appropriate to various areas of Departmental administration.
– There is no ambiguity about that.
– But I am querying it because the honourable senator did not say that he supported Senator Murphy’s proposals in relation to areas of departmental administration, nor did he say that he would support what was proposed by Mr Odgers. The honourable senator referred to various areas of departmental administration. If we look al the Estimates we find that 27 departments are involved. So my first criticism is of the failure by the Democratic Labor Party to define exactly what its objective is in relation to the committees to be established. In that respect the proposal is obscure. Clause 3 of the motion has been amended to provide for 2 committees instead of 3 committees as was first proposed. This clause contains an important statement. I agree with Senator Woods. It seems thai the whole proposition qualifies the concept of permanent committees because it states:
The actual establishment of the total number of Committees, pursuant to that recommendation, be done over a period of not less than twelve months and not before two of the said Committees selected by the Senate for first establishment have actually operated and report of the operation of these committees has been presented to the Senate by the President.
I suggest, that such a proposition qualifies the whole concept of the committees. The Senate has affirmed that standing committees are possible and should be firmly established. In that regard the motion contains a qualification. Then if we consider the 2 committees which are proposed, we see that the first one mentioned is a standing committee of trade, industry and labour. Each of those is a very important subject and should be dealt with separately. The 4 subjects mentioned for the second committee proposed should also be dealt with by special committees. For those reasons I suggest that what Senator Murphy has proposed is correct.
– We have heard complaints this evening that the stage we are reaching in the consideration of the motion which has been put forward by Senator Gair on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party will create a farce. I think we have a farce already. Perhaps it would not hurt to consider for a moment who created the farce, how it came about and what will be the result. Perhaps we should now consider passing Senator Gair’s proposal and then deciding to do what we should have done in the first place, that is, leave this matter for resolution by the Standing Orders Committee which can then bring forward to the Senate a recommendation which can be considered by the Senate. Instead of that we have a situation in which Senator Murphy, impatient for one reason or another, could not wait for the matter to be resolved by the Committee which had been considering it for a considerable length of time. So it came before this chamber a little precipitately.
If we had a situation in which the Democratic Labor Party, for the purpose of consideration of this matter, was represented on the. Standing Orders Committee in addition to the present membership of that Committee, perhaps we could achieve some resolution of the problem which would be acceptable to all parties. I have sufficient faith in the people who form certainly the majority of the members representing all parties on that Committee to believe that they would te able to consider this matter in the proper way and lo come forward with a recommendation thai would be thought out and worked out and would come before the chamber as a considered resolution agreed to by at least the majority.
Instead of that we have the farce created by someone who wanted to jump the gun. We have the farce of a situation in which for several years people from all sides of this chamber have been working to create in the minds of members of the Parliament, the Government and the people an acceptance of an idea and an ideal. It is an ideal to which we all can subscribe. I believe that basically we all do subscribe to it. But somebody had to jump the gun. Somebody had to try to gain a little kudos. Somebody had to pretend perhaps that it was even his own idea. So now we find ourselves in a situation of farce in which the person who complains about the farce is the person who created it. I can only ask Senator Murphy whether he will now reconsider the situation that he, by his precipitate action, has created, let the matter get back to where it should have been and let us have a situation in which we can receive a recommendation from the Standing Orders Committee after it has considered all of these motions and tried to work out a suitable coalescence of the ideas that are put forward in these motions.
– I wish to detain the Senate for only a few minutes in order to read to the Senate from Hansard what actually was decided upon last week. Senator Murphy said:
I could move my motion, because we are dealing with General Business, then the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) might move his motion, and at the same time we might consider the report of the Standing Orders Committee. At the end of the discussion the motions could be put one by one.
Senator Byrne said:
We will discuss them together?
Senator Murphy said:
We will discuss them together . . .
A little later he said:
We would discuss them as cognate matters, if that is the appropriate term, deal with them together, and at the end of the discussion put them to a vote in some way which will determine appropriately the view of the Senate.
I do not know what Senator Murphy had in mind, but I had in mind exactly what it is now proposed to do, namely, to put each motion to the Senate. If there was any other intention it should have been made clear. If there was, I was deceived. I can only say that I will regard myself as having been deceived in this matter if we are not permitted to take a vote on the motion put forward by the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
– Let us have a vote.
– The Australian Labor Party’s argument is that we should not vote on the Democratic Labor Party motion because we have already voted on something else.
– No; we want a vote.
– In that case, I am wondering what all the talk is about and why we did not have a vote a long time ago.
– I shall be very brief in my comments. I usually stick to fact and do not go in for fiction, so the Opposition need not show any concern. The point I want to make is that we suspended the Standing Orders tonight and I understood that all motions were of equal value irrespective of the timing. But confusion has been created by arguments advanced from the other side of the chamber. One must accept this as understood, on the basis of your attitude in the chair, Mr Deputy President. If there was opposition to or criticism ot the procedure that has been adopted, I suggest that at that stage the Opposition should have called for a vote to decide which motion would be put first. That not having been done, I accept ail motions as being equal. There was another procedure that could have been used, namely, the general procedure of meetings. That was not used tonight. We understood that 3 motions were placed before us.
Having said that, I want to speak on a very pertinent point in relation to the motion moved by the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I do not think that there is one member of the Senate here tonight - [ hope there is not - who is opposed to the establishment of committees. But I can assure you, Sir, that many members of the Senate here tonight would show concern if we rushed quickly into the establishment of a group of standing committees. This Ls possibly one of the greatest changes in its procedures ever adopted by the Senate since it was established. We have a radical change, lt is a most important change. All of us, i hope, are responsible enough to accept that not only will we have added responsibilities as a result of the introduction of these committees but also we will be inexperienced in the beginning of the operation of them.
Hence I hope that the Senate, in its wisdom, will accept the establishment of 2 committees in the initial stage, with the principle of the committee system accepted, as is stated in the DLP motion. I hope that wisdom will prevail and that we will accept the proposition that we should learn and that we should move slowly and with caution in order to gain experience so that when these committees are fully established we can improve the committee system for the benefit not only of this Parliament but of the whole nation. If we rush in blindly at the start, with inexperience and taking on too many committees, we will make so many mistakes that we all eventually will pay the price for our haste. I definitely support the idea contained in the DLP motion. I hope that the Senate will support the concept of setting up 2 committees in the initial stage.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Senator Gair, do you wish to exercise your right of reply?
– in reply - I wish to exercise my right of reply only to say a few words. The position has been covered very fully by my colleague Senator Byrne and by Senator Young who has just resumed his seat. I have had some experience of select committees, unlike other people who have become very enthusiastic about committee work but who have not been required to give up any recess period in order to do committee work - at least, to my knowledge, not while I have been here. AsI said in my initial speech on this matter, I am in favour of the principle of standing committees, butI am also responsible enough and conscious enough to know that first we have to examine just what facilities are available to us, what staff is available to us and what machinery is available to us-
– And what experience will teach us.
– And what experience will teach us, as Senator Young interjects appropriately, so that we can implement the committee system. When I moved my original motion I warned the Senate about the danger of destroying the whole concept of the standing committee system because inadequate facilities, inadequate staff and the inexperience of many of us would not lead to an effective and a satisfactory result to our deliberations. I counselled the Senate to pause and to adopt a policy of gradualism - if I might use the term - in the introduction of a major departure from the parliamentary process of the Senate. From the decisions of the Senate tonight a number of committees that cannot be accommodated will be set up. The Senate has not sufficient numbers to man the committees, with the result that honourable senators will not be able to devote their lime and attention to the work of Parliament.
If any honourable senator pauses for a moment and examines the position he will agree, in his sober moments, with what I say. I believe that to rush in with this scheme will destroy the whole concept of the standing committee system. I appeal to all honourable senators to put aside their feelings and prejudices. I know that some honourable senators could not vote for a
Democratic Labor Party motion even if it were the best motion conceived by man.
– That is a hypothetical situation.
– The honourable senator talks about a hypothetical situation. 1 have lived longer than he has. I have the power of assessment. I know that the bitterness in his guts would not allow him to vote for a motion put by a member of the DLP, irrespective of the value of the motion. If it were the best motion that emanated from man, the honourable senator could not support it. I ask the better class members of the Australian Labor Party to think about the motion. Those who have worked on committees with me will recognise and appreciate whatI say.
– They have admitted it in private.
– Of course they have admitted it in private, particularly those who have been dedicated enough to attend regularly and not those who absent themselves frequently. The dedicated ones know how difficult it is to man these committees. Yet the Senate has provided for the setting up of committees that cannot be manned successfully and cannot be serviced successfully. However, it is the responsibility of the Senate. I have endeavoured to put forward what I believe is a practical commencement to the standing committee system. I leave the matter to the Senate to decide the issue. The responsibility for its failure will not be mine.
That motion No. 3 (Senator Gairs) as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Bull)
Majority . . . . -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! There being 26 ayes and 26 noes, the question is resolved in the negative.
Senate adjourned at 10.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 June 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700611_senate_27_s44/>.