27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. In view of the many church appeals by all denominations for winter relief for the poor, stressing particularly the needs of deserted wives and children, will the Minister appoint within his Department in each State a representative in the form of an ombudsman with the finance and power to act immediately with church or relief organisations to give assistance to any persons, particularly women and children, found to be suffering from hunger, cold or poverty during this coming winter?
– I will convey what the honourable senator suggests to the Minister for Social Services for his consideration, particularly in the light of the matters which the honourable senator has advanced. I am confident that facilities are provided within the Department of Social Services in each State but whether they are adequate to meet this purpose is a matter for consideration.
– Do the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Australian Government share the view of prominent American South East Asia observers that the political situation in Thailand is becoming more unstable? What is the extent of Australia’s military and economic obligations to that country? What recourse is open to Australia to see that economic aid given to that country is used to better the lives of many rather than give affluence to a few?
– I think that the honourable senator will recognise that this is a fairly comprehensive question and that the Minister’s own definition of the situation would be much preferable to my responding to a question without notice. I shall refer the question to the Minister and endeavour to get a reply for the honourable senator without undue delay.
– The honourable senator has raised a very interesting aspect of the situation, which no doubt the Minister will cover in his reply.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to a letter in yesterday’s issue of the Melbourne Age’ outlining the total cost of a hernia operation and the return received by the person concerned from his benefit organisation? Did he note that, despite the claim of the Government that very little would have to be paid by patients for such operations, this patient paid out of his own pocket $66.55 and that this charge had been met by him despite the fact that all the charges made for the operation were based on the most common fee? Does this indicate that the claim made by the Government when it introduced its health legislation that medical and hospital care would be almost free is not in fact justified?
– I have seen the letter to which the honourable senator referred and I am aware that the correspondent indicates that he had a net cost to pay of some $66: It is not possible on the information supplied in the letter to reconcile the benefits paid with the medical services which are listed. It would be necessary for further inquiries to be made to determine what were the specific medical services and what were accordingly the most common fees and benefits. I would point out, however, that the $5 maximum applicable to an operation and associated services where the most common fees are charged relates to medical services and it does not have and has never been stated to have relation to hospital charges. In addition, when all the accounts for the medical services are received by that correspondent and submitted to the medical benefits organisation they would be examined to ensure that an additional Commonwealth benefit for services directly associated with the operation was assessed and paid to him. I have examined this letter and I would be happy to have this case further examined so that the overall position can be ascertained. Quite apart from those matters which I have mentioned, it should be noted that on what information is supplied in the letter the bulk of the difference between what was charged to this person and what he received lies in the area of the hospital charges.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. With further reference to the application by the Queensland Government for a grant of $10m to provide for urgent assistance to maintain the people in the disaster areas of inland Queensland, until the implementation of a permanent arrangement for their future, can the Minister give the Senate any information as to the progress made in considering this application? Also, how soon is it anticipated that this urgent request of the Queensland Government will be answered?
– This request by the Queensland Premier raises complex issues which need to be considered against the background of the assistance already being provided for those in the drought affected areas of Queensland and assistance to be provided through the rural reconstruction scheme. I can assure the honourable senator, however, that the issues are being examined with all possible speed and that the Prime Minister will be replying to the Premier as soon as he can do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air and I refer to a question I put to the Minister on 7th May concerning complaints from wives of Air Force personnel at Edinburgh airport in Adelaide that their husbands were work ing over 380 hours a month because of a lack of firemen. I ask the Minister: Has his investigation yet been completed and is the position such that it can be expected that unreasonable hours worked by these airmen will shortly be reduced or that additional Air Force personnel will be put in the fire section to allow them to work what would be reasonable hours? Is it a fact that when Qantas Airways Ltd used Edinburgh airport when the Avalon airport was out of commission the Air Force personnel in the fire section were rostered for duty to cover this operation? I also ask: Will the entitlement to holidays in lieu which would normally be due to these airmen after working long hours be preserved in the future? Will the Minister also consider to what extent some Air Force transport might be made available to these airmen when they are on call because at the present time they are going backwards and forwards to the airport in their own vehicles?
– It is true that there has been in recent months a heavier than normal work load at Edinburgh due to the circumstances of the visit to the base by the Duke of Edinburgh and the flying display carried out from that base for the fiftieth anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force. As the honourable senator has said, it has been due also to Qantas aircraft practicing take-offs and landings at the Edinburgh base when Avalon was out of commission. The activities at Edinburgh require the fireman to be rostered for stand-by. They are not actually working but they are required to remain on the base for a period of duty instead of going home. In lieu of every 8 hours of stand-by the men, at the discretion of the base commander, are given a day off. In normal circumstances these days off are to be taken within a period of 28 days. I have made inquiries and I have been assured by the base commander that the days off will be preserved for a longer period than the required 28 days, so the honourable senator has that assurance. I am still making investigations into the matter and I will examine the transport suggestion put forward by the honourable
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that recently the Western Australian Government made representations to the Commonwealth Government seeking a loan of S5.5m to assist in the construction of a standard gauge railway line from Kalgoorlie to Esperance? Did the Commonwealth Government refuse to make that loan to the State Government? In view of the Commonwealth Government’s stated policy of phasing out the gold mining industry and allowing Kalgoorlie to operate in conjunction with the nickel industry, what effect will the nonconstruction of the standard gauge railway to Esperance have on the installation of a nickel refinery in Kalgoorlie? If the standard gauge line is not constructed from Kalgoorlie to Esperance will this mean a further blow to the eastern gold fields of Western Australia? If this is so, will the Government reconsider granting the loan to the Western Australian Government to assist in the construction of the line?
The honourable senator has asked a wide and comprehensive question. My understanding is that the Commonwealth Government indicated that it was not prepared to participate in the construction of that standard gauge line. I would have to check my information even on that aspect, but I think that is the situation. As to the effect upon the gold and nickel mining industries of Western Australia, I should like to have that aspect examined. I do not suggest that the question be put on notice. I would prefer to have it processed and to reply to it at some later time. I will undertake to do so.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government been drawn to an article which appears on page 3 of this morning’s ‘Daily Telegraph’ in which Mr Les Irwin, a member of the other place, has criticised the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, has described members of the Committee as grand inquisitors and an amateur court, has advised stockbrokers to appeal to the High Court against a decision of the Committee and has advised Australian stockbrokers to defy a request of the Committee? What effect does the Minister think that this will have on the Committee system which has been set up recently in this Parliament? Does he not agree that Mr Irwin, as a member of the Parliament, had many other avenues open to him within the parliamentary system - either approaching his own Party leaders or the Chairman of the Committee - rather than trying to thwart the Committee by giving this advice to the stockbrokers and making such trenchant and unwarranted criticism of the Committee?
Firstly, I should say that it is not unknown for a member of the Parliament to speak outside his caucus, consortium or Party. Under the democratic processes which we operate and of which we are so proud Mr Irwin M.P. is free at any time to express a view. Coming to the question of the merit of his statement, the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange made a public statement yesterday in which he indicated what the requests of his Committee had been to the stockbrokers of the Commonwealth. He gave an explanation of the reason why the Committee wanted the information. It was required for the purpose of considering subject matters which are within the terms of reference of the Committee. As I understand it he also went on to say - and he made it abundantly clear - that it was a quantitative analysis which the Committee sought over a period which was originally 2 years but which was extended to 5 years. He also enlarged on the situation by stating that stockbrokers and, indeed, the various stock exchange organisations were going to be asked to participate in the gathering of this information - gathering it in such a way as would not reveal the identity of an individual company, firm or partnership or any individual income or profit and loss account. I thought the statement made by the Chairman of the Committee was a reasoned statement. If Mr Irwin or any other person - be he an honourable member or an honourable senator - wants to express a view he is entitled to do so. Heaven help us if he is not allowed to do that. As I say it is not unknown for a member to speak on matters of public interest outside his caucus. It has happened in other circumstances which are topical and current; someone has spoken not in their conclave but has chosen to use the Press to express a point of view.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. As Senator Willesee has brought this matter to the attention of the Senate I think a pertinent point of the statement made by Mr Irwin might be questioned. I ask the Minister whether he could advise us as to the correctness of Mr Irwin’s statement. Also I think a statement in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ questioned whether this Committee is acting within its constitutional rights and whether the Commonwealth Parliament does have a control over the stock exchanges. It questioned whether this Committee is acting within its powers or stepping outside its powers. I think those are the points which ought to be elicited.
– The questions raised by Senator Wood are enormous in their import. They raise what could be far reaching constitutional implications. It is not my function, I am sure, to express any view on those matters. Having regard to the debate which took place when this Committee was established and in view of many matters which the Committee has been extensively canvassing. I believe it is fully conscious of what might be the questions in this area.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether he can advise what taxation concessions or deductions are allowed in respect of money expended on television advertisements? I refer principally to the shocking TV advertisements on toilet tissues, the employment of children’s choirs with their tra-la-la and the licking of dog food from fingers and dinner plates. I know that extremely attractive women and children are employed. If the Minister does not have such information could he secure the scale of taxation allowances and deductions allowed in respect of television advertising because I think it is repugnant to watch such advertisements and it becomes more so when one realises that we are helping to pay for the advertisements through forgoing taxation which would otherwise be collected from the firms involved.
– In my innocence on taxation matters I would have thought that any company which is in business or plying for business, or any individual or partnership, would be entitled to claim a deduction in respect of money legitimately spent in earning income. We tax profit. Heaven help us if we are going to pay tax and not receive taxation concessions for money spent in earning money which is taxed. I would have thought - I will have it checked out - that any legitimate expenses incurred in pursuing a business for profit would be a taxation deduction. Perhaps I am wrong so I. will seek some information.
– My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister is supplementary to that asked by Senator Lawrie. Can the Minister indicate the date on which the Prime Minister received an application for financial assistance for those people in central western Queensland to whom Senator Lawrie referred?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAt question time it is very difficult for me to give details such as dates. I will undertake some research to see if the date is in my brief somewhere and if it is I will supply the information later on. Whilst I may be able to deal with the generalities of what was anticipated by the Prime Minister or the Premier, representing a lot of Ministers as I do it is difficult for me to give particular dates immediately upon being asked for them. I will get the information for the honourable senator but I cannot give it to him instantly.
– By way of preface to a question directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, I refer to the creation of a world appeal launched in London for Vietnamese war orphans of which Sir Alex Downer is one of the sponsors. Are we not already committed to other direct aid of this nature and, if so, in what form? Are we to make a specific independent grant to the London fund?
– I will get the information and make it available to the honourable senator.
– On 11th May I asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development:
I asked the Minister whether he will ask the Department to treat this matter a little more urgently? This is a tremendously urgent matter on the fringe of nuclear development in Australia and I .should like an answer before we rise for three months.
– I will do that. On behalf of the Department I regret that the honourable senator has not yet received an answer. I am sure there are good reasons for this. Once question time is over I will see that an answer is obtained for the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether he could obtain the information I seek before the rising of the Senate. What will be the installation cost of the new Wave Hill water supply at the Wave Hill Aboriginal settlement? Was this allowed for in the original estimate? When the installation is completed will there be sufficient water supply for an irrigation plant to operate in the area?
– I will endeavour to get that information today. If not, I will ask the Department to let me have it so that I can write to the honourable senator as soon as possible.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise in this chamber. In governmental consideration of the problems of the grape growing and wine making industries will the fact be borne in mind that importations of brandy for the year ended February this year amounted to 241,650 proof gallons? As the grape equivalent of this volume of brandy is 7,551 tons and as there are grave doubts as to the ability of the local wine industry to absorb rising grape production, will action be taken to minimise brandy imports?
– I know that this question of brandy imports has been raised by the industry and I am sure that the interdepartmental committee looking into this whole matter will have this information. I will raise the details of the honourable senator’s question with the Department of Trade and Industry.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. In view of the results of the study by the Department of Labour and National Service of dental services in Australia which showed firstly a falling dentist to population ratio and, secondly, much less favourable provision of dental services in country regions than in metropolitan areas, what action is the Minister’s Department taking to try to improve the situation?
– 1 will give consideration to the matters raised in the honourable senator’s question. I am aware of the broad outline of the problems posed by the Department’s report and of the details and areas of particular concern which have been revealed by that report. I can only assure the honourable senator that this matter is receiving attention.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. By way of a brief preface, I point out that the Senate is now about to adjourn for the winter recess, which is the period of fogs and smogs, ills and chills, floods and flooded sewers and the spread of water borne diseases. Is the Minister now in a position to answer the question which I asked him on 21st April last, namely, whether he has read the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution and, if so, whether he will he indicate what action his Department is taking to ensure that all possible steps are taken to control and reduce the pollution which has been found by that Committee to exist to a serious degree in Australia?
– I recall the question which the honourable senator asked in April. I assure him that the Commonwealth is aware that it has a degree of responsibility and it has accepted a degree of responsibility in this area. But many of the matters detailed in the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution are matters within the direct legislative responsibility of the States. Having regard to what is contained in that report, the Commonwealth has acknowledged the fact that it should accept some measure of responsibility. However, the Commonwealth’s responsibilities are spread over a number of departments. As a first step, the Commonwealth Government has sought the views of various departments in the light of a preparatory statement which was prepared by a standing committee of the Australian Water Resources Council. The initial results of that investigation suggest that the desirability of any Commonwealth action being taken depends upon the approach and the advice indicated by the Office of the Environment which, as honourable senators will recall, is a further department the Government has decided to create but which, for the time being, has been deferred. I sensed from the honourable senator’s question that he is interested to know whether the Commonwealth is alert to the matters raised in the Committee’s report. 1 can assure him that it is, but there is the problem of co-ordinating the many fields of activities in the Commonwealth departments.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation: Can he give any current information as to whether the downturn in the traffic of the domestic airlines, which was experienced in the first quarter of this year, has been corrected? Are there good reasons for believing that both domestic airlines are now performing at their usual rate of growth? Has me Minister any further information regarding the retrenchment of aircrew members, including flight engineers, which was proposed by Qantas Airways Ltd? Has some agreement been reached to keep these people employed, or is the position the same as that announced by the Minister some weeks ago
– Details of the present rate of growth of both domestic airlines are not known by me at the present time. I do know that a tremendous increase in airline traffic occurred over the Easter and the school holiday periods. I cannot say what effect that has had on the general pattern of growth of the 2 airlines. This is one of the matters at which I will be looking when the Senate adjourns and I get a bit of time to deal with the administrative side of the work of my Department.
The honourable senator also referred to the question of the redundancy of Qantas employees. That matter is still being considered by Qantas and the employees concerned. I cannot add any further information to that which I gave the honourable senator previously; but it seems to me that the matter is being worked out satisfactorily between Qantas and the employees concerned.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration seen an article in last Sunday’s Brisbane Truth’ in which it was stated that a senior immigration officer in Sydney had revealed that if a person comes to this country for $10 under the assisted passage scheme and then decides to return to his motherland before the contracted 2-year period has expired, there is nothing the immigration officials at airports can do about it except to take the person’s name, address and passport number and then allow him to proceed on his way? Has the Department any steps in mind to take to close this loophole? Also has the Department in mind increasing the amount payable by immigrants under the assisted passage scheme, taking into consideration the fact that this country wants immigrants who are likely to be successful here and not just those who have not been successful in their home country?
– I am sure that the policy of the Department of Immigration is to ensure that migrants who come to Australia are prepared to settle permanently in Australia. I have not seen the
Press report to which the honourable senator has referred, nor am I aware of any proposals which the Department might have in mind with regard to the matters to which he has referred. However, I will take steps to ensure that his question and the concern that he has expressed are brought to the attention of the Minister for Immigration.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration seen a Press report that a black American citizen has been refused permission to remain in Australia for another year despite the fact that he is reported to have special skills and guarantees of employment? I also ask the Minister whether he has seen the following statement purported to have been made by his colleague the Minister for Immigration:
It is my responsibility to ensure that the rules are observed, and further divergence from these will not be allowed.
Will the Minister inform the Senate of the precise nature of the rules to which the Minister for Immigration referred in that statement or, failing that, will the Minister table a complete set of these rules, for the information of all honourable senators, before the Senate rises for the winter recess?
– Notwithstanding any ability and any good intentions I had to present to the Senate before it rises the information which is sought, I would have thought that this would be a physical impossibility. In response to the substantive matters which have been raised by the honourable senator, I have not seen the Press report to which he has referred, neither am I aware of the identity of the person to whom he has referred. All I can do is refer the text of his question to the Minister for Immigration to obtain a reply. If the honourable senator desires the information, it would facilitate the reply if he could supply the details which I said were lacking from his question.
– I ask a question of the
Minister for Health. I refer to the question I asked earlier about pollution control. I note that, perhaps because of lack of emphasis, the Minister may have missed the point of my question. I intended to ask not what the Government was doing but what the Department of Health was doing in relation to its area of direct responsibility - whether it be in Commonwealth Territories or in any other way within Commonwealth jurisdiction - to implement any of the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. I would be grateful if the Minister would direct his comments to and answer if he can that particular matter.
-I indicated previously that the Commonwealth had sought advice from various Commonwealth departments as to their reaction to the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. My Department was one of the departments which submitted its views to. a committee which was collating (his information. As I think I. indicated, the view which has been formulated by the Government, and with which my Department is in concurrence, is that these matters should properly be undertaken by the Office of the Environment which at present is under the Department of the VicePresident of the Executive Council and, which will come into full being in due course.
(Question No. 1075)
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
Will the Minister intervene to alleviate the following grievances by members of the Hamersley Iron work-force at Dampier:
the definition of the sixmonth period to obtain climatic taxation allowance as any continuous six months of the year and not limited to the confines of a financial year i.e. July to June period;
excessive prices imposed by the Shell Company of Australia Ltd for retail petrol;
the company town attitude of Hamersley Iron which denies employees resigning from using the port wharf to load their personal possessions on a State ship and requires them to transport such goods S3 miles to Port Sampson, the nearest public wharf;
the immediate acceptance of Eastern States Labour and Industry Certificates held by stationary engine drivers, boiler attendants and others, rather than putting them to the expense of paying a fee for an interim competency certicate; and
if (d) is not possible, the employer to meet the cost of the interim certicates.
-The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In fact with the exception of (a) the remaining questions (b), (c), (d) & (e) are matters for determination by the Western Australian Government. To assist the honourable senator these have been forwarded to the Minister for Housing and Labour for the State of Western Australia for favour of a reply.
Concerning (a) this has been directed to the Treasurer (Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) for his consideration .
(Question No. 1156)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Has the Department of Civil. Aviation restricted landings of large passenger aircraft at Port Moresby because of the main runways showing signs of serious deterioration; if so, what action is being taken by the Department to have the runways strengthened and the landing restrictions removed.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Yes. The main runway as originally designed is substantially below the strength requirement for the heavier aircraft now operating there, namely the Qantas Boeing 707’s and the domestic airlines Boeing. 727’s. Nevertheless, these aircraft have been permitttd to operate in the expectation that pavement damage would not be excessive and that plans were being developed for the replacement of the main runway. During the last wet (summer) season however, pavement failures increased significantly due at least in part to a long and heavy wet season. It was therefore considered unwise to increase the existing frequencies of Boeing 707 movements. Additional Qantas flights to their regular services on the 27th April and the 10th and 26th May were refused. There was also an occasion earlier this year when a Qantas flight en-route to Hong Kong by-passed Port Moresby because of essential repair works in progress on the runway.
Plans for a replacement runway are being developed by the Department in consultation with the Departments of Works and External Territories and as soon as these reach an appropriate stage the plans will be submitted to Government for consideration.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIn the Senate on 5th May Senator Laucke and Senator Bishop asked questions concerning the allowance of income tax deductions for gifts made to a fund established for the preservation of the Australia and New Zealand Bank building in King William Street, Adelaide. I have a composite reply which I will now give. In response to Senator Laucke’s question, the Commissioner of Taxation has advised that gifts of $2 and upwards to the National Trust of South Australia are allowable deductions for income tax purposes. Consequently, if the National Trust were prepared to acquire the Australia and New Zealand Bank building in King William Street, Adelaide, it would be open to donors who wished to support the project to make a gift to the National Trust for this purpose. It is the Commissioner’s understanding, however, that the National Trust of South Australia has informed interested parties thatit is unable to assume the responsibility for the acquisition and preservation of. the building.
If the project were to be undertaken by another organisation such as the Australia and New Zealand Bank Preservation Trust, an amendment of the law would be necessary to enable gifts to the appeal to qualify for deduction. In this regard many requests for extensions to the gift provisions are received each year and it is customary to consider all such applications together with requests for other taxation concessions when the annual Budget is being prepared. The request made on behalf of the committee conducting the campaign has been noted for examination in this context during the course of the next Budget deliberations.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI do not see the relevance of the interjection. I was asked to respond to 2 questions and I am now giving my answers. Senator Bishop should be advised as follows: As indicated in my reply to Senator Laucke’s question, an amendment of the present law would be necessary if gifts to the Australia and New Zealand Bank Preservation Trust were to become allowable income tax deductions. The representations made on behalf of this organisation cannot be considered in isolation from other applications seeking a widening of the gift provisions or from the many and varied requests for taxation concessions generally.
My information then goes on to indicate that these matters will be considered in the light of Budget considerations.
– May I supplement the information that was asked for by Senator Mulvihill earlier with regard to Thailand. I am now able to say, firstly that it is true that Thailand has a continuing insurgency problem in some of the remoter border areas. It is also true that there has been speculation in Bangkok for some months about possible changes in the leadership of the Thai Government. But it is quite misleading to suggest that the political situation in Thailand is unstable.
Secondly, with regard to economic factors, Thailand and Australia are joint members of the various international groups and organisations. This includes the South East Asian Treaty Organisation, while on the economic side it includes organisations such as the Colombo Plan, the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, and the Asian Development Bank. Membership of these organisations entails the acceptance of certain mutual obligations. It is misleading to talk simply in terms of Australian obligations towards members of organisations of which we also are a member. Thirdly, Australian overseas aid is directed towards promoting the objectives of economic development and increasing technical capability as a whole in the countries to which aid is given. In Thailand Australian aid is directed towards development of the transport system, which benefits all members of the community.
– Yesterday Senator Kennelly referred to a letter that had been written to him by me. Last night I turned the letter up andI discovered that the information in the letter was supplied to me by Trans-Australia Airlines.I thought the best thing to do was to ask TAA to get in touch with me, which it has done. I shall arrange with TAA to talk to Senator Kennelly because to the extent to which in his view the information contained in the letter is not accurate, I think the airline should provide him with the reason why it believes what it says to be correct.
(Question No. 873)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
What has happened since November 1970 to plans by the Postmaster-General to install a television transmitting tower on Black Mountain in the Australian Capital Territory.
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
A proposal to meet the future demands of television and radio relay services in the Australian Capital Territory which could involve co-masting on Black Mountain is being examined by departments with a view to submitting recommendations to the Government. A statement will be made at the appropriate time, when the Government has received and considered formal recommendations.
I ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the plea of the Prime Minister to the States to exercise caution in their spending, will the Prime Minister draw the attention of Premier Askin to an assessment of the Jervis Bay steelworks plan appearing in the March issue of the ‘Australian Quarterly’ by Mr T. Dughteren, chartered engineering management consultant, that New South Wales would be squandering $75m of public money to prop up the inefficient sector of the United States steel industry and, in the final analysis, cause New South Wales to squander federal aid that could be spent on more laudable objectives.
The Prime Minister has supplied me with the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
This is a matter within the jurisdiction of the State Government of New South Wales. It is not the usual practice to draw the attention of a Premier to private articles that might appear on developmental projects. The Commonwealth will take note of the article, together with other information that might be available to it. I assume that the State will do likewise.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONOn 20th April 1971, Senator Rae asked me, without notice, a question regarding the establishment of a Federal pollution control department. Responsibility for the Office of the Environment was placed with the Department of the Vice-President of the Executive Council when that Department was created on 12th March 1971. I refer the honourable senator also to the Prime Minister’s second reading speech on the Ministers of State Bill 1971 in the course of which he emphasised the importance which the Government attaches to its responsibilities in this field.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Pig Slaughter Levy Bill 1971
Pig Slaughter Levy Collection Bill 1971
Pig Industry Research Bill 1971
International Tin Agreement Bill 1971
States Grants (Pre-school Teachers Colleges) Bill 1971
Export Payments Insurance Corporation Bill 1971
International Development Association (Further Payment) Bill 1971
Loans (Qantas Airways Limited) Bill 1971
Loan Bill 1971
Northern Territory Railway Extension Bill 1971
Public Order (Protection of Persons and Property) Bill 1971
Papua and New Guinea Loan (International Bank) Bill 1971
– by leave - On 12th May, Senator O’Byrne, in the course of a speech on the motion for the second reading of the Supply Bill (No. 1) 1971-72, referred to that part of the Bill which related to the Attorney-General’s Department and in particular to the bankruptcy administration. He stated that certain people whose financial commitments had got beyond them had the alternative of becoming declared bankrupts or of making a deed of arrangement. He said that he wanted to say a few words on the matter. He stated, as is the case, that the Registrar in Bankruptcy, or his deputy in the States, has complete authority to administer the Bankruptcy Act. He then proceeded to say that circumstances may arise where a trustee in bankruptcy, although having accountancy qualifications, can be temperamentally unsuited to carry out what he describes as a very important Government function. He stated that he had a number of complaints from constituents in Tasmania about a trustee who had been described to him as being temperamentally unsuited to carry out this function. He named Hans Jacques de Jong as a trustee under the Bankruptcy Act and then he proceeded to allege that Mr de Jong was a man unattractive personal qualities.
Senator O’Byrne instanced cases which he said he had before him where people had entered into a deed of arrangement. It is a fair commentary that the cases to which Senator O’Byrne referred carried the imputation that the trustee had misconducted himself in various ways, in the conduct of his trust. Senator O’Byrne indicated that he believed that the principle that the trustee has the first charge on the assets of a person who enters into a deed of arrangement, the purpose of which he described as to help people to meet their responsibilities, was a principle which needed a thorough inquiry.’ In stating the purpose of a deed of arrangement in such terms, Senator O’Byrne omitted any mention of the accepted purpose of a deed of arrangement. A deed of arrangement is a procedure under the Bankruptcy Act whereby the debtor voluntarily offers his creditors an arrangement under which they will receive some payment for their debts which they will accept in satisfaction of the debtor’s obligations without requiring the debtor to be made bankrupt. The deed of arrangement provides for the arrangement of the affairs of the debtor with a view to the payment, in all or in part, of his debts. The carrying Out of the arrangement agreed to between the debtor and his creditors is the responsibility of the trustee and the trustee is nominated by a meeting ofthe creditors of the debtor or by the Court. The obligations of the trustee require the trustee to make inquiries or investigations in respect of the debtor’s property as the trustee considers necessary to carry on a business of the debtor, if in the trustee’s opinion it is in the interest of the creditors to do so, and generally to deal with the debtor’s property in a / way which will, in the trustee’s opinion, be in the interests of the creditors. The remuneration paid to the trustee in respect of his services is determined by the creditors. The function of the trustee is to observe the terms of the deed of arrangement and to comply with the provisions of the Bankruptcy Act.
I refer to these facts because it is a misapprehension to regard the obligations of a, trustee as simply being ‘to help people who wish to meet their responsibilities’ and to be suited for ‘an important job of rehabilitating ordinary human beings’ which were the words used by Senator O’Byrne. To suggest that a person by reason of his unsuitability for the performance of such functions is temperamentally unsuited to be a trustee in bankruptcy is to apply a completely inappropriate standard. To do so without acknowledging the standard of judgment upon which a trustee is to be assessed is to work a grave injustice. The statement of Senator O’Byrne, expressly and by innuendo, challenged the integrity and the capability of Mr de Jong, lt is regrettable and reprehensible that he should have said that a person who had come from a European country should not hold the job of a trustee in bankruptcy. He also imputed that the trustee’s conduct had been such that be had acted in a variety of improper ways and if this allegation lacked proper foundation it was also regrettable and reprehensible. The statement of Senator O’Byrne also challenged the administration of the Registrar in Bankruptcy in that, having specifically referred to the authority of the Registrar and his deputy to administer the Act, his allegations could only mean that there was some negligence or dereliction of duty by the Registrar or his deputy in the performance of their duties. Senator O’Byrne expressed the hope that the Attorney-General, whose Department was responsible for the administration of the Bankruptcy Act, would investigate the cases to which he had referred.
An investigation has been made and I wish to say as authoritatively as possible that the imputations against the Registrar and the Deputy Registrar have absolutely no foundation. They ought not to have been made. Further, I wish to say, equally authoritatively, that any suggestion that Mr de Jong has acted contrary to the obligations of a trustee are not borne out on an examination of the cases to which Senator O’Byrne referred or of any other cases. Indeed, the statement of Senator O’Byrne, in the light of what that investigation reveals, constitutes a grave and unjust defamation made under Parliamentary privilege of a man who was unaware of the charges being made and unable to defend himself. Trustees in bankruptcy are appointed by the Bankruptcy Court and are subject to supervision by the Court. Mr de Jong was appointed a trustee in bankruptcy on 5th October 1965. He had been in practice in Tasmania as an accountant since 1956. There is no reason known to the Registrar in Bankruptcy as to why he is not suited to be and is not capable of being a trustee in bankruptcy. I understand that at present he is engaged in more bankruptcy administrations than any other trustee in Tasmania. I am also informed by the Registrar in Bankruptcy that no criticism could be levelled at him with respect to the quality of his work in so far as it relates to Registry formalities, preparation of his documents and so on.
I propose to set before the Senate certain facts relating to each of the cases which Senator O’Byrne mentioned to the Senate. It is relevant to note that the names of the persons to whom Senator O’Byrne referred were not disclosed. However, he stated the name of the trustee and it is a regrettable consequence that widespread publicity has been given in the Tasmanian Press to statements made by Senator O’Byrne as to the suitability of Mr de Jong to be a trustee, which are based on anonymous complaints and which, in the event, lacked either a fair or accurate basis. Prudent inquiry would have established this before any statement was made.
It is all the more regrettable in the circumstances that he should have been exposed to an attack on his character and integrity without any reference to him. I understand from a statement made by Mr de Jong that neither Senator O’Byrne nor anyone from Senator O’Byrne’s office had ever contacted him to verify the complaints aired in the Senate or to receive Mr de Jong’s coments. I am informed by the Registrar in Bankruptcy that Senator O’Byrne spoke to him in Hobart in late April. No part of that conversation indicated any personal attack by Senator O’Byrne on the performance of Mr de Jong. The Registrar has stated that there was nothing in a conversation of approximately 1 hour’s duration to give him any inkling of the personal allegations now made by Senator O’Byrne. Indeed, the only case of the three referred to by Senator O’Byrne which was discussed in the conversation was the second of the cases.
The first case referred to by Senator O’Byrne concerned a young man and his family who had been engaged in a business and it was stated by Senator O’Byrne that receipts were about $26,500, that assets were about $23,000, that the family was still deeply in debt and that the trustee’s remuneration was $1,369. He stated that the trustee still held the young man’s coin collection and that although it was worth $500 it was valued at $9.75. He also stated that child endowment money in a bank account had been seized by the trustee and added to the estate. Senator O’Byrne said that the man’s widow came to see him and gave him examples of tyranny, and distress he had suffered. He said -the man had taken his life by hanging -himself.
The investigation has. disclosed, that a resolution of creditors for a deed of arrangement to be entered into was passed on 28th August 1968.. The deed of arrangement required the debtors to pay future earnings into the. estate, and permitted the, trustee to pay an allowance to them. The statement . of . affairs in fact showed assets of $21,448 and liabilities of $19,183 and the trustee’s administration has shown receipts of $30,851 and total payments of $29,289. The trustees remuneration to date is* $2,274. The realisations that have been made are all that could be desired and the Registrar in Bankruptcy states that no unusual fact is evident except the coin collection. However, the value of $500 was placed upon the collection by the debtor, and in fact it realised $36.90.
It is highly relevant that the debtor made an application to the Court for the deed to be terminated and this application was heard by Mr Justice Chambers at Launceston on 18th August 1969. Prior to the court hearing, a meeting of the creditors had unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the trustee’s action and’ administration in all respects. The debtor had also addressed a meeting of the creditors which meeting, however, did not endorse his views. The issue of the child endowment referred to by Senator O’Byrne involved a question as to whether a bank account was part of the property of the debtor’s estate. The question was raised before the court at the hearing. The application of the debtor was dismissed on all grounds. The Registrar in Bankruptcy has further stated that, in his opinion, the amount of the trustee’s renumeration is not excessive in any way. The remuneration is based on the Chartered Institute rates which apply generally and the levels in these rates are lower in Tasmania than elsewhere in Australia.
The second case to which Senator O’Byrne referred was one in which, contrary to the facts which he stated, the assets realised $3,287 - although they had been stated by the debtor as $8,587 - and the liabilities were $3,144. Part of the debtor’s estate consisted of a house property subject to a mortgage. It was the trustees obligation to realise the value of the debtor’s interest in the property. The debtor had consistently refused ‘ to permit any person into the house to view it and had frustrated the trustee’s efforts to sell it. He was taken by the- trustee to the court for an order that he should vacate his house, cease obstructing its sale, and comply with the trustee’s requirements:’ ‘ These orders were made by the court with counsel, who appeared for the debtor, consenting to them. Nothing was said in’ criticism of any action on ‘the part of the’:; Trustee. The debtor refused to comply with the order and oh 24th February 1971 was taken into custody to prison; He was subsequently discharged from prison on handing to the trustee’s representative the key to his house and undertaking to the court not to visit the house except in the . custody of a person nominated fey the . trustee. The court ordered that all costs be paid by the debtor.
It should also be noted that in respect of this debtor his house is still not sold and, as Mr de Jong has informed the Registrar, 8 contracts have been drawn up and each has been in some way frustrated by the debtor. Mr de Jong has informed the Registrar that if he had been able to sell the house when he had wanted, all the creditors would have been paid in full. The debtor also disposed of his car without paying the proceeds to the trustee. It is incorrect to say thai the debtor has become responsible for the payment of nearly twice as much as his original debt because the total of the debts which was payable at the time of the deed of arrangement cannot be affected by subsequent indebtedness and any further amount which the debtor has been required to pay flows from the court decision ordering him to pay costs and the extra costs of administration of the estate resulting from the debtor’s obstructive tactics.
The Registrar has reported, in connection with this case, that the debtor made allegations against Mr de Jong in connection with the sale of certain of the estate’s assets. The Registrar thereupon referred the matter to the Commonwealth Auditor whose officers’ report showed conclusively that the trustee had been entirely accurate in his report to the Registrar, that all figures reconciled in the appropriate manner and that there bad not been a cent of loss suffered by the debtor’s estate.
In the third case to which Senator O’Byrne referred, where the person is said to have told the senator that Mr de Jong had acted as though he had only the intention of bankrupting, the assets of the estate shown in the statement of affairs filed by the debtor amounted to $2,937 and the liabilities to $3,848. The receipts recovered by the trustee have been $180 and there has been paid registry fees of $20, an allowance to the debtor of $45 and trading payments of $6.
It indicates an unreasonable attitude on the part of the debtor to expect a living allowance - as Senator O’Byrne had indicated the debtor was expecting - from the recovered receipts of $180 in a period in excess of 1 year. Moreover it is a relevant fact that by information laid before the court on 25 th February 1971, and supported by documentary material, the trustee has sworn that instead of aiding in the administration of his property and affairs under the deed of arrangement the debtor has knowingly and deliberately violated the terms and conditions of the deed and has frustrated and obstructed the trustee in the performance of his duties under the Deed and the Bankruptcy Act. The information is supported by two foolscap pages of particulars. The debtor’s house has been sold - not by the trustee but by the mortgagee exercising power of sale under his mortgage.
I regret that the time of the Senate has been taken with a relating of aspects of the cases given by Senator O’Byrne. They have been related because they disclose facts not mentioned by Senator O’Byrne. These facts materially alter the picture presented to the Senate. The additional material discloses, not the case of a man tempermentally unsuited for a position because of a selective presentation of facts of a case, but of a trustee performing with difficulty and in the face of frustration an obligation cast upon him by law. It is also relevant to know that the people to whom Senator O’Byrne referred have all made long and frequent representations to the Registrar. It has been established to the Registrar’s satisfaction that their allegations of misconduct on Mr de Jong’s part do not warrant court inquiry. Additionally, aspects of the trustee’s conduct in respect of which complaint was made and related by Senator O’Byrne have been canvassed before the court in proceedings to which the debtors were party and the trustee’s position has been upheld. I reiterate that Mr de Jong has been the victim of a dreadful calumny made under parliamentary privilege. A grave imputation has similarly been made against those responsible for the administration of the Bankruptcy Act. Investigation discloses that what has been said should never have been said. A man’s reputation has been irreparably harmed. He is without remedy, save what the publication of this statement can accord him.
Senator O’Byrne should recognise the injury he has done to a man who has been publicly condemned for conduct of which he is not guilty. He made these statements, on the information available to me, without any attempt to verify from Mr de Jong, who could have informed him, the full and true facts of the situation. It is deplorable that, having had a long discussion with the Registrar in Bankruptcy he neither informed the Senate of that fact nor that he had had the opportunity of confirming or obtaining refutation of the allegations he made. He should at least make a full withdrawal in the Senate or afford Mr de Jong other means of endeavouring to re-establish his reputation. The newspapers in Tasmania gave extensive publicity to Senator O’Byrne’s statement. It can only be hoped that for their part as a matter of fairness and common justice, some redress will be afforded to Mr de Jong and to the officers of the bankruptcy administration, by providing at least equal prominence to this statement.
– by leave - The long address that we have just heard from the Minister for Health (Senator Greenwood) outlined the functions of a trustee in bankruptcy but he made no mention whatever of the conclusion that I have reached. That conclusion is supplemented by the opinions of numerous people throughout Tasmania. I might say that my telephone rang hot over the weekend with calls from people who have been offended on a personal level by Hans Jacques de Jong. Each one of them has proved to me the temperemental unsuitability of this man to carry out a government function such as that of a trustee in bankruptcy. The recital we have just heard by Senator Greenwood disclosed that the trustee’s behaviour, although strictly within the law, has been devoid of any human sympathy for people in distress and has had regard only for the interests of the creditors.
The behaviour of a representative of this Parliament and this Government in a small town, as outlined by Senator Greenwood, although within the strict letter of the law has wider implications than were brought out in the statement. We are talking about a representative of this Government who said to a woman whose son was in distress: I will take the silver spoon out of the mouth of that mollycoddled son of yours. Madam, I will see that this mother love that you have turns into bitter hatred before I am finished with you.’
– Was that said?
– That was said.
– Can you verify it?
– Yes. 1 want an inquiry into this man’s behaviour. That is why I have called for an inquiry. Let me just substantiate what I have said. I might mention a point that Senator Greenwood raised in his statement. It concerns the estate of a young man who took his life, as I mentioned, because, as his widow told me, of this type of treatment over a period of time. Just by coinidence, the day after I raised this matter in the Senate, the following public notice appeared in the local newspaper:
Re: Robert John Barry and Edna Joyce Barry (formerly trading as Empress Quality Furniture), the Debtors.
To persons who claim to be creditors of the above-named debtors but have not proved their debts.
I, Hans Jacques de Jong, the trustee of the estate of the debtors, now give you notice, in pursuance of section 145 of the Bankruptcy Act, 1966, that if creditors do not prove their debts on or before the Twenty-first day of May, 1971, I shall proceed to declare a final dividend in the estate of the debtors without regard to their claims.
Dated this Seventh day of May, 1971.
This notice was dated 7th May and it appeared on 13th May. I have a long recital of the personal conduct of Mr de Jong in relation to this family. He acted strictly according to the law in imposing the terms of the Bankruptcy Act. However, I have a letter here which may be of interest to the Senate. It was written to these people by Mr de Jong. The letter is dated 19th May 1969 - 2 years ago - and this account has been in his hands for that period of time. I think Senator Greenwood said that the expenses were up to about $3,000. Mr de Jong said in this letter:
I inform you that I have signed an agreement for sale with respect to your residence; the price was $12,000, as instructed to several agents by Mrs Barry, without my prior knowledge and authority.
For the purpose of the estate this house was valued at $11,000.
– Yes. This letter continues:
Both the agents concerned and myself agree that the house was sold too cheaply and an amount of $12,500 could have been obtained.
The house was valued at $11,500, or $11,000 in one case. Mrs Barry went round and said: ‘Surely we can get more for this house’. This house had $20,000 worth of materials and work put into it. I repeat what was said in this letter:
Both the agents concerned and myself agree that the house was sold too cheaply and an amount of $12,500 could have been obtained.
I also acknowledge the receipt of your recent letter and inform you that you will have to pay back to me an amount of $220 being for allowances credited to your account during the weeks that you did not pay your wages to me, namely 19th February, 9th April, 16th April and 30th April 1969. In this connection, I draw your attention to the fact that, under the Deed of Arrangement, you are obliged to pay to me or into the Trustee’s Bank Account immediately upon receipt thereof, all salaries, wages, fees, moneys, bills, notes, cheques or other negotiable instruments.
I cannot therefore agree that you keep your wages wholly to yourself; they must be deposited in the bank account and a new allowance to yourself determined. The $55 per week was based on your expectation that you were going to earn in excess of $100 per week. In fact, your average earnings since 7th October 1968 have only amounted to $64; the position has further deteriorated because since you started working for Luxmore your average earnings have only been $51.
I agreed to your employment with Luxmore because you were going to earn there $70 plus profits; as this has not eventuated, I require you to discuss the situation with Mr Richardson. I cannot believe that a man of your abilities and training could only earn $51 per week net. If no higher income is forthcoming I have to discuss with you alternative employment.
An authority to your employer ls enclosed; 1 will not quote any more from this letter. I want to illustrate to the Senate the reasons for the type of report I made to the Senate about this man’s conduct. An inquiry should be made to see whether he is temperamentally suited for this job. People from all over Tasmania have complained to me about the personal attitude of this man. He is a very intelligent man who works within the strict letter of the law. If I cannot raise these matters in this Parliament where is redress to be obtained for people in the electorate who want injustice righted and cannot achieve it through the strict letter of the law? This man follows very closely every point in the law so that he may make a report to the Minister. I make this claim: The trustee, Mr de long, in many cases given to me, has proved his arrogance, and his highhandedness, his lack of suitable temperament and bearing - all these things which are so important in public relations when the Government is dealing with an individual. I have no apologies to make for what I said in this Senate. Indeed, I would like to tell the Minister that I am in the process of finding every person who has suffered under this man’s peculiar personal attitude towards these people, who have described him as taking a delight in exercising his authority and have referred to his lack of understanding, tolerance and Christian charity. Therefore, it is my duty to raise these matters in the Senate.
I can quite understand that Senator Greenwood would have access to more recent documents than those that were presented to me, which were some of the documents that were available to various people who were aggrieved. I know that when I spoke to the Registrar in Hobart this man had not put in a statement for about 6 months, although under the Act he was supposed to do so within a shorter time. But the Registrar said to me: ‘I am expecting it within the next week or so’. If de Jong was acting according to the strict letter of the law, he should have presented a statement of account. I said to the Registrar: ‘May I have a look at those documents?’ he said: “Yes; if you pay 40c a page you may have a look at them’. This is the attitude of the Registrar who says that I have not consulted him on the cases concerned. I was making representations, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Barnard) had done on various occasions. We had come up against a complete brick wall in this man acting according to the strict letter of the law and with no humanity.
I do not propose to apologise to the Senate. I do not propose to withdraw anything I said. I assure the Minister that I now propose to see as many people as I can, compile a list of the complaints against this man and come back to the Senate and inform it of what manner of man this is who is dealing with Commonwealth business.
Debate resumed from IS May (vide page 2038), on motion by Senator Greenwood:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When this debate on the motion for the second reading of this Bill was interrupted last night, I was replying to what had been said in the course of the debate. I had indicated that in any consideration of this measure it was important to appreciate that what was being made unlawful by this legislation was the practice of resale price maintenance. I recall that when Senator Murphy was speaking he referred to the attitude of his Party as it had been expressed in 1965. He also linked the attitude of his Party in 1965 with what are now the Government’s proposals as contained in this legislation. I believe that it is important to recognise that what is proposed in this legislation is the outright banning of the practice of resale price maintenance, subject, of course, to such exemptions as can be established upon application to the Tribunal. The obligation of establishing that exemption rests upon the person who wants to claim it.
– The obligation of justifying the exemption.
– I agree with what Senator Byrne says. The person who wants the exemption has to justify it as being in the public Interest. The views that were expressed in 1965, of course, were not the views that are currently being expressed. In 1965 the Government had taken the view that the impact of its legislation should be on the horizontal agreements; that is, the arrangements that were made by a group of retailers, the arrangements that” were made by a group of suppliers or the arrangements that were made by a group “of manufacturers. At that time it was not the intention to deal with the socalled vertical arrangements . under which a supplier or manufacturer imposes obligations, negating competition, upon the person who takes goods from him. Additionally, the legislation provided there should be what are known as. examinable agreements or examinable practices. The Commissioner of Trade Practices would have the obligation of looking at the examinable agreement or the examinable practice and, if he regarded it as contrary to the public interest, then he would apply to the Trade Practices Tribunal for a determination by that Tribunal as to whether or not it was contrary to the public interest.
What was proposed in 1965 by the Opposition of the day was that resale price maintenance should be made an examinable practice. It would not then have the effect of making resale price maintenance unlawful. It would merely have required the practice to be examined by the registrar and over a period of time it might or might not have resulted in an application to the Trade Practices Tribunal for a determination as to whether or not it was unlawful. Indeed, at that time there was some uncertainty on the part of the Opposition as to whether resale price maintenance was something which should be regarded as unlawful. I think that the same tenderness was expressed by Senator Murphy yesterday when he said that he felt that possibly there were some areas in which resale price maintenance ought to be shown to be able to be preserved. I recall that Mr Crean, who occupies a very prominent position in the Australian Labor Party and who is certainly listened to with respect in these matters, said in 1965 that his Party did not think that in all circum stances resale price maintenance should be condemned. He also said at that time that the Opposition did not condemn resale price maintenance but would leave it to those who indulge in the practice to show whether it is a good or bad thing.
– Who said that?
– That was Mr Crean. There is a difference between that approach and the approach which is adopted by the Government at the present time and which is supported by the Opposition at the present time. The present policy embodied in this Bill is that resale price maintenance should be made unlawful. As I indicated earlier, the obligation of justifying any exemptions from that rests upon a person who claims the exemption. Several comments were made in the course of the debate to which I shall refer. Senator Murphy and, I think, Senator Byrne suggested that consideration might be given to providing some means whereby a person who claims an exemption and who can make out, on first impression, a case that this exemption would be warranted, ought to be able to get some determination from the Trade Practices Tribunal to enable the practice to be maintained pending a full determination by the Court.
– An interim approval?
– I think that Senator Gair’s expression ‘an interim approval’ expresses the view which was mentioned last night. I think it is fair to say that two broad alternatives could have been followed. There is the position in the United Kingdom where though resale price maintenance has been banned a person has the opportunity to make application for exemption. Experience has indicated that several hundreds of companies or firms applied for exemption under that provision and it took 4 to 5 years for all those applications to be determined. That meant that, pending the determination of their cases, there was an ability on their part to carry out the unlawful practice. It was only after the expiration of that time, when I think there were two instances in which the practice was shown to be justifiable, that the substantive effect of the legislation came into force.
We in Australia have adopted the contrary position. We have said that all resale price maintenance is to be unlawful save for those who can establish that they are entitled to an exemption. But they will not obtain their exemption until the Trade Practices Tribunal has heard what has been urged in support of the claim for exemption and has made a determination upon it. It is the in between area with which I think Senator Murphy and Senator Byrne are concerned. I can assure the Senate that this was an area to which very great consideration was given in the preparation of the legislation. It was felt that as a matter of form, provision could certainly be inserted to enable a person to apply to the Tribunal for an interim exemption. But then this question arose: If the application for interim exemption were granted, what would be the entitlement of anybody who desired to oppose the granting of that interim exemption? It would be unreasonable not to give to that person an opportunity to express, in support of his case that there should not be an exemption granted,, all. that he wanted to say. It would appear that what might occur is that there would be either a brief and, in the result, an illconsidered determination of an application for an exemption or there would be. a long, drawn out application for -an exemption in which the merits of the case would be canvassed.
– Would the position not be rather like an interim or interlocutory injunction - the type of thing where there is an intermediate situation which would enable both sides to be heard?
– I know that Senator Byrne speaks from a long legal experience, but I suggest to him that the type of injunctions to which he refers - be they interim or interlocutory - are injunctions which are granted by a court in which one of the considerations is whether there will be irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted. It is a different situation entirely where you have an existing situation that the practice is unlawful.
– What I meant was that the type of hearing would be such as takes place on the application for an injunction, both sides being heard on an intermediate situation.
– Yes. The point that Senator Byrne makes can also be indicated, in support of what I am saying, by the fact that many of these injunction applications do take a long time to be heard. In short, the Government decided that, rather than risk a decision being made on inadequate consideration , simply because there was a tendency, to shorten the proceedings or to involve the parties in a long hearing, the proper course to adopt was to ensure that there could be expedition on the part of the applicant company. I am assured that it is proposed that under the regulations there will be procedures whereby the person claiming the exemption -will have the opportunity initially to set out his, whole case and thereafter the carriage of the matter will rest with the applicant, If he wants his exemption then it is incumbent upon him to pursue his application with expedition.
Senator Webster, I think, raised the point that one should have some regard to what has been the experience’ in other countries as to whether or not the abolition of resale price maintenance has ‘been of benefit. There has been some’ 6 or 7 years’ experience of the English ‘position, because it was in 1964 that the United’ Kingdom Parliament introduced its Bill banning resale price maintenance. However, it was not until several years after that that’ the full impact of the measure was to be seen. What has been observable on the English scene is not so much an overall reduction in prices - though in some areas there has been a spectacular reduction in price - but rather the creation of the opportunity for price competition to take place. What I have read on the subject suggests that- if people are not prepared to take advantage of a competitive price situation, then there will be very little benefit. The great advantage of the abolition of resale price maintenance has been the inculcation of atmosphere, the promotion of an opportunity and the example which is available of what has happened in particular areas where there have been some price reductions.
– What you say in that regard is that on the British situation it is impossible to evaluate the benefit that has followed the abolition- of resale price maintenance?
– I think it is fair to say that some conclusions can be drawn from the English experience but I do not think it would be as impossible a task as the honourable senator’s comment indicates. In wines and spirits, electrical goods and tobacco competition has occurred and prices did come down. There was evidence also of some price competition in areas such as shoes, typewriters and sweets but the abolition of resale price maintenance shows only that it will provide the necessary conditions for price cutting by retailers who want to compete on price. If there is no desire to compete, the absence of resale price maintenance has little effect, lt is also indicative, I think, that there has been some adverse effect on independent retailers and some advantage, of course for the large supermarkets. However, the point is that in the field of competition, if price is a field of competition, the absence of resale price maintenance will mean that there can be competition and that must mean benefit because it will mean a reduction in prices.
Another point which was made related to whether these provisions in the Bill were such that a person who desired to refuse to deal with a certain person, or to limit the amount of supplies which he was prepared to give to a certain person, was entitled to do so. It was suggested that if he was not entitled so to do it would be a grave infringement of a person’s business rights and that he might be compelled to provide supplies to a person who, for example, was a credit risk and who normally would not be supplied. I think it should be stressed that the only restriction in this legislation on a person’s right of dealing is a restriction which exists when there has been an attempt to impose a minimum retail price which the person supplied must observe or, in other words, to require that person to resell at a certain price, and that attempt has been unsuccessful. If, after such an attempt, it can be said that the reason for any withholding of supplies or the reason for any refusal to deal is that fact, then there would be resale price maintenance and the person supplying might find himself in difficulty. If he wants to deal with a person or not to deal with a person on whatever terms as to credit and supplies he lays down, he may do so freely and as before provided only that he does not impose a requirement that there should be a minimum selling price or a certain reselling price.
A further point arises as to the recent history of this matter. It has been suggested - wrongly, I might say - that the decision made by the Government to introduce this legislation was prompted in some way by what had been done by one commercial firm in Melbourne, namely, Bourkes Melbourne Pty Ltd, in March this year. It has been made clear that the steps towards the Government’s decision had been taken before the incident concerning Bourkes and Dunlop Aust. Ltd had occurred. One can search through the records and find a reference by the then Attorney-General in October last year in which he hinted rather strongly - the newspapers took it as far more than a hint - that there possibly would be amendment to the Act to include resale price maintenance.
– Did he use the words resale price maintenance’ in those days?
– My notes do not enable me to answer the honourable senator’s question positively but I think he did. The then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, in January this year indicated that amendments to the Trade Practices Act were to be considered with a view to promoting internal competition. In early February this year when the annual conference took place between the Prime Minister and representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions there were Press reports that the ACTU had requested the Prime Minister to undertake legislation to abolish resale price maintenance.
– Is there not a saying to the effect that the lady protests too much?
– I do not think that I am using the language of protest, and I do not think that I am endeavouring to put a point with any vehemence. All I am doing is reading into the record, for those who are interested, the factual basis upon which a judgment or comments may be made. If one is to accept what is stated by the newspapers - most newspapers seem to accept this - the date upon which the submission for resale price maintenance was placed before Cabinet was 22nd February this year. If one is prepared to look at these facts and to draw from them the conclusions which I think are fairly open, it is an indication that the Government’s decision, which necessarily is not taken overnight - the Government’s consideration must take some time - was taken before the incident concerning Bourkes and Dunlop. The decision was taken for the variety of reasons which I have already set out
The other matter which I feel should be referred to because it has been mentioned during the course of the debate is the incident in March this year when the firm of Bourkes, which is a commercial partnership between a retailer of some standing in Melbourne and the ACTU, decided that it would utilise its industrial force to secure a commercial advantage. It was, of course, as a result of the exercise of that industrial force that one firm - Dunlop Aust. Ltd - decided that it would abolish the practice of resale price maintenance, not for all persons who deal with the firm but only for Bourkes because it was only Bourkes which has the industrial power. The abolition of resale price maintenance was not to apply to other companies which wanted to deal with Dunlop and would have liked the advantages which Bourkes was able to secure. Those firms were unsuccessful.
– Dunlop abolished it for everyone.
– I do not know whether Senator Cavanagh now has become privy to the affairs of the Dunlop organisation and is able to speak with the authority with which Mr Hawke now is able to speak but as I understand, and as I read, the statement which was made by Dunlop at the time it decided that it would give Bourkes what that firm wanted, Dunlop said that it was abandoning the practice for Bourkes. It did not mention abandoning the practice for anyone else. There have been complaints in the newspapers since that date that Mr Hawke and Bourkes have secured for themselves an advantage which they have not been able to secure for other people. I understand from information which I have ascertained personally that the Dunlop organisation does not abandon the practice of resale price maintenance for other companies. This is an example of one combined industrialcommercial enterprise, namely Bourkes, blatantly using the industrial strength of the trade union movement to foster its own interests. This clearly is industrial blackmail. In effect the ACTU commercial enterprise is demanding money with menaces to suit its own competitive interests and profits. I venture to say that the tactics of Mr Hawke and Mr Revelman who command Bourkes are no different from the tactics of the great industrial tycoons crf late 19th century America.
If the expression ‘robber barons’ adequately describes people of that era I would have thought that the same sort of language would be applicable in this day and age when people gain their commercial advantages by the sort of tactics to which Mr Hawke is prepared to resort. I think it is interesting to see this development in the high priest of trade unionism in Australia because, if the industrial power was to be utilised in the way it was threatened to be utilised, it would have had the effect of depriving those who were employed by the companies in the Dunlop group of the work and wages on which they were dependent.
– They should be prepared to sacrifice to keep up Mr Revelman’s profits.
– No, .that is not the point.
– It is the point. The workers can stay out and help Mr Revelman.
– I feel it would be very difficult for anyone to contest what Senator Little has just said because the . clear effect and intent of a .decision to withdraw all services from Dunlop stores would have been that Dunlops would have been unable to operate and the workers employed by one of Australia’s largest enterprises would be without employment. I think that this is part and parcel of the current ACTU enterprise. I think it is the sort of conduct which ought to. be reflected upon by those who believe that their livelihood . depends on being members of a union and adhering to what the union decides. If there is to be, an adherence to the dictates of union executives in the way that Mr Hawke claims he can require the dictates of his organisation to be observed, some people will, in the pursuit of an objective, be denying themselves the employment which they regard as vital for their own and their families’ welfare. (Extension of time granted)
– Are you confident that your expression that the Dunlop-Hawke matter was over resale price maintenance is factual? Was it not just the demand that the Bourke’s store should be given the opportunity to have access to Dunlop goods?
– The point which Senator Webster has made by way of interjection is certainly well made. 1 believe that not only was there the desire on the part of Bourke’s not to be compelled to sell certain goods at a particular price but there was also the desire to ensure that Bourke’s be supplied with goods by firms which had said they did not want to supply Bourke’s. The point that I am making is that the ACTU was prepared to use its industrial strength in order to secure profits for a commercial enterprise in which it was prepared to share. Whilst this may represent a desirable recognition by the trade union movement of the advantages of what the Government has always been advocating, namely the pursuit of activities for profit, it still does have the consequence, if it is applied ruthlessly as Mr Hawke was prepared to apply it, of depriving some unionists of the employment on which they depend. I also think it is strangely inconsistent for the ACTU to be urging the principles of compulsory unionism and collective action as a condition of the supply of labour whilst it regards resale price maintenance as not permissible as a condition of the supply of goods. I welcome the move by the ACTU to make resale price maintenance unlawful as a condition of the supply of goods. I hope that the same principle will be applied in order to break down what is at present the vicious application of a principle of compulsory unionism and collective action.
The statement made somewhat triumphantly by Mr Hawke on 20th March of this year that the practice of resale price maintenance in Australia has been abolished was misleading. It certainly was abolished for Bourke’s and the ACTU but it was not abolished for anyone else. Mr Hawke was claiming to have done what only the Government can do. When this measure is passed resale price maintenance throughout Australia will be abolished; but it will require action by this Government before that objective can be attained. One hears from time to time some concern by those who feel that there are provisions in this legislation which impose a restraint upon the freedom of those who have goods to sell. For my part I feel that the principle of competition ought to be the life-blood of the enterprising community. It is through competition that persons can get the benefit of some reduction in prices. This Government indicated the general tenor and pat tern of this activity when it introduced the Trade Practices Act some 5 or 6 years ago. This legislation is a necessary development following upon the success of the initial legislation and the developing competence of those who have to administer the Trade Practices Act. This legislation applies equally to all. It is not involved in the discriminating stand-over tactics to which I earlier referred. Those who favour the abolition of resale price maintenance must necessarily, I think, regard it as desirable that if it is abolished for one it is abolished for all, and that is what this legislation is proposing to do.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to make the observation that no demonstrations such as occurred at the conclusion of Senator Greenwood’s speech are allowed in the public gallery of the Senate. The public seated in the gallery must remain quiet while the proceedings of the Senate take place.
– I congratulate you, Mr Temporary Chairman, for calling me because I am seated in a position where it is hard to see me. As a base for my comments I wish to refer to paragraph (2.) of clause 66d of the Bill. I refer to paragraph (2.) as a basis for my observation and a question of the Minister for Health (Senator Greenwood). The Minister took up some time in speaking about industrial blackmail which had been imposed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions on particular firms so as to enable a certain store in Melbourne to obtain the supply of goods. Might I impress upon the Minister that this is an isolated action? In comparison with the blackmail tactics that have been used in the commercial world over many years such action becomes very insignificant. I ask the Minister: How will this Bill cover the situation where a large retailer or a group of retailers uses blackmail tactics against a manufacturer - the Minister used the word ‘blackmail’ to define this pressure - and tells that manufacturer: ‘If you supply goods to a retailer who sells the goods below the price at which we sell them you can discontinue supplying us with the goods’? In effect this forces the manufacturer to discontinue selling his goods to a small outlet, which to my mind is exactly the blackmail that has been imposed by the big retailing firms throughout Australia for many years. This is a tactic which has forced manufacturers to supply them and them alone in spite of the fact that someone else is prepared to buy goods from that manufacturer and sell them at a lower price.
This has been prevalent in the furniture trade particularly/The retail furniture trade in this country has demanded the sole right that it be able to purchase from the manufacturer at a certain price, perhaps $100 for a suite of- furniture to which the sales tax of 2i per cent is added, and they then demand the right to place upon that article a margin of SO per cent. If anyone endeavours to break this SO per cent margin, in other words if he wishes to sell one article which he may not even handle or see because it may be delivered directly from the manufacturer to the consumer, they, demand that he shall make SO per cent on the cost of the article plus sales tax. They say that if the manufacturer supplies to anyone else who wants to sell at 25 per cent, which would be a fair margin, that manufacturer shall cease doing so. In effect, they say: ‘Supply him, do not supply us.’ If the retailer is sufficiently large he can succeed in doing this. If he is not big enough but combines with a number of other retailers through an association he can also succeed. What does the Minister expect the manufacturer to do in this situation? Will he continue to supply the small outlet with a limited amount of his goods and go out of business, or refuse unjustly to supply the small retailer and supply only the major retailer? There has been talk of industrial blackmail imposed by the ACTU in a situation where it demanded that it be supplied goods by Dunlop Aust. Ltd. Dunlop refused to supply these goods because major retailers said: ‘Do not supply Bourke’s.’ Dunlop, the manufacturer, in many cases wants to supply the goods. The manufacturer makes his own profit. He is not concerned about the profit the retailer makes as long as his own turnover is going through the factory. He wants his goods to be sold in quantity, and if the price is lower the quantity of the goods he manufactures to meet demand may be even greater. So he is not very much concerned about resale price maintenance. In many cases it is the retailer who imposes the resale price maintenance, and I want to know exactly how this Bill will prevent -that situation from occurring. The demand by Bourke’s Melbourne Pty Ltd was that it be supplied with goods by Dunlop. They wanted to exercise their free will to sell those goods at what they considered to be a reasonable margin of 20 to 22i per cent instead of 50 per cent and, in some cases, 55 to 60 per cent.
-r-i:was very interested to hear Senator Georges in his opening remarks pleading by way. of extenuation for the course which was adopted by the Australian Council of. Trade Unions and Bourke’s Melbourne Pty Ltd. After all, this is not an isolated case, and’ ;I would have thought if that was a good enough justification through history for industrial blackmail we would have a vastly’ different sort of society from what we. have today. Senator Georges seeks to make a point: by saying that Bourke’s wanted to have the opportunity to purchase from Dunlop Australia Ltd, and one can understand, that when a new emporium is being , established undoubtedly they will like to buy goods from wherever they Can in order to have on their shelves goods which will sell: The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that everybody who is in the same position as Bourke’s will be able to get goods without having to say as a condition of getting them: ‘We will sell them at the price you fix’. As I see it, the vice in what Bourke’s, the ACTU and Mr Revelman were doing was to say: ‘We want this advantage for ourselves and not for anybody else’.
– That is not true.
– What this legislation is doing is to ensure that the opportunity is available to everybody else who is in the same position as Bourke’s. If anyone says this is an untrue statement let them give me the truth the other way, because I do not believe they can get it. Quite apart from what Senator Georges said, he indicated a situation and asked whether the legislation was adequate to deal with the situation where a retailer is induced by one person not to supply to a third person. As I understand it, that provision is not expressly covered by this Bill, but it is covered in one of two places in the existing Trade Practices Act. I refer Senator Georges to section 36 of the Trade Practices Act where he will find that one of the practices which is made to be an examinable practice is the practice of:
inducing or attempting to induce a person carrying on a business to refuse to deal with a third person, or to refuse to deal with a third person except on terms disadvantageous to the third person, where the person, inducing or attempting to induce -
If that is not sufficient to cover the position which Senator Georges refers to, I refer him to Section 37 of the Act which states that where: a person engagesin monopolisation if, being in a dominant position in the trade in goods of a particular description, or in the supply of services of a particular description, in Australia or in a part of Australia, he takes advantage of that position so as to -
I believe and I have advice available to me here which confirms the position, that those provisions are adequate to cope with the situation to which Senator Georges referred. This legislation, which was passed in 1965, has a lot of teeth to it. One of the problems which has beset it for 5 years has been the uncertainty as to the constitutional position, and we hope that a great deal of clarity will come into the constitutional field when the High Court delivers its pending judgment - we hope in the very near future. But in response to Senator Georges, the questions which he raises are covered by the provisions of the existing legislation. . They are not covered by the provisions of this Bill, but asI understood him he was. not claiming that they were.
– I just want to draw to the attention of the Committee the fact that we are in the Commitee stage of this Bill and I do not wish to hear second readingspeeches. If honourable senators will refer specifically to the clauses of the Bill we will get along much faster.
– The comment which you just made, Mr Temporary Chairman, is very relevant because I had intended to speak on the third reading of the Bill, but as Senator Greenwood has made another very positive statement I just want to draw something to his attention. As I understand it,’ he says that the action by Bourke’s Melbourne Ltd in collaboration with the Australian Council of Trade Unions produced a situation which was of advantage only to themselves and that Dunlop Australia Ltd would still be maintaining resale price maintenance in other stores. That was not my impression and I wonder if the Minister may not be doing Dunlops an injustice. He says he has a lot of information before him. If I could give him a little more it might assist him in coming to another decision. In the ‘Age’ Of 19th March there is an article on the whole question of Bourke’s store and a Press conference at which Mr Dunshea appeared. That article reads as follows:
At the Press conference Mr Dunshea refused to say whether he thought resale price maintenance was harmful to the economy.
I must admit I have been concerned about the small retailers. However, I believe this matter will sort itself out.’
Asked whether the change in policy meant the end of resale price maintenance as far as Dunlop was concerned, Mr Dunshea replied: ‘The policy which applies to Bourke’s will apply to all other retailers.’
As I heard the Minister, he does not seem to agree with that. As an injustice may be done I ask the Minister whether he will consider carefully all the information that is available from both sides.
– Let me state at the outset, Mr Temporary Chairman, that I am pleased that you have directed our attention to the fact that we are considering the clauses of the Bill in Committee and not making second reading speeches in which we can express our spleen and hatred, because I have never seen such an irresponsible attitude taken by a responsible Minister as was adopted by the Minister for Health (Senator Greenwood) today when he was granted an extension of time in making his second reading speech and proceeded to direct a tirade of abuse against the trade union movement. He has carried into his Ministerial portfolio all the hatreds which he has displayed against the workers and their organisations since he has been a member of the Senate.
– Will the honourable senator indicate the clause of the Bill to which he is directing his remarks?
– I think that my remarks are appropriate because the stage has been reached where the trade union movement has forced the Government to act. Despite the Minister’s protestations and what may have been said previously by Government leaders, no legislation was introduced until the trade union movement acted. No-one apologises for the trade union movement exercising force for the simple purpose of reducing retail prices and whether or not this action was to enable Bourke’s store to make a profit, it has had the effect of reducing retail prices to the community, so it is not true that the action has benefited Bourke’s store alone. A furniture company in Adelaide was affected in the same way as was Bourke’s and it was expelled from its trade organisation because it would not agree to resale price maintenance.
I come now to the clauses of the Bill. We have not yet had any assurances that it is intended to make this legislation work or bring it into operation. Sub-clause(1. of clause 2 states:
Subject to the next succeeding sub-section, this Act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by Proclamation.
Sub-clause (2.) of the clause states:
Sections 1, 2 and 13 of this Act shall come into operation on the date on which this Act receives the Royal Assent
This provision alters some dates in the Trade Practices Act. The remainder of this legislation will come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. Can the
Minister indicate what will be the date of proclamation and when the legislation will come into force? Will the. legislation be pigeonholed and forgotten until the Australian Council of Trade Unions takes action to force the Government into doing something about its election backers who are making a profit out of the consuming public? Some provisions in the Bill require explanation. They are not clear to me. Proposed new section 66d. states: (1.) For the purposes of paragraph (d) or (e) of sub-section (2.) of section’ 66b of this Act, a person shall be deemed to withhold the supply of goods to another person if -
Surely this provision would- not indicate, as I read it, that an offence is created merely because of the failure to supply goods. In closing the second reading debate the Minister quoted illustrations justifying the non-supply of goods. He referred to credit risk and some other reasons. Perhaps the Minister can clarify the position. The proposed new section continues:
Whether the supplier knows whether or not the other person would be disadvantaged, I do not know, but sub-section (2.) of proposed new section ‘66d states:
Paragraph (d) of sub-section . (2.) of section 66b of this Act does not apply in relation to the withholding by a person of the ‘supply of goods to another person who, within the . preceding year, has sold goods - obtained, directly or indirectly, from: the first-mentioned person at less than their cost to him -
for the purpose of attracting to the establishment at which the goods .were sold persons likely to purchase other goods; or
otherwise for the purpose of promoting the business of that ether person.
It is the common practice .of supermarkets and other stores to sell some goods below cost. If this practice is unfair competition - the Trade Practices Act envisages competition which is good for. the community - the retailer could be liable under other provisions of the Trade Practices Act. But it is the policy of stores to attract customers to their establishments and the. competition which it is desired to create could be nullified by provisions which permit a firm to refuse to supply goods to stores. There are provisions under which a firm can refuse to “supply goods.. For example,, if in the previous 12 months goods were sold at a price less than the cost price for the purpose of either attracting customers to the establishment, which is a commonplace practice today, or of promoting the business of that particular establishment, there is no offence under the Act in failing to supply. Surely this is not in accordance with the Government’s desire for free competition. I do not know that a company should have the right to refuse to supply goods because someone has used such goods for the purpose of promoting a retail establishment. Proposed section 66f states:
Criminal proceedings do not lie against a person by reason only that he -
has engaged in, or has attempted to engage in, the practice of resale’ price maintenance; .
has aided, abetted, counselled or procured a person to engagein that practice; .
Can the Minister inform me what proceedings are taken when a person engages in resale price maintenance? What procedure is followed to stop this undesirable practice? According to the provision which I have just quoted, criminal’ proceedings do not follow. Proposed new” section 66h states: (1.) A person may apply to the Tribunal for a determination exempting from the application of this Part the goods described in the application, being goods that he supplies or is intending to supply otherwise than by way of sale by retail.
I am at a loss to know the intention of this provision. What goods are not sold by way of sale by retail? Are they goods which are supplied by a manufacturer to a wholesaler who can fix the resale price? Perhaps the Minister may enlighten me on this aspect. Sub-section (2.) of proposed new section 66k states:
The Tribunal shall not make a determination exempting goods from the application of this Part unless the Tribunal is satisfied that, unless the exemption is granted -
the quality of the goods available for sale, or the varieties of the goods so available, would be substantially reduced to the detriment of the public as consumers or users of those goods;
Perhaps I should state that the Tribunal has the power to exempt certain goods from this provision. The manufacturer or the wholesaler can insist on this fixed retail price under which no-one is to sell. The tribunal may grant exemption from the operation of the Act only if it is satisfied that unless exemption is granted the quality or variety of goods available would be sub stantially reduced to the detriment of the public as consumers or users of those goods. Proposed new Section 66k. (2.) (c) states: the prices at which the goods are sold by retail would ultimately be increased to the detriment of the public as consumers or users of those goods.
I am trying to visualise an occasion when, unless there was an insistence on a fixed resale price, the quality of the goods may deteriorate. I am trying to envisage the possibility of increased prices unless we have a fixed resale price with no power to reduce the price. I hope that we can get back to the point of this debate. I hope that I can receive satisfactory answers to my questions and that we can get rid of the hatred and misrepresentation in which we have engaged for the purpose of propaganda. Although the eloquence of the Minister may influence someone in the gallery it will certainly make no difference to the industrial workers who have displayed their strength. Their strength cannot be denied. They will see that greater justice is done than the Federal Government has given to workers in the past.
– I reply initially to Senator Willesee who was concerned to dispute my assertion that what the Australian Council of Trade Unions had secured in conjunction with Bourkes Melbourne Pry Ltd had been secured for itself alone. The same benefits were not secured for other companies. One reads in the newspapers of 19th March - the date to which Senator Willesee referred - a statement made by Mr Dunshea. The Dunlop Australia Ltd public statement which indicates that the company had to give in to the ACTU concludes:
It has been decided that the company and its subsidiaries will supply Bourke’s Melbourne Pty Ltd without restriction on retail selling price.
There is no suggestion that anyone else will be supplied without restriction.
– There was a further statement.
– One hears these comments from people who dispute what I said earlier. Now I am going to the record to produce what I say. If one looks at the Australian’ of 2nd April one finds the heading: ‘Hawke lashes out with another warning to Dunlop’. We find that the reason for this warning is apparently because Dunlop is not supplying other people on the same basis as it is supplying Bourke’s. The people who are complaining have gone to Mr Hawke to obtain assistance. Mr Hawke, having secured what he wants for his company, is benevolent in the favours he disposes. He will say to some: ‘All right, I will do what I can for you with Dunlop’, but to another he will say: ‘1 am sorry, I cannot help you.’ We in Australia want to get away from that situation. One of the reasons for this legislation is that it will apply indiscriminately so that everybody can have the advantages of it. The Press report to which I referred states:
The ACTU President Mr Hawke spoke to the Chairman of the Dunlop Croup, Mr Dunshea, after reports that a subsidiary of Dunlop, Slazengers (Aust.) Pty Ltd, had refused to supply any of its sporting goods to discount stores other than Bourkes, the ACTU store. Mr Hawke said he reminded Mr Dunshea of an undertaking given on March 18tb following a confrontation between the ACTU and Dunlops over the group’s refusal to supply Bourke’s
I assume that is whet Senator Willesee referred to. The point is that the practice was not general and that every Press report indicates that it was not general. If one goes to the ‘Financial Review’ of 8th April one finds that a Sydney discount store chain is concerned in the same way. The managing director of Sydney Wide Stores claimed that in some case the benefits from the abolition of resale price maintenance practices in Victoria did not seem to be overflowing elsewhere. I submit that one of the real advantages of this legislation is its universal application. Despite all the comments and assertions which come from the Opposition, it is not able to support its claim that the ACTU’s venture into profit making and the commercial enterprise field is done from some broad universal benevolent motive. The fact is that honourable senators opposite cannot sustain the point. The situation is rather difficult because the ACTU’s action does not square with a situation with which honourable senators opposite have been associated all their lives. Senator Cavanagh wanted to know when this Bill would be proclaimed. I assure him that the intention is that the Bill will be proclaimed in the near future. Proclamation must depend upon the regulations being available and work is proceeding on those regulations at the present time.
The honourable senator also referred to proposed new section 66d. of the legislation. The proposed new section is a provi sion which is designed to give a comprehensive definition to what amounts to a withholding of supply. If one gives meaning to the words ‘withholding supply’ the immediate impression which comes to mind is that a person simply refuses to supply or refuses to deal. But there are various indirect ways in which a person can secure the same objective without positively refusing supply. He can indicate that supply is available on somewhat onerous conditions and those conditions are such that the person to whom goods are offered cannot reasonably comply with them and therefore he is unable to take the goods. But it may be said that that does not amount to a withdrawal of supply. Proposed new section 66d. is designed to overcome that situation. It is designed to indicate the types of situations in which a person is deemed to be withholding the supply of goods to another person. He is deemed to do this if he refuses or fails to supply those goods to another person. It similarly applies if he refuses to supply those goods except on terms which are disadvantageous to the other person. He is deemed to be withholding supply if, in supplying the goods to the other person, he treats that person less favourably than he treats other persons to whom he supplies the same or similar goods. Lest it be thought that by engaging in that type of withholding one is immediately rendered liable to the procedures which this Act holds open it must be recognised that just to do those things without doing more is not resale price maintenance.
Resale price maintenance involves 2 things. Where it is a question of withholding supply it involves withholding supply for the reason that a person will not agree to a minimum retail selling price. Therefore if a person does not supply goods as requested he is not guilty of the practice of engaging in resale price maintenance unless it be shown also that he is withholding supply for a resale price maintenance reason. If he refuses to supply goods except on terms which are disadvantageous it must be shown that that refusal to supply is because a person will not agree to a resale selling price. If he treats some person less favourably in some way it must be shown that the reason for that was that the person to whom the goods were to be supplied would not agree to a resale selling price or to a fixed minimum selling price. Those are important ingredients in the practice of resale price maintenance and unless they are both present there is no resale price maintenance. I mention this with some emphasis because I feel it is one area in which there is misconception, although a perusal of the provisions of the Bill makes the position completely clear.
The next point to which Senator Cavanagh referred concerns proposed new section 66d(2.), the effect of which section is to indicate, in effect, that a person is not to be regarded as withholding supplies if what he is doing is withholding supplies from a person who has simply engaged in the practice of loss leadering, that is, selling goods at a price below what they cost him with the purpose of attracting to the establishment in which the goods were sold persons likely to purchase other goods or otherwise for the purpose of promoting the business of another person.
– Is that not normal retail practice today?
– I do not think so. I agree that there is an area of controversy about this but it is felt, and it is implicit in the legislation, that if a supplier has a quality article and cannot impose a fixed price at which it must be resold at least he should have the ability of saying to’ a person ‘You cannot have these goods if what you are doing is selling them at bargain prices for the sole purpose of attracting people into your store to buy another person’s goods at an inflated price’.
– How will that be prohibited?
– It is not prohibited. I simply say that if one does that one is not engaging in resale price maintenance; you are not withholding supply. The next provision to which Senator Cavanagh referred was proposed new section 66f. He indicated that the legislation stated that criminal proceedings were not to lie against a person by reason of the fact that he engaged in and attempted to engage in the practice of resale price maintenance or that he endeavoured to assist anyone else to engage in that practice. The reason for that is that it is not felt to be the type of practice which ought to have imposed on it the criminal -sanctions of the law It is not made unlawful in the United Kingdom legislation and it is not felt to be a practice of the inherent character which attracts criminal penalties.
That is not to say that the legislation does nol have teeth. It is unlawful to engage in the practice of resale price maintenance and the person who suffers loss or damage by the act - of another person which constitutes the practice of resale price maintenance may recover in a civil action the amount of the loss or damage which he has suffered. In short, the person who has suffered as a result of resale price maintenance, has the opportunity to recover the loss in a court action. It may be difficult to establish in particular cases- or sufficiently, at any rate, for the court’s scrutiny-what amounts , to. loss or damage, and it is not thought, that this is a procedure which would be availed of in a great number of cases. Nevertheless, it is a provision which is there, and which may be availed of. What may be availed of, it is expected, is the procedure of applying for an injunction. Clause 14 of the Bill introduces a proposed new section 90aa which states:
Where a person has engaged in the practice of resale price maintenance, the Court may, on application by -
Those 2 provisions, one of obtaining damages and the other of obtaining an injunction, represent the remedies available to those who are affected by the unlawful practice. The next provision to which Senator Cavanagh referred was proposed new section 66h which relates to exemptions. A person may apply for an exemption, and one of the conditions which he must satisfy in his application is that the goods for which he wants the exemption are goods which he will be supplying or intending to supply in any way other than retail. In. short, the retailer cannot apply for the exemption; it is anybody else who supplies goods. The expression ‘sale by retail’ is an expression which is to be found in the language on this subject in other Acts of Parliament, as I recall, and it is simply designed to indicate that it comprehends retail sales only and that any other sales are those which are contemplated by the provision.
Proposed new section 66k (2.) was the final section to which Senator Cavanagh referred. I point out to Senator Cavanagh that in this proposed section the grounds upon which the tribunal has to consider whether or not the exemption is to be granted are grounds which are disjunctive. In short, any one of those grounds will suffice to enable the application to be granted. So, if it is shown that the quality of goods available or the variety of goods available will be substantially reduced to the detriment of the public as consumers or users of those goods, that will be sufficient without anything more in terms of the other requirements of sub-section 2 to enable exemption to be granted.
-Can you imagine a case when a reduction in the price could be detrimental to the public as consumers?
– I would imagine one could have a variety of situations. A person might have a particular commodity which he regards as being of high quality. People will stock it and keep it on their shelves over a long period of time because they know that whenever they do sell this commodity its price will be a fixed price, that they cannot be undersold or find that they have purchased at a high price something which, when they dispose of it, will bring a low price. That is one of the situations where resale price maintenance might be regarded as desirable.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to raise anything other than matters which are strictly related to the Bill which we have before us. In raising certain questions relating to the provisions of the Bill I simply indicate that it appears that there are some misunderstandings abroad in relation to those provisions, and on behalf of the people who have made representations to me as to that matter, and also to Senator Buttfield, who unfortunately is ill today and cannot raise the matters herself, I raise these matters so that they can be answered, for the benefit of those who are listening to the debate or who will read it, in the explanation of the Minister. I raise them not because I am in doubt about them but because others are and they should have the opportunity to hear from the Minister the information they seek. The first matter I raise is in relation to proposed new section 66c. I understand that some people are concerned with the effect of that provision, which states in effect that suppliers are not to make recommendations as to the price of goods without the following statement also being made:
The price set out or referred to herein is a recommended price only and there is no obligation to comply with the recommendation.
People are concerned that that may apply, for instance, to newspapers and that where the price is shown on the top right hand side of the front page of the newspaper as 7c or whatever it may be, the statement will also have to be made that ‘the price stated herein is a recommended price and there is no obligation to comply with the recommendation’. If prices are printed on books, as often happens, that statement will have to appear.
I draw the attention of the Minister and the Committee to the fact that proposed new section 66e gives some further explanation as to when a statement is to be applied to goods. It provides that a statement shall be deemed to have been used in relation to goods in certain circumstances, and it sets out 3 different sets of circumstances. Proposed new section 66b (2.) states: “… a person . . . engages in the practice of resale price maintenance if -
It appears that there is confusion as to the exact effect of these provisions, and so that people may be helped in the interpretation of the legislation when it is passed, I ask the Minister to explain just what is the effect of these provisions as they relate to newspapers and books. Another example given to me concerns a manufacturer who is engaged in advertising certain goods on television programmes. If he says in that advertising that the goods may be obtained from such and such a store at such and such a price, will that constitute a breach of the provisions of this legislation? I raise those matters first; there are others relating to other matters which I will raise later.
– I think that the core of the query . raised by Senator Rae is. to be found in proposed new section 66b (2.), which states:
I say that is the core of the query because if a statement] of price is such that the person who receives the goods understands that that is the price at which he has to sell the goods, that constitutes resale price maintenance. A person who attempts to use a statement of price in that way runs the risk of being found guilty of engaging in the practice of resale price maintenance. It is not possible to give a host of illustrations as to the type of situation which is envisaged, but broadly one can suggest one or two possibilities which probably would clearly offend. If a statement, as is indicated in proposed new section 66e, is affixed in some way to the label of or the covering in which the goods are supplied, or if the price is stated in any of the documents which are supplied with the goods, then I think that a person runs the risk of offending by giving a mere statement of price and nothing more.
A problem could arise as to whether the statement fixes the price at which the goods are to be sold. But that should not be taken too literally because a practice may have evolved over the years, and the person supplied with the goods may know that the statement of price is simply a recommended price and nothing more, and that he may disregard it without any conpunction whatsoever. So past dealings have to be taken into account. But generally, I think it has to be derived from the provisions of proposed new section 66b that if there is given a statement of price which is likely to be understood by the person who receives it as being the price below which the goods are not to be sold, that constitutes resale price maintenance.
Therefore, one does not assume that just because a price is stated that is the recommended selling price. It could be or it could not be, and of course that is the advice which lawyers often give. However should there be any. concern about the matter I think that the difficulty could be overcome by a letter clarifying the position for the reseller- stating that whatever might appear on documents which accompany the goods, there is absolutely no obligation upon the reseller to sell the goods at the recommended price. I think that that would havethe effect of clarifying the position in such a way that it would not lead any person to understand that a statement of price which accompanies goods is the price at which he must sell the goods
– Would a statement to that effect on an invoice cover the position?
– As Senator Raeappreciates, one can only indicate the types of things which , would probably cover the position. I should think that a statement to that effect on an invoice undoubtedly would cover the position. But it is a matter for the person receiving the goods to take the trouble to read the clauses in the Bill and to understand them. I think that if he does that he will appreciate what he must do and what he must not do, and there will be no problems.
– Briefly, I seek some clarification of the provisions contained in proposed new section 66d 1.) which states: a person shall be deemed to withhold the supply of goods to another person if -
I refer to a manufacturer who receives from a large emporium an order for say 500 refrigerators of a certain type, with certain variations. If those 500 units are supplied by the manufacturer and if another person requires 3 or 4 units under the same conditions as attached to the supply of the 500 units, is refusal to supply those 3 or 4 units deemed to be withholding supply under the provisions of paragraph (a) of proposed new section 66d(1.)?
– If it were suggested that by refusing to supply the 3 or 4 units the manufacturer was offending against the Bill because he was engaged in resale price maintenance, the answer in my judgment would be categorically no. It must be shown not only that there is a favouring of a person in the supply of goods but also that there is afavourimg because the person disadvantaged refuses to agree to some resale price maintenance practice or refuses to accept a minimum selling price. Unless there are the twin arms -the withholding of supply in the way defined and the withholding of supply for the reason that a person will not engage in a resale price maintenance practice - then there can be an ©fleece of resale price maintenance.
-I am still not clear. Is the onus on the manufacturer? Under what clause of this Bill is the manufacturer able to say to a person:I cannot supply you with this low number”? Otherwise,’ a manufacturer could be asked by a hundred different retailers to supply a small number of a certain thing, 500 of which had been supplied to a given retailer.
– I think that I can answer Senator Laucke by saying that a supplier can determine, because it is a right which he has, unrestricted by law, whom he will supply, the quantity which he will supply and the terms on which he will supply. That is the law as it stands at the moment. If he is to be guilty of any offence at all, as I see it, he must involve himself in 2 acts. First of all, he must give an advantage to somebody by withholding supply to another in some way, and he must also do it for the reason that that other person will not engage in resale price maintenance. If both those things are present then there is resale price maintenance.
The question which was asked by Senator Laucke initially I think could be answered quite simply by saying that the reason why this person was given advantageous terms was not because someone else would not agree to resale price maintenance; it was because he was buying a special type of commodity in quantity and in the circumstances it was reasonable to give him those advantageous terms.
– I raise, in relation to proposed new section 66d, matters further to those raised by Senator Laucke. I raise them for the same reason as before. There appears to be much misunderstanding in the community about these matters. I raise them on behalf of Senator Buttfield, so that people may read the Minister’s explanation.
– Order! Are you asking these questions on your own behalf?
– Yes, I am asking them on my own behalf for the assistance of people who have made representations to her. Firstly I would like to obtain some further elaboration as to whether there is anything in the legislation which would require a supplier in some way to deal with a would-be retailer with whom he does not wish to deal.
– Only the ACTU.
– Let us not continue with that. Let us get on with the actual questions. Secondly, will the supplier’s marketing arrangements made as to outlets and as to service by those outlets be interfered with in some way? These matters were referred to by Senator Webster to some extent last night. They have been raised by other people. Can the Minister confirm that in no way these situations will arise because of this legislation? Further, it appears to be thought by some that in some way suppliers will be forced to discontinue discounts for volume or price differentials for some special trading reason. I ask the Minister whether there is any foundation for that assumption. To me there does not appear to be any. It may be better if the Minister confirmed that that is not intended. Will the Minister explain why the words used in proposed new section 66d(1.)(c) were used in drafting this Bill in preference to the form of words used in section 2(3)(b) of the United Kingdom Resale Prices Act of 1964, which states that if a supplier -
I emphasise these words - significantly less favourable than those at or on which he normally supplies goods to other dealers carrying on business -
I emphasise the following words - in similar circumstances.
– Proposed new section 66d deals with the refusal to supply other individuals at less favourable terms. I think that that is the heart of this matter. It concerned me in my comments during the second reading debate. Will the Minister indicate whether a manufacturer - I emphasise that 80 per cent of manufacturers in Australia employ 50 people or less - will be forced to supply to a variety of resellers although he would wish to confine his sales to one area? Is it a sufficient reply to a seller who wishes to buy from a manufacturer for that manufacturer to indicate that the facilities which that reseller has are not sufficiently good in his opinion for the proper handling of his goods? Is it sufficient for the manufacturer to say that he wishes a complete range of his goods to be on display and that facilities which the public normally demands by way of credit, expertise in selling and in promotion are not available in the store which seeks the supply of goods? I instance these factors because they are particularly important. I have no reason to be confident from that which I have read or heard from the Minister that an advantage will accrue to the public through this measure. ‘
For instance, take the situation of a seller who may be 100 miles away from the manufacturer. I ask whether it is acceptable for a manufacturer to say that he will supply at his door to a client an article for $100 but demand from the person who lives 100 miles away that the freight impost be included in the price of the article. At present items such as Holden vehicles are to the best of my knowledge sold throughout Australia at a fixed price. I would say that the unitiated buyer could go into a store and be assured that he would pay, say, $2,400 for that particular item. I believe that that situation will change in that the manufacturer of Holdens must not demand that the vehicles be sold as a listed resale price. But a person who lives in Bourke certainly will not be able to buy, in Bourke, on the same terms and conditions as will a person who buys from Kevin Dennis Motors or some other big reseller whose premises are close to the source of supply.
Does the Minister convey that resale price maintenance will not be in the best interests of the general public if an overall sale price for a particular item should be sustained? Further, can the Minister give me any reason why, if this Bill has followed the British Act, books - they were mentioned by Senator Byrne - and pharmaceutical products are not excluded from the operation of this measure? Under the British Act both those items were excluded. They are not excluded under this Bill. Will the Minister indicate why this is so?
- Senator Rae asked whether there was anything in this legislation which required a person to deal with a person with whom he does not want to deal. The answer is no. He asked whether there is any suggestion that markets and outlets are being interfered with. As I see it, the answer is no. If any question arises as to whether mere will be any dangers to health or necessary services, that is a specific ground for exemption if a person desires to apply for an exemption. I refer those who are interested to proposed new section 66k (2.) (d) and (e). Senator Webster asked whether a manufacturer is forced to supply goods to a person to whom he does not want to supply them. The answer is no. I was also asked whether there is any provosion in the legislation which requires a person who believes that a reseller’s facilities are not good, and therefore does not want to put his goods into that reseller’s hands, is obliged to supply that person. The answer is no.
As I said before - I think it is worth reiteration - what is involved in the offence of resale price maintenance is the requiring of a person to agree to a fixed retail selling price. If that is done, it is resale price maintenance. If goods are withheld from supply because a person will not agree to a fixed resale price, that is resale price maintenance. If a person, for reasons quite apart from his willingness to enter into resale price maintenance or not to enter into it, wants to supply or withhold goods, he is perfectly free so to do.
– Except if Mr Hawke takes a hand.
– Order! The Minister is replying.
– I was dealing, in my reply to Senator Webster, with the precise provisions of the legislation which, of course, are superior to any other devices which may be used to try to secure the same objective. Senator Rae wanted to know the reasons for the change in language between proposed section 66d(1.)(c) in this legislation and section 2 (3) (b) of the English Resale Prices Act. This is essentially a matter for the Parliamentary Draftsman. I am informed that he felt that the style he uses would be clearer for this provision than was the style which was used in the United Kingdom. Looking at it, it seems to me that that at least is arguable, but I sense that in this area the Draftsman undoubtedly has pride in his craft and the drafting which he puts into the Australian legislation is distinctively his own.
Finally, Senator Webster instanced what he called ‘the overall selling price for Holden cars throughout Australia’. I must say that I cannot speak with any knowledge as to whether or not there is a selling price for Holden cars which is the same throughout Australia, but I read from time to time advertisements which suggest to me that new Holdens are being sold much below the price at which they would be purchasable from some other retailer. If the case being sought to be made is that resale price maintenance is desirable because it would enable a fixed selling price for Holdens throughout Australia, to me it is an unconvincing argument. I would have thought that it would be far superior to have a condition under which a reseller, if he wanted to, could sell the Holden car at a price less than that which was fixed as its reselling price, assuming that that is the position; as I say, I do not know whether or not that is the position. This is where the advantages crf competition and the price reductions which flow from it can be secured.
– I would like further brief clarification in relation to proposed new section 66d. As we go through this Bill I can see now why the Government applied the guillotine to it in the other place. The closer scrutiny we give to it, the more likely we are to oppose it, but perish the thought at the moment. The Minister in his answers has made it fairly clear that no person can enter into an agreement with another person oh the basis of maintaining a retail price. Can he explain how the oil companies will find themselves placed in entering into agreements with persons to operate one of their outlets when they specify that the purchaser shall purchase a particular type of commodity from a particular type of supplier and sell it only at a particular price? Would this arrangement and agreement be illegal under this Bill? Tt appears to be so from the explanations which the Minister has given. I am referring to an arrangement by which 2 people arrive at an agreement to sell at a certain price otherwise the agreement is broken. I think it has been referred to as conscious parallelism. It is a situation which exists at the present time in great depth in this country. How is this covered by the Bill, and if it is not covered, what is the intention of the Government?
– As I understand Senator Georges’ question, he exemplified the point he was trying to make by reference to the practices of the petrol companies. If a petrol company says to a person who takes supplies from it that that person must sell at a particular price, that would be an agreement which would be unenforceable. It would be resale price maintenance, which this Bill makes unlawful. If on the other hand the petrol company said to that person that if he were to take products from the company he could not take products from anybody else, that would be perfectly in order because it is not a practice which is struck at by this legislation. So long as there is in any form a provision which states that a person must sell at a particular price or not sell below a minimum selling price, that constitutes resale price maintenance and that provision could not be enforced.
– So under this Bill the lessee of a petrol station could sell petrol at a sharply discounted price and the controlling company would have no power to take action against him to terminate his lease?
– As I understand the position, that would be so.
– I wish lo refer to books. I think the Minister adverted to this matter without specifically answering my query. I was going to direct another query relating to nationally advertised lines. Will the Minister be good enough to indicate to what extent they will be affected by this Bill? As I understand it, the idea is to fix a certain price for a commodity which will be common throughout Australia, the idea being that the price in the urban area helps to maintain a reasonable price for the remote rural areas, I would like to know to what extent that practice, which is a very desirable practice, is likely to be impeded by this legislation.
– In the United Kingdom under the provisions applying to people who want exemptions .from the ban on resale price maintenance the book trade and the pharmaceutical trade were both exempted As I understand it, the reason why they we»e exempted, put very shortly, was thai unless they were given this exemption the result would have been fewer retail outlets. These trades were able to satisfy the tribunal in the United Kingdom that this was the position. As I have said, we are adopting a different position in Australia, to the extent that a person does not get the exemption in Australia until he has satisfied the court. Maybe the book trade, the pharmaceutical trade or any one of a number of companies will apply for exemption. If they satisfy the court that they should be exempted from the ban on resale price . maintenance because it is in the public interest that they should be so exempted, and if they can bring themselves within one of the grounds which are set out in the legislation, undoubtedly they will be exempted.
I am unable to say what the ultimate position will be in terms of the urban areas as against country areas in the way in which Senator Byrne expressed it. The purpose of this legislation is not to maintain what might be an artificially high price. It is legislation which is designed to secure the benefits of internal competition, and if there is a willingness to compete on price - and all the legislation can do is to create that atmosphere and opportunity for those who are willing to compete on price - I believe that in all parts of Australia there will be that price competition. From that the community must benefit.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Greenwood) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 7 May (vide page 1590), on motion by Senator Drake-Brockman:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I doubt that we will be able to complete the consideration of this Bill in 5 minutes, although it should not take long to deal with. Some time ago when the price of wool became disastrously low and it became difficult for wool growers to make ends meet the Australian Wool Board instituted inquiries through expert committees with a view to finding ways of improving the situation of the wool producers. One of the suggestions that was brought forward in order to reduce the costs involved in the marketing and handling of wool before it left our shores was that we should set up wool complexes. Honourable senators will remember that the idea was put forward about 12 months ago with the intention of allowing the setting up of complexes preferably by existing wool brokers who would be acting on their own behalf and building new streamlined premises for the cheaper handling of wool and more effective operation before it reached the auction stage.
The Australian Wool Board was authorised to set up the complex if it could not get the co-operation and the incentive of the private broking companies. The intention was that by streamlining the whole process of presenting wool for auction we would be able to reduce considerably the cost involved, and this would further improve the situation of the wool growers. I am pleased that we adopted that proposal at that time and also that we are now proceeding in the complexes to inaugurate core testing and objective measurement prior to auction. This is the sort of thing that I advocated some 4 years ago. The proposal was not accepted very enthusiastically because it was contrary to the usual method of displaying wool, which involved bringing it up from the store, repacking it, and returning it to the store. As I mentioned at that time, this process costs anything up to $3.50 a bale. Core testing is very much cheaper. It costs about 20c a bale but, of course, the cost of objective measurement and so on has to be added. However, these were desirable measures to be taken. - . It is expected that the complexes might reduce the costs and thus make more money available. But I am still a bit worried about the operation . of the scheme because we do not know what the complex will look like. My. original thought, was that a complex would consist of a place where everything would be. kept together and run by .the Wool Board on behalf of the growers, and this would reduce costs. But we find from the second reading speech of the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) that there will be 3 brokers at Yennora, which is the first complex being set up. These 3 brokers have already started work and they will be followed by others. This will probably mean that the whole field of brokers will be represented at Yennora. It is very interesting to see this, although Yennora is in the Sydney area. I am hoping that future operations along these lines will result in decentralisation. One of the important suggestions that has been made to me in this regard by my colleague, Senator Poyser, is that Portland and Geelong in Victoria could be considered.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I drew attention earlier to the fact that the whole of these exercises that are being carried out with regard to wool seek to try to improve the position of the wool grower. I honestly hope that the economies which will result from this legislation will be to the benefit of the wool grower himself. I was a little disturbed when I read in one of the papers today reference to a remark that was made by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) when the other place was meeting the week before last. The reference was to the effect that aid which is granted under the grants scheme to wool growers who are in difficulty will be subject to income tax. This means that what we are giving with one hand we could be removing in part with the other. As I say, I hope that these complexes that we are talking about will result in economies which ‘can be passed on to the wool grower.
Before the sitting was suspended I had mentioned decentralisation of :the wool complexes.’ I hope that ‘the . experiment - and it is an experiment’ at Yennora - will be repeated in other States and that the opportunity will .be taken . by the Australian Wool Board arid the . ‘Australian Wool Commission to moye, away’ from the cities. Of course, Yennora ‘ is , close to Sydney. My colleague,’ Senator Poyser, asked me to remember that in Portland and Geelong we have two- excellent deep water ports handy to : the. wool: producing areas. Perhaps these ports could -be used if this type of complex were considered for other States. . . , .
In my own State of Western Australia an ideal situation exists iri Albany which has one of the best harbours in ‘ the world. I think that this is undenied; The harbour is not fully developed to its capacity- and is one which is adjacent to the wool growing industry. This would be an ideal situation for a wool complex. I hope that in the establishment of these complexes duplication of the present practice with regard to wool brokers and their individual establishments will not go too far.’ I have made these remarks in order to’ give a background to the Bill.
The purpose of the Bill is to enable the Australian Wool Commission to obtain the finance necessary for the establishment of these complexes either on its own behalf or by private companies. The Bill is the means by which we are enabling these commitments to be met by the Commission so that the acquisition of the complexes can proceed. I think that the experiment of core testing and measurement of the samples so that they can be cheaply presented to the buyers and adequately identified is one of the most important moves that has been made in the establishment of these complexes.
The Opposition is not opposed to the implementation of the provisions of this Bill. We welcome its introduction as an opportunity for making the Australian Wool Commission work better in the establishment of the complexes. As I said previously, we hope that it will result in improved income to the wool producers who will be supplying the wool to the complexes. The Opposition . does not oppose the Bill.
– I indicate that the Australian Democratic Labor Party will not oppose this Bill. It is extremely necessary at the moment that the Government, having been alerted to the situation not only in the wool industry but also in primary industry in general, should take every step that is humanly possible to try to help float these industries over this very testing period if it is possible to so do. The Democratic Labor Party would not wish to stand in the way of any measure that could even be remotely connected with alleviating the circumstances in which primary producers find themselves. This is a matter of great concern not only to the wool industry but also with respect to the general situation in which primary industry finds itself today throughout the world.
The wool industry must face, at the same time as these problems are before it, the challenge from synthetics, the weight of which probably is being felt only now although it has been threatening for the last 20 years. The industry has equipped itself and has taken really giant strides forward to meet this challenge. Whether in the final analysis the wool industry will be any more able to survive such a challenge than the once great silk industry was able to survive the challenge to it from synthetics has yet to be shown. History will prove the truth. But the wool industry must receive every assistance that is possible from the Australian community at this time. Britain is contemplating joining the European Common Market. This, together with other international events of the moment, aggravates the problem further although the pressures now are so great that one would think that the situation could not become worse.
The Democratic Labor Party does regret that as yet the Parliament has not been convinced of the value of and accepted the long range programme and approach sug gested by my Party to get to the kernel of the deep-seated problems facing primary industry. We will continue, by putting forward arguments and by constant example, to press our belief that there is no short cut to the ultimate solution of the problem. Whilst the alleviation proposed by this Bill is necessary and is an immediate gesture which must be made by the whole of the community to share the burden being carried by primary industry the solution to the problem does not lie in a short range plan. Ultimately, a long range plan will be needed. In the short range, this legislation may help to alleviate some of the problems facing the wool industry. We do not believe that this Bill provides a solution to the problems of the industry, but we are prepared to support the Bill because of the alleviation that it provides to the problems facing the industry at this time.
– in reply - As has been stated on a number of occasions, the Government is enacting a whole series of policy matters by which it seeks to assist primary industry, particularly the wool growers, in its cost problem. This Bill is one such measure that endeavours to assist in regard to the cost problem in the handling of wool. It has been estimated that in Sydney at the present time the handling of a bale of wool from the farm to ship side costs approximately $4.86. It is hoped that by the establishment of a complex similar to that in Yennora between $1.57 and $1.97 can be saved in the cost of handling a bale of wool.
I wish to make 1 or 2 points in reply to Senator Wilkinson. The 3 founder brokers who are at Yennora at the present time are building now a compatible concept to the complete integrated complex. The remaining brokers have decided to move out to Yennora. It has been suggested by the 3 founder brokers who are already at Yennora to the Australian Wool Board, and it has agreed in principle that the Board take over this building and incorporate it in the complete integrated complex to be erected. The Board will lease back these buildings to the brokers; so this proposal is within the idea of the complex as envisaged by the Australian Wool Board in the first place. In regard to the matters raised by the honourable senator on behalf of Senator Poyser, I point out that it is not the intention of the Wool Board at this stage to upset any of the regional selling centres.
In Victoria the Board has not commenced its investigations into whether that State will have complexes or not, although it is envisaged that this will be the case at some time in the future. But if investigations were carried out into the regional selling centres at Geelong and Portland and if those investigations proved conclusively that it would be much cheaper to have a complex for the handling of wool, this would be a matter that the Board no doubt would have a look at. If such a scheme proved to be advantageous the Board would no doubt recommend the building of such complexes. But at the present time investigations have not proceeded sufficiently far to support a recommendation or otherwise for a complex in Melbourne.
– Will this be kept in mind?
– Yes. The honourable senator mentioned the setup in Western Australia. From his knowledge he would know that a complex is in the early stages of construction at Spearwood. Western Australia is getting into much the same position as Sydney is in now where wool handling centres and storage centres are spread out and wool has to be moved from place to place. This arrangement, of course, increases handling charges. I think that is about all I wish to say. I would like to thank the Senate for the way in which it has dealt with this Bill during the second reading stage. We will now move on to the Committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I would like an explanation from the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) in regard to clause 3, proposed sub-section (1b.) which states:
The Treasurer may, with the concurrence of the Minister . . .
The general impression is that this proposed sub-section will give approval for the Treasurer to guarantee the payment of moneys as set out in the Bill. The proposed sub-section states that - he may, which, of course, also means that he may not. Is this a standard method of wording? Would the Minister care to explain just what is involved by the use of the word may’ instead of ‘will’?
– I understand that this is standard legal phrasing in that context.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) .read a third time. .’
Debate resumed from 7 May (vide page 1592), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move the following amendment:
Leave out all words after That’, insert: the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to’ increase the grant for schools conducted by a State to the same amount per pupil- as the grant for schools not conducted by a State’.
The DEPUTY . PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! Is the amendment, seconded?
– Yes. I second the amendment.
– This is a very important Bill on which a great deal of time could be spent in debate. I believe that the amendment which has been proposed by me on behalf of the Opposition is sufficiently clear not to warrant too great an extension of time on debate in this chamber in view of the late stage at which we find ourselves. The measure we have before us is a Bill to provide financial grants to the States for the purpose df giving assistance to schools by way of the provision of science laboratories for the 4 financial years from 1971 to 1975. The Opposition’s amendment calls for the withdrawal of the Bill and its redrafting so that the grant for State schools shall be increased to the same amount per pupil as the grant to the non-State schools. Our amendment does not call for any reduction in the grants proposed under the Bill to the nonState schools. However, the Australian Labor Party believes that the grants which are given to State schools should be at least the same as those that are given to private schools.
When legislation of this type was first brought before this Parliament there was provision for the money to be made available to State schools for the establishment of science laboratories as compared with non-State schools in the ratio of 3 to 1. This was approximately a fair division of the moneys because there are approximately 3 times as many students at State secondary schools as there are at private secondary schools. Grants which are proposed under this legislation are contained in the schedule to the Bill. This Bill reduces the ratio from 3 to 1 to 3 to 2. Therefore, the proportion of funds being received . for the provision of science laboratories by private schools as compared to State schools has been doubled in the years since 1963 when this proposal was first made by the Government, along with the decision to buy Fill aircraft, as part of its election gimmickry.
If we look at the sums of money which will be made available upon the passage of this Bill, if it is passed without amendment, we find that approximately $26m will be made available to the State schools and $17m to the private schools. This is despite the fact that there are nearly 3 times as many students at State secondary schools as there are at private secondary schools. If one looks at the even more startling figures which emerge from a division of these amounts on a pro rata basis, one finds that the Commonwealth will be providing by way of assistance for the erection of science laboratories $10.58 for each State school pupil, $23.16 for each Catholic secondary school pupil and $24.08 for each pupil of non-Catholic private secondary schools. Therefore, if one were to compare a Government high school at Kalgoorlie, Collie, Newcastle or Richmond with Prince Charles old school at Timbertop one would find that each pupil at a Government school would receive $10.58 from the Commonwealth while the pupil attending the private school would receive $24.08. That is almost 2i times the amount received by the pupils of State schools.
– Who built the State high schools? Who bought the land on which they are built? It was the general taxpayer.
– That is right. It was the general taxpayer who built the State high schools and the general taxpayer has an obligation to maintain the State high schools. The general taxpayer has an obligation to see that the pupils who attend State high schools are given at least the same assistance from the general taxpayers’ money as are the pupils at Geelong Gram-“ mar, Xavier College, Shore or any other private school that they care to attend. It is an outrageous state of affairs that State school pupils in an inadequate State system should be receiving approximately $10 compared with the $24 provided for pupils at private schools.
If one looks at what is happening to State education throughout Australia one can only be forced to the conclusion that the policy of the present Government is for electoral purposes to maintain the Catholic educational system at a subsistence level, a non-Catholic private educational system for the purpose of training some sort of elite, and a State educational system educating - if educating is the correct word - the children of the most underprivileged elements of the community to be nothing but hewers of wood and drawers of water. This Government has a policy which will lead to a situation whereby the pupils who attend State schools will be learning no more than how to read the instructions on their employers’ machinery and their call-up cards when they receive them from the Department of Labour and National Service; nothing else. If one looks at my own State of Western Australia one can see an example of the sort of policies which are being conducted by the Government towards State education. Of course State education was provided by the State. Senator Gair has said that as if this were some great gift - the general taxpayer provided schools and this was a remarkable achievement in Australia. Here we have taxpayers paying for schools - what a wonderful piece of progress! We say that it is not sufficient merely to be providing a few broken down buildings.
If children at private schools need $24 a head for science laboratories, so do children at State schools need $24 a head to provide science laboratories. How can one justify the payment of $24 a head out of Commonwealth funds to pupils at Geelong Grammar and $10 a head to pupils at Richmond High School? It cannot be justified. In my own State of Western Australia is a town called Katanning. This is a town of a few thousand people in the southern wheat belt. In that town are 2 schools which give a secondary education. One is Kobeelya Church of England Girls School, which has about 120 pupils, a decrease of 20 on last year. A few hundred yards away is the Katanning High School which has about 530 pupils, which is an increase on last year. Kobeelya Church of England Girls School is attended mainly by the well to do children of the local farming community, lawyers, dentists and people like that. The Kobeelya Girls School with its little more than 100 pupils has a library provided by the Commonwealth. Down the street the Katanning High School, 5 times the size, does not have a library - it has a room which will seat 52 pupils at any one time. Is it to be wondered at that this is causing a reaction throughout the whole of Australia and that we find taking place protests organised by parents of children attending State schools - people who are interested in the future of State education?
We cannot have a sound education system in Australia without a sound State education system. Whatever may be done or ought to be done for private schools must be subsidiary to what is done for State education because it is State education which sets the whole pattern for education in Australia. If we have a corroding, collapsing State education system we will have an uneducated population. Wc will have a few people who are well educated, but the bulk of our people will be uneducated.
- Senator Gair finds that to be rubbish. I know that his experience with schools is fairly limited.
– He was Premier of a State and he ran the schools in that State, the most successful State of the Commonwealth.
- Senator Little now tells us that Queensland had the most successful schools in Australia when Senator Gair was Premier of that State. If Senator Gair is a product of that education system I think it must have been sadly lacking.
– 1 would not be admitted to some schools that you go to, and I would not want to join them.
– I dp ; not want to go back to 1903, or whenever it was that Senator Gair attended school, because I realise that there have .been changes. However, I think that probably,, if anything, the changes have been for the worse. I know that Senator Gair has a hatred of State schools and does not want to see the State school system supported. That is why he supports a proposition by which $24 is given for each pupil of a private school. “ 1
– 1 went to; a State school. . .
– ^Perhaps that is why he hates the State school system. Under this Bill $24 is to be given for each pupil of a private school but $10 only is available for each pupil of a State school. The Australian Labor Party repudiates this. We believe that the only sound, education system is one which is based on a solid State education system. I point out to Senator Gair and to anybody else who is interjecting that the purpose of this amendment is not to reduce the money being made available to private schools. We do not call for a reduction in the sum to be made available to private’ schools; we call for an increase in the money to be made available to State schools so that they will be receiving the same amount as the private schools. If anyone wishes to repudiate this he can do so only by saying that he is not in favour of the same Commonwealth assistance being given to State schools as is given to private schools. This amendment calls on people who say that to stand up and be counted.
– The private schools get it on performance whereas the State schools do not.
– So far as science laboratories are concerned they do not get it from the Commonwealth,
– Now you are being honest. You have been dishonest until now. You are specialising in the one area which this Bill covers.
– I have been speaking about this Bill all the time. If Senator Little had been listening he would have known that every one of the figures I cited was directed to this Bill and to the provision of laboratories. I do not intend to allow Senator Little’s guttersnipe interjections to deter me on a matter of this nature. If Senator Little feels capable of talking about education I am prepared to hear him, although I suggest that the contribution that he would make would be a living argument for the inadequacy of education in Australia, as is the presence in this chamber of Senators Gair and Little. I commend the amendment to the Senate. I trust that this Bill will be sent back to be re-drafted so that justice may be done to the pupils of Australian State schools, to the parents of pupils of Australian State schools and to Australia, which is sadly lacking in any sound education system at present.
– I shall take up only a few minutes of the Senate’s time to deal with a couple of aspects of this Bill. It is a pity that someone who just said ‘That is good’ did not do the same. I support the Bill and reject the amendment. I thought it rather strange for Senator Wheeldon to mention well to do children, particularly when referring to a farming area. This Bill seeks authority for grants over the next 4 financial years to conclude the scheme to provide grants for the construction and equipping of science laboratories in secondary schools. In the period that this scheme has been in operation it has made wonderful achievements. All around the countryside schools have established, with Commonwealth help, science blocks that otherwise they would not have. A total amount of about $43m is to be spent on science laboratories in the next 4 years, or just over $10m a year. The Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who in the Senate represents the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Fairbairn), said in his second reading speech that the present rate of expenditure is to be slightly reduced. He went on to say that the Government believes that the rate of expenditure is appropriate to the economic circumstances of the time, and appropriate to the remaining needs of secondary schools. Later in his speech he said:
For the remaining 4 years the method of distribution will take closer account of the actual needs of particular schools.
I understand that the present cost of construction of a science laboratory in the metropolitan area is about $32,000. That sum will provide a quite attractive and useful laboratory designed to meet a secondary school’s requirements, which is the Government’s aim. The word has gone around that by. Government orders the cost is to be reduced to $29,000 for each laboratory built in a metropolitan area. If building costs are to be reduced by $3,000, it will be necessary to use cheaper materials or to cheesepare in some directions. The position will be infinitely worse in areas outside the metropolitan areas, because building costs are higher. If I am. correctly informed that the present programme includes reduction of building costs to $29,000 for each laboratory, country areas will be at a big disadvantage when compared with the metropolitan areas. Building costs are higher in country areas, and I would like an assurance from the Minister that what I have been told is not correct, that the programme will continue as it has in the past and that the committees will allocate the funds to schools and try to tailor them to meet their requirements. I support the Bill and oppose the amendment.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party does not support the proposed amendment. We propose to support the Bill. My experience in education may be more limited than that of Senator Wheeldon, and I have to think back a little further to my school days. They ended when I was slightly younger than 14 years of age, and were spent at a State school. Perhaps the educational system was not as good then, or it may have been better than it is now. I do not know, but it enabled me to take a place in the life of this community and I have been very grateful for the limited educational facilities that were available in my school days. My time at school was somewhat curtailed by family necessity brought about by the tremendous economic stresses of the 1930s. Many members of my generation determined to see that our children and our children’s children had better opportunities for education than we had, and that they were not disrupted by such great financial and personal tragedies in this country as were created by the depression of the 1930s. I think we can claim to have succeeded. 1 am supported in that belief when 1 notice that today many young people attend school until in their early twenties. My colleagues and I feel that there has been a great achievement by a generation that had its own educational opportunities somewhat limited by the circumstances of the day. We are not bitter about those times. I smiled when listening to Senator Wheeldon because he was endeavouring to tell the Senate and the community at large what is virtually a lie; that is, of course, that private schools are receiving more from the public purse than are State schools for the construction of science laboratories. That is why I interjected with what Senator Wheeldon described as my guttersnipe’ interjection and said that he had at last got to the truth. Figures may be cited which could mislead people to the belief expressed by Senator Wheeldon, but the whole idea of Commonwealth grants to schools for the construction of science laboratories and the provision of science equipment was based on the fact that we were moving into a different age. It was suddenly realised, amongst all the pressures of education, that in the field of science we had to keep pace with the rest of the world. We were in danger of falling behind, so grants were made on a special basis out of the common pool of the taxpayers’ money. Of course, the State schools were already receiving grants from the that pool. It was not necessary to grant to the State schools for the purposes of this scheme the same amount of money to get the same value, because the States schools were already receiving grants from the common pool provided by the taxpayers.
I was educated in a State school. I knew that my parents paid their taxes and education was provided out of those taxes. The people living next door sent their children to a private school, as is their right in a free society. The parents of that family paid their taxes and then paid for their children to attend school as well. That situation still obtains in our community. If 139 j 1/7 1-S-mi we were to take the proposed amendment at its face value, it would be misleading. Unfortunately Senator Wheeldon has left the chamber. He is not here to listen to some more of my guttersnipe contributions to this debate, as he would term them. If he were here, he would learn that he has wrongly worded the amendment. Perhaps it was prepared carelessly or in haste, or it may have been framed deliberately to mislead the community and to whip up a wave of sectarian hatred, or class hatred. Not all pupils who attend private schools have wealthy parents. In fact, many of them are struggling economically. The amendment moved by Senator Wheeldon asks for the insertion of these words: the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to increase the grant for schools -
The reference is not to science laboratories in schools but to schools. The proposed amendment goes on: - conducted by a State to the same amount per pupil as the grant for schools not conducted by a State.
If the amendment were to be carried and the Bill therefore rejected, it would not result in a decrease in grants to private schools. Those grants would require a tremendous increase to raise them to the level of grants already enjoyed by State schools. The proposed amendment refers to an increase in the grant for schools. The grant for State schools already greatly exceeds the grant to private schools. To the shame of Federal and State governments, grants were made to private schools only when it became clear that the State educational system was threatened with complete chaos and collapse because of the entry into that system of children who previously had been educated in private schools. That situation came about because children were attending school until they were older than had been the case in the past. This involved a colossal increase in costs and the private schools were finding it almost impossible to survive.
The Federal and State governments of this country saw the justice of spending at least portion of the funds allotted from the public purse for education on children attending private schools only when they were driven to it by sheer necessity. It seemed that the State system would collapse completely because the children educated privately would also need to be catered for. These children had been taken off the back of the taxpayers in respect of education expenditure because their parents were paying for their education in addition to their contributions to the public purse. All of us who are interested in children and in their education well know that the educational opportunities of the second, third and fourth child in a family were being neglected because of the sheer lack of finance. A family could not provide the money to continue educating the third, fourth and perhaps the fifth child who might have, been particularly brilliant. All the money available to the family circle had been spent on educating the older members of the family. The States admitted that they were not equipped to take over and could not take over the tremendous responsibility involved.
We are not discussing a simple amendment stating that extra money should be granted to state schools to bring them up to the level attained by the expenditure of money on science laboratories in private schools. What the Opposition, particularly Senator Wheeldon, has endeavoured to do has been debate a lie. The Opposition has endeavoured to say that at the moment state schools are receiving less from the public purse than are the private schools. That is a lie. There would not be a private school, whether it has a religious background or not, in this community that would not be thoroughly satisfied to receive from the public purse per pupil the amount that it costs to educate each child in a state school. If we are talking of spending more money on education, it is high time we had an investigation to inform us ali why it costs so much more to educate each child in a state school than in the private schools. There must be some reason for this. Perhaps it is the efficiency of the private schools, because the standard to which a child has to be educated still is set by the State and it ultimately has to be met by the schools, private or state, irrespective of their circumstances.
We of the Democratic Labor Party deplore the fact that there is not complete honesty in relation to this great question of education. Surely we are not discussing political trickery. We are discussing the education of the children of Australia. Does it matter whether they come from a rich home or a poor home in the future? The economic status of families has a dramatic habit of changing rather sensationally in a generation or so. The rich squatter family of one era is sometimes the impoverished family in the next, and vice versa. We are discussing the education of young Australians and surely all honourable senators should be wrapped up in the idea that all of them should get the best opportunity that is humanly possible irrespective of the education system selected for them by their parents.
Grants are made available by the Commonwealth to the States for the creation of new state schools and the sustaining of the old schools. Many of the expenses pertaining, to science laboratories located in those particular schools have already been covered by grants made available to the States for the purposes of the state schools. But no grants at all had been made available for science laboratories or anything else in private schools until quite recently, and even now the -grants are a fraction only of what it costs to educate a child to the standard set for state schools. Extra money is now being made available to private schools to give them the same opportunity of establishing science laboratories and to bridge the gap. Private schools were not receiving funds from the Commonwealth pool by way of State grants for education to provide basic necessities for the staff and for buildings. In many cases State schools already had the buildings and required only the equipment.
It is a lie to try to draw a comparison between the 2 education systems and to say that over the whole picture this Bill proves that more money is being spent on the education of children in private schools than on those being educated in state schools. It is wrong to suggest that the Bill should be withdrawn. The words that are necessary to make the amendment honest have been omitted. I notice that Senator Wheeldon has returned to the chamber. I suggest to him that, if the amendment is to do what he wanted it to do, it should read: “That the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to increase the grants for state schools, or schools conducted by the States, for the purpose of their science laboratories to the same amount per pupil*. Senator Wheeldon suggested that this Bill be withdrawn but did not say in his amendment what the subsequent Bill should refer to. To achieve what he sets out to achieve-
– A course in English would solve your problem.
– I succeeded in primary school English, in spite of Senator Wheeldon’s criticism that the state school system is neglected so far as financial assistance is concerned. I reared 2 sons and put them through the state school system. One happens to be a medical practitioner at the age of 23 years, thanks to the state school education system in Australia. In spite of being starved of finance that system is able to make an outstanding success of many of its pupils who are born with average intelligence. If Senator Wheeldon wants to frame amendments, I say to him: ‘Never mind about the superiority of your schooling over mine; let your common sense and natural talent to think take over?’ At least Senator Wheeldon should word his amendments accurately so that all of us know what he is talking about- even people with limited intelligence like myself.
– That would be impossible.
– 1 must thank the honourable senator for his high class interjections, which stand out and are so superior lo my guttersnipe tactics. The honourable senator was endeavouring to mislead the Senate with an amendment which does not say what he intended it to say. 1 point out to him that if he achieved what he says in his amendment he would practically treble the grants to private schools to bring them within range of the grants being made for the state schools of Australia. At least that would bring a substantial measure of justice to that section of the community, that section of my Australian brothers and neighbours who have paid their taxes for a lifetime for the education of their children and have then paid out of their own pockets as well for that education. If that does not offend the honourable senator’s sense of justice it offends mine. I have never wanted to receive any advantage in the Australian community because my parents paid taxes. So did the parents of the child next door, but they did not get the same advantage because they also paid for their child’s education.
In my lifetime in the political movement I have fought for equality of educational justice for all school children, and I do not care whether they go to a state school, a private school or any other school.
Any suggestion that the Bill should be withdrawn on the basis set out in the amendment is a falsehood aimed at misleading the people and at whipping up in our community prejudices of the very worst kind and of the most un-Australian character. We of the Democratic Labor Party will not have a part in it: We believe that this Bill, which provides an opportunity for the Commonwealth to give money to both state and private schools in accordance with their requirements and in accordance with’ the principle whereby the Commonwealth already has made money available to the state educational system for science laboratories, should be carried by the Senate.
– I wish to participate in this debate for ‘ only a couple of minutes in order” to congratulate Senator Little on his address, although it was given in the wrong place, lt should have been given in a State Parliament and not in the Commonwealth Parliament, and especially not in the Senate. It was broadcast. Many people will have listened to it and thought it was good; that it was the sort of address that ought to be made. But I want to correct him. The point is that the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction over education. That has been entirely forgotten by the honourable senator. In the Commonwealth Parliament we can look at science laboratories and libraries; but we cannot look at education and making grants to schools. That is a State responsibility; it is not the responsibility of this Parliament.
– What was the policy of your Party on education at the last Federal election?
– It is no good bringing up this nonsense. We are talking about what can be done by this Parliament. When we look at the wording of our amendment, which has been criticised severely, we see that the amount about Which we are talking is for assistance to the schools, lt means insofar as the Commonwealth can go; it does not mean that we should be running education for the various States. We contend that the Bill should be withdrawn for that purpose. We also contend that it should be redrafted. The amendment does not say that the Bill should be thrown away. It says that the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted to increase the grant for schools insofar as the Commonwealth can increase the grant for schools. The Commonwealth cannot provide for education. It can provide grants to the States, which themselves administer education. We can supply the buildings for libraries and we can supply the buildings for science laboratories. The intention here is that the grant by the Commonwealth - we are not discussing the State situation - should be increased so that there will be equal facilities for both State and private schools.
– I rise to reject the amendment and to take up the point that has just been made by Senator Wilkinson. He made the point that the Commonwealth is not so concerned with the details of education. The amendment that has been put before the Senate this afternoon would lead one to infer that the area to which he has referred is a Commonwealth responsibility. This amendment, in truth, is a misleading one. The figures that have been put forward in support of it are misleading in that they relate to the amount that is allocated per student in a given situation. The mover of the amendment, Senator Wheeldon, casts a gross reflection on the very schools he is trying to help when he suggests that all pupils who come from the State education systems are hewers of wood and drawers of water. He knows as well as anybody else that, as Senator Little has said this afternoon, there have been a great many students from State schools who not only have been brilliant but also have gone on to great and outstanding careers.
One of the points that we need to remember is that the purpose of this Bill is to grant financial assistance to the States for science laboratories and equipment in schools. If we read the Bill we see the way in which the assistance is to be applied. It is not to be applied in the terms in which the amendment has been brought before the Senate. I draw attention to the fact that the Bill is part of a total programme in which the Commonwealth Government has applied itself to the total education system of Australia. As Senator Wright said in his second reading speech, this Bill will bring to a conclusion over the next 4 financial years the programme of grants for the construction and equipping of science laboratories in secondary schools. He went on to say - Senator Wheeldon very conveniently overlooked this fact:
Most existing Australian secondary schools have already received some form of assistance . . .
Honourable senators will recall that Senator Wright said, in effect, that for the remaining 4 years the method of distribution would take more account of the actual needs of particular schools. That has not been acknowledged up to this point. In the past the distribution of the funds has been worked out on the . basis of an agreed formula. But that formula has now been changed to take more account of the actual needs of the schools. For those and other reasons the amendment deserves to be rejected.
The main purpose of the Bill is not only to continue the financial assistance but also to continue the Commonwealth’s programme for the development of science laboratories and equipment in schools. This shows the concern that the Commonwealth has for the development of the science programme. The science programme is a very expensive undertaking. Honourable senators may recall that Senator Wright said that the total of the amount that has been expended and the amount that is envisaged is more than $120m. This expenditure has not been undertaken just to provide a convenient vehicle; it is part of the total education programme. There has been increased international emphasis on science education at all levels. The United Nations Advisory Committee on the Application of Science and Technology to Development has said:
The prospects of accelerating the economic and social development of both the developed and the developing countries are increasingly dependent upon the application of science to the technological exploitation of whatever natural resources are available to them.
The Commonwealth has long recognised the necessity for sophisticated science education. It was clear that students who proposed to enter tertiary institutions would not be able to make the maximum use of the increased facilities being provided for them unless better facilities were available for their training at earlier stages of their education. In many cases the expense of providing such facilities was beyond the resources of the schools. The Commonwealth began its present programme at least 3 or 4 years before that pronouncement by the United Nations Committee was made.
I wish to make only one other observation. Whilst being very enthusiastic about the development of the science programme, we must remember that it is only one element within the education structure. We have to remember the place that science holds in our total education structure. Because we live in a scientific age, it does not necessarily mean that all of us must become scientists, although those of us who are non-scientists need not only to remember but also to learn to appreciate the scientists’ formulae, applications and even their various terms. Science is a very specialised discipline. It offers means and techniques of putting more and more power into the hands of all those who would reach out for it. Therefore, the humanities, which are also part of the total education structure, must receive their fair share of attention. Some of these aspects are being taken care of in other parts of the Commonwealth’s education programme - not as opponents of science but rather as its friends and even its guides. As the capacity of man rises to greater mental and academic heights, so we need to have not only the capacity to live with it but also the opportunity to use it and to develop it fully. Because this amendment cuts right across that very ideal, I hope that the Bill will be supported enthusiastically and that the amendment will be rejected.
– I rise to support the Bill and to oppose the amendment. I rise more particularly to answer a few of the statements made by Senator Wheeldon in his irrational and personally offensive speech this afternoon which was prompted by nothing other than prejudice against the independent schools. In the course of his remarks he said that I hated State schools. That is an untruth, but no more than I would expect from him. From the time I started school until the time I required secondary education, I attended a State school. I have the highest regard for the State school system and appreciate the excellent work of the teaching staff in State schools. I was required to leave the State schools system to obtain secondary education because at that time the State had not entered the field of secondary education. Had it not been for the existence of independent schools, Queensland’s young men and women who wanted higher education and those who desired to study law, medicine or other professional subjects would have been lost to the State of Queensland had it not been for the Grammar Schools or the few independent denominational schools available to them at that time.
– I wish they had lost you.
– I know you do, because I am a real thorn in the side of Communists and strong leftists. We owe a lot to the work of the independent schools not only in Queensland but throughout Australia. Those who have distinguished themselves in medicine, law, architecture or any other profession, until recent years when the State entered the field of secondary education, owe their education and their training to the secondary schools conducted by churches and other independent authorities. That is my reply to the first statement that Senator Wheeldon made. He denigrated the secondary school system as conducted by the independent authorities. I would ask him in fairness to compare the results of any public examination ever conducted in any State of Australia. I challenge him to prove that the results of pupils from independent schools are not as good as, if not better than, those of children attending State high schools. Does one need any greater proof than that?
Now let me talk about Senator Wheeldon’s amendment. The point that Senator Wheeldon and those who support him overlook when they see a discrepancy or disparity in the amounts paid for science blocks to independent schools compared with State schools, is that the State provides the land for State schools but the independent body has to buy its land. The State authority builds the schools but the independent authority has to build its schools without aid from the State or Federal Government. The State pays the salaries of teachers in State schools but the authorities conducting the independent schools have to provide the salaries for their teachers. Is it any wonder that there is a discrepancy in the amount allowed for science blocks between the independent schools and the State schools? That is clear and obvious to any fair minded person but one can understand such an amendment coming from a mind which is as gutter-like and warped with prejudice as Senator Wheeldon’s is.
Senator Wilkinson said that this matter is not a Commonwealth responsibility. That is no great discovery. He is no Christopher Columbus in that respect. But in recent years the Commonwealth has seen the necessity to give aid to the State governments to provide for the additional costs of educating the children in those States. After all. the Commonwealth is the collector of taxation from the people. When I say that the State schools have been built by the taxpayers, that is just what I mean. The parents of. children attending independent schools are not exempt from paying taxation, some of which . is spent on the provision of education facilities for all children, irrespective of religion or whether they went to an independent school. Let us remember when we talk about taxpayers that the parents of children attending independent schools are contributing to the education of children going to State schools, in addition to paying for the education of their own children. In all justice let us examine these things carefully, without prejudice. We will find that, for all the contributions that independent schools have made to education in Australia since the turn of the century and even before, they are entitled to some consideration and a great deal more than they have received from any government up to now.
No-one could estimate in dollars and cents the value of the work of teachers in independent schools, many of whom have devoted their lives to the education of the youth of Australia without payment at all. Yet we find someone who would have been classified by my parents as an educated fool getting up in this chamber today and arguing that the Commonwealth’s contribution to science blocks for the State schools should be equal to that for the independent schools. He overlooks the fact that the State schools are already receiving all those things that I enu merated. Their land is given to them, their school buildings are built for them, and their teaching staff is paid out of the State revenue contributed by the taxpayers - all, without exemption - including the parents pf children attending independent schools.
– I had not intended to enter this debate until I heard charges of sectarianism and that the nature of the amendment moved by the Opposition was a lie. I feel that, in support of the Opposition’s intentions, I must rise and address myself to one or two aspects of the Bill. May I say at the outset that there was no intention whatsoever on the part of the Opposition to raise this issue “orv a sectarian note. I challenge anybody in the Senate today to point out in Senator Wheeldon’s speech any passage in which he charged anybody with sectarianism.
– Do you know a man named Crawford? >
– I am talking of senators here today. Who raised the issue of sectarianism? lt was Senator Little himself. He was the ohe who raised the sectarianism issue, and that is the way he wants to live. I could criticise a lot of such suggestions today but it would do no good. What is the situation before us today? The Bill was not provided to us so that we could discuss its intentions at our caucus meeting. We just had some figures presented to us which did not clarify a great deal. The Opposition believes that the Bill will inflict an injustice on state school children. Would it matter and would it alter the course of events of the world if I told honourable senators about some of the conditions in state schools in Queensland today? I could quite easily tell of instances where children are taught their lessons under the school and are exposed to draughts, wind and rain. That would not do any good.
The test of the amendment is whether the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) who represents the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Fairbairn) in this chamber can dispute the figures that have been presented by Senator Wheeldon. That is the only basis for the amendment. Obviously, anybody who looks for words in the amendment that may be omitted or words
States Grants (Science which are there and should not be there is trying to make trouble. For the information of the people of Australia let me repeat that our amendment seeks to have the Bill withdrawn and redrafted with a view to increasing the grant for schools conducted by a State to the same amount per pupil as the grant for schools not conducted by a State. The title of this Bill is the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Bill 1971. What, therefore, is the intention of the amendment? lt is to withdraw the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Bill and redraft it to make provision to meet what we believe to be the situation which exists.- Surely no-one would criticise - an Opposition which believes that a -section of the community, is being treated unfairly. Surely no-one would criticise an Opposition for raising some aspect that may have escaped the attention of the Government. Surely it is our responsibility to do that very thing, and that precisely is what we have done. - 1 reject any suggestion that the matter was raised on a sectarian issue, lt was not raised on a sectarian issue. I know of some private schools which will not be able to use the money. I know of a school - I mention now that it is a Church of England school in case I am charged with being sectarian - which recently wanted $750,000 to provide a new building. Do you know how long it took the school to raise that money? It took exactly 2 months because a donor from the Bahamas gave $500,000 towards the construction of that new building.
– Congratulations to him.
– 1 agree - congratulations to him. I think he was a very fine fellow to do it. Let no-one try to tell me that that school would want a grant from the Commonwealth to the same extent as would some other schools, whether they be private schools or state schools. These are the inequalities that are creeping into our school system. I refer to another public school. Again, in case I am charged with being sectarian I mention that it is the Brisbane Grammar School. The headmaster went on television and said that he could not use the money which would be granted to his school under this Bill. He did not know what he would do with it. As I have said, there are inequalities. If we
Laboratories) Bill 2085 believe that children in state schools are being prejudiced as a result of this Bill it is our responsibility, and indeed our duty, to raise the matter in this -House for investigation by the Minister and by the Government. Unfortunately a lot of side issues have arisen. The fact is that if Senator Wheeldon’s figures are accurate, the Government has a case to answer. I leave it at that.
– in reply - In replying to this debate I remind the Senate that the subject matter of the Bill is the grant of some $43m over the next/ 4 years to provide science’ laboratories in both state and independent schools. Therefore, it is a Bill concerning one feature of education. The outstanding matter of regret with regard to the debate is that Senator Wheeldon, who was chosen to lead for the Australian Labor Party Opposition, displayed such a deficiency of education both from the point of view of integrity of argument and a reasoned rational approach to the subject, that I believe the presentation of any argument that could be made upon the Opposition’s amendment has been damaged greatly. The indulgence in personal abuse between himself and other honourable senators, which would seem to imply for himself an arrogant claim to an education of a methodical kind different from, and he would imply superior to, the education of some of the rest of us is, of course, the most rancid piece of uneducated arrogance.
I have the honour to have been a i state school scholar throughout the whole of the time that I had school instruction. I have, children who have had the advantage of independent school instruction throughout their period. I propose, therefore, to adopt an approach to this issue of a completely impartial and objective character and to pay tribute to both sections of the school system. Independent schools, by paying largely their own capital and recurrent costs, have established their independence and have earned the respect that is accorded them in all properly educated circles. On the other hand, the state schools, the state high schools and those other educational institutions that are maintained by the States, have made very great claims to prestige in the advancement of education. We recognise that in both 19 May 1971 sections of the field there are still many things that have to be done before we will get a satisf actory situation.
When a speaker who leads for the Opposition Party allows himself to indulge in such irrationality and irascibility, it is obvious that he is motivated by something other than reason. Very recent history reminds us that in this instance it is a bitter resentment on the part of Senator Wheeldon that his own Party adopted, for politically expedient purposes only in recent years, the avowed support of independent schools. There is such hatred, resentment and jealousy of the independent schools on the part of a fairly substantial minority of the Australian Labor Party that it comes out in vigorous terms in a debate such as this. I stated in my second reading speech that we are dealing here with a special field of education. In this special field of education the (Commonwealth, over the past 7 years, has devoted $80m for the assistance and expansion of science laboratories. In the next 4 years we will devote $43m for this purpose. To date, of the $80m of Commonwealth moneys in this special field of education, $51m have been paid to the state schools and $29m to the independent schools.
– What has the Government given to the primary schools?
– When a reasoned argument proceeds to demolish all the overburden that has gone before we hear a croaking interjection from Senator Hendrickson in relation to a matter that is completely irrelevant to the Bill. The Bill deals with assistance to science laboratories. It is another day’s argument to consider the needs of the primary schools as such. The point I am making is that to date over 7 years some $80m have been devoted to science laboratories, $51m going to state schools and $29m to independent schools. A look at the Government’s performance will reveal that for this year the Commonwealth’s appropriation in the total field of education is $3 12m. That amount should be noted in conjunction with our expenditure 10 years ago at the beginning of 1961 when it was $54m. That indicates the degree to which efforts are being made to improve the amount of assistance given out of Commonwealth revenue for education.
If we take away the amount of expenditure on Commonwealth scholarships from the total expenditure of $3 12m it will be seen that we devote $190m to other fields of education. That includes the territorial colleges, the Australian National University and schools in the Territories. It also includes payments to the States for all forms of special assistance. Our actual assistance for specialised education other than scholarships amounts to $ 190.7m. From that figure $24.3m goes to independent schools in 3 forms. One is a per capita payment in respect of students. The second is for assistance to establish laboratories and the third is for libraries in secondary schools. They are the only 3 forms by which the Commonwealth devotes money directly to independent schools. For this year independent schools are entitled to an appropriation of approximately $24m out of a total of $190.7m, which means, comparing this figure with the amount of money for specialised and territorial fields, that $156m will go to government institutions.
It is therefore very regrettable that the Australian Labor Party has ignored the performance of the Government and has come along and put forward an amendment in the last stages of the Commonwealth science laboratories programme because as I stated in my second reading speech the money to be made available over this 4-year period will overtake the arrears of the schools in respect of their science laboratories and the purpose of the whole programme will be achieved. The Labor Party, not recognising the justice of all these things, sees some disparity in the division of the $43m over this 4-year period. Of this amount $26m will go to the State schools and $17m will go to independent schools. The Labor Party has put forward this miserable distorting amendment which says that the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted to increase the grant for schools conducted by a State to the same amount as the grant per pupil in schools not conducted by a State.
The division of money for science laboratories between State schools and independent schools was a matter of agreement between State governments when it was originally initiated. It has been developed according to the needs for science laboratories in the various education sections. Senator Milliner said that there are schools in the independent field which cannot usethis money. The honourable senator is throwing a reproach against purposeful and experienced educationalists who advise State governments in regard to independent schools and whose recommendations are accepted by the State governments as to the needs of the schools for science laboratories. The independent schools themselves, the Catholic schools on the one hand the non-Catholic schools on the other, each have their own commitments and they make responsible recommendations as to the needs of their schools. The Department of Education and Science, whose advice and assistance we have, is particularly scrupulous to ensure that expenditure of this nature is not made where it is not warranted.
This brings me to a reference to the remarks of Senator Lawrie in regard to a reduction in the amount for a typical metropolitan science laboratory. There has been no direction for a reduction in total expenditure on any laboratory. A decision has been taken to adopt an expenditure of $2,200 per square. On that basis nobody will dispute that a laboratory can be properly equipped and established. This does depend on the size of the laboratory appropriate for the school and with the guidance of experienced educationalists the amount of expenditure is quantified. There has been no direction to reduce expenditure on laboratories by $3,000. Nobody is running away from the fact that in the expenditure of this money a proper degree of responsibility is insisted upon because there are so many needs in the educational field that not $1 should be expended if it can be saved.
Having said that, I do not think it is necessary to refer to Senator Wilkinson’s contribution because to say that the Commonwealth has not any sense of responsibility in the field of education is to ignore an enormous programme of social advancement and Commonwealth expenditure over the past 15 years whereby with the various means available to us under our Constitution we have built up a programme of assistance from $54m 10 years ago to $3 12m for this year. Senator Wilkinson fails to recognise that we have given this assistance for science laboratories and libraries, to pre-school teachers’ colleges, teacher training colleges, technical training facilities and colleges of advanced education. They are the fields in which we offer assistance. Having said that, I hope that this debate will conclude in a better spirit of reasoning than it commenced.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Wheeldon’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator Bull)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I would like to refer to the Minister’s answer to me concerning the allowance of $2,200 a square for building the laboratories. This bears out the point I was trying to make that in the metropolitan area where building costs are of a certain standard we will get quite a good laboratory but if we apply this $2,200 a square in the areas outside the metropolitan areas we will get a smaller laboratory or an inferior laboratory. That is my objection to the standard cost per square. There should be some allowance made for a higher cost of construction outside the metropolitan area.
– I shall take note of the honourable senator’s statement.
– I am referring to the Bill as a whole and in particular. to the -Schedule. Will the - Minister explain how it comes about that in Western Australia the allocation to State schools is $1,870,035 and the amount made available to non State schools is almost as., much, namely $1,773,105, while in Queensland more money’ is being made available to non State schools than to State schools, $3,323,020 being made available to private schools and’ only $3,072,780 ici ‘ State schools? Will the Minister explain, how this arises?
– Minister for Works) (3.51) - The honourable senator has referred to the Schedule which contains the division of moneys over the next 4 years which are the final 4 years of the programme. The allocation to government schools has been made on the same basis as in the past triennium and the amounts allocated to non government schools are according to the needs assessed by the various committees as being required to complete the programmes in those schools.
– Can I ask for further clarification from the Minister? Is the Minister in fact saying that the sums allocated to the State schools are based on what was given in the last triennium whereas the amount made available to private schools is based on their needs? Does it follow from this that needs are taken into account in assessing the allocation to be made to private schools but are not taken into account in assessing the amounts made available to State schools?
– No. I do not know why that question should occur to the honourable senator. There is no reason-
– That is not-
– I would like a little patience from the honourable senator. I listen to him when he speaks and although I speak very slowly I ask for his patience to hear what I do say.
– It is not the speed that worries me.
– I do not think it is the Bill that is worrying Senator Wheeldon; I think he has other worries. If the honourable senator will look at the second reading speech he will see there that the proportion of the total of $43.295m allocated to government schools will be the same proportion of the total as has applied during the. triennium just ending. This $26.088m will be . divided between the States in proportion to their secondary school enrolments which have been the basis of interstate division throughout the whole programme. As at present the States will determine how this money will be distributed among - individual government schools. That leaves us with the amount in the programme set out for the nongovernment schools and we divide that as between Roman Catholic and non-Roman Catholic schools. Then the amount is broken up according to need and that takes into account not only what remains to be done in science laboratories but what has already been achieved in the programme.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 11 May (vide page 1635), on motion by Senator Drake-Brockman
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill virtually validates the action of the Commonwealth Government last December in making available $4.2m to the State of Victoria for the purpose of a loan to the Shepparton Preserving Company Ltd. The Opposition raises no objection to the Bill being carried in the Senate but wishes to make some comments in relation to the general situation of the fruit canning industry. This legislation was rushed into the House of Representatives on the last day of its sittings and no opportunity was afforded the caucus of the Australian Labor Party to examine the Bill and its contents prior to its submission to the House of Representatives and its passage on the same day. Consequently the Opposition had no alternative but to move an amendment in the House of Representatives. It was moved by the Labor Party’s shadow Minister .for Primary Industry, Dr Patterson, and it read:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: further progress of this Bill be deferred until a financial analysis of the 5 canneries in the Goulburn Valley, Upper Murray and Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area has been completed and a report presented to the Parliament.
This amendment was moved because of the inadequacy of information in the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). The Opposition decided, because of the paucity of information, to seek more detail concerning the reason for the introduction of the Bill at such a late hour of the sittings after a decision had been made as early as December of last year to make the grant available. At that time the Opposition believed, and we still believe, that it was not a coincidence that the grant was made to the Shepparton Preserving Company almost simultaneously with the announcement of the retirement of the then Minister for Trade and Industry, Sir John McEwen, and of a pending by-election for the electorate of Murray. As all honourable senators know, Shepparton is the centre of that electorate and is the area with the highest population in that electorate. Members of the Opposition suspected that there was some relationship between this direct grant to the Shepparton Preserving Company and the pending by-election. From an examination of the Minister’s second reading speech members of the Opposition believed, until explanations were given at a later stage of the debate, that the decision to make a grant available had been made without any adequate and proper examination of the affairs of the Company. It is only rarely that the Government decides to make a loan to a private company. Such decisions have been made previously, but not often. In his second reading speech the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) said:
Honourable senators will be aware from public reports of the extent of the difficulties that the Company has encountered over the last 2 years, extending to the Company’s inability to finance in full payments to growers for fruit delivered in the 1970 season.
The history of this situation goes back to the 1970 season, which includes the spring and early autumn periods of the year before the grant was made. Yet the Minister later indicated that the Bill would have retrospective application to 1st December last when a crisis situation had developed in the affairs of the Company. We are now, 2 years later, validating something that happened 1 2 months ago as a result of a crisis situation that arose 12 months earlier than that. Members of the Opposition believe that this action was taken for political reasons as well as for the purpose of assisting the growers.
The Opposition admits that the growers need assistance, but we seriously doubt that they would have got it if there had not been a by-election pending within the Murray electorate. The Minister’s second reading speech was extremely short. What concerns me most is the last sentence of that speech. It reads:.
I note from recent public statements by the Company authorities that despite the losses of the last 2 years the directors anticipate an early return to profitable trading.
Did the Government base its decision to lend $4.2m to this Company on the grounds that public statements had been made by the Company that it would soon again become a profitable organisation? If that is the sole basis for lending large amounts of money I can envisage the day when some stockbrokers will make public statements that they soon will be making fabulous profits but at. the moment they are in difficulties because they have been short selling. Will the Government then come to their rescue with loans of this nature? I am not in any. way deprecating this grant to growers because it is obvious to anybody who is familiar with the situation at Shepparton that not only will this loan be needed to assist the area but also that far more will have to be done if the industry is to be saved. The simple fact Is that this grant will alleviate the situation in relation to fruit that was delivered to the factory in the 1970 season.
Honourable senators know from replies to questions that have been asked in this House, from information that they have received through the mail and from their own personal observations that hundreds and hundreds of tons of wonderful, high quality fruit has been allowed to rot on the ground in the Shepparton area this season because of the incapacity of the canneries not only to can the fruit but also to find overseas markets. A far graver problem exists in this area than that of the actual saving of this Company. Many growers, although they have quotas governing the fruit which can be sent to the Shepparton Preserving Company and other canneries in the district and in other States, have a far greater production capacity than the capacity of the canneries to can or sell the fruit.
In the very near future - according to Press reports, in 1973 - Britain will join the European Economic Community and the advantages that Australia has gained in the marketing of its fruits in Britain and in other parts of Europe will be lost. Australia will be facing a far greater crisis when this occurs than the industry is facing now. South African producers already enjoy a big advantage over Australia in marketing their fruits in Great Britain and Europe. They will have additional advantages because many of the protections that Australia now enjoys obviously will disappear. The Government cannot get out of its obligations simply by making a loan of $4.2m available to one canning company within Australia.
In the Schedule to the Bill - I will not speak at great length on it - provision is made for interest on the grant at the rate of 7 per cent per annum. The Company will repay the loan through the State of Victoria. As we have said on many occasions not only in relation to housing loans but also in relation to other aspects of assistance to primary industries - this is a direct form of assistance to primary industry - this is a usurious rate of interest. It is a crippling rate of interest. It will not give this company a great opportunity to recover as quickly as it might, particularly if it faces the problems which I have outlined and which may occur in the years to come.
The first payment made by this company will be at the end of 1973. I assume this means that for 2 years the company will be paying interest at the rate of 7 per cent on §4. 2m. I have not seen any suggestion that there will be a rest from interest payments over that period. The company will then be in the position to make 8 halfyearly payments until the debt is resolved. To me it seems that this interest rate will not help the growers in this area. It is not something which will let the company get on its feet quickly. From information we have gathered I believe that the reason for the debt which the company has accumulated over the past 2 years is not entirely associated with natural events. There is some evidence that despite the good management which this company enjoyed over a number of years, some bad decisions have been made and there has been bad management in recent years in relation to the expansion of the company. About $300,000 was lost in a project in Western Australia which was never really examined properly. No feasibility study was carried out. This money has gone down the drain. It was spent in this area which it is not intended now or in the foreseeable future to develop.
Earlier I spoke of the amendment which was submitted by the honourable member for Dawson in another place and the reason why it was not pursued to the full. It is true that a vote was taken on that amendment but no division was called for. The Bill was carried unamended on the voices. The reason for this situation was that in the other place the Australian Labor Party sought to gain additional information in relation to the amount of $4.2m which was included in the Bill. It was not until the Minister was replying to the motion for the second reading that any indication was given that other people would be assisted also. A situation has evolved where many other canning companies, not only in non-citrus areas but also in other areas, are in a similar position to that which exists with the Shepparton Preserving Co. Ltd.
– Other States too.
– This applies not only in Victoria but also in Western Australia and South Australia. I understand also that the apple canning industry in Tasmania is facing similar difficulties in relation to its operations. It was not until the Minister replied - I hope this will be of some comfort to people in Victoria and the other States - that we as a Party decided to withdraw from pressing the amendment. There was no intention on behalf of the Labor Party to delay this legislation except for the reason I have given in my previous remarks. The Minister said:
There are, as the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) have mentioned, a number of other canneries that are in very similar circumstances. Indeed the honourable member for Dawson also referred to this fact. I understand that similar agreements are to be concluded with the other State governments concerned. This, of course, is an agreement with the Government of the State of Victoria with respect to Jon’s cannery. In respect of the Riverland cannery, an agreement will need to be concluded with the Government of the State of South Australia and I understand a sum of the order of $1.29m will be payable to that Government. Similarly, with respect to fruit growers in Leeton, there will need to be an agreement entered into with the State Government of New South Wales. An amount to be determined will be made available to the New South Wales Government for the Letona cannery for payment to growers.
At the conclusion of the Minister’s speech the question was put. The original question was resolved in the affirmative and, I repeat, that happened without any division. At the third reading stage of the’ Bill Dr Patterson said:
In view of the explanation given by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) that not only has the Shepparton Preserving Company Ltd been involved in this matter but that in fact other companies in South Australia and New South Wales also have been involved, and some advances already have been made, the Opposition is satisfied. Our principal objection to this Bill, was that it looked as though preferential treatment had been given to one company as opposed to other companies.
The reason why I have gone into detail on this occasion is that the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) in subsequent radio broadcasts deliberately attempted to mislead the people within his electorate by claiming that the Labor Party attempted to block this legislation in the House of Representatives and that it was not prepared to assist the growers in that area.
I think it is now clearly on the record that it was never the intention of the Opposition to block this legislation when a proper explanation of the Bill was given. That did not occur during the Minister’s second reading speech. I am not one who advocates long second reading speeches from Ministers but I think a second reading speech should give adequate descriptions of what is intended, what the purpose of a Bill is and, what is far more important, the basic reason why it is necessary. That did not occur on this occasion. There was no indication that other assistance would be forthcoming for other areas. It left us with no alternative at that stage but to submit such an amendment.
The situation arose in which the report of the debate appeared in 2 Hansard numbers. The second part of the report of the debate was unavailable to me, as the person who took the adjournment of the debate in this place, - for ‘ almost a week after the debate was held in the other place. This debate was held on Thursday, 7th May, and the daily Hansard was not available to honourable senators till the following Wednesday. I. understand that this was because of the late sitting of the House of Representatives and the fact that the latter part of the proceedings on the last day of the sitting was tape recorded and not taken in shorthand,, as is the normal custom. But even allowing for that, I believe that the long delay in producing the Hansard, not only in relation to this matter but in relation to other matters that we have discussed in this House, is something that the Senate should not see go unattended. An explanation having been offered by the Minister in the other place and accepted by Dr Patterson, we could well have found a situation in which I would have been moving an unnecessary amendment if this legislation’ had come on, as it may have, before the Hansard report was available. It must be remembered that all members of the House of Representatives had left this area. I even made an application for a copy of the greens’ of the relevant speech to see whether I could ascertain what had finally happened in relation tq this matter. They also were unavailable to me. I wish to put the record straight in this regard and to indicate that the Opposition is prepared to give this Bill a speedy passage.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the Victoria Grant (Shepparton Preserving Company Limited) Bill. We regret the necessity for it. We appreciate the difficulty, as explained by Senator Poyser, which the Australian Labor Party had over this matter. We indicate our sympathy with him in circumstances which were aggravated by parliamentary procedures in another place of which we have already indicated our disapproval. However, as a Party we did not face the same difficulties as the Australian Labor Party in assessing the merits and the value of this Bill. Honourable senators will recall that I asked a series of questions in relation to the problems of the pear growing industry and in particular this cannery. Senator Webster also brought the matter to the attention of this House very early in the session.
Senator McManus and I were favoured in being brought very much up to date with the problem which affected all the pear growers ki the Goulburn Valley and Murray Valley areas and particularly the specific problems of the Shepparton cannery. We had the problems made known to us by the growers last February when we undertook an intensified study of the area which involved visiting all the canneries and the grower organisations over a period of some weeks and acquainting ourselves with the information that was necessary to show that this industry was in a very bad way indeed. We regret that the Australian Labor Party did not also take unto itself the opportunities which were there to gain a knowledge of the problem which was catastrophic for this very important industry in Victoria.
Actually it was as a result of advice that we were ultimately able to give the Shepparton Preserving Company after approaching the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), that the company’s application came through the State in the manner in which it did. It was made clear to us after representations to the Minister that the Commonwealth could assist this cannery only if the request came through the State. We were able to advise the cannery to make sure it went to the State and put its request in that way to the Commonwealth. While we all play politics in this place on occasions T do not think that the by-election for the seat of Murray had anything to do with the Government’s decision.
– Purely coincidental.
– Yes, purely coincidental. Though the honourable senator may laugh about it, I think that he of all people would like to be fair in his politics. The fact is that the great majority of Government members supported the candidate who was most likely to defeat the candidate who won. For that reason I cannot see the virtue in the Government itself being affected by making the grants available at that time. The contest was being fought out virtually between 2 sections of the Government parties. Probably as in most elections in Victoria the key which would unlock the door for whoever came into the Commonwealth Parliament was where the Democratic Labor Party gave its preferences. It could not be suggested that the Government was bringing down a Bill to assist the Democratic Labor Party. I think the charge of political expediency is not very soundly based in political fact. On this occasion action was taken because of the sheer necessity to save this industry from the catastrophe that was facing it. This was brought about by several factors and 1 do not want these to be forgotten in the carrying of this Bill which will allow the State of Victoria to assist the Shepparton Preserving Company. Let us make it very clear: The Commonwealth is not doing very much, and I will explain that later.
This measure does not alleviate the problems of the pear growers in Victoria or anywhere else in the Commonwealth. The real problem is that the marketing of canned pears has become very difficult throughout world markets and the European market is rejecting pears unless peaches can be supplied at the same time. Peaches are in somewhat shorter supply and are uneconomic to produce in this country. Peach trees live only a short time in comparison with pear trees and orchards have to be replanted. Peach trees are much more susceptible to disease and wet weather conditions than are pear trees. Some years ago there was a crisis in the peach industry and many growers grubbed out peach trees and put in pear trees. As pear trees go on producing for 100 years we have reached now the situation where no matter what anybody does there will be a surplus of pears which will rot on the ground this year and next year irrespective of whether there is a change of government. Pears may still be rotting on the ground when the Democratic Labor Party has the numbers in this and another place to form a government.
– That will never happen.
– Do not be too sure of that. The Opposition’s crystal ball is very faulty because it gazed into it 10 years ago and told us we would wither on the vine, but the vine is stronger today than it ever was and is bringing forward much better fruit than has ever been brought forward politically in the history of this country. But do not let us be diverted onto personal matters. What is a discussion of the animosity that naturally exists in politics between the Democratic Labor Party and the Australian Labor Party compared with this great problem facing the primary producers of this country? Whatever happens to save the Shepparton Preserving Co. will not wipe out the problems of this industry and the Government will have to face facts and decide whether or not it would be better even at this point of time to compensate some of the growers for the loss of opportunity than to have this recurring problem for the next 10 or IS years. To get some of the producers out of the way, and to compensate them for grubbing out thentrees may ultimately from a Commonwealth or State Government point of view be a cheaper way to solve the problem than continuing to subsidise the industry.
In talking to the new people responsible for the management of the Shepparton Preserving Company, I offered the advice that it would be perhaps catrastrophic to receive money merely for the purpose of canning still more of the surplus crop this year when they are in the trouble they are in because they adopted as a co-operative this attitude towards the growers: They have the pears and we have to put them into cans. They have already got them stacked everywhere and to go on canning a surplus, which the market could not absorb at this point of time, hoping that growers would have such a catastrophic season next year that there would not be any pears to can - in other words, praying for a tragedy to save the day - would be most unbusinesslike and not the way to rescue the situation. It would be far better to spend a lesser amount of money, not expending the capital involved in processing pears, and to allow pears to rot, much as this seems to go against the grain of those of us who know that there are people throughout the world who could well do with this food. We seem to lack the machinery to convey it outside the generally economic practices which prevail at the moment. Whatever Senator O’Byrne may say the pears will not wait. The pears in the final analysis are the judges on this problem because by the time we have solved this world market problem of being able to distribute surpluses’ of food that exist from one country to another, I am afraid the pears would not be very palatable anyway and that would only be a diversion away from the general problem.
But to return to the Bill, I do not think the Commonwealth can claim any great credit for saving this industry. When all is said and done, what does the Commonwealth do? It insists that Victoria accept the responsibility. Victoria has really borrowed the money from the Commonwealth for this specific purpose and guarantees that the loan will be repaid. This means that the Commonwealth runs no risk whatever. It cannot lose its $4.2m because if Victoria does not pay the Commonwealth deducts the amount plus the interest that is owing to the Commonwealth at that time, from the general allocation of the taxpayers’ money to Victoria for the purpose of running the State. So all that the Commonwealth has done is to act as intermediary between the taxpayers generally and the taxpayers in Victoria and to say that it will permit this industry to be saved. Here we have a Bill which enables $4.2m to be made available by Victoria, which guarantees the loan, to the Shepparton Preserving Company which accepts the loan at 7 per cent per annum interest. I presume that is the interest rate that Victoria pays to the Commonwealth. Victoria absorbs all the risk.
I have always understood from my reading of economics that the justification for interest on capital has its origin firstly in that the owner of the capital - if one can classify the Commonwealth as the owner of the capital, the taxpayers’ money which is provided by the forms of taxation - loses the advantage of the use of that capital for the specified period of the loan and, therefore, should receive some return for the loss of use of his capital. That is one factor which goes towards justifying charging interest on money loaned. A second and very important reason is the risk of loss of that capital. In days gone by and even today, this risk has some influence and bearing on the rate of interest charged on a loan. If it is gilt-edged and absolutely guaranteed the rate is usually much lower than it would be where the loan could be said to be risky. Of course, if it is a second mortgage loan or a loan to a young person to enable him to buy a motor car - a motor car is considered to be rapidly depreciating collateral - then the interest rate rises accordingly. The loan to the State of Victoria is an absolutely gilt-edged loan because the Commonwealth has the capacity to dover the loan by way of taxation, even if Victoria went broke. Yet the rate of interest is still 7 per cent - a socalled special low rate.
As I explained when I dealt with another measure in this chamber recently, the rate of 7 per cent is 2 per cent higher than the general rate which existed for 150 years. The general rate of interest was never more than 5 per cent and on giltedged security loans the rate varied between 3 per cent and 3i per cent. Now we have talked ourselves into the frame of mind where we refer to 7 per cent as being a low rate of interest. The Commonwealth could not under any circumstances claim that risk of loss, which is one of the factors controlling the fixing of the interest rate, applies in this case. If anybody is entitled to claim a higher rate of interest to compensate for the risk of loss involved in this loan to the Shepparton Preserving Company it is the State of Victoria. Anyone who knows and understands the full details of the problems confronting the Company at the present time - and we hope that- it will be able to overcome these problems - realises that the risk of loss is very high. But the State of Victoria is not in a position to get anything for the risk it runs. Again we are confronted with this problem of one of the States, which honourable senators represent in the Commonwealth Parliament, being unfairly dealt with in the distribution of finances which belong to the Australian people.
However, I draw attention to that matter as a side issue. The schedule to the Bill completely preserves the Commonwealth’s rights and interests, yet the Commonwealth in effect adopts a holier than thou attitude and says: ‘Look that we have done to help the Shepparton Preserving Company.’ All that the Commonwealth has done is to make available to the company a loan of S4m which is to be repaid over a period of 8 years at an interest rate of 7 per cent. In the money lending markets of England a century or two ago a person would have been burnt at the stake for daring to try to charge such insidious rates of interest to people who were most likely to be able to pay. But under this Bill the State of Victoria is guaranteeing the loan. I only hope that some day I will be able to get into this financial racket in which the Commonwealth is involved and have the State of Victoria guaranteeing any humble sums of capital which I may be able to lend at an interest rate of 7 per cent.
In all its statements on economic matters in this Parliament the Commonwealth admits that it has the responsibility to control the economy of this nation, and I support that view, lt is able to fix rates of interest through the Reserve Bank of Australia. The Shepparton Preserving Company will stave off its immediate difficulties and it will be able to pay its growers as a result of this loan being made available to it. But I join with Senator Poyser who said he wondered whether the imposition of this rate of interest of 7 per cent will not ultimately prove to be the straw that breaks the company’s back. Perhaps from another angle the Commonwealth will regret that interest rates were allowed to rise to this high level. If the general rate of interest is allowed to rise to 7 per cent, it becomes impossible to start lending money at lesser rates of interest unless the money is lent for a specific purpose, such as the provision of war service homes. Really I suppose that the necessity to make this loan available to the Shepparton Preserving Company in order to rescue this industry in its present circumstances is almost as great as the reasons which drive us to make available at rates of interest which are lower than those applying generally in the community money for the purpose of building homes for the men who served this country in the hours when our freedoms were being challenged.
We will support the Bill because it is necessary to make this loan available to the Shepparton Preserving Company. We understand the problems which face the Company because we have acquainted ourselves with them. I say to the Senate and to this Parliament that this is not the last occasion on which we will hear of difficulties facing fruit growers. Their problems will recur and grow but we will be quite happy to act as their voice in the Federal Parliament.
– 1 address myself to this Bill with a fair amount of misgiving. It amazes me to think that the members of the Government apparently were the only people in Australia interested in this industry who did not know of the difficulties which were facing this canning factory in Victoria. Quite frankly, I have heard this matter discussed in our lobbies by Senator Poyser, by other honourable senators from Victoria and also by members of the House of Representatives who represent Victorian electorates. They were all well aware of the difficulties which were confronting this Company. It surprises me that the Government did not have some prior knowledge of these difficulties because, as I say, they were obvious to members of the Australian Labor Party who had visited the area quite frequently.
I turn to the Bill itself. One matter greatly disturbs me. The difficulties which confronted this Company were known to both the Victorian and Commonwealth governments, yet this Parliament sat in November and no indication whatsoever was given to it that it was proposed to extend financial relief to this Company by way of a loan to the Victorian State Government. Perhaps I am being a little harsh when I say that in my opinion Cabinet should have at least indicated to Parliament that it proposed to do something for the Company, but this was not done. We have the situation where in between sittings of this Parliament– that is, between November last year and February this year, an agreement was at least entered into if not signed, that money would be paid to the Victorian Government as from 31st December 1970.
Where did this put the Parliament? One would have thought that the Government would have introduced this legislation very early in this session and would have made some explanation as to why this agreement was reached in between the sittings of this Parliament. But the Government did not do that. The legislation was not introduced until the dying stages of this session. It did not matter one iota whether the legislation was amended by this Parliament because the financial agreement had already been reached. To my way of thinking it is not right for the Executive to by-pass the Parliament in this way. I regard it as a fairly serious matter.
I shall take the argument one step further and the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) will be aware of the veracity of the statement that I am about to make. At the final caucus meeting of the Australian Labor Party in this session we were unable to study the provisions of the Bill. We were told that there was to be a Bill to assist a packaging company in Victoria. We were not aware of the contents of the Bill. I think that it is most unfair of the Government not to provide the Opposition with the. actual terms of proposed legislation so that the Opposition can examine it in detail. I believe it is wrong for the Executive to handle the affairs of this country in that way. It may be said that the Government was not aware of the difficulties, confronting the Company. But the Minister, in his second reading speech, said:
Honourable senators will be aware from public reports of the extent of the difficulties that the company has encountered over the last 2 years, extending to the company’s inability to finance in full payments to growers for fruit delivered in the 1970 season.
In effect the Minister said that the Government knew of these problems. But the Government did not take Parliament into its confidence or give Parliament an opportunity to consider any legislation programme that it had in mind to introduce to assist in overcoming this problem. I believe that it is wrong for Cabinet to act in this way between sessions of Parliament and it is wrong for the Government, having acted in an emergency, not to bring the legislation before Parliament as quickly as possible instead of leaving it to the dying stages of the session. It would not matter what amendment was moved now. It would have no effect because the money has been paid.
The Government entering the lending field is almost a new development. I do not know that there have been many occasions on which the Government has lent money to a company. To my mind the amount is a fairly substantial sum - $4.2m. If the . Government intends to indulge in this type of activity, I believe that it should come clean and tell us what it intends to do. I can visualise this measure being taken as establishing a precedent. I am not worried about good precedents; but if a private company in some remote area of Australia experiences difficulties does it have to explain how those difficulties came about, whether it was because of bad administration in the enterprise or whether it was because of circumstances? In this instance we are not told even that. The Minister’s second reading speech gives no indication as to why the Company experienced difficulty. We assume that it was because of a glut in production. It may -have been, as I have been told unofficially, that the- Company tried to extend its operations too quickly and therefore overcapitalised. I do not know, but the Government certainly has not taken us into its confidence. If the Government intends to Hang 3 balls outside Parliament House, I think we must have a very serious look at the situation.
I join with other honourable senators in saying that I am astounded at the rate of interest which the Government is charging on the loan to the Victorian Government, which will pay that money to the Company. A rate of 7 per cent is substantial. If anybody is in financial difficulties, I do not know why we do not go to his assistance. The money that the Commonwealth handles is the people’s money. I do not think the people would want to impose interest rates of 7 per cent on somebody who has fallen on unfortunate times.
– The Government is a Shylock government.
– That is probably quite an appropriate remark. I think the honourable senator might endorse my view that, if the Government intends to indulge in this kind of activity, it might as well hang 3 balls outside Parliament House.
I deal now with priorities. What are the priorities in this field? The Bill says that we are lending to the Victorian Government $4.2m which in turn will be lent to the Company at an interest rate of 7 per cent. Where do we stop? Previously, in Parliament I have referred to central Queensland as a disaster area. One probably could not think of anything more defeatist than the frame of mind of the people in that area. They have been asking for financial support for quite a considerable time. In a debate the other night it came out that the Government is considering lending or granting $ 10m to the people there. Surely, if that is in the mind of the Government, the Parliament should be taken into the confidence of the Government. We have heard nothing official from the Government. In a speech’ the other night a member of the Country Party injected this thought into the debate. It was followed this morning by a question by another Queensland Country Party senator. I have no quarrel with their raising the matter. That is their responsibility. I have asked several questions about this drought stricken area. I was never told that the Government was giving consideration to lending or granting $10m to help the people there. - 1 am not quarrelling because the Government held out on me. I am quarrelling because it has not taken Parliament into its confidence.
Over a week ago certain events happened in the other place. AH honourable senators know what happened. I do not want to refer to what happened. Surely the sitting of the other place could have been extended so that the Government could have made people aware of its propositions to assist people in this area. One of the Country Party members in that place - honourable senators know whom I mean - at a Country Party conference referred to Great Britain, Sweden and other nations as mongrel nations because they would not become involved in the war in Vietnam.
– Who was that?
– That was Mr Katter. He is the Country Party member who represents Kennedy. He said this up Rockhampton way. In Parliament he said that what he said was only a jest. It was a pretty poor form of jest for him to call our allies, people whom we respect, mongrel nations. The Government has not given him the opportunity to ventilate in Parliament some of the things that he should have been ventilating. Because the Government was anxious to push through its legislative programme, by using the guillotine and curtailing debate, he and everybody else had no opportunity to ventilate their thoughts. I believe that it is entirely wrong for Parliament to be ignored in that way. I know that the hon- ourable member will send telegrams from country areas to the Prime Minister complaining of the lack of enterprise in the Government in trying to assist in this way. But he should have been saying this in Parliament where he can represent his constituents more effectively and appropriately.
People in western Queensland refer to the area as a disaster area. The Queensland Premier went there. Me said ‘This is a disaster area. I cannot do anything for you by way of finance, but on your behalf 1 will make representations to the Federal Government’. This morning I asked when he made . those representations. Nobody knew. The Minister could not tell me when the representations were made. I raise these . issues in order to determine the priorities. People these who have done so much for Austrafia - ki a lot of instances they are pioneers m the rural industry - are now pleading with the Government to do something for them in return. Nothing has been done. Yet a company in Victoria has received a loan of $4.2m and we do not know why it wanted the money or why it ran into financial difficulties. I question where the priorities in these matters are. Knowing that there are so many difficulties in western Queensland I question whether $10 would be of substantial assistance.
In Longreach since 1967 the following businesses have closed: 2 grocery businesses; 2 electrical businesses, which include contracting sales and services: one refrigeration and air conditioning company; 3 building contractors; 4 mixed stores; one cafe; one men’s hairdresser; one florist; one solicitor’s practice; one accounting firm; one petrol service station; one sewing machine centre; one office supplier; one optometrist; one laundry; one dry cleaning firm; one stock and station agency branch; one valuer; one fruit and vegetable business; one long-established motor business; another, dealing in 4-wheel drive vehicles, has been placed in the hands of managing agents; and one established private air charter service. I repeat: Where are the priorities? The town of Longreach is dying on its feet. People are leaving the area. They are being forced to leave and go to the city because there is no work in the area for them.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has been saying that decentralisation is the goal and must be the continual goal of the country; yet he himself put up a proposition to Cabinet recently that §40m should be injected into rural industry, and the Liberal members of the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) threw the proposition out. That has been reported quite widely in country newspapers and in the ‘Australian’. I repeat that I view the legislation quite seriously,- because it is a precedent that could lead to many difficulties for the Government. I object strenuously to the agreement having been effected without Parliament being given a proper opportunity to look at the proposed legislation. I object to the 7 per cent interest that is being charged. In fact, I believe it is something that Parliament should find intolerable, and in my opinion the Government has been entirely wrong in handling the matter as it has.
– I will be very brief. I commend the Government for having acted in the way it did in the time of crisis that confronted the Shepparton Preserving Co. Ltd. The canning industry is so much an integral part of the fruit growing industry that when we see difficulties being experienced by the canners we have a radiation out of adverse conditions. When we look at the canning industry we do not wonder why at times it suffers from acute liquidity problems. In the first place there is very heavy initial capital outlay on buildings and equipment and then there is the need to incorporate into the factory processing line the most modern, efficient and time and labour saving machinery available. These things cost money.
A processor has to pay for his cans, labels and cartons at the time of processing, and at that time the growers require at least part payment to meet their expenses. So the processors have huge stocks of processed fruits on hand. A lot of money has gone out to reach that stage and a liquidity problem exists. I commend the Government very warmly for its action in this matter. This precedent having been created, I feel that similar cannery organisations in other States will benefit in the same way. I know from experience at home in South Australia that there is need there for similar assistance in this vitally important industry in a like manner to that which has been received by the Shepparton Preserving Co. I am gratified to see a breakthrough in this direction. I support the Bill.
– in reply - I thank the Senate for the passage of the Bill. Although no senator has opposed it we have roamed over a large area and I think most subjects have been canvassed except the subject of the Bill. Senator Poyser, who led for the Opposition, said that he thought this Bill was an election gimmick. It is rather irresponsible of the senator to say such a thing, because this Bill results from an application that was made by the State of Victoria to the Commonwealth Government early in December for financial assistance for the Shepparton Preserving Co. Ltd. Let us look at the reason why Victoria made this application. Firstly, the company had announced a trading loss for 1969 of $1.5m. At the same time it had outstanding from early in March 1970 the payments to the growers, which at that time it estimated to be in the vicinity of $7. 2m. It had also a carryover of 1,800,000 cartons of canned fruits.
The company could not see its way clear to carry on. It estimated, although it did not know at that time, that it would have a substantial loss for the 1970 season. It is in this environment that it went to the Victorian Government and asked for assistance. Often a State comes to the Commonwealth and says: ‘We cannot help in the request that has been made for assistance. We want you to help.’ The Commonwealth has always examined very closely cases put forward by the State governments. If they are substantiated by facts and figures the Commonwealth endeavours to assist where it can. This is exactly what happened in this case. The Victorian Government came to the Commonwealth early in December, and at the end of December the Commonwealth said: “We will advance you $4m
Senator Milliner, and I think Senator Poyser also, asked why the Commonwealth had this legislation at hand but did not introduce it into the House of Representatives until just before that place adjourned.
Although the Commonwealth made an advance to Victoria of $4m the State Government and the Commonwealth Government continued to examine this situation until about the middle of April. A firm decision was then made that the Commonwealth would lend $4.2m to Victoria. This is the reason for the protracted time between the initial request for assistance and the final announcement that an advance was to be made.
It has been asked: ‘What are the future operations of the Government in regard to the industry?’ It has. been announced that the Government has set up a Canned Deciduous Fruit Industry Advisory Committee.. This arose put of the February meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. This Committee will have its first meeting next week when it will set about finding ways and means of making a thorough investigation into the industry and reporting back to the Agricultural Council in due course, when this Government as well as the State governments will get an insight into the position in the industry. No doubt they will take some of the recommendations that the Committee may make and examine them thoroughly when they receive the Committee’s report.
Victoria has made a further application to the Commonwealth for- assistance for the 1971 crop. This has been made on a Premier to Prime Minister basis, and what was contained in the Premier’s representations I do not know, so I cannot comment on them. But the fact is that the Prime Minister at present is examining a case put forward by Victoria in relation to the present season. This financial assistance was required because Shepparton Preserving Co. Ltd in past seasons, as I think Senator Poyser said, had endeavoured to take a crop of pears of large proportions irrespective of the quality of the pears. .Another reason for the company’s financial loss was that the company, as admitted in its annual report, was not getting a satisfactory level of return per ton of fruit that it was canning. It has now replaced some of the members of its management committee and it believes that in the next 2 or 3 years it will be able to reach a situation where it can be profitable once again. In an endeavour to do this the company has had to control the intake of fruit this year. When he was addressing the Senate Senator Little made the point that there should be some organisation in relation to the intake of fruit and perhaps there could be some policy brought about whereby that huge carry over of canned fruit at the present time could be reduced.
Another point I noticed in the annual report of the company was that it is having difficulty in selling the fruit overseas. Large quantities of fruit are being stored in Canada, which is a costly business. In order to get over this problem the company will have to engage in a very strictly controlled programme of promotion to try to reduce the stock that it has in that country. It also has to carry out a very vigorous campaign to improve its sales in other parts of the world. It believes that it can do this. With the assistance of the money being made available by the Commonwealth Government to the State Government, which will be loaned to the company, it believes that it can pay off its debts and pay for the delayed and final payments to the growers for the 1970 season and get back onto a much firmer basis. I think I have covered the points which were raised. I thank the Senate for its co-operation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 1 1 May (vide page 1645), on motion by Senator Greenwood:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This workers’ compensation legislation comprises 4 Bills. What might be called the parent Bill - the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill - gives effect to many of the major changes suggested since the early 1960s. Part 8 of this Bill amends the existing Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act 1930-70 in respect of monetary amounts. Part 8 will apply from the date of Royal Assent and will be repealed when the new Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act is promulgated, which I presume will be when all the regulations and all the necessary administrative changes have been made.
It appears to us that the position for quite a time will be that those concerned under the existing Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act will receive increases only in respect of monetary amounts and will not receive the benefits of the other improvements in the Act.
The subsidiary Bills to this Bill are the United States Naval Communications Station (Civilian Employees) Bill, the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Liability) Bill, the Anglo-Australian Telescope Agreement Bill and the Seamen’s Compensation Bill which will be debated following consideration of this Bill. The same sort of principles will apply in respect of the Seamen’s Compensation Bill as apply to this Bill. The monetary amounts will be increased. The Government has promised to introduce as soon as possible a new code for seamen. The same observation applies in respect of that legislation, that until such time as the new code comes in, which could take many months, seamen will not receive the benefit of the improvements which have been advocated for many years by the Opposition and by the trade union movement.
The extensions under this legislation will now cover a large number of people. At the present time the Commonwealth Public Service has approximately 230,000 employees, and it is estimated that with the extensions which will cover the employees of statutory authorities and committees to be set up by the Government, it will cover about 300,000 employees. Honourable senators can see that the Bill is of vast importance. The fact that over the years increases have not been made consistent with increases in the State Act has meant that many officers in the Commonwealth Public Service have lost a considerable amount of money. Because it is a national code, in our opinion, it should be the best code. We have argued over the years when legislation has come before the Parliament that the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act should be a model Act. It should be a national code. It should be of the highest standard to which the State governments should aspire. In the past, of course, in lots of respects the Commonwealth legislation has not been as valuable to its employers as has the legislation of the various States to their employees.
– And not as just
– And it is not as just. When this new code is introduced we will have a situation in which the same position applies in some respects and the same comparison can be made. I know that there are bits and pieces in respect of these standards, but the fact is that the Commonwealth Government has not taken the best principles from Commonwealth and State legislation and put them into a model Bill.
I want to say something about the general discontent which has taken place during the. time that the Government has taken to bring in the model Bill. The first argument that we put forward is this: Now is the time for the Government to agree to the request of the unions for ah annual review of compensation principles and of the amounts paid. We cannot allow to continue the situation which has developed over the years and which I will now speak about. As far back as 1964 the then Prime Minister, Mr Holt, promised to bring in a model Bill. Later in the session Mr Cameron, the honourable member for Hindmarsh in another place, introduced a comprehensive code in the form of the code which has since been modified by the Australian Labor Party. At that time the Prime Minister told Mr Cameron that if he withdrew his amendment the promised model Bill would be introduced during a later part of the session. It is now more than 10 years since the then Prime Minister gave this undertaking to bring in the model Bill. When a model Bill was introduced in March of last year, we saw that it had been very hastily conceived and as a result of the criticisms of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations the legislation was withdrawn.
In June 1968 the then Treasurer promised to introduce the type of legislation which is now being brought in. He mentioned, as we have mentioned, the failure of the administration and the separation that was necessary. Some of the things he promised in June 1968 were these: The travelling provisions would be extended; there would be a cover for the Commonwealth statutory authorities; and voluntary workers would be covered. I might mention here that voluntary workers such as fire fighters have been covered by legislation in New South Wales since 1954. The then Treasurer went on to say that there would be improved provisions for appeal, the common law action provisions would be liberalised, the provisions concerning left and right limbs would be eliminated and the things which have now been introduced would be included. These include the lump sums for facial disfigurement, compensation for loss “of the power of speech, and assessment of compensation for loss of sight. The administration would be modified - this was the important thing and it has now been brought about - and there would be some separation or independence.
What has happened, over the years, as I have mentioned, ,is that Commonwealth legislation has . remained behind the provisions of State legislation in almost all respects. We have made submissions over the years that the State, provisions should be applied in the Commonwealth Act. We have referred to the lot of servicemen, which has not been satisfactory. The situation is that members of the Services do not have a representative body. Looking at the position of Commonwealth public servants generally we see that the situation is good in that unions represent them in making submissions to the Commissioner and may take those submissions further to the courts. Consequently, every aggrieved worker - every employee who thinks that he has not been given,. a fair deal - may be represented by some body.
The situation in the Services is different. In rare circumstances is a special officer available to advise a soldier who has been injured on the job not only in Australia but, on occasions, outside Australia. Senators receive many complaints where servicemen have not available to them the type of advice that they need because no special officers are available in the Services to give this advice. I know of numerous cases where this sort of advice is not provided. It should be provided.
So, some attention has been paid to servicemen in certain provisions of the new code - I speak of cl ause 8 which has the heading ‘Employment to include attendances at certain places’ - in mat an attempt has been made to cover servicemen for the time that they spend In camp, because they are expected to be in camp. But nothing has been done to provide them with the. very necessary advice which they should be given as to their rights upon discharge or in respect of their employment needs. A case clearly exists for a provision of this kind in the Act.
As everybody well knows, one of the cardinal principles in the Australian Labor Party’s programme is that of ‘no loss of pay’. This principle applies in many circumstances. Already in New South Wales employees in the Government transport services have this principle applied to them. When they are on compensation, Government railway servants generally are paid their full ordinary wages. The same principle is applied to workers employed by the’ New South Wales Electricity Commission, the Sydney City Council, the Sydney County Council and the various locally constituted electricity authorities. In the current building dispute in New South Wales, members of the building unions are in contest with their employers- in respect of not only pay but also’ compensation. One of the matters which has been partly resolved is the question of full pay when a worker is off work and receiving compensation. The area in dispute largely relates to wages. A report in yesterday’s Press on this issue said:
About 200 small building companies have signed private agreements with the unions in respect of workmen’s compensation payments.
On the employers’ side, the report stated:
The employers believe that the State Government should legislate to increase workers compensation payments. They agree there is an urgent need for a review of the present rates.
While it may be true that some State legislatures are slow to introduce amendments in this field, I remind the Senate that States in which Labor governments held office during the post war years were the States that really started the welfare trend. In New South Wales, Tasmania and more recently in my own State of South Australia there has been a great and new appreciation of the needs for workmen’s compensation. The provision of this compensation has been placed on entirely new and higher levels. It is surprising to me that the Commonwealth Government has not adopted the standards which were set by the South Australian Government because, in fact, the law in regard to compensation payments there was enacted in March of this year. The introduction . of this legislation has occurred after the intro duction by the Government of South Australia of its new workmen’s compensation Act. In respect of weekly payments, for example, I cannot see why the Commonwealth Government has not been able to import the South Australian standards instantly into the new code. As is well known the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Commonwealth Council of Public Service Unions already have sent a written submission to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch). The Minister has promised to send that submission to the interdepartmental committee. This will be one of the matters raised in its consideration of the subject. - - Recently in South Australia’s maximum compensation payment of $65 a week was adopted. In the case of a dependent spouse the payment is $13 a week. In the legislation under consideration by the Senate now, the amount payable for this category is $8.50 a week. A great disparity exists between the 2 amounts. In South Australia the amount in respect of a child is $5 a week. The rate for a single man is $43 a week. Yet- the Commonwealth compensation payment for a man, wife and child is only $43.50 a week. The situation then is that under the Commonwealth Act the family unit - a man, wife and child - receives only 50c more than the rate prescribed in South Australia for a single man.
I am not suggesting that the new levels prescribed in South Australia are adequate. This has always been apparent. The situation in South Australia can be met only when the Government adopts what is now the International Labour Organisation’s standard, that is, that a man should suffer no loss of earnings. The latest figure available shows that the average weekly earnings in Australia are in excess of $84. The present rate for a fitter is $59 a week. A fitter is a typical metal trades worker who would receive a great deal more than that amount. In addition to his $59 a week he would receive incentive pay, attendance allowance, sometimes a production bonus and, in a number of cases, the combined salaries and additional rates paid to workers in industry reach between $90 and $100 a week. Bus drivers in the public transportation systems in some States are earning $90 a week. The average family plans its spending and purchasing pattern in relation to daily and weekly commitments on the basis of that earning capacity. When that earning capacity is reduced to the level of $43 a week, or in the case of South Australia to a maximum of $65 a week - that is the highest compensation figure payable in any of the States - the situation is not satisfactory.
The point that I wish to make is this: The Government has introduced this legislation late in May and I see no reason why it should not have adopted the rates of pay that I have mentioned apply in South Australia. I suppose honourable senators could say that it may have been a good thing that the passage of similar legislation brought forward in March 1970 was delayed. The Opposition is not happy even now about the general background of the Commonwealth’s treatment of workmen’s compensation. We trust the same treatment will not apply in respect of the Seamen’s Compensation Act. In introducing the Seamen’s Compensation Bill, the Minister for Health (Senator Greenwood) said:
A similar code of compensation to that contained in the legislation for Commonwealth employees has always been applied under the Seamen’s Compensation Act. In some respects the provisions have to be applied to suit sea-going conditions and shipowners necessarily have to be consulted. Action along these lines is now proceeding and a Bill to further amend the Seamen’s Compensation Act to introduce a new code similar to that for Commonwealth employees will be introduced as soon as practicable.
It seems to me that the Government ought to accept the proposition that, once this code is promulgated, the benefits of that code should be extended to the people covered by the existing Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and the Seamen’s Compensation Act. The Labor Party, as is well known now, has given consideration to the question of compensation. Mr Clyde Cameron in the other place introduced on behalf of the Labor Party what was known as the Labor Party model Bill. Since we began to analyse the code that is now before the Parliament we have noticed that large sections of the Labor Party Bill have been incorporated; at least it is very obvious that there has been a specialised study by the Commonwealth of the Bill which Labor proposes.
I would like to make the point that the Australian Labor Party has generally played a very constructive role in the field of compensation over the years since 1963. Members of the Labor Party have always accepted the proposition that even though the code has not been overhauled in a major way the rates ought to be changed. We have said in the Parliament that we think it is important to get a new code. This new code has only now arrived. I want to commend Mr Clyde Cameron who introduced the model Bill. I also want to mention that many members of the Parliament including members of the Labor Party’s Industrial Relations Committee, made a contribution in respect of the preparation of the model Bill, much of which I must submit resembles the provisions of the Government’s Bill. They also discussed this matter with organisations such as the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations. These people spent a lot of time and used their own legal advisers in setting out a prescription which they thought would produce a Bill which the Commonwealth ought to adopt and which ought to be administered at a national level.
I want to mention in particular the senators who were members of that committee. They were Senator Cavanagh, Senator Milliner, Senator Poyser, Senator Lacey and Senator Donald Cameron. I also want to make special mention of Senator James McClelland who, because of his legal training and experience in the field of workers’ compensation, spent a lot of time not only discussing this legislation but also discussing the Labor Party’s Bill to which I have referred. Important changes have been made in the Bill before us. There is no doubt ‘that these changes are improvements. But it is very obvious - and I do not think that anyone can dispute this - that a continuing study has to be made of workers’ compensation legislation. The Labor Party believes that no interdepartmental committee can do a job which the Parliament itself should do. We want to see the Parliament set up its own committee. The Labor Party will propose the establishment of such a committee later on. It may be that the Government will not be prepared to accept the proposition that a parliamentary committee should be established to examine this question. However, when the Parliament meets for the
Budget session the Labor Party intends to press for the establishment of this committee.
There is no doubt that certain basic improvements in the Bill now before us are good. The separation of the administration from the Treasury is one of the things that we have been concerned about over the years. Improvements in the provisions relating to disfigurement and impairment of sense of smell and taste, as well as arrangements for journeys, are improvements which we have to accept. Also we have to accept that the Government has recognised the need to make provisions in the law for vocational training and for rehabilitation. This trend follows a new concept in workers’ compensation legislation throughout Australia. Many people and authorities are thinking along the lines that there has to be a real tie up between industry, injured workers and the services of special social workers and rehabilitation services. They realise that the main objective is to return a worker to employment as quickly as possible. Of course, this is also related to the responsibility of the employer to provide suitable employment.
Under the present legislation, while suitable employment might be found by the employer, there is no responsibility on the Commonwealth Government - which it ought to accept - to find a job for a man who is incapacitated but is still available for suitable employment. I speak not only of the numbers of employees who work in the Department of Works and the Department of Supply, as well as the many other clerical, manual and skilled workers in the service of the Commonwealth, but also of ex-servicemen. I have struck a lot of cases in which no advice has been given to servicemen when they are discharged from the Services. They receive no written notification. They do not receive any sort of special advice such as: ‘Look, unless you go and find a job you will lose your compensation’, or ‘We will find a job for you’. Therefore, whatever has been done in respect of the present legislation is not the sort of improvement which we would expect to have.
I think, broadly speaking, that while we appreciate what has been done we say that the sort of scheme which is proposed by the Commonwealth at present is one which will in fact still involve a fairly unwieldy sort of administration. In saying that I am guided by the fact that the Government has not adopted what has been provided for in the Labor Party model Bill. The Government has provided for a tribunal, but that tribunal in fact is made up of only one man. The Labor Party’s code provides for a tribunal made up of a chairman appointed by the Governor-General, and 2 representatives of employees. They would be nominated by either the Australian Council of Trade Unions or the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations. This, of course, would be an entirely different sort of tribunal from that proposed by the Government.
I am inclined to think that while the Government’s Bill has made certain improvements in the code the same sort of problems will arise in respect of determinations. Many senators in this place know the frustrations experienced by a claimant or a worker who has been injured and who makes his application to a commissioner. The evidence is assessed not on the general sympathetic and humane treatment of the case but largely on the basis of what doctors think. I accept that the constitution of the new medical board as set out in the new code corrects some of these matters. The worker will now have the opportunity, or his union will have the opportunity, of obtaining from the board the facts relating to his case. He will have some knowledge of what takes place in the medical boards. The employee’s organisation can nominate one of the medical experts and this will help to correct the situation.
But the whole scheme needs speeding up. While the Labor Party’s model Bill provides for an administration which, because of its complexity, is largely a Commonwealth administration we are thinking these days more along the lines of the minimum litigation schemes which apply in New South Wales and which now apply in South Australia. Such an arrangement would cut somehow, by means of some sort of expertise, the delays which occur in settling workers’ compensation cases. One of the outstanding improvements in South Australia is that what has been made in respect of weekly payments. One of the continual complaints in many of the States, and certainly in the Commonwealth, concerns the delay in the granting of weekly payments where there is some dispute in connection with an injury. It may be that accident forms have not been filled out. It may be that there has been a delay in giving evidence, in making the claim or in the evidence of a witness. In such a case a man could go for months without receiving his weekly pay. In South Australia a new section of that State’s workers’ compensation legislation provides that a worker has to receive his weekly pay within a fortnight. The option is then open to the employer. If the employer contests the application to pay workers’ compensation he can go before the new court which has been set up by the South Australian Act He can put forward evidence as to why the compensation should not be paid.
I think I might mention some comparisons between the Labor Party’s model Bill, the South Australian Bill and “the Govern. ment’s Bill. One example concerns the compensation rates set down for the loss or total loss of the sight of an eye which is set out in the specified or scheduled injuries. The Bill before us provides an amount of $5,400 for such an injury. The amount set out in the schedule of the South Australian legislation is $6,000. Under the model Bill which will be introduced by the Australian Labor Party when we are in government the compensation will be $12,116. For the loss of an arm below the elbow, under the Government’s Bill the compensation is $9,450 and under the South Australian Act it is $9,600, but in the Labor Party’s model Bill it is $19,386. For the. loss of a hand or the thumb and forefingers of a hand, the Government’s Bill provides for compensation of $9,450, under the South Australian Act the amount provided is $9,600, and in the Labor Party’s model Bill the provision is $19,386. For the loss of a thumb, under the Government’s Bill the provision is $4,050, the South Australian Act provides for $4,200, and the provision under the Australian Labor Party’s model Bill is $8,486.
For the loss of a forefinger the Government’s Bill provides for $4,700, the South Australian Act provides for $3,000 and the Labor Party’s model Bill provides for $6,058. For the loss of the ring finger the Government Bill provides for compensation of $8,190, the level of compensation under the South Australian Act is $2,400 and the Labor Party’s model Bill provides for $3,635. For the loss of the distal phalanx or joint of a thumb the Goverment’s Bill provides for $2,160, the South Australian Act provides for $2,040, which is a bit lower, and the Labor Party would provide $4,190. The South Australian Act specifies a large number of injuries of the type that I have mentioned. I do not intend to mention all items listed in the schedule, but honourable senators will see if they examine the schedule that the existing South Australian legislation provides for much higher compensation than will be payable under this Bill. I can see no reason why the amounts of compensation under this Bill should not have been related to the levels payable under the South Australian Act, or perhaps at a level between the present level in New South Wales and that applying under the existing Commonwealth Act.
We have complained regularly about lump sum payments. For some years South Australia, New South Wales and some of the other States have provided that lump sum payments should be made available in addition to weekly payments to injured workers. Although there has been some improvement in the Commonwealth provision, there has not been an acceptance of the principle that specific lump sum payments shall be payable in addition to weekly payments. Also, whilst the 1968 Agreement provided some compensation for facial disfigurement, there is still no provision for bodily disfigurement, which is just as important as some of the other matters that I have mentioned. We appreciate that a number of written submissions have been made to the Minister on this subject and that in the other place Labor Party speakers raised a number of matters which the Minister undertook to submit to the interdepartmental committee. In this connection I should like it to be known that we can see a number of faults in the proposal for an interdepartmental committee. It is our view that the proposition being advanced by the Labor Party is far better than what is proposed by the Government.
I am aware that during the discussions by the Government in reference to this Bill special attention was given to the amendment proposed by the unions and that for the first time the Government set up a
Cabinet sub-committee to deal with the matter. It was obvious that something needed to be done in view of the long history of delays to which reference has been made in the past. But one of the faults of ah interdepartmental committee is that it will be similar to an employers’ committee or a management’s committee. Obviously the interdepartmental committee will consist of people from various departments, such as the Department of Works or the Department of Supply, and representation on that committee would probably not be by a deputy director but rather by an industrial officer or personnel officer. The committee will be composed of all the officers who in the past have specialised in carrying out the directions of the Commonwealth Government. This is equivalent to a committee set up by management. No provision is made for an expression of the views of employees, the 300,000 workers in the Public Service who should be given some recognition. The committee will not have the advantage of specialised knowledge.
However expert an officer might be in handling workers compensation claims for his department he would not be as expert as a trade union official who has to consider some accident case every day and takes steps to institute claims on somebody’s behalf, often where the circumstances of a case are not clear. The trade union official knows the history of a case and deals with the lawyer who advises him. Generally speaking he has an expert knowledge. So any committee which does not have trade union representation is doomed to failure. Whilst we appreciate that consideration has been given to submitting to the interdepartmental committee some of the matters that I have mentioned, I strongly urge the Minister to give consideration to the establishment of a parliamentary committee to consider this subject. Although it might be true that in establishing its workers compensation code the Government and its advisers have looked at case histories and at the law as it now stands, in recent years an entirely new concept of workers compensation has come into being. There has been an acceptance of the principle that workers compensation should provide a more humane standard, that it should be speedy in its application and that there should not be a maximum of litigation.
A little later in the debate Senator James McClelland will speak of his experience of workers compensation in New South Wales. I am sure that he will say that in relation even to strictly legal matters it has been the custom in the courts to take note of this new concept of workers compensation and to look at the law as providing the sort of compensation which should be provided in a welfare society. The environment of workers compensation has changed considerably since the old days, and so it should have been changed. Perhaps it would save time if I were to continue now to mention some other matters about which we are concerned, but before doing so I should like to refer to the position in relation to industrial accidents. It has been well. known for years the recording of industrial accidents in. Aus. tralia has been most unsatisfactory. Unless there is a uniform system of . recording industrial accidents and unless -we advocate in association with safety campaigns in factories the need for first aid and instant medical attention we will not see a drop in the number of industrial accidents, the figures for which at present’ are quite astronomical.
For years the Commonwealth Government has known that there has not been a satisfactory and uniform method Of recording accident statistics. Whenever we have asked questions about this matter we have been told that deficiencies of this nature have been due to changes in the compensation law in the various States. Whilst there have been suggestions of uniform statistics in various places, no real initiative has been taken by the Commonwealth Government, as should have been the case. If a senator asks in the Parliamentary Library for figures which will show a’ comparison between the States, he will be given figures indicating a comparison, but at the top of the document will be the observation, which I now read from the document that I have:
The statistics shown below for industrial accidents are those supplied by State authorities and workers compensation legislation differs in the several States. Therefore there is lack of uniformity and coverage from State to State. This seriously impairs the comparability’ of these statistics and it is not reasonable, to draw conclusions regarding the incidence of industrial accidents amongst the States.
I should like to refer to a pamphlet prepared by an advisory committee of the
Department of Labour and National Service. This body has made its own calculations about some of the accidents and their cost to the country. These figures are worth hearing. The document to which I shall refer deals with the situation back to June 1970. Although these figures need to be revised, the document ‘Personnel Practice Bulletin’ states that the total working time lost annually from disabilities was estimated to be 630,000 man-weeks in the case of persons who were disabled for 1 week or more. For a disability for 1 day to 1 week, the figure is 70,000 man weeks. For all disabilities it is 700,000 man weeks. The statement goes on to say that because of certain unavoidable assumptions and extrapolations the figures should be considered only as giving a general picture. They relate only to employment accidents. It is pointed out that differences in compensation law have made it necessary to exclude compensable diseases and also injuries occurring between home and the place of work. It states as a general comment that it should be remembered that the estimates present a more blurred and generalised picture than State statistics do, and one less applicable to local conditions. It is a fairly comprehensive document and I do not want to take up too much time of the Senate by reading it all. It highlights the need for statistics and the need for safety and is therefore pertinent to the debate. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate the document in Hansard.
Contributed by the Departments of Labour
Advisory Committee (The Departments of Labour Advisory Committee comprises the Permanent Heads of the Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service and the Departments of Labour of the six States)
All States publish statistics of industrial accidents, but because of differences in State compensation and statistical systems, no figures are yet available for the whole of Australia. Research directed towards the production of national statistics is proceeding. Meanwhile, the Departments of Labour have co-operated in producing estimates.
The study of history is indispensable to an understanding of the present and to intelligent planning for the future. The records of past experience of accidents at work, particularly quantitative data in the form of statistics, are thus a powerful aid in framing occupational safety policies and planning preventive measures.
One of the conclusions adopted by the First National Conference on Industrial Safety in 1958 was that -More comprehensive and reliable statistics about industrial accidents are urgently needed, and the Commonwealth and State Departments should press forward the efforts they are already making to this end’.
At that time the only comprehensive occupational accident statistics published in Australia were those issued by the New South Wales Workers’ Compensation Commission. Other States were working on the problem, however, and new minimum standards for State accidents statistics were proposed and discussed at the Statistician’s Conference in November 1958.
As a result of subsequent negotiations between the Departments of Labour, compensation authorities and insurance companies, the collection of accident statistics based on workers’ compensation claims was initiated in States not already compiling them. By the year 1961-62 figures were available for all States.
There is little doubt that compensation figures provide the best basis for occupational accident statistics. The only possible alternatives would be ‘compulsory’ reporting by employers, a method which experience has proved ineffective in producing anything approaching complete figures, and large-scale sampling, which would present problems of economic feasibility.
However, statistics based on workers’ compensation figures inevitably reflect differences in the coverage and provisions of State compensation legislation. There are also differences in the methods of collection and the statistical bases used. Perhaps the most outstanding example concerns the basic unit for reporting; some States report all cases involving a minimum period of incapacity of one day while others use a three-day or oneweek minimum. While such differences detract little from the value to each State of its own statistics they make it impossible to collate the State figures directly into national totals.
Difficulties in compiling national occupational accident statistics are not confined to Australia. In the United States, for example, the National Safety Council figures and those published by the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics are not based on complete counts but on samples from a number of sources. The U.S. Public Health Service’s estimate of occupational injuries throughout the nation is derived from its National Health Survey and is based on a sample of 40,000 households interviewed each year out of a total of 60,000,000. In Great Britain, where statistics are compiled from cases reported compulsorily under the Factories Act, a survey made in 1962 showed that only about 60 per cent of cases were being reported. Probably the most complete statistics come from countries such as New Zealand where the basis on which compensation cases are reported and processed is uniform throughout the country.
Accident prevention in Australia, through both governments and voluntary bodies, is organised on a State basis. State accidents statistics, reflecting as they do industrial conditions and experience within each State, are thus the basic and essential source of information,
Besides giving a general picture of the level within each State of fatalities, injuries and compensation costs the statistics provide invaluable data on where the principal hazards lie. All States give an analysis of cases designed to show the underlying agencies, other than human failing, which contribute most materially to the accident, e.g. machinery, falls, manual handling, electricity etc. Cases are also analysed by type and location of injury, industry groups, age-groups, day of the week, period of disability, and in other ways.
For organisations responsible for accident prevention on a large scale, such as State Government Departments, these statistics are essential. For industrial undertakings, well-designed internal accident records provide details of more direct value, though even at this level the State statistics can give valuable indications of general trends which the internal records may not show because of the limited numbers of cases available for study.
Some progress has been made towards the extraction by the Commonwealth Statistician from State statistics of figures which are on a uniform basis for all States. However there is no immediate prospect of authoritative national totals being produced in this way. In the absence of such figures it was considered by the Departments of Labour that it should be possible, on the basis of the existing statistics, to make a reasonably accurate estimate of the national situation, and they co-operaed in a study with this as the aim.
Valuable assistance was given by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics not only through technical advice but in permitting access to trial tabulations which the Bureau had prepared in the course of an exploratory study.
The resulting estimates, based on State statistics for 1967-68 and including figures for Commonwealth Government employees, are set out below.
The numbers of fatalities reported in State statistics are apt to fluctuate widely because of the fortuitous circumstances which can affect the results of any serious accident and because of the time frequently taken to finalise these claims. The average is of the order of 400 annually.
It is considered that there is as yet insufficient information to enable satisfactory estimates to be made of permanent total or permanent partial disabilities.
Injuries causing temporary disability of one week and over were estimated to be about 160,000 annually.
Only an approximate estimate can be made of the total number of cases on a one-day minimum basis. This is because, where States do not report cases under one-week’s duration, an extrapolation is necessary based on experience in those States where both one-day and one-week bases are used. From this it would appear that cases of one or more days, but less than one week, number approximately 140,000 for the whole of Australia, making a total for all cases on a oneday minimum basis of approximately 300,000. Working Time Lost Through Injuries
Total time lost annually from disabilities is estimated to be:
Disability for one week and over - 630,000 man-weeks.
Disability for one day to one week - 70,000 man-weeks.
All disabilities - 700,000 man-weeks.
Because of certain unavoidable assumptions and extrapolations these figures should be considered only as giving a general picture of the situation. They relate to employment accidents only; differences in compensation law have made it necessary to exclude compensable diseases and also injuries occurring between home and place of work. However, in this connection it should be noted that traffic or other vehicle accidents occurring in the course of actual employment are included.
Among the matters studied were the methods used in various statistical systems to conveythe loss of working time caused by fatalities. It was found, however, that any of the methods used could lead to misunderstanding and misinterpretation, even when accompanied by detailed explanations. It was thought, therefore, . that a simple statement of the number of lives lost would best convey the situation.
The total loss caused to the national economy by occupational accidents has been the subject of a number of statements in recent years which have quoted widely varying and often extremely high figures, and it was therefore hoped to make a statement on this matter. However, it was concluded that no firm basis yet existed on which any authoritative statement could be made as to total accident costs.
It was decided that the only cost figure that could be quoted safely on a national basis was the total amount of claims under workers’ compensation and employers’ liabilities. In 1967-68, these claims amounted to $100,381,000. . .
It is recognised, however, that this figure is very far from the total cost, and that the impact of occupational accidents on the national economy is a field in which further research is necessary.
All State accident statistics provide an analysis of cases by accident factor or agency. Differences in the classifications used make, it possible to provide only an approximate analysis on a national basis. However, it was considered that some indication of the general national pattern of accident sources might be of value.
As regards disability cases, the pattern is approximately as follows:
Regarding accident factors in fatal cases it was known that the pattern would be different from that for disabilities. Because of the small numbers involved for a single year.it was decided to study all fatalities reported in State statistics over the preceding five years. The general pattern which emerged is:
It needs to be remembered that the foregoing estimates present a more blurred and generalised picture than do State statistics, and one less applicable to local conditions. The State figures, in turn, give a more generalised picture than the internal records of an individual enterprise, which must remain the primary guide for accident prevention within that undertaking. Even here, however, State statistics can show general trends and danger points in a way which none but the largest company systems can do.
The Departments of Labour point out that some caution must be exercised in using the figures quoted in this paper. For instance, because of the extrapolations necessary in compiling the national estimates, similar figures produced for other years could not be expectedto give a reliable indication of annual changes in totals and therefore to indicate trends.
Research is continuing. In particular, the Commonwealth Statistician is engaged in an extensive feasibility study to see if a sufficient degree of uniformity and comparability can be established to allow a more accurate assessment of the national situation.
In referring to those figures I point out that estimates have been made about the national cost of industrial accidents. Some estimates have been prepared by the National Safety Council which has put the cost to the nation through industrial accidents causing loss of working time at between $500m and $750m. If it were possible to cut out loss of time through accidents the conditions we have advocated over the years could be. provided. I asked the Parliamentary Library for statistics on industrial accidents in civilian employment. Although they may not be conclusive, because of the lack of a firm base to which I. have referred, they are interesting and with the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate them in Hansard.
1 point out to honourable senators that the above figures, if reliable, illustrate that the situation in South Australia is quite good at present. In South Australia during the last 5 years industrial accidents have increased by less than 5 per cent, although in the same period the work force there increased by 16.5 per cent. The number of accidents at work which resulted in loss of time from work of a week or more fell from 11,800 in the year ended 30th June 1965 to 9,800 in the year ended 30th June 1970. That represents a fall of 17.5 per cent in a period of 5 years during which the work force increased by 16.5 per cent. If uniform statistics were available we would be able to compare the relative positions in the States and the Commonwealth, and also to consider the safety practices being applied in occupations in South Australia which have led to the establishment of a good safety record there.
I have already mentioned that representations have been made to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) suggesting the adoption of the South Australian weekly compensation rates, and the other rates to which I have referred. I understand that these matters have been considered by the Minister. In respect of the Commonwealth code I wish to comment about absence from employment on leave and on public holidays. The Commonwealth code contains only one provision for workers compensation payments to be reduced when a public holiday occurs. In New South Wales and South Australia there are provisions for continuity of payment where a worker is receiving compensation under the Commonwealth Act. In some departments he will lose his continuity in annual leave entitlement. For example, if an employee of the Commonwealth Railways is off work for more than 3 months on Commonwealth compensation he loses his entitlement to annual leave for that period. In New South Wales and South Australia a worker who is receiving Commonwealth compensation does not lose his entitlement to annual leave or public holidays in that period.
The South Australian legislation includes 2 prescriptions to which I wish to refer.
One covers the entitlement of people working under State awards, and the other applies to Federal awards containing the provision that annual leave is to be calculated on the service of an employee. The South Australian provision is obviously an advantage and ought to be supported. I have referred to the need to pay weekly compensation within a fortnight. I turn now to the question of suitable employment. Section 67 of the South Australian Act provides for a continuance of weekly payments if employment is not reasonably available. We have put to the Commonwealth Government on behalf ‘of the Australian Council of Trade Unions the submission that it has the responsibility to find suitable employment for workers who are partially incapacitated. Honourable senators will appreciate that the Commonwealth Government has available the facilities of its employment service and it ought to accept the duty of finding employment. This is especially true in respect of people who have been discharged ‘ from the Army.
I have in my files at present details of the case of a Mr Higson. He. has. given me permission to use his name. He joined the Regular Army on 10th February 1970. A month later during bayonet practice he received an injury to his left patella. Some weeks later when undergoing squad drill he experienced a similar disability. He was discharged from the Army on 7th May 1970 after receiving medical treatment and after being interviewed by officers. He was never advised that he would have to get suitable employment outside the Army or that he should go back to his old job. He was not offered a job in the Commonwealth Public Service. He visited a medical specialist in South Australia who was commissioned by the Army. The specialist said that he was not able to do manual work in the Army and that in his private opinion the soldier would not be able to play football or soccer for 12 months.
When Mr Higson received his determination he found that from the time of his visit to a specialist compensation was reduced from the prevailing rate of $40 a week to $1 a week. At no time before or after his discharge in May 1970 was he advised to get a job, and no offers of employment were made to him. Mr Higson received his injury after joining the Regular Army. The Government is urging young men to take up a career in the Army but this ex-soldier has been awarded as compensation the wonderful sum of $100. He did not go to work because, after having been a bank clerk, he decided to apply for a job in the State Public Service. As it was necessary to pass the Leaving examination he went to school rather than to work. This case points conclusively to the fact that he not only got a very raw deal in respect of compensation - the decision will be appealed against - but also to the fact that the provisions of the new code ought to apply.
Provision should be made to place this man before a new medical board. In addition the Commonwealth Government obviously has a strong responsibility to provide for workers in such a position. Workers in the metropolitan area can get advice from union officials. Soldiers do not have specialised officers to advise them. Any member of the Services placed in a position such as I have outlined and who is to be discharged because he is incapacitated ought to be provided for. The most suitable place seems to be in clause 25. The Commissioner, as soon as a determination is made, should be obliged to advise a man of his rights and also about employment. The Department of Labour and National Service ought to get to work and find this man a suitable job. Reference was made in the other place to the need to provide for sub-contractors. I know that Senator Wright’s Department, the Department of Works, the Department of Supply and, I suppose, most of the other departments have many sub-contractors. I put it to the Government that consideration might be given to providing the benefits of the code to people employed by subcontractors.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) urged in the other place that the ordinances for the Territories might well be taken over by this new code. I do not know whether this is difficult to do because the ordinances cover private employees. Obviously there is a need for any ordinance in the Territories to follow the pattern of the code. I hope that in relation to this matter the Minister, perhaps in consultation with the unions, will consider amending the code as such to cover people working in the Territories, both Commonwealth and private employees, or quickly give expression to the standards provided in the code to make the Commonwealth pattern of compensation uniform.
There has been some concern expressed about the position referred to in clause 27 (2.). This relates to intentionally selfinflicted injuries. The case of an employee who commits suicide would come under this broad category. I trust that later Senator James McClelland will talk about some of the cases which have come before the authorities. They might well be related to the circumstances of the worker before he committed suicide. Perhaps a more liberal position might be reached than would be obtained from the expressions now included in the code if such a matter was determined by legal opinion. The question of full time students is now improved and the age is raised to 21 years of age. We suggest that an age ought not to be included in this Bill. I notice that the general recommendation of the International Labor Organisation was that the standard might cover a student or an incapacitated student.
The question of separate living accommodation has engaged the attention of the Opposition. The Minister explained that provision has been made to cover not only workers in camps, such as employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department and Commonwealth Railway workers forming maintenance or works gangs, but also people who generally are required to be in a camp although they may not be on duty. Exclusion of the benefits of this provision rests largely on the definition of ‘separate living accommodation’ set out in clause 5 of the Bill. We suggest that the Government might follow the provisions in the New South Wales code which refers to the exit from the domicile of the worker. That seems to me to be reasonable and it is not a matter which should take much consideration.
I turn now to medical matters. While Senator James McClelland thinks that the loss of spectacles and so on and the need for an eye specialist is covered in clause 37 by the use of the word ‘medical’, it might be worth while to follow the pattern of the
Acts in New South Wales and South Australia. These terms are included in the description. 1 also point out that there is no provision for clothing in the Commonwealth legislation. There is provision in the New South Wales Act for an amount of $100 and in South Australia I think it is $150. This practise might well be followed in the Commonwealth legislation. Another important amount is set out in the medical expenses section, clause 37 (3.). The Government is to provide an amount of $150 to an incapacitated worker, such as a paraplegic, who has to use aids. The Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations has made a submission to the Government following upon the representation of a social worker who, I think, is employed in New South Wales. The suggestion is that a worker may need fairly extensive alterations or renovations to a building, alterations to furniture in it, and alterations to a vehicle. That body suggests that the amount ought to be increased to $3,000.
In clause 37 (9.) (b) provision is made for transporting the body of a deceased employee to a morgue. The Opposition suggests that there should be a provision to cover the cost of bringing the body back to the deceased’s home. In the case of a deceased member of the Army or the Air Force, the body is brought home for burial The body of a Commonwealth Railways employee working, for example, on the Trans-Continental Line, would be brought back to Port Augusta but the home of that person might be in Adelaide. Therefore there is a need for this provision. 1 turn now to clause 39 (4.) which deals with specific injuries. In South Australia there is a provision under which a worker is able to get an amount related to the specific injury for spinal injuries, not only an amount for pain and suffering. He can get a percentage of the relevant amount even though the item is not in the Schedule.I suggest there should be some provision for back injuries, injuries to the vertebra, which occur commonly in industry, particularly in heavy industries. As to l ump sum payments, I point out that lump sum payments for facial disfigurement, loss of the sense of smell and of hearing, and loss of sexual power, may be in addition to the weekly payments, whereas ordinary lump sums specified in the Act are not. I refer the Government to clause 42 which relates to the loss of the sense of smell. 1 suggest that the Government might consider a recent provision in New South Wales fixing 2 levels of benefit. One provides for a substantial loss of the sense of smell or of the sense of taste and the other benefit is based on the total amount. They experienced something which might well be met by a medical board constituted under this Bill. New South Wales had a case where the doctors could not decide what in their opinion was a suitable degree of the loss of the sense of taste or smell. Therefore they altered the legislation. This is needed in this Bill.
The Opposition wants to ask a question in relation to constant help. There is provision for a constant help allowance which is payable to a wife if, consistently, she is required to attend her injured husband. We would like to know whether this clause is so worded as to make payable the constant help allowance plus the wife’s allowance in a situation of incapacity. Because of the time I shall conclude after referring to one other matter. Earlier I tentatively mentioned the tribunal. Clause 24 provides for the setting up of a tribunal consisting of one person and it seems to me that this is a faulty part of the mechanism. Despite the changes made in the administration of workers’ compensation which might result in speedier hearings, I think it is wrong to have one person only constituting an appeal tribunal. The Government ought to consider adopting the provision recommended by the Labor Party about the constitution of such a tribunal.
– I know. In Queensland and in New South Wales for many years workers’ compensation has been a specialist matter. Probably this is due to environmental influences affecting these matters and this makes the situation there satisfactory. However I suggest that in the case of a new compensation law it could well be that a departmental officer without experience may be appointed to this job.
– I am only stating the position there.
– That is right. I am suggesting what the position ought to be.
The ultimate would be to have the Department represented and also to have the workers represented.
– After listening to Senator Bishop, I suggest that one fact clearly stands out. That is that, in view of the various shortcomings that exist even now, we hope that in the future we will not have to wait so long for a review of vital legislation such as this. Even in the age in which we live, with hire purchase and other week by week commitments, some people, particularly critics of the trade union movement, seem to have the idea that when a person goes on to workers compensation he is in receipt of the George Cross. When one looks at the margin between the worker’s normal take home pay and the rates provided for even in this legislation, it is quite obvious that any physical injury he suffers will he compounded by a certain mental anguish.
One of the best ways of exemplifying some of the points Senator Bishop made is to refer to the constantly emerging new industrial techniques. In many cases the employee concerned more or less plays the role of an industrial guinea pig. For example, when the diesel era superseded the steam era in our railway systems not so long ago, there was the case of Engineman Cavanaugh of the South Grafton depot in New South Wales. People thought that with the passing of the old practice of shovelling coal into the firebox the hazards had gone. But there were some new hazards. It was found that because of the design of the diesel locomotive cabin and the action of the slipstream on the oil fumes there was an outbreak of ulcers on the enginemen’s eyelids. This is typical of the new hazards that we have to face up to. It is just another indication that there have to be much more frequent reviews of compensation legislation.
There is another example to which, perhaps, I could direct the attention of Country Party senators. Many of us here, including Senator Keeffe and I, often assail them in relation to the functions of the Australian Meat Board. There are many new techniques which the Americans have suggested in order to meet their requirements. In some cases those techniques have had pitfalls in the form of hernias caused by men lugging carcasses. These are some of the problems with which workmen are confronted. The next point that I wish to make is directed particularly to the departmental committee on this matter. Whatever is achieved legislatively either today or tonight, the fact of the matter is that unless the Treasury and the other departments involved can be galvanised into acting more quickly these very serious delays will continue to occur. I wish to convey to the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) and his officers something of the bad relations that exist between the employees of the naval dockyard at Garden Island and the Department of the Treasury. Mindful of ministerial commitments, I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Senate at its rising adjourn until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Earlier today Senator Poyser made reference to the delay in the production of the House of Representatives Hansard for 7th May, the last day of sitting and asked that action be taken to prevent such late publication in future. The Principal Parliamentary Reporter informed me that the simple explanation is that the resources of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff and the Government Printer were insufficient to enable them to cope expeditiously with the great volume of material generated by the extended sittings of the House of Representatives.
The issue of Hansard for Thursday, 6th May, began with the continuation of the report of Wednesday’s proceedings from midnight to 6.22 a.m., a total of 55 pages. The report of Thursday’s proceedings covered the period 10 a.m. to 12 midnight, a total of 100 pages. The remainder of the proceedings, from midnight to 3.44 a.m., was tape recorded, and the transcript, after the slow process of typing, checking and sub-editing, did not reach the Printer until 4 p.m. on Monday, 10th May. The Printer had also to handle 182 questions upon notice and answers thereto, which occupied 93 pages. This issue of 132 pages was available on the morning of Wednesday, 12th
May. The Government Printer has already written to the Principal Parliamentary Reporter as follows:
I must bring to your notice certain factors which affected the publication of Hansard for the last day of the Session. This issue was delayed for almost four days because approximately 100 pages of Hansard of Answers to Questions with high tabular content was required to be incorporated.
I cannot produce Hansard in the required time if this practice is allowed to continue and I would ask you to bring this problem to the notice of those concerned
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting and following a very lucid analysis by my colleague, Senator Bishop, 1 had made one or two general observations on the Bill. One might say that my approach could be represented in the words: lt was the best of times, it was the worst of times. In one instance it was found that some reforms were overdue. The lesson to be learnt was that these reviews should be much more frequent than they have been. I have already indicated some of the various changes in industrial techniques which bring in their train a host of industrial hazards which are often the cause of new types of accidents. The present compensation Bills do not give full cognisance to some of these problems. I listened intently to the Minister for Health (Senator Greenwood) who represents the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) in this chamber, when he referred to the standing departmental committee. The service of the compensation needs of a work force of over 300.000 people depends a lot on the effective liaison between their departments and the Department of the Treasury.
The former Secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association, Mr Dave Rees, who I think is now a union official in Tasmania, has pointed out to me some of the industrial tug-of-wars that he has indulged in with the industrial officer at the Garden Island dockyard and the Treasury. I remember the very sad case of a crane driver named Prendergast who slipped off the ladder of his crane, about 70 feet up in the air, and fell on to a stack of steel plates. He lingered for a week and then died. His wife was one of those women who are not very conscious of day to day things. The agitation of the union, my overtures and those of ons of my parliamentary colleagues were never really rejected, but it was like a ping pong match. Letters went back and forward. We would be told it was the responsibility of the Treasury or it was the responsibility of the Department of the Navy. Maybe some of those lessons have been learned. I hope that in this field we will get something like the transmission in a car and everything will mesh very effectively.
Let me mention another example. As late as last Saturday I was conferring with Harry Blythe, a delegate of the Building Workers Union. I mentioned this legislation. He said: ‘It is overdue’. He pointed out that these days when people on average wages are living on a very fine knife edge of economy and there are no margins for these delays, even on the occasion where a man loses 2 or 3 days work because of some minor injury and questions tha delays associated with claim payments, he unconsciously gets behind in his various instalment payments. In referring to that conversation with delegate Blythe I am indicating the Repatriation Department and indicating my concern for the building trades work force at the Concord Repatriation Hospital.
These -are not big claims. I am drawing a comparison between the fatal accident of a FED and FA crane driver and the smaller claims crf building trades workers who may be off work for only a few days. After sounding the tocsin on this departmental committee, let me go a little further and refer to some of the Citizen Military Forces cases mentioned by my colleague, Senator Bishop. I wish to draw to the attention of the Department of the Army the case of a CMF member named Buchman. This is the case of a boy of 20 who had a back ailment. He was in the CMF and attempted to join the permanent forces. The Army wanted to know whether his back ailment had been discovered when he joined the CMF. He went through all these tortuous medical explanations.
That case is bettered only by another amazing case in which a boy who was not very keen about going into the Army did go in and then decided that he wanted to go to an officers’ training school. Then they discovered a hernia which they said he did not have when he originally did not want to go into the Army. I know that this is an Irish way of describing some of the tedious medical procedures but the point I am making is that the situation reeks of inconsistency. Probably what has happened in these CMF cases could have been avoided if the people called up were covered by repatriation benefits the moment they enlisted, even if they never left Australia. I suppose we have to be thankful for small mercies.
I want to direct my remarks mainly to the other pockets of people about whose compensation coverage there are grave doubts. Now that Australia is becoming a larger power, Australian contractors are working on industrial projects in South East Asia. I have already regaled the Senate with some of the problems of members of the New South Wales Branch of the Electrical Trades Union who were employed by a private Australian contractor to work in Saigon. I have not got very far on the wages aspect of the problem, despite numerous letters to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Labour and National Service and even the Prime Minister. Of course I have not kept up with the changing of the guard as far as Prime Ministers go. I understand from the Minister for Foreign Affairs that the Government was not overkeen about this matter. The men involved were concerned only about wages. I do not have to spell out the inflation that is occurring in Saigon, Bangkok and other places where Australians have been working.
I would ask the Minister to tell me whether Australians who go to Saigon to do civilian work are covered by the compensation provisions of their home State or by Commonwealth compensation? What can be done? When it came to a straight out consideration of wages coverage and minimum awards the then Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr Snedden, was not at all sympathetic. I think that he thought it was a boring issue because it concerned only about 12 or 20 people. If the trade union movement were to slap on a ban and say that it will not offer its members to do this work, certain people - I will not name them - are likely to say the trade union movement is treasonable. [ am giving a timely warning to the Government that if there is nothing in this legislation to provide protection for the people in this field, it had better have a hard look at the situation. 1 have advanced the case of people in the private enterprise work force but let me take this a little further. I understand from an earlier conversation with the Minister for Works, Senator Wright, that when we decide to establish an embassy overseas senior officers of the department go and, as it were, case the joint as far as layout and so on are concerned, irrespective of who is engaged in the country to do the actual construction work. If an officer of the Department of Works goes to Europe, say, in the European winter and he slips and breaks an ankle, how is he covered for compensation? If he takes with him a few Australian tradesmen are they covered? 1 think that we have some scheme of compensation for our equivalent of Peace Corps workers but I should like to know what is done in regard to the 2 categories I have mentioned.
We are looking at all sorts of situations. I understand that in the ACT a distinction is drawn between ordinances and the compensation law. Possibly we could have a close look at the situations because, unique as some of them are, cases do arise. I know of cases that have occurred in the States - it is not impossible that they will occur in the ACT - of, for want of a better term, drop-outs from various religious orders. At present I am having a dispute with Mr Wentworth about particular cases, social servicewise, in this category and he has argued that as the persons concerned were not in receipt of wages it is just too bad and they will not get anything unless the religious group gives them a gratuity.
Perhaps I am making a hypothetical case, but if a member of a religious group or a clergyman of any denomination had a fall while in Canberra and, in deference to his order and because he did not want to embarrass his order with a financial claim, he left his vocation, what happens? Is there any cover for him? That may be a pretty unusual case but we are living in 1971 and people might feel that they are not addicted to a certain way of life, say, as a member of a religious order, and they leave the order and go into civilian life. If the Minister does not have the answers now to these questions perhaps he will look at them very closely and inform us later.
Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood will support me to the full when I say that when the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare was inquiring into matters relating to mentally and physically handicapped people we found what I would call a lack of an even break for people who happened to be injured while working at a rural quarry, for example. It is a matter of rehabilitation. The situation would be different if they were working in metropolitan Sydney or metropolitan Melbourne. 1 know that my learned colleague, Senator Jim McClelland, who will be following me in the debate, can speak from his extensive legal experience, but I emphasise that no matter what the Government legislates for and despite its statement that in the eyes of the law all men are equal, there is no doubt that rehabilitation goes in tandem with compensation. However, when a rural manual worker is injured and rehabilitation is necessary, the opportunity for it is not there. I know that the present trend is to make an injured worker a productive unit in the work force rather than give him a mass of dollars and allow him to undergo a mental upset and develop a certain complex. I make the point that in all interpretations of rules, ordinances and so on we must be cognisant of the fact that the Australian community is diversified and that there are a lot of problems that cannot be solved by regarding them in the same way as we regard cases that occur in Melbourne or Sydney. That system does not apply in the country.
Possibly the Government will question the cost of compensation to industry. Honourable senators should browse through answers to questions asked recently, particularly those asked by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). I do not know of any insurance company which carries workers compensation being in the red. Insurance companies may have problems with car insurance but they do not with workers compensation. When you look at the matter in this way the obvious answer lies in the premiums that are determined. No matter how we modernise working conditions, it is obvious that if a worker goes on to a building site on a winter’s morning or walks across a wet floor in a meat slaughter house chain there are unexpected dangers that do not exist in air conditioned offices. Sometimes there is a reluctance to face up to these truisms.
I emphasise that in some of these situations there is no short cut. I am still unconvinced that there has been any real major drive on safety for the work force. To prove that statement I need only mention that on each occasion when we have raised questions about work codes in the Northern Territory - I think both Senator Georges and Senator Keeffe have been involved’ - we always have received evasive answers. I have in mind the big industrial disturbance which took place in Gove some years ago when the driver of a mobile crane jacked up and refused to carry out what his employer regarded as a legitimate order. He claimed that safety was involved and he was dismissed. After a week he was reinstated and the men went back to work. A senior member of the department concerned - something akin to the Department of Labour and Industry in the southern States - admitted that the crane driver was right in what he did. 1 was never able to get any information about what fine, if any, was imposed by the employer.
While we are on this aspect of the compensation code in the Northern Territory - I have some suspicions also about the situation in north western Australia on the Hamersley workings but I will not at this stage raise the Western Australian legislation - I must say that there has been too much feather bedding of certain employer interests in the Northern Territory in the matter of their compensation obligations. This was apparent on 2 occasions when the Estimates committees were sitting. I think that Senator Little sat in with me on meetings of 2 committees. Under close examination the officers of the Department of the Interior admitted that there is a kind of cash and carry system operating with the mammoth in the main American and British contractors in that if someone was injured at Gove and was taken to the Darwin Hospital and subsequently flown south for justifiable, probably superior, medical attention, the companies got the cost of the transport of the injured worker from Darwin to Melbourne or Sydney at the bargain rate of $40. The Australian taxpayer met the cost over and above $40 sometimes amounting to $200. At meetings of the Estimates committees I was told that the Government would close the loophole eventually and that the delay had arisen because there were not enough parliamentary draftsmen to get the relevant ordinance finalised.
I have injected this aspect into the debate deliberately because I know that certain people will say that these improvements in the compensation arrangements will cost $Xm. I repeat that millions of dollars are. outlayed and huge profits are made in the mining and construction industries, and if a dogman or a bricklayer is injured - the danger factor is there - the company concerned can well afford to pay. I am amazed that the Government has allowed operations on the new frontier ranging from Darwin to Broome without apparently being worried to make sure that the insurance companies which cover the firms concerned pay their way. I do not know why the Government does not take legal action to make the companies repay to the taxpayers the amount that the taxpayers meet in transporting injured workers to the southern States. This is money that the Government should be able to recover.
We have to be thankful for small mercies. We are pleased at the fact that some justice has been done but I do not want anyone on the Government side to believe that the millenium has been achieved. It has not been achieved. The apprenticeship intake has fallen. We cannot get apprentices into heavy industry because the young people say: ‘Why should I work in a foundry or in a heavy engineering shop when all the emphasis is placed on the glamour industries?’ We will watch very closely to see how quickly the various departments can process the claims received under the new scale of compensation payments. If they are too tardy they can be sure that they will receive a battery of questions from Senator Cavanagh, myself and others to find out what has gone wrong.
– It would be churlish of the Opposition not to applaud the positive features of this Bill. In many respects it represents a real advance for employees of the Commonwealth and its prescribed authorities who are unfortunate enough to be injured at work. Certainly the Bill in its present form is a big improvement on the Bill which was introduced into the House of Representatives by the then Treasurer in March 1970 and was subsequently withdrawn and replaced by the Bill now before us. This Bill in its present form illustrates the fact that efforts by an Opposition in criticising legislation introduced by the Government need not be entirely futile. Of course the debt Which the Government owes to the Opposition and to other people who have made a contribution towards this Bill in its present form was freely acknowledged by the Minister when he introduced the Bill. The Minister for Health (Senator Greenwood) said that representations had been received from the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and other sources and that a contribution towards the Bill in its present form had also been made by members of the Opposition in both the Senate and the other place. Therefore when we compliment the Government on having been receptive to the suggestions which have been put forward we are in some sense also complimenting ourselves.
There is no doubt that in many important respects this Bill does introduce progressive measures which were not previously in the compensation code, especially the measures dealing with diseases, the journey provisions, provisions relating to rehabilitation and vocational training, and the administrative parts of the Bill which deal especially with appeals and the constitution of the appeals tribunals. These are some of the features of this Bill which we commend and applaud. But I do not want to appear to be exuding too much sweetness and light, so I will now move on to some criticisms which we make of this otherwise praiseworthy Bill.
In the first place we on this side axe not content with the rates prescribed for workers on compensation. Anyone who follows the news these days will be aware that a ground swell is developing among employees for something approaching full wage entitlement for incapacitated workers. This is the main ingredient in a large industrial dispute which is taking place in New South Wales at the present time. Senator Bishop pointed out that there has been a progressive improvement in these rates in the States, especially in South Australia where the rate for an incapacitated worker has now reached a level of 85 per cent of his ordinary earnings. We consider that the rates stipulated in this Bill, even though they are an improvement on the previous inadequate rates which applied, are still very unsatisfactory. We consider rates of $35 a week for an unmarried man, $43.50 for a married man and $48.50 for a married man with one child are quite inappropriate in this day and age when the average weekly wage is about $84 per week. We are most concerned that the hardship which is occasioned to the average family, which has nothing to spare from the weekly wage, should be allowed to continue because of lack of provision in this Bill to increase the rate of compensation to an amount somewhere near the ordinary wage which Ls earned by a working man. We commend to the Government the suggestion that there should be regular reviews of the rates of compensation and that such rates should be at a level closer to the full wage of the family bread-winner.
There is one other fundamental flaw in this Bill. It was lightly touched on by Senator Bishop. I would like to develop this point in some further detail. I refer to the scheduled lump sum payments provided for under clause 39 of this Bill. My quarrel is not so much with the amounts to be paid. In many ways this provision is to be applauded. The proposed new lump sum payments represent an improvement on the existing rates and in some respects they break new ground, for instance in the provision for a lump sum payment for the loss of sexual capacity or for severe facial disfigurement. As I understand it, the philosophy behind the provision for scheduled lump sum payments made under workers compensation Acts is that where there is no action for damages for serious and permanent injury received by a worker - and of course this is what happens in the majority of oases - the worker should receive some comfort by way of a money payment for his diminished enjoyment of life. Implicit in the philosophy behind thi payment of a lump sum is the notion that the lump sum should be over and above the amount to which the injured worker is entitled by way of weekly compensation. The lump sum should be an amount that is not affected in any way by his right to receive weekly compensation either in the past or in the future. Workers who come under the provisions of this Bill will in most cases find themselves in that position. 1 point out that under the New South Wales Workers Compensation Act all workers, whether or not they are permanently incapacitated and no matter how long they are off work, are entitled to weekly compensation during their incapacity plus a lump sum payment regardless of their right to weekly compensation. Under the provisions of this Bill that situation will not obtain precisely in an area where it is most desirable that it should obtain. In developing my argument on this point I may be dealing with something which perhaps could more appropriately be dealt with during the Committee stage of this Bill, but I crave the indulgence of the Senate to enable me to give a slightly detailed analysis of 1 or 2 clauses of this Bill because it bears on my general criticism of this important clause in the Bill, namely the departure from what I consider to be the real philosophy behind lump sum payments. I draw the attention of the Senate to sub-clause (14.) of clause 39 which reads:
An amount of compensation referred to in this section- that is one of the amounts for a schedule injury - is not payable in respect of an injury so long as the employee is, or is likely to become, totally incapacitated for work where the incapacity for work results, or, if it occurs, will result, in whole or in part from that injury.
Why, one asks, should the totally incapacitated worker be excluded from the right to a, lump sum payment? One would have thought, for example, that a man who had the misfortune to lose both his legs in the course of his work would need the consolation to be obtained from a capital sum much more than a man who had lost a little finger. If I may recapitulate, a totally incapacitated worker is disqualified from receiving a lump sum payment. Taking it the other way around, once a lump sum payment has been made no further weekly compensation is payable - apart from minor exceptional cases with which I will deal later. This eventuates because of the operation of 2 clauses - clause 45 (9.) in the case of total but not permanent incapacity, and clause 46 (5.) in the case of partial incapacity.
Dealing with clause 45 (9.) first, if a man is totally incapacitated for work for a limited period the payment to him of a lump sum for a schedule injury determines his right to receive weekly compensation. One of the abuses which immediately becomes possible under such a prescription is in the case of a man who might have a period of incapacity of. say, 6 months. Once a determination is made in his favour for a lump sum he gets no further weekly compensation. I am not suggesting that the authorities who will be administering this Act will be maliciously motivated. I am referring to the mere presence of this provision in their hands. One could imagine, for example, that a department which employed an incapacitated employee might believe, quite wrongly, after he had been away from work for about 3 months that he was malingering. If a determination were then made that he was entitled to a lump sum that would be the end at his right to weekly compensation.
The same thing applies to partial incapacity. An employee might have his earning capacity reduced by, say, $10 a week but if a determination had been made in his favour for, say, $4,050 for the loss of a thumb his right to this make-up pay - this difference between his capacity to earn and his pre-injury capacity to earn - would disappear for the rest of his life. This shortcoming in the Bill is compounded by the fact that an injured employee has no right of election in this matter. In both of the clauses that I have mentioned the Bill uses languages such as ‘where a determination is made’ but says nothing about an employee having requested the granting of a lump sum or anything like that. So it seems to me that it is in the discretion of the Commissioner for Employees Compensation to decide when a man should or should not have a lump sum, and he having made that decision the injured employee’s right to weekly compensation is either ter minated or limited in the way that I will advert to, having regard to the exceptions that are made by the Bill. This, in my submission, is a serious weakness in the Bill when considered in conjunction with the provisions of State compensation Acts, especially the New South Wales Act where the right to a lump sum is totally untrammelled. The employee under the New South Wales Act is entitled to his lump sum and also his weekly compensation and the two do not interfere with each other in any way.
There are exceptions to the rule that a lump sum terminates the right of a worker to weekly compensation. But these exceptions are, in my submission, also illogically based. One exception is provided by clause 47, the effect of which is that an employee who has had his lump sum but who subsequently has to have medical treatment for his injury may go back on compensation for a period of incapacity due to the medical treatment or while he is having the medical treatment. Why is there that limitation? If the medical treatment ceases and he is still disabled he has no right to go back on compensation. Clause 50, which deals with a further exception, provides that where a man has had a lump sum and later becomes totally incapacitated his right to compensation revives, but he gets his compensation at a lower scale than if he had not had that lump sum. There is an elaborate formula which has the effect of making him give some credit for the lump sum which he has already received. So in our submission this, as I said, is a serious weakness in an otherwise more or less praiseworthy Bill. We would urge that the payment of a lump sum should not affect the right of a worker to weekly compensation for a limited period for either total incapacity or partial incapacity or, putting it the other way round, the extent or duration of a man’s incapacity should not affect his right to a lump sum.
Senator Bishop has traversed many of the details and minor shortcomings of this Bill and I do not wish to cover the same ground as we will have an opportunity during the Committee stage to refer to these minor but important matters. But I would just like to touch at this time on the question of compensation tribunals which also was referred to by Senator Bishop.
We agree that these do represent a considerable advance on the appeal provisions under the Commonwealth workers compensation code, but we would urge that the considerations which appear to have moved the Government in framing the provisions about medical boards should also apply in the case of tribunals. It will be recalled that the medical board provisions enabled the injured employee to be represented on the board by a doctor of his nomination as well as one nominated by his employer. We would suggest that the proposition that was put forward by Mr Clyde Cameron in the other place in relation to tribunals might commend itself to the Government in considering further improvements to this Bill.
As part of an amendment to the Bill he moved: (2.) A Compensation Tribunal shall be constituted by a Chairman and two other members, who shall be appointed by the Governor-General. (3.) One of the members of each Compensation Tribunal other than the Chairman shall be appointed on the nomination in writing of the Public Service Board. (4.) The Council of Commonwealth Public Ser vice Organisations and the Australian Council of Trade Unions may each nominate persons in writing and one of the members of each Compensation Tribunal other than the Chairman shall be appointed from the persons so nominated.
We believe that if the tribunals were so constituted, with the chairman of course having the casting vote, their work would be in no way impeded but in reaching his determinations the chairman would have the benefit of the advice of people from each side of the record. Not only that, but there would also be a general feeling among Commonwealth employees that their applications for compensation were receiving a fair, complete and impartial consideration.
There is one other small matter that Senator Mulvihill was particularly concerned about and that is the delays in the hearing of appeals. Clause 79 (2.) and 90 (5.) of the Bill provide that an appeal will not be heard in any event until at least 60 days after the lodging of the appeal. I appreciate that the reason for this is probably that the employer would need some time to assemble the facts of his case, but 60 days strikes me as being an excessive period. I can see no reason why the Commonwealth authorities, with the resources available to them, could not bring an appeal on within a shorter period. Of course it is unnecessary for me to point out that a man who is disabled and who has been denied compensation may find himself in the position, pending the hearing of his appeal, of having no resources at all to sustain himself and his family, so I would urge the Government to take a closer look at these sections and possibly minimise the period during which an appeal should be heard. I appreciate that this is not a hard and fast rule because sub-clause (2.) of clause 79 states:
Unless the Compensation Tribunal otherwise orders, the date fixed for a reconsideration of a matter or question shall be not less than sixty days . . .
What I am suggesting is that even though that discretion is available to shorten proceedings there should not be any onus on an injured employee to take steps to shorten the period. He should have, as a matter of right, the opportunity to have his appeal heard as expeditiously as possible.
Finally, as Senator Bishop has said, the Government, realising that this Bill can stand improvement, has promised that an interdepartmental committee will consider submissions for further improvements which may be put before it. We commend this open-mindedness but would suggest that the consideration of further improvements of the Act properly belongs to the Parliament itself and that a better body to consider improvements would be a joint parliamentary committee. We would urge the Government to consider setting up such a committee to consider improvements or submissions which have been suggested by the various trade union bodies and which have emerged from debates in both Houses of the Parliament.
– For many years as a trade union official I advocated that the South Australian State Parliament should amend its compensation legislation to bring it up to the level of the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act, such was the high esteem in which the Commonwealth Act was held, its benefits being far in excess of the benefits granted under State Acts. But this position has deteriorated and it is recognised that for the last 10 years the Commonwealth has lagged behind in respect of improvements that have been achieved by various State legislatures in their compensation legislation. During the last 7 years in this House we have been promised a Bill which would enable us to review the whole system of compensation and bring its provisions into line with and perhaps exceeding those of State Acts.
For the last 10 years the Commonwealth has ceased to be the leader in workmen’s compensation. Frequently we have found that at the end of a session - the last week of a session - and often after the House of Representatives has risen, we are faced with amendments to the legislation to increase benefits to the average level of the benefits paid in the States. On every such occasion the Australian Labor Party has been in the dilemma of having to accept such amendments. Our attitude over this period has been that half a loaf is better than none. Failure to accept the Government’s amendments would have meant that before the legislation was revised again someone would have suffered an injury and been deprived of the increased benefits that the Government proposed. On this occasion we have been told by the Minister for Health (Senator Greenwood) that the legislation has been revised and brought up to date. As Senator James McClelland said, in some respects the Bill is praiseworthy, but unless we accept it we will be faced with the situation that it will be held over until next session. In the last week of the last session of the Parliament a Bill was brought before the House of Representatives. It was not proceeded with and this new Bill was introduced this session.
– I understood that your Party wanted it brought on this session.
– My Party wanted it brought on 7 years ago and has been agitating for the last 7 years for it to be brought on. However, there are some undesirable features in this compensation legislation. If we were successful in amending the Bill, it would be postponed until such time as the House of Representatives reassembled and consequently there would be a period from now until August when, if a workman were killed, his widow and children would be deprived of $1,500 because of our not accepting this unacceptable amending Bill in its entirety now. Therefore, as Senator Bishop said, the
Labor Party will not move any amendments. It cannot do so because of the sacrifice that some people may have to make. Nevertheless there are serious weaknesses in the legislation and we believe they should be thoroughly investigated.
On 2 occasions when we have been considering increasing compensation benefits in the last week of a session I have undertaken some research in tracing the history of employees’ compensation especially in respect of payments which have been made without proof of negligence. The first Act which was introduced after the Industrial Revolution in England and which provided for payment for an injury without proof of negligence on someone’s part was in 1880, some 91 years ago. The amount awarded was limited to an amount not exceeding the earnings over a 3-year period. If we make a calculation on the basis of the average wage today and compare it with the total payment of $13,500, we can see that not much improvement has been made in respect of employees’ compensation in the 91 years since the introduction of that English Act. In many respects those who earn more than the average weekly wage would not be as well off. The wife of a worker killed in an industrial accident would not be as well off as her counterpart in 1880 under the English Act. We have no reason to congratulate ourselves on the improvements made in workers’ compensation. We have now reached the stage where governments are not moving as fast as public opinion in relation to compensation paid to injured workmen. 1 think Senator Bishop recited the many sections of industry today which recognise the justification for full payment of wages at a time when a worker is injured. In an action under tort a person may succeed in winning damages as the result of someone’s negligence. Nothing can compensate for injuries suffered, for pain and suffering, for the loss of a breadwinner to a family or for the loss of an affectionate father, but as far as possible a court sees that there is no monetary loss to a family as a result of someone’s negligence. If at the present time an injury happens at work and negligence can be proven the court upholds the principle that there should be no monetary loss to the family as a result of the negligence that happened at work. But if a breadwinner is injured in the course of his employment and dies and negligence cannot be established the compensation paid to his widow and children is $13,500. Society will not be satisfied until such time as there is not a monetary loss. Acceptance of this principle has been acknowledged by various organisations. Under section 124 (1.) of the New South Wales Transport Act, in time of incapacity a workman is awarded full payment. Under section 100b (1.) of the New South Wales Government Railway Act full payment is awarded to a workman in time of incapacity which was caused by an accident. This principle is extended to the Electricity Commission of New South Wales and the Sydney City Council. No loss of pay is suffered by a workman because of incapacity caused as the result of an accident. Many private firms throughout Australia have adopted this principle.
I suppose nothing touches a working man more than the deprivation suffered by wives and children as the result of an accident to the breadwinner at work. A worker judges himself ill treated or well treated by comparing himself with someone else. If transport workers, railways workers, electricity and Sydney City Council workers can obtain full payment while incapacitated there will be no peace in industry until this provision is extended to all. As justification for this suggestion I point out that today one of the claims of the New South Wales building trades is that there should be full compensation in times of incapacity. Instead of giving a lead the Government is prepared to wait until there is industrial chaos. This must develop before we reach the stage where justice will be given to workers who compare themselves with workers in industries where the employer has recognised their claim that there should be no monetary loss as a result of an accident suffered while serving the industry. No-one can say that this Bill is satisfactory to the Australian Labor Party or the trade union movement.
Today we are forced into the position of saying that we will not move amendments; that we accept the Bill. The process of refusing to accept the Bill would deny the wife and family of an workman injured between now and August of increased entitlements. It would deny them the just right enjoyed by many other sections of industry. This is a system of blackmail.
Similar legislation has been brought down during the closing stages of each session. The Labor Party is faced with no alternative but to go along with an unsatisfactory Bill. I wish to speak of serious aspects of this legislation. When Parliament decides upon compensation - whether it is good compensation or bad compensation - and decides that there should be a monetary payment there must be an impartial decision as to whether someone’s case comes within the Act or is outside the Act and whether someone receives payment or does not receive payment. Under the present legislation the Secretary to the Treasury makes the initial decision. He seems to be an all powerful commissioner. Under this Bill we have altered that position and this has received some praise. Power is taken out of the hands of Treasury and we appoint a commissioner.
We have 2 contesting parties, a worker who feels aggrieved and the Commonwealth which will pay the compensation. There is a difference in opinion as to entitlements between those 2 parties. Let us look at the tribunal which we will establish for the purpose of deciding these matters. A commissioner is appointd for a 7-year period. He is appointed by the GovernorGeneral which, in effect, means a recommendation is made by the Minister. He is eligible for re-appointment each 7 years providing he has not attained the age of 65 years. Whether he is re-appointed is determined by the Minister in office at the particular time. Other than his salary, which is prescribed by Parliament, he receives such allowances as are prescribed. Who prescribes those allowances? Again it is the Minister. They may be generous or paltry allowances. The commissioner may obtain leave of absence from his duties on terms and conditions decided by the Minister. He can engage in paid employment outside the duties of his office with the approval of the Minister. He cannot absent himself from duty for 14 consecutive days or for 28 days in any 12 months without leave granted by the Minister. These are the terms of appointment for the man who is to adjudicate between the applicant and the employer, which is the Federal Government. His re-appointment, allowances, rights, conditions, ability to engage in outside occupation and absence from duty are under the control of the Minister.
– I suppose there will be a lot of applicants for the job.
– Of course there will be a lot of applicants for the job. lt is a good job. The job is so good that the successful applicant will seek to retain it. He can only retain it by pleasing the Minister. He is the impartial adjudicator between the applicant and the Federal Government. I ask: How does impartiality come into the matter? The Minister will say that there is a right of appeal. The applicant first has the right of appeal to a tribunal which consists of a person appointed by the Minister. That person is to be on a prescribed allowance; he may be granted leave of absence on terms and conditions of salary and allowances determined by the Minister; he can engage in paid employment outside the duties of his office with the approval of the Minister; he can absent himself from duty for a period in excess of 28 days with the approval of the Minister.
Here we have an appeal against a decision of the Commissioner, who is under the influence of the Minister, to another tribunal which has power under the same conditions. The person constituting the tribunal is appointed for 7 years and may be reappointed by the Minister. Of course, if the applicant fails in his appeal to that tribunal against the decision of the Commissioner he has an appeal to the approved court which, without going into the details of what court is specified, in the main is an industrial court. Therefore, we now have in the picture a judicial body whose members are appointed by a government authority but not reappointed by that authority, because their initial appointment is for life. We can expect that any wrongs that may have been caused by the Commissioner or the appeal tribunal will be rectified by the judicial appeals tribunal. Possibly it will see that justice is done eventually. It will be a safeguard for those who have a financially strong union behind them which can fight their case to the stage of appeal to the court. A man will be disadvantaged, however, by being in a small union. A man will be disadvantaged by not being in a union at all. There are many such.
We now come to the provisions in the Bill for compensation coverage of members of the Services who are covered by no union at all. For example, the Commissioner may turn down the claim of a 20 or 22 year-old in the services who seeks compensation as a result of accident. Then the appeal tribunal may turn the claim down. Where does the finance come from to take the case of such a serviceman to the industrial court on appeal? The Commissioner has the added power of being able to vary a determination, to make another determination, whether or not there is an appeal against the first determination or whether or not the appeal has been decided or is in the course of being heard. So we find the scratching of the claims of the 20 year-old to get to the industrial court, for in the process of getting to the industrial court he may find that the determination against which he is appealing has been varied or cancelled by the Commissioner. Possibly these are anomalies which will be overcome.
There are provisions for some payment by the Commonwealth of costs of appeal. Have any of my legal acquaintances in this chamber ever seen the taxed costs cover the full legal costs, that is, the costs required by a legal man to take on a case? Have the taxed costs of any court action ever covered the full legal costs of an applicant?
The Opposition cannot amend this Act. lt cannot alter it. I have shown some anomalies that exist. There is to be an interdepartmental committee that will examine any suggestions which are made, and during the Committee stages it is my intention to raise issues dealing with a clause of the Bill which is disadvantageous to the employee and which should be rectified. The Minister has given an assurance that anything raised in Committee will be considered by this inter-departmental committee. Again it would appear to be an appeal to Caesar. As Senator Bishop has said, we think of the industrial relationships, we think of the people; and not only should justice be done but justice should be seen to be done. In an examination by a committee of any suggestions, at least under this legislation the applicant will have some say. If the inter-departmental committee is to consider anything, the first appeal I make is for the establishment of a parliamentary committee that will have an independent chairman and will represent the Government and the Opposition, which claims to represent that section of the community which comprises the applicants under this legislation. We should consider all proposals that may be submitted for consideration.
The other point 1 want to make, which has been touched on by Senator Bishop, is important to me because of a case I am currently handling. One of the results of this legislation, in view of the lack of union representation for those, such as servicemen, who will be covered by it, will be that these matters will come more within the realm of the politician who will have to be the adviser and advocate of those whose injuries are covered by this Bill, in order to sec that some measure of justice is meted out to them. Clause 26 provides that compensation will continue if no suitable employment can be reasonably obtained. I think this is possibly one of the biggest improvements effected by the Bill. I appeal to the compassion of Ministers in charge of the various departments to consider whether the application of this clause can be made retrospective and whether certain Government departments could take a more sympathetic attitude towards injured workers.
I refer particularly to a case of a gentleman with an injured back who was a linesman with the Postmaster-General’s Department. He can no longer follow his former occupation because of his injured back and, accordingly, was receiving compensation. On the report of the medical board he is now in the position where he can engage in suitable employment; but suitable employment means an occupation where there is no bending, no lifting and no long periods of standing. Provided the occupation can comply with these medical requirements he is in a fit condition to work. In accordance with judgments of the New South Wales and Federal courts, he is not what is termed an odd job or odd lot man who cannot get any employment at all, and under the present Act the Commissioner has decided that employment in which he can engage is available in the area in which he lives. This is true. The wage paid for the employment in the area in which he lives is such and such a wage, and his wage before he was injured was such and such. Therefore, the amount of compensation he is paid has been reduced from the maximum to approximately $13 a week. But the point is that the Commonwealth Employment Office cannot find this man a job. He has not the ability to perform clerical work. He has spent his whole life working in factories. When he applies for a job he says: ‘I am after the position but I cannot stand for long periods, 1 cannot bend and 1 cannot lift weights.’ Who will employ him? There is a number of jobs in the Postal Department which he could perform but he has been refused employment there despite the fact that he was injured while working in that Department and was considered to be a good worker before he was injured. The benefits provided by this legislation should be granted retrospectively to this man even though the legislation has not yet been passed by this Parliament.
I understand that some sections of this Bill will come into effect immediately it receives royal assent and that other sections will come into effect on the date of proclamation, which could be any time. I asked the Minister to request the interdepartmental committee to see whether anything can be done for this individual whose name I will supply later.
There is one other question I want to raise. In the off-shore oil legislation we provided that employees working on offshore rigs would be covered by the various State workers’ compensation Acts. Some doubt arose as to whether they would be covered by these Acts if the rigs were situated outside the 3-mile limit. T believe that there was a fire on a rig in Bass Strait today and that the men had to jump off. Fortunately none was injured. From memory I believe that normally these men would be covered by the Victorian workers’ compensation Act, but that Act does not apply to persons whose annual wages exceed $6,000 a year. With the disability allowance paid to mcn employed on oil rigs because of the peculiarities of the job, and with the amount of overtime which is worked on oil rigs, the annual salary of every man employed on an oil rig would exceed $6,000 a year. Clearly a serious calamity could have occurred today and the men concerned possibly would not have been covered by any workers’ compensation legislation.
– Provision has been made in arbitration awards to make up for that sort of deficiency. I do not know whether it applies in this particular case, but it certainly has been done in other cases.
– I do not know what the Minister is referring to. I can only presume he suggests that these men are receiving a weekly allowance to cover the absence of workers’ compensation.
– No. The employer is required, as a condition of an award, to take out insurance to cover his employees.
– I am informed that there was no coverage in this instance. The States and the Commonwealth have entered into ad agreement relating to offshore oil exploration. In view of the near catastrophe today, I ask whether some consideration can be given to ensuring that men working on oil rigs are covered by workers’ compensation Acts in the future.
– In the legislation before the Senate tonight we see many changes being made to the existing compensation laws, and it would be foolish to say otherwise. Of course, we believe that the changes are not sufficiently significant to enable us to say that it is a good Bill. When we consider the changes that are taking place in all spheres of influence today, we question whether the changes which are to be made to the existing compensation laws by this legislation meet the position in the 1970s. After all is said and done, in 1964 the Government promised that it would review Commonwealth employee’s compensation and introduce legislation to provide for any necessary changes. We have waited 7 years for this legislation to be introduced. Possibly sometimes the delay has been due to the Government in not pursuing the matter; other times it might have been the fault of other people. Nevertheless, a substantial period has elapsed since the legislation was first promised. Now we have the legislation before us tonight.
I thought that the Minister for Health (Senator Greenwood) expressed some surprise when Senator Cavanagh said that we did not have sufficient time to debate the matter fully. But the fact is we have been told that if we were to move any amendments to the Bill and if those amendments were accepted it would dealy the implementation of the Bill and it would not take effect until the Budget session of Parliament. I believe that this is wrong. If amendments are made by the Senate they should be acted upon.
– Undoubtedly that would be so if amendments were passed here; they would be considered elsewhere forthwith.
- Senator Wright says that but, with due respect, I suggest that he is wrong. I base that on the fact that we have been told that we cannot move any amendments to this legislation. Therefore, we do not propose to move any amendments to it.
– Your Party did not propose any amendments in the other place.
– Of course we did not propose any in the other place because we were told precisely the same thing. I do not intend to argue with Senator Wright on this issue. All I say is that we were given the message that we could not move any amendments to the legislation, and we have acted upon it. With due respect to Senator Wright, I suggest that what I am saying is correct. I do not believe that it is a fair proposition to hold the gun at the head of the Opposition in that way. When Senator Wright is finished having a conversation with his colleagues I will continue.
– You have more listeners on this side of the chamber than you have on your side.
– Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. If Senator Marriott would care to check with his Whip he would find why there are not many of my colleagues here tonight. I ask him not to make an issue of this matter when an arrangement has been entered into between the Whips. I ask him not to try to make political capital out of it. He will not get any political mileage by trying to destroy an agreement which has been reached between the Government and Opposition Whips.
– Do not blame the fact that you are not moving amendments on want of time; it is because of want of initiative.
– I take umbrage at that remark, on behalf of the Opposition. I repeat that we were informed-
– By whom?
– By the Government Whip in the other place, that if we were to move any amendments to the legislation and if they were accepted, it would delay the implementation of the Bill because the amendments would have to be considered in the Budget session of the Parliament. As a result, any improvements which will be made by this legislation - and I admit that there are improvements - would be denied to workers who may suffer injury on the job in the intervening period. But that is beside the point. I believe that it is a completely fallacious argument for Senator Wright to say that the reason why we will not propose any amendments to the legislation is because of our unimaginative approach to the matter. We would require the Government to give consideration to numerous sections of the Act.
I want to raise the matter of the incapacity payments. The Government has legislated for payment of the magnanimous sum of $35 a week where the injury to the employee results in the employee being totally incapacitated for work. This is an insignificant amount compared with what workers are earning today. It always appears to me to be a complete and utter anomaly that a worker who may be unfortunate enough to become sick gets full pay, but if he is injured on the job his earnings are reduced - in some instances by up to 70 per cent. Many workers in industry earn up to $120 or $150 a week. I know of one section of government employees, for whom an agreement was negotiated recently, who can earn up to $196 a week for a 38-hour week. One might say that that is an extreme case, but I believe that it would be accepted that many workers in industry today are receiving easily, and probably more than, $100 a week. That is their living standard. Having attained $100 a week, they live to that standard. If they are injured on the job, when pursuing their normal duties, their salary is reduced to $35 a week. I trust that the Government will give urgent consideration to this matter.
The $35 a week is an expressed amount. Let me remind the Government that we have become accustomed to - and it would appear that there will continue to be - a national wage case each year. The next decision will probably be handed down in November. If we anticipate what might happen in the 1971 national wage case, it is easy to visualise that there could be another increase of 6 per cent or more because of the cost of living rising so rapidly since the last review. Assuming that there is a 6 per cent increase in wages generally, that represents $6 or $7 a week increase for the workers to whom I refer. A worker who is injured must wait until such time as Parliament assembles to have the payment of $35 a week adjusted. It is inconceivable that the Government would not adjust it in line with a national wage case. I do not know whether the Minister has given any thought to this matter, but I believe that it is important, in the interests of the worker, that this matter should influence the Government to look seriously at what can be done to protect the rights of the workers. I offer the suggestion that the Government should accept what is awarded generally to workers and insert in the legislation a provision that an increase resulting from a national wage case decision shall be added automatically to the $35 a week. Of course, I would hope that the Government would accept the proposition that the earnings of a worker should not be reduced when he is on workers compensation.
I can assure the Minister that there are numerous industrial agreements which contain this proviso. I know several within the industry with which I am associated. The employers have accepted this. At present there is a dispute in the building trades industry in New South Wales. The workers are pressing for this reform. I believe that is understandable in the building trades industry, where there are so many jobs of a dangerous nature to be done. There have been innumerable occasions when workers have suffered an injury while working on the numerous high rise buildings being constructed to-day. It is understandable, therefore, that the workers are now campaigning for average earnings if they are injured on the jobs. I believe that the Master Builders Association would accede to this demand and acknowledge this to be a just demand if other employer organisations did not put pressure on the Master Builders Association to refrain from granting this reform. That is merely a suspicion and does not add anything to the comments on the Bill.
I repeat that times are changing. Yesterday’s Brisbane ‘Courier Mail’ contained a report about the National Labour Advisory Council’s activities in Melbourne. The report stated:
The National Labour Advisory Council said in Melbourne yesterday that it believed talks on the operation of the Arbitration Act should be extended to a wider employer-employee group.
On the surface, that does not sound a great deal. On examination, it does show a fundamental change in the attitude of people interested in industry. I hope that the change will be successful and that much greater peace in industry will prevail as a result of that change. Matters are changing for the better. We would urge the Government to give consideration to agreeing to the proposition that workers should receive their normal weekly earnings when they are injured on the job. I believe it is appropriate that that should be done. If it is not done, I would urge the Minister to give consideration to the fact that the legislation will have to be amended on each occasion that there is a national wage increase. There will have to be a continuing alteration of legislation. We should endeavour to overcome that position in some way. In Queensland the amount of compensation was set as a percentage of the basic wage. If the basic wage rose so did the injured worker’s entitlement rise. Under the Commonwealth legislation there is a permanent $35 a week. I believe that the Government should give serious consideration to improving that situation.
– The honourable senator oan thank Gair for that situation in Queensland.
- Senator Gair was not the whole Queensland Government at the time. He was a member of the Government. That is all he was. Representations which he would not accept were made to him but his Cabinet overruled him. He should not take praise for all those things. The Cabinet had to overrule him on other things, and he knows quite well that that is the case.
We would ask that the membership of a compensation tribunal be extended. At present the Governor-General appoints a commissioner. We believe that such appointments should be extended to 3 representatives. The Government should exercise the right to appoint one member, one member should be a representative from the trade union movement and the other member should be a representative from the employers. We do applaud tripartite organisations. We believe that to increase the membership of a tribunal would strengthen the provisions of the Act.
In the past there have been numerous unfortunate cases in which workers have been dismissed while receiving workers’ compensation. This has always appeared to me to be a callous approach by an employer. I am not accusing all employers of adopting that attitude. Nevertheless several employers have adopted the attitude that, when a. worker is on workers’ compensation, he should be dismissed from his employment. This is particularly so when the award refers to employment with an employer as against service with an employer. If the award provides for employment, a worker is entitled to claim his annual leave at the same time each year notwithstanding the fact that he could have been on workers’ compensation for a limited period. I believe that the Government would not approve of such callous disregard for a worker, and I hope that the Minister and his representatives will take into consideration what I have said.
I mention another problem which 1 am sure every organisation experiences. An injured worker who has been on workers’ compensation may have recovered sufficiently to be able to do light work. He may be sent back to the employer to do light work. In a lot of industries there is no light work as such and consequently the employee is in an invidious position. Those responsible for paying the workers’ compensation may say that a man is fit to work, but no employment can be obtained for. him because he has not recovered fully from the injury. This is a matter that has caused a considerable number of problems in industry. I draw the Minister’s attention to the definition of ‘prescribed court’ which appears on page 4 of the Bill. I refer particularly to Queensland. The definition states that ‘prescribed court’ means:
I believe it would have been better if the legislation had set out precisely what court is to determine the issues in the respective States. Another new departure in this legislation is that it will be administered by the Department of Social Services. I can speak only of Queensland. I would say that the experience of ali Federal members from Queensland has been that the Department of Social Services has treated people quite leniently in a lot of cases. There have been instances when it has taken a hard line, but nevertheless this change is an experiment which I believe will be successful. We certainly hope so.
The Schedule provides for $13,500 compensation for the loss of 2 eyes. I would ask the Minister to review that amount. After all it is very serious indeed for a worker to lose 2 eyes. His earnings could well be reduced to almost nil from there on, and to my way of thinking the $13,500 that would be paid to him is an insufficient amount. He may be required to make structural alterations to his home as a result of losing his eyesight. If that were the case it would not be long before the $13,500 was exhausted. The widow of an employee who is killed will receive a lump sum payment of $13,500. Again that is not a particularly high amount in these days of rising costs and rising wages and salaries. I repeat that 1 believe the Minister should seriously consider increasing this amount. I notice also that the Bill makes no provision for weekly compensation payments in respect of dependent student children after they reach 21 years of age. I think this is a weakness because many lads over the age of 21 years of age who are going to university today are still dependent on their parents’ earnings. I believe this matter should be given some consideration. The amount of $9,450 does not appear to me to be a particularly high sum to be paid to a worker who suffers a loss of speech. I wonder whether the Minister will give consideration to altering the provision that a claim for compensation must be made within 6 months of sustaining an injury. There could be circumstances which would justify a claim being made after 6 months. For example, an injury may not manifest itself until well after 6 months. I believe provision should be made for an extension of that 6 months period.
There are changes in the legislation that will be to the advantage of the workers. I also believe that the provisions could have been improved immeasurably. Before I resume my seat may I ask the Minister to give more than favourable consideration to setting up a joint committee to examine all amendments that have been presented. I know that the Government has analysed a lot of amendments that have been presented in relation to this Bill. The Minister indicated that in his second reading speech and I accept his word, but there are still a number of issues that should be discussed by members of Parliament. I know that the Minister has said that an interdepartmental committee will be set up. With respect, I do not know whether that is entirely acceptable for the simple reason that we have had experience of interdepartmental committee reports being regarded as confidential and not being released. I offer that suggestion to the Minister because I believe that a joint committee examination of the amendments would be to the advantage of all concerned and would embrace all that can and should be expressed by members of Parliament. I believe that it would lead to the improvement of this legislation.
– Tonight I want to refer to what I believe to be a very important subject in view of the fact that 32 men today almost lost their lives in an incident on a Bass Strait off-shore oil rig. I note from page 13 of the explanatory notes that were circulated with this Bill that the basic lump sum death benefit is to be increased from $12,000 to $13,500. It is possible that the relatives or dependants of all or most of the 32 people who almost lost their lives today would not have received any compensation had loss of life occurred. Marlin A4, the rig from which these men were evacuated today, is in the same area as Marlin 7, which in December 1968 was the scene of a similar incident in which 52 men were involved. On that occasion there was a fire which cost between $3m and $7m to extinguish. I wonder why the Government has been very silent about this matter today. After all, it was known fairly early this morning that this fire had broken out; it was known that lives were in danger.
– I rise to a point of order. I imagine that Senator Keeffe could make what happened relative to the purpose of this Bill, but I submit that in what he has said so far there is nothing of any relevance to the question before the Senate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - I think the honourable senator is getting away from the Bill. This matter is outside the scope of this Bill.
– I take it, Mr Deputy President, that you are ruling that the near disaster in Bass Strait today may not be discussed in relation to compensation?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes, that is my ruling.
- Mr Deputy President, I am afraid that I must disagree with your ruling. May I state my reasons now?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes.
– It has long been a bone of contention that people working in off-shore areas are not covered by compensation to the degree to which they ought to be covered. Honourable senators will be aware that I am a member -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! Senator Keeffe, if you wish to dissent from my ruling you will have to state your reasons in writing, formally propose a motion of dissent and have it seconded.
– I move:
That the ruling be dissented from. (Senator Keeffe having submitted in writing his objection to the ruling.)
– I second the motion.
– May I now make out my case?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- If you want the matter discussed now you will have to move for immediate determination of it.
– We are dealing with a workers’ compensation matter and what 1 propose to discuss involves people who almost lost their lives in the near tragedy in Bass Strait today. Therefore I move:
That the question requires immediate determination.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There can be no debate on that motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The question now before the Senate is that the ruling be dissented from. Do you wish to speak to that motion, Senator Keeffe?
– Yes. I believe that the near disaster in Bass Strait today has a real bearing on compensation laws generally. We should be able to talk about these things in public because the people of this country and also members of this Parliament should be informed on these matters. If we cannot discuss them they will be swept under the carpet and no justice will be obtained by the workers involved. In this Bill no mention is made of a group of people who must come under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. I refer to those who work in Commonwealth territorial waters. The near tragedy in Bass Strait today is a prime example of what could quite easily happen in waters adjacent to Papua New Guinea if drilling operations were carried on there, or off Norfolk Island or Christmas Island or any other territories subject to Commonwealth law. I believe that what happened in Bass Strait today could very easily happen in waters under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. Therefore I submit that my attempt to introduce this subject into the debate is completely in line with the Standing Orders and completely relevant to the debate on the compensation legislation now before the Senate. It would be a disaster for democracy if I were prevented from speaking about this matter.
That the ruling be dissented from.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Bull)
Majority .. ..3
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to propose a motion relating to this debate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:
That the debate be adjourned, and that the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for a later hour.
(9.51) - by leave - I move:
That the matter contained in General Business, Order of the Day No. 23, be referred to the Privileges Committee for consideration in conjunction with the matter referred to the Standing Orders Committee on 29th April regarding a proposed amendment of the Standing Orders dealing with privilege, with a view to establishing the rights, responsibilities, obligations and protection of senators, members of the Press and others in relation to Committee proceedings.
If this motion is carried, order of the day No. 23 will be removed from the notice paper.
– I have been very concerned about certain aspects of this matter. I have been concerned as to whether the Senate, in operating in the whole of this matter within the Standing Orders and the precedents, operated properly in that it did not ask those who were charged with breach of privilege to show cause before this chamber. I think that it is most important that the whole matter of the rights of the Press, and so on and so forth, should be referred to the Privileges Committee. Therefore, I strongly endorse the motion which is now before the Senate.
– I wish to raise a question on part of the motion moved by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. He moved that order of the day No. 23 be referred to the Privileges Committee together with something that has been referred to the Standing Orders Committee. Can the Senate have some information upon the matter that is to be referred to the Privileges Committee from the Standing Orders Committee? It seems to me that someone is asking for a blank cheque. I do not know what is being referred to the Standing Orders Committee. I do not know whether I agree that a matter from the Standing Orders Committee should be referred to the Privileges Committee.
Unless I am in possession of fairly full information, I do not propose to agree to a matter being referred to that Committee. I think that, at the very least, the mover of the motion, that is the Leader of the Government in the Senate, should put on record in Hansard what the Privileges Committee will deal with if this motion is passed so that all honourable senators will know what the proposition is. I say quite frankly that we have reached a pretty serious stage here. Matters of privilege are to be discussed. No security is given in this place to any senator who is a member of any committee. Not one bit of security is provided. Out of all of this, we are likely to start some sort of witch-hunt. We are all vulnerable. Therefore, I wish to know what is being referred to the Privileges Committee.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Supply) (9,55) - in reply - These comments will have the effect of closing the debate. I draw the attention of the Senate to the reference of a matter to the Standing Orders Committee which appears in the Journals of the Senate in this form:
Standing Orders Committee - Reference of Matter: The Minister for Supply (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) moved, by leave - That General Business, Notice of Motion No. 9, standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), viz.:
That Standing Order 33a be amended as follows - At end of Standing Order add “; and also to inquire into and report upon matters concerning rights, responsibilities, obligations and protection of Senators and, in relation to proceedings of the Senate, of members of the public, which may be referred to it by the Senate”.
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Privileges for inquiry and report the following matter - All aspects of the right to publish in whole or in part the content of Papers presented to the Senate and of the proceedings of the Senate or any Committee thereof, or any reports of Committees, with a view to making known responsibilities and protection of persons proposing to publish matter connected with such Papers and proceedings and Reports of the Senate or any Committee thereof.
For the purposes of this inquiry, the Privileges Committee shall have power to send for persons, papers and records, to move from place to place and to meet and transact business notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament.’, be referred to the Standing Orders Commit tee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Mr Deputy President, in view of the result of the division which was decided a few minutes ago, it means that I am not able, in my remarks on the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill 1971, to deal with the disaster that occurred in Bass Strait today, I assume that I am perfectly clear to make a state ment outside this House on the matters that I am not allowed to raise in relation to the Bill.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - That is a matter for the honourable senator to determine.
– Thank you, very much. I have nothing further to say on the Bill.
– in reply- The Senate has been considering the motion for the second reading of the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill. This Bill is the product of a considerable amount of effort by the Government and its advisers. We have what is reckoned by all sides to be a Bill which greatly improves the Commonwealth employees compensation legislation. It is a Bill which, in its purpose, was designed to bring up to date and to modernise the legislation relating to compensation facilities that are available to employees of the Commonwealth when they are injured.
I should assert, because it is a misconception which one has heard expressed even in the course of this debate, that the Commonwealth employees compensation legislation is not legislation which applies to workers throughout Australia. It is simply legislation which applies to employees of the Commonwealth Government or employees of departments, authorities or instrumentalities of the Commonwealth Government. Within the various States there is workers compensation legislation from which State employees derive their rights and benefits.
We have heard from members of the Opposition a somewhat hollow story. It is quite remarkable that a piece of legislation such as this which has been introduced by a Liberal-Country Party Government has the full support of the Opposition. I think it is remarkable that the Government, having introduced a measure of this sort, should be assured by the Opposition that the measure is being supported and that no amendments will be moved. That in itself is as striking a testimony as could be afforded to the intrinsic value and merit of this legislation. We are grateful to the Opposition for its assurance of support and for its general indication that no amendments to the Bill will be moved. 1 know that some members of the Opposition - they are in a decided minority - have endeavoured to explain away the fact that no amendments will be moved by claiming that in some way the passage of the Bill would be delayed if amendments were moved. All I can say is that many Bills have been before the Senate during the last fortnight to 3 weeks. Some of them have involved matters of major significance and others have contained matters of not so great significance in Which the Opposition has generally concurred. Nevertheless senators have moved their amendments and the amendments have been defeated although on one or two occasions amendments have been carried. But that is an indication that there was no apprehension about the outcome of the legislation to which those amendments were moved. Nevertheless, this is used by some who do not speak for the majority of the Opposition as one reason why amendments are not being moved on this occasion. I mention that only because I think it is significant that on this occasion legislation of such major import as the Commonwealth employees legislation introduced by the Liberal-Country Party Government has the support of the Australian Labor Party and, as I understand, the support of the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
During the course of the debate a number of matters were referred to by honourable senators. As far as I am able to do so I shall refer to them. Senator Bishop raised a number of matters. I feel that I cannot deal with them seriatim because they are too numerous and would occupy the limited time that I have available in responding to the second reading debate. But I would like to refer to some of the mutters. Senator Bishop suggested that some benefits will operate only from the date of proclamation of the legislation and expressed the hope that there would be no delay in introducing this legislation. I can assure him, as I can assure anyone else who is interested, that the Minister for Social Services (Mt Wentworth) has already announced in the House of Representatives that the regulations which are necessary to bring into effect this Bill will be processed as quickly as possible so that the new code which is embodied in the legislation will become operative. It was also suggested by Senator Bishop that there should be no loss of pay and that this ought to be a level to which the Commonwealth should aspire. He said that he would hope that this principle would be considered by the interdepartmental committee and embodied in the legislation. I think a similar proposition has been mentioned by other senators. I particularly remember Senator Milliner’s making the same point.
I think it is fair to say that generally speaking the principle that a worker should suffer no loss of pay if he is injured and therefore has to go on compensation is not one which has universal acceptance. Indeed, we would be hard pressed to find more than one or two places where this does apply. I would have thought that one should bear in mind that there is still a cost of insurance, or in the case of the Commonwealth Government a cost to the Commonwealth Government, in the compensation which is to be paid. There is a limit to the amount which any community can reasonably provide for the compensation of persons who are injured in the course of their employment. Generally speaking, it has not been found practicable or desirable to pay the full amount of wages which are lost when a person is injured and becomes entitled, to compensation.
– But this is paid in some industries.
– It may be paid in some industries. But as a matter of general application this has certainly not been the case. I understand that full compensation is paid in some industries in New South Wales but only a limited number. From recollection I think it covers 6 per cent of those in employment in New South Wales. I refer specifically to the International Labour Organisation Convention cited as the Employment Injury Benefits Convention of 1964 which indicates that the standard of the International Labour Organisation in regard to the percentage paid to injured workers is 60 per cent where there is a total loss of earning capacity or a corresponding loss of faculty for a man with a wife and 2 children. I refer to Article 19 which, for those who wish to refer to it, reads:
In the case of a periodical payment to which this Article applies, the rate of the benefit, increased by the amount of any family allowances payable during the contingency, shall be such as to attain, in respect of the contingency in question-
I interpolate to say that the contingency is the fact of incapacity - for the standard beneficiary indicated in Schedule
II to this Convention-
That is the person who is a man with a wife and 2 children - at least the percentage indicated therein -
Returning to the Schedule, that is 60 per cent - of the total of the previous earnings of the beneficiary or his breadwinner and of the amount of any family allowances payable to a person protected with the same family responsibilities as the standard beneficiary.
That indicates that there is a general principle - not necessarily one which must be applied in any particular circumstance - which does cut across the concept of no loss in relation to compensation payments. But as far as this country is concerned, we would be faced with an expenditure which is not in the interests of the type of community we wish to see evolving having regard to the various other items of expenditure on which available resources could be expended.
Senator Bishop suggested also that by comparison with the South Australian Workmen’s Compensation Act, which has somewhat higher weekly payments, this Act is not as good as it could be. I link with what Senator Bishop said a remark which was made by Mr Clyde Cameron, who has a certain distinction in the Australian Labor Party, in which he said in the House of Representatives in respect of this measure that by this Bill the Commonwealth was introducing the second best legislation in the field in Australia. He indicated, of course, that the legislation of his own State of South Australia was superior. Senator Bishop adopts a similar line. I think it is quite wrong just to make the comparison with what the weekly payments are and to leave the comparison there. Certainly in South Australia the weekly payments are capable of being much higher than the weekly payments which arc provided under this Bill, and they are much higher than what is provided in the other States.
At present the weekly compensation payment which is payable under the existing Commonwealth legislation is $31.80 per week for the single man. It is proposed by this legislation to increase that amount to $35 per week. When one compares the position with the other States it is found that New South Wales has a rate of $32.50 per week, Victoria has $26, Queensland $32, Western Australia $28.50, Tasmania $32.90, and currently in South Australia there is a provision under which, subject to a ceiling of $65 a week, a weekly payment for the employee equivalent to 85 per cent of average weekly earnings in the previous 12 months is payable. I should indicate that that is the amount which is payable in the case where the workman has dependants. Where he has no dependants, so that it may be properly equated with the figure to be applicable in the other States and the Commonwealth, there is a ceiling of $43 a week and a weekly payment equivalent to 85 per cent of the average weekly earnings in the previous 12 months. If one wants to make that sort of comparison, undoubtedly the South Australian figure is higher than what is proposed in this Bill. But that, I think, is not the only consideration to be looked at. In one sense it ought to be a relatively unimportant consideration if there are other features and other aspects of compensation available which can be found. I do not mention all the comparisons which can be drawn between the South Australian legislation and the Commonwealth legislation, but I propose to refer to some.
Clause 28 of the Bill specifically covers the situation where an employee is involved in an accident that does not cause personal injury but results in the loss of or damage to an artificial limb or other artificial substitute, or a medical, surgical or other similar aid or appliance. Under this provision in the Bill the Commonwealth is liable to pay compensation in respect of expenditure reasonably incurred for the repair or replacement of items such as an artificial limb, artificial teeth, hearing aid or spectacles which have been lost or damaged in an accident from which there was no personal injury. There is no similar provision in the South Australian Act, so that payment for those items under that Act would be confined to cases where there is personal injury.
Section 31 of the South Australian Workmen’s Compensation Act 1971 provides that in the absence of agreement in relation to certain medical matters, including the condition of a workman and his fitness for employment, a court may refer such matters to a medical referee whose report will be conclusive evidence on the matters to which he certifies. The only medical certificates that are conclusive evidence under the Commonwealth legislation are those given by a medical board on which an employee has equal representation, and then only when all members of the Board give a unanimous report.
Perhaps of greater significance is the fact that under sub-clauses (5) to (9) of clause 52 an employee may use a portion of his sick leave credit to make up the difference between the weekly compensation payment and full pay. In this event a proportionate deduction only is made from his sick leave credit. There is no provision of that nature in the new South Australian Act. Also associated with weekly payments for incapacity it is significant to note that subsection (4) of section 51 of the new South Australian Act imposes a statutory maximum of $12,000 on weekly payments unless an injury results in total and permanent incapacity; in that event a maximum of $15,000 applies. There is no such maximum in the Commonwealth legislation.
They are not the only comparisons which could be drawn to illustrate that certain provisions in the Commonwealth legislation undoubtedly provide greater assistance, greater benefit and a greater degree of assurance and security for a person faced with injury than he could expect to gain under the South Australian legislation. I do not wish to labour the aspects of the Commonwealth legislation that are superior to the South Australian legislation. 1 feel that it is improper to take one aspect of any measure and say that because there are greater weekly payments, that legislation in toto is superior. A comprehensive examination is necessary of the purport and the coverage of the legislation. An examination of the coverage provided by the measure before us shows that the Commonwealth undoubtedly is fulfilling the role claimed for it by the Minister for Social Services, who introduced the Bill. The workers’ compensation legislation is brought up to date by this measure.
I expect that Senator Bishop will refer again at the Committee stage to a number of other matters that he raised. I have no intention of evading those issues, but I wish now to refer to some of the matters mentioned by other honourable senators. Senator James McClelland raised a number of points to which I feel I should refer. He suggested that under the Workers’ Compensation Act of New South Wales lump sum payments for specific injuries are additional to any other payments and are paid as an absolute right. He suggested that this was one provision which, desirable and useful as it was in the New South Wales legislation, should be included in the Bill before the Senate. He indicated that clause 39 (14.) prevented a lump sum payment, referred to in the table in that clause, being paid when the employee was, or was likely to become, totally incapacitated for work. This general proposition is one of the matters which I feel I should bring to the attention of the Minister for Social Services but I would like to point out, because I think this is a relevant consideration, that the lump sum payments under the Bill are considerably higher than they are under the New South Wales legislation. I think they are almost 100 per cent higher, approximately, than they are under the provisions of the New South Wales Act.
– And the South Australian rates are higher than those of the Commonwealth.
– I ask Senator Bishop to restrain himself. I feel I will get far too involved if I have to include South Australia in an explanation concerning New South Wales. The highest amount payable for an injury or loss under the New South Wales Act in $6,600 as against $13,500 under this Bill. A similar position applies in relation to all the losses for which lump sums are payable under the New South Wales Act is $6,600 as ments made prior to the lump sum pay ment have no effect on the amount of the lump sum. This is, as I understand it - in response to one of the points made by Senator James McClelland - unlike the new South Australian Act in that a lump sum payment is not a complete barrier to future weekly payments. The Bill provides, in clauses 47 and 50, for the resumption of weekly payments after a lump sum payment in cases where incapacity subsequently becomes involved in connection with medical treatment or when an employee’s condition unexpectedly deteriorates and he becomes totally incapacitated and, additionally, when such incapacity is likely to continue indefinitely.
I think it is fair to say that the net effect is that the higher amounts payable under the Bill, plus the other provisions to which I have referred, would be more beneficial to some employees than the benefit in the New South Wales Act to which Senator James McClelland referred. It is true, however, that the provisions of clause 39 (14.) will prevent payment of lump sums to employees who are, or are likely to become, totally incapacitated. Such employees will continue to receive weekly payments in respect of their incapacity and it is significant to note - I suppose this is a compensating feature - that there is no statutory limit to the total amount that can be paid by way of weekly payments. I will refer this point to the Minister for Social Services but I think it is illustrative of what I said earlier: There are some features of each piece of legislation which might have some particular appeal and which it might be thought are superior to something in other legislation but these have to be considered alongside other less advantageous provisions in the original Act.
Senator James McClelland referred also to clauses 79 and 90 which stipulate a period of not less than 60 days between the date of application for a hearing and the date of hearing. He suggested that this time limit could impose some hardship. He adverted to the fact that there was some discretion available to shorten the time. As I am informed, the period of 60 days and the provision for earlier hearing by a court, upon application and upon discretion being exercised favourably, is in the existing Act. The Commissioner’s office is unaware of any instance where a party has sought an earlier hearing. I think we can speak from some experience of courts and tribunals when I say that to be able to get a case on within 60 days of the date of application - whilst one might hope that it can be done - is something which rarely happens these days.
A number of matters were referred to by other honourable senators. Senator Mulvihill was concerned to ascertain the position with regard to employees outside Australia. There were some employees in Saigon about whom he was concerned. I am informed that all employees of the Commonwealth are covered, whether they are in or out of Australia. Also there are some persons who are employed by Commonwealth instrumentalities and who technically may not be covered by the Commonwealth; nevertheless there is a recognition by the Commonwealth of a moral obligation and they are covered ex gratia. Those persons who are not employees of the Commonwealth but who are simply workers employed in a particular industry, even though that industry is centred in one of the States of the Commonwealth, depend for their entitlement on the terms of their actual employment and the provisions of the workers’ compensation legislation in the State. This is a fairly involved question which has taxed legal ingenuity in the past. 1 think the general position these days is that if a person is, by the nature of his employment, centred upon a particular State, it does not matter where his employment occasionally might take him; he is still covered under the State legislation.
Senator Cavanagh raised a number of points. He asked whether it would be possible to have clause 26, under which an employee is deemed to be totally incapacitated if employment for which he is fitted is not available, made retrospective. It should be appreciated that this clause gives a statutory recognition to the odd lot; that is, the employee who is so injured that his capacity for earning has gone, except in respect of some particular or unusual type of employment for which he is fitted. I point out that this is not a new provision, even though it gives a statutory recognition. I am told - I pass the information on to the honourable senator - that the Commissioner will examine any case that is referred to him if the details are supplied.
– The present Commissioner, under the present Act?
– I think it is a question of leaving the present Act as it stands, because this is one of the matters that will be referred to the Minister for consideration, and he will refer it to the interdepartmental committee. I made the offer to Senator Cavanagh. If he has in mind any particular case which would warrant making the provision retrospective, obviously it is under the present legislation, and I suggest that the details of any such case be supplied.
Senator Cavanagh is concerned also about the power of the Commissioner to make new determinations. If the Commissioner is to carry out his role properly, it is essential that he have this power. It enables him to correct any error that may have occurred previously or to take into account further particulars that may become available. As a general rule, any new determination will benefit the employee and, in any case, the determination is subject to appeal.
– Why do you say that?
– Where the new determination results in an appeal becoming abortive, the employee’s costs are to be met. I refer Senator Cavanagh to Clause 20.
– We are not opposing this Bill, you know.
– lt is interesting to hear Senator O’Byrne, 4 to 5 hours after the debate commenced, saying that his Party is not opposing the Bill, when from his side we have heard no fewer than 6 speakers all saying that they are not opposing the Bill but addressing themselves to it. 1 am the only speaker from the Government side who has responded. I am replying to questions which were asked of me and to which it was expected I would reply. Senator O’Byrne’s remark is typical of the humbug that has characterised much of the goings-on of his Party in the Senate this week.
asked me whether, as there is an appeal from the Commissioner to the Tribunal and both the Commissioner and the Tribunal are appointed by the Minister, there is any prospect of it being a real and independent appeal. I would point out to Senator Cavanagh that the appointment of a person to act as the Tribunal is made by the Governor-General. An appeal from a determination by the Commissioner can be made to a tribunal or to a court, and a further appeal from either body lies to the Industrial Court. Senator Cavanagh also suggested that the benefit for death under this provision, which is S 1 3,500, is less than the amount of damages provided for in an action at common law. He also indicated that the no-loss principle applied in New South Wales.
I think it is fair to say in regard to the first of those two points that the cover under this Bill is the cover which applies irrespective of whether or not the employer was negligent. Generally it is in the field of what is called absolute liability. What damages may be recovered in actions where fault can be shown on the part of the wrong-doer from whom the damages are sought - and we know that very substantia] sums can sometimes be recovered - are dependent upon the need to prove fault. I think that the comparison is not a reasonable one when we contrast the differing jurisdictions and circumstances in which the comparison is sought to be made.
On the second point I have already said that there are some employees in New South Wales who are eligible for compensation on the no loss of income principle. These people include the New South Wales Government transport and railway workers, employees of the Sydney County Council and those employed in electricity distribution and generation. I think it should be pointed out also that the scheme relates only to injuries arising out of and in the course of the employment. I think that that expression means something to those who know something of workers’ compensation law. It does not cover injuries received during a recess or while travelling to and from work. The range of benefits is also limited. It does not include lump sum payments for specified injuries or for death. This again illustrates the point that one has to look at the legislation which is concerned with workers’ compensation to appreciate the scope of what is given, the broad coverage. It is only in that way that a fair assessment of the legislation can be made.
I think that this is such a piece of legislation and that the general approval with which it has been received is an indication of the merit of the legislation. As I said, 1 am grateful to the Opposition for its indication of support. I am sure that when the Bill comes into operation, as it will very shortly, we will have a generous and modern scheme of workers’ compensation for Commonwealth employees.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 10 - by leave - taken together.
– The first matter I want to raise, in answer to the Minister for Health (Senator Greenwood), who represents the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) in this chamber, relates to clause 1. I refer to the statement that the Opposition did not move amendments to the legislation because it considered the legislation to be satisfactory. Let me state the position clearly. In the other place the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) moved the Labor Party code, the favourable benefits of which I have mentioned, as an amendment to the legislation. We in this place received representations from the unions regarding the long delay in bringing forward the legislation. As I mentioned, in 1964 the then Prime Minister said that he would bring it down. In June 1968 the then Treasurer, Mr McMahon, said that it would be brought in in the same year. We have it now and for that reason we have proceeded to deal with it. I refer now to the definition of ‘separate living accommodation’ which appears in clause 5. As the Minister might recall, I mentioned this in my speech. The definition is in these terms:
Separate living accommodation’, in relation to an employee, means living accommodation provided for the exclusive use of the employee, or of the employee and his family, being accommodation that includes cooking, bathing and sanitary facilities.
We have suggested that the terms of section 7 of the New South Wales Workers Compensation Act should be included in the Commonwealth legislation. The relevant portion of the section includes the words: In every other case where his place of abode is or within a building or structure, that exit of the building or structure whereby he departed on his journey from his place of abode, or that entrance of the building or structure whereby he entered or would, but for the injury have or may have entered his place of abode at the con clusion of his journey thereto, as the case may be. 1 would be interested to learn whether the Government accepts the proposition as it affects not only members of the defence forces but also, say, railwaymen who live in barracks provided by the Commissioner for Railways. I presume they would be accepted under this definition and also under clause 8. Presumably, taking again the case of railwaymen, a mechanic on call who lives in married quarters would be covered except perhaps if he had an accident inside his premises. Can the Minister state the Government’s view on these matters?
– In the Bill the term ‘separate living accommodation’ means, in relation to an employee, living accommodation provided for the exclusive use of the employee, or of the employee and his family, being accommodation that includes cooking, bathing and sanitary facilities. Under the Bill the compensation cover is to apply to a journey to the employment, irrespective of the place at which the journey commences, or a journey from the employment, irrespective of the place at which the journey is intended to end. The concept of place of abode in the New South Wales Act is not relevant to this Bill. This question, of course, depends upon the particular cases which arise from time to time; indeed they are the only cases which cause the difficulties. I can only say that the intention, for the purposes of clause 32, is that this definition should cover the journeys of servicemen or other employees living in self contained married quarters, or servicemen or other employees living in camp or barracks accommodation in respect of journeys to or from their accommodation. I think that the language is apt to cover the point that Senator Bishop has raised, and whilst I am not in a position to express other than my own judgment on the matter, that is certainly the intention which is to be conveyed by the clause.
– There is one other point in the first group of 10 clauses to which I have referred. The Minister might have noticed that in the other place the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) urged that members of Parliament should be covered by this legislation or that the Government might consider bringing in a specific Bill to cover them, because if a member of Parliament is incapacitated before his pension rights become due he will not get anything. I mention this point briefly. I think it has been considered. I am interested to hear what the Minister has to say on it.
– I think that the simple answer to the point raised by Senator Bishop is that members of this Parliament are not employees of the Commonwealth and they do not occupy a position akin to that of others who are covered under this legislation. That is in effect a short answer but I would go further to say that difficulties would arise in deciding whether an injury occurred in the course of a member’s duties or otherwise. I leave it to honourable senators to work but for themselves the type of problems that that could cause.
– I want to raise some questions relating to clauses 1 to 10. However, I preface my remarks by saying that I regret the attempt that is being made to prolong this sitting for the purpose of completing the passage of this Bill in a way which may curtail consideration of some clauses. I have noted the length of time taken on the debate on the States Grants (Rural Reconstruction) Bill. This legislation is just as important to the workers as that legislation is to primary producers.
– Who was attempting to prolong the time?
– The suggestion is that we continue after 11 p.m. for the purpose of completing the remainder of this Bill.
– We can go on tomorrow, if you like.
– If we continue tonight there will be hostility on the part of those who wish to raise questions on this Bill. Honourable senators can see the type of interruption that we will get from now on by those who tend to interrupt proceedings when things do not suit them. I deprecate any attempt to restrict the speaking time of honourable senators including the Minister.
Clause 5 sets out the definitions under this Bill. The Bill will be a new Act. From case law we derive interpretations on definitions but when a new Act is passed we may be starting all over again. We may think we know the intention of the Act but the courts may interpret a clause to mean something entirely different. Therefore we have to be very careful about what we incorporate in any new Bill. The Commissioner who is deciding these matters may or may not be a legal man and he could be greatly influenced by the Hansard record of a reply by the Minister as to the intention crf the Bill. We accept the assurance of the Minister that although we may not be moving amendments any query which we raise in relation to the Bill will be taken into con.sideration by the inter-depertmental committee and therefore it is necessary to raise all the matters that we desire to raise.
Clause 5 defines a child to whom this Act applies as a person under the age of 16 years or a person who has attained the age of 16 years but is under the age of 21 years and is receiving full time education at a school, college or university. If a child continues at university after he has attained the age of 21 years and is receiving a full time education, under the provisions of this Bill he is not a dependant child. Many degree courses are not completed by the time a student reaches adulthood. While the education of the child remains the responsibility of the parent the child should be classed as a dependant of the worker. Consideration should also be given to inclusion of an invalid child as a dependant. Spastic children and paraplegics rely on whatever they get as a pension plus supplementary assistance from the parent. If the parent loses his income through an accident I think the compensation should include anyone who has been or is dependent upon him. There is the restriction that the compensation shall not exceed the wage he was receiving, so there is no question of the amount mounting up. I believe that the interdepartmental committee which is to study this matter should consider the question of the child over 21 years of age and the child who, for some reason or other, is dependent for some assistance from the parent. I instance spastic children, those with mental illnesses, paraplegics, and so on.
I move on now to the definition of dependant’ in relation to a deceased employee. This means the spouse, father, mother or stepfather. I have often wondered why we name only a single dependant. If there is more than one dependant it is for the Commissioner to distribute the money between the dependants. 1 presume that is why we name them. But what if others are really dependent upon the deceased employee although they may not have entered a relationship which would mean that they would be included automatically. The defintion also includes a ‘woman who, throughout the period of 3 years immediately before the date of the death of the employee, although not legally married to him, lived with him as ^ his wife on a permanent and bona fide domestic basis. Here again we find the restriction that the de facto wife must have resided with the employee for 3 years. One can visualise the hardships that have occurred in many cases.
If a de facto relationship is set up between a man and a woman and if the breadwinner of the relationship is injured before a period of 3 years after the establishment of that relationship there is no provision made for the de facto wife although it is possible that for 2i years or 2 years and 11 months before the accident her support came from the deceased. She may have a child to the deceased and the child gets an allowance. At the time of the death of the deceased she may be pregnant to him and as I understand it the child gets an allowance from birth. But the mother of the child, although she and the deceased had a de facto relationship and although they met all the requirements other than that of time, gets no allowance. I do not know why there is this insistence on a period of 3 years. I could understand it if the definition referred to a person who formed the relationship in the belief that the individual was dying but I cannot understand it when it refers to a bona fide domestic relationship, particularly when the de facto wife finds that she will be supporting the child of the deceased person.
– Do you think there should be no time limit at all? Is that the general theme you are putting forward?
– I think so, yes.
– It could be abused very much.
– I do not think so if we establish that there was a bona fide domestic relationship. I think perhaps there should be some onus on the de facto wife to prove that there was a bona fide domestic relationship but I think that is sufficiently established if the woman was pregnant to the man and they were living together. But if that is not acceptable surely there would be some cases where, although there was a lesser period than 3 years, some women might be accepted. I would say that the proof of the relationship should be mainly the responsibility of the woman but I think it is the question of support that should be established and not the question of time.
I am concerned also with the definition of ‘dependent’ which, in this clause, means dependent for economic support. I have been assured by officials that this is a broadening of the meaning hitherto applied under the Act where it meant dependent or partly dependent on the earnings of the employee. I have been told that if a wife were getting any of the income of the employee the courts have held that she has been partly dependent and has qualified for compensation benefits. But now a different language is being used. ‘Dependant’ is denned as a person who was wholly or partly dependent upon the employee at the date of the death of the employee and ‘dependent’ means dependent for economic support. This must mean something different from dependent upon the earnings which was the language formerly used. What will be the position of a woman whose husband dies, her husband having contributed to her keep although she had an income of her own and his contribution was unnecessary? If a woman has private means but had been receiving economic support from her husband will she now not be entitled to the benefits of this legislation? She will not meet the requirements of dependency because although she had been receiving income from the employee it was not necessary for her economic support, she having sufficient resources to provide for herself, having a job which gives her an income or receiving a pension. It would assist honourable senators if the Minister could explain what is meant by economic support.
Medical treatment’ is denned as meaning many forms of medical treatment. The types of treatment have been increased but why is not optical treatment included as a form of treatment which is compensatable? If an employee, as a result of an injury caused during the course of his employment, requires optical attention why should not this treatment be compensated? ‘Prescribed authority of the Commonwealth’ is defined as meaning:
Why is such a prescribed authority to be declared by regulations as a body corporate in relation to a public purpose to which this Act does not apply? Why should not the Parliament determine this matter? The Parliament itself should say what the position shall be and it should not be left to regulations which could exclude a section of workers from receiving the benefits of workmen’s compensation.
I now come to the question of separate living accommodation which was raised by Senator Bishop. I take a somewhat different view in relation to separate living accommodation. I understand that in certain remote areas compensation coverage extends to accommodation which has been provided by the employer. Clause 8 of this Bill states: (3.) … the employment of an employee by the Commonwealth includes the attendance of the employee at a place of employment (other than a part of that place constituting separate living accommodation of the employee) at any time during a period when he is not required to engage in his employment, where the attendance is reasonably incidental to his employment.
When an employee is on standby and he is not at liberty to leave the accommodation he is covered by the extension of this Act, unless he is living in separate living accommodation.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to speak very briefly on clause 9 because I think this is the only opportunity I will get to do so. I wish to refer to 3 cases to indicate the sorts of delays which occur in the administration of this Act. I have already referred to the case of ex-private Higson. I ask the Minister for Health (Senator Greenwood) to read what I said during the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill as this will save time. The basis of my complaint is that Mr Higson did not receive proper compensation. At no time after he was discharged in May of last year was he told that he had to obtain suitable employment. Because he did not obtain suitable employment he suffered a progressive reduction in his workers’ compensation until it fell to $1 a week in May. I am not concerned about answers from departmental officers in relation to these matters. 1 am illustrating the casual way in which the administration deals with these cases. I shall not mention the boy’s name involved in the second case. It can be picked up from records. On 10th August I wrote to the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) concerning a private and I said:
Private . . . joined the permanent military forces in August 1969, trained at Puckapunyal and then served at Balcombe. In April 1970, he came home for 5 days - his parents believed he was on leave, but after 3 days noticed that the boy seemed odd, he did not talk but shut himself up in his room with the blinds down.
His parents took him to Keswick Barracks. As I have said, that was in April 1970. As recently as 10th March 1971 the Minister told me that the case was not finalised. On 4th December 1970 the Minister wrote:
It appears that there is a possibility that Mr . . . condition may have existed prior to his enlistment in the Australian Regular Army.
The other case involves a man who served in the Air Force on two occasions. The first occasion was late in the First World War and late in 1949 he joined again. When he was in the Air Force he sustained some injuries to his hands and his arms. He also suffered from what is called diabetes mellitus’. He applied to the Repatriation Department for compensation. Apparently he was eligible under a national security regulation to apply to the Department. The Department found he was not entitled to repatriation benefits. More recently this man applied to the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation. Dr Shepherd of Mount Barker said: . . certainly no doubt Mr W. has diabetes . . . fairly well controlled on tablets. First record of being diabetic when foot operation performed whilst in the RAAF according to discharge papers. It therefore can be definitely established that the diabetes started while he was in war service. Also, according to discharge papers he had a number of accidents during war service, including one when he was thrown from a jeep. Hospital records should be available from this occasion.
Dr Shepherd said that stress can bring on a latent diabetic condition, so perhaps this accident could have brought on his diabetes. I have 2 letters from the Commissioner in relation to this case which give the opinion of medical experts. Both applications are long standing and some investigation should be made into these cases. I raise them to avoid this sort of delay under the new scheme which is to apply.
– I think Senator Bishop appreciates that one of the purposes of the new legislation is to facilitate the hearing of these applications by the procedures which are involved. The Minister responsible for this legislation in another place has said several times that he will do what he can to expedite hearings and to minimise delays. 1 think the type of legislation which is proposed should facilitate that objective. I think we all appreciate that there have been delays under the existing legislation and that is inherent in the procedure by which cases are dealt with, even though efforts are made from time to time to deal with particular cases quickly. I can only assure the honourable senator, as Mr Wentwortb has said in another place, that under the new legislation every effort will be made to minimise delays.
Senator Cavanagh has raised a number of points relating to definition. 1 appreciate the way in which he has put his questions but I think considerable caution must be exercised in regard to a number of points which he has put forward as conclusions. In the first place, the definition of a child is strictly a child in relation to whom this Act applies. He will find that in clauses 43 (5.) and 45 (4.) there are references to a child in relation to whom this Act applies. I suggest that if any problem arises from time to time about children who remain at university after 21 years of age and who ought to be regarded as falling within this definition, that is a matter which will be reviewed by the interdepartmental committee because it is one of the points which has been raised by Senator Cavanagh. It should be recognised that an invalid child will receive some support by way of pension and will come also within the meaning of ‘dependant’ under the Act. So if there is a reference at any time to a dependent child, it relates to a child who is dependent for economic support. The definition of ‘dependant’ as a woman who throughout the period of 3 years immediately before the date of death of the employee, though not legally married to him, lived with him as his wife on a permanent and bona fide basis is a definition which is not unique to this Act. It is to be found in the New South Wales Act. While appreciating the point Senator Cavanagh made, I would have thought that without any time limit the position is one which could be abused. Prudence has indicated that in at least one other piece of legislation a similar restriction has been enacted.
Senator Cavanagh also asked why optical treatment was not included in the types of treatment for which a person could receive expenses. If Senator Cavanagh looks at the definition of medical treatment he will see in paragraph (b) a reference to therapeutic treatment obtained at the direction of a legally qualified medical practitioner and the definition of ‘therapeutic treatment’ includes an examination, test or analysis for the purpose of diagnosing, or treatment for the purpose of alleviating an injury.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Temporary Chairman do now leavethe Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Temporary Chairman having reported accordingly)-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 May 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19710519_senate_27_s48/>.