27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
-I present from 950 citizens of Australia the following petition:
To the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Pre-school and After-school education facilities are in urgent need within the Australia community. The shortage has become more acute as more mothers join the work force.
In advanced countries Pre-school and Afterschool education are recognised as essential aspects of education for all children.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will lake immediate steps to
Provide the necessary financeto enable State education departments and local government authorities to establish:
Facilities for training the staff for such centres.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Committee on Privileges
-I give notice that on the next day of sittingI shall move:
For the purposes of this inquiry, the Privileges Committee shall have powerto send for persons, papers and records, to move from place to place andto meet and transact business notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament.
Aboriginal Reserves in the Northern Territory
-I give contingent notice of motion that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That contingent on the Senate’s consideration of the Appropriation Bills 1970-71 or related matters I shall move an amendment where appropriate - That the Senate is of the opinion that there is a compelling need for the Commonwealth to vest control of existing Aboriginal reserves in the Northern Territory in a public trust or trusts composed of Aboriginals on terms that no such lands be alienated without approval of the Federal Parliament.
-I ask a question of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Will the Minister note that on 23rd June last the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s television programme on homeless men contained a statement that one could not be admitted to the Matthew Talbot Hostel for homeless men in Sydney unless one had money? Will the Minister note that this statement gravely damaged the reputation of this worthy institution whose doors are and always have been open to homeless men without charge? Will the Minister note that Sir Robert Madgwick, Chairman of the ABC on 24th July admitted ina letter to me that the statement was untrue and promised that it would be put in the right perspective at the first available opportunity? Has the untruth been corrected as promised by the Chairman?If not, why not? If not, when will it be corrected?
– I recall the programme to which the honourable senator referred. I am aware of the excellent work being done by the organisation to which he referred. I do not know whether any correction has been made, but I shall take up the matter with the Postmaster -General to see what information I can obtain for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary industry. Is the Minister aware that a firm in Devonport - and I believe the situation in relation to this firm is typical of what is happening throughout Australia - has been refused entry into the United States of America of 120 tons of meat held in store, which meat is valued at §88,000? This refusal could be disastrous for the firm. Can the Minister give any information on this matter? Because of the distress and loss being caused throughout Australia, to producers and processors alike, by what is allegedly only a subterfuge to curtail shipments of meat to the United States, is it not time the Australian Government faced up to the United States Government on this matter which is so serious to producers in this country?
– I am aware of the matter to which the honourable senator referred. However, I regret that I have very little information to give him because the matter to which he referred is under discussion at present by representatives of the Department of Primary Industry and authorities of the Government of the United States of America.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. I beg his pardon for not seeing him prior to asking it, but I was busy. If I remember correctly, on 25th August I asked him whether he had received a copy of a report from the committee comprising representatives of the Treasury, the Department of Civil Aviation and, I understand, the airlines, including Trans-Australia Airlines and Qantas Airways Ltd, about costs and about the airlines’ contribution to air navigation charges. As the Air Navigation Charges Bill is about to be considered, I wondered whether the Minister has the report. If he has, will he table it prior to the debate concluding?
– I was under the impression that I had answered a question on this matter earlier. Perhaps the question was not asked by Senator Kennelly, but certainly I thought I had given the information he seeks. The committee has met and has concluded part of its work. A report on that part has been sent to the Department of Civil Aviation and I have read it. As there is more work to be done the report is not finalised and it will not be possible to have it available to the Senate prior to the debate on air navigation charges. However, if any honourable senator wants from me information that would help him in that debate I shall try to get it for him. The study is really of whether civil aviation costs in Australia are being recovered, and if so, to what extent. I think I ought to say that there is quite a difference of view amongst various people involved in this matter as to the state of cost recovery.
– H address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the proposal to set up a wool marketing authority, I ask whether the authority will immediately on its formation enter aggressively into the field of reorientating promotion and aiding the establishment and development of wool processing and manufacturing industries in traditional textile producing countries such as India and Pakistan, and in countries to our even nearer north. Will the authority consider extending credit arrangements to enable these areas to enter competitively into the woollen and wool/ synthetic fabrics trade? Will it do so in order, amongst other things, that there should be an even wider competitive field on wool’s horizons, and that new and exciting market potentials may be opened up?
Government is studying a proposal for the establishment of a statutory wool marketing authority. The proposal has been agreed upon in principle by the two federal grower organisations and endorsed on the same basis by the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The proposal put to the Government was prepared by an advisory committee of the Australian Wool Board and contains only a broad outline of the proposed plan. Subsequently the Minister for Primary Industry arranged for Sir John Crawford, with the assistance of the Department of Primary Industry and other departments, to elaborate on the proposal. The honourable senator may recall that I referred to this matter last week in answering a question. The Minister has received Sir John’s report and it is now being given urgent consideration by the Government. Until a decision is made on the establishment of a statutory authority it is not possible to comment on the points raised by the honourable senator. However, I shall draw the attention of the Minister for
Primary Industry to the honourable senator’s question and shall try to obtain for him some further information at a later date.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation advise the Senate of the matters taken into consideration when he approved the recent 6 per cent increase in air fares of domestic airlines? Will the Minister also advise the Senate of the matters taken into consideration when he approved the recent 3 per cent increase in air fares of domestic airlines?
– I will have an answer carefully prepared for the honourable senator and the Senate. The various cost factors in this exercise go back quite a long way.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. I ask: As the donor of university scholarships, has the Commonwealth Government the power to withdraw them in the event of recipients being found guilty of breaking laws or acting in ways not conducive to the order! v conduct of university affairs? ls it a fact that academic freedom has, in some instances, become academic licence in our universities, with some members of the university staffs overstepping their basic function of teaching by taking part in political activity and, in the process, inciting students to disregard constitutional authority? Who has the authority to discipline or dismiss such irresponsible staff members?
– The immediate authority to discipline students at academic institutions rests with the governing body. In most cases rules are laid down as to the type of misconduct or discipline which would warrant an order of expulsion or other punishment. With regard to the question of the termination of Commonwealth scholarships when misconduct or civil offences are committed by recipients of these scholarships, it should be remembered that the idea of automatic forfeiture of such scholarships as a penalty for conviction of a crime or .an offence has long passed out of our thinking.
– Not in Victoria. A member of the Legislative Council was disqualified.
– The Leader of the Opposition makes a most ignorant interjection in relation to a matter on which he can ask a question later if he wishes and I will explain it to him. I was saying that the Government would not attempt to forfeit or suspend automatically a Commonwealth scholarship for other than a most serious crime or serious misconduct. I remind the honourable senator that there is provision in the scholarships legislation, which was passed by this chamber in 1969 but which has not yet been proclaimed, for regulations to be made prescribing the grounds upon which scholarships may be suspended or forfeited. I would like to reemphasise that a person who receives a scholarship for the purposes of advancing his education - it may be on orthodox ideas or unique ideas - should not ordinarily suffer a forfeiture of the scholarship or any other benefit which he receives for anything other than a serious crime or serious misconduct.
- Mr President, I ask the Government whether it will examine the statement made yesterday at a conference of refrigeration engineers that only 2 per cent” of the refrigerators manufactured in Australia are efficient as far as insulation is concerned. The statement was reported in all the newspapers. I believe that this is a matter of importance because summer is just about to arrive.
- Mr President, I am not loo sure to whom this question was directed. I do not know whether the efficiency of refrigerators would come under the portfolio of National Development, Customs and Excise or Shipping and Transport, but I do not think that it would come under the portfolio of Civil Aviation. However, I will take it upon myself to try to obtain an answer for the honourable senator. If I am unable to provide an answer for the honourable senator. I shall endeavour ta ensure that the responsible Minister provides him with one.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the
Minister for Primary Industry. Yesterday I asked a question concerning the fact that giant crown of thorns starfish were attacking abalone shellfish in south eastern Tasmania waters. It was with regret that 1 learned that so little was being done on the Great Barrier Reef and in other parts of Australia to prevent the devastation caused’ by these predatory starfish. I ask: Will the Minister draw the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry to a report of 22nd September under a Washington dateline to the effect that a Bill authorising the expenditure of $US4.5m for research into ways of controlling the crown of thorns starfish has been passed by the Congress of the United States of America? Will the Government give consideration to the provision of a research grant to enable marine biologists or some research scientists to go to the United States to work with those engaged in devising a method of eradication of this marine menace?
– I have taken up with the Minister for Primary Industry the matter that the honourable senator raised yesterday. As he requests, I shall now bring before the Minister’s notice the further question which the honourable senator has asked today.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is it correct that an interdepartmental committee on the environment, under the chairmanship of the Secretary, Department of Health, has been formed recently and that a working party is in the course of preparation of a report? If that is correct, can the Minister indicate what progress has been made and to what extent the reports of the Senate Select Committees on air and water pollution are being used as a basis for the work of that interdepartmental committee?
– The honourable senator has raised some very important points here, and I think I should get a detailed reply from the Minister for Health for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the
Postmaster-General. Would the Minister bring to the attention of the Broadcasting Control Board the latest gimmick used in wrestling matches shown on GTV Channel 9, Victoria, in which a wrestler appears to use a cigarette lighter for the purpose of burning the eyes of his opponent? While most adults would be aware that these matches and the gimmicks used are faked, does the Minister agree that such exhibitionism should not be shown at 12.30 p.m. on Sundays when large numbers of children would no doubt be viewing this programme?
– The honourable senator has raised a very important point. All of us who appreciate the importance of what children view on television are concerned about this matter. I shall take it up with the Postmaster-General and place before him the comments which the honourable senator has made.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is there any prospect that arising out of the substantial increase in the consumer price of certain frozen vegetables in the past 2 days primary producers whose return per lb on canning peas has been twice reduced in the past year will get any benefit? If so, how much will they get? Does the Government believe that primary producers ought to get some greater share of the increased price than the figure of approximately 9 per cent now to be paid by the consumer?
– In reply to a question asked by Senator Lillico last week on the matter of peas, I said I had been informed that an orderly marketing plan for frozen vegetables had been proposed and that the Government would welcome a plan if it could be agreed upon by all concerned in the production and marketing chain. This would bring stability to the producing and processing sectors of the industry and protect the interests of the consumers. This plan might be the forerunner of what they are trying to achieve. That is all the information I can give the honourable senator at the present time.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Externa) Affairs aware of Malaysia’s new Prime Minister’s call for the neutralisation of South East Asia with guarantees from the Soviet Union, the United States and China? He is further reported to have said that Malaysia will pursue an independent, non-aligned foreign policy based on co-operation, friendship and non-interference in the affairs of other nations. Will the Commonwealth Government use its best endeavours to assist Malaysia in the achievement of these commendable and desirable objectives?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONLike Senator Brown and other honourable senators, I have read the report, but I am sure the Senate would agree that what was said is a matter of great national importance and it would not be appropriate for me to make a comment about it off the cuff. I expect that the Minister for External Affairs and the Government will look at the statement in due course. But until such time as this is done it would be very inappropriate for me to comment.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. As it appears to be most difficult for workers to obtain homes for rent or purchase in Gladstone and in view of the fact that this is a fast growing city which, if allowed to grow without thoughtful town planning, will present difficulties, will the Minister agree that it is desirable for the Commonwealth Government to make appropriate overtures to the State Government and the local authority concerned for the purpose of urgently discussing and implementing a well-conceived practical town plan for Gladstone?
– I am aware of the tremendous growth of Gladstone and I am aware also that in time we will have up there a huge industrial complex. The honourable senator would agree that town planning in that area will be a function of the State .Government of Queensland. I should have thought that the industries responsible and the local authorities in that area would have conferred with the town planning people and the State Government to see what could be done about this. In general terms 1 do not think it has ever been found that the Commonwealth has been deficient in making sure that infrastructure development is established to support growth. The Commonwealth has recognised, properly, the areas of authority of local people, local government, industry and State governments, and I am sure that it will continue to do so.
– In addressing a question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. 1 refer by way of preface to representatives from the ladies of MUCK, a group of Kurnell housewives who have banded together to resist industrial pollution in that area, ls the Minister aware that following representations by this group to the United States head office in Oklahoma of Phillips Imperial Chemicals Ltd, which operates in Sydney at Captain Cook Drive, Kurnell, the local management has sought to engage industrial espionage private agents to infiltrate meetings of MUCK, in addition to which the local manager of the company has been making telephone threats to officers of this organisation? Is he aware also that when the ladies complained about pollution involving the transport of carbon black, the local management intensified pressures. Will the Attorney-General, together with the State police, ensure that the treatment of United States crusader George Nader by General Motors Corporation is not followed in New South Wales by Phillips Imperial Chemicals Ltd? Will Commonwealth authorities confer with State authorities to combat this form of industrial intimidation?
– I inform the honourable senator that I have no knowledge of the intrusions into industrial espionage that he attributes to certain firms. I find it difficult to understand how this matter might come within Commonwealth responsibility. However, I assure the honourable senator that the matter will be referred to the Attorney-General for his consideration in that sense.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that much of the cash investment required to extract and move to the point of shipment the production of mining companies in Australia is not subject to income tax concessions which will allow benefit to be obtained by the allowance of depreciation on depreciable assets in calculating the tax payable? Will the Minister investigate such inconsistencies in the income tax laws as they apply to mining companies in Australia?
– 1 think it would be proper to say that the Treasury and the Treasurer are alive at all times to the implications of taxation. 1 trust that the honourable senator is not suggesting that companies which are not paying tax are evading it. They are probably functioning within the framework of the law. I take his question to mean that there is within the law a provision which enables non-payment of taxation in certain fields. I am sure the Treasurer will be delighted to examine the provision to see whether it is warranted. I am quite certain he is not aware of all the circumstances under which tax is or is not paid. However, I ask the honourable senator to put his question on notice. The Minister will have a look at it.
– Following the question which I directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation relative to the report of the committee which is now investigating air navigation charges, I now ask: In view of the fact that the Minister states the report is not completed will he place on the table of the Senate the portion of the report which is finished and of which he has a copy? Will the Minister consider delaying the introduction of the Bill concerning air navigation charges until the report is received? In order not to interfere with the financial arrangements which the Government has made in regard to air navigation charges will the Minister insert in the Bill a clause which provides that such air navigation charges will be collected as from the date proposed in the original Bill?
– I would need to refer to much more paper than I have here but I think I am correct in saying that the air navigation charges take effect from 1st January next year. As I said, the report is not completed. I shall have to consider whether I should table a part of an incomplete report. I would not be in a situation to delay the introduction of the Bill.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: Can he indicate what progress has been made in the consideration of the submission from the Tasmanian Government foc a Commonwealth grant to enable the most important Launceston to Bell Bay rail link to be constructed and thereby improve Tasmania’s internal transport structure and facilitate entry to one of the main Bass Strait ferry ports? Can the Minister indicate when a decision is likely to be reached in relation to the submission?
I have here some brief notes in relation to the proposal. The Premier of Tasmania has approached the Commonwealth for financial assistance associated with the construction of a rail link between Bell Bay and the existing State railway system. The request is being carefully examined by the Commonwealth and a decision will be given when this examination has been completed. That information does not add anything to what the honourable senator already knows but it is all I have at the present time. I will seek more advanced information for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, lt refers to the question of rail standardisation in South Australia and the linking of Adelaide with the east-west rail system and other necessary works which are now the subject of the Maunsell report. My question follows previous questions to the Minister. I now ask him whether he is in a position to say what progress has been made between this Government, the South Australian Government and the South Australian Railways Commissioner about this matter. Is the Commonwealth Government now prepared to talk to these 2 State authorities in view of the public statement by the South Australian Railways Commissioner that he is opposed to the Maunsell report because he asserts that the work recommended by it is more expensive than the work he could do? In view of this public statement by the South Australian Railways Commissioner which appeared in last night’s Adelaide ‘News’ will the Minister again take up the matter to see whether a start can be made on negotiations to determine the matter?
– I am well aware of the honourable senator’s interest in this matter from his previous questions and from answers which I gave him on behalf of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. If my memory serves me correctly the last information 1 had on this matter indicated some difference of opinion between the South Australian Premier, Mr Dunstan, and the previous Premier, as expressed to the Commonwealth. 1 would need to find out the situation, particularly in regard to what is reported to be the new attitude expressed last night by the South Australian Railways Commissioner.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry because of his reply to a previous question about the meat problem. He said that there was no information about the matter in the hands of the Government. I and a number of other senators were involved in a discussion in the Senate about trouble at Dubbo and Orange relating to meat works. As a result conferences were held and there was a discussion in an adjournment debate. This had to do with the reasons advanced by the Americans for not using Australian meat. One argument advanced was that our meat was below the acceptable standard of cleanliness. Questions were asked about this. I and, I think. Senator McClelland directed questions to the Minister. Why is it that this Government allows low standard meat to be eaten by Australian soldiers but not by American soldiers? That is the situation at the moment.
– In my reply to Senator Lillico I was referring to a specific meat works which he had named in his question. I did not want to go any further into the matter at that time because discussions between the American authorities and representatives of the Department of Primary Industry were taking place. The United States allows the entry of Australian meat if it meets certain standards. In most cases we can meet those standards but some meat works do not pass the test. Therefore the owners are asked to bring their works up to standard. Following improvements inspections are carried out by the representatives of the Department of Primary Industry and the American authorities and if the standards are satisfactory the works are relisted for export.
– I refer the Leader of the Government to the Moratorium meeting held outside this Parliament House last Friday which was addressed by the Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, Mr Whitlam, and others, and to the fact that films were taken of the proceedings by officers of the Commonwealth, as has apparently become the practice at political meetings. Since the Government has given the excuse that such photographs are taken in order to protect the police in the event of allegations being made against them if there is any violence, and since on this occasion the meeting was not marked by any kind of violence and there have been no allegations or any police action arising out of it, will the Minister give the Senate an assurance that those films will be destroyed? If they are to be kept, will he tell us for what reason films containing photographs of ordinary citizens who attended such a meeting will be kept?
– 1 have no information at all as to why films were taken.I certainly will need
– Will the farmers be photographed too?
– It is obvious that the Opposition does not want to hear the answer.
– My question without notice-
– I want an answer to the question if you will let the Minister finish-
– All right.
Sentaor Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI will seek the reasons, if the Leader of the Opposition wants me to do so, but this question rather surprises me because on his own say-so it was an orderly meeting and nothing untoward happened. If some photographs were taken I do not know why he would want to have them destroyed.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry follows the question asked of him by Senator Ormonde. Is it a fact that when the export of mutton to the United States was stopped in May of this year the reason given was that the disease condemnation standards were not being met? Is the Minister aware that since that time only 2 plants have been reinstated, neither of them in New South Wales, and that in order to regain an export licence for mutton the works must be reinspected for general hygiene purposes? Has the Minister seen a report that at one of the works an American inspector ordered what were referred to as girlie pictures to be removed from the office wall because he regarded them as being too lewd, and that a chipped sugar bowl in a lunch room at one of the plants brought a complaint? Because so many towns in the west of New South Wales are practically dependent for their economic survival on being able to export mutton to the United States, will the Minister take steps to ensure that the inspections carried out in Australia by the 5 American inspectors are conducted fairly and not capriciously, and that the inspectors do not exceed their authority in regard to the overall general standard of hygiene?
– I understand that 2 meatworks have been reinstated recently, one in Brisbane and the other in Shepparton in Victoria.
– But none in New South Wales.
– I understand that others are to be brought in very shortly. I will direct the remainder of the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Primary Industry and ask for an answer.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General ascertain from the Australian Broadcasting Commission why Mr Whitlam was permitted, in effect, to open his Party’s Senate election campaign in the weekend of 19th-20th September on the programme Four Corners’? Is it in accord with the Commission’s proclaimed political impartiality that Mr Whitlam was invited to attack the Australian Democratic Labor Party and to assure viewers that DLP Senators Gair and McManus would be defeated, and the DLP was given no opportunity to reply? Does this piece of political bias herald discrimination against the DLP similar to that which occurred at the last House of Representatives election when 4 leaders of opposing parlies were invited by the ABC to take part in a ‘Four Corners’ broadcast just before the election to attack the DLP, and the DLP was given no opportunity to reply?
– The honourable senator has raised an interesting question and I shall certainly place it before the Postmaster-General for reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Following the 10 per cent increase in air navigation charges in 1969 did representatives of the International Air Transport Association visit Australia for the purpose of discussing with the Government the Australian charges which were alleged to be the highest in the world? What was the outcome of those discussions? Will the Minister give a report to the Senate before the 1970 Bill on air navigation charges is debated?
– I was not occupying this position in 1969 when a reported visit was made to Australia by representatives of IATA to talk about air navigation charges, but I was in this position when some people claiming to represent IATA arrived here at about Budget time to discuss the proposed - as they thought - increase in air navigation charges. Senator Murphy addressed a number of questions to me and I gave him what appeared to me to be a carefully considered and factual answer. I suggest to Senator Cant that that answer may be equally useful to him.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for External
Affairs know of any move by the Government of Algeria to permit its former liberator Ben Bella to go abroad to political asylum? Does he know of any overtures made to Australia to grant Ben Bella political asylum here?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONNo, I do not know of any of those circumstauces. I think the honourable senator is entitled to have the question put through the process and to find out whether a reply can be given by the Department. 1 certainly do not know of any of the circumstances suggested in the question.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation been drawn to the suggestions made in Sydney by Alderman Leo Port, a Sydney City Council alderman and an engineer, in regard to aircraft design to make future aircraft hijack-proof? If so, is it a fact that Alderman Port advocates that aircraft should be divided into 2 isolated compartments - one for the crew and the other for passengers and each with its own entrance - and that the 2 sections should be separated by an unpressurised area or a solid bulkhead? Does the Minister agree with the comment on these proposals made by Dr A. E. Russell, the British Chairman of the Anglo-French Concord Commitee of Directors, to the effect that the proposals are worthy of consideration and investigation by the aircraft industry? Will the Minister have his Department investigate the merit of the proposals?
– I read in the Press the letter by Leo Port containing a proposal that hijacking might be made much less effective if aircraft were divided into 2 complete compartments with access by the crew to the front compartment being available only from an outside door and with no communication between the crew and the passengers. It seemed to me to be an ingenious proposal. Leo Port is known to be a person of great inventive capacity, as indeed many Australians are. Dr Russell, who is the man in charge of the British Aircraft Corporation, was in Australia shortly afterwards and was good enough to come and have a talk with me. He is a most distinguished aircraft designer and engineer. I think he has been responsible for something like 50 different aircraft designs. When the suggestion was put to him, he expressed quite some interest in it. I understand that he has gone home to think about it. Equally, we in the Department of Civil Aviation are looking at it. We cannot say anything more about its possibilities or practicabilities, except that everybody would hope that something would be able to be done about hijacking in general because we are really back in the days of international piracy out of which we thought we had worked our way in about the 16th century.
(Question No. 463)
asked the Minister representing the Minister in charge of Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senators question:
(Question No. 434)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for
Labour and National Service, upon notice: (J.) Do the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act and Regulations, under which the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority exercises certain powers and functions, cease to operate on 1st July 1970.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 496)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education and Science has provided the following replies to the honourable senator’s question:
In additionto the capital grants shown above, recurrent grants have been paid by the Commonwealth in respect of residential colleges and halls of residence since 1951 to assist them in meeting teaching and administration costs. The current rates of the recurrent grants for residential colleges arc as follows:
In respect of each hall of residence a flat amount of $5,000 per annum is paid.
There are also paid, both in respect of residential colleges and halls of residence, annual amounts of $30 per resident student and $10 per non-resident student.
In addition, part of the recurrent expenditure by these institutions, to which both the State and Commonwealth Governments contribute, is incurred by the residential colleges.
(Question No. 533)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1). (2) and (3)
In co-operation with the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of the Interior is at present carrying out an ecological study of Bowen Island and the headland in the vicinity of Murray’s Beach with a view to the preservation of the flora and fauna in the area. The Commission is anxious to co-operate in any recommendations made by the Department for the conservation of native vegetation and wildlife.
Elcho, Croker, Goulburn South and Goulburn North Islands are all within Aboriginal Reserves. As such these islands are protected areas under theWildlife Conservation and Control Ordinance i.e. firearms and traps are not allowed and all fauna is protected. Aboriginals are, however, permitted to hunt for food purposes but cannot commercially exploit any fauna within these protected areas. These areas are subject to periodical inspection by Welfare Officers, who under the terms of the Wildlife Conservation and Control Ordinance are (considered to be) honorary rangers.
(Question No. 579)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Minister for Trade and Industry has supplied the following answers:
Preliminary export figures of the above group of products to the United States of America (in quantity terms) are as follows:
July to December 1969-10,769,041 lb.
January to June 1970-10.652,685 lb.
(Question No. 608)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Australian Tourist Commission Act 1967 1 present the Third Annual Report of the Australian Tourist Commission for the year ended 30th June 1970, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s Report on those statements.
– For the information of honourable senators 1 present the financial statements on Commonwealth Railways operations for the year ended 30th June 1970.
– Pursuant to section 32b of the Snowy Mountains HydroElectric Power Act 1949-1966 I present the Twenty-first Annual Report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority for the year ended 30th June 1970, together with financial statements and the Report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
Pursuant to section 32 of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act 1956- 1970, 1 present the Fourteenth Annual Report of the Corporation for the year ended 30th June 1970, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s Report on those statements.
Pursuant to section 10 of the Science and Industry Endowment Act 1926, 1 present the report of the Auditor-General on the accounts of the Science and Industry Endowment Fund for the year ended 30th June 1970.
Pursuant to section 18 of the Tariff Board Act 1921-1966, 1 present the Annual Report of the Tariff Board for the year ended 30th June 1970. The Report is accompanied by an annexure which summarises the recommendations made by the Board and shows the action taken in respect of each of them.
– In accordance with standing order 408, I ask leave of the Senate to make a personal explanation.
– fs leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Yesterday, when speaking to the Social Services Bill, Senator Keeffe made an accusation that I had said that no pensioner in this country today is in need. T did not answer that as I. thought it was just another extravagant statement of his, but he came back to the attack and said that I had said-
– I take a point of order. I object to the term ‘extravagant statement’ in the manner in which it has been used by the honourable senator.
– On the point of order. Mr President. I ask you to direct Senator Buttfield that the making of a personal explanation and the special privilege which is given for that to be done are not to be used for the purpose of engaging even partially in an attack on another honourable senator.
– J am quite prepared to withdraw the remark ‘extravagant statement’. Senator Keeffe came back to the attack on me and said that 1 had said-
– Order! The honourable senator should remember that she is making a personal explanation. I will allow her to continue for the time being.
– I. am answering the allegation of Senator Keeffe that I had said that this is an affluent society, pensioners are getting plenty, nobody is in trouble and that, in addition, pensioners can work. 1 have a copy of Hansard in my hand. I refer to the many statements 1 made in which I made it very clear that I considered that not all pensioners were getting all we would like them to get. I repeated that some were in need. On one occasion 1 said: . . it would be far belter if we could classify pensions in a clearer way so that those who are in greatest need receive attention first. As I have said, there are many people who do not require such assistance and they could be looked at in a separate way.
I went on and said that the ones who need special assistance are in one category. 1 said that some pensioners are in need, and they are those who should be considered first. Senator Keeffe interjected:
All pensioners are in need.
I replied that all pensioners are not in need. I said that we would like the pension to be raised but we want to assist first those people in need. I also said that special assistance is available to ensure that pensioners do not continue in need. Tn reply to the honourable senator’s remarks about an affluent society 1 did say that there is tremendous prosperity in Australia but the Treasurer has the responsibility of stabilising the economy so that inflation does not erode the value of the pension.
If we have not passed by lunch time tomorrow the Social Services Bill, the Repatriation Bill and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1 will inevitably be moving at 8 o’clock tomorrow night that Government Business take precedence over General Business in order to dispose of those 3 Bills. We have had already a considerable debate on the Social Services Bill. I am rather hopeful that we will be able to deal with the Repatriation Bill by lunch time tomorrow and therefore come to deal with General Business tomorrow night in the normal way. I am in the process of asking the Leaders to reflect upon the possibility that after 8 o’clock tomorrow night the Estimates Committees could sit for a further period.
I feel bound to point out to the Senate that in the following week the Senate will rise at midday on Thursday because from that point on we will be concerned with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference. Honourable senators will be aware that on Thursday week an official luncheon is to be held for Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegates who are coming from all over the world. Parliament will not sit for the remainder of Thursday, Friday or the following week, which will be given over to the CPA Conference. I have given the pattern because honourable senators must realise that it makes some inroads into possible sitting times. It is proposed that the Estimates Committees will sit tomorrow afternoon from 2.15.
– by leave - The Opposition is becoming concerned about the manner in which the rights of the Senate to debate matters are being curtailed. The Repatriation Bill came into the Senate yesterday. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) has said that, it is to be dealt with tomorrow. He expects or wants it to be dealt with by noon tomorrow.
– By a quarter to one tomorrow afternoon.
– Well, by a quarter to one tomorrow afternon. I do not think that this is a reasonable way for the Senate to conduct its business. I understand that if the Repatriation Bill is passed and becomes law the increased benefits it provides will be granted as from 1st October. The Senate should not be put in a position where it has to rush through important legislation. Legislation should be introduced in the Senate in ample time for it to be thoroughly debated. Why should the Repatriation Bill be left to the last moment to be introduced? The Government has control of the other place. It could have had the legislation passed through the other place much sooner. I believe that a clause should be inserted in the legislation to the effect that increased payments are to operate from 1st October. Everybody knows that the Repatriation Bill will be passed by the Senate. Although an amendment will be proposed by the Opposition it will not be one which would prevent the Bill becoming law. If a clause were inserted in the legislation to the effect that increased payments were to operate from 1st October it would not matter if it was delayed a little.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition think that the money should be paid before the measure is enacted?
– The honourable senator has asked a good question. The Government is exacting various taxes although measures enabling it to do so have not been passed. Perhaps the honourable senator will explain to me why the Government is doing this when it is not at all certain that the measures to which I refer will be passed. It would not matter if the increased payments began on 1st October because they would be lawfully ratified when the measure was passed, even if it was not passed until after that date. Assuming the Senate wanted to get this legislation through by 1st October, it would have the rest of this week and probably next Tuesday in which to consider it.
– It would require assent, of course.
– To obtain assent to the measure would only require a member of the Executive to go across to the
Governor-General on Tuesday or Wednesday and have him give his assent. I am not criticising the Leader of the Government in the Senate personally, but I do not think it is right that the Senate should be, in effect, told: ‘You are going to hurt someone or you will do the wrong thing to some people if you do not rush this measure through in the course of a couple of days’. The Repatriation Bill was introduced in this chamber only yesterday.
– Let us sit on Friday of this week. The Government is prepared to sit on Friday of this week.
– It is entirely within the competence of Senator Withers or the Leader of the Government in the Senate to put forward such a motion. Regardless of what happens on this occasion, this way of dealing with important measures ought not to continue. Measures of this nature should be introduced in this chamber in ample time to allow honourable senators to consider them fully.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition think that the Budget should be presented earlier? Does the Leader of the Opposition think that might be the answer?
– It could be the answer. I think it ought to be done. But even taking the course which is followed at present whereby the Budget is presented in August,I do not think that it is right that very important measures should be rushed through this chamber. It could be that the Government is using this device in order to minimise criticism. Whatever the reason may be, the Senate should not be subjected to the kind of treatment whereby an important social welfare measure is rushed through the Senate in a state of emergency. I do not think that is satisfactory. The Senate should be given ample opportunity to debate all measures which are introduced in this chamber.
Debate resumed from 22 September (vide page 779), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Fitzgerald had moved by way of amendment:
At end of motion add ‘but the Senate is of opinion that -
the increases proposed are inadequate;
social service payments generally are inadequate to maintain an acceptable standard of living;
steps should be taken immediately to eliminate poverty: and
a contributory national superannuation system should be established and (he means test eliminated’.
And upon which Senator Gair had moved by way of amendment to Senator Fitzgerald’s amendment:
At end of proposed amendment add -
rates of pensions should be determined by an independent tribunal or committee of experts on social services including pensioner representation’.
– Despite what has been said about the urgency of business. I think I should take the opportunity to complete the theme I was developing before the debate was interrupted. Honourable senators will remember that just before the adjournment last nightI was trying to get some rational interpretation of the Act as it now applies. While admitting that the question I was raising should really be raised in Committee, I took the opportunity to mention it during the second reading debate in order that I would have enough time to develop the argument fully. Because of interruptions, I suffered the consequence of taking longer thanI anticipated and I am now trying to complete a line of argument that I commenced last evening.I only hope that honourable senators who are here were listening last night and can remember the theory I was trying to advance. 1 related my remarks to proposed new section 1 12b. I pointed out that under this section we will pay an additional allowance in the form of a rent allowance up to $2, the amount to be decided by the DirectorGeneral of Social Services, to those who are exclusively on sickness benefits, have no other source of income and pay rent. J was trying to point out that it was the intention of the learned Draftsman, and it becomes the intention of the Parliament when we adopt the Draftsman’s proposal, firstly, that this be a payment, without a claim, to those who qualify for it and, secondly, that power be given to the Director-General to make the payment retrospective to the time when the person first became entitled to the allowance. But in relation to a similar payment to a single pensioner under section 30a of the Act - that is where he meets the qualifications of being the only pensioner in the household, paying rent and existing entirely on his pension - the Minister will not permit payment to be retrospective to the time when the pensioner first became entitled to the allowance.
Although in that case the Act does not require that a claim be made in fact no payment is made until a claim is lodged and I do not disagree with this. The lodging of a claim makes the Department cognisant of the qualifications of the pensioner for the purpose of the additional allowance. The Act purposely gives the DirectorGeneral the power to pay the allowance retrospectively from the time when the pensioner qualified for it, but in certain cases the Director-General will not pay the allowance from a date before the time the claim was lodged. I endeavoured to point out that it was the intention of the Draftsman, as it was the intention of the Parliament, that such a payment should be made, if necessary, from a date before the date of the claim. This becomes evident when one considers that the draftsman has used different wording in section 68 of the Social Services Act from that used in other sections of the Act. Section 68 of the Act relates to the payment of a widow’s pension after a determination has been made by the Director-General. Although payment of that pension may be retrospective to a date determined by the Director-General, in granting retrospective pensions he cannot make the pension payable from a date earlier than that on which the claim was lodged. In one instance the draftsman has placed a limitation on the DirectorGeneral but in the other case he has not done so. Obviously he had some reason for applying a limitation in one section but not in the other.
Section 68 provides that payment of a pension is dependent on a claim having been lodged whereas section 30a, which provides for the payment of a supplementary allowance, does not require a claim to be made. Obviously the draftsman intended that there should be greater freedom in the payment of the allowance. The case which brought this differentiation to my attention was one to which I referred last night of a married pensioner couple who were living together and paying rent. When the wife died the male pensioner qualified for a payment under section 30a of the Act, but he was so distraught with grief and worry over the loss of his partner after so many years that for some time he was incapable of making an application. When he did apply he satisfied all the requirements laid down in the Act. But the Act requires also that the DirectorGeneral shall make a determination and, some time after the pensioner had applied, the Director-General determined that payment would be made retrospective to the date of the claim. I approached the Department and suggested that this was not the intention of the Act, but I was told by a representative of the Department in Adelaide that it was the custom of the Department to proceed in this way. When the Parliament has legislated to provide for a certain situation, is it to be overruled by a department which acts in accordance with customs that it has created?
– Do you say that payment was in contravention of the express terms of the Act?
– I could not say that it was in contravention of the express terms of the Act because the Act gives a discretion to the Director-General. I am saying that Parliament intended that the Director-General should go further in the exercise of his discretion in relation to this section than he is permitted to go in a section which limits retrospectivity to the time at which a claim was lodged. The legislation makes it clear that Parliament intended that the treatment relating to the payment of supplementary assistance should be different from that applying to a widow’s pension. I wrote to the Minister setting out the details that I have just mentioned to the Senate and stated what I considered to be a proper interpretation of the Act. I think it is important to refer to the reply that I received from the Minister because, in my view, it shows a complete misconception of how the Act should be interpreted. In a letter dated 12th February 1969 the Minister, after referring to this case, stated:
It is true that the Social Services Act does not specifically require a claim for supplementary assistance to be lodged.
That supports my view that there is no need for a claim. The letter continued:
But there is no doubt that when this assistance was introduced in 1958 it was the intention of Parliament that some form of written application would be necessary.
I am not complaining about there being a need for a claim so that the Department may become aware of the entitlement, but the Minister has proceeded on the basis that Parliament’s intention as expressed in the Act is to be interpreted from something said during the introduction of the Bill. That is not a fair method of interpreting an Act or the words used in a particular section of an Act. I well recall a learned judge informing me that one of the great accepted canons of the interpretation of the legal meaning of words in a document was their literal and grammatical meaning unless to give them such meaning led to an absurdity. Only when it was found that ambiguity existed in the words used was one entitled then to look at the intention of the legislature which had framed the document. The intention of the legislature had to be read from the document itself and not from what someone producing the document may have said.
Honourable senators who have been in this chamber for some time may remember the occasion when certain assurances were given to me in relation to moneys that would be acceptable to attract a loan under the Commonwealth’s home building subsidy scheme. When the scheme was reviewed the assurances were repudiated by a subsequent Minister. In view of the fact that the assurances had been given I was justified in the advice I had given, although it was incorrect advice, to two applicants for grants under the scheme. I asked that an exception be made in those two cases and the grant was approved. Despite the fact that the former Minister had assured me that there was power to do this, another Minister subsequently replied - I think rightly - that there was no power in the legislation. By reading what was stated in the Act the Minister on that occasion had said that Parliament intended that claims could be made. After the introduction of the 1958 Budget the then Minister for Social Services, Mr Roberton, amplified the Government’s social service proposals by stating that pensioners who considered themselves eligible for supplementary assistance should lodge a claim and that forms for this purpose were available at the Department’s offices and at post offices. He went on to state that for a pensioner to establish these points and indicate that he required supplementary assistance he must first lodge an application for it.
While I am not complaining about the application, I am complaining about the fact that what someone had said in this Parliament should be accepted by the Minister as a proper interpretation of the Act. Regarding the date of application, the Minister stated:
The following extract from the Minister’s explanation in the Committee stages of the Social Services Bill 1958 explains that a claim would be required and that payment of arrears as envisaged by you was not intended.
No matter what the legislation stated, if the Minister had never intended to pay the claim no claim was paid and no retrospectivity was applied. The Minister quoted the then Minister for Social Services who said in the House during the Committee stages:
Sub-section (3) gives the Director-General power lo determine the date of commencement of supplementary assistance. Generally the date of commencement after the initial payments are made will be the pension pay day after the date of receipt of the application as in the case of pensions. This may be prior to the actual date on which the claim is determined.
Nothing is contained in the Minister’s statement during the Committee stage which expresses an intention different from that which I envisaged in my representations to the Director-General in Adelaide. The Minister apparently is saying that after the first payment sub-section (3) gives the Director-General power to determine the date of the commencement of supplementary assistance. This is admitted. Nothing that the Minister said indicated when the initial payment would be made. The Minister does not state when the initial payment will be made or when it will commence. There is nothing in the Minister’s statement at that time which will support the present Minister’s statement that it is not the intention of Parliament that these payments should be retrospective. The letter from the then Minister for Social Services concludes:
Thus the established practice referred to by the Director of Social Services in Adelaide in his reply to you of 3rd January is in accordance with that approval by the Parliament at the time the legislation providing for supplementary assistance was introduced.
If the statements were the proper criterion on which to base an interpretation of the Act - I do not think they were - then there is nothing in the statements which indicated when the date of payment commenced. lt was stated that payments will be made after the initial payment is made. It could be that the initial payment is a lump sum payment retrospective for 3 months. Despite the intention of the legislation the Department has established a practice. We are now being governed by practices established by the Department and not as Parliament decides. This is the reason why great care must be taken when discretionary powers are given to the heads of departments. I consider that in this case that power has been abused. I think I am justified in putting this matter forward and perhaps taking up dme during the second reading debate of the Social Services Bill. The matter justifies a reply. During the Committee stages it will be resurrected in the hope that some reply will be given to my submissions.
– The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) when introducing the Bill referred to the policy of the Government over 21 years. In broad terms she claimed it was a policy of continuous improvement in the social service programme. This is a point of view wilh which we are in entire agreement. In this policy of continuous improvement in the social service programme there has been an improvement in the lot of pensioners and people entitled to pensions. While no given amount would satisfy everyone, it is true that throughout this period there have been increases not only in the pensions and in benefits for the pensioners but also in the whole range of social services, subsidies, grants and fringe benefits. As the number of benefits increases so the cost to the nation increases.
I do not think that a debate on the Social Services Bill should be the subject for a series of exchanges on detailed cases with which all honourable senators have intimate and considerable connection. There will always be groups of people who contend that a pension, allowance or benefit is either insufficient for the need or, from an opposing point of view, is sufficient, In any programme under the present system there always seem to be anomalies and cases which require special attention or for which the existing legislation does not seem to cater. It is true to say that no one in Government or in Opposition lacks a desire to help. It all becomes a matter of interpretation, of how much the country and the community can afford and of what the particular needs are in a given set of circumstances. I doubt whether it is possible to achieve a formula which will adequately provide for every person in every circumstance. There will always be debate and contention of opinion as to whether a thrifty person should be penalised or whether a person should spend his money to come within a bracket in which he will be entitled to receive a pension or, indeed, whether someone who through the years has wasted his income, his assets or whatever he may have had is entitled to receive assistance at the expense of the community and the taxpayer. This debate and this discussion - indeed this argument - will be a constant one.
The fact is that there are in our community aged and needy people who require help. They not only need it but they deserve care. It is important that this care should be distributed equitably and it is important that it should take account of as many circumstances as possible. It is important also that it should be reviewed from time to time and at frequent intervals. But care for aged and needy people today goes beyond Government provisions. I put forward the contention which has been put forward many times of course, that the most desirable thing is that care and assistance for needy citizens within our community should come from both the Government and the community. One helps the other and one encourages the other. I think it would be most unsatisfactory for the nation if the Government were expected to provide all the care required and similarly it would be more unsatisfactory if the Government provided none of the care and the community were left to do everything. So there has grown up through the years an interdependence. Indeed, there has been something which may be described as the development of a partnership. Although we may be left with some services where the independent role of the voluntary organisation continues unimpaired the main feature of our current scene, I suggest, is the ever increasing responsibility of government bodies for meeting individual needs. Because our range of social services and the scope of social service work has increased rapidly, voluntary workers seem to be even more important than ever before. I pay tribute to them because I have had the opportunity to be associated with a great number of them. They continue to perform the function of filling the gaps in what might be described as the statutory services.
Voluntary organisations have an important role which is becoming even more important as time goes by. Because of their very participation in this particular work they perform the valuable service of discovering the needs of our community and of assisting the Government to find and meet them. I refer the Senate to the Social Services Annual Report 1969-70’ tabled in this Parliament, particularly to the Director-General’s comment. Referring to Acts mentioned in the report he stated:
These Acts introduced important advances in social welfare and . . . continued the trend towards greater co-operation in the welfare field between the Commonwealth and the State Governments, local authorities and voluntary agencies.
It is true to say, Sir, that the Government has responded to this kind of relationship over the years by increasing the amount and the diversity of services and the opportunities to care for the aged and the needy.
We have become accustomed over the years, Mr Acting Deputy President, to a policy of continuous improvement and advancement. I suppose it is true to say that if at any one period of time there seems to be a slackening of the advance, which is one of the experiences we might be facing now, it tends to bring forward a stated opinion that there is a regression and, indeed, it has been put forward as an item of neglect. Of course, this is not so. I refer to the second reading speech by the Minister for Housing on the introduction of this Bill when she said:
This Bill does two things:
lt increases the base rule of pensions, both standard and married and all widows, by 50c per week.
lt introduces a long term sickness benefit, at a higher rate than the old scale.
I have said already that no rate of improvement or increase will satisfy everybody. Indeed, I, amongst others, am disappointed that the increase has not been greater. But it is pertinent to indicate to the Senate this afternoon something about the increases planned for the 1970-71 period as compared with the previous year. In the sphere of age and invalid pensions there is a plan for an increase of some $65m. In the sphere of widows’ pensions the planned increase is for nearly $8m. The planned increase for maternity allowances involves $60,000. For unemployment and sickness benefits the increase planned is over $1,700,000. For the rehabilitation services there is an increase planned amounting to $192,000 and in other spheres, such as sheltered employment allowances, funeral benefits, payments under State grants, personal care subsidies, delivered meals subsidies and others, plans are provided for an increase.
Australia has been a pioneer in the sphere of social welfare and social services oyer the years, it introduced a comprehensive system of age pensions long before either Great Britain or the United States of America, 2 countries with which we frequently have been compared and on which we are frequently modelled in all broad areas of social advance. We have had the opportunity to give a lead. Social services touch the lives of most people today and absorb a large part of the national income. For example, in 1966-67 the consolidated revenue of the States and the Commonwealth amounted to over $6,000m. That same year Commonwealth Government expenditure on major social service programmes, including health, repatriation and welfare, amounted to $1,500m and that for the States amounted to S860m - a total of $2,333m out of a total consolidated revenue of about $6,00Om. Expenditure on social services in 1968, which is not so long ago, amounted to 40 per cent of the total revenue.
There would be, and there is always, a wide range of opinion as to the role and purpose of social services. Generally we could include in social services the field of pensions and benefits to all aged, widowed, unemployed and sick people. We could also include health and hospital benefits.
We could even come down the list quite a way and regard recreational activities, family and child welfare as well as counselling services, as coming within the field of social services. A very quick glance at the Commonwealth Directory lists well over 30 items, ranging from such broad activity as the administration of the Aged Persons Homes Act to vocational training of a wide variety and kind, as coming within the duties and functions of the Department of Social Services. All of this means that the social service programme of the Government from time to time touches a great number of people within Australia. Because of demands upon the Government and because of the endeavour of the Government to reflect something of the situation of this country, there is in each review of social services an increasing demand and an increasing cost.
All of this has an impact not only on our community but also on our community life and community relationships. Of course it has an influence on the demands for public money which the public pays and which the public must provide. This money must come from such sources as taxes on companies, taxes on goods, sales tax and income tax. The Government now assumes in Australia a vast role of caring for and helping the needy. Once upon a time this may have been described as a private responsibility but now, by way of relationship between government and people, we are able to achieve a greater amount of satisfactory and efficient care. The Government has developed a vast number of institutions and is involved in a great many more institutions, one way and another, all of which means that the social service programme in Australia is a significant employer of labour to carry out its activities. A great deal of finance is involved in the provision of goods and services. 1 turn now for a moment to refer to the particular case before the Senate. I refer to the areas in which the Government contributes, and has contributed over the years, to assisting that section of the community known as the pensioners. Like other honourable senators who have taken part in this debate, I shall refer to a number of provisions which are made and services which are provided by the Commonwealth to assist pensioners. For example, a pensioner whose entitlement to a pension did not arise solely as a result of the introduction of the tapered means test is entitled to a number of benefits. These include free consultation with a general practitioner and, in certain circumstances, free specialist treatment. There is free treatment at public hospitals together with associated ancillary medical services. Pensioners are granted a considerable reduction in telephone rentals, and there are concessional licence fees for both radio and television, while hearing aids are provided and maintained at a hiring charge which is beneficial to pensioners.
The Commonwealth also provides financial assistance to the States to encourage the provision of dwellings for age pensioners. State and Commonwealth transport systems also help by granting special fare concessions. Councils and local government bodies have the opportunity to defer or remit local rates, while in certain States cash assistance is available to pensioners for medical, dental and optical facilities, and even legal aid. The Commonwealth moves further in this field and provides a subsidy towards nursing home fees, and financial assistance to encourage the provision of nursing home beds, home nursing, home care, paramedical services and that which we now describe as delivered meals. A number of other subsidies relating to bousing benefits and matters which assist the pensioners all come within the Government’s social services programme.
By way of comparison it may be interesting to note the amount that it would be necessary to put aside during one’s lifetime so that when one attained pensionable age he would receive the same amount as the pension. If a pensioner had to rely upon accumulating capital during his working life to provide a similar weekly income in retirement he would need a considerable sum of money. Let me put it in this way: Allowing for income tax, a single pensioner would need to have almost 519,000 deposited at 4i per cent to give the same annual income as his pension now affords. If he happened to be a little more fortunate and made a better investment, say at 8 per cent, he would still need some $10,000 or more in terms of capital funds. Again making allowance for income tax, a married pensioner would need almost $16,000 invested at 44 petcent to yield the annual income which is represented by his pension. Having put it in that way, I add that if such a set of circumstances eventuated the investors concerned would receive no annual adjustment in income and certainly none of the additional benefits, sometimes known as fringe benefits, to which I have referred.
As I said at the beginning of my remarks, I am disappointed that the increase in the pension rate has not been more. What I have said does not indicate that one is totally satisfied with the proposals that are now before the Senate, nor does it indicate that one is totally satisfied with the Government’s overall social services programme. But we are in a period of a changing pattern of social services. There are changing demands on the Australian community, there is a changing purpose in the total field of social services, a changing outlook and a changing attitude towards them. Therefore there are not only changing needs but there is also a clear call for a constant review and a recognition of those changes so that those in the community who are in need may receive something adequate. But it is important also that the Government . in its planning, both in the immediate future and in the long distant future, take into account that there will be in the Australian community people who, at a certain stage of life, need to be in a situation where they can maintain their standard of living, their life and their interests, not in affluence but at least at a level which will enable them to continue in the pride, dignity and usefulness that they have had all their lives.
Speaking in support of the measure I renew my hope that as the Government reviews its policy it may be able to make a more generous allowance in the future, but at the same time we all need to accept our responsibility in this matter, recognising that a greater number of services, a wider diversity of services and an increase in grants will make more and more demands upon people everywhere. We must be prepared io accept those demands.
– This debate has developed to a stage where I think everyone will agree that the increases proposed in the Budget in the field of social services, particularly as they affect aged people, are inadequate. We have heard
Senator Davidson express the view that he was disappointed that the proposed increases were not greater but that he thought they were as much as the country could afford. I join issue with Senator Davidson and ask him why we have not had a proper, complete survey of the problem and of the plight of the section of the community to which this debate is directed. He said that he doubted that a formula could be devised which would give sufficient in the way of pension to meet the needs of the different sections of the community involved. He went on then to outline the categories.
I approach this from an entirely different angle because it is my view that, despite other priorities, there is an obligation on the community towards our aged people to ensure that their standard of living is held at a level at which their basic requirements are provided, and that the inflationary trend which is continuing in Australia is equated periodically with the pension to allow them to share in the so-called affluent society in which we are living. When one comes in contact with people who, through no fault of their own, are living in single rooms and paying rent, and people whose lives have been trimmed to monotony, one can see that there is a great need for an expansion of their interests and for the provision of their basic requirements.
In an article in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 2nd September last David Wilson directed attention to the fact that 4,000 age pensioners in Melbourne are waiting to be admitted to 2 homes and hospitals for the aged. He said that many of the pensioners will have to wait for up to 5 years before being admitted and that, in some cases, the waiting period exceeds their life expectancy. Let me direct the attention of Senator Davidson and of the Government to the background of these people who are seeking admission to homes and hospitals for the aged and at present are unable to obtain entry, and to what is happening to them. What action has the Government taken in this Budget to deal with problems of this nature? The article provided details of the plight of some among the 4,000 pensioners in Melbourne to whom I have referred. David Wilson said in his article:
Doctors last night expressed their concern at the mounting waiting lists following a report that a 77-year-old World War veteran could not be admitted to a public hospital.
This may be the exception that tests the rule; but in a society such as ours - Senator Davidson claimed that we were the pioneers in social services - a case such as this should immediately bring an explanation. Throughout the community there are people whose cases, as far as I can see, never come to the surface. No provision is made for them to obtain the assistance that they need so badly. The article goes on to say:
A general practitioner said last night that an 80-year-old man died after a stroke because there was no home or hospital to which he could be sent.
People like that were not necessarily wasteful during their early lives. Many of them reach a state of poverty because they were unable to save from their salaries or wages. The point I am making is that, in view of the development of our resources and the claim that we are an affluent society, we should be able to give more thought and a higher level of priority to this section of the community. So we accuse the Government of inadequacy in allowing for an increase of only 50c a week under the Budget. That is grossly inadequate.
A most interesting address was given by Professor Downing. In regard to this very important section of the community, he made certain points that should be enlarged upon. The Government has been very tardy in trying to find out the depth and width of the problem of the aged and the needy. Professor Downing stressed that superannuitants are being continually deprived of their equity and that there is a severe reduction in people’s standard of living as soon as they give up their regular employment. We are living in a society in which there is compulsory retirement at 65 years of age for many people.
Over the last 25 years we have seen the inflationary process go on. On the figures given by Professor Downing, the pension as a proportion of the average income has been reduced from 27 per cent to 21.2 per cent. Many of these people are unable to earn $10 a week or, if they are married couples, $17.50 a week. Although provision is made through fringe benefits to help many of these people, there is still this hard core of people who are tucked away in places where they never come to the public notice but where they need extra assistance very badly. I believe that it was on their behalf that people throughout this country were absolutely shocked by the paucity of the amount provided under this Budget. Professor Downing pointed out that people who set out to save out of their income made sacrifices in the belief that they could make provision for their old age, but they were unable to cope with the growing and continuing inflation.
Often comparisons are made. I believe that it is a ridiculous practice to compare today’s pensions with those of 20 years ago. We must remember that the people who are 60 years of age or older today were born in the first decade of this century - in the days when the first award wage, the Harvester award, provided for 2 guineas a week. The average family was much larger in those days than it is today. Educational facilities were not as readily available. These people who comprise quite a big proportion of the community today lacked many of the advantages of modern society. The economic circumstances of those days made it practically imperative that, if schooling was available to them, they leave school at the minimum age of 14 years and go out to work in order to supplement the family income.
– They did not need much food in those days.
– No. They must have been able to cope with much less food, lt was easier for them to live, according to the argument that is put up today. Those of us who remember the cost of living index, of those days realise that, after a person bought flour, meat, potatoes and a few other things that were on that index, very little was left out of the 42s a week which was the basic wage in those days.
Yet statements are made that people who grew up in the economy of those days and in those circumstances should have been saving for their old age. There is a sort of stigma attached to them because they have reached old age now but they have not any nest egg. This is equivalent to the thinking of those days when the only alternative was the privately conducted poor house. We have come a long way from the days of the poor house in which people were asked to work and earn the amount of food they were given there. To transfer people from an institution such as the poor house to a back room in which they can spend the declining years of their lives, which many of them are doing as these reports show, is an inexcusable policy for a government which, on the other hand, claims that it has developed the economy of this country, that we have attained a high standard of living and that we have an affluent society. The fact that these extremes continue to exist is a very grave reflection on us all.
It is my view that there should be a complete reappraisal of our whole attitude towards social services. It is necessary to realise that the people who have contributed to building up the wealth of this nation, whether they have contributed through the use of their brains or through the use of their muscles, have made a considerable contribution to the development of Australia as a viable country and should be able to expect the attitude of the rest of the community to be that they can live their lives with a modicum of comfort and with their fear of being without the necessities of life reduced to the absolute minimum. In addition, as science and technology improve and advance - and the Press, the television and the other news media have reported the enormous advances of man conquering his environment and spending countless millions to send rockets into space to explore other parts of the universe - aged people living in a world where such wealth abounds should have a little rub off on them. My view is that the standard of pensions in this country is inadequate and that there should be a complete re-appraisal of what it would cost to set a standard below which no person should fall. If that were the accepted norm, people who had saved or who had contributed to a national superannuation scheme, if one were implemented, could gather the benefits of that in their old age. I believe that a basic level should be established. It has not been established in the past. It should be an accepted thing in our society.
We should look at this subject anew. The Government should be in the mood to accept the big challenge that confronts it. The challenge is to the whole society. During the last month or so, since the Budget was introduced, the reactions to it have been that the Government was mean in giving so little to alleviate the plight of such a substantial part of the community which needs social service assistance. Looking at the whole picture, my view is that we could afford a much more generous approach. People in other sections of the community are able to protect their interests. They are able to get a share of the country’s prosperity. They are able to find avenues of entertainment. They are able to get their full slice of the cake. The less fortunate - the aged and the needy - are not able to do that because they are of an older generation. There is a tremendous gap between the modern way of living and the way in which older people were brought up. They are finding it difficult to communicate with younger people. The less they are able to communicate the more they travel in their own small circles where life can be very dull for them. The Opposition has moved an amendment that contains a series of propositions. They are:
– What about our amendment? Does the honourable senator intend to speak about that?
– None of the things proposed in Senator Fitzgerald’s amendment is beyond the capacity of this country.
– You are an optimist.
– Well, I am optimist enough to think-
– I was not speaking to you, 1 was speaking to Senator Byrne.
– Senator Gair was speaking to me.
– Even so, I still say that I am optimistic enough to think that the Government should be able to justify an increase in social service payments every time it is able to justify the expenditure of large sums in negative avenues. A lot of our national revenue is spent in negative avenues. I believe that in a society such as ours, in which the Government claims to be generous with its social service payments, to be an example to other countries and to be giving our citizens a fair go, much more emphasis should be placed on those who need government assistance. Therefore, we believe that the Government stands condemned for the paucity of the increases that have been provided in the Bill. We hope that the Government will implement as soon as possible a complete review of social service payments to give greater hope, a much improved standard of living and a much greater dignity to those people who need our help.
– 1 rise to speak to the social service legislation and to voice my opinion on this legislation. I do not believe that the Government wants to stifle discussion or to hasten this legislation through. We know that it should be passed this week so that the legislation can come into effect on the date announced - which when it was announced, seemed early enough, or late enough - and so that the cheques can start going out. I have the privilege to be chairman of 2 parliamentary committees. Several weeks ago I decided that those committees would not attempt to meet on any of the Fridays during this period in case the Senate wanted time to discuss matters before it. Sitting on Friday this week would be quite in keeping with my outlook. In speaking to social service legislation I have never denied - and I hope I never will deny - the right of the Opposition to criticise the Government. I do not criticise the Opposition for not opposing the legislation. At present there is no opposition to the legislation. The Australian Labor Party has moved one major amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill and the Democratic Labor Party has tacked on an extra clause to that amendment but does not indicate opposition to the legislation. The amendment is merely the use of words to show some outlook as to policy.
The Opposition, as the people must be reminded, in this debate has made it clear that it does not need to have any sense of responsibility to discuss this legislation because the spending of money and the raising of revenue are nothing to do with the Opposition. It bears none of the responsibility. I do not like to be sarcastic, but it is 21 years since the present Opposition was in power. Apart from my colleague, Senator O’Byrne, so few of its members were actually members of Parliament when the Opposition was in power that they have forgotten what is required to govern. They have forgotten what it is to be even a back bencher in a government that has to accept responsibility for the raising of money and for the expenditure of money.
Members of the Opposition are very cutting in their criticisms of the Government’s social service legislation. The Australian Labor Party is on record as the only Party since Federation to reduce the amount of the pensions. When we came into office. I believe it not unfair to say, we found the so-called National Welfare Fund in heavy deficit. T am a member of the Government parties. As such 1 very candidly state that I realise that the responsibility of a national government is all embracing. Every item of expenditure of the people’s money is its responsibility, just as it has the responsibility to collect taxation. Above all. its main responsibility is the defence, security and development of this country as a nation. Under our Commonwealth and State financial relationships and the method of taxation in operation since World War II the States need, deserve and get a very large portion of the revenue that the Commonwealth collects from the people.
I emphasise that when increases in expenditure are planned by a government, in order to pay that money to the people it must first of all find means of collecting it from the community as a whole. When a government looks at what it can do in the field of social service legislation it immediately has to bear in mind that it is duty bound to act similarly in respect of repatriation legislation, lt cannot act in one field without acting in the other. Once a government decides to grant an increase to all beneficiaries it is faced with a very heavy annual drain upon its revenue.
The Hansard report of this debate is literally bristling with figures that have rightfully been cited. I will not add to them except to say that any increase in social service benefits concerns about 1 million people. I think it is fair to say that the Government, in almost 21 years in office, has followed very clearly a set pattern in respect of social service legislation. It has increased benefits where it has felt that they should be increased and could be increased. From year to year it has widened the scope of the ordinarily accepted benefits payable under social service legislation. What is also important, and cannot be denied, is that this Government has proved its great concern for people in need by developing and legislating for new types of social service benefit to cover even more people in wider categories of the population.
From time to time the means test has been eased and recently the tapered means test was introduced. I do not have the time or the desire this afternoon to deal fully with the means test. I have done so in debates on previous Budgets because it is an aspect of social service legislation that I have studied very carefully. Frankly, at present I am opposed to the abolition of the means test. The reasons for my view will become evident as I develop my speech. With the development of the Government’s policies in the field of social services many people are living happier and more comfortable lives. What is more important, they are living longer lives in happiness. That is the aim of the Government and it is also the Government’s achievement. It must be the aim of this Government and every succeeding government to develop that policy even further.
When dealing with social service legislation and answering criticisms of the Government’s policy we have to realise that there is complementary legislation that affects the people. I have in mind legislation dealing with homes for aged persons, nursing subsidies, nursing home benefits and financial assistance for organisations such as Meals on Wheels - the Government has entered the field to help this brainchild of an association formed within the community. It has been developed. Because of the great demand for the valuable services provided by Meals on Wheels it was not able to keep the wheels turning, if I may paraphrase its name. The Government therefore gave monetary assistance and it has been of great benefit.
I heard Senator Buttfield and Senator Rae, and there may have been other honourable senators, refer to fringe benefits. It might be just as well to record that a quite conservative estimate is that those fringe benefits average about $5 a week for each pensioner or beneficiary. Many beneficiaries under social service legislation would not need to take advantage of ali the fringe benefits available, or to keep taking advantage of the medical and associated benefits. However, there are others whose need is great and continuing. Many are helped literally to the value of many dollars a week throughout the period in which they draw social service benefits. When referring to the amounts of money paid as pensions each fortnight and in offering criticism it is unfair not to acknowledge that many fringe benefits are provided by the Government for the people. These are of great value in maintaining those people in a happy and healthy state.
Some people claim that the benefits have not been sufficiently increased. They scorn the increase of 50c a week in the base rate pension. 1 admit that when I heard the increase was to be only 50c a week I was disappointed. However, after studying all aspects of the matter and reading the criticisms that have been offered it seems to me that in order to increase the social service benefits it would have been necessary for the Government either to increase taxation in certain fields or not to apply the reductions in taxation provided for in the Budget. We will be debating that subject at another time, (t was an announced part of the Government’s policy to reduce income taxation. Seldom have I had more letters written to me on any subject by organisations beseeching me to do what I could to make the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) keep his promise. 1 am very glad that I had the moral fortitude and belief in our Prime Minister to write back to many organisations and say: T have no comment to make at the moment because the Prime Minister has said that this will be done. I believe it will be done. Let us wait until the Budget comes in before we start crying, criticising or inferring that the Prime Minister of Australia would mislead the people.’ What happened? How right I was. The Prime Minister gave back even more than he had promised. 1 believe that higher taxation harms people in two ways. If it is in the form of indirect taxation or direct income taxation the burden would fall heavily upon the young people who are about to be married or who are married and are raising a family, lt is harmful to have heavy taxation in our developing country if the desire is to have a happy and prosperous family unit which is bringing more Australians into the world. This is one reason why the Government is reducing the taxation burden. High taxation also stops or slows down incentive. I believe that it would be very bad central government policy to do anything by way of taxation to stop the incentive of the work force. Australia’s work force is not big enough. We want it to grow. The Government wants the work force to work as hard as it can under fair conditions and for fair rates of pay so that the gross national product of this country will increase. I believe that it is in this way alone that we can look forward to the provision of greater benefits on a larger scale under social service legislation.
Senator Davidson referred to the fact, as did many other honourable senators, that although honourable senators on this side of the chamber quite sincerely give credit to the Government for the provisions contained in this legislation they appreciate that there is poverty in our remarkably lucky and wonderful country. In my opinion the reasons for the pockets of poverty which exist are many and varied. Some of the poverty has been caused by unavoidable hardship, disaster and misfortune. Some of it has been caused by the fact that, through physical or mental incapacity, the persons concerned have been unable to earn during their working lives a wage sufficient to enable them to put aside some money for their retirement. But there are others whose poverty has been caused by what I have described previously as self inflicted wounds. However, since becoming Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse I would prefer to say that, through the misfortune and sickness of alcoholism or drug dependency, there are people who have spent their money unwisely, lowered their living standards and interfered with their working ability and thus have become a drain on the public purse.
I do not think that legislation could be implemented by governments which would keep many of the people to whom 1 have referred well clothed and housed and in good health and happiness. Something more than what governments can do by way of implementing legislation and providing money is required. However, the Commonwealth Government must not slacken its efforts in this regard. 1 believe that we must be fair in our criticism of the Government. I have heard it said that it is the fault of the Government that some people are living in misery and poverty. The fact that a person is living in misery or poverty may be partly a fault of our society, it may be partly a fault of the personality of the person concerned and it may be partly the responsibility of the Commonwealth and/or State government, but it is a problem to which the community as a whole and parliaments in genera) should give serious thought instead of saying to the Commonwealth Government: You do not pay enough pension each fortnight to give these people a happy, healthy, comfortable home life’.
We are fortunate in that throughout the various communities in Australia there are organisations which are playing their part in helping to overcome the problems of the people who, for whatever reasons, find themselves in poverty. The churches, charitable organisations, Legacy and the other ex-service organisations are some which come to mind very readily, as do Apex, Lions and the Red Cross. There are many other organisations throughout Australia which are playing a part which I believe government should not try to take over. Government should not try to dampen the enthusiasm of these organisations. It should, as far as possible, leave them completely alone and allow them to act as they so desire. All members of Parliament in Australia, no matter to which Parliament they belong, should give every possible encouragement and assistance to these organisations. It would be a sorry day for hundreds of thousands of Australians in many walks of life if anything were done to dampen down the work of the charitable organisations to which I have referred. In my opinion their place could never be filled by government. Government can only legislate to provide certain amounts of money and trained staff to oversee some of the community; it cannot get right into the pockets of poverty and solve or even attempt to solve the problems which exist there.
It is because of the reasons T have given, and the fact that the Government has increased its expenditure this financial year on health and education as well as in many other fields which are of interest to the Australian community, that I am prepared to say that this Bill to amend the Social Services Act is a satisfactory one. I do not think I would ever be able to stand up and say that it was adequate but I believe that the Government has made a fair approach to the problem. This Bill is proof that the Government has a continuing interest in the welfare of the recipients of social services. Another thing I should say in fairness to the Government is that it cannot be accused of using social service benefits as a matter of political expediency. This prompts me to refer to the proposals of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, whose interest in my speech is obviously profound. Its theme over the years has been to take pensions out of politics or take politics out of pensions. This sounds a very good idea. T suppose all members of the Parliament would be quite happy if social service benefits could be organised in such a way that they did not have to be debated in the Parliament, but I believe that it is wishful thinking on the part of the Democratic Labor Party to put up a suggestion which there is no prospect of any responsible government ever accepting. 1 shall briefly give my reasons for making such a statement. What government would be able to say to the most honest and capable tribunal: :We are spending Si, 473m on social services this year. The public and the Parliament say that it is not enough. You have been appointed to tell us not only what social service benefits should be paid but how much should be paid each fortnight to each recipient. When you put in your report we will put it into legislative form.’ We would be saying to this capable, honourable tribunal: Take the running of the economy of this country into your own hands, spend what you like on social services, and then when you have told us what you are going to do we will tell the people what we can do, if anything, for the development of this country in relation to health, hospitals, education, defence and grants to the States.’ No central government with the financial powers that exist in the Parliament in Canberra today could ever hand the decision on social services to a tribunal. Therefore I oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party on that ground. I believe it is impracticable, as much as J would like to see the party political side taken out of social services.
I do not criticise the Opposition’s amendment. It says that the increases proposed are inadequate. It does not say in what way they are inadequate. It says that social service payments generally are inadequate to maintain an acceptable standard of living. I think I have made my point that in many spheres, because of the tapered means test and the fringe benefits, our social service legislation is allowing many, many, many people to live happy, comfortable and longer lives. I have told honourable senators from my heart what I think about the pockets of poverty that I admit do exist in this country. In closing my remarks I only repeat to the Government the suggestion I made in my speech on the Budget last year, that is, that in each State of the Commonwealth there should be an amount of money available to the Director of Social Services and he should be authorised by regulations to pay for groceries, blankets and other requirements of people who, in his opinion, are the poverty stricken people who need help and who are not getting that help from somewhere else. These people in many cases would not be helped if the fortnightly pension were increased. But if a social worker could interview these people and find out that they needed groceries, clothes, blinds or curtains, then that social worker could report back.
Legacy spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year throughout Australia. This spending is never questioned because the money is given by the people of Australia to Legacy. The people who give the money know it is spent well. If Legacy can do it, if the Returned Services League Welfare Fund can do it, so can our Commonwealth public servants if they are given the power. I repeat that I sincerely believe it is a good idea that money be made available in each State office of the Department of Social Services to make payments on the spot in cases of poverty stricken people. I have pleasure in supporting the legislation.
– After listening to Senator Marriott I think we ought to recapture what we are talking about. We are talking about the Bill which puts into effect the budgetary proposals to increase the pension by 50c a week. I do not see by any stretch of the imagination that we can be talking, as Senator Marriott did, of people living in happiness and living long lives in contentment on an increase, under the inflationary trend that we have been suffering, amounting to 50c a week. Senator Fitzgerald, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, has moved an amendment to add certain words at the end of the motion. The Australian Labor Party does not intend to oppose the Bill. We do not want to stop the 50c from going to the pensioners. We just feel embarrassed that we have to sit here and allow such a paltry amount to go to them. Consequently we had to move an amendment for the addition of the words that Senator Fitzgerald proposed: but the Senate is of opinion that -
the increases proposed are inadequate;
Those points are pretty self-explanatory, except perhaps that point No. 3 could be underlined, lt reads: steps should be taken immediately to eliminate poverty.
Surveys made in Australia, underlined only recently by Mr Justice Nimmo estimate that 1 million people are living on the poverty line. The result of this Budget, of course, will be that we drive more than those 1 million people underneath that poverty line. Those in the lower rate taxation schedules will find, if the proposals in this Budget get under way, that as a net result the few paltry cents that they have been given back will be more than eaten up by indirect taxes. I was rather amused to note that at the Liberal Party conference the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said it is a rather complex sort of economic argument to follow - that the Government had to do something about inflation; so it decreased taxation. Then he went on to explain that conundrum by saying: ‘But we increased indirect taxation.’ Every economic thesis in the world points out that indirect taxation is the inflationary type and inflation is controlled through direct taxation. But do not let me move away from the question of pensions, which is the point I am discussing.
Senator Gair has moved an amendment to be added to our amendment, because the forms of the House do not allow him to do anything but add to it. His amendment reads:
At the end of proposed amendment add - (5) rates of pensions should be determined by an independent tribunal or committee of experts of social services including pensioner representation.
I do not think I would have spoken on this Bill, but he gave me a royal mention in saying that when this proposal was first introduced by the late Senator Cole, then Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, back in 1960 I made criticism of it, because many comparisons have been made with an arbitration type system insofar as an arbitration system determines some part of the economy. Senator Marriott quite correctly pointed out that this, too. would be one of the determinants in the economy. 1 then criticised the Arbitration Commission as not being a free agent, as being influenced from outside. Senator Gair added: ‘I wonder if he is of the same opinion today’. Firstly. I will read Senator Cole’s amendment, because we hear a lot about this around election time, and these things get turned about a fair bit.I know that the accusation is always made: ‘The Labor Party and the Liberal Party voted against an increase in pensions or automatic adjustment’. Of course, the DLP has never suggested automatic adjustment. What it has suggested is that some body outside of this Parliament -I would suggest similar to the Arbitration Commission - should determine pensions and either instruct or advise the Government. There has been some shifting of ground. Senator Cole moved this amendment back in 1 960:
That immediately on the payment of the present increases provision should be made for the establishment of an independent tribunal similar to the Richardson Committee to ascertain and inform the Parliament of suitable amounts which should be made payable for the comfort and needs of the recipients of age, invalid and widows’ pensions.
I will quote fully what I said on that occasion. I said:
As has already been pointed out, we are not dealing with chicken feed. We are dealing with benefits that involve the payment of about £300m a year.
That was 10 years ago. I continued my remarks by saying:
Every time a government increases pensions by Is a week, nearly £2m a year is added to the social service bill. So we are not dealing with something that can be paid easily. It must be taken into account in the budgetary calculations.
Senator McManus referred to the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission, and Senator Cole, interjecting, said, ‘Answer that one!’ As 1 said last night, my complaint with the Arbitration Commission today is that it is not an independent tribunal. If you look back over the years you will find that from lime to time political influence has been exerted on our arbitration tribunals. 1 can remember on one occasion in Western Australia when the C series index indicated that there should be a rise in the basic wage, the president of the State Arbitration Court, under the powers that he claimed he had, and which he undoubtedly did have, said that he would not increase the basic wage. But the Premier of the day instructed him to increase the wage. I complain bitterly about the way the Menzies Government is interfering, dominating and intimidating the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission. Surely we would have a repetition of such domination if we set up another pseudo-economic body to deal with pensions.
The honourable senator, in referring to primary industry, said that it was-
Then I quoted Senator Wright’s remarks. He had said: . . handicapped by a system of wage fixation that is unique in the world - irresponsible, unreliable, a system that has proved destructive of this continent’s economy throughout the whole eleven years during which this Government has been in office.
A little later he said:
The first Budget that was introduced by this Government was submarined by a basic wage increase of £1 the following month . . .
Then a little later he said:
I believe it is the responsibility of those on this side of the chamber-
That was the Government side of the chamber. He continued: to look at the Australian wage fixing apparatus, which is unique in the world, and which is sacrificing this country by destroying the value of money. There is imposed on us a direct responsibility to overhaul the system before it destroys us and before it destroys the nation, which is more important.
So I was not alone in making some criticisms of the Arbitration Commission in those days. Last night, after Senator Gair had mentioned my attitude to the Arbitration Commission, he said that he wondered whether f was of the same opinion today. Recently we have had some unique situations before the Arbitration Commission. One matter before the Commission has been known as the oil wage case, in respect of which much propaganda has been spread about it being an entirely new concept. This is not entirely true. 1 suppose that in the broad spectrum it could be claimed that it was a new concept. When the oil case was waiting to go before the Commission the Prime Minister - not in this Parliament but at a Chamber of Manufacturers of New South Wales annual dinner - announced the intervention of the Commonwealth Government in that case. The newspaper report of his remarks states:
Mr Gorton said there was a heavy responsibility on the Government and on the Commission to ensure that industry should not bc forced to pay in wages more than the value of industrial production.
He said: ‘We propose to intervene in the oil industry case.
We propose to argue that it would be disastrous to Australia if the principles previously accepted were reversed,and if a company because it was profitable could be called on to pay more than industry geaerally was called on to pay because it was profitable.’
A little further on the report states:
Mr Gorton said: ‘The barometer of future progress stands at set fair subject to what I have to say.
Great growth and great progress cun be made but that does not necessarily mean that it will be made.’
Mr Gorton said inflation was one of the major dangers to that growth.
In Australia decisions of the Arbitration Commission had an enormous effect on the economy.
The chairman of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission was also at that dinner. Yet the Prime Minister was making these definite and dogmatic statements about a case before one word of evidence had been put before the Commission, before any arguments had been adduced, and was saying that we must adhere to the status quo, whatever the arguments, whatever the value of those arguments and whatever evidence was put before the Commission. In effect the Prime Minister was saying: ‘As Prime Minister 1 say that the concept of profitability is wrong and, in addition we are going to send our advocates to the Commission to argue against it.’ If that is not applying pressure to what supposedly should be an independent commission, what is?
If we look through the whole histoty of decision of the Arbitration Court, going back over donkey’s years, we sec how they have been influenced by similar situations. So we come to the suggestion of the Democratic Labor Party, that we set up an independent tribunal to determine what payments should be made in the way of pensions. Senator Marriott touched on this aspect when he said that we had seen carried out a promise - I believe made recklessly during an election campaign- - by the Prime Minister to reduce taxation. No matter what the result of that promise has been and however doubtful its lineage might have been, I would like to have seen what would have happened to such a promise if the matter had been referred to a truly independent tribunal which had brought down the only decision that it could make in the circumstances. As I mentioned during the Budget debate, an independent body at the Melbourne University pointed out that the minimum rate which should have been paid to pensioners was $2 a week - not 50c a week - that child endowment should have been increased to $3.50 a week, and so on.
Dealing with the question of pensions alone, Senator Buttfield defended the Government’s action by saying that pensions were not the whole story, that there were other benefits established by the Government which flow to pensioners. She was very proud of these fringe benefits and she mentioned many of them, including supplementary assistance, the wife’s allowance and guardian’s allowances. As I see the situation, if an independent, tribunal did not have placed before it the whole gamut of things which affect pensions but gave consideration only to the amount of direct payment by way of pension, great difficulties would arise. I do not believe that a tribunal established to determine social service pensions would be able to act independently. I believe that pressures would be brought to bear on the tribunal. 1 do not suggest that the pressures would be necessarily dishonest; they could be honest pressures brought because of people’s opinions, pressure of the economic climate in which they were brought to bear or individual pressures based on individual beliefs. This pressure in itself would be a tragedy. Over and above that I believe that pensions are a responsibility of Parliament.
When we criticise the Government, as we have done so trenchantly on this occasion, that is not to say that pensions should be removed from the control of government. We say that the Government is not doing its job. We say that the Government has power to act but is not doing so. If we take away what ought to be, what is and what I hope shall continue to be the responsibility of government, that would be a backward step for the whole administration of Australia.
As Senator Murphy pointed out on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, we do not support this proposal, for several reasons. First, the establishment of a tribunal would not affect the pension as it stands today. Presumably members of the DLP believe that it would affect the pension in the future. As I said in 1960 and repeated today, the question of social service payments to pensioners is too big a part of the budgetary consideration each year to be handed over to another authority. The Government has failed dismally on this occasion. I disagree with Senator Marriott when he says that we cannot accuse the Government of playing politics in this respect. I invite the honourable senator to see what sort of rise in pensions is given on the eve of the next Federal election for the House of Representatives and to compare it with the rise given in this Budget. But all the badness that is flowing from the Government, all its inadequacies and all the cynicism that it has shown towards social service payments does not alter the fact that this field is a responsibility of government. Because it has discharged this responsibility badly the responsibility is on its head and members of the Government will be judged accordingly.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– We are coming to the closing stages of this debate on the second reading of the Social Services Bill which deals with the provision of increased pension payments. This matter has been canvassed at considerable length by speakers from all sides of the House. In essence the Bill proposes an increase in the base rate of pension by 50c a week. On this side of the chamber a concensus is expressed, in an amendment moved by the Opposition and by the speeches of the representatives of the Australian Democratic Labor Party who have spoken to the Bill and the amendment, that that increase in insufficient. Its insufficiency was cited in the amendment proposed to the Budget by Senator McManus on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party. The increase even substantially fails to keep pace with the increased cost of living since the last rise in pensions was granted. lt is very serious when any section of the community, particularly the most defenceless section, is continuously permitted to fall into a position of indigence and of social dependence on the goodwill and solicitude of those who might have the ability to make some sort of financial handout.
In a free society, while the economic freedom of the individual is important, the social freedom and the personal dignity of the citizen is equally important. In this case not only has the economic freedom and viability of a group of aged people in the community been gravely impaired but the personal dignity of these people is being brought under grave criticism. We must recognise that these good people are those who. by the contribution of their long lives and individual participation in the economic life of the community, have contributed to the building up of the modern Australian economy with its wealth, its affluence and the availability of all those things which go with the affluent society such as full employment, adequate hours of leisure, social conveniences, recreation, reduced working hours and things of that character. Let us not think that these good people who today may be dependants of society have not been in their time great contributors to building up the economic strength which is now represented in the society on whose charity and goodwill they depend, lt is a matter for the greatest regret that periodically the lives of these people, their entitlements and dignity have to come under some sort of anatomical scrutiny by this Parliament.
For years the Australian Democratic Labor Party has pleaded with the Parliament and the nation to try to avoid this position in the future. By continuously mentioning it in our policy speech at general elections, by proposing it in specific resolutions, by incorporating it in amendments which have been moved to the Budgets from year to year and in amendments’ to Bills such as this we have attempted - using the political term - to take pensions out of politics. To my mind if ever our proposition has proved more worthy, more justifiable and more indefensible it has been during the course of this debate. During my years in the Parliament I have seldom heard the conditions of the pensioners so raked over, if I might use that rather common cliche, so examined and so scrutinised to decide whether their small income was adequate or inadequate. The fringe benefits and bare subsistence which is virtually all they have to look forward to have seldom been put under the parliamentary microscope and examined as closely as they have been on this occasion. Surely that is something which human dignity should deny to this Parliament. Our regard for people should be such that their individual way of life and their individual entitlement to an adequate and fair way of life should be so compelling that this Parliament should not be put in the position where periodically pensions come up for a political economic examination as is inevitably the case while pensions remain within the disposition of the Parliament.
Of course, there are two schools of thought on this matter. The point of view of the Democratic Labor Party remains strong and persistent. Our attitude does not deviate. The Government which has the responsibility to gather revenue and disperse it say that to enable a matter of such substance, of such gigantic financial proportions to go outside the disposition of Parliament where emotive elements might persuade the granting of pension rates which would be beyond the financial capacity of the Government within one Budget, would be unthinkable in the proper administration by a national government. However one might disagree with that point of view, at least one can see a prudence and validity id presenting it for consideration. But that is a point of view which I and members of my Party are unable to accept. We live in a society in which a number of components go towards the control and discipline of the economic condition of the whole of Australia. On other occasions I have mentioned that a number of economic components determine the financial and economic level of activity in Australia today. There are such things as the Reserve Bank of Australia, CommonwealthState financial agreements, the Tariff Board and things of that nature. But there is one other component and that is the operation of the arbitral functions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. One of the big components in determining or in interrupting the economic stability of the nation is undoubtedly the determination handed down in the national wage case by the arbitral commission which has consequences and effects throughout the whole economic life of Australia.
– What is the equation which is used?
– Many equations are used. New elements are always being introduced into the formula to be applied. There are equations such as the economic consequences to the nation, productivity, a needs component, and things of that nature. The particular elements in the formula vary from year to year. As time goes on more and more emphasis has been placed on one component to the exclusion or downgrading of another. In present cases before the Arbitration Commission profitability is a factor which is now being introduced and presented in one submission to the court as a component to be taken into account in determining a wage and salary level. The significance of this is that there we have a totally independent body. In spite of the strictures passed upon its independence by members of the Australian Labor Party I regard that body of judicial and quasi-judicial persons - that is, of nonprofessional members, sitting, however, judicially - as totally impartial, totally neutral, and totally independent. Like any arbitral body the Commission is entitled to have presented to it all points of view which should be taken into account in arriving at a determination.
Just as the employees are entitled to present their point of view, similarly the employers are not only entitled but also are required to present their point of view. Surely the Commonwealth Government as one of the major employers is entitled to present its point of view. If a factor to be taken into account by such an arbitral body in the general concept of its determination is the economic consequences of a major decision, then a major employer such as the Commonwealth Government which also has the overall control of the discipline of the economy, can legitimately present to that body the economic consequences of a determination as the Commonwealth would visualise it. I cannot see that that is in any sense an attempt to importune the tribunal but is merely acquainting a tribunal of fact with a body of facts which are necessary for an ultimate determination.
Therefore I say that there is operating in the community an arbitral system the decisions of which are of tremendous consequence and which affect the whole economic life of the nation. In no sense would a government dare to say that such a body should be subject, because of the economic consequences, to political discipline through the Parliament. In no sense would that be accepted in the modern Australian community. We accept the consequences of that arbitration system as something which must be taken aboard. If any adjustments are necessary at the hands of a government as a result of any such determination, whether by increased taxes or reduced expenditure in other fields, it is the responsibility of a government to adjust itself to the consequences. 1 cannot see that the proposal of the Democratic Labor Party is any different in its projection, of an independent tribunal to determine pensions. As the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is independent and makes economic determinations which impose strains upon the national Budget and which have economic consequences to the nation, and are accepted by the Government despite all those consequences - and any government must accept them - I cannot see that an independent tribunal to determine the level of pensions should be put in any different category. The fact that the consequences would be great - perhaps not as great as they are in a major national arbitration or the national wage case - is no justification for the Government to decline to accept this alternative method as a means by which the social service entitlement of pensioners should be settled and accepted.
In the absence of something of that character, increasingly every year this Parliament is to be asked to examine in this rather horrifying detail the lives and dispositions of this great section of the community which is dependent on the solicitude of a government of any political persuasion from year to year and from time to time. This is more reprehensible when there are elections in the offing, when the political consequences of a decision may have very great political repercussions. Then undoubtedly it is only within the concept of human affairs that governments will respond to the political stresses and strains of the time and make a response which may or may not be adequate but which, certainly in a particular year, may bring electoral advantage or at least avoid electoral disadvantage.
It must be grossly unpalatable to the Ministers concerned that their approach to social welfare should have to be determined in such a light. After all, as this is the method of determining social services, it could well be that the political consideration persuading Ministers to grant an increase in pension might well bring them into conflict with the economic advice received from the Treasury. The Treasury may think at any time that such action would be undesirable on economic grounds. It has been suggested that there was a conflict during pre-budget discussions relating to the 1970-71 Budget; that there was a conflict between the Prime Minister’s Department and the Treasury as to the type of economic disciplines or type of economic and financial amelioration that should be included in the Budget.
In the field of pensions, if that same conflict arose we would find that pensions may be the subject of the Treasury technocrats who would put economic stability over the whole community before a reasonable entitlement, in humanity, to the pensioners. On the other hand, we might find an ambitous political opportunist party making tremendous promises to the pensioners in complete contradiction of any valid economic principle merely to obtain political advancement and, perhaps, political office. In the modern community those conflicts are inescapable. But if we once write into the functioning of our system the establishment of a permanent independent tribunal, staffed by technicians and with experts at the highest level, then from year to year, as governments have to adjust themselves to a national wage determination, governments could expect that there would be determinations which their own experts might well anticipate. Undoubtedly formulas to be applied as to the means of the pensioners and a fairly just entitlement in the economic circumstances would be equally assessed - almost assessed exactly - by the advisers to the arbitral and independent body as well as to the government. The government could then budget in terms of almost an anticipated and declared variation in the social service entitlement. [n the absence of such an independent body all sorts of statements are made. I regret that one particular statement was made in this debate and I am glad that the honourable senator who made it is in the chamber. As I said earlier, we find that the lives of pensioners are examined in a microscopic manner. Things are said about pensioners which, in their individual dignity, they should resent. During the debate last night Senator Keeffe made a statement which was the subject of subsequent comment by Senator Gair. It is not my intention to canvass that statement. It was a reference to what might be the economic plight of certain recipients of social services and the position they might be forced into. This statement shows how, once the situation is allowed to develop whereby we have to examine the entitlements and the alternatives open to pensioners, in the absence of an independent approach to the matter, we can offend the human dignity of the people with whose welfare we are dealing. I trust Senator Keeffe may at some time feel disposed to speak to his statement because on an interpretation which is available it could-
– You arrange a royal commission or a Senate select committee and the people I quoted will come forward and give evidence as long as they are protected.
– I read Senator Keeffe’s statement and I gave him the benefit of this interpretation: that he said there would be widows who, because of their economic consequences, would be forced into the situation where they may have to resort to immoral practices in order to sustain the children who are their responsibility. His statement was subject to an interpretation that that is the situation into which they could be forced in the absence of adequate provision. But the honourable senator now indicates, apparently, that he does know cases where this is actually occurring and that given proper opportunity he would be prepared to substantiate his statement. If I understand him correctly he would be prepared to bring the evidence forward provided there was proper protection for those people.
– That is right. So long as the people concerned are protected; otherwise they lose their pensions.
– This is a very serious matter and one which naturally reflects very gravely upon the whole body of women who are in receipt of that type of pension. The honourable senator said that there may be a minority of people who would do this.
– A desperate minority.
– I do not know whether the word ‘desperate’ was used. Certainly the word ‘minority’ was used. Senator Keeffe did not impugn everybody in that category, as he could not. and I think he should not have impugned any of them. Unfortunately the position now is that every woman in that category, every woman who is in receipt of a widow’s pension, conies under the possible reflection implicit in the statement which has been made. Nobody could now say which woman is to be included and which woman is to be excluded. This is a very tragic situation. I do not know whether it will be clarified. However, the statement has been made. I have heard from another source - not directly - that there has been a great deal of resentment at the implications of that statement. In the light of the type of examination which takes place and which evokes that type of comment - candidly, I think it should not have been made but it was made-
– Why not face up to the truth, for God’s sake? What is wrong with you? Are you afraid of it?
– I am hot afraid of the truth. I do not think anybody should be afraid of the truth. However there is a great body of women who now feel that they are under the shadow of that suggestion.
– Only in your mind and in the minds of a few people who think as you do.
– Once you say that there are some women, who is to say which woman is included and which is excluded?
– You are sweeping it under the carpet to avoid it. That is typical.
– We are not sweeping anything under the carpet. You have made a very serious charge and every woman is entitled to ask: ‘To whom is the reference made? Is it to me?’ Until names are mentioned every woman must remain subject to any reflection that is implicit in that statement. For the reasons that I have stated we propose, as a very substantial amendment to the amendment moved by the official Opposition, that there should be an independent tribunal. I do not think this Parliament should look forward with any expectation to this harrowing experience from year to year of examining the lives, the dignity and the degradation of the personality of the people who are in a particular sense our responsibility. It cannot be avoided if this process is to continue. It can be avoided only if we lift this matter completely out of our hands, apart from the fact of appropriating ultimately the moneys which an independent tribunal would recommend for provision. The provision of any social service benefit today is as much a matter of economic determination as of arbitral decision, and an independent body adequately equipped with those with trained judicial minds and those with economic experience and expertise, and being of course a body which would have regard for the financial capacity of the nation and the consequences of a determination on the national financial structure, ultimately must earn the respect of the community and of the recipients of social welfare.
– You are being a little naive, are you not?
– We are accused of being naive. Are we being naive in the circumstances and the atmosphere of this debate? I think we are being very realistic, and the unfortunate references which have been made indicate that we are being anything but naive. I suppose it is very difficult to take out of the hands of any government a weapon which can be used so effectively for political purposes. That is one of the great obstacles which would stand in the way of the adoption of our proposal. Any government vested with this power has a tremendous political advantage, and governments are most reluctant to surrender such an advantage but there is no reason why the recipients of social service benefits should be required to surrender their rights so that a government can maintain its position of advantage.
For those reasons, as has been indicated by my leader, Senator Gair, we support the proposals in the amendment to the Bill as advanced by the official Opposition but we add to it, and trust that the Opposition will support our further amendment which seeks the establishment of an independent tribunal of experts. We perhaps are the first in Australia to propose this kind of tribunal. Its need has become increasingly evident over the years. We have consistently proposed it and it has been consistently rejected. We will continue to propose it. We feel that in an increasing degree we will command the support of those in whose interests the constitution of such a tribunal is contemplated. We commend the amendment of the Australian Democratic Labor Party to the earnest consideration and, I trust, the support of the Senate.
(8.24) - I rise to support the Bill and to oppose the amendments. First of all, I want to speak to several points which have been raised during the discussion of the social services legislation. At this point I think it is good to recall the purposes of this Bill, lt seeks to increase the base rate of pensions, both the standard rate and that paid to married people, and of widows,- by 50c a week. It introduces a long term sickness benefit at a higher rate than the benefit payable under the old scale. The provision of the legislation relating to the long term sickness benefit has not been mentioned very much but it is an extremely important part of it.
Before referring to the several points that I wish to mention I want to make it clear that 1 deplore most deeply the comments made by Senator Keeffe which have been dealt with already by Senator Gair and Senator Byrne because I believe that they reflect on every woman who receives a pension. 1 deplore that such a very serious statement should have been made in this House, not only yesterday but again tonight. Having said that, let me now say that this is an occasion on which we can place on record what this Government has done in the field of social services. Speaking of widows, 11 remind the Senate that it was this Government which introduced the mother’s allowance and the additional payment for the second and subsequent children. I know that these payments have been of assistance to widows who are caring for their children.
I should like to comment on a number of points which have been raised. Yesterday and again today when reference was made to the various fringe benefits that a pensioner receives the matter of assistance in the field of housing for pensioners was raised. That assistance was rather belittled by members of the Opposition, but I remind the House that this Government introduced the Aged Persons Homes Act whereby we join with church and charitable organisations to provide accommodation for our senior citizens. By providing a subsidy the Government has made it possible for accommodation to be provided for about 36,000 people. All over Australia the aged are enjoying the benefits of living in that kind of accommodation. In the Budget last year this Government made available to the States $25m over 5 years for the construction of dwellings for eligible single aged pensioners - this matter comes within the ambit of my Department - and this year $5. 7m will be spent in making this accommodation available. These are important benefits which take their place among those which already have been made available to people who are eligible for them.
Senator Keeffe referred to the widow pensioner training scheme. He complained that the training being provided was not being supervised and that the fees paid to some private training institutions were virtually a government subsidy as little or no’ training was being given the widow pensioners attending courses conducted by those institutions. The training scheme for widow pensioners has been very well received, not only by the widows who have availed themselves of the opportunity presented by the Government to undertake a course of training but also by the organisations representing them.
– Well received but not very well carried out.
– Vocational counsellors employed by the Department of Social Services arrange suitable training courses and maintain a close liaison with the training institutions and the widow trainees to ensure that the training is properly provided. I am not aware of any complaints of the nature mentioned by the honourable senator, but if he will provide me with details of individual cases of which he has knowledge I will be pleased to pass them on to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) who will look at them.
– Then the widows will lose their places in the school because you will make sure that they are turfed out.
– That is unworthy of any honourable senator in this House. If you have a complaint, if you say that the scheme is not being carried out, if you say that the training scheme is not doing what the Government intended it to do, if you have knowledge of any case which gives you cause for complaint, then give details of that case to the Minister and he will investigate the matters that you bring forward. To make some stupid comment about it is not worthy of any honourable senator who cares at all about the future of these widows and about whether they should have the benefit of a training scheme. We believe that the training scheme is important. We believe that it is of great benefit to widows. If any honourable senator finds that the Government’s intentions are not being carried out it would be of advantage to give details to the Minister.
Another point that was raised concerned fringe benefits for non-pensioners of age pension age. Queries were raised concerning the income and property of those in this group. In terms of income alone, nonpensioners of age pension age, allowing for the rate increase proposed in the Bill, represent those with incomes of more-‘ than $41 a week in the case of single persons and $72 a week in the case of married couples. Such persons are in a more favourable position than many workers with young families and are in a position to meet the normal costs of health insurance, etc. Honourable senators will remember that a question was asked as to whether such persons received the fringe benefits but they do not. In terms of property alone, non-pensioners of age pension age, allowing for the rate increase proposed in the Bill, represent those with property, apart from the home, of more than $21,720 in the case of single persons and $38,240 in the case of married couples. Income and property are interchangeable, with $2 a year of income being equivalent to $20 of property. I believe that that answers the points that were raised by Senator Gair.
Senator Cavanagh raised a point that I feel I must answer. I am sure that he must have made a mistake. He said that the Chifley Government introduced child endowment to assist larger than average families.
– That is not true.
– Of course it is not true. It was the Menzies Government that introduced child endowment in 1941. I have been in the Senate for a number of years and my memory is quite good. I remind the Senate that in 1950 we introduced legislation to extend endowment to the first child and that legislation was delayed by the Opposition. The Opposition would not consent to it.
– They were both introduced in the State Parliament of New South Wales years before.
– It is no good Senator Fitzgerald talking. He knows that what I am saying is true. It will always stand as a charge because, although members of the Opposition talk a lot about this, they were the people who delayed that legislation when it was brought before the Senate in 1950. That reminds me that it was the Liberal Government that introduced student endowment. These are of importance to widows and people with families.
Senator Cavanagh also asked about appeals against departmental decisions. I want to answer the points he raised. I remind htm that section 15 of the Social Services Act provides for appeal to the Director-General and that representations to the Minister are treated, in effect, as appeals and that the whole case is reviewed. He referred to a case which I am sure was an individual one. I have here some information which should cover the points he raised. He spoke about arrears of supplementary assistance. I am not sure, but think that this case which has been identified is the one that is concerning him.
He mentioned that the Act does not require the completion of a claim form for supplementary assistance. That is true. However, there is no doubt that when this assistance was introduced in 1958 it was the intention of the Parliament that some form of written application would be necessary. In the case to which I believe .he is referring, the claim for supplementary assistance was determined on 4th November 1968 and the date from which supplementary assistance became payable, as determined by the Director-General’s delegate, was 24th October 1968 - the pension pay-day after the receipt of the application. On appeal the case was reviewed very carefully by the Director-General and the decision not to pay arrears over a period of 2 years was confirmed by the Minister for Social Services. Senator Cavanagh also asked about the power to determine from a date prior to the determination. This is to allow for retrospectivity, subject to the eligibility conditions set out in the Bill. He may want to raise that again in the Committee stage.
I thank all those honourable senators who have spoken on this legislation. The point that stands out in all this discussion is that everybody is deeply concerned about those who need assistance and those who are eligible for benefits and is concerned to see that they receive the benefits that are so necessary. I was interested to hear from my own side - in the person of Senator Marriott and Senator Davidson who spoke this afternoon - tribute paid again to the Meals on Wheels organisations or the delivered meals organisations, as we call them now. A comment from the Opposition rather implied that these organisations had been set up by the Government. I remind the Senate that the church and charitable bodies are the prime movers in the excellent work that is being done in this field and that the Government is giving a subsidy.
I wish to refer now to the amendments which I am opposing. I believe that it is good just to note that we have heard a lot of figures concerning pension rates, what should be the increases and so on. We have taken out some figures that I believe are rather interesting. We have gone back in history. I am reminded that the pension rate when Labor was last in office in December 1949 was $4.25 a week. Of course, in those days it was in pounds, shillings and pence. At today’s prices that would be worth only $10.08 a week. When this Bill is passed the rate will be $15.50 a week. The real value of the pension itself is thus some 50 per cent more than that payable when Labor was last in office. In addition, supplementary assistance of up to $2 a week is payable to single pensioners with limited means who pay rent.
Of course, we have introduced a wide range of fringe benefits. I have mentioned some of them. For instance, I have mentioned the subsidy on Meals on Wheels and what has been done in the field of housing. I have also mentioned the measures in the health area, particularly the hospital, medical and pharmaceutical benefits and the subsidised medical services scheme which was introduced by this Government and which has done so much to alleviate health problems encountered by the aged, the sick and the infirm as well as the low income earners with young families - the people who are least able to cope with these problems. This is an integral part of our attack on poverty. Other legislation introduced by this Government, such as the States Grants (Deserted Wives) Act and the States Grants (Home Care) Act, has also been instrumental in assisting needy groups in the community.
I believe that it is good to remind the Senate that the Government’s successful policy of maintaining full employment is also of very great importance in any attack on poverty. Whilst there may still be pockets of poverty among pensioners and others - and we all regret this - it would be only fair to acknowledge the tremendous improvements that have been made in recent years. This progress will be maintained in the future with the object of removing poverty from the community as far as possible.
The Opposition also talked very glibly about the removal of the means test and the introduction of a contributory national superannuation system. But I have noted that, although I have been waiting for it all through the debate as I am sure other senators have been, no reference has been made to the finances involved which, of course, must come from the pockets of the general community or the taxpayers. Abolition of the means test on age pensions alone, having regard to the rates proposed in this Bill, would cost something approaching $400m extra a year in round figures. Of course, we ask the question: Where does this money come from? We know that there is only one answer and that is that it comes from the people.
One of the amendments contains a request for an independent tribunal. We have listened to the case for this being put most adequately by speakers representing the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I can only say to them in reply that we oppose this amendment because we believe that a government charged with the responsibility of providing the necessary finance would be failing in its duty if it were to establish a body which, by its decisions, could commit the government to increased expenditure without the responsibility of finding the extra finance required. 1 think that the points raised are important ones. They were considered as the amendments were discussed. 1 thank honourable senators who spoke in the debate. I thank them for their obvious interest and concern in the matters which affect the aged, the needy and the ill. I appreciate the points raised by many honourable senators, points which I know will be looked at by the Minister for Social Services. 1 was interested in the point made by Senator Milliner, upon which he did not elaborate. He intimated that certain of the homes for pensioners did not meet the standard which he thought they should. If he has any specific case to raise, I am sure the Minister would be pleased to hear his complaint. I repeat that the Government will’ continue to do all that can be done to help the needy not only by the pension benefits which it makes available but also by the fringe benefits which mean so much in the care of the ill, in the accommodation required for them and for those who wish to live out the latter years of their lives in the best possible conditions that they can have.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Gulf’s amendment to Senator Fitzgerald’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister
Majority .. ..42
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Fitzgerald’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister
McMullin) Ayes . . . . 26
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to refer to the attitude of Government supporters over the years that I have been here in claiming credit for the Meats on Wheels organisation. They speak of the meals it provides as though they are a handout to pensioners. In the area of which I speak - around Kings Cross and Woolloomooloo - pensioners pay for the meals provided by Meals on Wheels. If they do not have the money they do not get the meal. It is within my experience that quite often pensioners who do not have 20c to buy a dinner club together with someone else to buy a meal and then divide it between them. Another favourite subterfuge or stratagem of old age pensioners to get something out of the handout is to buy a meal for 20c and then make it serve for both dinner and tea. This is common with old age pensioners who are so old that they can hardly eat, and there are plenty of them around. They pay for one meal and make it serve for two.
I would not like honourable senators to think that the Meals on Wheels scheme is the be-all and end-all for pensioners. The scheme is designed to help these people, but they still have to battle. I have seen many pensioners who are forced to club together to buy a meal. A meal costs 20c from Meals on Wheels. If a pensioner cannot afford 20c, he and another pensioner club together to buy a meal and they divide it between them. That is the Meals on Wheels scheme. It would be laughable if it were not so sad. I have seen hundreds of people who have to buy their meals like that but no attempt is made by the Government to understand the situation. These people are at rock bottom. T appreciate that social workers are associated with the Meals on Wheels scheme. They glamorise it. The trucks are running around and people think that they are doing wonderful social work. In one way they are, but it should not be thought that the scheme solves the problems of the pensioners.
– Are all the meals provided by Meals on Wheels charged for?
– Yes, as far as I know. If that is not so, I apologise.
– They are all charged for, at 20c or 30c.
– They are all charged for in Western Australia.
– Apparently they are charged for everywhere. Probably the Government does not know that. Perhaps Government supporters would not be so happy about the scheme if they knew that. This has been the practice in East Sydney, Woolloomooloo and places like that for as long as I can remember. It is still the practice. Honourable senators can take my word for it that hundreds of women pensioners club together and put in 20c each to buy food. The amount of food they get in this way is more than they would be able to get if each spent 20c. This is how the pensioners eke out an existence. I have referred to this matter only to indicate to the Senate that everything is not as it would appear from this debate.
– I have to apologise to the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents the Minister for Social Services in this chamber, for the fact that I was not present this evening when she replied to a matter I raised in the debate on the motion for the second reading of this Bill. As I was involved in other activities I was unable to hear the Minister’s reply. As a result of conversations I have had with some of my colleagues in the chamber and a hurried discussion I had with the Minister, I have the gist of the reply which was given. However, I doubt very much whether the reply takes the matter as far as I would desire to take it. I can do nothing else but apologise to the Minister for not being in the chamber when she replied. I thank the Minister for her indulgence in agreeing to allow me again to raise the matter. I would appreciate it if she would reply to my remarks, regardless of whether she gives the same answer as she has already given.
– To which clause is the honourable senator referring?
– I am referring to clause 8 of the Bill, which seeks to amend section 112 of the Principal Act. Sub-section (1.) of proposed section 112b states:
This section applies to a person if -
a sickness benefit is payable to the person at a rate fixed having regard to the last preceding section: and
the Director-General is satisfied that the person requires benefit under this section by reason that he pays rent and is entirely or substantially dependent upon his sickness benefit.
This proposed section is different from section 30a of the Principal Act in that it is not one of the requirements that the person concerned be single. It could well be that a man and his wife are in receipt of the sickness benefit. Proposed sub-section (2.) of proposed section 112b states:
Subject to this Part, there is payable to a person to whom this section applied, in addition to his sickness benefit, a supplementary allowance at a rate determined by the Director-General in the particular case being a rate not exceeding $2 per week.
I raised this matter earlier only to criticise the discretionary powers which are vested in the Director-General. However, T now wish to ask: What is envisaged in the payment of what could be called a rental allowance if the pensioner in question receives a rate which has been determined by the Director-General which does not exceed $2 a week? Will someone paying rent who is entirely or substantially dependent upon his sickness benefit, receive a lesser amount than the $2 a week supplementary assistance? Are we going to have a situation where the Director-General will say that 50c is sufficient in one case and Si is sufficient in another? Are his discretionary powers to be limited to a maximum of $2 a week? The whole point of my argument is that we are placing too much administrative control in the bands of one man. Sub-section (3.) of proposed section 1 12b slates:
An allowance under this section is payable from a date determined by the Director-General, which may be a date before the date of the determination.
As with section 30a of the Principal Act, there is no need to make a claim. The only qualification is that the person concerned must be solely dependent upon the sickness benefit and be paying rent. However, although there is no necessity for a claim to be made, it is necessary to make application in order to make the Department aware of the fact that one qualifies for the supplementary allowance. Under section 30a of the Principal Act the DirectorGeneral will grant retrospectivity only to the date of the application. Of course, the Act itself provides that the Director-General has power to go back to the date that the person concerned qualified for the benefit. 1 have mentioned that in relation to the widow’s pension the Parliamentary Draftsman has placed a restriction upon how far the Director-General can go back, but he has not placed any restrictions upon the DirectorGeneral in section 30A in order to allow him to go back to any date which he so desires. I ask: What instructions will be given to the Director-General in respect to the payment of the supplementary allowance under this provision? Will the date be set as the date on which the person qualified or a date decided upon by the Director-General, presumably the date when the application was made?
– Why does the honourable senator assume that, this would be the case under section 30a? lt would not be, would it?
– i am saying that it would not be the case under section 30a, but this is how the Department applies the provisions of section 30a. It is possible that the honourable senator was not in the chamber at the time I read out the letter to me from the Minister justifying the Department’s actions.
– 1 was here when the honourable senator read it out and I tried to follow him.
– I agree with the honourable senator that it could not be implied that under section 30a the payment should be from the date of the claim, but this has become the custom of the Department. The Minister has attempted to justify the Department’s actions by referring to something which a previous Minister said when introducing the legislation. 1 think the Minister has distorted what the previous Minister said. My complaint is that the intentions of the Parliament are being defied because of a misinterpretation of something which a former Minister said. If it is a correct interpretation of what a former Minister said it does not assist us in defining the meaning of the provision. My complaint is that the practice has sprung up in the Department of the Department itself defining the legislation and not asking the Parliament to do so. During a brief discussion I had with the Minister a short time ago she showed me her notes on this subject. Her reply would appear to indicate that she thought I was mentioning a case where there was a valid entitlement to 2 years’ retrospectivity but the Department had fixed another date. But that is not the case at all; it was only a matter of a month. It was not my intention lo mention this case, but I do not think there is any harm in doing so. The person concerned was Mr Michael A. Brew and he lived at 16 Studley Street, Elizabeth West, South Australia. He had no entitlement by virtue of the fact that there were 2 pensioners in the home until his wife died. Because he was distraught with worry he did not make the application. Possibly he had no one to advise him to make the application. He was confined to his home and could not consult his local parliamentary representative or anyone else who might advise him- to make the application. The application came along a month later. The Director-General made a determination a fortnight after that - it may not have been exactly a fortnight - and the determination of the Director-General is one of the essential ingredients in .obtaining the payment. In his determination the Director-General can make payment retrospective, and in fact he made it retrospective to the date of the claim, which was a month after the date of entitlement. That is the very thing that is wrong in the proposals put forward in this legislation.
– But that is consistent with what the Act says in the case of a pension, is it not?
– In the case of a supplementary allowance payment can commence at any date which the DirectorGeneral determines.
– In the case of a pension, payment can go back only to the date when the claim is made.
– Yes. I think we were at cross purposes. The case I mentioned from 1968 was the case of a widow’s pension. This could also apply to a normal pension; I do not know because I have not looked at the relevant section of the Act. The honourable senator is right in what he says, and that is where the Draftsman put on the Director-General the restriction which we adopted. I was referring to the case of a pensioner couple and the husband, on the death of his wife, becoming entitled to supplementary assistance under section 30a. My complaint is in relation to the payment of the supplementary assistance, not the pension. He had been receiving this assistance for some months. I think Senator Greenwood agreed with me that the pensioner was entitled to it from the date when his wife died. He had all the qualifications for supplementary assistance. The Director-General had power under this section of the Act to grant it from the date when the pensioner qualified. There is no doubt about that
Parliament intended that he should exercise that power differently from the way in which he would exercise a power under section 68, which relates to the granting of a pension. The phraseology of the 2 clauses is different. A limitation which is omitted from section 30a is placed on the Director-General under section 68. Of course, when this was brought to the attention of the Minister, he justified it by misinterpreting what the then Minister said when he introduced the provision in 1963. This is wrong. The Director-General has the power and there is no right of appeal. He did not authorise payment from an earlier date, although he has power to do so. It was not the intention of the Parliament that he should act in this way. Before clause 8 of the Bill is agreed to, I want to know whether this will apply to those on sickness benefit just as it applied by custom of the department under section 30a. If it does not apply to these people, I feel that I will have no alternative but to vote against it because the principle is wrong. I am against discretionary powers. Powers should be spelt out in the legislation. But in view of the fact that they go right through the Social Services Act-
Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
(9.15) - After I reply to some of the points raised by Senator Cavanagh he may wish to continue his remarks. If we look first at sub-section 3 of proposed section 112B, we see that it gives the Director-General power to determine the date of commencement of supplementary allowances. Generally this will be from the date when the sickness benefit is increased to the higher rate. This may be prior to the date on which the claim is determined. Subsections 4 and 5 give the Director-General the necessary authority to cancel the allowance where a person ceases to be eligible. Cancellation may be made retrospective to the first day after the expiration of the time allowed by the Act for the beneficiary to notify change in circumstances. Retrospective cancellation would be made only where payment had been wrongfully obtained. The amount paid up to the date of cancellation would be legally recoverable under section 140 (1) of the Act.
I cannot just quite recall the wording of the other 2 points which were referred to by Senator Cavanagh, but as I understood it he inquired whether the maximum supplementary allowance would be reduced. It will be reduced where income exceeds $1 a* week. I can inform the honourable member that the maximum supplementary allowance of $2 will be reduced by the amount of the recipient’s income over $1 a week. The maximum benefits payable to a sickness beneficiary after 6 weeks are identical with the rate of invalid pension, plus the wife’s allowance where applicable. An invalid pensioner whose wife receives a wife’s allowance may receive supplementary assistance. In the parallel situation, the long term sickness beneficiary will also qualify for supplementary allowance. Senator Cavanagh referred to a particular case and, as I understand the position from the papers which I have been given, we are referring to the same case. Brew was the name of the person concerned, so I do nol think there is any doubt that we are dealing with the same case.
The honourable senator also mentioned that the Act does not require the completion of a claim form for supplementary assistance. That is so. However, there is no doubt that when this assistance was introduced in 1958 it was the intention of the Parliament that some form of written application would be necessary. In the particular case to which I believe the honourable senator is referring, the claim for supplementary assistance was determined on 4th November 1968, and the date on which this assistance became . payable, as determined by the Director-General’s delegate, was 24th October 1968. the pension pay day after the receipt of the applica-tion. On appeal the case was very carefully reviewed by the Director-General and a decision was made not to pay arrears over a period of 2 years as requested. From the information I have, the period was 2 years; this decision was confirmed by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth).
– I agree with you now, but there is no justification for that decision.
– As I said in the second reading debate when the honourable senator was unavoidably absent, representations made to the Minister are treated as an appeal under section 15 of the Act. The whole of the circumstances of the particular case are then reviewed, and this was done in the case in point. I think those were the main points raised by the honourable senator, but if I have omitted anything he might remind me.
– I do not think the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) has omitted anything but she has not cleared up to my satisfaction one of the points I raised. She has made the position appear a lot worse than it was. I recognise that I made a mistake, i have since looked at my file relating to Mr Brew and 1 find that his wife died on 12th April 1966, at which time he became entitled to claim the supplementary allowance.
– He did not lodge an application?
– No. A claim was lodged on 4th November 1968. Honourable senators will appreciate the struggle that he, as a single pensioner relying solely on the pension, must have had for 2 years. He existed for 2 years without the supplementary assistance which the Government has found to be necessary to sustain a single pensioner who is required to pay rent. I do not know how much rent Mr Brew was paying. Apparently Mr Brew submitted his claim on 24th October 1968. The matter was determined on 4th November 1968 and payment of the allowance was made retrospective to the pension pay day after the receipt of his application. This was a case in which a pensioner struggled from 12th April 1966 until October 1968 without receiving even the barest amount that the Government considers to be necessary to support a single pensioner. Yet when the claim was made payment of the allowance was made retrospective only to the pension pay day after his application had been received.
In making my remarks earlier I was under the impression that he might have found it necessary to survive for a month without the aid of the supplementary allowance, but I find now that he was without it for 2 years. I do not know whether he lived beyond 4th November 1968 to enjoy the supplementary allowance or whether he had been so weakened by that time by malnutrition that he was unable to enjoy it; my information on Mr Brew does not go beyond that date. I thought that his claim was for S2 per week for 4 weeks, but I find now that the claim is for $2 per week for 24 months, which shows up more clearly how unjust was this action of the Director-General.
– Where is the injustice? That is what I do not follow. I have been endeavouring to follow you.
– The honourable senator seems to be hard to convince. I have been speaking of a man who has been struggling along on the miserable pittance that a pension provides, without the benefit of the small increase by way of supplementary assistance which is granted to certain pensioners. A married pensioner receives less than a single pensioner because the Government’s view is that 2 can live more cheaply than 1. At the stage where 2 pensions are no longer coming into the home the cost to a single pensioner to maintain himself increases, particularly if he is paying rent because 1 person only benefits from that payment.
– I think I follow that, Senator.
– I knew that in time you would understand; it is just that it takes a long time to penetrate. The man to whom I have referred reached the stage at which the Government decided he would be a destitute case justifying the payment of a supplementary allowance as he was receiving a single pension only. But although his case justified the .payment of supplementary assistance and he was entitled to it, he did not receive it. By depriving himself and by living at a lower standard than that set by the Government for a single pensioner he struggled through until he lodged his claim for the supplementary allowance. But having made that claim he did not receive payment from the time of his entitlement to it but from the date on which he made the claim. Not only is that an injustice to that individual but also it is contrary to the intention of the Act and the intention of the Parliament. The Minister for Housing referred to proposed sub-section 112B(5.) which states:
The date determined by the Director-General under the last preceding sub-section . . .
That is a reference to the sub-section which provides that the Director-General may cancel the allowance; it does not relate to the payment of an allowance. The question I raised earlier related to the amount which is payable being decided “by the Director-General. We find now that where a pensioner who is in receipt also of the supplementary allowance has an income of $1 or more, his supplementary allowance is reduced by that amount. Before this Bill has passed through the Parliament we find that the Department is writing in conditions and deciding what it shall pay. Surely it is the responsibility of the elected representatives of the people to decide the nature of the legislation. This is not a matter for the Department to decide. Proposed sub-section 112b (2.) states.
Subject to this Part, there is payable to a person to whom this section applies, in addition to his sickness benefit, a supplementary allowance at a rate determined by the Director-General in the particular case, being a rate not exceeding Two dollars per week.
Now we find that if the pensioner has an income of SI a week the supplementary allowance payable to him is to be reduced by that amount. Before a person qualifies for the supplementary allowance he must be entirely or substantially dependent upon a sickness benefit. At what stage is he not substantially dependent upon the sickness benefit and, therefore, has no claim? Although the sickness benefit is rather low, the recipient of the benefit who has income of $1 per week receives, as a result of a decision by the Department - not the Parliament - a supplementary allowance of $1 a week. Yet obviously he is still substantially dependent on the sickness benefit.
The other case mentioned by the Minister does not apply to a single pensioner. If I understood the Minister correctly, a pensioner who is in receipt of the sickness benefit is eligible for the payment of a supplementary allowance if his wife is in receipt of an allowance, or an invalid pensioner can get it if his wife is receiving a benefit. But again there is no provision for this in the Act. The application of this section is to bc decided by the Department. Unlike section 30a of the Act which provides that a person living alone may receive the supplementary assistance and that the supplementary assistance shall not be paid to a married person whose husband or wife is in receipt of a pension under this Part of the Act, proposed section 112b makes no such provision. Yet the Department is endeavouring to set up a situation in which a married pensioner may still qualify for the supplementary allowance although his wife is receiving a benefit. Although there may be half a dozen in the house receiving benefits the Department may still decide to pay him the supplementary allowance. So the matter is not determined by what we decide in this place; it is the Department which is making the decision. I suggest that the Minister has not answered the case which 1 have raised. The whole point is this: When does a person receive his entitlement under the Act - from the date at which he qualifies for the entitlement or at a later date which is determined by the Director-General?
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) (9.29) - Senator Cavanagh has raised one or two points to which I should like to reply. First I go back to the case raised by the honourable senator. He will realise that the Department must receive an application before paying an allowance; it cannot discover that a person is in need of the assistance unless it receives an application. After all, departmental officers cannot go around and ask people whether they are paying rent and probe into their private affairs. They must wait for an application. The point is that the application must be received. Concerning the particular case which the honourable senator spoke about in his second reading speech and again in the Committee stage, I have been informed that the answer is that the time when the application is received is relevant to the date from which the payments are made. The Minister has said that he will undertake to look into this case again.
– Hear, hear! So he should.
– That is a blow struck.
– I will keep quiet from now on.
– Shall I sit down or shall I say something more?
– The honourable senator has engaged in a very long exercise to achieve that result.
– This man deserves it. He is a very good militant.
– After that suggestion by Senator Cavanagh I think I had better sit down and let the Bill pass through its remaining stages. However I want to refer to one point which Senator Cavanagh raised. He spoke about the position regarding a married couple. My reply to him is that the married couple who are both pensioners do not receive a supplementary allowance but the invalid pensioner with a non-pensioner wife does receive it. The rate of the sickness benefit for the married nian is the same as that for the invalid pensioner and his non-pensioner wife so the sickness beneficiary is on the same footing as the invalid pensioner.
– I have 3 matters to raise on the consideration of the Bill at this stage. The first may be regarded as a case in isolation but nevertheless I feel that an injury to one is the concern of all. This matter concerns a young man working at a general post office. He had been employed by the Post Office for 18 years when he had a stroke. He agreed with the Department that he could not continue in his employment so there is no disagreement on that score. He then went to the Government Medical Officer who concurred that it would be impossible for him to continue in his employment. The Government Medical Officer recommended to the Post Office that this man be dismissed. He received all his entitlements. He then made application for an invalid pension.
By a strange coincidence he went to the same Government Medical Officer. But the Government Medical Officer refused to certify that the man was entitled to an invalid pension notwithstanding the fact that in the first instance he had said the man was incapable of continuing his employment with the post office. This young man was not a highly skilled technician. He was an office worker. If he could not continue in his position at the post office - he agreed that it would be impossible for him to do so - then I believe he should have been entitled to the invalid pension. The situation has been overcome but I do not think we should have had to overcome it. 1 raise this matter in the hope that the Postal Department might consider, in similar circumstances in the future, ensuring that the same Government Medical Officer is not engaged for the purpose of determining whether the person concerned is entitled to an invalid pension.
The second matter I wish to raise I also raised last night. I was wondering whether the Department would have a look at the inferior standard of accommodation which is provided by some organisations. They may be church organisations or charitable institutions but I do not think that alters the fact. I think all would agree that a person in the twilight of his life should have reasonable living conditions. I am not being critical of the people who run these organisations. I ask everybody to accept that it is not a criticism of them. Perhaps they have not the finance to do the job. I was wondering whether the Department could make a survey of some of these institutions to see whether it could assist. I believe that all honourable senators would agree entirely that if the Government found that an institution had not the finance to provide suitable accommodation but was anxious to continue to look after the aged, it should make finance available to that institution. Only last Saturday 1 visited an institution which I do not wish to name, lt is a charitable organisation doing an extremely good job under difficulties. I will give honourable senators an idea of the accommodation provided by pointing out that there were no baths for the inmates. Forty-five inmates were cared for in this institution but there were no baths. They were required to have showers. Honourable senators can appreciate the difficulties of the staff when elderly people are trying to have a shower. A further difficulty is the retaining of staff in these organisations or institutions when the accommodation is so inferior. I make that suggestion to the Government in that direction.
My third point is that I would like the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) to explain how long the Heart Foundation of Australia has been co-opted by the Government to consider heart conditions. In its infancy the Heart Foundation was never intended to be used for this purpose. In Queensland people who have made application for an invalid pension because of a heart attack are required to go to the Heart Foundation. 1 am not suggesting that they do not receive a proper examination when they go before the Foundation but it appears to me that this was never the purpose of the Heart Foundation when it was inaugurated. In addition the Heart Foundation does not meet as regularly as one would like. No criticism whatever is meant of the Foundation in that direction. Its members are all busy medical specialists. My attention was drawn to an instance the other day of an applicant for an invalid pension being required to go to the Heart Foundation for an examination. It was exactly 1 month before the applicant could attend the Heart Foundation for the examination. I have raised these matters hoping that they will be of some assistance to the aged and also to the Government.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) (9.39) - Senator Milliner has raised 3 points. I will commence with the second one because the honourable senator spoke along those lines in his second reading speech. I do not think he was in the chamber when I replied to the second reading debate. In my reply 1 referred to his comments and said that I was interested in the points he had made. I said I would be pleased if he could refer to a particular place or give some further information, or words to that effect. In effect I really answered this point when I replied to the second reading debate.
Further to this there are one or two points I would like to make. I cannot think that the organisations to which the honourable senator referred are church or charitable homes run by church or charitable bodies which receive a subsidy under the Aged Persons Homes Act because standards are set down for these homes and they would be looked at. Therefore I think he must be referring to some other homes. I also wonder whether he is referring to nursing homes. The registration of those institutions is primarily a matter for the State Government. I would appreciate it if the honourable senator would give me the details of the institutions to which he referred. Then 1 could inform the Minister and see what can be done about the position. That is what I said in replying to the honourable senator when closing the second reading debate.
I now want to refer to the first point raised by him in relation to the invalid pension. I understood him to say that the person concerned was ill and was told that he was not fit for work in the Post Office, yet he was still ineligible for an invalid pension. I am speaking in the dark about this matter. I do not know the person concerned and I do not know the disabilities involved. I understand he suffered from an illness but I do not know the details of his occupation or of the other job that he had. It may be that his job was one in which, for instance, hearing was important and that he lost his hearing and therefore was not able to continue in it but was eligible for another job where hearing was not so important. In such an instance he would be ineligible for the invalid pension.
– I shall give you details later.
– We are talking of ‘ifs’ and – A-, are we not? I would appreciate it if the honourable senator would give me details of this matter. He also referred to the Heart Foundation of Australia. Normally applicants for an invalid pension would not be required to approach the Heart Foundation. However, a specialist examination is necessary in some cases.
– Mr Acting Deputy Chairman, there are references in the notes given to honourable senators on the Social Services Bill to 3 main ways in which pensioners are assisted in obtaining housing and accommodation. I want to refer, particularly as it applies to my own State of Victoria, to the very serious situation that exists at present in regard to housing and accommodation for aged people and to urge that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and his Department direct their attention to this very serious matter. I point out that within recent weeks the Press has reported that more than 4,000 old people are on waiting lists for admission to 2 of Victoria’s major benevolent homes. The Victorian Council for the Ageing estimates that the number will increase to more than 5,000 for all the benevolent homes and most of these are sick or feeble old pepole who must wait from 3 to 4 years before they have a hope of admission.
The great tragedy is that some of these people will not live so long. Some old people living alone in single rooms are well enough to survive if they are supported by old people’s clubs, Meals on Wheels or the pitifully few day hospitals. But very many hundreds of lonely old people, too feeble for pensioner flats, too old for public hospitals and too poor for private hospitals, sadly measure their prospect of admission to benevolent homes against their prospects of survival. The position in most other States is bad but nowhere is it worse than, or as bad as, in Victoria. The voluntary bodies, the local doctors, the social workers and other professionals in this work are all emphatic in saying that Victoria needs urgently at least another 3 large benevolent homes where our feeble elderly citizens can find hospital beds and receive the best medical and nursing care. The position has worsened from year to year for a decade at least and still the decline goes on. Any doctor or social worker will speak of the seriousness of the position of people seeking accommodation. No matter who is responsible, this disaster is too huge for the State Government alone to deal with and it requires Commonwealth attention.
The Commonwealth cannot wash its hands of this great human problem and substantial Commonwealth funds are needed to cope with it. Thousands of these unfortunate old people are pensioners - the people affected by the Bill we are dealing with tonight. They are a Commonwealth responsibility. Yet I am informed that the Government has never met their full needs. People working in these fields say that even in public hospitals the Commonwealth provides only $5 a day for them. This represents little more than a quarter of the cost of daily hospital treatment throughout Australia. I urge the Government therefore to accept full responsibility for these pensioners. I believe the Government could also satisfy the financial needs of public hospitals. It could stabilise the national hospital benefits scheme without involving most of the patchwork proposals it has been considering for so long. The Government could earmark one quarter of the additional money provided for a crash building programme which must be launched without delay if the present system is to be saved from complete chaos.
What I have said represents an opinion given to me by people working in the field. They simply say that unless urgent action is taken the position of these old people who cannot obtain admission to satisfactory accommodation will become chaotic. Therefore 1 appeal to the Government to give consideration to this matter.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) (9.45) - I appreciate very much the point raised by Senator McManus. I think these matters concern all of us. He referred to benevolent homes. I notice that a benevolent home is one which is maintained by the States and this is thus not a Commonwealth matter.
– They should be maintained by the States. However the States are unable to maintain them now.
– Let me go on to refer to what the Commonwealth is doing because I think this is rather important. All honourable senators are appreciative of the Aged Persons Homes Act which, they will recall, was introduced in 1954. Initially a matching subsidy was provided but for some years now the subsidy has been at the rate of $2 for $1. This has been of tremendous assistance to churches and charitable bodies. They have been able to extend greatly their work aimed at housing aged people. In Victoria grants amounting to $28,698,959 have been approved, resulting in accommodation for 9,454 people. This is of great assistance.
I also remind the Committee, as I did in my second reading speech, that the Government has been very conscious of the problem facing single aged persons. Although the State governments have been doing a very good job with money provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the Government felt there was still a very great need for further assistance. Therefore in last year’s Budget the Government made available $25 m over a period of 5 years and now the States have commenced building units for single. aged persons.
Although I have given this information before, I think that in replying to Senator McManus, who represents the State of Victoria, I should point out that the following building schemes have been submitted and approved in Victoria: One project in Brunswick which will have 216 units; one at Preston which will have 50 units; one at Ballarat which will have 8 units; one at Castlemaine which will have 6 units; one at Mornington which will have 8 units: one at Newtown which will have 12 units; one at Numurkah which will have 6 units; one at Warracknabeal which will have 4 units; and one at Warrnambool which will have 6 units. These projects will bc of great assistance. This assistance will continue throughout Australia this year and $5.7m will be made available. The Government believes that in this 5-year period it will make a very real contribution.
I appreciate very much the point made by Senator McManus. It was because of the need of people for this accommodation that the Government made available finance through both these areas which it believes are so very important. Of course, further assistance already has been given to nursing homes. The Government is endeavouring to give as much help as it can in this field. I pay great tribute to those church and charitable bodies which are working with the Government to make accommodation available for our senior citizens.
– I agree wholeheartedly with the comments made by Senator McManus about the deplorable state of affairs insofar as accommodation for aged people in Victoria is concerned, particularly aged people in institutions. I should like to bring to the Minister’s attention my experience when I visited a mental instituton at Beechworth which provides accommodation in the form of a benevolent home within the precincts of the institution.
– ls this for aged mental people?
– Yes, people who are incapable of catering for their own needs. They are beyond that point. It would appear from the discussion I had with the new superintendent at Beechworth mental institution that the geriatric institutions which normally would cater for these people had reached saturation point. It was most depressing, to say the least, to see aged people who are not mentally ill but are simply aged and beyond the point of being able to care for themselves, being catered for in an institution which has been acknowledged for many years - I think it goes back to 1860 - as a mental institution. During the course of my inspection the superintendent pointed out the different conditions which exist when Commonwealth aid is provided. The people concerned had a sense of independence, notwithstanding the depressing environment - I must use that term - and a sense of dignity in their twilight years. 1 ask the Minister to direct her attention to this matter because, as Senator McManus has said, a lot of assistance is needed. I am completely convinced that the States are not in a position financially to provide the wherewithal to meet the needs of these almost forgotten people in the State of Victoria.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) (9.53) - I have received some information concerning the point made by Senator Brown. These geriatric wards have been excluded from the definition of mental hospital. The inmates receive pensions. I understand that previously pensions were not paid to them. The assistance now provided is a great help. The States are expanding this kind of geriatric accommodation and the patients in the new wards also will receive the pension. I think I should stress again that apart from accommodating people and assisting those in nursing homes, the intensive nursing home benefits provided by this Government have enabled many pensioners to obtain the kind of accommodation they need. I should add another point. When I spoke earlier in reply to Senator McManus I mentioned, because he was interested particularly in Victoria, the amount which had been made available to that State under the Aged Persons Homes Act. It is important to note that Commonwealth expenditure of Si 05.998,324 has been approved in assisting people in this way throughout the Commonwealth. The amount that the Commonwealth has made available, together with that which the organisations have provided, have made a great contribution to this work.
– After listening to tonight’s debate in Committee one can realise the complexity of the regulations which govern social services and the nature of the assistance which is given under those regulations. The point I want to bring forward is the necessity for the Department to give the fullest advice to those who may be entitled to benefit under the Act. It is necessary that the literature which is issued by the Department should be clear as to the benefits which are available. That literature should be distributed to all who may be entitled to gain some benefit.
It is necessarly also for the departmental officers concerned to approach the matter with extreme courtesy, especially when in many cases applications are made by older people who sometimes have lost their confidence and have become timid. I was disturbed that in Brisbane on a couple of occasions applicants for benefits under the social service legislation were not treated with the courtesy which they should have received. Blind pensioners were concerned in both cases. I ask the Minister to assure me that when anyone applies for a benefit the departmental officers will inform the applicant clearly of his entitlement, treat him with the utmost courtesy and give him the benefit of any doubt as to his eligibility. The situation which arose on 2 occasions in Brisbane should not have occurred. It is lamentable that when a man took his blind wife to the Department of Social Services in Brisbane to inquire about a pension he was so upset by the treatment he received that he said he would have nothing to do with the Department and refused to accept any assistance. Rather he said that he would continue to work beyond his 65th year.
I am sure the Minister would agree with me that a situation such as that should not occur. These people are not asking for charity; they are asking merely for assistance to which they are entitled after a very long period of work for the whole community. If this is occurring in other States I impress upon the Minister the necessity to send out an instruction that pensioners and applicants for social service benefits should be treated with extreme courtesy. The attitude should not be adopted that all people applying for benefits are trying in some way to get something for nothing, that they are trying to deceive the Department, that they are trying to bide some information. I would expect that each person when he reaches pensionable age, when he is ill or when he is incapable would receive the utmost consideration.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) (9.58) - I have noted the points raised by Senator Georges and I can assure him that we all want those who are interviewing people about pensions to give the applicants the utmost courtesy and assistance possible. I believe that usually that is done. 1 have had excellent reports from people who have been shown every consideration and courtesy. The honourable senator has mentioned certain cases. We all know that there are occasions when someone perhaps does not show the desired courtesy but 1 can assure him that it is the wish of the Minister and of the Department that all officers show the utmost consideration and courtesy to those who come to see them concerning pension benefits. I pay a tribute also to the welfare officers, the social workers who really do a first class job. I have had a lot to do with them through the years. I have seen their care, consideration and gentleness with old people, people who are worried and distressed and so on. I can assure the honourable senator that it is our desire that everyone be given a very courteous hearing and every consideration. He also mentioned that matters should be given full publicity. My understanding is that this is being done more and more. More and more publications are going out, regular publications are going out and information has been given on television at different times. Certainly this is being done more and more. But I believe that the point the honourable senator makes is a good one. It is important that this knowledge be made available. I shall see that the Minister notes the points the honourable senator has raised.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 22nd September (vide page 741), on motion by Senator Drake-Brockman:
That the Bill be now read asecond time.
– Mr Deputy President, I suggest that for the purposes of convenience this Bill and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill be allowed to be debated together.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– This Bill and the related Bill that the Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman) who represents the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) has just mentioned - the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill - carry into the repatriation field what has been provided in the Budget in the social services field. The Opposition takes up the same position as it did on the Budget and claims that the amounts are totally inadequate. We maintain this very strongly in relation to the Repatriation Act because over the years we have supported the argument put forward by the ex-service organisations namely, that what should have been done with repatriation pensions and the Repatriation Act itself was that some consideration should have been given to relating the pension increases each year to the last review made by the Government in 1950.
In that year, following representations from the ex-service organisations, the Government decided to review pensions. It made a new review which has been used by the ex-service organisations and the Opposition to argue that pensions ought to be related to that base. But we can see no change in the Government’s attitude on this matter over the years. Every time the Government talks about repatriation, all it does is fashion repatriation pensions to the general financial position that presents itself when the Budget comes along. If we ask Ministers in any year why repatriation pensions are not put on a proper compensation basis, they usually say: ‘These are the amounts that we can afford this year’. But what the ex-service organisations have been saying for years and what we have been saying in supporting them - I refer honourable senators to the representations made in this place and in the other place by members of the Opposition - is that in. the repatriation field there ought to be a proper compensation basis for people who are disabled because of their war service and particularly for the widows and orphaned children of ex-servicemen. But this proper compensation basis has never been granted.
As honourable senators will remember, the Opposition in this place has said consistently that there ought to be a committee of inquiry not only to discuss the adjustment of pensions but also to investigate all aspects of the Repatriation Act and to consider the anomalies and the grievances of the organisations. Tn fact, on 3 occasions this chamber has decided, by majority, to support what we have put up. So, primarily what we put to the Senate is that we are not satisfied with the routine treatment that ex-servicemen receive as a result of what the Government decides each year. It does not award proper con.pensation at all. Rather does it cheesepare in relation to what these people should receive. We are not satisfied with this treatment and, of course, the exservicemen are not satisfied with it.
So, the first point I make is that, once and for all, there has to be some machinery that will ensure that a proper compensation basis is provided. We believe that in the immediate term what the Returned Services League and the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association have asked for is good enough to give rough justice; that is, to use the 1950 review. In this way the pensions would be related to the minimum wage, or the basis wage as it then was, and also the average weekly earnings. If the Government did that on every occasion and restored the relativity of the pensions, at least it would be conferring progressive justice on the people who should receive it.
In Australia we face not only an obligation to the ex-servicemen who served in the First World War and the Second World War but also one that arises from what this Government imposes upon the young people of Australia - not only those who volunteer for the Regular Army but also those who are conscripted under the national service scheme. We face an obligation to see that these young people receive something better than exservicemen of the other wars have received.
I say that because, as honourable senators know perhaps more than members of the other place as a result of the Repatriation Act being canvassed very widely in this place, it has been proved without any question that the Act has a number of deficiencies. I need only mention the main one about which ex-servicemen complain; that is the onus of proof. Most of us, as senators, repeatedly receive complaints from ex-servicemen who go before the tribunals and cannot get satisfaction. Of course, many do get satisfaction. But each year applications for compensation for disabilities made by many thousands of people are rejected, and there is nothing that they can do about it. Whilst the Government keeps talking about the onus of proof being upon the Repatriation Commission, in fact it is upon the applicant who has to go and find fresh evidence. Many honourable senators on this side, who will speak later, can bring direct evidence to prove that.
So, the point I want to make is that we are not satisfied. We believe that at some stage the Government ought to indicate that it is prepared to maintain the relativity of pensions generally. But we can see the attitude of the Government to people who are serving this country. Certainly most of the Ministers, including the Minister for Repatriation, are defending the actions of the Government in respect of Vietnam and other places. That is their policy. They are defending the obligation of the young people of Australia to service in those countries. But all the evidence of the injustices that arise from the Repatriation Act is never properly met. On 3 occasions the Senate has carried a demand that a select committee be set up. On each occasion the Government has refused to take any action in that regard.
There is clear evidence that these things are necessary. There is clear evidence of a number of anomalies and a great deal of injustice. But the Government says: ‘All we are prepared to do is, on each occasion on which the general economy and the financial position of the country are considered, to see what we can do in respect of the pensions for ex-servicemen disabled people, their widows and their orphaned children’. In the other place the Opposition moved this amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not opposing the second reading of the Bill, the House is of the opinion that -
the pension rate for the TPI ex-servicemen, the general rate pensioners and war widows should not have been allowed to decline notwithstanding the proposed increases, in relation to average weekly earnings. . . .
The amendment contained a second part, which we do not propose to move in the Senate. It read:
In general terms, the second part of that amendment was in accord with what the Senate carried on 3 occasions. Because it was defeated in the other place and because it proposed, as honourable senators will note, a joint select committee, we can see no good purpose in moving it at this stage. We do not give up the notion that a select committee should be appointed. We have made representations that what was carried by the Senate should have been put into effect. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has given notice already that tomorrow we intend to move a motion on the matter. It is on the business sheet of the Senate already. It is in the name of Senator Murphy. It reads:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare the following matter - All aspects of Repatriation, including the operation of the Repatriation Act and of the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act.
I indicate that tomorrow we will take the opportunity to move that notice of motion proposed by Senator Murphy. We have not given up the intention of pressing for an inquiry. We have been supported in that intention, certainly by most ex-servicemen and generally speaking by ex-service organisations, although in recent years the RSL has supported what it calls a nonparliamentary committee. I will have something more to say about that directly. I indicate now that on behalf of the Opposition 1 shall move:
At end of motion add: “but the Senate fs of opinion that the pension rate for the TPI ex-servicemen, the general rate pensioners and war widows should not have been allowed to decline notwithstanding the proposed increases, in relation to average weekly earnings.1
I think all honourable senators would agree that over the years there have been long-standing complaints about repatriation pensions and about the operation of the Act. I refer the Senate to representations which were made by ex-service organisations in 1966, 1967, 1968. 1969 and this year. These representations were based on a widely supported plan for a general review of repatriation benefits. Apart from that plan, in recent years the issue of repatriation has been strongly contended not only in the Senate but outside in the public arena. Leaders of ex-service organisations have strongly criticised the Government for its policies. There should not be this kind of contention about something which should be a compensation for those who served their country. More than 20 years have elapsed since the review 1 mentioned took place. We are advancing and supporting what is a very moderate claim and that is that the 1950 review by the Government, which based certain pension rates upon the then accepted wage standards, should be followed. It is more than 20 years since the review was held. The last general inquiry into matters associated with the Repatriation Act was during the currency of a Labor government. In 1.943 Mr Pollard, who was the then Minister for Repatriation, headed a committee of inquiry’ which recommended a number of comprehensive alterations to the Act. Like all alterations to Acts, as the years go by they need modernising and bringing up to date. The Repatriation Act was last investigated in 1943. When repatriation has been debated in the Senate we have produced evidence of the great injustices which have been caused to many ex-servicemen because of the present wording of the Act. The Government has given the same old answer each time. It has stated that when it looks at the Budget each year it sees what it can do.
A plan has been put forward by the RSL and by other ex-service organisations. I make it quite clear that we have supported the pension plans, the general approach to hospitalisation, the need for an improvement in the funeral benefits and the need for an inquiry by RSL and other ex-service organisations, because they have been supported by good and proper representations. The Opposition has come to agree with those representations. Those organisations are recognised generally by ex-servicemen. Like members of parliament, they hear of many injustices and of many complaints. We are prepared to support them because of that. The contention in 1968 and 1969 by the RSL has not appeared to the same extent this year, but this year the National President said:
The new Budget increases for repatriation pensioners were ‘totally unacceptable’. Why should ex-servicemen and women who had suffered disabilities through war service find the compensation they receive adversely affected by the need for allocation in other areas of Government expenditure?
The present procedure for determining the level is outmoded and must be changed.
The war compensation increases in the Budget fail to reflect the rise in cost of living which has occurred in recent years.
That states simply what I have been saying. Benefits for people disabled in the service of their country ought to be related not to the economy, not to what the Government does each year, not to its financial commitments or to its decision as to whether there will be inflation or deflation but to a formula of compensation such as that applying in. the workers’ compensation legislation in the various States and to some extent in the Commonwealth employees compensation legislation; that is, based on a formula of certain payments for certain disabilities. That is all that exservicemen are claiming and that is all we are asking at present. We are saying that the Government recognises no standards for providing compensation and that exservicemen and their widows and their dependants have to take their chances. The previous Minister for Repatriation was a member of the Senate. The present Minister is in the other place. However active or however persuasive the Minister may be, he is subject to what Cabinet says about the economy. Over the years we have supported the plan put by the RSL. In recent years its plan has been based on 4 points. The first point was this:
We do not mind the setting up of an independent non-parliamentary committee. The Senate has carried certain motions. We have told the RSL that we think that what the Senate has carried ought to be supported vocally by the RSL. It has decided that it wants an independent committee. The second point was this:
That is the kind of approach which the Opposition has advocated consistently since the 1950 review. The third point was this:
Since 1966 we have been advocating that in this chamber. The fourth point was:
When we first suggested the provision of free hospitalisation for war veterans the Government objected and said that at that time it would cost between Si Om and $12m. As the years have gone by the estimate of the cost has been reduced to about $4m. The Returned Services League has investigated the matter and has been able to prove that from the Boer War and World War I there are about 11,000 exservicemen who are at present not receiving repatriation benefits which would entitle them to free hospitalisation. Nobody has contested that figure. On that basis the cost of free hospitalisation for those men would be about only $1,783,000. It is only a small amount in view of the service that those men have given for their country. Surely they are entitled to free hospitalisation.
It is a very simple proposal which would not cost a lot of money to implement, but the Government has refused to provide that money. When Senator McKellar was Minister for Repatriation the cost of free hospitalisation for those ex-servicemen was estimated at about $12m. The present Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) when asked by Mr Whitlam how much the proposal would cost said that the extension of repatriation hospital, medical and pharmaceutical benefits to all returned exservicemen of World War I and the Boer War, without the necessity of establishing any connection between the disability or the illness and war service, would cost about $4m. He went on to say that a precise estimate was not possible, f am prepared to say that the estimate put forward by the RSL is correct. It is a relatively small amount.
The application for an increase in the funeral grant which has been made in this chamber since 1968 has been refused. We have checked the estimates prepared by the RSL and have found that they are certainly not too high. Some of our figures are much higher. According to the figures of the RSL the standard charges for funerals are in Queensland $179; New South Wales $186; Victoria $175; South Australia $226; Western Australia $228; and Tasmania $170. Ex-service organisations and the Government roughly agree on the cost of the proposal. Obviously it is necessary to increase the funeral benefit of $50. The figures I have cited illustrate that it is nonsense to say that it is enough. The cost of the proposed increase is estimated at $735,000.
It may be argued that to restore relativity in accordance with the RSL’s proposals and the plans put forward by the Opposition would cost a great deal of money. This might be true. Even if it cost $40m that is not a great amount of money in the context of a Budget which provides $1.403m for defence. I am not being critical of the defence expenditure. I am simply pointing out the scope of the Budget. To increase the pension of war widows to 50 per cent of the minimum wage would cost only $15m annually. I put to the Senate that obviously these projects are necessary in respect of legislation which is supposed to have been designed to compensate people who have served in wars, and their dependants. I am referring both to con scripts and volunteers, including national servicemen. The basic wage in 1950 was S13.80 a week. The present minimum wage is $42.40, which represents an increase of 207 per cent. In 1950 average weekly earnings were $21. The average weekly earnings in April 1970 were $72.80, an increase of 246.5 per cent. Since April 1970 average weekly earnings have increased slightly.
In 1950 a soldier’s pay was $1.80 a day. It is not $5.65 a day. Honourable senators will be aware that soldiers will receive an increase in their pay as soon as the complicated committees set up by the Defence Department and other departments get under way. Since 1950 a soldier’s pay has increased by 230 per cent. The pay of a base grade clerk in the Commonwealth Public Service has increased in that period by 215 per cent and I understand that increases are coming forward. On the other hand, the special pension for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen has risen by only 157 per cent; the 100 per cent disability pension has increased by 143 per cent and the 70 per cent disability [pension has risen by only 71 per cent. ne great contrast between increases in the general standards of the community and increases in repatriation benefits illustrates the injustice of the position. The 100 per cent disability pension has been fixed at $12 a week since 1964.
It seems to me that there is no proper answer to the approach to repatriation matters that the Opposition has supported over the years. In May the Minister for Repatriation was asked the following question by Mr Turnbull:
My question is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation. When Budget consideration is being given to repatriation benefits, will he give special attention to the urgent need for the funeral grant to be increased from $50, as it is at present, to at least SI SO?
The Minister for Repatriation replied:
The honourable member can rest assured that this matter will be receiving a top priority from myself and my Department when we are considering submissions for the Budget.
Senator Devitt and other honourable senators have asked similar questions. We have been told that the matter would receive top priority. But we have been given the same answer to questions on other matters. We have estimated that free hospitalisation for veterans of the Boer War and World War I would cost less than $2m. That is only peanuts in view of the magnitude of the sums being spent by the Government Only a small amount would be required to grant war widows a pension equal to SO per cent of the minimum wage. Only about $750,000 would be needed to increase the funeral benefit in accordance with our proposal.
We have referred to many other matters contained in repatriation legislation over the years. We have referred to the lack of consideration shown for young people serving in Vietnam, particularly in respect of their entitlement to war service land settlement and war service homes. We have also highlighted the position of representatives of bodies like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, who receive act of grace pensions but are disqualified from entitlement to war service homes, special tax deductions and the war zone allowance for Vietnam although they have served there. These people and the Opposition have made representations for them to be treated on the same basis as serving soldiers but the representations have been rejected. Somebody has to look after them. It seems to us that the only way to have their claims properly considered is to have them referred to a special committee. That is exactly what we are to get in this Parliament. All members of this Parliament are aware of extremely good claims of exservicemen for disability pensions. For some reason they cannot get them. The result is always that they have to bring back more evidence to the tribunal. The onus of proof as we know it has been completely twisted around.
Let us examine the number of appeals which have been disallowed. The figures I have in front of me are not quite up to date. However, I should imagine that up to date figures would have been included in the most recent report of the Repatriation Commission. On 18th August Mr Barnard asked the Minister for Repatriation:
The answer given by the Minister for Repatriation was to the effect that Tribunal No. 1 decided 2,386 appeals in 1967-68 and 2,311 appeals in 1968-69. A total of 313 appeals were allowed in 1967-68 and 303 in 1968-69. There were 2,073 appeals disallowed in 1967-68 and 2,008 in 1968- 69. A total of 102 appeals were referred to the Repatriation Commission in 1967-68 and 94 in 1968-69. In order to save the time of the Senate I shall, with the concurrence of honourable senators, incorporate the question and answer in Hansard:
War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal!! (Question No. 857)
Mr Barnard asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
Mr Holten ; The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The Opposition has felt, and it has been supported by a majority of the Senate, that there ought to be a parliamentary inquiry into repatriation. The Opposition would prefer it to be conducted by a select committee of both Houses of the Parliament. But the other place decided not to support the proposition which was put forward by the Australian Labor Party. However, J can say with a great deal of satisfaction that on 3 occasions a majority of the members of this chamber have supported proposals for such an inquiry. Three times a majority of honourdble senators have said that a select committee ought to be set up to inquire into all aspects of repatriation. On one occasion it was agreed that repatriation rates should be included in the inquiry. On a number of occasions honourable senators on this side of the House have asked when the Government proposed to give effect to the Senate’s wish. On 7th April 1970 I received a letter from the Minister for Repatriation in the following terms:
Dear Senator Bishop,
Senator Drake-Brockman has referred to me your question concerning the appointment of a Senate select committee to investigate repatriation matters, which you directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate on 11th March 1970. Senator Anderson, you will recall, mentioned in reply that he would invite Senator DrakeBrockman to take the matter up with me.
The facts are, as you say, that the Senate has indicated on a number of occasions that there should be such a select committee and its recommendation to the Senate at the conclusion of the debate on the 1969 Repatriation Bill suggested that it commence its inquiry not earlier than 1st January 1970. However, the Senate, although it is within its own powers to do so, has not yet taken any formal action to establish the committee.
The Government’s attitude in the matter has been made quite clear and my predecessor went into some detail during the debate in 1967 on Senator Murphy’s notice of motion that a Senate select committee be appointed, in explaining why the Government did not favour a committee. Its views then were that there was already a continuing opportunity for review both by the Parlia ment, by way of introduction of amending legislation, notices of motion and speaking on the adjournment, and by the Administration itself.
There has been no change in the Government’s attitude since that time and in the circumstances I can only say that for the reasons already given, the establishment of such a committee is not favoured by the Government.
That is the attitude which the Government has adopted towards the opinion of a majority of the Senate and towards the problems which the Opposition and other organisations have put before the Government. It is the attitude which the Government has adopted in the face of a great deal of unfavourable criticism. I remember that the late Senator McKellar accepted in this chamber a suggestion which I made that serving soldiers should have entries made on their medical cards to ensure that if they have to go before a repatriation tribunal they will have some record of the disabilities they have suffered. It is very evident to honourable senators who have to deal with repatriation cases that a lot of servicemen are so eager to return to civilian life that they do not bother to record on their medical cards the disabilities, accidents and wounds they have suffered, although this should be done. As a result, when one makes representations on behalf of such a person one finds that there is no record of any disability having been suffered. Senator Devitt, Senator O’Byrne and other honourable senators, can confirm that this has happened often. As a result of representations by me, the late Senator McKellar took the opportunity of reminding servicemen that if they recorded the disabilities and illnesses that they suffered while serving they would ensure that they would get the benefits of the Repatriation Act. There is a clear case for doing the sort of things which I have said.
As I have already indicated, tomorrow the Opposition will give notice of a motion it intends to move which will give expression to its idea that an inquiry should be conducted into repatriation by a Senate select committee. There is no argument against such a proposition. An inquiry of this nature should be held. One of the arguments that the Minister for Repatriation used in the other place was that such an inquiry took 4 years in Canada and that it might take 4 years in Australia. I put it to the Government that had it accepted the Senate’s resolution in 1968 the chances are that the Senate select committee inquiry which was proposed at that stage would have been concluded and it would have made recommendations to the Government. If the Government had not accepted the proposed committee’s recommendations I believe that it would have been challenged on the hustings by the people most concerned. If the Government were to say that it would accept the proposal of the Returned Services League for an inquiry by an independent committee the Opposition would not stand in its way, but it is obvious that the Government has refused to do so. 1 understand that it has already told the RSL and other organisations that it will not permit an inquiry of the nature proposed by either the RSL or the Australian Labor Party. The only excuse which the Minister offers is that the Department is making its own inquiry. This can only be an appeal from Caesar to Caesar. When the departmental committee makes its inquiry it will be guided largely by the attitude of the Government, which is that there should not be a substantial examination of the provisions of the Repatriation Act. For the reasons I have given, I move the following amendment:
At the end of motion for the second reading add: but the Senate is of opinion that the pension rate for the TP I ex-servicemen, the general rate pensioners and war widows should not have been allowed to decline notwithstanding the proposed increases, in relation to average weekly earnings.’
I hope that the Senate will support the amendment.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie) - Is the amendment seconded?
– I. second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– The Senate is debating a Bill to amend the Repatriation Act. Amendment of the Repatriation Act is a yearly exercise under this Government. I think I am correct in saying that in the 17 years in which I have been a member of the Senate it has been necessary to amend the Repatriation Act in some way each year. Senator Bishop, as the spokesman for the Australian Labor Party, has devoted a lot of his speech to the question which is raised so often of a full inquiry into all aspects of the repatriation legislation. I speak mainly for myself and not as a supporter of the Government when 1 say that I have always opposed the setting up of a parliamentary committee to inquire into repatriation. There is no doubt that, no matter what political party is in power, repatriation is a matter of government policy I put a similar view this afternoon in relation to the other social services legislation. It becomes an important part of the fiscal policy of the Government. I believe that during the course of a select committee of inquiry into repatriation there would be. quite naturally and understandably, party political clashes of opinion which do not occur when suitable and correct subjects are before select committees of the Parliament. We would find that a report would be issued with senators from one side of the chamber making certain recommendations and senators from the other side of the chamber making other recommendations. Then we would have the Government in the situation where it would be expected to put into operation the report brought down by the members of this select committee. Just as I oppose a tribunal for social services, I oppose a parliamentary select committee on repatriation, and I will continue to oppose it.
I have had discussions with some members of the national executive of the Returned Services League and in the early days I argued against their supporting a parliamentary committee of this type. Gardually they came round, probably not because of anything I said, to advocating the setting up of a non-parliamentary committee. I do not oppose that idea. I think it has merits. If there is dissatisfaction amongst the parliamentarians and the leaders of the RSL about various aspects of repatriation - if they think the annual review of repatriation matters by the Government and by the Parliament is not sufficient - I would not oppose such an inquiry. It is very many years since the Repatriation Act was consolidated. However, as Senator Bishop tells us, we are going to have another discussion in the Senate in respect to an inquiry of some sort.
I refer now to the Bill before the Senate. We realise that repatriation benefits result from promises made by governments of varying types and at various times - when recruiting for a war, while men and women are fighting in the war - and from representations that continue after the war when the ravages and results of war become known. If I may mention a personal matter very briefly - I am not trying to be humorous - my own father was blinded in France in the First World War. For some months after he came back to Tasmania he could not get a pension because there was no provision for blindness in repatriation arrangements. A delegation went to the then Prime Minister in relation to this discrepancy. He asked how many people would be involved, and when he was told he said: They are not worth worrying about.’ However, that was one of the things that prompted the introduction of the Repatriation Act in 1920. There has been dissatisfaction in regard to various aspects of it, but in my belief it has been greatly improved as the years have gone on.
There are 2 sections of the community which are vitally concerned with repatriation benefits. Firstly, there are the exservicemen themselves who are suffering from wounds or sickness or other ravages of war. Secondly - and equally importantly - there are the widows and the children of the deceased ex-servicemen. Each of these sections of the community in its own particular sphere is receiving some assistance under various clauses of the Bill now before the Senate. Some of the remarks I made this afternon in respect of social services could apply again to repatriation, but I will not repeat them. However, I do take up a point with Senator Bishop. 1 understand he said that in deciding the amounts of benefits to be paid under this legislation the Government should not be looking at the economic effect or the inflationary effect it might cause; it should pay what is required to be paid to give a proper and fair deal to the recipients. I cannot believe that to be responsible government. These matters must be considered in the light of what the country can afford in relation to all its other commitments. It is irresponsible to say that the Government should not take into account economic effect.
– The Government does it in relation to compensation under the Workers Compensation Act.
– I disagree with it in relation to repatriation. Senator Bishop said that the RSL and other people were asking for increases which were not being granted under this legislation. Quite literally the senator was expecting the Government to toss Sim here, another Sim there, and another $2m somewhere else, without any realisation of the total amount he was asking the Government to spend. The greatest pity of it all - this adds to the irresponsibility, in my belief - was that not one word of constructive advice was given by the honourable senator as to how and if this money could be rightfully collected, from what section of the community and by what means it could be collected from the community to pay the pensions and the benefits that he so blithely suggests should be paid. I do not want to be unfair, but I believe it has become a habit for the Australian Labor Party in opposition to take the opportunity when discussing amendments to the Repatriation Act to express the attitude: ‘Name a benefit, name an increase, and the Labor Party will support it regardless of whether it is right, proper or in the best interests of the country.’
Senator Bishop went back to 1950 to substantiate the arguments he put forward. Although he had recent figures available to show the percentage of increase that had or had not been made - and the general inference was that the increases were not great enough - Senator Bishop did not tell us the policy of the Labor Party in respect of repatriation when it was last in power, before it went out of office on 10th December 1949. But I would like to remind the honourable senator and other members of the Opposition who are so critical of this Government in respect to repatriation that the great ‘Smith’s Weekly* coined the memorable phrase:
He whom caucus wishes to destroy, they first make Minister for Repatriation.
If honourable senators cast their political minds back to 1946 and the years that followed they will remember that 2 Ministers for Repatriation, one after the other, were defeated by the votes of the people at elections in the State from which I am proud to come. That is what the people thought of Labor in office when it had the responsibility of a country which was, I admit, just out of a war - a terribly expensive war. Because of that the members of that Party should temper their criticism and be prepared to put up constructive thoughts as to how, why and when this money should come forward. As it is the Bill provides for at least 7 major increases in pensions. The pension for totally and permanently handicapped persons is increased; the intermediate rate is increased; the special compensation allowance is increased; both the war widow’s pension and the domestic allowance are increased; the war orphan’s pension is increased. For the war blinded there is a new provision for a recreation transport allowance. This is something that we all commend.
Service pensions have been increased along the same lines as social service pensions. I do not intend to cite the increases. I am not ashamed of them; on the contrary, I am satisfied with them, in view of all the circumstances which are well known to the public. No doubt others will quote them, but I have not the time to do so. However, I should like to point out that the increased repatriation pensions will benefit more than 105,000 ex-servicemen and their dependants and, in a full year, will cost the Commonwealth an additional $8m. I believe that it is reasonable to say that the Government has proved its earnest desire to do what it feels within its responsibilities that it can do for beneficiaries of our repatriation scheme. In this legislation the Government is providing increased benefits for more than 105,000 people, which is a considerable improvement so many years after a war.
The only other main item in the Bill to which I propose to refer is clause 3 which will amend section 14 of the principal Act. I congratulate the Government on this provision which shows that it is keeping an eye generally on repatriation throughout Australia. The clause provides:
Where it appears to the Governor-General that an additional Repatriation Board is required for a particular State, the Governor-General may establish an additional Repatriation Board for that State . . .
This provision is inserted in the Bill because the Repatriation Commission has at last realised that there have been too many frustrating delays in some States with applicants waiting for decisions from Repatriation Boards. If we pass this legisla tion we will give authority to the Government to constitute boards to overcome the lag in the hearing of cases.
I propose now to make a request of the Government on a matter which may sound parochial but which in fact is not. Since 1965 I have been endeavouring to persuade the Minister for Repatriation to have the Repatriation Commission recognise that in Tasmania it is legal for people to approach dental mechanics direct and to go to them for the supply of and repair to dentures. Dental mechanics are legally licensed to deal with the public. The Commonwealth Government has recognised the sense and legality of the Tasmanian legislation and taxpayers in Tasmania who pay accounts from dental mechanics for work done may submit those’ accounts and qualify for concessions under our income tax laws. I understand that Tasmania is the only State where dental mechanics are licensed in this way. I make a plea, not only on behalf of dental mechanics but also on behalf of ex-servicemen, that recipients under the repatriation scheme be authorised to arrange for work to be done in regard to dental plates by a direct approach to the repatriation hospital. At least in the 2 cities of Tasmania the supply of dentists is very short and there is a long delay if a person wants to have dental work performed. At present in Tasmania an ex-serviceman who has a right under the Repatriation Act to have dentures repaired must see a dentist who sends the work to a dental mechanic, who in turn performs the work and sends the dentures back to the dentist, after which the dentist sees the ex-serviceman again. It would be a great saving of time and of cost to the Commonwealth if it agreed to acknowledge the legality of licensed dental mechanics in Tasmania.
After years of trial and error the dentists and dental mechanics in Hobart are working harmoniously together, so I do not believe that the dental profession would have one iota of opposition to what I have proposed. Opposition to the acceptance of dental mechanics in this way comes about because in repatriation headquarters it is said that because this is not done in Sydney and is not done in Perth it may not be done anywhere else. I believe that the federal organisations of dentists and dental mechanics are saying that this should not be allowed. I believe that the Minister and the Department have every right to make their own decisions in this matter and that, if what I propose is legal and considered to be required in Tasmania, ‘ the Commonwealth and the Commonwealthowned repatriation hospital should take advantage of the many benefits which would accrue to the Commonwealth and to ex-servicemen and women if the scheme were adopted.
There have been many occasions in respect of various types of legislation where my State of Tasmania has led the field in Australia. It has led the field in regard to dental mechanics. I believe that the Minister and the Repatriation Commission should recognise the correctness and fairness of the case that has been put to them, repeated and then passed on to every Tasmanian member of Parliament for support and prove the old motto, which is Tasmania’s claim, that we often lead while others follow.
Finally I shall state briefly my reasons for opposing the amendment which has been circulated by Senator Bishop on behalf of the official Opposition. The amendment expresses the view that: the pension rate for the TPI ex-servicemen, the general rate pensioners and war widows should not have been allowed to decline notwithstanding the proposed increases, in relation to average weekly earnings.
This is an expression of opinion and one which I do not think carries weight. I propose only to go back to what I said in the main part of my speech prior to referring to this amendment, that I believe that in . the circumstances, in view of all its responsibilities, the Government has done a fair and just job in respect of repatriation. I am prepared to give my full and wholehearted support to the measure.
-In the few moments before the adjournment motion is proposed I should like to say that I support the amendment that has been moved by my colleague Senator Bishop. Unlike Senator Marriott, I, believe that the amendment has substance. I propose to refer very brieffly to the Budget figures for these extended repatriation benefits that our ex-servicemen are to receive in the current financial year. For those who want to refer to them, they appear at page 7 of the printed copy of the Budget. We note from that document that the totally and permanently incapacitated war pensioner is to receive an increase of $2 to raise his pension to $38 a week. One wonders how many of these disabled people would have been forced to live on this weekly amount had they not lost their health as a result of serving in our armed services. Probably they would have been earning 2, 3 or 4 times this sum per week. But this grateful nation has decided that this is their only value to us today.
Why the Government should be so carried . away with enthusiasm over the fact that it has granted $2 a week in the last Budget surprises me as it does, to a much larger degree, those who are in receipt of this pension. The intermediate rate war pension has been raised by $1.50. This pension is payable to a fairly large group of people.. Perhaps the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) is not unduly perturbed about the size of the increase. I am certain that the Government is not unduly perturbed; otherwise it would have granted a much more adequate increase. I move on to the next page of the document and I propose very quickly to run through some of the other special compensation allowances and the pension for war widows. The special compensation allowance, which is payable to some general rate pensioners and which was introduced 2 or 3 years ago, is to be increased to $6 per week at the 100 per cent level to bring the combined payment of the allowance and general rate war pension to $18 per week.
– In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to raise a matter which has caused me some concern. It occurred today and involves not only myself but also Senator Keeffe. In the Queensland Parliament in answer to a question by one of the members of his own Party the Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, gave what was obviously a prepared reply because at the time he gave it he also distributed copies to members of the Press gallery. I will read the answer so that all honourable senators will be familiar with the subject matter about which I want to speak. Mr Bjelke-Petersen said:
I am glad the honourable member has raised this question. While 1 must point out that matters relating to the Crimes Act and the National Service Act are essentially a Commonwealth responsibility
– Has the honourable senator the text of the question, by any chance?
– I am afraid I do not have the text of the question but the answer discloses what the question must have been. The answer continues: . . I must say that I am astounded that the ALP should countenance in its ranks two senators who are paid by the Government to uphold democratic government and our free way of life but who spend their time promoting disloyalty to the ideals and laws of our country.
– Who were the two honourable senators?
– I ask the honourable senator to wait a moment and let me continue.
– Let us hear who they were.
– If the honourable senator will allow me to continue I will enlarge on that when 1 have finished reading the answer. It continues: lt is revealing to see their association with organisations which are either infiltrated or dominated by Communist influences. To name but a few I might mention that Senator Georges has within the last 2 years been associated as an active participant with the Brisbane branch of the Australian USSR Society-
The Premier means the Friendship Society - the Conference to End the Vietnam War (a front of another Communist body, the Peace Council), the Brisbane Committee for Democracy in Greece and has actively assisted in the organisation of two Vietnam Moratorium Campaigns. A brief outline of Senator Keeffe’s anti-democratic activities must also be of interest to the House. In 1967 he was a speaker at an all-night vigil outside the American Consulate in Melbourne in an antiVietnam demonstration. Members will recall his attendance at an interracial seminar in Townsville. In the same year he participated in the Hiroshima rally organised by the Queensland Peace Council which I have already indicated is a Communist body. In 1968 he was associated wilh the civil liberties march in Brisbane which was of course infiltrated by Communists. Senator Keeffe has also been actively associated with the two Vietnam Moratorium demonstrations this year. Senator Keeffe has also promised his wholehearted support for the treason room in Townsville. Surely the foregoing is a sickening survey of the activities of two members of our Federal Parliament - of two who are supposed to have at heart in the Commonwealth sphere the welfare of this State and the interests of Queensland.
The Premier concludes:
I give the House and the electorate at large an assurance here and now - these subversive elements will be closely watched by my Government in the future and their activities against decency and democracy exposed.
I have checked and found that aside from this statement by Mr Bjelke-Petersen he also made a couple of ad lib remarks. After naming the organisations with which I have been associated in the last 2 years the Premier said:
These are just a few things with which Senator Georges, who has changed his name three times, has been associated.
I admit that on matters of political issues over the past 6 or 7 months I have been particularly caustic of the actions of the Queensland Government and especially of the Queensland Premier in connection with the Great Barrier Reef, the crown of thorns problem, the Cooloola sands issue and the royalties on mining exploitation. This action became necessary because the Queensland Parliament had met for only
II days between November last year and this present session. I must admit that on a couple of occasions the attacks were fairly severe but they were political attacks, not personal attacks.
Mr Chalk, the Queensland Treasurer, in response to these attacks took me to task and it was reported widely in the Queensland papers that I was a person who had dishonoured his father because I had shortened my name. This was the personal level to which Mr Chalk descended in response to an attack I had made in this chamber during the debate on the States Receipts Duties (Administration) Bill when I indicated that other means were available by which Queensland could obtain revenue instead of imposing this iniquitous receipts tax. Mr Chalk descended to a personal attack and insulted me because I adopted a procedure which my family had used for years of normalising the name which my family had used in business from time to time. I adopted ‘Georges’ instead of the
Greek ‘Georgouras’ which was unpronouncable at first sight in English and was also unpronounceable in Greek. But Mr Chalk took me to task on this and accused me of disloyalty to my father and my family. He also made other references to Communist influence and half-baked political attitudes, i I ignored that. I did not raise it. If he was prepared to descend to personalities, by all means let him. That was his problem. The j fact that he had insulted many migrants ; who have normalised and Anglicised their names was a matter that he had to face.
Subsequently Mr Camm, the Queensland Minister for Mines and Main Roads, made another personal attack upon me but not on the issues F had raised concerning the acceptance of Comalco shares by Ministers or the Premier’s share holding in Exoil NL, a company which has oil exploration leases which go across the Great Barrier Reef. I received no answer on these issues. Obviously Mr Camm had access to some records held by the special police in Brisbane which included a dossier on my associations going back to 1945. The Minister gave a history of the youth organisations to which I belonged. He mentioned the Randall Youth Society. He forgot the Hellenic Youth Society and the Comrades of St George which happens to be a Church of England society. He merely mentioned that at one meeting I objected strongly to the expulsion of a political group called the Eureka Youth League because I believed that if political groups were to be on the Associated Youth Committee this league should not be expelled because of its political associations. T took this stand some 20-odd years ago. Yet Mr Camm was able to refer to that and other matters which had occurred over that period of time. He forgot to mention that for almost 2 years I was an organiser for the youth section of the Australian Red Cross.
But those things do not concern me. They seek out those things which can discredit a person personally. What I object to in this latest attack by Mr BjelkePetersen is his inference of disloyalty and subversiveness to this country. 1 strongly object to this. More than that, I object to the intimidation implied in the last .paragraph - the intimidation of a senator representing Queensland in the carrying out of his duties. He indicated in the last para graph that the Queensland Government would keep me under close surveillance. I do not doubt that it will use the same methods as it used to document the fact that I attended one meeting of the USSR Friendship Society. I was invited to that weekend seminar for the purpose of speaking on co-operatives in Australia. I attended a meeting of that particular society on one occasion and yet the Premier of Queensland is able to refer to it.
I attended a conference here in Canberra - I. am not ashamed of it - aimed at ending the Vietnam war. All honourable senators hope by some way to end this war. We all endeavour to reach some point where we can end this war. We approach this objective in different ways but each of us sincerely would like to see the end of the Vietnamese war. We demonstrate and protest because we are the Opposition. The Government seeks to achieve the end of the war by other means, lt seeks it by the attitude it adopts at peace conferences. The Government has high hopes - I think they are vain hopes - of endeavouring to reach a peaceful conclusion of the Vietnam war.
– By showing force against aggression. Do you agree with that?
– No, 1 do not agree with that. I am not going to enter into that particular argument. All I am stating is that I attended a conference here in Canberra and I was not in any way subversive or disloyal. My attendance is noted in Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s dossier on me. I also advocate the restoration of democracy in Greece and I attended conferences of the committee which seeks that objective. No one on either side of the chamber would deny the desirability of having democracy in Greece or in any other place, yet according to Mr Bjelke-Petersen this is an indication of subversiveness and disloyalty. The Queensland Premier went further and said that I took part in the organisation of 2 Vietnam Moratoriums. Most certainly I did. ff f had not taken an active part in those Moratoriums the thing which this Government and Mr Bjelke-Petersen hopes for - violence in the streets - may have occurred. Withdrawal of important people from these functions leads to the disorders which some people hope for. I think that
Mr Bjelke-Petersen was a precursor of violence in Queensland.
– Would you remind us of when the Premier of Queensland made these remarks?
– He made them under privilege in the Parliament of Queensland. It is convenient for Mr Bjelke-Petersen to forget the campaigns that were waged and meetings I attended - and which were attended mostly by those who are normally his supporters, members of the Country Party and the Liberal Party - in relation to the Great Barrier Reef. He forgets that I attended those meetings also and that we struggled and fought to establish a moratorium on the Great Barrier Reef. He did not mention those meetings; he merely mentioned those which to his mind were evidence of disloyalty and subversiveness. I raise this matter because I feel-
– It is very similar to your attacking his share deals, I should think.
– The comments and criticisms I made about Mr BjelkePetersen’s personal share dealings were in the interests of the people of Queensland and of Australia. That was fair enough.
– That is what the previous comments about you are - fair enough.
– The statement that Senator Georges has changed his name - that is in the interests of the people of Queensland, is it?
– He said I changed my name on 3 previous occasions instead of on one occasion. This shows the level to which the criticism has descended. My criticism of share holdings related to the future of the Great Barrier Reef. It was on that level that my criticisms were made. Surely those are political issues. The interests of State members of Parliament are, when they conflict with their public duty, the interests not only of the State Parliament, of Queensland and of myself as a Queenslander, but also of this Parliament because we too have responsibilities. Mr President, the portion of the statement to which I strongly object is the inference that the Queensland Government, using the methods by which it compiled a dossier on me in the past, will now supervise my activities as a senator for Queensland. I believe this to be intimidation of a member of the Senate and I strongly object to it. In due course I shall take action concerning this matter.
– I want to add a few words to the remarks passed by Senator Georges. He quoted in full the answer to the question asked in the Queensland Parliament. Incidentally, Mr President, I understand it was a question without notice yet the Queensland Premier apparently by accident just happened to have a written reply. I want to refer to some of the accusations levelled against me. The Premier allegedly said that in 1967 I took part in an antidemocratic activity by speaking at an all night vigil outside the American consulate in Melbourne. I want to say clearly that I did speak at a public meeting in Melbourne on that occasion. It was a properly organised meeting. It was a lawful meeting. I spoke in a church hall and I found out next day that a vigil had been maintained. I was not invited to be present. At the time when the Queensland Premier apparently thinks I was participating in that vigil I was resting before flying back to Queensland the next day. I think it would be wise if those who inform under these circumstances get all their facts straight.
The next accusation of the Queensland Premier is that I attended an inter-racial seminar in Townsville. This inter-racial seminar was convened for the purpose of assisting the local aboriginal population as well as people of other races in every possible way. A kindergarten was established partly as a result of that seminar. It was significant that when the organisation of that seminar was well under way a flock of special branch police went to Townsville and intimidated organisations and persons to withdraw from it because they had seen walking down Flinders Street at some stage of that day a person whom they believed to be a Communist and who said he was going to the seminar. As a result of that action sections of some churches withdrew from the seminar. An Aboriginal organisation known as the One People for Australia League disintegrated because the local people insisted on their rights. The Queensland Government said they could not participate. As most people would know, that organisation is not a voluntary body, lt is a corporate body and consequently has no right to make a decision at a local level. The main achievement of the Queensland Government’s action was the breaking up of that organisation.
The people who spoke at the seminar were academics. My only role was that I happened to go along and attend. 1 forget what the attendance fee was - 50c or something like that. But it was a very dangerous seminar, Mr President, because I happened to see someone who, I suspect, may have been a Communist boiling the billy out in the back yard. The participation was really high level. Further, the Premier of Queensland said that I had participated in the Hiroshima rally organised by the Queensland Peace Council. That rally was organised by a number of peace bodies. It was a purely legal march. I recall going round one particular corner on that famous Sunday afternoon of 6th August 1966 and seeing 3 security people with cameras taking my photograph, lt would be quite handy and would save me money for my campaigns if 1 could get some of those copies. Then he said that in 1968 1 was associated with the civil liberties march in Brisbane. On that occasion a number of prominent members of the Labor Party, a number of members of the Liberal Party and 2 or 3 members of the Country Party to my knowledge participated in the march. This is a thing in which a lot of people believe because there had been all sorts of problems in previous marches. We had an official police permit and the march was led officially by senior policemen mounted, in motor . cars and what have you. There was no violence, and as a result there have been some amendments to the traffic legislation in relation to public gatherings.
I have been accused too of having infiltrated or participated or otherwise demonstrated in the 2 Vietnam Moritorium demonstrations. That is my legal right, lt is my legal right to dissent. I shall continue to oppose the Vietnam war in every way that I can, and 1 shall continue to oppose all of the provisions of the National Service Act. 1 have said that here on dozens of occasions and I will continue to do it. If we are not allowed to do these things this is no longer a democracy. Surely to goodness, as members of the official Opposition of the Parliament of Australia we are able to do these things. It is true that 1 participated in the organisation at the national level, at the State level and at the regional level of the Moratorium Campaigns, and when the next one is organised I say publicly now that 1 will be with it again.
Then he said that I had promised my wholehearted support for the treason room. The term ‘treason room’ applied in these circumstances is the brainchild or dreamchild of the Premier or some of his assistants in Queensland. These rooms are official and public. There is one at Townsville and there is one at Brisbane. They are not treason rooms. They are organised by small groups of people who form what is known as the Committee in Defiance of the National Service Act. 1 do not know of anyone who has been asked to break the law as the result of any counsel. If a youngster goes to a government department and asks the possibilities of avoiding or having his national service training deferred, he will be quoted the Act. He will be told just the bare facts. There is no humanity; there is no sympathy; there is no depth of feeling for any youngster who goes in and says: ‘I am the sole breadwinner in my family. I cannot go and do my national service. What action can I take to have it deferred?’ If this, in the eyes of the Premier, is one of the treasonable acts in this community, then I shall continue to participate in them.
Like Senator Georges, 1 am more than disturbed by the last sections of the answer. I feel very sorry for the Premier. He is obviously going round the bend politically, physically or mentally - perhaps all three, lt is very worrying indeed. There are a lot of other things that I could mention but I will not indulge in making counter charges tonight. However, at the appropriate time certain things will have to be exposed, and I am very sorry that they will have to be exposed. Let me say how much I regret the fact that both Senator Georges and I now will be watched from here on. Of course it is obvious that all of these facts have been taken from a document belonging to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation because I am sura that the Premier has not the time to go and find out these things for himself, and I do not know whether members of this Cabinet are so busy that they would try to find out anyway.
The facts as I see them now are that we will be intimidated. Never again must I criticise the neglect of north Queensland or the desecration of the Barrier Reef. Never again must I speak as a conservationist if a mining lease is involved. Never again must I raise my voice in protest at 20-year-olds having to go to Vietnam. Never again must I continue my struggle for Aboriginals and try to improve the conditions under which they are expected to live. Those are the kinds of things that we can be stopped from doing because from here on we two treacherous characters will be watched wherever we go in Queensland. It is a very sad day for law and order if it has degenerated to the gutter in the way in which this appears to have done. I sincerely hope that this is not symbolic of Conservative government in Australia. But what is symbolic is that not one Queensland member of the Liberal Party or the Country Party has remained in the chamber tonight. I do not blame them. If I was one of them I would stay out too because I would be just as ashamed of what happened in Queensland today as I am as a member of the Opposition.
– I rise mainly because Senator Keeffe has said that there are no Queensland members of my own Party, the Country Party, or the Liberal Party in the chamber. Senator Keeffe should know that it has become rather traditional that whenever he rises to speak in the adjournment debate honourable senators on this side become so disgusted with what he has to say-
– He hurts you.
– They become so disgusted, Senator Cavanagh, as I am sure you are at times, with what he has to say that they leave. I know that they were here earlier and that they left. It is surprising that the two honourable senators on the Opposition side who rose to speak tonight on this matter should take the Premier of Queensland to task. I, as a Country Party senator, abhorred the comments made by both honourable senators previously regarding the Premier of Queensland. They were very personal attacks, not political attacks, as Senator Georges has attempted to make them out to be. In this chamber previously on a number of occasions they have attempted to attack and break the character of the Premier of Queensland. If both honourable senators thought about their actions in this place they would feel very much ashamed of themselves. We need only recall the statements made by Senator Keeffe this day regarding pensioners. I hope that that kind of attack will never again be heard from a senator in this place, but it was in line with the kind of attack that both honourable senators originated against the Premier of Queensland. I think that he has taken proper action to highlight some of the activities of both honourable senators in the past. Undoubtedly they are proud of the activities in which they have participated. If they are, they should find no offence in what the Premier of Queensland has said. Their comment that the Premier of Queensland made a personal attack on them is unwarranted. I feel he was only making something clear in relation to what had been generated in this chamber by both of them.
– I hope that the Senate is not deluded by the mock indignation which has emanated from Senator Georges and Senator Keeffe. I would categorise it as crass humbug for people who from time to time have been highly offensive to other individuals and, in particular, have imputed improper motives to the Premier of Queensland, now to come forward and to claim that they are offended in some way by remarks that he has made. The remarks which the Premier of Queensland has made will find ready acceptance in many places. They lack that alleged personal offensiveness which has been claimed of them.
Let me say at the outset that I would not engage in personal condemnation of anyone on the basis of personal characteristics or any of those features or attributes with which all of us are born and to which all of us are susceptible, but I do say that if people engage in political activities which are offensive to the standards of the majority of this country, if they engage in political activities which seek to undermine the bases of our society, then those people can expect to be criticised. I would go further and say that if members of Parliament did not criticise them, did not expose them and did not show them up for what they are, then members of Parliament are lacking in their obligations. We have seen - I am not prepared to except Senator Keeffe and Senator Georges from this - participation in a Moratorium Campaign which should deserve the condemnation of all right thinking Australians. Senator Keeffe and Senator Georges are not singular members of the Labor Party, distinct and separate from the other members of their Party. They represent the viewpoint with which the Labor Party has identified itself, and what may be said of them may be said of the whole Labor Party.
I believe that the Labor Party, by identifying itself with the Moratorium campaign, has shown to the people of Australia not only that its own platform, policy and resolutions mean absolutely nothing at all but that it is prepared to align itself with Communists, it is prepared to align itself with those who want the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong to win and it is prepared to align itself with those who would cheerfully see the overthrow of Australian institutions and who would cheerfully overthrow democracy, the rule of law and the basis upon which everything that has made Australia what it is has been built. Those remakrs can be justified and verified to the hill. 1 am sure that within the Labor Party there are some silent members who are afraid to speak but who agree with everything I say.
Because this is a debate that has been initiated by members of the Opposition, let me spend some little time on what has been involved in their participation in the Moratorium campaign for which they now seek, as I said, by mock indignation to disclaim any responsibility. I sense that in what both Senator Georges and Senator Keeffe have said there is an attempt to concentrate Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s remarks on aspects of personalities and therefore to ignore the substance of what he said. The substance of what he said is right because people who engage as Senator Georges has engaged and as Senator Keeffe has engaged in activities like the Moratorium are deserving of political condemnation.
I Senator Georges - Mr President, I rise to order. Am 1 to take it from Senator
Greenwood’s remark - that he agrees with the statement made by Mr BjelkePetersen - that I. am subservient and disloyal?
– ls this a point of order?
– Yes, it is a point of order, if that is so, I ask him to withdraw that imputation.
– Order! I cannot uphold the point of order.
– Lel me elaborate on the points 1 have already made. But firstly, for the benefit of Senator Georges, let me say that I did not use the word ‘subversive’: I did not use the word “disloyal’; I will not use those words; and I reject any imputation by way of a point of order that I have done so. 1 have been careful in my language. I am not going to stand here and have it even imputed to me or suggested to me that those words have been used. They have not been used.
Senator McClelland - But they were used by Mr Bjelke-Petersen and you said that he was right.
– I speak for myself, and I will not have it said of me that I have accused other people of being subversive and disloyal when I have been careful to choose my words and to indicate that I am not engaged in that sort of talk.
– Let us have a look at Hansard tomorrow.
– You may. I was about to say that we had a Moratorium on 8th May of this year and the objective of that Moratorium was twofold. One objective, of course, was the abolition of the National Service Act, which is a legitimate political objective. But the other object was to support the withdrawal of the United States and Allied troops from Vietnam, ft was a unilateral request. It was a unilateral demand. It said nothing at all about the withdrawal of the North Vietnamese troops. It said nothing at all about the cessation of aggression, lt was a blatant, open appeal for people to withdraw from Vietnam, to let the North Vietnamese aggression succeed and to deny to the South Vietnamese people a right of selfdetermination which everyone in this chamber would claim as the right of every Australian.
We sensed that because the Labor Party gave its support to that campaign it was reckless and indifferent about the future of ins South Vietnamese and was prepared to accept the superiority and the success of the North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces. If there was any doubt about what many of us said before that campaign it was made quite apparent by the Moratorium itself because on that day in the various capital cities of Australia we saw processions and marches under Vietcong flags, under Communist flags and under the flag of Red China, but a United States flag or an Australian flag was scarcely to be seen. By those actions people indicated where their sympathies lay. The whole pattern of the Moratorium, as was disclosed . thereafter, was an organisation which was organised by the Maoist and Communist forces of this country and in which there was a significant group in the Labor Party who were prepared to align themselves with it and to carry the whole of the Labor organisation with them.
When we came to the Moratorium on 18th September we noticed, of course, that the objective of the Moratorium had been somewhat broadened. It had been broadened because there had been aggression in Cambodia. There had been the initial North Vietnamese movement into Cambodia in order to sustain the various Communist activities which had been carried out under the deposed Prince Sihanouk. The Americans had followed the North Vietnamese into the southern part of Cambodia; but, in accordance with the assurance given by President Nixon, those troops had been withdrawn by 30th June. Of course, the North Vietnamese troops had not been withdrawn, and they are still there.
If there is to be any doubt about that fact - I sense that members of the Labor Party still doubt it - let me refer to what the ‘West Australian’ said on 24th July this year. The article read:
Canberra, Thursday- Victorian Labor MHR Gordon Bryant arrived back in Australia today determined to try to change ALP policy on Cambodia.
I know more now than I did at the Victorian ALP conference in June,’ he said. ‘The situation in Cambodia involves a blatant, clear-cut act of aggression’.
Mr Bryant said he would follow up the controversial, telegram he sent to Victorian Labor MPs and the State ALP executive from Phnom Penh last week. In the telegram, Mr Bryant rocked the ALP by advocating the supply of arms to the Lon Nol regime and claimed that the
North Vietnamese were committing aggression in Cambodia as blatant as the German attacks on Belgium in 1914 and 1940.
What did Mr Bryant receive for that expression of his own conviction after he had been to these countries? We ‘ know where his sympathies lie. I think he is respected because he has adhered to them consistently over many years. He was denied the authority of the Victorian Moratorium committee to speak on any of its platforms or to be regarded as identified with it. Why? It was because the Victorian Moratorium committee was not going to have a bar of anything that suggests that the North Vietnamese were aggressing.
Yet it is this Victorian Moratorium committee which has received the support of the Australian Labor Party and it is this Victorian Moratorium committee which was led by Dr Cairns and supported by this new publicist, the Federal Secretary of the ALP, Mr Young. It shows that what has been happening in Victoria is but a charade and an electoral gimmick because the sympathies of Mr Young are the same as those of Dr Cairns and, together with a lot of Communists, they marched at the head of the Victorian Moratorium. Let it be recognised, let it be identified and let it be consistently known by the people of Australia that that is where the sympathies of the Labor Party lie on this issue.
Those members of the Labor Party - I know that there are quite a number of them - who despise and dislike this attitude are unable to change a policy, much as they would like to change it. Whilst they are unable to do so, the Labor Party is identified not by what it says but by what it does.
– Do you believe that anybody who participated in the Moratorium is disloyal?
– I did not say that; I did not ever suggest it; and I do not believe it. I know that the tactic of members of the Australian Labor Party, particularly those who want to defend their association with the Moratorium, is to blacken anybody who speaks against them and to blacken anybody who speaks against the Moratorium as suggesting that they are disloyal, as kicking the Communist can or as saying anything that is designed to denigrate them. I challenge honourable senators opposite to look at everything 1 have said, to find in anything I have said that which is not based on fact or that which cannot be justified by an examination of the- evidence. One thing can sustain a consistent point of view against all members of the ALP and what its connections with the Moratorium stand for and that is the record of what people do. It is there, capable of being seen, capable of being built up, capable of being justified and, J hope, consistently to be used because Australians deserve nothing less than that.
In the September Moratorium the ALP identified itself with the Communist Party groups in this country, lt shared. with Communist groups, the programming, the organisation and the activity of the Moratorium. In all of this the objective to be achieved was the success of Communist forces in Indo-China by the withdrawal of United States and allied troops. There is no other alternative. People may say, as Senator Georges attempted to say, that if the war could be stopped something would be achieved. I agree that if the war could be stopped something would be achieved - but on what terms? Great Britain could have stopped the war by succumbing to Germany. In 1941 the United States could have stopped the war by yielding to the Japanese demands. That would have been a stopping of the war, but would that be sufficient? Would that be honourable? Would that be what Australians want? Of course it is not. Yet that is what the Moratorium organisers are seeking. In lndoChina they want the war stopped not on terms that the South Vietnamese should have what all people should have - the right of self-determination - but on conditions that will enable the people of North Vietnam, the Vietcong and those who back and support them to overrun a group of independent and free people and to impose their own regime on those free people.
I sense a lot of noise and a lot of incoherent babble coming from the Opposition. It is typical of the state in which they get when they are faced with facts which they know are true and which they cannot answer. One other aspect of this is, I think, even more frightening than what I have said. I refer to the Bible of the ALP - that document which is reprinted every 2 years and about which its members say that it is a magnificent reproduction of all that they stand for. 1 refer of course to the ‘Australian Labor Party Platform, Constitution and Rules’. 1 find it is a very informative document because I sec that - and doubtless it must surprise Senator. Gair - the ALP still maintains in its platform some of the policies it held in 1948. In the 1969 platform a resolution of the 1948 conference still applies. It is headed: Repudiation of Communist Party’, lt reads:
Conference reaffirms its repudiation of the methods ami principles of the Communist Party and the decisions of previous Conferences that between the Communist Party and the Labor Party there is such basic hostility and differences that no Communist can be a member of the Labor Party. No Communist auxiliary or subsidiary can be associated with the Labor Party in any activity, and no Labor Party branch or member can co-operate with the Communist Party.
I simply ask whether the Labor Party has dealt with Dr Cairns because he has spoken on platforms with Mr Carmichael and Mr Goldbloom. Has the Labor Party dealt with Dr Cairns because he has said (hat he is prepared to work with the Communists to achieve an objective which he considers is so worthwhile? Has any member of the Labor Party, let alone this magnificent Federal Executive which is all powerful, dealt with any member of the Labor Party because of his association with the Communist Party? Mr President, you know as well as I do that there has been no such activity and that there never will be whilst the Federal Executive of the Labor Party has on it the personnel that it has on it at the moment. The Australian Labor Party and the Communist Party are prepared to work together in regard to certain objectives in which they have a common interest. If it may be doubted that a resolution of 1948 still has applicability in the Labor Party, let me inform the Senate of the viewpoint that was expressed in 1955. Of course, this was the beginning of the year of purity after Senator McManus and Senator Little had been thrown out without the semblance of a trial which the Labor Party currently gives to Victorians. In 1955 the following viewpoint was expressed:
Conference reaffirms its complete opposition to Communism and all forms of totalitarianism, and emphasises that only a strong united Labor Movement can prevent the growth of these evils.
But what have we seen in the years since 1955? At least in Victoria we have seen the growth of a Labor movement dominated by unions in which there is a tremendously strong Communist influence and in which the policies of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria have been oriented to a Communist viewpoint.
In more recent times Dr Cairns has said that he believed that the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese were on the side of right. We have even had the dispossessed president of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party hoping that Australian troops in Vietnam would mutiny. What has the Federal Executive said about those things? It has not questioned Dr Cairns about his statement. It did not question Mr Crawford about his statement. The Federal Executive felt that it could spend only 1 day in deciding whether Mr Crawford was acting properly in deciding that the Labor Party Federal Executive was reminiscent of a mad hatter’s tea party. This is the standard of judgment that the Australian Labor Party currently seeks to apply to matters of public interest.
– What did Mr Calwell say about it?
– I am reminded by my friend Senator Rae that the Victorian Executive does have the defence of Mr Calwell.
– What did you do to St John?
– Remembering that one should not ignore - I am sure that Senator Mulvihill will be interested in this - the fact that Senator Murphy, who is the Leader of the Opposition in this place, went to Victoria in June of this year and held the Victorian Branch as an exemplar of what was fine in the Labor Party. However, 3 months later Senator Murphy was associated with the Federal Executive which said that the Victorian Executive was influenced by a body which should not influence it and that the Victorian Executive is not following the right line on State aid, and for these 2 reasons it has to be declared no longer in existence. Nothing at all was said about those matters which really concern the Australian people. It was not said that the Victorian Executive is a body in the public mind so closely associated with Communist objectives and
Communist ideas that it will be abhorrent so long as those individuals are part and parcel of the organisation.
On the next aspect of the Labor Party’s platform it is interesting to note that in 1957-
– You are not even amusing.
– To you, Senator, I am sure I am not amusing. In 1957 the Labor Party again confirmed its 1948 policy, which read:
No Communist auxiliary or subsidiary can be associated with the Labor Party in any activity and no Labor Party Branch or member can cooperate with the Communist Party.
We have, of course, a pattern of activity on the part of the Australian Labor Party - this has been opened up by the statements made by Senator Georges and Senator Keeffe - which clearly identify the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party and other sections of the Labor Party with the whole of the Moratorium movement. That Moratorium movement is one that has been recognised as being Communist controlled. It has been manipulated for the purposes of the Communist Party and their allies and the Labor Party has been a very willing tool.
– Why did members of the ALP in South Australia dissociate themselves?
- -Senator Rae reminds me that the ALP in South Australia dissociated itself as other sections of the Labor Party dissociated themselves from the Moratorium Campaign. Why did they do that? They must have had a good reason. I suggest that the reason why these dissociations took place was that some shrewder heads in the ALP - not Mr Young and members of the Federal Executive but some shrewder heads outside of it - thought that if they were associated with the Moratorium Campaign identification of that Campaign with the Communist Party would become quite apparent and their association with the Campaign would become equally apparent. Mr Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia, decided firstly that people should support the Moratorium. Then he decided that they should not. Then he said that the South Australian Police Commissioner should allow the Moratorium people to do what they wanted to do. When finally he could not get his way he decided to board a plane and fly out of Adelaide for the afternoon. I suppose that is one indication of Labor responsibility.
I can summarise the viewpoint of the Moratorium best by repeating what was said by the Melbourne ‘Age’ last Friday. In matters relating to Vietnam and national service the Melbourne ‘Age’ has not been unsympathetic to the viewpoint put forward by the ALP, but it was not prepared to have a bar of the Moratorium. I suggest that honourable senators opposite listen to what the ‘Age’ editorial said, not because it is in any way significant or different from what other editorials have said but because it epitomises, at least to me, in language more apt than I could use, the real situation of the Moratorium. The editorial states:
Today’s Moratorium would be better understood if it were not so dishonest in its application.
Mr President, for the greater part of the period I have been speaking honourable senators opposite who are now interjecting have been saying what one hears at almost any public meeting at which a Liberal member of Parliament attends these days. I refer to a consistent attempt by bedlam, shouting and babble to stop the speaker from being heard. For almost half an hour I have been subjected to the same sort of babble and constant interjection designed to achieve only one thing; that is, if not to prevent me from being heard, to prevent me from saying what I had prepared to say. If that is the tactic upon which the Opposition wants to conduct public debate in this country, let it do so, but let every person in Australia know it because it has become very clear that outside Parliament this is the tactic of members of the Labor Party. The ‘Age’ editorial of 18th September states:
Today’s Moratorium would be better understood if it were not ‘so dishonest in its application. The Vietcong banners, the adulation of the North Vietnamese, the denigration of the United States and Australia would be more easily tolerated if there were balancing demands for North Vietnam to halt its aggression and for the Vietcong to halt their slaughter. Like most of the anti-Vietnam debate, the Moratorium case has been argued in extremes, in terms of an absolute commitment and often in laboured untruth. The views of the sincerely concerned are obliterated by the shouts of the misled or the actively seditious.
Because of what I have seen of the associations of the Labor Party, which claims to be the alternative government, with the Moratorium Campaign, with all its Communist associations and support for the Vietcong, I think it is a tragic cause for concern. I believe that these matters ought to be exposed and spoken about on as many opportunities as are available. I recognise that what has been started tonight was started by Labor Party senators who, I believe, engaged in a display of mock indignation about something which they are not really concerned about. No-one would believe that either Senator Georges or Senator Keeffe could possibly be intimidated and prevented from saying what they wanted to say in this place just because Mr Bjelke-Petersen has said something in the Queensland Parliament. When one realises that one recognises the mock indignation which must be involved. But the issues which are involved are highly significant and important and I hope that no opportunity will be lost to expose the Australian Labor Party for its current association and the shame and hypocrisy in its association with the Moratorium movement.
– It must be a matter of grave concern to everyone in this Parliament that 2 senators can be attacked in the Queensland Parliament over matters for which the Queensland Parliament is not responsible. I think everyone must recognise that if this kind of conduct is to be indulged in the comity which should exist between the parliaments of this nation will be endangered. Senator Greenwood went into a lot of matters which I do not want to answer except to say that those statements which referred to me were untruthful. If he read his ‘Age’ a little more carefully he might find the untruth of those statements. The fact is that 2 senators of this Commonwealth, each with distinguished records in the Labor movement of this country, have been attacked as being subversive and disloyal.
– What about his war record?
– One of them, as Senator Poyser indicates, has a distinguished war record. He has been President of the Australian Labor Party for 8 years and 1 month. He has been a senator of this Commonwealth for 5i years. Senator Georges has been a senator for 2i years, also after a long and distinguished record in the Labor movement of this country. He is a man who has contributed a great deal to the co-operative movement and to many other voluntary organisations and is a loyal and eminent citizen of this community. We are proud of both of them and we have very good reason to be proud of them. The smokescreen that was put up by the 2 Government speakers in an attempt to divert attention from this matter will not do so.
The most significant part of Senator Greenwood’s speech was his repudiation on 2 occasions of what Mr Bjelke-Petersen said, that is, that either of these senators were subversive or disloyal. The point was put to him and he repudiated it. The man who got up in this chamber to defend the position or divert attention from what was said has repudiated the Premier of Queensland. The statements themselves ought to be examined for their significance. It has been said by the Premier of Queensland that it is subversive, disloyal and engaging in undemocratic and anti-democratic activities for the 2 senators to be associated with the Vietnam Moratorium. It is well known that many members of the Labor Party in this Parliament have been associated with those activities. I think something like 70 members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party earlier this year signed a document supporting the Vietnam Moratorium. I myself spoke at the Vietnam Moratorium rally in Hyde Park on Friday. I was proud to do so. If it is suggested that people who associated themselves with those Moratorium rallies were in any way indulging in anti-democratic activities or any activity which is subversive or disloyal then I think the Liberal Party or the Country Party which makes this charge is going to have a little difficulty in explaining how it is that organisations such as the Catholic Church have allowed their members to be associated with it. In fact, before I got up on the platform at the rally I was standing next to Father Newman, who was also a speaker at the rally. Does Senator Greenwood say that this was an activity for which the Catholic Church or Father Newman should in some way be criticised? At the Moratorium which was held in May of this year 1 addressed 10,000 citizens from the same platform in Sydney Stadium as Mr Gordon Barton, who, I think, was the founder of the Australia Party. Is he to be accused of being subversive and disloyal and of engaging in anti-democratic activities?
– What about the Reverend Alan Walker?
- Senator McClelland has referred to the Reverand Alan Walker.
– And the Anglican Assistant Bishop of Perth.
– Yes. A long and distinguished list of supporters of the Australian Labor Party took part in the Moratorium. Mr Whitlam took part in the meeting outside Parliament House on Friday of last week and at the one in Sydney on Sunday night. On the same platform of the Moratorium Campaign in Sydney as Mr Whitlam and myself were members of the other place, including Mr Morrison, Dr J. F. Cairns and Mr Bryant, who has been mentioned. Mr Hills was also there celebrating his win in the Georges River byelection. Perhaps the Senate ought to take cognisance of the result of this by-election, which was held in Sydney on the day after the Vietnam Moratorium, because it indicates what the majority of the people of the electorate of Georges River - a seat which had been held by the Liberal Party of Australia for a very long time - thought on the specific issue of law and order, which was based on these Moratoriums. The people of this electorate found for the Labor Party. There was a transformation from a long held Liberal seat to a Labor supporter being voted into office. If honourable senators opposite want to know what is the latest verdict of the people of Australia on the issue of law and order and Moratoriums they have only to look at last Saturday’s result in Sydney.
– What about Chisholm? The Labor Party went down in Chisholm. How does the Leader of the Opposition explain that?
– The by-election for the electorate of Chisholm was not fought on a specific issue. The Premier of New South Wales asked for a mandate on the issue of law and order. We have arrived at the position in Australia where, as happened in a court a few days ago, evidence is being put before a magistrate by the prosecutor in relation to the sentence to be imposed that the person being sentenced is a known demonstrator. The authorities are now starting to say that it should be held against a man and taken into account on sentencing him that he is a known demonstrator. This is the kind of doctrine Senator Greenwood and other Government supporters are perpetrating in this chamber which their not so skilful conferes in the States, such as Mr Bjelke-Petersen, are following.
– Did I say anything like that?
– The honourable senator did not say this, but this is the kind of thing which he is inducing others to act upon if a man is a known demonstrator. We are getting the position where people who indulge in legitimate dissent throughout the country are being photographed by the authorities, by the secret police. In this very instance we have cogent evidence of co-operation between the Commonwealth and Queensland authorities - the Commonwealth authorities would be present at a rally in Canberra but the Queensland authorities would not - of the handing over of information of simple political activities. Why the devil is public money and the time of public officials being used in this way and why have the functions of public officials been allowed to be perverted in such a way as to permit dossiers to be compiled on senators of the Commonwealth Parliament for engaging in political activities. I heard the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) say earlier this year that of course people are entitled to engage in demonstrations and in legitimate dissent of this kind. He said that only if it became violent would there be anything wrong with doing so. He said that if there were breaches of the peace it would be wrong to engage in such activities, but otherwise people were entitled to engage in them. But what Senator Greenwood is saying and what Mr Bjelke-Petersen is saying is something different. They are saying that the Moratoriums in themselves are bad and that to engage in anti-Vietnam activities, protests or dissent is in itself not only bad but disloyal. This is what Bjelke-
Petersen says. Senator Greenwood says it in a little more subtle fashion. He says: Look, I did not use those words’, but what does his speech amount to? He repudiates the Premier expressly, but impliedly he is saying exactly the same thing. That is what his speech amounts to and everyone who listened to him knows it, because there was no point in him saying those things otherwise.
What the Leader of the Government in the Senate is saying, and we could not quarrel with it from his point of view, is: ‘Of course you are entitled to go and protest against the war. You are entitled to dissent. That is your perfectly democratic right in this community.’ Yet men like Senator Greenwood and others like the Premier of Queensland are setting out to undermine that democratic right in this community. This has been surrounded by the kind of activities where men have been spied upon - the two senators - and dossiers compiled. How low is the conduct of political affairs in this country going to sink if this kind of thing can be indulged in? An attack has been made upon these two senators. Why? We know why. Senator Webster gave the answer. He said: ‘Look, after all, these two senators did attack the Premier of Queensland. They talked about his shares and so forth.’ All right; they did attack him, but is that to be the reason why these two men - not all the other people who went in the Moratorium demonstrations, not the other senators who marched in the Civil Liberties march, and not others who engaged in such activities - should be subjected to this kind of underhand attack instead of repudiating the suggestions which were made against the Queensland Premier whether right or wrong. Those who were attacked in Queensland could stand up and say: ‘What we have done is right and proper’, but instead there has been an underhand method of attacking these two men, of getting dossiers compiled on them and of undermining the political rights of everybody in this country, because if their rights are undermined the rights of everyone are undermined.
There is evidence that they have been spied upon in connection with their ordinary political activities and that they are going to be continued to be spied upon.
This is an attack not merely on those two; it is an attack upon the rights of every senator and of every Australian, and it is time that members opposite realised this. This is more important than a mere attack or counter-attack between the Premier of Queensland and these two senators. If members opposite allow this kind of conduct to continue it will not only damage the Liberal and Country Parties, as it is damaging them, but, more importantly, it will damage democracy in Australia.
– I seek to make a personal explanation on the ground that I have been misrepresented. I was accused by Senator Murphy of being a person who sought to undermine a democratic right of dissent. I did not say that. I fairly think that I did not say anything which could reasonably give rise to that suggestion. In any event it is untrue.
– I take up the cudgels on behalf of my two Queensland colleagues in this Senate. I believe that we have heard tonight one of the most disgraceful accusations ever made in a Parliament that is supposed to be in a free country. I wish to emphasise some of the words that have been used by the Premier of Queensland - and he used them in respect of honourable senators in this chamber. If Mr Bjelke-Petersen is correct then I say it is the responsibility of the Government to charge these two senators with subversive activities. But the Government would not be game to do so because it knows that the charges could not possibly be sustained. Let me read the final section of the statement made by the Premier of Queensland:
These subversive elements will be closely watched by my Government in the future and their activities against decency and the democracy exposed.
Can we as members of the national Parliament accept such a challenge from the Premier of Queensland that we have subversive influences, subversive elements, within our midst? Are we to accept that or are we to challenge the Premier of Queensland to make known the evidence he has against these two senators? Surely the evidence that has been displayed in this document is completely the reverse of what has been said about subversive activities. The situation is that these people have engaged in lawful activities, and if they are going to be charged with subversion because they were associated with the Moratorium in Queensland then I stand alongside them and say that I associated myself with the Moratorium in Queensland. I challenge any senator on the Government benches to charge me with subversion. I marched in the Moratorium because of the fact that-
– Did you march behind the Vietcong flag?
– I am proud to say I marched last week, I marched on the previous occasion and, subject to certain conditions, I will march in the future. That is my undisputed right. Government senators speak of law and order, but when one observes law and order and marches in a lawful procession one is charged with being disloyal. I ask: Disloyal to whom? I am loyal to my own conscience. I firmly believe that the war in Vietnam is a phoney. I do not want my children’s children to be going to the war in Vietnam. I want no children of Australians to be forced into the war in Vietnam, and by my actions in marching in the procession I believe I displayed my sincere beliefs. Was it an unlawful march? If it were unlawful, why did the police in Queensland issue a permit for the procession to take place? You may use the emotionally toned words that Senator Greenwood used about the march. He said on the one hand that we must respect law and order and yet he criticises anybody who respects law and order and marches in a lawful procession.
– Did they respect law and order in Adelaide?
– There were no unruly demonstrations. There were no Vietcong flags. I saw one or two flags that are alleged to belong to the Communist Party. Peace does not belong to the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the Country Party, the Democratic Labor Party or the Communist Party. Peace belongs to the people of Australia.
– And the honourable senator must respect it too.
– I respect the ideas of any person. If he opposes the war in Vietnam, he should be allowed to show it by his actions. If a person supports the war in Vietnam and the sending of the youth of Australia to Vietnam, that is his entitlement. But I would hate to look at his conscience first thing in the morning. My conscience is clear on the issue. I believe that I acted in accordance with my conscience. But that cannot be said of the Premier of Queensland who, when he was called up during the Second World War, used the provisions of the law to get out of going to that war. I do not know whether honourable senators on the other side know this, but I have here the Premier’s own public statement that he was called up-
– We have heard it said before by other people who want to smear.
– Is it a smear? I am pointing out merely what the Premier of Queensland said in a public statement. He said that he was called up for service in the Second World War but that he applied to be relieved of his responsibility to go to that war because he was running a farm and because he had some children to look after. He exercised his right. Surely hundreds of young lads are exercising their rights today and that selfsame Premier and members of the Government would deny to those young lads the right to exercise their entitlements under the provisions of the National Service Act. Surely we cannot be so inconsistent as to say that, on the one hand, the Premier of Queensland during the Second World War could exercise his rights and not be charged for being disloyal but that when young lads exercise their rights today under the National Service Act they are tobe charged with being disloyal, are to be regarded as unAustralian and everything else.
I conclude by stating that I support entirely the activities of Senator Keeffe and Senator Georges. I have known them much longer than any member of the Government has known them. I have known them much longer than many of my colleagues on this side of the Senate have known them. I have never known them to be subversive in their activities. I would deny to them the right to be subversive in their activities. They are good Australians of whom we can be proud. I close on this note: I believe that this Senate has been offered an insult by the Premier of Queensland who has charged 2 honourable senators with being subversive elements. I trust, Mr President, that you will regard this situation in the same light as I have seen it and will call upon the Premier of Queensland to withdraw his charges made under privilege which he would not be game to make outside the Queensland Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 12.19 a.m. (Thursday)
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 September 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700923_senate_27_s45/>.