27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate is of opinion that immediate action should be initiated by the Commonwealth Government, where necessary by negotiation with State governments, to bring about the abolition of all death duties insofar as they apply to a bereaved widow or widower and members of the immediate family, and also for the drastic revision and reduction of these taxes in other deserving cases.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts. Has the Australian Mass Communications Council protested at the Government’s decision to defer for 12 months the establishment of a national film and television school? Has this move been described by the Council as retrograde and inconsistent with the need for a flourishing local television and film industry? Did the Council on 9th September ask the Minister to alter his decision in relation to deferment on the ground that it is vital for such a school to be established immediately if we are to have a satisfactory film and television industry? Will the Government reconsider the decision?
– I personally am not aware of any protest of the character referred to by Senator Murphy having been made by the Council. Undoubtedly if a protest has been made it will have gone to the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts.
– I assure the Minister that it has been made.
– I accept Senator Murphy’s assurance that it has been made. Having regard to the matter which has been canvassed by Senator Murphy, I think it should be reiterated that the Minister stated last week that the decision is for a deferral of the setting up of the school. The reasons for that deferral were stated in some detail by the Minister. One reason is the fact that the Government, in a variety of ways, has had to make determinations on which areas of expenditure should not be proceeded with this year. Further, in the light of facts which came to notice as a result of interim Council recommendations and problems which arise in regard to the setting up of the school, it was decided that this was a matter which should be deferred. I will refer to the Minister for his consideration the question which has been asked.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. How much did the Australian Broadcasting Commission pay Dr Ehrlich or his sponsors for his appearance on the ABC television programme Monday Conference’ on 30th August and 3rd September, and on the ABC radio programme ‘Guest of Honour* on 5th September. Is it correct that Dr Ehrlich normally charges a lecture fee of between $1,200 and $1,500 when he makes public appearances in the United States of America? Was the organisation known as Golden Products associated in any direct financial way with the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s presentation of Dr Ehrlich or his visit to Australia? Is Golden Products the organisation which paid for a quarter-page advertisement in the Brisbane Telegraph’ of 3rd September, publicising the repeat telecast on ABC television of Dr Ehrlich’s interview about population and pollution? Is the Minister aware that threats have been made against 2 persons associated with the Melbourne television programme ‘Dateline’ which in a recent edition exposed the sales techniques of the American pyramid selling organisation known as Golden Products.
– The honourable senator’s question raises matters which it is not within my personal competence, as Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, to answer at this time. With regard to the latter part of his question, I personally am aware of what was alleged by the persons who conducted the television programme in Melbourne, but I am unable to give him any further information. I suggest that the appropriate way to enable this question to be properly dealt with is for it to be put on the notice paper.
– J direct my question to the Minister representing the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities. 1 ask whether the Great Barrier Reef visitor plan - 1 have a copy of it here - as commissioned by the Australian Tourist Commission could be made available to interested parties for less than what 1 understand is the selling price, namely. S25 a copy. Could interested honourable senators receive a free copy of this publication?
– In a matter as important to Australia as the Great Barrier Reef and the development of its potential for tourist activities or as a tourist area, this report is a first class document. But $25 seems to me to be a price that makes it very difficult for it to be widely available to people who might be interested in it. I think the idea is a good one. I can only recommend it to the appropriate Minister and mention to him that this is the honourable senator’s idea. I will also communicate to him the desire of the honourable senator to obtain free copies for himself and his colleagues in this place.
– 1 have pleasure in drawing to the attention of honourable senators the presence in the Senate gallery of a parliamentary delegation from the House of Councillors of the Diet of Japan. The delegation is led by Mr Isao Matsudaira. On behalf of honourable senators, 1 extend a welcome to the leader of the delegation and his coleagues from the House of Councillors.
Honourable senators - Hear, hear!
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. Has his attention been drawn to advertisements appearing in weekly magazines which advertise for sale replicas of pistols and revolvers which can be purchased by mail order for prices ranging from $6.95 to $39.50? Is he aware that these pistols can actually fire blanks and could be used as hold-up weapons, with very few people being able to distinguish them from conventional weapons? Are these weapons imported? If so, will the Minister examine the possibility of having the import licence withdrawn? If they are Australian made, will he examine the possibility of having a ban placed on their circulation through the post? I have copies of these advertisements, and 1 will make them available to the Minister.
– Firstly, 1 thank the honourable senator for offering to make the advertisements available because I share with him some concern about this matter. We are all becoming very worried about the increasing number of hold-ups in this country, and the possibility that model weapons of this kind, even if they fire only blanks, could be used for hold-ups gives me some personal concern. I will direct this question to the Minister for Customs and Excise who, I think, would have the control of the matter if these model weapons were being imported. I cannot say what would happen if they were Australian made, but I will accept the inquiry in that broad sense and direct it to those responsible.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science aware that in a properly conducted poll of students at the University of Sydney, in which all students were eligible to participate, an overwhelming majority of students! - about 80 per cent - voted against the use of Students Representative Council funds for political purposes of any kind? ls the Minister further aware that the recent annual report of the SRC of that university reveals that at least $10,000 of such funds were used to post bail for students arrested in public demonstrations? Are the moneys made available for Commonwealth scholarships by the Australian Government used in part to pay SRC funds? If so, will the Government take steps to ensure that, parallel with the clear wishes of the student majority, public funds are not used for political purposes?
– I am not aware whether Students Representative Council funds are paid direct from Commonwealth scholarships. I certainly will have that aspect examined by referring it to the Minister for Education and Science. I am rather distressed, as I am sure everyone would be, to think - I do not challenge the honourable senator’s statement - that funds which are gathered for the purpose of the normal functions of the Students Representative Council should be used in any political sense at all. I think that would be quite wrong and quite improper.
I concede and I think everyone else would concede that a group of students or any group of people who wanted to demonstrate about some procedures would probably have a right to do so if they kept within the framework of the law and certainly within the confines of the law applying to their campus. The implications of the question do concern me. I am concerned that Council funds, contrary to the will of 80 per cent of the students expressed, in a normal ballot, should be improperly used. I think the Council has a responsibility to manage its affairs and to ensure that similar action does not occur in future.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science aware that Dr Paul Ehrlich is a distinguished Professor of Biology at Stanford University and that a few weeks ago he came to Australia at the invitation of an international science school which is comprised of students from the United States of America, Japan, the United Kingdom as well as young Australian students in science?
– Order! I think that last part of the sentence is giving information.
– Can the Minister inform me whether this year the traditional practice was followed? The traditional practice is for United States students to be farewelled by the President of the United States and for Japanese students to be farewelled by the Emperor of Japan. Can the Minister inform me whether this school and the lectures which are given by the distinguished scientists who come here are welcomed by the people of Australia as making a great contribution to the spread of science and to a better understanding between the peoples of the world? Does the Commonwealth hope that those lectures will continue and that such distinguished contributors will continue to come to Australia?
– I am of course aware of the visit of Dr Paul Ehrlich and that he is a professor or lecturer in biology at Stanford University. I find no dissent with the things that the Leader of the Opposition said in the generality of his question. But I am not really geared to the purpose of the question. Nevertheless, since it has been asked by the honourable senator I will refer it to the Minister for Education and Science for comment. I am sure that in the generality Australia is always anxious to have people with” knowledge and experience, particularly in special fields, come here and express views in relation to their knowledge. Knowledge, particularly in the scientific field, including the field of medicine, is something which we must all strive to acquire. I think I should leave the other implications of the question for comment by the Minister for Education and Science.
– My. question, which I address to the Minister for Health, refers to the report of his Department which he has just presented in Parliament. I ask the Minister whether he has noted a reference to the report in today’s. ‘Australian’ which features in the heading the claim that Australia approximately doubled the use of anti-depressant and tranquilising drugs during last year. Is this drug use to be regarded with concern? Tn the Minister’s view, does it reveal an unnecessary use of medicines? Is he satisfied that the provision of these drugs as pharmaceutical benefits is under good control? Has his Department any plans for implemnting an education programme in the use of such drugs similar to that outlined in the conclusions and recommendations of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse?
If I may say so, the honourable senator has asked a fairly wide question to be answered at question time. Firstly, I would not want to reflect upon the prescribing of medicines by the medical profession because that is a medical matter. Secondly, as to the pharmaceutical side, a board has been set up to evaluate certain drugs and to recommend to the Government whether they should be placed on the list of pharmaceutical benefits. Contrary to the implication in the honourable senator’s question, usually suggestions are made that the board has not exercised sufficient expedition in placing drugs on the list, rather than in taking them off.
Senator Davidson very properly referred to drug education. I point out that the Commonwealth has set aside in the Budget a sum of $500,000 to be used in collaboration with the States for drug education. That matter is within the administration of my Department, but it is early days yet to indicate what course will be followed. “That is surely consistent with the views expressed by the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse on the need for education in the use of drugs. I may wish to add some supplementary points in a considered answer. If so, I will do so on the next day of sitting.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is it a fact that both the present Prime Minister and his predecesor have stated on several occasions that economy measures being practised by the Government would not result in the sacking of Commonwealth public servants? Is it also a fact that both gentlemen claimed that the dismissal of government employees would aggravate the unemployment situation? Is the Minister now aware that those statements have been repudiated as employees of the Commonwealth Department of Works at Townsville have been given dismissal notices?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI do not think that in my representative capacity I should respond to that question. I am not aware of the circumstances in Townsville or other places in respect of the matter the honourable senator has raised. I therefore suggest that he place his question on the notice paper and I will get a considered reply for him.
– I address my question to the Minister for Air. In view of the answer he gave yesterday about the leasing of substitute aircraft for the Fills, will he confirm that this means that Australians will not see Fills in our skies until the end of next year even if the Government decides, before the end of this parliamentary session, to take delivery of them?
Tuesday, in response to a question asked of me by Senator Brown as to whether Australia would get a rebate for the lease moneys it has paid should the F4E Phantom aircraft be returned prior to the termination of the 2-year leasing agreement, I said that the possibility of this situation occurring was remote because we had taken delivery of the F4E aircraft in September and we would not be taking delivery of the Fill aircraft before September 1972. That is all I said, in my answer to that question. The honourable senator may infer what he likes from that answer. The point is I was referring to F4E leases only.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, ls he aware of a report by a union official in Darwin that Aboriginal stockmen in the Northern Territory are living in shocking hovels? Will the Minister ask bis colleague to examine that allegation and, if it is correct, ensure that early action is taken to improve their living conditions?
– 1 am not aware whether that allegation is true. However, the honourable senator can rest assured that his question will be directed very quickly to the responsible Minister for investigation, and remedial action, if such action is necessary.
– I wish to ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has any application been received from or approach been made by the Premier of Tasmania to the Commonwealth Government for assistance to help that State in its current economic difficulties?
– [ have no information in front of me on that subject at the present time. I shall seek to obtain information on this matter for the honourable senator. Am I correct in assuming that he was referring to the economic situation in Tasmania?.
– Yes, the employment difficulties arising out of the economic situation.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate paid any attention to or is he aware of the remarks of certain members of the Opposition that the Budget is not having its desired effect on the Australian economy? Is it a fact that no legislative matter arising from the Budget has as yet been passed by both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament and that the Budget proposals have not as yet had sufficient time to have the slightest effect on the Australian economy?
In the atmosphere of getting through the business late last night 1 did refer to that issue. I pointed out that we were only just coming to the conclusion of the debate on the Budget and that the Budget proposals as such had not yet become law.
– But they had been read.
Yes, they had been made known to the public. No doubt the Australian Labor Party is trying to make political capital out of what could be the consequences of the Budget. I think that any economist would agree with me when I say that the implications of a Budget - plus or minus, good or bad - in any circumstances will begin to operate when its provisions become law. There are always in this world of ours weak sisters who see devils round the corner and Jeremiahs who anticipate trouble because they get some fatalistic satisfaction out of that sort of thing. But the real essence of a Budget proposal is the application of that proposal.
I shall give honourable senators a classic example of how that has been operating in this chamber. A series of questions has been asked of me about employment and unemployment, but never at any stage have any of the honourable senators opposite who have been asking these questions brought out the fact that, contrary to the implications of the question, the unemployment situation did in fact improve in the month of August. Nor has anybody brought out the fact contained in the front page of a document issued by the Department of Labour and National Service that the decrease in the number of registered unemployed was 2.455 or 4 per cent, which compares with an average decrease of about 5,000 or 10 per cent during the last 3 years.
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister has said that nobody has brought out the point of unemployment. In fact, I did that very thing in a question which I asked.
– What is the Standing Order to which the honourable senator refers?
– The point of order is that the information being supplied by the Minister is incorrect. If he refers to my question of yesterday he will see that in fact 1 did bring out that very point.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
Would the honourable senator care to move that the document be tabled?
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Government decided yet what position it will take in the coming session of the United Nations General Assembly on the question of the seating of the People’s Republic of China in the General Assembly and on the Security Council, and the continued membership of the Taipeh Government in the United Nations? Will the Parliament have an opportunity to debate the Government’s policy before debates take place in the United Nations?
It would be unique for us to have a debate on a matter of international policy before it went before the United Nations. 1 could think of nothing more disastrous, apart altogether from the procedures of Parliament, than predebating all the decisions of policy on the international scene, let alone the domestic scene. I think the classic answer is that it is a matter of policy and therefore I cannot comment on it.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that the parking area for employees of the Department of Civil Aviation at Canberra Airport has been handed over to Avis Rent-a-Car System Pty Ltd? Is he aware that the area now used by employees requires them to cross the main road, thus constituting a traffic hazard, and that the area is badly lit at night and security from theft is very poor? Why was Avis allowed this benefit at the expense of the Department’s employees? If this is to be a permanent arrangement, will the Minister provide a suitable alternative car park for them.?
– I am not aware of the details of this matter, but 1 should imagine that it is part of the exercise in which the Department engages under Treasury instructions to try to maximise its revenue, and that it would be leasing parking areas to Avis Rent-a-Car in order to obtain increased revenue. Therefore it would have made substitute arrangements across the road for its own employees who, 1 imagine, do not pay parking fees. I imagine also many members of the public park their cars in the same area. I shall look into all these matters and let the honourable senator know the results.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. I refer to the recent allegations of a breakdown in security in the Department of Supply in South Australia. What steps has the Minister taken in regard to future security measures within his Department? How does the Australian security record compare with that of other countries?
– I will begin with the last part of the question. I understand that Australian security has a very good record indeed and it compares very favourably with that in any other country.
– They sold classified documents for $30 at an auction sale.
– In relation to the matter that Senator Cavanagh speaks of, I understand that documents - some classified, but most of them unclassified - were found in some filing cabinet.
Procedures were instigated requiring a very careful watch to be kept on all material before it was disposed of.
That was the immediate action that took place. 1 understand that when my colleague in another place took over the portfolio of Supply one of his first actions was to review the whole of these procedures. 1 hope that he will not have a repetition of the particular instances to which the honourable senator refers.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of the public interest in Australia’s assistance to refugees from Pakistan? Can the . Minister outline what assistance has been given and is proposed to be given? If not, could honourable senators be supplied with a full report on what has been done?
Yes, I think it is appropriate that the Senate should be supplied with the information. I do not have it readily available to me at question time. I shall set out to obtain the information and have it made available.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply: In his reply to the question asked by Senator Jessop which related to a breakdown of security at the Woomera rocket range did the Minister indicate that there was a breakdown of security at Woomera? Who was responsible for this breakdown of security? Will any further action - other than that stated by the Minister - be taken to stop a recurrence of a breakdown in security?
– I did not refer to a breakdown of security at Woomera. The honourable senator has a question on notice which he asked me last Tuesday in relation to a specific matter. I referred the question to the Minister concerned and I am waiting for a reply. Until I obtain that reply I cannot go any further with the honourable senator’s question.
– I direct a question to the Minister of Health. Is it not a fact that the Australian Dental Association has lost patience with the Commonwealth Government over the lack of a positive response to the Association’s original dental insurance proposal? Does the Minister seriously believe that in the face of Australian employer organisations’ bleats on rising costs they would have a bar of the United States system now advanced by the Dental Association in which employers underwrite their employees’ dental costs? Finally, what initiative is the Minister taking to bridge this gap?
– In the last 24 hours there has been some publicity about this matter of dental charges and systems. Primarily this is a State responsibility. I have sought to obtain some information from my Department about the matter. That information is not available to me at the moment which is not surprising because of demands made when the Senate sits in the morning. When I obtain the information I shall be happy to make it available to the honourable senator. My first impression of the matter was that it is a problem not directly within the responsibility of the Commonwealth Department of Health, although the honourable senator in the ultimate sentence of his question suggested that it should be. I shall have a look at that matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that a 12-month old boy and a 70-year old widow have received national service call up notices? Does this mean that the Government plans to continue conscription for at least another 19 years or, alternatively, is it thinking of widening the scope of the National Service Act to include 70-year old women? If the boy fails to register will the Government guarantee to prosecute him with greater fervour than it is currently doing with the estimated 1,100 young men who have refused out of conscience to register for conscription?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI do not regard this as a serious question. We have had the odd experience of parliamentarians suddenly receiving a call up notice because somebody, very wickedly, has submitted their names. I suppose that if Senator Poke received such a notice he would have to ask himself whether he, at his age - I do not know his age - would report for national service. So I say that I do not regard the question as serious; nor do I regard it as offensive. I think the honourable senator is just creating a lighthearted atmosphere at question time in the Senate.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science aware of the current emergence of a potentially disastrous locust plaque which threatens farmers in southern New South Wales and Victoria? Will the Minister ensure that the full resources of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and other relevant government facilities, including the Department of Primary Industry and, if necessary, Service personnel and equipment, arc placed at the disposal of the States concerned for use as required?
I have heard that there is a potential locust plaque in certain areas, particularly in New South Wales. In the first instance the responsibility would rest with the appropriate departments of the States concerned. I presume it would be the Department of Agriculture in New South Wales and a corresponding department in other States. That is not to say that the specialised know-how, experience and research being done by the CSIRO or any other Commonwealth instrumentality should not be coopted and brought to bear if there is a need for advice. I certainly shall have the honourable senator’s question processed to find out whether Commonwealth examination of any special features through the CSIRO or other departments could be of assistance.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Works aware that as part of Government economy measures the following skilled employees attached to the plant workshops, plant pool, Garbutt, Townsville, received notices of dismissal on Monday, 13th September: 4 mechanics, 1 welder, 1 lube attendant and i plant foreman. Will the Minister, as a matter of extreme urgency, cancel the dismissal notices as all concerned will suffer severe hardships by loss of employment in an area already seriously depressed by snowballing unemployment registrations?
I regard this as a supplementary question to the one asked earlier to which I replied by indicating that I am not aware of the facts. I am grateful to Senator Keeffe for giving some supplementary information which I will have sent to the Department of Works for further evaluation and I shall await a reply from the Department.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is he aware that unemployment in Tasmania has increased rapidly over the past week or two and that part of it stems from the dismissal of workers by Associated Pulp and Paper Manufacturers due to the fact that this company has been partly priced out of both its overseas and Australian markets, and that this has happened not as a result of action by either State or Commonwealth governments? I ask the Minister: In these circumstances will the Government have a look at this position with a view to taking remedial action?
As I interpret the honourable senator’s question, he is suggesting that APPM is being priced out of the market, presumably because of lack of tariff protection or because overseas competitors can bring commodities into Australia and adversely compete against it. Is that the implication of the question?
– And because of increased costs.
– They lost their contracts due to the strike.
Now Senator Webster is helping with the question. Has any other honourable senator a contribution to make before I answer?
– I am willing to protect any Minister answering questions but I think you are fielding them very well.
I am a peaceful man this morning. The fact is that that aspect of Senator Lillico’s question should be directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Rather than have him repeat the question I will sea that it is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Senator Webster offered help and suggested that other factors such as industrial matters may well have influenced the situation. All I can say is that I shall refer that part of the question to the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. By way of preamble I point out that doubts have been expressed by some researchers in America about additives such as salt, sugar and monosodium glutamate in prepared baby foods, as published in a recent Nader publication The .Chemical Feast’. Has the Commonwealth Department of Health taken any steps to investigate the truth or otherwise of these reports? If so, what are its findings?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAs an adjunct to the Department of Health we have established the National Health and Medical Research Council to which matters of this nature may be referred. I shall have to study the question after question time to see whether this is a matter which might properly be referred to the Council. In any event, the honourable senator is entitled to a considered reply from my Department, and I shall see that he gets it.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Have major business leaders asked the Government to ease the restrictive Budget policies? If the Prime Minister believes that the time for remedial action has not yet arrived, what will it take to persuade the Government that a serious recession is rapidly approaching?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI would not like to be uncharitable and say that the wish is father to the thought, but this follows the pattern of a series of questions that have been asked in this place over the last few days. I do not want to get into the political arena in replying to the question because I consider that I gave a fair answer recently when I said that the Government’s Budget strategy was to arrest inflationary trends in the community which operate more heavily against the pensioner superannuitant and low income earner than against anybody else. The Government’s policy has been to frame a Budget which would steady and stabilise the economy. I repeat that our economy is probably one of the soundest in the world, with an unemployment rate of less than 2 per cent, as I mentioned a day or two ago.
I pointed out on that occasion that in a vast continent like Australia, where as ingredients of the economy we have primary producing industries, manufacturing industries and a migration programme providing for a high intake of migrants, to all intents and purposes that unemployment rate is very close to full employment. That is not to say that we do not have to watch the situation. I believe I stated recently, in replying to a question from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, that every Budget put down by the Government has in it ingredients of flexibility to meet any situation that may arise. It is nonsensical and infantile to think that we could have an economy in which the Government could lay down a policy, and then sit back believing that nothing would change. The very nature of this country, more so than that of other countries, is such that we arc susceptible to changes. Every time that the Government brings down a Budget, that Budget must be sufficiently flexibile to enable us to meet any situation that might arise. The Government will continue to adopt that approach, as it has done since 1949, and in that way it will retain the confidence of the great mass of the community.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question. Will the Government direct the Reserve Bank of Australia to reduce interest rates as a direct move to combat the Government inspired recession psychology and to reverse the disturbing economic lethargy which is now affecting the nation?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI adverted to this matter recently when I think Senator Webster asked about the implication of the Reserve Bank interest rate as an instrument of economic policy. I have had my say on that subject and, therefore, I think I should ask that this question be put on notice.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. As the rugby league grand final will be played in Sydney on Saturday and time is running out, has the Minister an answer to my question regarding the Australian Broadcasting Commission telecasting the match?
– I remember the interest of the honourable senator in seeking to ensure that the rugby league grand final is telecast, particularly in country areas. I assured him yesterday that I would convey his interest to the Postmaster-General. I have been informed, and I think today’s Press has stated, that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is having discussions today with the President of the New South Wales Rugby Football League about the possibility of televising Saturday’s grand final to country areas - outside Sydney, at least - if it is not possible to arrange for telecasting in the Sydney metropolitan area. Having regard to the interest which the Press has now taken in this matter, I imagine that the honourable senator will be able to find the answer to his question in short time in the media.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by referring to telephone conversations that 1 had this morning with people from the Warringah Shire in regard to the selection of Duffy’s Forest as a site for a second airport. Can the Minister amplify the technical objections to the use of Duffy’s Forest as a major airport - there was reference to them in the Minister’s statement yesterday - so that the citizen groups which are opposed to any form of air facility in the shire will be able to use that information to further their campaign?
– I do not want to repeat the statement I made yesterday. I am sure the honourable senator who pays attention to these matters will appreciate that I made particular reference to the fact that interested bodies would have the opportunity to present views to the joint Commonwealth and State committee and also to seek views from that committee. I will do everything I can to aid that process because my broad view is that civil aviation is essentially a public utility and that airports are public facilities provided for the use of everyone. Therefore, all viewpoints that concern airports should be put forward. Within that broad feeling I will do what I can to help.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Has there been any compaint from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation that calls upon its staff to supply dossiers on individuals leaves insufficient time to protect fully classified documents?
– T am not aware of any such complaint.
– On 30th March I placed on notice question No. 1028 which concerns the health of the people of Australia. I believe that it relates to a very important matter. Can the Minister for Health state, when I may expect a reply?
I will get an answer for the honourable senator.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Works is supplementary to the 2 questions asked previously. I apologise for this but I might have been ruled out of order if I had included all of this material in the one question. By way of preface I advise the Minister that the job of the dismissed Department of Works plant pool foreman at Townsville, plus the position of another foreman on transfer, will be taken over by the plant inspector. The task of making up entries, doing the paper work and keeping the records of the plant pool foreman now will be cast upon the clerk. Is this the result of a general direction issued by the Minister to enable the Department to ensure continuing staff reductions? Will the Minister take urgent action to eliminate such practices, prevent the breaking down of working conditions and restore the jobs of those dismissed - I have named them previously - who have service with the Commonwealth Department of Works for from 2 years to 7 years?
I am grateful to the honourable senator for the supplementary information he has given. I will add that to the information contained in his two previous questions. This question does not come within my portfolio so the matters of policy raised will be referred to the Minister for Works and it will be for him to decide whether to respond on that aspect.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Can honourable senators now regard as practice the acceptance by a Minister of an interjection as part of the original question asked? If so can I, as one who rarely interjects, think up suitable interjections for consideration by the Minister?
– Order! The use of ironical expressions in questions is forbidden.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAs 1 cannot give an ironical answer, I must be a little careful. Generally speaking, I would have thought that supplementary questions asked when a Minister was on his feet would be highly disorderly. But, we are all in your hands, Mr President, and I am sure that we all have complete confidence in your judgment in these matters.
– I direct a further question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I preface it by referring to his ministerial statement of yesterday in which he refered to the role of the CommonwealthState committee which is to be set up and which will consider the second major airport for Sydney. In view of further phone calls I have received this morning from people in the Warringah area, I ask: Are they able to ascertain from him now or by written submission to that committee what would be the flight paths across metropolitan Sydney of international airliners reaching the Australian coast if Somersby were considered to be the ideal spot?
– I do not think I can add anything, except to suggest as I did earlier that any group which is concerned with these matters should direct its queries to the joint Commonwealth-State committee. The honourable senator would appreciate, I am sure, that we are moving into a rather new area in handling a problem in this way. As I said elsewhere, this is rather a landmark in Commonwealth-State relationships. I respond in this way because I believe that this is a total community problem. For me to do the joint committee’s job would be to pre-empt the situation and might well cause its members to say: ‘But you gave us the job’. I suggest that in the first place the query should be directed to the joint committee, and 1 will back it up by doing anything I can to help.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry seen today’s Press reports that the amount of wool shipped to Europe since the opening of this season’s sales in Australia is 56,000 bales less than the anticipated figure? ls this further evidence of the continuing crisis in the wool industry and is it confimation that many wool buyers are buying outside Australia because of the price rigging activities of the Australian Wool Commission?
– I saw the report. The figure mentioned is one put forward by the buyers. I do not know whether it is correct. I do not think it is further evidence of certain things, as the honourable senator says it is.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: Is it a fact that many hundreds of widows are being forced to apply for pensions because most of their ready cash has been absorbed by death taxes? Does be consider that the Government should allow this state of affairs to continue? Is lt a fact that every year thousands of Australians spend millions of dollars in other countries, thereby reducing their savings to a minimum and so avoiding death taxes? Does the Government realise that because such people have reduced their savings they are then able to apply for and obtain a pension? Does the Government consider this situation to be in the best interests of the Australian economy?
The honourable senator has asked a series of questions, some of which would be covered by the portfolio of Social Services and some of which would be covered by the portfolio of the Treasury. 1 have never heard it put that people go overseas to spend their money in order to avoid death duties. 1 have heard of people who allegedly have tended to dispose of some of their assets in order to place themselves within the framework of the Social Services Act. That is quite legitimate. The question covers a very wide area, and 1 do not think it lends itself to the giving of an answer at question time. I will refer the honourable senator’s question to both the Treasurer and the Minister for Social Services. He may receive answers from both Ministers, to which he can respond.
– Will the Minister for Health investigate complaints of delays in the processing of ordinary workers compensation claims by employees of the Department of Health in the Northern Territory? A particular complaint has been made to me by Mr Carroll, the main trade union leader in the Northern Territory, in respect of a domestic worker at the Darwin Hospital who suffered an injury as a result of which her hip is encased in plaster. The injury occurred 2 months ago. No compensation has been paid although there is no dispute about the claim. None is likely to be paid for another 5 or 6 weeks although normally the processing of such claims, by the Department of Works for example, takes only about a fortnight.
I will have the question referred to the Department of Health. If I need further detailed particulars, I will ask Senator
Murphy to give them to me. I shall ascertain what the situation is. I certainly shall do that expeditiously.
(Question No. 1217)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Qantas has provided the following information:
The number of pilots, excluding cadet pilots, employed by Qantas Airways Ltd in each of the years 1.964 to 1970 inclusive, as at December, was as shown in the following table. The figures are not for 31 December, as Qantas records flight staff disposition figures on a recurrent 28 day cycle, which does not correspond to calendar months. The effective date in December is shown in each case.
(Question No. 1235)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for, Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1320)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Is there any evidence to suggest that Japan and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics are concluding trade agreements with Rhodesia in defiance of the United Nations Security Council sanctions against trade with Rhodesia.
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has furnished the following reply:
The Australian Government has no information which suggests that Japan and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics are concluding trade agreements with Southern Rhodesia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– On 7th September Senator Wriedt asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, without notice:
My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows that asked by Senator Townley regarding an Omega station in Australia. The Leader of the Government said he would refer the question to the appropriate Minister. I ask: Will he also draw that Minister’s attention to an article in this month’s edition of Aircraft’ which states that the United States Navy has taken delivery from Litton Industries of the first of 8 Omega transmitters which are to be installed in 8 named countries including Australia? Will he ascertain from the Minister on what grounds the United States Navy assumes that a transmitter will be installed somewhere in Australia?
The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The contract for Omega transmitters referred to in the September edition of ‘Aircraft’ has been a matter of public knowledge since it was let about a year ago to Litton Industries Incorporated. The preferred, and hoped-for locations for the 8 stations, as given in the ‘Aircraft’ report, are the same as listed in numerous public statements made by the United States authorities from the outset of their Omega planning. In all cases, the United States has approached the country concerned for participation in the global Omega network. Obviously the United States authority implementing the Omega project has elected not to await confirmation of all proposed participants before proceeding with equipment procurement The latter action could not be said to imply agreement on any or all of the locations at which the equipment might be installed.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act 1956-1971, I present the Fifteenth Annual Report of the Corporation for the year ended 30th June 1971, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 53 of the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946-1971, I present the annual report of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission for the year ended 3 1st March 1971 together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 12 of the Immigration (Education) Act 1971, I present the annual report on migrant education for the year ended 30th June 1971.
– On behalf of the Public Accounts Committee I present the 131st and 132nd reports of the Public Accounts Committee. With the concurrence of honourable senators 1 incorporate in Hansard a statement on the reports.
The 131st report relates to the Treasury minute on your committee’s 112th report, which concerns Commonwealth advertising. The 132nd report refers to the Treasury minute on the 115th report concerning expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer 1968-69.
Honourable senators will be aware that on several occasions the former Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie), referred to the Treasury minutes arrangement as an important element in ensuring that, through your Committee, the Parliament maintains a significant role in the financial administration on the Commonwealth. I endorse that view completely. While, under that arrangement, it is open to your Committee to make such comment as may be necessary on any Treasury minute arising from its reports, your Committee has not found it necessary to make any comment on the Treasury minute relating to the 112th report. It has found it necessary, however, to comment on the Treasury minute relating to the 115th report. This comment takes the form of an observation set out in Chapter 3 of the 132nd report.
As honourable senators will be aware, your Committee has been concerned on many occasions over the years with the quality of the evidence tendered by the witnesses. In this regard the Treasury minute on the 115th report suggests that factually inaccurate evidence may have been submitted by the Department of the Interior in connection with item 363/2/02 relating to stationery and printing for the Australian Capital Territory Police. In view of the comments made in the Treasury minute, your Committee re-examined the relevant evidence and also sought advice from the Department of the Interior regarding the accuracy of the evidence that it had tendered during the inquiry in relation to matters of fact. On the basis of this re-examination and the advice obtained, your Committee believes that the evidence tendered concerning an order that had been placed for a law manual and a Police law reference book lacked clarity. Your Committee also believes, however, that evidence given in relation to an amount of$500 for the Police law reference book, was correct on the basis of information available to the department at the time when the evidence was tendered to the Committee.
I commend the reports to honourable senators.
Ordered to be printed.
– by leave - Yesterday when giving notice of a motion in relation to Senate Estimates Committees I listed certain departments and I used the alphabetical letters A, B, C, D and E to signify the Committees which were to examine the estimates of the respective departments. Subsequently it was drawn to my attention that in doing so I rather confused the issue, because some senators who were on Estimates Committee C last year expected to be members of Estimates Committee C this year but last year’s Estimates Committee C became this year’s Estimates Committee D or something of that kind. In the spirit of sweet reasonableness I would like to amend my motion. Estimates Committee A will remain as Estimates Committee A. Estimates Committee B, before which Senator Wright has ministerial responsibility, is to become Estimates Committee C. The third one is D; the fourth one, which includes the Department of Air and the Department of Primary Industry, becomes E; and the final one which is E becomes B. I think that gets us back to where everybody understands where he is going. I will move that as a formal motion.
– Do you not think you should state ‘unless otherwise ordered’?
– I could put that on if it would make you happy. I move:
Estimates Committee A -
Department of Health
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Department of Defence
Department of the Treasury
Estimates Committee B -
Department of Immigration
Department of Social Services
Department of the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts
Estimates Committee C -
Department of Works
Department of Foreign Affairs
Department of Education and Science
Department of Labour and National Service
Department of External Territories
Department of Housing
Estimates Committee D -
Department of Civil Aviation
Department of Trade and Industry
Department of National Development
Department of Shipping and Transport
Department of Customs and Excise
Department of the Interior
Estimates Committee E -
Department of Air
Department of Primary Industry
Department of the Army
Department of the Navy
Department of Supply
– I was hoping andI intended to have some conversation with Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - unfortunately we were impeded by questions - about whether this would be the appropriate time and the appropriate vehicle to carry a proposition which is the subject of a notice of motion.
– Order!It was agreed by the Senate to take this as a formal matter, Senator Byrne. If you wish to move an amendment, you will have to seek leave.
– If I may intercede for a moment I may be able to help Senator Byrne. I ask for leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– by leave - I suggest that we deal with this as a formal matter and on the basis that an endeavour would be made at some time this evening, after the Standing Orders mutter, to bring on the matter which Senator Byrne has in mind. We will endeavour to meet his wishes in that way.
– I ask for leave to make a short statement. As to Senator Murphy’s remarks, the reason why I want the matter debated is that it is essential that it be debated before the Estimates Committees become viable; whether now or this evening, at least it should be today. Otherwise the whole project would be aborted.
– You are seeking leave to make a statement?
– Is leave granted?
There being no objection, leave is granted.
– by leave - Ex post facto I therefore indicate that I am quite happy with that arrangement, that later today there will be an opportunity to present the matter relating to the presence of Ministers in another place before Estimates Committees.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - On behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) I inform the Senate that the Government has decided that there should be an inquiry into parliamentary salaries and allowances. Parliamentary salaries and allowances were last adjusted in December 1968. It will be generally accepted that there should be periodic reviews of parliamentary salaries and allowances just as there are in other sectors of the community. It has been represented to me from both sides of the House that there should be a review at this time. In the recent history of this matter, there have been 3 inquiries held - in 1952, in 1955 and in 1959. Since then, in 1964 and in 1968 the salary adjustments were made by decision of the Parliament itself.
The Government has decided that in this instance it should revert to the inquiry method. We propose that one of the terms of reference will be an examination and report upon methods by which parliamentary salaries and allowances may be determined in future. The Government has decided to ask Mr Juctice Kerr to undertake this task. He has accepted. Mr Justice Kerr was appointed a judge of the Commonwealth industrial court in 1966. As a senior counsel at the Bar he had previously had an extensive practice in industrial matters. Mr Justice Kerr is at present Chairman of a 5-man committee that the Government has appointed to inquire into pay and other conditions of service of members of the armed forces. He has informed me that the committee has a planned programme for carrying out the remainder of its inquiry and for the submission of its further report. I have the Judge’s firm assurance that the examination of parliamentary salaries he has now been asked to undertake will in no way delay the completion of the work of the armed forces pay committee. That work will proceed and will be carried to finality as originally planned.
The terms of reference of the inquiry will be:
To examine and report upon the salaries and allowances of senators and members of the House of Representatives, and those paid to Ministers and senators and members who are office bearers of the Parliament.
If it be reported that it is necessary or desirable to alter such salaries and allowances or any of them, then to recommend the nature and extent of the alterations that should be made.
To examine and report upon methods by which such salaries and allowances may be determined in future.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:
Thai the Senate at ils rising adjourn till Tuesday. 28lh September 1971 at 3 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time.
(12.7) - I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to increase existing pensions payable under the Superannuation Act in accordance with the decision announced in the Budget. Honourable senators will be aware that the Superannuation fund is a contributory pension scheme for the Commonwealth’s own employees. The fund, which is built up from the contributions of the employees, meets a part of each pension payment and the Commonwealth as the employer provides the balance from Consolidated Revenue. In the case of pensions paid to former employees of Commonwealth authorities outside the Budget each authority meets the employer’s share from its own resources. The last adjustment of pensions payable under the Superannuation Act was made in 1967. In the intervening period there have been significant changes in the cost of living which in particular have affected adversely the purchasing power of those pensions in existence at the time of the last increase. lt is proposed once again to determine the increases in pensions by what has become known as the notional salary method. Under this method of adjustment, the employer’s share of each pension in existence at 30th June 1971 will be increased to the amount that it would have been had the pensioner retired on that date, taking into account changes since his retirement in the salary he then received. As on previous occasions the proportionate reduction principle will apply to the increases received by those pensioners who, for one reason or another, retired on pensions that were less than their full entitlement.
Provision has been made in the Bill to increase, as appropriate, a pension that became payable, on or before 30th June 1971, to a person who elected to have the preservation provisions of the Superannuation Act 1971 apply to him and who took his preservation benefit in the form of a deferred pension. As on previous occasions, a widow will receive the appropriate proportion, five-eighths or one-half, of the increase that her husband would have received had he been alive and in receipt of a pension on 30th June 1971. Certain orphans will also receive increased pensions. Nevertheless, the position of orphans and children will be given special consideration when the results of the quinquennial investigations of the superannuation and defence forces retirement benefits funds become available during the next twelve months.
The increases resulting from adoption of the notional salary method will for many pensioners be substantial, particularly for those longer standing pensioners who, perhaps at some sacrifice, maintained fully their contributions to the Superannuation fund until their retirement. The Government now has serious reservations about the results produced by applying the notional salary method but decided to adopt it again as pensioners, and others on their behalf had indicated on many occasions that they favoured this method and had every expectation that it would again apply. The method is however complex in its operation and close examination has shown that it generates anomalies and inequities between pensioners. The Government proposes, therefore, to examine simpler methods of adjustment which would produce more equitable results with a view to future application on a regular basis. I have arranged for circulation to honourable senators of an explanatory memorandum on the effects of the Bill on pension entitlements. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poke) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time.
(12.10) - I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This bill, which is a companion measure to the Superannuation (Pension Increases) Bill that 1 have just introduced, gives effect to the Government’s proposals to provide increases in certain defence forces retirement pensions.
As with pensions paid from the Superannuation Fund, pensions payable under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act were last increased in 1967 when the notional salary method of adjustment was used. The bill provides for the same method of adjustment to be used on this occasion. The pensions of persons who retired on their full pension entitlement will therefore be increased by five-sevenths of the difference between the actual pension and the pension they would have received had retirement occurred on 30th
June 1971. Those who retired on less than their full entitlement or who, after retirement, commuted part of their pension for a lump sum will receive an appropriate proportion of this increase.
Deferred pensions that may have become payable before 30th June 1971 in accordance with the preservation provisions of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1971 will be adjusted as appropriate. Increases will also be payable to widows and to certain orphan pensioners. The Bill provides for increases in the pensions payable to 2 other small groups of pensioners. The first group comprises invalidity pensioners who at the time of their retirement were under 18 years of age and were not able to contribute to the DFRB Fund. The second group consists of pensioners who receive pension based on the entitlement for which they were contributing under the Superannuation Act in 1948, immediately prior to their being transferred to the DFRB Fund. Examples of increases provided by the Bill are set out in the explanatory memorandum being circulated to honourable senators.
As I have already said when introducing the Superannuation (Pensions Increases) Bill, the Government will be examining simpler methods of adjustment which would produce more equitable results than the notional salary method of adjustment adopted in this Bill, with a view to future application on a regular basis. 1 commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poke) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time.
(12.15) - I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to increase existing parliamentary and ministerial pensions payable under the Parliamentary
Retiring Allowances Act in accordance with principles similar to those incorporated in the 2 Bills already introduced into the Senate providing for increases in existing superannuation and defence forces retirement benefits pensions. The increases provided by the Bill will result in the consolidated revenue component of existing pensions being raised to the level that prevailed for a member retiring on 30th June 1971. But, because the rates ofpension applying to members and office-holders currently contributing to the parliamentary and ministerial retiring allowances funds have remained unchanged since1st December 1968, the effect of the Bill is to increase only those pensions in relation to persons who qualified prior to that date.
The Bill also increases by one-half the Prime Ministerial pensions payable to the widows of 2 former Prime Ministers who died before the commencement of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act in 1948. These rates of pension have remained unchanged since 1959. Information regarding the new rates of pension provided by the Bill is contained in the explanatory memorandum being distributed to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poke) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 14th September (vide page 681), on motion by Senator Greenwood:
That the Bill be now read a second time
– I presume that honourable senators have received copies of the amendment whichI propose to move on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. I think, probably stating the obvious, that this Bill to amend the Social Services Act is one of the most important, if not the most important piece of legislation to be considered by this Parliament because it has an important effect on the living standards of over 1,000,000 people. I believe that those who are directly interested in thismatter - because they are recipients of social service payments - should have been entitled to look forward to something better than what is proposed in this amending BillI say that because of the statement which was made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on 15th March. At that time it was proposed as an interim measure to increase the pension rate by 50c. I understand that the increase was to operate from April 1971. I think that it is important to recount again what the Prime Minister said on that occasion. He stated.
We will follow this immediate increase -
That is the 50c I referred to - in pension rates with a fundamental review of social services and related pensions and also of methods of adjusting such benefits. This review, which has already been commenced, will be under consideration in the near future with the object of bringing emerging decisions into effect for the year 1971-72.
I say again that I believe that those who had high hopes in relation to proposals to update our social welfare system should have expected something better than what appears in this amending Bill. There is no indication in this Bill of any emerging decisions as a consequence of the review which the Prime Minister announced had been, in fact, commenced. This is another Bill which increases, in a fashion, the various payments made to the recipients of social services. One would have hoped that the Prime Minister would have had a look at ways and means of improving the methods of adjusting such benefits and that he would have given consideration to relating the base pension to the average weekly income. The base pension would then have been tied to an index which would be readily acknowledged and which could be used as a method of automatically adjusting the base pension. Also one would have hoped that some general consideration would have been given to what is described as ‘prosperity movements’ in the community. This would have tied the provisions for social service payments to a realistic formula, to the benefit of those who are recipients. I move:
My remarks on this Bill will be tantamount to a justification for the terms of that amendment. The Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) in his second reading speech said:
It is worth noting that the increases in the base rate are cumulative upon the interim 50c increase given last April. Measured from Budget to Budget the standard rate pension has been increased by $1.75 per week, and the married rate pension by $1.50 per week. This is by a considerable margin the greatest rise in a simitar period in the whole history of Australian pensions. In terms of buying power, the basic pension is now considerably higher than it was at the time of the last Budget, and is in fact higher than it has ever been in the whole history of Australian pensions.
I suppose one could say that at least this proposal breaks the 50c, 75c and $1 barriers which it has been the standard practice of this Government to set for many years now. At least we can concede this. But although the pension rate is higher in the monetary sense it is no higher in terms of real purchasing value. Let us consider what happened on the last occassion that pensions were increased, the interim increase of 50c in April of this year. That increase went to only 77 per cent of age pensioners. Another 2 per cent received only part of the increase while 21 per cent of them received nothing.
Looking at the statistics 1 have had complied to see who will be the recipients of the new increases I find again that a large number of people will receive only part of the increase and a large number will receive no increase whatsoever. For example, based on the new proposals, the full increase of the new age pension will be paid to 660,000 people and a part increase will be paid to 23,000 people. Those who will receive no benefit whatsoever number 148,000. In respect of invalid pensioners, 1 17,500 will receive the full increase, 1,500 will receive a part increase and 17,000 will receive no increase. In respect of widows, the full increase will be paid to 73,500, the part increase to 2,500 and 16,000 will receive no increase whatsoever. In total, grouping age, invalid and widows together, it means that a total of 851,000 will receive the full increase, 27,000 will receive a part increase and 181,000 will receive nothing whatsoever. That is not good enough.
The Opposition says that the increases proposed are inadequate, as we state in our amendment. This can be shown by relating them to the average standards of prosperity. For instance, the single pension rate at the end of 1971 certainly will have increased as a percentage of the average weekly wage. But again this table shows that, although it is true that the current rate payable represents 18.9 per cent of the average weekly earnings and with the new increase proposed in this Bill it will represent 20.4 per cent of average weekly earnings, by the end of the financial year this will not be so. The basis for my saying that is that according to the Budget papers - 1 think it is to be found at page 39 of the statement attached to the 1971- 72 Budget - it is anticipated that there will be a 9 per cent increase in average weekly earnings by the end of the financial year. If we take that into account, it means that by the end of the financial year the single age pension will have fallen again to 18.7 per cent of the average weekly income. This will, in fact be the lowest level to which the pension has fallen as a percentage of the average weekly earnings in . the post-war period.
I turn now to child endowment. One of course cannot consider endowment for the first child because it is not increased in this proposal. Based on the formula to which I have referred, endowment for 3 children under 16 years of age, with the proposed increase, will rise from 3.5 per cent of the average weekly earnings to 4.1 per cent until the end of this year. But by the end of the financial year in 1972 the value will have fallen and endowment will represent only 3.8 per cent of the average weekly income. According to the statistics supplied to me by the Legislative Research Service this will be the lowest percent since 1946.
Turning to the class A widow’s pension, we see that for a widow with one dependent child over 6 years, again there is an increase in the pension as a percentage of average weekly earnings from 26.6 per cent to 30.4 per cent. But again by the end of the financial year, having regard to the anticipated 9 per cent increase in average weekly earnings, the figure will drop to 27.9 per cent of average weekly earnings. The pension payable to a married person with a spouse unfortunate enough to be displaced from employment through unavailability of job opportunities or through sickness will increase under this Bill from 20.1 per cent of the average weekly earnings at the moment to 21.3 per cent. But again by the end of the financial year the percentage of average weekly earnings will have fallen to 19.6 per cent. I suppose one would have to concede the truth of what the Attorney-General said in his second reading speech when he made this statement:
In terms of buying power, the basic pension is now considerably higher than it was at the time of the last Budget . . .
But when we project the figures to the end of the financial year we see that that position will not be sustained. 1 turn now to the question of poverty which the Opposition refers to in its amendment. By using the formula adopted by the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne one finds that on an updated poverty level the standard rate of pension is more than 5 per cent below the poverty line. That is according to the figures for the June 1971 quarter in Victoria. By the end of the financial year the rate will be more than 1 per cent below the poverty line. The unemployment and sickness benefits for a man with a spouse and 2 children reaching short term benefits will be $21.50 below the poverty line and will be more than $26 below it by the end of the financial year.
The Opposition suggests - we believe rightly - that a national superannuation scheme should be established and at the same time the means test shoud be eliminated. This proposal is neither novel nor new. It has been discussed from time to time over the years but has never been acted upon. Through some research I found that this matter was first raised back in 1913 in the era of the Cook Government. It was raised again during the course of the Bruce-Page Government from 1923 to 1928. In 1938 the Lyons Government gave an undertaking to the people of the Commonwealth that it would in fact introduce a national superannuation scheme. I understand that it even prepared legislation. However, regrettably, this undertaking was in due course dishonoured. It is interesting to recall that the then Attorney-General,
Mr Robert Gordon Menzies, resigned; I quote the Sydney Moring Hearld as a most emphatic means of registering his protest. He protested against the failure of the Government of which he was a member to honour its undertaking to the country.
In 1944, 1945 and 1949 Mr Menzies, as Leader of the Liberal Party, reiterated on a number of occasions his commitment and pledge to the public in relation to the introduction of a system of national superannuation. In his policy speech in 1949 he said:
Australia still needs a contributory system of national insurance against sickness, widowhood, unemployment and old age. It is only under such a system that we can make all benefits a matter of right and, so, completely get rid of the means test. During the new Parliament we will further investigate this complicated problem with “ a view to presenting to you at the election in 1952 a scheme for your approval.
I say on behalf of the Opposition that we agree wholeheartedly with the expressions of the then Leader of the Liberal Party. I regret to say that this was one of 2 major undertakings given to the people of the Commonwealth on that occasion that his Party failed to honour. The first undertaking - a famous one - was to put value back into the ?1, and the second was to introduce and present at the 1952 election for the approval of the people a national superannuation scheme.
– It was the Nationalist Party, which was later the UAP and which is now the Liberal Party, which had that as a plank of its platform?
– That is true. My friend, who is a little older than I am, particularly in experience; can recall that the Liberal Party had other names in earlier years, but it is true to say that a consistent attitude has been adopted by this conservative Government, by whatever name it might have been known in the past. From time to time it has at least considered a national superannuation scheme. In 1969 the Australian Labor Party committed itself to a phasing out of the means test and the introduction of a national superannuation scheme. We believe, as Sir Robert Menzies does, that it is only in this way that we will be able to provide a satisfactory system of social welfare. We believe that the currrent patchwork system of social services has no place in the later years of the 20th century.
Australia, as the fourth wealthiest nation in the world, should be a leader in social reform. We have the resources and the ability to do this. Our people are entitled to nothing less than that. There are patently clear deficiencies in our social services system, and the Government’s claim to have provided increases that more than matched the ever-increasing cost of goods and services cannot be sustained. The Prime Minister has given an undertaking, of which he should be reminded, that the Government would be prepared to give serious consideration to the establishment of a joint select committee to inquire into and report upon the social welfare needs of the Australian community. In other countries of comparable social and economic development there are systems of social welfare payments, retiring allowances and other fringe benefits which provide from 60 per cent to 80 per cent of average weekly earnings prior to retirement. If those countries can afford, as they obviously can, to provide for persons who have reached the twilight of their lives in retirement, at which time they are entitled to a sense of security and dignity, this Commonwealth Government and the nation can afford the same consideration for its citizens who have to rely on social services for their wellbeing
I commend to the Senate the amendment (hat I have moved on behalf of the Opposition and I hope that it will be carried, particularly insofar as it relates to the establishment of a joint select committee to inquire into and report upon the social welfare needs of the Australian community. This would embrace the concept of a national superannuation scheme which at the same time would cater for the phasing out and complete abolition of the means test.
– The Senate is debating the Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1971. It may be said generally that this Bill finds support on both sides of the chamber because of the benefits that it will provide. Opposition senators, whilst in their hearts believing that the proposals are inadequate, Undoubtedly endorse the Government’s” proposal that additional social service benefits should be granted to a large sector of the Australian community.
– We do not need you to put words into our mouths. We can manage.
– Probably the honourable senator is one who would require assistance. These days the mark of an advanced society is the level at which it can afford to provide assistance for those in the community who are less fortunate than others. A great responsibility rests upon us all to do all that we can for those who have not had some of the benefits that have gone hand in hand with the development of Australia. The allocation of finance by the Government under this Bill is very substantial. When one considers that this Bill provides, in a Budget of $8,000m, for an allocation of $1,1 82m for the assistance of those whom the Government believes are deserving of assistance because of their circumstances in life one appreciates that it is a very sizable allocation. That fact should be well known. It has been of interest to me to note great criticism of allocations in State Budgets for education, for example, yet in my own State of Victoria 42 per cent or 43 per cent of the total Budget has been allocated for education.
I repeat that in the Commonwealth sphere in a Budget of $8, 000m a sum of $1,1 82m is allocated for social services. Increases to be granted by this measure will go to more than 1 million people in the community. Despite the comments of my friends opposite, we all should support the proposal that the less fortunate in our community should benefit from the advantages that have come to this wonderful country in past years. The increased provision for social services this year will total $66m, . which is by no means a small amount. It is of credit not only to the Australian Government but also to the Australian people that social service benefits at this level should be granted to those in the community who require them. Let us consider the list which has been presented.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I had mentioned the comparatively large percentage of the Commonwealth Budget which was allocated to social services. I had indicated also that expenditure in this field of Commonwealth responsibility had increased in this year by some 14i per cent. In relation to the funds which have been allocated to the various departments, the Department of Social Services has received more money and been involved in a greater increase in overall expenditure than has any other department. Over the past few years I have been one who has been critical of the increasing number of persons employed by the Commonwealth Public Service and the consequent generation annually of increased expenditure by the Commonwealth Public Service. However, the increase of 14i per cent in the provision of social services is an expenditure which we all readily accept.
Two aspects relating to social service matters arise: The first is whether the amounts we expend are sufficient. The second is whether those most deserving of assistance are receiving the benefits of the expenditure. I imagine that no honourable senator or honourable member is happy that we are unable to expend more in this field than is being expended at present. In his Budget Speech the Treasurer referred to expenditure on social welfare in this way:
Expenditure on social welfare and repatriation constitutes the largest single item of the Commonwealth’s own expenditures. Social services, repatriation benefits, health services, housing and other welfare activities will involve this year an expenditure of $2,095m. This is $268m more than last year.
In a community such as ours, the fact that we are able to allocate such an enormous sum of money for the alleviation of the problems of those who are less fortunate than others is something of which all of us can be proud. As to the manner in which that money is expended, I suggest that not one honourable senator would claim, having regard to the letters all of us receive from our constituents, that there were not many instances in which the allocation of Commonwealth benefits appeared to be entirely ineffective or insufficient. One is prompted to refer to the letters that one receives, either from a widow who is attempting to bring up her children as her more fortunate neighbours are bringing up their children, from a woman who has been deserted by her husband or from a woman who has lost her husband, each complaining that she is unable to earn more than $10 a week before the Commonwealth benefit begins to erode. I am sure we all would wish the scheme to be widened so that a woman in those circumstances is able to earn more by her own efforts without losing the benefit of the pension.
– What about the woman who cannot earn anything because she has young children? She suffers hardship.
– I agree completely. Each of us, 1 am sure, could refer to many such cases - the person who is disabled; the child who is left without any parents; the widow to whom I have referred. Those are cases that come readily to my mind. I have on my desk a letter from a widow who says that she just cannot abide by the regulations laid down by the Government to the effect that she must not earn more than $10 a week. She is forced to have her children and her neighbours lie for her when they , are asked where she is. She just cannot live on the money that is made available to her so she has to take a job that pays a reasonable salary. I do not know what the attitude of a member of Parliament should be. Should we say: ‘You are permitted to earn only $10 a week and you must stay at home for the rest of the time’; or should we say: ‘I want to see all young children brought up in the best possible manner’?
– Surely the honourable senator does not support a system, which makes lying necessary.
– It is most difficult to say whether one supports it. No method of overcoming it has been put forward: I think the honourable senator’s silence now indicates that there is no way in which there will be complete satisfaction in the community in relation to social services.
– I am complaining that nothing is put up to overcome the problem although some proposition should be advanced.
– You say that nothing has been advanced to overcome the problem. I think you would agree with me that over the past couple of years the greatest efforts have been made, at least by the Gorton Government, in an attempt to upgrade the level of social services in the community, and Mr Gorton had great success in that regard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The honourable senator will address the Chair.
– 1 do not mind the assistance because 1 know that the honourable senator is very anxious to see benefits increased, and it will be only by agitation of thought and by the presentation of cases that come to us that we will be likely to get a change in the existing regulations. However, it is unlikely that we will ever get a situation in which everyone in the community will be catered for and will be satisfied. 1 do not think any Opposition senator would say that the system in any overseas country is ideal. They certainly would not find any such system in a Communist country and would not be able to say: ‘That is the ideal country where everyone is enjoying the high standard of living that we would like to see in Australia. That country has the solution to the problems of social services’. 1 have mentioned that the areas in which we allocate our funds certainly requires close consideration by the Minister and by his Department. Undoubtedly the letters from our constituents that we forward to the Department should alert the Department to the problems which exist now and, I am sure, always will exist. Perhaps by that means some changes will be made. As all honourable senators will agree, many very heart rending cases are brought before us. We need to give attention to them. One great problem in this area appears to me to be the fact that Whilst we make a pension available to a certain class of individual, there are those who are unable to gain the pension. I believe that the Commonwealth Government has a responsibility to control inflation. However, 1 must point out that no country in the world apparently is able to cope with inflation. Certainly no country in the world can demonstrate more competency in coping with the problem of inflation than has been demonstrated by the Australian Government over past years.
We have the problem of people who have attempted to provide an income for themselves at the end of their working days, perhaps by putting aside some small superannuation benefit which they will gain privately as a result of having allocated to it part of their weekly earnings, as well as the problem of people who have saved to better their own position and to provide a better future for their children. Many of those people are deprived of the social service benefit because of the criteria which must be applied. The position whould be investigated to see whether those people can earn a little more in retirement, or have a little more capital or cash reserves, and still be entitled to the benefit. I believe that it is pretty stupid to accept a situation in which, as was suggested earlier today, a person must take an overseas trip to rid himself of his reserves so that he is able to receive the government benefit. It is not good enough that in this community we allow such a situation.
The basic facts as to who can receive a pension make a wonderful story. It is possible for a person to have more than $100,000 worth of assets and still be able to receive the basic pension. He can have those assets in the form of a delightful home with whatever furnishing he likes. I know of one person who regularly goes to collect his pension in a new Mercedes. Senator Brown, who is laughing, knows that that can happen.
– I am not laughing.
– Well, he is smiling. I believe that it is very good that this can happen. What a wonderful society it is that allows this to happen. But surely some action must be taken when a person is permitted to have such a large amount of assets and still receive from the community, not the Government - it is the whole of the community, not the Government, that gives the benefit - some money each week to keep him going. The pension certainly is not sufficient to keep anybody on a fair standard of living these days, in my view.
Senator Lawrie, who is very interested in these social matters, says that the means test must be abolished. I do not know whether he is just whispering to me or whether that is his policy. I am most attracted to the idea that the whole basis of the pension should be reviewed and that some policy decision should be made with a view to introducing a national superannuation scheme under which benefits will be available to everybody. It would appear that at the present time the allocation of Commonwealth funds is such that it would be impossible to make the pension available to everybody. But I am quite sure that it would be possible for us to think out a new superannuation scheme to which everybody could contribute. Perhaps this could reduce the necessity for the pension as we know it today.
I have little respect for the person who cries that he needs a pension when his life has demonstrated that he has thrown his money away. We still find such people today. A man who may have been excessive in his time, while being on a reasonably good wage, finds at the end of his working life that the pension is the only thing available to him. I once met a foreign gentleman who happened-
– Is not the means test a disincentive to provide for one’s old age?
– I think the honourable senator is emphasising the point that I made a moment ago, namely, that in many areas of social services there is a disincentive for a person to save because if he does not qualify under the means test he must find for himself. I believe that there are arguments in favour of that proposition. I think it can be argued that a very wealthy person in this community, in which we are all contributing to the Commonwealth purse to enable benefits to be given to the less fortunate, should not be saying that he needs a pension. But both the honourable senator and I meet many individuals who are moderately well off and who say: ‘What the devil was the good of my saving during my life? I was a fool. I should have wasted my money as I saw my neighbour do. He is receiving a handout of about $30 a week. I am unable to receive the fringe benefits that go with the pension and my investments are insufficient to return me $30 a week’.
Let me repeat, if I may do so without upsetting anybody, the words of John Gorton when he made his first proclamation as Prime Minister. He said that he intended to seek some. way out of this situation, so that thrift would be encouraged in the community. J would be inclined to agree with Senator Brown, infrequently as this may occur, that there should be some basis upon which thrift is encouraged. That is not necessarily done by this measure.
– It is a pity you got rid of John Gorton, is it not?
– This occurs in all organisations.
– We all make mistakes at times.
– It is very good of you to admit it. The Opposition’s amendment contains a number of propositions. I do not know whether members of the Opposition really mean them. 1 do not know that if the present Opposition happened to be in power it would be able to make a very much different allocation from one of a total of about $2,000m for social services in a Budget of about $8,000m. We would all love to do things differently. But I doubt very much whether the Opposition would be able to vary the allocation greatly. The Opposition says in its amendment that the increases proposed are inadequate. Inadequate for what, we do not know. ‘Inadequate’ is quite a solid word. The Opposition says that social service payments generally are inadequate to maintain an acceptable standard of living. I -would agree with that. It is my understanding that the age pension is not meant to keep a person entirely and that he is expected to have accumulated something for himself during his working life.
The Opposition says that steps should be taken immediately to eliminate poverty. Surely this must be one of the greatest problems we have in our community. It is entirely unacceptable to me that areas of poverty should exist in our community. I do not have much sympathy for the person who has lived his life riotously and at the end of his working days claims that he and his family are living in abject poverty and that he needs assistance.’ My sympathy goes to the wife and the children in a situation like that. I suggest that no country can eliminate poverty. If there is some means of doing that, I hope that members of the Opposition, who have included such a worthwhile point in their amendment, will tell us the manner in which they would go about it
– First of all, by making a thorough investigation of the extent of poverty in the community. That has never been done.
– Some comparisons have been made. Recently I was looking at a document relating to the 1966 survey made by Professor Henderson.
– That was within a limited geographical area.
– Would the honourable senator’s view be that the survey needs to be made throughout Australia?
– 1 think we could use that survey as a guide; but in order to find out precisely the state of poverty in the community the survey needs to be nationwide.
– If one wished to ascertain the extent of it, one would probably start in a major capital city and see what the extent was there. No matter how great or small that geographical area is, that is certainly the best way to start.
– The Government has not sought to identify the people in the group to which Professor Henderson referred. Who are they?
– The honourable senator may be right. There are a great many problems associated with trying to delineate where poverty starts and where it finishes as well as the reasons for it. On that basis 1 would prefer to say that the change in our social services structure - whether it is achieved through the Department of Social Services or other departments - should be aimed at the problems that are generating the maladies in our community, the problems that bring about poverty, the problems that cause people to be in gaols and the type of society we have bred in which the community frowns on the unmarried mother. Even the best church groups frown on the lass who gets into trouble and has a child. The girl has a stigma attached to her in our great Christian society, and the child grows up with the greatest mental problem that any child could have. I believe that as there should be an immediate survey of the institutions and church groups which are working to alleviate these problems. I mentioned only 2 categories when I mentioned, firstly, those who have been in prison and who, on their release, find that the only people who will talk to them are those associated with hotels or those with whom they mixed and got into trouble originally, and secondly, unmarried mothers and their babies, who are in a serious plight. Those who are fostering the children are doing a wonderful job. Whether it is a Catholic institution or an institution such as the Presbyterian boys’ home at Burwood in my home State, such institutions have been doing a wonderful job for the youth of the community. Unless the youth are protected, cared for and fostered, we will be generating a problem that will need a greater allocation of social service resources in future years.
– You have identified 2 groups.
- Senator Cavanagh is trying to interrupt. I have just stated 2 of the groups.
– Having identified 2 of the groups, what does the Government do to alleviate the problems faced by those 2 groups?
– Let me take boys in homes and let me say one thing that we should be doing. Church institutions depend on the community for the major part of their aid. They do get some assistance from Commonwealth and State governments for the upkeep of inmates, but that is not sufficient to pay for the full upkeep. Sufficient funds should be allocated so that officers from some of these homes could seek foster homes for the lads now. That would overcome an enormous mental and social problem that faces the lads. That would eliminate many of the problems that exist in homes today.
– I agree, but what is the Government doing to overcome this?
– The honourable senator asked what the Government is doing, lt is doing a great deal more than was done in previous years. I agree with the honourable senator, and I said at the outset that whatever is done is insufficient. 1 believe that the Government is doing a great deal. The honourable senator emphasised one point that I was anxious to make and that is that there is an opportunity for the Government, without great expenditure, to assist the young lads and girls in our society by assisting research officers to find for these children homes with real identifiable families. There will still be a problem. But great deal has been done. Let me quote a couple of figures which I was given by the Social Services Department of the Presbyterian Church in Victoria. In 1961 there were 4,528 total wards in Victoria. At that time 2,038 or a little under 50 per cent, were in approved children’s homes. In 1970, with the generation of population, there were 5,796 total wards in Victoria. Of that number only 2,487 were in approved homes. This is a vast improvement and indicates that something basic has been done to get real homes for State wards so that they can lead a life similar to that which their brothers in the community are living. That picture could be changed vastly if some government assistance were given. One should not say that the matter is one for the States, lt becomes a little hackneyed to hear State governments saying that it is a Commonwealth responsibility and to hear the Commonwealth saying that it should not interfere because it is a State responsibility. Funds have to be made available for such purposes.
I feel that basically there is some encouragement for each of the various points put forward by the Labor Party. But the Labor Party is not very realistic in what it does. Basically all that it is doing in its amendment is to criticise what is being done. I think it would be well for one or two speakers to state what percentage of the Budget should be allocated to improve the present situation. If they believe that the allocation should be greater, they should state from which areas they would deduct possible funds or where they would get the increased income. I think they should instance where funds should be spent in the community.
I think one or two important things should be put not with a view to the alleviation of this problem in 1972 but certainly with a view to the future. I believe there is an urgent need for complete taxation relief for an income earner who has a family and who is on a low income. I think there is no argument against that. I do not know whether the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood), who is at the table, is the right Minister to mention it to, but I certainly know that he will take note of my comment. There should be a greater exemption than exists today for the individual who is earning less than $100 a week and who has 3 or 4 children. I hope the Government will do something to improve the lot of such people. Any future assistance would be a relief of the great mental problems that are exerted on the husband, on the wife and on the children as they grow up in our society.
There is a need for government cash to flow to religious and other institutions which are catering for these various areas of poverty in the community - whether it be homeless men and women, former prisoners who need aid, babies who need homes or societies which at present are looking after physically and mentally handicapped children. To improve the situation we need to allocate funds for those in the early stages of youth. I think there should be an ever changing interest by the Government in overcoming some of the vast problems to which we see the American type society heading. I do not doubt that we, as a society, are rushing headlong into that which we see in America.
I believe there should be some restriction - governments and members of the public generally are unwilling to say anything which could be construed as an attempt to do this - of the intake of alcohol. I believe that alcohol is at the base of 90 per cent of social problems in the community today and is the cause of many broken homes. These problems are aggravated by the abuse of other drugs in our society. The Government should act to reduce the number of social problems by reducing the intake of alcohol and drugs.
– You are not advocating prohibition, are you?
– No, but I have some very firm views as to what should be done. I do not agree with the popular story that prohibition had such terrible consequences in the United States of America that it should never be introduced again. I would not advocate prohibition but I believe that the alcoholic content of some popular beverages should be reduced to help the community. I hope that because I have said that honourable senators will not line me up as a wowser, after calling me a hanging something or other the other day. I would be pleased to offer hospitality in the back room to any honourable senator who believes 1 am a wowser.
– Would you comment on paragraph (6) of the Labor Party’s proposed amendment? Should we not identify the needs of the people?
– 1 think we should. Perhaps the honourable senator could tell me whether the present Labor governments of South Australia and Western Australia have acted, or whether the last Labor Government in Tasmania acted to reduce social problems in their own communities.
– If they found that they-
– You go off on another line, do you not?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! Senator Webster will address the Chair.
– 1 am sorry, Sir. I was diverted for a moment, but 1 hope the point is well made to the honourable senator, that it is all very well to say what the Commonwealth Government should do. I hope that the Party he represents, when it is in power in any of the States, will take effective action in the local community. I have not yet been alerted to what State Labor governments have done. Perhaps the honourable senator will tell me. The greatest problems are created in our community and our future is dimmed in respect of the cash flow for social service requirements by the very build up of enormous cities within Australia. A greater problem is created by the construction of concrete jungles in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, and I imagine also in Perth, than would have been thought possible.
Some interest has been taken, but perhaps honourable senators will think I am wide of the mark when I say that the size of our cities needs to be contained and the population needs to be distributed more evenly over the surface of Australia. I have observed the great problems arising in my own city through the building, with the encouragement of the State Government and the Housing Commission with money that has flowed from the Commonwealth, of enormous blocks of flats. Parents of children are attempting to rear them on the 14th or 15th storey of a block of flats.
I have read that the people in such flats have their washing stolen from the clothes lines. We know of problems in the United States where it is unsafe to enter a lift to ride to the top floors of enormous blocks of fiats. Honourable senators who have been to the United States are aware of the cost of security measures taken by people living in any type of apartment which is open to the public.
These types of social problem are being encouraged and it seems that there is not enough interest in the community generally to overcome them. There is some interest by political parties to encourage the development of large cities. 1 believe that cities should not reach a greater population density than 2 million or 3 million and to this end government funds should be spent to encourage decentralisation. This is a very important part of the social welfare field in the community. I have pleasure in supporting the Bill because I believe that the Government has gone the second mile in assisting those people who are less fortunate in the community. I believe that every Australian can be proud of the application of funds to social services. A very substantial percentage of the Government’s payout is directed in that way. I ask that the comments I have made about financial assistance for a variety of institutions which over the years have shown a great interest in the alleviation of community problems be noted so that in future it may not be necessary to spend such enormous sums for the alleviation of the problems of the less fortunate people in the community.
– I support the amendment moved on behalf of the Australian Labor Party by Senator Brown. I remind honourable senators that the proposed amendment is precisely identical with the amendment proposed to the Social Services Bill when it was introduced in this chamber on 31st March last. This has not happened by coincidence or accident or because we on this side of the chamber lack drafting ability. It has been done with a purpose - to demonstrate, and protest to the Government in a small way, that members of the Opposition are concerned and disappointed at the Government’s failure to come to grips with the problems. Over a period Government supporters have given us hints, promises and suggestions, none of which has been fulfilled. We are still waiting for the Government to come up with a review of conditions or a restructuring of the social service machinery.
I was indeed pleased to hear Senator Brown’s pertinent reference to a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on 15th March last when introducing a pension increase. He promised that there would be a fundamental review of social service and related pensions with the object of making effective decisions for 1971-72. As honourable senators are aware, 1971 is now with us and no such effective decisions have been made. The outline of Budget strategy shows that we cannot look forward to any advance in conditions as a result of the promise of a fundamental review in 1971-72. I agree with Senator Brown who pointed out to the Government - and Senator Webster did not reply to this point - that it has dishonoured its promise to the many people who are impatiently waiting for and looking forward to an improvement in the system of providing social welfare benefits.
Such repudiation of promises is not unusual with anti-Labor governments, particularly where the workers’ welfare is concerned. Anti-Labor governments have a record of failure to carry out their promises. The Government was swept into office in 1949 on the promise that it would put value back into the £1, but 22 years later that promise remains unfulfilled. The value of pensions as a percentage of average weekly earnings has been steadily eroded. Senator Webster challenged the Opposition to give proof of how a Labor government would perform and remedy the injustices outlined by Senator Brown. I remind the honourable senator that in 1946, under a Labor Government, the pension of a single pensioner represented 25.5 per cent of average weekly earnings. In 1956, 10 years later, it was down to 21.8 per cent. By 1966 it had fallen further to 21.1 per cent. In 1971, as outlined by Senator Brown, it was 18.9 per cent. I must pay credit to the Government for the fact that, as a result of the recent Budget increase, that percentage will rise to 20.4. But, if one were to take into account the Budget assessment of an increase in the average weekly earnings in 1971, that figure would again fall to below the 18.7 per cent level. I recall
Senator Brown dramatically making the claim, which incidentally has not been refuted by the Government, that the percentage is at the lowest level in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament in the post-war period. That is not a nice record or reputation for any government to have. It would be obvious to those people who have an encyclopedic mind and are interested in statistics that honourable senators on this side of the chamber have done their homework and done their research. If Senator Brown had had more time at his disposal he would have been able to quote more statistics. 1 would like to present for the consideration of honourable senators some statistics regarding child endowment. 1 will relate my remarks to a family with one child under 16 years of age. When child endowment was introduced the percentage in relation to average weekly earnings was 2.6. By 1960-10 years later- the figure had been eroded to 1.1 per cent. But the present figure is startling. It is as low as 0.6 per cent. That alone is condemnation of any government. I could go on and on and paint a picture of the failure of this Government to come to grips with the problems which any government that has any sense of humanitarianism would be intent on solving. I pointed out in my maiden speech that our social service provisions are archaic and compare unfavourably with similar provisions in Europe and America. After 50 years of service a man in Australia is forced to retire on a pension of $17.25 a week. I asked in my maiden speech whether such a man was worthy of a lot more than that. Surely such a man should be entitled during his lifetime as a worker to free hospitalisation, medical services and education and to a full day’s pay when he is off due to sickness or an injury.
Senator Webster also challenged honourable senators on this side of the chamber to produce figures that show overseas countries are doing more in this field than the Commonwealth Government is doing. I am pleased that he issued that challenge because I wanted to refer to this point in my speech. Senator Webster is not in the chamber at the moment, but he will be able to read my remarks in Hansard. As 1 have already said, our performances insofar as the amounts we spend on social welfare compared to the amounts other countries spend is unsatisfactory. The Common Market countries spend 14.2 per cent of their gross national product on social welfare and New Zealand spends 6.3 per cent. But what does Australia spend? In 1969-70 we spent the miserable figure of 5.3 per cent. One does not need to be an Einstein or a mathematical genius to appreciate that Australia’s figure of 5.3 per cent compares unfavourably even with New Zealand’s figure of 6.3 per cent and certainly with the figure in the Common Market countries of 14.3 per cent. If Senator Webster wants any further proof he has only to look at the statistics and make an honest comparison between the situation in Australia and in the countries 1 have mentioned. Where will be the end to this deterioration in Australia? The position is deteriorating annually. I have already indicated that 5.3 per cent of the gross national product was spent on social welfare in 1969-70. Between I960 and 1964 it was 5.9 per cent. So there has been an erosion of 0.6 per cent since 1964.
An interesting observation was made by Professor Henderson, whose name is being bandied around in this chamber pretty liberally these days. Professor Henderson, who is at the University of Melbourne, took out a survey through the services of the Applied Institute of Social and Economic Welfare. It is true, as Senator Cavanagh has pointed out, that whilst thai survey is a good guideline as to injustices in social services and poverty it was restricted to the Melbourne area and therefore cannot, as Senator Webster tried to do in his speech, be quoted as the be all and end all. However, it was assessed that the same conditions as obtained in the Melbourne area could reasonably be expected to apply in other capital cities of Australia.
The pertinent observation that was made by Professor Henderson was that if the $100m which would be made available if the Government were to restore the percentage of the gross national product spent on social welfare to the figure of 5.9 per cent that was spent between 1960 and 1964 it would go a long way towards alleviating the problems of the 8 per cent of the community which it was found in that survey to be living below the poverty line. It might be of interest to honourable senators to learn that the majority of the people covered by this figure of 8 per cent were social service beneficiaries. I repeat that the pertinent point made by Professor Henderson was that if the percentage of the gross national product paid by way of social service payments were increased from the 5.3 figure of 1969-70 to what it was in 1960-64 the 0.6 per cent difference would go a long way towards alleviating poverty amongst social service beneficiaries. Some relief can and must be given to the underprivileged people who are living below the poverty line. I refer to the age pensioners, the invalid, the sick, the deserted wives and the unmarried mothers. Only the Australian Labor Party is aware of. and interested in the plight of these people. Only the Austraiian Labor Party understands their requirements. Only the return of a Labor government to the Treasury benches will correct these injustices. That is why I cannot for the life of me understand the actions of members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. One of its members was responsible - I give him full credit for this - for writing into the statute books in Queensland some of the most humanitarian reforms in the history of that State. Other members of the Democratic Labor Party repeatedly express concern for the underprivileged and they know in their hearts and minds that only a Labor Government will alleviate the hardships, but by their actions in this chamber they continually keep in government the opponents of the people for whom they express concern and reject always the proposals advanced by the Australian Labor Party. It is about time the members of the Democratic Labor Party stopped humbugging in this chamber and put their votes where their hearts and minds are.
I am amazed at the actions of the Democratic Labor Party. I have paid credit to its Leader - a man who does stand in credit in his State for the humanitarian legislation that he wrote into the statute books. The other members of the Democratic Labor Party are new to me, but, as I have said and as I shall repeat again,, although I have heard them speaking passionately about great humanitarian causes, every : time the Australian Labor Party presents them with an opportunity to put their vote where it can do some good for the people that they are allegedly concerned about they continually reject Labor’s proposal. The only people who are suffering as a result of the DLP’s action are the working class people of this country. The sooner the DLP takes stock of itself and acts in a sensible manner and applies a sensible consideration to the social service proposals advanced by the Australian Labor Party the sooner the hardships of the people will be dispelled and social justice be restored to the people of Australia. As common sense and, I take it, decent thinking people, I think there is an onus on members of the DLP to see the light of day and do the right thing by getting with the Labor Party and supporting its humanitarian proposals.
– You are cutting one another’s throats all the time. Do you want us to join in the slaughter?
– I have got to know you only since I came into the chamber, little by little. I want to tell you that I am aware of you, and you have as much chance of taking the leadership of the DLP from Vince Gair as you have of flying. He has too much background: he is too smart for you.
– We do not behave like you.
– I might not have all the facts but I am gaining them little by little. There are many anomalies in the social services legislation, just as there are anomalies in the Australian Democratic Labor Party - little ones as well as big ones. As I have said, there are many anomalies that must be highlighted in the hope that some action will be taken to remedy them. I am not one of those people who intend to stand in this chamber and blatantly attack the legislation brought down by the Government. I know that because of availability of finance and for other reasons a lot of things are not able to be done, but I do not think there is any harm in honourable senators on this side of the chamber highlighting the anomalies in the Social Services Act with the hope that they may be remedied by bringing attention and notice to them. For instance, an invalid person 16 years or over receives $17.25 a week; a widow over 50 years with no children receives $15.25 a week; a widow under 50 years with no children can receive $15.25 for only 26 weeks and then she receives nothing until she reaches the age of 50 years. If she was 46 when her husband died she receives $15.25 a week for 26 weeks and then has to mark time for the next 3J years before she qualifies for a pension. Senator Little will probably suggest that she should go to work. Anyone with common sense would know that a woman of 46 is outside the requirements of the work force. What person would want to employ as a shop assistant a woman of 46 years of age, who had probably been a housewife for 25 of those 46 years, instead of a girl of 21 years of age?
– I would and I do. They are much more reliable, brother. You do not seem to have much experience. I would much prefer the woman of 46. She is always there. She does not take a day off to get her hair done.
– It might be a good thing to talk about experience, because in the little time that I have been in this chamber I have learnt sufficient about you to be able to handle myself with you. As I said, if a woman of 46 has been a housewife for 25 years how will she find employment? They are some of the anomalies that I would like the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood) who represents in this chamber the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) to make some note of and possibly do something to remedy them.
Today we are debating proposals which in effect mean little to the vast majority of people. We heard Senator Brown tell us that the increase in pension for a single pensioner was $1.25 a week, bringing the pension to $17.25 a week. A married person will receive an increase of $1 a week, bringing the pension to $15.25 a week. The wife’s allowance has been increased after 3 years by $1, bringing it to $8 a week. These increases are a great disappointment to approximately 1 million people who were looking forward, as I said earlier, to substantial increases, but again they have been disillusioned by an anti-Labor government. The amounts of these increases were given by Senator Brown, but I think they are worth repeating to honourable senators in this chamber.
To make matters worse, of the 878,000 age, invalid and widowed pensioners in Australia no fewer than 181,000 will receive none of the increase announced in the Budget because of the means test. Another 27,000 will receive only a part increase. Altogether 17 per cent of pensioners will receive no benefit and 22 per cent of age pensioners will go without. This is a scandalous and unforgiveable confidence trick on people who depend on the pension.
The amendment proposed by Senator Brown also proposes a national superannuation scheme and the elimination of the means test. This matter has a very interesting history. Before I outline Labor’s proposals, I think [ should analyse some of the history in this field of some of Labor’s competitors. I was particularly interested to hear Senator Brown enlighten me that as early as 1913 the Cook Government first spoke of a contributory scheme of social insurance. Then he went on to relate that from 1923 to 1928 under the BrucePage Government the promises were resurrected. Then again in 1938 they were revived under the Lyons Government. Senator Brown stated that on each occasion the proposals were dropped, usually within a short time. Now that is interesting. But then we find that the Lyons Government actually prepared legislation but, of course, the proposals were dropped again. The punch line came when Senator Brown told us the interesting fact that the then Attorney-General, Mr Menzies, before whom all the Liberals genuflect, resigned, to quote the words of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, ‘as a most emphatic means of registering his protest’. His protest was against the dropping of the programme. Senator Brown went on to say that in 1944, 1945 and 1949 Menzies, as Leader of the Liberal Party, repeatedly promised to introduce a scheme, but again the promises were fruitless and were unfulfilled.
Recently the Minister for Social Services made an announcement that he would introduce a national superannuation scheme, but that flew out the window when the Liberal Party turfed John Gorton out. Mention was made by Senator Webster of John Gorton, and his remarks were supported by Senator Cavanagh by way of interjection. I believe that the former Prime Minister’s heart was in the right place. I felt that he was one Liberal Leader who had brought to the Liberal administration some understanding and some compassion for underprivileged people. I would like to go on record as saying that I believe that the. former Prime Minister had a genuine understanding and consideration for people who were less fortunate than he. Unfortunately, through ructions and infighting within the Liberal Party, he is out and another Prime Minister has replaced him. In keeping. with what happened in 1913 and what has relentessly repeated itself in the years since, the national superannuation scheme again has been pigeon-holed and shelved. That is another promise from the anti-Labor government which has not been fulfilled. We used to have a Labor Premier in Queensland some years ago who used to go to the people with this slogan: What Labor promises, Labor will do. I see nothing different in that regard to the policies held by those people who constitute the great Australian Labor Party today.
– It was probably Vince Gair.
– It was Forgan Smith. We will be a little different from our competitors in regard to making promises. As former Labor governments have shown conclusively, we will carry out the promises that we make.
Before I conclude, I would like to summarise and make some mention of the points that have been outlined by Senator Brown on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. Senator Brown has moved an amendment, the first paragraph of which states: the increases proposed are inadequate,
I believe that this is undoubtedly true.
Paragraph (2) of this amendment states: social service payments generally are inadequate to maintain an acceptable standard of living,
My own personal opinion is that no honourable senator would quarrel with that view. Paragraph (3) states: steps should be taken immediately to eliminate poverty
I submit that honourable senators would unanimously agree on this point. Paragraph (4) states: a national superannuation system should be established and the means test eliminated
This is long overdue and would be implemented by a Labor government. Paragraph (S) states: pension payments should be a proportion of average weekly earnings adjusted annually
This is Labor policy also. Our Leader, Mr Whitlam, when electioneering during the 1969 general election campaign made the promise that when Labor was returned to government it would see that the percentage relationship between the average weekly earnings and the pension payments would remain static at 25 per cent. This figure is a little different to the 18.7 per cent which is handed out by the Government today. Mr Whitlam said that he would tie the pension payments to the fluctuations in the cost of living and alterations in the wage structure. Another promise made in 1969 was that Labor would restore the relationship to the weekly wage of the pension payment to 25 per cent. I again repeat that this figure is vastly different from the miserable amount of 18.7 per cent which is offered by our opponents today. The last paragraph of the amendment is very important. It will give the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party a chance to show their mettle. It will enable them to show the people of Australia how genuine they arc in their advocacy to do something for the great majority of people in this country - the working class people. This is the point at which we will test their genuineness. Paragraph (6) states: a joint select committee should be established to inquire into and report upon the social welfare needs of the Australian community.
Such an inquiry, although belated, would be very acceptable. I strongly and enthusiastically support the content of the amendment moved by Senator Brown.
– I was interested to hear the descriptions and terms which have been dealt out to the Government by Senator McAuliffe who has just resumed his seat. He has variously described the Government, Ministers and the Government’s policies over the years as cruel, vindictive, inconsiderate, downtreading minorities and having no consideration for people who are the poor and needy in the community. He has not taken a moment’s consideration of the wide range of social welfare services which have been put into operation by this
Government. Its social welfare service has covered citizens of every age, particularly those in any kind of need whether they be poor, aged, young or handicapped. One does not acknowledge for a moment that the service is complete. But I point out to the honourable senator and to the Senate that over the past 20 years this Government has initiated a range of social welfare services which is second to none. I point out with emphasis that this service has found the approval and the appreciation of the Australian community because it has returned this Government year after year at election after election. Is this the hallmark of a cruel Government? Is this the people’s response to a Government accused by the honourable senator of being cruel, inconsiderate and having no concern for people. I reject the statement as being absolute nonsensical.
Now I turn to the Social Services Bill, lt gives effect to the social service proposals which have been announced in the Budget Speech by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden). The Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) outlined the proposals in this place only the other day. They may be described - looking at the Minister’s speech - as something in the nature of a continuation of what has gone before. The standard rate of pension is increased on this occasion by $1.25 a week for those on a full pension. The married rate of pension will be increased this time by $1 and the basicnew rate will be $15.25 a week or $30.50 a week for a married couple. The wife’s allowance is increased. The adult rate for long term sickness benefit is to be increased as is the rate of child endowment. Additional payments will be made for children of age, invalid and widow pensioners and unemployment and sickness beneficiaries. It is estimated that the pension and allied increases will benefit over 1,000,000 persons in Australia at an annual cost of about $66m. 1 say again that the people of Australia need to recognise that the greatest amount of Commonwealth expenditure on this behalf is on social welfare and repatriation. The services which constitute the largest single item of Com:monwealth expenditure are social services, repatriation benefits, health services, housing and other welfare, activities.
The measure before us is an indication of the Government’s concern for people and its continuing ever widening range of amenities and services for a section of the community that stands in some need. I draw attention to the Bill in the form in which it appears before the Senate. I invite honourable senator’s attention to the notation at the bottom of the first page of he Bill. They will see that from 1947 and, in particular, from 1949 a long list of amendments have been made each year and, in some cases, there have been 2 amendments to the Bill in a year. If one took the trouble to look at the Hansards for the intervening years one would find an almost monotonous repetition of references and counter references and attacks and counter attacks being made across the floor of the debating chamber with respect to social services. Whatever the Government of the day might have decided was within the realm of possibility in the way of social services, almost invariably Her Majesty’s Opposition either in the other place or in this chamber argued that something more should have been done or that something different should have been done. I guess this is inevitable. It is the pattern of politics. However, 1 think that it should be recognised that the Government’s programme has been undertaken and is being undertaken - albeit not as extensively as 1 would like to see - in the light of the prevailing social and economic conditions. Steps should be taken to make the Government’s welfare programme good against this kind of background rather than a political item which is hurled across the legislative chamber.
It needs to be emphasised over and over again that at all times a social services Act is concerned with indviduals. The relationship of the Budget and changes to the social services programme as we have it at the present time poses a question which I ask as to the ultimate goal or objective of all of the Government’s undertakings. Any government has as its undertaking the priority and security of its citizens, not only for their material welfare but also for what I might describe as their ‘psychological welfare’. The removal of loneliness, the removal of insecurity, the establishment of facilities for their wellbeing and health and all such things are inevitably bound up with Budget ‘ decisions. The total welfare and social services programme at this time is distinctly and clearly related to the total Budget thinking. Therefore social services are of critical importance to individuals and their way of life. Over these years - to which reference has been made in the last speech - the Government has been extremely and acutely aware” of the needs of the people. It has Introduced a wide and changing range of services and facilities to meet those needs.
The other duy when speaking in the Budget debate I referred to the complexity of the task of preparing a Budget which devolves upon the Government of the day. lt has to decide how available resources can be used in the best interests of the people during the coming year. The point to which so much attention has not been paid today is the fact that every year there is an increasing number of areas of welfare calling out for attention, making their demands upon the government of the day, and are the subject of submissions and representations to the Government. As I said in my speech on the Budget, every time we close a gap in our social service programme new dimensions, new horizons and new anomalies are opened and call out for attention. This is an era of changing social patterns and there are new demands placed upon the Government. People constantly seek extensions to the welfare and social programme. Each year we discover areas of people who have special needs, people who have some particular form of handicap that may not be catered for by the present programme, special difficulties that some children may face, such as children who are slow at learning. All these things are calling out for Government attention, finance and assistance.
I referred the other day to what I call the frail aged. 1 express again my sense of disappointment that in the current Budget season there has not been provision for additional assistance to those institutions which care for that section of the community we describe as the frail aged. But in any programme of social welfare in Australia today the Government recognises - and has recognised - the tremendous contribution made by voluntary organisations, individual communities and individual citizens. Indeed, this has been one of the distinguishing efficient hallmarks of the Australian social service programme. Communities, be they church communities, local government communities or service clubs and things of that nature, have been encouraged to stand by their fellow citizens who are in some form of need so far as health or other matters are concerned.
Mention has been made of the figure of 5.3 per cent - the proportion of our gross national product that we spend on social welfare - being lower than figures in other countries but I submit, Mr Deputy President, that no other country involves its citizens in a total programme of voluntary and personal concern for their fellows in the way that the Australian community does. Society after society has received subsidies of varying kinds and has been provided with the opportunity of extending accommodation, health services and other forms of social service and care, whether it be in the spheres of Meals on Wheels or of counselling or of a wide range of social welfare. This has meant that the social service programme in Australia is not just a Government handout programme; it is a programme in which the entire community is involved and concerned. This makes for a quality of life which I do not think anyone in Australia would willingly give away.
Having said that, we have to recognise th/it there are total and widespread changes occurring in our social welfare services. These changes are being brought about by changes in our way of life, in our communications and in our environment as a result of the gradual rise in our standard of living. All these things are having an influence on the needs and the general and changing concern of the community towards the total social welfare programme. 1 was interested in an article which appeared in the ‘Social Service Review’ in December last year and I take this opportunity to quote one or two sentences from it. It was written by Bernice Madison and she said:
By now, all societies appear to be moving toward welfare statism’, compelled in this direction by enormous human problems and … by conscience. . . . Emphasis is placed on the common needs principle … an approach relied on to maximise equality, social justice, and freedom . . . The common needs principle is inextricably entwined with . . . redistribution and planning . . . Services are designed to meet socially recognised needs. But social and individual needs are interdependent and change in relation to time, to need cycles of individuals and families, to prevailing ideas of what constitutes a need.
So it may well be argued that the great changes which have taken place since there have been these amendments to the legislation to which I referred earlier this afternoon have come because of a recognition of changed social and economic environment, changed attitudes of people and the changed expectations of citizens as to provisions which may be expected from a government. All of these things are combined to encourage the Government not only to update its social welfare programme but also constantly to reform it and to re-examine it.
This, of course, brings me to one of the items about which there has been a considerable amount of speculation and interest. It also is referred to in’ the amendment before the Senate this afternoon. I refer to a national superannuation scheme. It is not without significance that this proposal for a national superannuation scheme will receive attention from a Senate Standing Committee. But I was more than interested to hear the reference by the previous speaker in this debate to the activities of a former Liberal Prime Minister, now Sir Robert Menzies, who had expressed views on national superannuation schemes. By that I understand it was a contribution scheme of some kind. The history of this matter was brought forward. The idea has been discussed for some considerable time. I would like to mention, by way of comparison with those incidents, the statement made by no less a person than the late John Curtin, the Leader of the Labor Party. In 1938 there was a great deal of feeling about what was called a National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill. John Curtin criticised the measure from the point of view of the principles underlying it. He said:
The Labor Party expresses its utter condemnation of individual contributions as a principle in regard to invalidity, old age and widows’ pensions. These services should be a charge upon the consolidated revenue of the Commonwealth.
John Curtin went on to say:
To impose special levies, either on workers or employers, is utterly unjust.
How does that statement bear the light of day in relation to a national superannuation scheme and who is criticising whom when it comes to expressing opinions? I have no doubt that the Labor Party’s point of view has changed since those days, Mr Deputy President, as I have no doubt that the view of Sir Robert Menzies and that of the Liberal-Country Party Government is changing. As I pointed out earlier in my speech the new demands and new gaps which have to be closed involve new responses from the Government. I suggest that an important element of social change is an awareness not only on the part of the Government but also of the public of the problems of social security programmes, and these are constantly making an improvement in what I call the social conscience. <Before finishing my contribution I want to draw attention to the important issue involved in this Bill; that under the provisions laid down aid is given where it is most needed. That is the important thing to be observed. It needs to be said again and again that the pension amounts have risen faster than the cost of living. I have some inclination to subscribe to the argument for some form of automatic cost of living adjustments for people receiving a pension so that they may have an opportunity of sharing in any rise in prosperity because, after all, the social service and pensioner community have the least possible margin in which to absorb and take up increases in the cost of living. It is still true to observe, as I said a moment ago, that pension rates have been rising faster than the cost of living. It has been indicated that expenditure on social services is 15 per cent higher than ft was last year, but I point out that there has been an increase in the purchasing power of the pension. Let me refer to some figures which I mentioned in my own speech on the Budget. Between last year’s Budget and this year’s Budget the consumer price index rose by 5.4 per cent and the standard rate of pension rose by more than 1 1 per cent.
As I said at the outset, the social welfare programme has been, for a good many years, a cause for political debate. I think everybody agrees that he would like to do more. The developments that have taken place, the means of assessing, recording and distributing benefits, and the general social and economic changes at present all demand that we continue to seek improvements in the social welfare programme. The submissions presented to the chamber this afternoon are not negative but rather are positive ones with a view to effect an on-going improvement.
– I join my colleagues in supporting the amendment that has been moved by Senator Brown on behalf of the Opposition. At the outset I propose to pass a couple of comments on statements made by Senator Webster and Senator Davidson. I was rather amused as I listened to the long tirade from Senator Webster. In the last few days in this chamber he has certainly well earned the nickname ‘the hanging senator from Victoria’. Apparently he was very upset about this and suggested that this tag should not be applied to him. But then he came to be known as the prohibition senator from Victoria because he blames alcohol for all the problems of the aged, the ill and the people of this country who are deprived. To do that is to treat a very serious subject in a light hearted way.
The problems of alcohol are not confined to the aged and the ill of this country; they are confined to a section of the politicians in this Parliament and to a section of any part of commerce that one cares to choose. In each case it is a minority, in the same way as it is a minority of people who are addicted to drugs or something else which has a bad effect on their health. I suggest that this is a quite erroneous attitude to adopt in relation to pensions. Senator Webster would be well advised to look at the underprivileged sections of our community on a much broader plane. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
This is the part of article 25 to which Senator Webster referred when he was rather disparaging to those lasses who have children out of wedlock.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise to order.
– Have I upset him again?
– The honourable senator does not upset me; he is just a plain liar when he makes that comment. I ask him to withdraw it.
– I take a point of order and ask that the word ‘liar’ be withdrawn.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Order! Senator Webster has raised a point of order.
– The Chair had better deal with mine first.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Will Senator Webster repeat the words to which he has taken objection?
– I took objection to the words - I cannot recall them exactly because Senator Keeffe runs them off so quickly that nobody can follow what he is saying - which suggested that I implied something incorrect about the less fortunate girls in our community. The honourable senator and all other honourable senators know that his remark was not true. I spoke of them in most sympathetic terms. If Senator Keeffe had the slightest degree of decency about him he would withdraw his remark immediately. I know that he was listening to my speech on the radio so that he could learn something from me. I ask him to withdraw immediately.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! If Senator Webster believes that Senator Keeffe’s remarks were not correct he may make a personal explanation later.
– I ask that the word liar’ be withdrawn. Senator Webster stated clearly that Senator Keeffe was a liar. That remark is unparliamentary and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Allow Senator Keeffe to make a personal explanation later.
– It was a lie and should be withdrawn.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Gair will cease interjecting. I call Senator Keeffe.
– I am sorry for that little commotion.
– On a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President, I have asked that the word ‘liar’ be withdrawn. I insist that it be withdrawn.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - The word ‘liar’ may not be used in reference to another member of the Senate. I ask the honourable senator to withdraw that word.
– I certainly withdraw but, Mr Acting Deputy President, will you explain why you require me to withdraw but do not require Senator Keeffe to withdraw?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Webster will have an opportunity later to make a personal explanation in which he may refer to the matter to which he objects. He may correct the situation then.
– I did not intend to misquote Senator Webster. I pay him the courtesy of saying that if he feels that I have misquoted him I shall withdraw whatever it is that he has objected to.
– You do not know the facts of the case.
– Senator Gair, you would be the greatest goat in this chamber. Now shut up.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Keeffe will withdraw that remark.
– He is extremely provocative, but again I will withdraw the remark.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - I ask the honourable senator to be more temperate in his statements generally.
– I ask you, Sir, to control a couple of the intemperate senators in this chamber. May I continue? I trust that Senator Webster is now satisfied. I wish to continue by referring to some sections of the Budget in which the Treasurer (Mr Snedden), when presenting it, claimed that justice had now been done to all those who are required to survive with the aid of social service payments. In the course of the Budget Speech we see indicated the fact that increases in social service payments for the remainder of this year will cost $78m and for a full year $108m. This is a mere flea bite in relation to the total Budget of about $8,000m. The Treasurer went on to say:
The standard rate pension payable to single people and widows with children is to be increased by $1.25 to $17.25 a week. The married rate of pension will rise by $1 a week for each person to give a married couple who are both pensioners a combined maximum pension of $30.05 a week.
I propose later in my remarks to refer in depth to some of those figures.
In the case of the wife’s allowance where the wife does not qualify for a pension, although her husband qualifies, the magnificent sum of $1 has been added to the previous $7 making a total of $8 a week. This must be added to the $17.25, which brings the combined total pension for a couple, where the wife does not qualify by age for a benefit, to several dollars less than the $30.05 which is payable where both are qualified by age. With regard to the increase payable to children, each child in a pensioner’s care will attract a uniform rate of $4.50 a week. Child endowment in respect of children who are in institutions will be increased by 50c and child endowment for each child under the age of 16 years in excess of 2 in a family is increased by 50c a week. I have examined these figures in depth. Contrary to what Senator Davidson said a few moments ago, they are quite inadequate to maintain anyone in dignity. I claim that they are a violation of article 25 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. In addition - this too is something that Government spokesmen have pushed under the carpet, have ignored or generally have skirted around - some 181,000 pensioners in this country will receive no benefit from the proposed increases. When the Repatriation Bill is before us we will find that tens of thousands of ex-servicemen, too, have been debarred from receiving any of the increases that are likely to be proposed in the Bill.
According to the latest documented figures, the average wage is about $75 a week. A pensioner couple, both in receipt of the full pension, will receive $44.50 less than the average wage. A widow struggling to bring up 2 or 3 youngsters on her own will receive each week some $57.50 less than the average wage. It is these people - the young widows and young deserted wives who are required to bring up children on their own - who are facing the greatest problem in this country today. They are probably twice as badly off as are the age or invalid pensioners on the maximum benefit who are able to earn a little on the side. Frequently the young mother is not able to go out and earn additional income or, if she is able to do so, is severely handicapped by the means test. A young widow wrote to me a few days ago and explained the situation. A year ago when her husband was alive and earning a tradesman’s wage, and she herself was working also, they were making a mad endeavour to pay off their home, their furniture and the old car that they ran around a little country town. They had 2 young children.
– Is she one of those whom the honourable senator said prostituted her body to get an income? That is what the honourable senator said some time ago.
– Senator Gair has gone around the mental bend and I object to that kind of interjection all the time. Senator Gair himself is a political prostitute and should not be in this Parliament.
– That is the language of a guttersnipe.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) Order! Senator Keeffe, you will moderate your language.
– I will not put up with that kind of trash coming from that corner of the chamber.
– Twelve months ago the honourable senator said that they prostituted their bodies to get an income.
– It is regrettable that a man, even if he is elected on second hand votes, is able to indulge in gutter language of that nature in the hope that he will get some cheap notoriety out of it, and the sooner he is removed from this chamber the better this country will be. As I was saying, the group of people to whom I referred suffers most in the community today. It is the group which has been most neglected in the Budget. I was endeavouring to cite the case of a young woman who is facing serious financial difficulties. She said in her letter to me that while she and her husband were both working they were able to pay baby sitting and kindergarten fees but today, because her husband has died, she has to survive on $17 a week plus the small additional amount that she can earn. It is people of that kind who are most severely handicapped by the retention of the means test. If a mini-budget is to be produced within the next few weeks or months, this area of need should be investigated closely.
I support my colleague, Senator McAuliffe, in his call upon the Australian Democratic Labor Party to support the amendment put forward by the Australian Labor Party. It is regrettable that Senator Gair has now left the chamber. Only a few days ago in the Press he accused the Australian Council of Trade Unions of attempting to pressure the Federal Government on social services commitments in the Budget that was then to be presented. The Press report goes on:
He said stoppages and meetings, proposed by the ACTU for Wednesday, were ‘designed to suggest that any social service improvements in the coming Budget have been gained by trade union and Australian Labor Party pressure’.
Senator Gair said the stoppages and meetings were being organised by, the ACTU to support its social services policy.
The ACTU played a very good role in publicising the needs of people in the community who should be receiving higher pensions and other social service benefits. It is a fact that the ACTU did arrange public demonstrations and meeting of support for the campaign. I say again that if there had not been a vote of no confidence in this Government earlier this year the original 50c increase would not have been granted. It was granted in a moment of crisis when the Prime Minister was facing his accusers across the chamber and, like the proverbial white rabbit, he was able to drag 50c out of his money box. I suggest, also, in all sincerity that if it had not been for the fear of an early general election 12 months before it was due, plus the fact that pressure would have been applied by the Opposition in this Parliament, the $1.25 and $1 respectively would not have been granted to pensioners on this occasion.
The area of need extends far beyond what one needs for daily food. It extends to those pensioners who are not able to clothe themselves properly and who have to go to Paddy’s Market, to second hand shops and to the Salvation Army and St
Vincent de Paul depots to beg or to pay a very low price for second hand clothing because they cannot afford to purchase good quality clothing or house furnishings. It extends to the field of rents. In very few shires, towns or cities in Australia are the local government authorities able to assist to any large degree with housing, in particular, for those in receipt of social service benefits. It is true that some local government authorities do their best in this regard but they come into the field of organisations which are starved for funds and can provide only a limited amount of money.
The Australian Capital Territory is a first class example of the privations which confront people on limited fixed incomes. I am not aware of any reasonable flat or house that can be rented in this city for less than $25 a week. Indeed there are very few available at $25 a week. If a pensioner couple without their own home and living in Australia’s national capital are required to pay $25 a week rent, they then have $5.50 left on which to live, and $5.50 would not cover the cost of gas and electricity. They are forced then either to work to obtain a few additional dollars to supplement their income or, alternatively, to rely on charity. In a country such as this, that is a most unsavoury state of affairs. Countries in the European Economic Community budget 15.2 per cent of their gross national product for social services. In Australia we allocate 5.5 per cent for this purpose. That is a standing indictment for the manner in which this country is being run.
Senator Davidson referred to the approach of the former Prime Minister Mr Menzies, as he then was, to a national superannuation fund. I do not know why the Government is running away from a national superannuation fund or even from an inquiry into the establishment of a national superannuation fund. There can be only one reason - fear of the unknown. Referring to the proportion of the gross national product allocated to social services by Australia compared with the amount allocated by countries in the European Economic Community, a correspondent has written to me in the following terms:
This paltry, miserable showing by Austrafia is a shocking indictment of the governments led by
Messrs Menzies, the late Harold Holt, Gorton and now McMahon since 1949, a mere 22 years. There is no doubt that had the Government led by the late right honourable J. B. Chifley survived the 1949 election national contributory insurance would have come into being and - as in the case of the Dominion of New Zealand - the means test would not still adorn the Commonwealth statute book. Be that as it may - all Social Reformers will recall that - as far back as 1947 the late Right Honourable Joseph Lyons promised a contributory national insurance scheme for ‘all employed persons aged 16 and upwards’.
During the campaign Menzies, the Deputy Leader, made a feature of this attractive proposal, and circularised thousands of voters in his electorate declaring that he stood solidly for National Insurance.
Yet, today this Government has repudiated the policies of its predecessors. The letter continues:
However, nothing came of the scheme. Although after considerably finessing, a National Insurance Bill was passed by Parliament nearly 2 years later, it was pigeon-holed and never proclaimed. Menzies objected strongly at the time. ‘The passing of the National Insurance Act’, he said in March 1939, ‘was in my opinion our greatest legislative achievement as a government and perhaps the most important reform in our social services in my lifetime . . . and was the most prominent element in the programme I personally advocated before my own electors’.
He resigned from the Deputy Leadership and the Cabinet in March 1939 and gave as one of his chief reasons the fact that the Lyons Cabinet had shelved National Insurance. About a month later he became Prime Minister - 1939.
It is was possible and achievable for the Government of the Dominion of New Zealand under a Labor Socialist Government led by the Right Honourable Mr Savage to bring about this Reform over 30 years ago and this legislation has stood the test of time - Australia can do likewise. The Commonwealth Government now existing under Mr McMahon and kept in office with DLP’ support, should produce a National Insurance on New Zealand’s lines or ask the GovernorGeneral to find advisers who can and will remedy the present position of Australian Pioneers.
This letter is from a man who was a pensioner himself and who has made a great study of social services schemes of many countries. He is fully aware of the position and has suffered under the present ad hoc system of social services existing in this country today. Social services have become a bargaining point with the Australian Government. If it feels that it is politically expedient or politically necessary to make a small increase in social services it is prepared to do so. If it feels that the political climate is warm enough not to necessitate this course of action, it is equally prepared to shelve necessary social service increases. At the time of the last Senate election, the former Prime Minister the Right Honourable John Gorton made a speech to the Australian people in which he stated that child minding centres would be established throughout the country. This matter was raised in the Senate and the other chamber a couple of times during the last few weeks. This promise has been completely repudiated since the new Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has taken office. 1 venture to say that we are unlikely to see the child minding centres established in the lifetime of this Government.
An ever-increasing number of the Australian work force today are women, and an ever-increasing number of these women engaged in the Australian work force are married. Foi many of them, work is a matter of dire economic necessity. The husband, the bread winner, earning the basic wage or a little in excess of the basic wage is unable to bring home enough money to ensure that his family shall live even with ordinary dignity. So the mother of the family is compelled, often against her will, to become a co-breadwinner. Consequently, there are youngsters who suffer as a result of this because they have to be placed with people who are not trained in the care of small children. In many instances, they are placed in kindergartens when the mother goes to work and picked up by the mother or the father when returning home from work. Many of the kindergartens are not registered. A great moral responsibility is placed on the Government to ensure that this plan is revived and carried into execution.
I suppose that most honourable senators received in their mail boxes today a plea from the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association of Victoria. I wish to quote 2 paragraphs of the letter. It states:
The Nursing Homes are now faced with two alternatives leading to the same conclusion. Either to raise their bed fees and lose their patients or maintain their fees and bankrupt themselves. A reduction in nursing care or the amenities the elderly and sick require is unthinkable.
The letter continues:
The only, means many of these patients have are the pension and the Commonwealth subsidy. Hospital Benefits are not paid. Their families, if they are so fortunate to have them, are forced into debt to maintain them in the Homes because the subsidy plus pension are unrelated to the 1971 cost of living.
Quite recently in my own city of Townsville we had the case of a nice old man who was dying. In the whole of the city not one bed was available for a dying man unless it was obtained by the payment of private hospital fees. He was not a pensioner but was not a member of any contributory scheme. It was only because of the great generosity of the hospital superintendent at Townsville that we were able eventually to find a bed for him in a public ward. Sufficient places are not available in this country where the bedridden can be looked after with skill and care. It is impossible in many instances for the families of elderly people who have commitments to their own children, to meet those commitments adequately and at the same time to care for elderly parents. Again, it becomes a responsibility placed upon us - upon you and me and upon the Government - to ensure that nursing facilities are made available.
The Opposition has asked for a committee to be established for the purpose of examining all possible aspects of this very great problem. But the Pensions Reform Campaign has called for an independent inquiry. Whilst not subscribing to the holding of an independent inquiry, I believe that there is a very real need for something to be done at the parliamentary level. This is what the secretary of the Pensions Reform Campaign says:
I have pleasure in enclosing a copy of a submission recently made to the Prime Minister by this organisation, setting out the case for an independent inquiry into the Federal social security system. This is the fifth submission we have made to the Government on this matter in the past 9 months.
Since making the submission, the Prime Minister has announced that an independent inquiry is to be held into the Repatriation system. This is to be conducted publicly by, independent experts, and its findings are to be made public.
I will leave that letter for just a moment. When I asked a question in this chamber a few days ago as to what action had been taken on the establishment of an independent committee of inquiry into repatriation matters, the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation (Senator DrakeBrockman) said that he did not know. He said that I would have to put the question on the notice paper. He said that he did not know what the terms of reference were, who comprised the committee or when it was going to start its deliberations.
But the plain fact of the matter is that there is no intention of starting an inquiry by an independent committee. The same would happen in this field. It is a responsibility of this Parliament to get the inquiry off the ground. The letter continues:
A further development has been an announcement by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) that he has prepared a Bill on national superannuation, a disclosure on which the Prime Minister declined to comment, but one that has so far not been contradicted.
It is true that a paper was prepared on this matter. It is equally true that the Prime Minister does not intend to have anything to do with it, and neither do the members of his Cabinet or the back bench members of the Liberal Party. They do not want this sort of thing.
The social services system has not been implemented properly in another extensive field, namely, the Aborigines. In my travels in my own State and in other areas I have come across many Aborigines who are entitled to age pensions but who are illiterate. When the local Protector says: ‘Go away and come back and see me another time’ they take this as the view of white authority, that they are not entitled to social service payments. Case histories in my office show clearly that, had it not been for our intervention or the intervention of Aboriginal organisations and people who are prepared to help the Aborigines, thousands of them would not be receiving an invalid pension or an age pension because their skins are black. because the white authorities cannot be bothered and because the Government does not want the social services bill to swell too much. There are places in Queensland - reserves in particular and some of the islands of Torres Strait - where unemployment benefits are not paid. They are not payable because the Department of Social Services says that there is no alternative employment. In many instances those on unemployment benefit, even at the starvation rate at which it is paid, would be receiving in excess of the so-called training allowance paid by State governments. One can easily see why officialdom ensures that unemployment benefits and age pensions are not paid if it can get away with not paying them.
The final matter in this field is that some mothers in remote areas do not realise that they have to apply for the payment of child endowment or for the payment of the maternity allowance. So a number of families, of whom I have a record, has not received these benefits. The cases that come to our knowledge have been adjusted. But for each one that we are able to adjust there would probably be 40 or 50 others where the benefits are not paid. I make this final plea: If the Senate and its members are honest in their attitude to the many requirements in the field of social services they will support in toto the amendment moved by the Opposition. I quote again from the Declaration of Human Rights:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and of his family.
– With the exception of defence and security legislation, I feel that this Bill is the most important that we will be required to deal with in the course of this session. In a country such as Australia, which is relatively affluent, indeed in any country that has a way of life based on Christian principles, it is obligatory and imperative that the poor, the aged, the invalid and those who are in need of our assistance be cared for. Christ said that we will always have the poor with us. He also said that it was our obligation to show charity towards them. Social services might be regarded by some as a charity, but in effect people contribute to it in the taxation that they pay during their active working lives. Nevertheless there is a very definite side to the work of the Department of Social Services which could very properly be brought under the heading of charity. Unfortunately, because of the weakness of human nature, there is a very deep seated feeling of selfishness within all of us. The ‘I’m all right, Jack, to hell with you’ attitude is adopted by too many people. I feel that the majority of people appreciate the need to take care of the aged, the invalid, the sick and the widowed.
In this field a great burden has been lifted off the shoulders of governments, which means the general taxpayer, by religious organisations which have taken the responsibility of caring for these people. If it were not for that dedicated service provided in institutions for the aged and tha infirm, in hostels for the dying and in similar places, the burden on the general taxpayer would be considerably higher than it is today. I sometimes wonder whether governments are fully conscious of that of which they have been relieved and whether they are adequately compensating these people who dedicate their lives to this type of work in the name of Christ and charity. When I was the Premier of a State I used to say to my Ministers: ‘Be generous to the denominations in their work for the orphaned, the aged and others because they can do a job that we could never hope to do on a 40- hour week basis, with all the other things that go with the control of a State institution’. I have been associated intimately with social services, and I know this to be so. We must be interested in social services.
I was saddened when the debate on a subject as important as this was marred by the irresponsible guttersnipe language that was used. Charges were made against Senator Webster allegedly because of his disinterest in the problems facing unmarried mothers. Senator Webster might not thank me for this, but let me say that no family in Australia is doing more for unmarried mothers than Senator Jim Webster and his wife. He gives an unmarried mother a home and good care preceding the birth of her child. Yet he was subjected to this rotten, cheap, guttersnipe insult. I take exception to it. I hope Senator Webster, whose politics are not the same as mine, will not mind my mentioning that. The references to myself matter little. I have been insulted by experts. I am not concerned at what Senator Keeffe said about me. I will confidently pit my private and public life against Senator Keeffe’s at any time. So I will not waste very much time replying to what Senator Keeffe said. All I did during his speech was, firstly, to draw attention to his unfair remarks about Senator Webster.
I have spoken about the increasing evil of men walking out on their wives and leaving them to the State to maintain and nothing being done to correct the situation because governments are not prepared to expend money on the extradition of these people from one State to another. The governments know where these people are, but they will not bring them back to their home State to make them stand up to their obligations. I have spoken on that repeatedly. Cowardly men walk out on their wives and children, go to another State and get a job. The authorities know where they are but never bring them back to justice. They are allowed to get away with it. When Senator Keeffe was speaking about the unfortunate deserted wife I asked him whether she was one of those about whom he spoke 12 months or so ago who were prostituting their bodies to get an income. He became very irate as if that was a charge against him. I read now from Hansard of 22nd September 1970, almost 12 months ago except for a few days. Senator Keeffe said:
I have said publicly previously, and I say again, that the Government is driving some of these women to a desperate position where rather than see their children starve they will sell their bodies for a night a week.
What a terrible libel of decent people who are bereft of a husband or who have been deserted. He may know of one or two cases but he puts all those decent women into a class of prostitution. When I asked him about it he became very disturbed. I suppose it is normal for him to be upset on being reminded about his irresponsible charge against these people. That is as much time as he merits. I will let the public judge just what is his position.
In a country like Australia we must have regard to the necessity for adequate social services. Whatever Budget is brought down we will find deficiencies and inadequacies in it. I suppose that if I were to say that this is a relatively good Budget in respect of social services I would be charged with having consented to the Budget. I believe that the social service provision is infinitely better this year than last year when pensioners received a rise of 50c a week in the same Budget that provided for a 10 per cent reduction in income taxation. It was all out of balance. That reduction in taxation carried on in a graduated fashion down to about 4 per cent in the very high salary group, it is true, but pensioners received an increase of only 50c a week which was a complete insult having regard to the cost of living. It is infinitely better this year particularly when one takes into account the April increase of 50 cents which, combined with the present increase of $1.25 a week, increases pension payments to the regular and full pensioners by $1.75 a week this year.
I am happy with some of the Government’s actions in the field of social services. There are many reasons why this Bill is important. Firstly, it makes financial provision for those people who are unable because of misfortune, age or illness to maintain themselves in human dignity. Secondly, by means of this Bill the wealth of our society is transferred to those sections of the population who are in the greatest need. Such a provision is the measuring rod of the nation’s moral concern for our less fortunate citizens. Thirdly, the provision for social service benefits raises again the economic feasibility of Australia’s whole welfare system, which is a non-contributory system based on the means test. The provision for social service payments in the coming year rises to about $l,182m, an increase of about 14.5 per cent over expenditure last year.
Fourthly, the family allowance provision, including the increase in child endowment payments to the third and subsequent children, represents rejection through the national Parliament of the new doctrine summarised in the slogan ‘Pollution is People’. Surely the presumption on which any family allowance system is based is that people are important, but it seems that to some sections of the community people matter little. In a debate in the Senate the other night some honourable senators cried about the value of life and the need to abolish provision for capital punishment from the statutes of the Commonwealth Territories. The same people who are so incensed about the taking of life on the scaffold or anywhere else are those who have included in their programme and policy abortion on request. There is no compunction about destroying life in the embryonic state, but it is a different matter for a criminal to die. I am not saying that I am in favour of wholesale capital punishment. There is nothing more gruesome than the destruction of life, but I am pointing out that the submissions of those people do not merit consideration at all because of their inconsistency. A similar position has applied in the Senate over the years in relation to social services. We. of the Democratic Labor Party have moved amendments for the withdrawal of the Budget to provide for a greater increase in pensions. Where have those people been then? We have advocated for years that pensions should not be determined by the parties in government because it places a degree of ignominy on recipients of pensions. At every election time and every Budget time the income of the poor old pensioner is thrown into the field of discussion. Is it fair that these aged and sick people should have their income having children born under decent conditions.
On no fewer than 8 occasions we have moved amendments to have this delicate matter of social services taken out of the field of politics and given to an independent tribunal of competent people, with a representative of the pensioners sitting on the tribunal, such a tribunal would have regard to the criteria of wage and price increases and all other relevant material in making a determination. That is the way our wages and salaries system operates but evidently for social services it is not acceptable either to the Government or to the Opposition.
Last night we heard Senator Willesee make one of his unusual speeches for a short time. He denigrated the Democratic Labor Party because of our advocacy of an independent tribunal. Senator Willesee will not object to the announcement made today by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) that his salary should be determined by a judge, by a tribunal who will say whether the salary of Parliamentarians should be increased. That will be acceptable to Senator Willesee and members of the Australian Labor Party but it seems that it is not good enough for the pensioner. It seems that the pensioner’s income should be the subject of discussion and bargaining by political parties. It is not good enough. These people merit more. They are worthy at least of having their incomes determined in a dignified way by competent people.
We of the Democratic Labor Party have been particularly interested in the provision for increased child endowment. Child endowment was last increased in 1966 or 1967. We claim to have been responsible for a great and important departure in the matter of child endowment. We were able to influence the then Treasurer, who is now Prime Minister, as to the necessity to alter the rate; instead of having a flat rate, to alter it to provide an increased amount for the third and subsequent children. We were successful and we have also been successful in obtaining recognition at last of the necessity to increase child endowment in this Budget. An urgency motion was specifically moved by my colleague Senator Byrne. I am glad to say it paid dividends. Parents will now get for every child in excess of their second an additional 50c a week. That increase will be of benefit to those people who recognise the necessity for and the importance and wholesomeness of having a population of our own and of having children born under decent conditions.
According to Dr Paul Ehrlich and the deliberations of the Australian Labor Party’s convention in Launceston this increase is unwarranted and unwholesome. According to them it is selfish to have more children. It would appear that the Australian Labor Party takes the view that there should be a reduction in our natural birth rate and we should break down on our immigration policy. For what is this in preparation? Is it in preparation for an influx of specially selected people in the event of the Australian Labor Party becoming a government? I become suspicious when I find a major political party adopting such attitudes towards population. The greatest asset this country has is its youth. Every time I see young children I say: ‘Glod bless them’. It will be their responsibility in the future to maintain democracy in this country. ‘God bless them’ I say again. The more we have of them the better. The more assistance and encouragement I can give to parents to bring young Australians into the world the better pleased I will be. It is nonsense that a country of Australia’s size should have a population of less than 13 million. How can we morally or logically hope to maintain this country from the overflowing populations of the countries to our north if we do not try to populate it. I know that an increase in our population brings with it responsibilities and expense in the fields of social services, education and so on, but it is a challenge for us to meet these problems. Who are we to run away from them? Do we not have some obligation to meet this challenge? We have lived relatively comfortably and we have had protection for so long. It is time we faced up to such a challenge.
I am one of a family of 9 that grew to adulthood. My mother bore 11 children. She received little aid from governments. We were an average working class family. I am glad of that because it taught me much. The adversity and the do-withouts that I had to put up with have given me a proper realisation today of what other people have to put up with. I have not suffered as a result of my experience. It has given me a better appreciation of life. It has given me a better appreciation of my fellow man. lt has given me a better appreciation of the country in which I live; the country that has given me freedom and liberty; the country that has given me the opportunity of doing something, feeble as though it may be and unrecognised as it will be for people I represent. Surely the presumption on which any family allowance system is based is that people are important and of intrinsic value and are not merely stepping stones to disaster.
I repeat that the increase of $1.75 a week in pensions since the last Budget is welcomed, even though it will do little more than compensate for the rises in costs and prices which have occurred over the last 12 months. But 3 criticisms of the pension payments need to be voiced again otherwise the present anomalies and injustices will remain. Firstly, pensions should be taken out of the field of party politics. I have harped on this subject since I came into this chamber. Until changes are made I will continue to voice my opposition to the present system. I repeat that recipients of these benefits are humiliated at every election to find that their income is subject to public political bargaining. That state of affairs will continue, in the Democratic Labor Party’s view, until pension rates are determined by an independent tribunal.
I was hoping that Senator Willesee would return to the chamber before I concluded on this subject because I do not relish being critical of somebody in his absence. But I make allowances for his absence. I suppose the violent little speech he made last night exhausted him. Senator Willesee protested in horror the other evening at the mere suggestion of a tribunal determining social service benefits. The sincerity of Senator Willesee’s protestations can be judged by the statement in the Canberra Times’ of today’s date that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, wrote to the Prime Minister on Monday suggesting that an independent commission should inquire into parliamentary salaries. I have made a number of references to this matter already. Apparently the Australian Labor Party believes ;hat an independent tribunal should fix the salaries of parliamentarians, wage earners, doctors and so on but rejects the application of such a principle insofar as pensioners are concerned. Apparently the Australian Labor Party would prefer the present system to remain in force so that that Party can gain political capital at an election out of any increase. The Australian Labor Party does not come very well out of a comparison between pensions and wages at the time of the Chifley Government - I was a member of the Australian Labor Party at the time - and now, particularly when one has regard to the additional fringe benefits that are granted to pensioners today. So the Australian Labor Party has not very much to protest about. However, that does not console me any for the Budget not providing more for the less fortunate sections of our community.
There is a clear need in justice to rectify the number of anomalies that exist in pension payments. There are 2 anomalies in particular to which I wish to refer. I think I might have made brief reference to them in my contribution to the debate on the Budget. One is the difference between the pension paid to a married couple and the amount received by 2 single pensioners occupying the same residence, home or flat. A man and wife occupying a home would get less than 2 people - they could be brother and sister or spinster sisters - who share the responsibility of the maintenance of the home, paying rates and other things. Two single pensioners under the same roof receive $34.50 a week against the amount of $30.50 a week that a married couple receive. I suppose it would be wrong to suggest that at that stage of life a man and woman in a state of de facto relationship could get more than 2 people who are legitimately and properly married, but that is the position. However, I will dismiss that from my mind. I shall instead examine the matter from a practical point of view.
Two spinster women or a brother and sister who go on living in the old family home would receive more in pensions than a married couple does. When one considers that food, rent and other costs are the same for both groups it becomes obvious that the married couple are at a clear economic disadvantage. Why? Because someone said that 2 can live more cheaply than one. The married couple has to maintain the home, pay the rent, the food bill and the electricity bill. How do they live more cheaply than 2 single people living under the same roof? I find that difficult to reconcile. I think it is something that should be gone into. There might be some theoretical explanation of it, but it is not acceptable to me.
The second anomaly is that of a man of 65 who is forced to retire from work because he has reached retiring age. If he is married and has a younger wife, she cannot receive a pension until she reaches the age of 60. In the event of the husband not being strong enough to go out and get another job, they are compelled to live on a single pension. It is wrong. The wife could be 57 or 58 years of age. Is it fair to ask her to go out and look for a job after she has dedicated and devoted her life to bearing and rearing children? The children have probably gone out and taken up their own responsibilities for their wife and family. Is it fair to ask a woman of 57 or 58 to go out and work? I remember saying to a woman in those circumstances - she was a big, strong, buxom type of woman: ‘What is your state of health?’ She replied: ‘Never better in my life’. I said: ‘I was about to suggest that you might go and see whether you could get an invalid pension’. She said: There is nothing wrong with me, and you are not going to ask me to go and tell lies at this stage of my life to get something which I believe I am justly entitled to. My husband is morally bound to support me.’ He had pledged himself to protect and provide for his spouse, but the system under which he works throws him out at 65. The Government says: ‘We cannot afford to keep you and your wife. We will give you a pension and you can work it out.’ That is unreasonable. Something has to be done about it.
If one discusses the matter with the departmental officers - they are people for whom we have the greatest regard- one finds that the only alternative to an invalid pension is to register for employment and seek the unemployment benefit. The chances are that the woman might be asked to take a job. Because it is unsuitable to her at her age and is distant from her home, she has to reject it. Having rejected it, she forfeits her right to sustenance. I think there has to be a better and more reasonable attitude, particularly in relation to those people who are very close to the age of 60. Anyway, if a husband is 65 and his health is not good enough to enable him to look for another job, he is at least entitled to have the companionship, care and protection of his own wifi. Her place is in the home. That is where she belongs.
The DLP urges the ultimate abolition of the means test, but we are practical enough to know that it cannot be done overnight. We believe it should be done by the progressive limitation of its operations to various age classifications within the pensionable age group. While its total abolition for eligible persons 65 years and older is estimated to cost $305m per annum, the annual cost of its gradual elimination would be quite manageable. For example, to exempt eligible persons 80 years and over is estimated to cost $30m per annum, 79 years and over $40m per annum, 78 years and over $45m per annum, and so on. In its present form the means test, as I pointed out in my speech during consideration of the Budget, is a penalty on providence and thrift and acts to debar from a pension many people who are worse off ultimately because they are precluded from fringe benefits. Why cannot the present system be liberalised so that borderline cases can be at least given some of the fringe benefits, especially medical and pharmaceutical benefits, which are particularly important to aging people?
I have already made a few remarks regarding child endowment. I have expressed the view on a number of occasions that the DLP is particularly satisfied with the form of child endowment increases in this Budget. The family man has been overlooked for too long. Our wages system provides that a single man is paid the same rate as a married man. It goes further by providing that a female who does the same work as a man receives the same wage as a man. A married man with a wife and children to maintain receives the same income as a single man or a spinster woman who have neither chick nor child to keep and who have obligations to nobody. So the child endowment scheme is the only way in which we can maintain any measure of justice to the fellow who is married and who is sincerely trying to do something for his family. He is educating his children and helping them to go into a profession or calling so that they might serve their community in their own time. He is expected, unless he receives a generous child endowment, to maintain those children and maintain his home on the same wage as a single man or a spinster woman who have neither chick nor child to keep.
Of course, the justice of this situation must appeal to people, but unfortunately it goes overboard with so many and is overlooked for too long by governments. The day that we reach the point of believing that the family unit has no value in our society, our society will finish in hell itself. It might be a hackneyed expression, but the family unit is the basis of our society. This is as true today as ever before, in spite of all the permissiveness that has developed around us in recent years and in spite of the attitude of many parents towards their children today. They believe that children should have full expression of their feelings and that discipline is something that went out with their grandfather, and so on. All of those things are destroying family life which in turn will mean the destruction of our society. The sooner that the family gets back on the proper road the better.
Let us have a little more of that old time discipline in our universities, in our schools and in our homes. Let us get back to teaching children to respect those who are older than themselves and superior to themselves. Respect is something that one sees rarely today, whether it be respect for authority, respect for the law, respect for parents, or respect for anything. Respect has been replaced not by requests but by demands; demands for this and demands for that; demands for power and demands for rights to which children are not entitled. Our proposition with regard to child endowment is sound. It applies to children in excess of 2 in a family. We have a graduated scale which I think is good. I believe that those who are prepared to have this number of children merit the little which the Government does under the heading of child endowment. We reject the view which is fashionable in some quarters that a population catastrophe is just around the corner, that people are simply pollution factories and that Australia as a nation should adopt the theory of zero population growth. Did honourable senators ever hear the like?
As I asked earlier, have we any moral right to hold this country with less than 13 million people? India with 570 million people and 1 million square miles has a population density which is less than England or Germany. On the other hand, Australia has twice as much land as India but only one-fortieth of its population. To hold Australia and develop its great resources a much greater population will be required than it has at the present time. To talk about zero population growth for this nation is the height of folly. The Australian Democratic Labour Party will have no part in it. Pollution in Australia is not the fault of people but rather the fault of past governments - with the exception of the Queensland Government which I led - whose past policies or lack of them have led to the growth of huge metropolitan complexes like Sydney and Melbourne. These governments have allowed 80 per cent of our people to crowd into the seaboard capitals. The answer is decentralisation.
Queensland is the most decentralised State particularly in terms of population. The other States should aim to emulate Queensland in this matter. Furthermore those honourable senators who served on the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution will know that Queensland was the only State which had a department specifically to deal with this matter and answerable only to the responsible Minister. Queensland had gone that far. It had appointed qualified people to take charge of this department as distinct from any other department or sub-department. In evidence it was shown that Queensland was more up to date in this matter than other States. Those senators who laugh loudly at this statement indicate a vacant mind. If they have been to Queensland it has been on a free pass. They have been there at the expense of the people and they have come away without knowing very much about Queensland.
Before I move an amendment to Senator Brown’s amendment I would say that in this matter of social services each and every one of us, irrespective of the party to which we belong, must at all times be conscious of the necessity to see that justice is done to sections of our people who, because of circumstances in many cases beyond their control, are in a state not far removed from poverty. We also have an obligation to see that our means test has not a crippling effect on prudent people who have saved during their active life for their future. A lot of these people have saved by taking out units of superannuation. They have relieved the Commonwealth Government of a pension responsibility. Other people have taken out the minimum number of units of superannuation and received the pension. That is not encouraging prudence. That is destroying the minds of people and reducing them to a state of mendicancy. Do not let us handicap people by discriminating against them as we are doing today.
Someone - I think it was an honourable senator from Western Australia - said that a lot of people spend money on sea trips to reduce their assets and thus qualify for a pension. That is a true statement. We all know from our experience as parliamentarians that this happens. People are quite free to do that. Nothing can stop them. I know that many of those people have no more desire to leave the shores of Australia than fly. They would sooner go anywhere in Australia than overseas. They take this trip merely to reduce their assets. The money is spent outside Australia only because of the niggardly attitude of our means test. Let us take a broader view of the matter.
There are a few observations which I would make on the Social Services Bill. I am not happy with some proposals inasmuch as I think we have to do more. It is the policy of our Party that a tribunal should be appointed to determine the pension. Pending that I think we have to tie the pension to the base wage. Whether the proportion will be 50 per cent or 40 per cent I do not know. It will be the function of the tribunal to decide that. I repeat that I cannot understand for the life of me why the 2 major political parties are so defiantly opposed to the principle of a tribunal for the determination of pensions. I have heard arguments against this principle frequently. The Government has said that it cannot allow the determination of the pension to get out of its own hands. Would that be any different to the 6 per cent determination which was handed down by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission about 12 months ago? The Government did not know what the Commission was going to do. It never knows what the Commission is going to do. It has to adjust its finance to meet what the Commission does. If the Commission gives a 6 per cent increase across the board the Government sends for its Treasury officers and says: ‘What is this going to mean for us?’. The Government has no escape from that decision. As an employer it has to meet the situation and face it.
Is this position any different to a tribunal on pensions saying that because of the increasing cost of living and the increase in wages pensions should be raised by a certain amount? The Government has a responsibility to meet that situation. Let the Government meet that situation. It gave away the payroll tax but it got something in place of that tax. Under pressure from the DLP the Government got rid of the receipt duties and it had to make up to the States the amount of that tax in some other way. I ask honourable senators not to say that the Government cannot appoint a tribunal. Where there is a will there is a way. It is only hanky-panky business to talk in this way. The pensioner will never receive proper justice unless a tribunal is appointed. Under that system he will be free from the humiliation which he suffers every time his income is discussed at election time or in Parliament. I desire to move an amendment to the amendment which has already been moved by Senator Brown on behalf of the Opposition. As a further amendment I move:
These paragraphs deal with the national superannuation proposal and the proposal to appoint a joint select committee. They are totally irrelevant to the feelings of the
Senate as shown by recent action in this chamber. As everyone knows, the amendment moved by Senator Brown is identical with the amendment moved by the Opposition in the other place. Probably it was formulated and agreed upon in the Austraiian Labor Party Caucus and for that reason reflects a House of Representatives approach without any regard for the workings of the Senate. An amendment appropriate for the House of Representatives need not necessarily be appropriate for the Senate. That is the case with the amendment which Senator Brown has moved and that is why the Democratic Labor Party believes it necessary to move an amendment to the ALP amendment.
The first part of our amendment, if it is carried, will have the effect of deleting the reference to a national superannuation system. The DLP favours the introduction of a national superannuation system. That is our policy. The ALP has only recently pushed this idea with any enthusiasm. However, if we turn to page 3403 of today’s notice paper we find that this very subject has been referred to the Health and Welfare Committee of the Senate. We of the DLP believe that that Committee ought to be given the courtesy of examining this reference.
– They must think that the House of Representatives is more popular than the Senate.
– Some of them would, of course, but they are pledged to destroy this Senate as an influence and power in the Commonwealth Parliament. If our amendment is carried it will also have the effect of removing paragraph 6 of the motion with seeks to establish a joint select committee on social welfare. The Senate already has established a Health and Welfare Committee. The establishment of this additional committee would involve duplication and we are not in favour of it. It is obvious that the ALP amendment was devised by ALP members of the other place and no doubt they are completely ignorant of what has been happening in the Senate as regards select and standing committees. They probably do not even realise that there is a Senate Health and Welfare Committee.
In any case, even if the Senate adopted that part of the motion relating to a joint committee it is obvious that such a committee would never be established because, as I say, this identical amendment was moved in the House of Representatives and it was defeated there. But apart from that objection, a joint committee would involve unnecessary duplication. If the DLP amendment is carried the remaining paragraphs of the motion will be logical and sensible and we will support them. But as it stands the ALP motion has absolutely no regard for what has happened in the Senate and in Senate committees in recent months. I say, with all due respect to Senator Brown who moved this amendment on behalf of the Labor Party, that we are prepared to give our time in consultation to put these things right and to see that these things are properly presented. But as I have said, there are 2 sections of the amendment that are redundant. They already have been dealt with.
– Mr President, if this motion requires seconding I formally second it.
– Where is the amendment?
– Senator Gair has not circulated the amendment. It merely calls for the deletion of paragraphs 4 and 6 of the amendment moved by the Australian Labor Party.
– I think that is satisfactory. We do not want it circulated. It is quite clear.
– The amendment has to go to the Clerk. I wish to say to honourable senators that there has grown up over recent years in the Senate a convention which has been extended in the context of this matter of amendments. But conventions are not standing orders and they do not have the effect of canonical law. Therefore on this occasion I have insisted on bringing some formality into the proceedings by having the amendment produced to the Clerk as an indication of good faith that the amendment has been formally moved.
– I support the amendment moved by my colleague, Senator Brown, convinced that it should be accepted by the Senate. I would like to refer to one or two things said by Senator Gair and Senator Webster in the course of their contributions to this debate. Senator Gair spoke about Senator Keeffe saying that deserted wives had to resort to prostitution in order to supplement their incomes. I do not think that is entirely what Senator Keeffe meant I firmly believe that what Senator Keeffe was doing was to draw attention to the fact that what is being received by deserted wives with families is not adequate to keep them at a decent standard of living and that some of them - I think this is what Senator Keeffe said - had resorted to this activity. This is quite possible. Each and every one of us, as members of Parliament, from time to time have had deserted wives coming to us complaining that their pensions have been stopped or withheld. We have found from inquiries through the Department of Social Services that these payments are not withheld lightly. The Department makes extensive inquiries and I must give it credit. It makes every investigation possible to substantiate the reasons for withholding payments. We have found that some of these deserted wives have been living as de facto wives and that this has been the reason for them not being able to obtain the pension or for it being withheld. This does not imply that every deserted wife receiving social service benefits is doing this sort of thing. Nor does Senator Keeffe’s statement imply that every deserted wife resorts to prostitution. I wanted to clear that matter up first of all.
Next I would like to draw Senator Gair’s attention to what happened at the last Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party which was held in Tasmania. In the course of his speech he referred to the Labor Party’s platform on abortion law reform. I want to quote from page 42 of the Labor Party’s policy and platform where the policy on abortion law reform is set out. It states:
This Conference recommends that the Party and its various groups such as the Parliamentary Parties should take a non-party attitude and vote according to their conscience on the issue of abortion law reform.
This gives each and every member of the Australian Labor Party the right to vote on any abortion law or any social reform law according to the way his conscience dictates. This was proved in the case of the legislation on abortion introduced by a
Liberal Attorney-General in South Australia, as I mentioned during my speech on the Budget. Many members of the Australian Labor Party voted against the Bill, including the Deputy Premier of South Australia, Mr Des Corcoran, and the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Tom Casey. Again I say that this platform gives every member of the Labor Party the right to vote according to the dictates of his conscience. Mention was made also of people who go overseas and in other ways spend money so that they may qualify for a social services benefit. In many instances it is not necessary for them to do this because of the conditions of the tapered means test. I am not entirely in favour of the tapered means test.
I suggest that one reason why people spend their money in order to qualify for a pension is so that they may obtain the fringe benefits that go with the payment of a social service benefit. Probably the most desirable fringe benefit for a pensioner is security so far as sickness is concerned. I believe that at the moment our pensioner medical service does give them some security. It may not be all that they want it to be, but at least it does provide them with some security. They have the right to consult a medical man without cost. I suggest that many people spend their money in order to reduce their capital below the amount which would disqualify them from obtaining a pension and so do not become involved in the tapered means test. A married couple may have capital, in addition to the home in which they live. The home can be worth any amount of money. They may own the furniture in the house and there is no limit on the value of requisities within the home. They may have $37,000 capital in property or shares, or even in the bank, and still be entitled to a part pension, provided that they have no other income from a repatriation benefit, superannuation or annuities. I suggest that, under the tapered means test, not a great number of people in Australia would have to spend their money on a holiday in order to qualify for a part pension.
I should mention also that income from money invested in property, shares or real estate is not counted as income. So a person with $30,000 may, if he so desires, invest the money in Commonwealth bonds, special bonds or hire purchase companies and not be disqualified from a pension because the income received from the investment is not counted as income. So there is not in every case a need for them to spend their money in order to qualify for at least some pension. I reiterate that probably some spend their money in order to qualify for the fringe benefits, particularly the medical benefits, which are available to pensioners but which do not apply to people whose pension comes within the ambit of the tapered means test.
A married couple receiving almost $70 a week are, if they have capital of less than $800, entitled to a part pension. Although as I have said 1 do not agree entirely with the tapered means test, it does help many people, except in the area of fringe benefits. I should like the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood), who represents the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) in this chamber, to convey to the Minister the request that perhaps this aspect could be examined to see whether people who do not qualify for a pension under the tapered means test may have access to the fringe benefits. I have supported the amendment because I think it is a good one which will improve the Bill quite considerably.
I should like now to refer to child endowment, a subject which I mentioned in the couurse of my speech on the Budget. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the United Nations declared:
The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
It lays down in article 23:
Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy, of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
From that it can be seen that the payment of State and other assistance towards the maintenance of a large family is desirable. We all know why child endowment was introduced in the first instance. In 1941 the full bench of the Arbitration Court said that it could not differentiate between the single worker and the married worker with dependants and recommended that the legislature should introduce some form of child endowment to supplement the income of the married man with a family.
As we all know, child endowment was introduced in 1941. Since then it has been increased from time to time, and at each Budget time we complain that the increases have not been large enough.
Theoretically there are many ways in which a family within the community may be provided with the normal material means necessary to sustain it. The normal means in Australia are provided to the worker through the minimum basic wage, which is supplemented by child endowment. Originally the basic wage was viewed as a social wage which was sufficient to meet the heeds of a man, his wife and 3 children, but following the basic wage inquiry in 1934 the Commonwealth Arbitration Court veered away from this earlier concept of the basic wage as a social wage and decided that it should become an economic wage which would be the highest wage that the court deemed that industry was able to pay. In 1941 the Chief Judge of the Court considered that on the basis of needs only the basic wage then operative was sufficient to provide only frugal comfort for a family unit of 3. that it offered only a meagre existence for a family unit of 4, and that if there were more than 2 children a family on the basic wage would experience hardship. The Court added, as I said before, that in determining the basic wage it could not differentiate between wage earners according to their dependants and suggested that the legislature should do something about bringing down legislation to help supplement the income of a married man with dependants.
I mentioned in my speech on the Budget that in the case of a person who had more than 4 children, when the first child reached the age of 16 years and became eligible for endowment under the student endowment scheme the family would lose a certain amount of the child endowment. If one looks at the table which is part of the Minister’s speech on this Bill one finds that a family of 8 would have received $14.25 a week before the eldest child became eligible for student endowment, but that after the child became eligible for the student endowment the family would receive only $13 a week - $1.25 a week or about $65 a year less than had been received previously. I asked a question on this subject and hoped to have a reply before this debate on the Social Services Bill, but so far I have not received a reply. The Minister set out in his second reading speech figures showing the rates of child endowment payable. Under the new scheme a family with 8 children under the age of 16 years will receive §17.25 a week, but if the first child becomes eligible for the student’s allowance the amount received will be reduced to $16.25 or, in other words, Si less than the family would have received had the child endowment remained and the student’s allowance not been paid. This is entirely wrong because the people concerned cannot afford any reduction in their weekly receipts. Many families depend on child endowment to help tide them over. After all, child endowment was introduced to supplement the income of the breadwinner with a family so that the family could improve to some extent its standard of living. 1 refer now to the February-March 1971 issue of the publication put out by the Institute of Public Affairs. It contains a table showing the minimum cost in 6 countries of keeping a family of 4. Australia is the third highest on the list. West Germany is the highest. In 1967 in West Germany it cost $A42 a week to keep a family of 4. In 1970 it cost $A73 a week, an increase of 74 per cent. In the Netherlands the cost was $A30 a week in 1967 and SA45 a week in 1970, an increase of 50 per cent. In Australia the cost was $47 a week in 1967 and $61 a week in 1970, an increase of 30 per cent. How on earth can people who depend on child endowment expect to maintain a decent standard of living if the payment is reduced? Although the reduction is only $1 a week, it means a lot to the people concerned. I ask the Minister to do what he can to have this anomaly rectified because there must be thousands of families in this position.
In the June-July issue of the Institute of Public Affairs magazine it is stated that 1,750,000 families in Australia are receiving child endowment. Of that number, 8,000 families have 7 children; 3,000 families have 8 children; 1,100 families have 9 children; 400 families have 10 children and 200 families have 11 children or more. I do not mean to indicate that all those families come within the category I have mentioned of eligibility for the student’s allowance. I do not have the figures on the number of families which would be penalised in that regard. The figures I have cited relate to families with more than 6 children. Some action should be taken to restore to those families the money they would have received under the old scheme of child endowment.
I have received through the post what appears to be a roneoed letter which was signed by a Mr Derek Stone and addressed to the editor of the Hobart ‘Mercury’. The letter contains several figures, some of which I will read to the Senate. Under the heading ‘Child endowment anomaly’ Mr Stone has this to say:
Child endowment is a very small social security payment designed to partially offset the financial penalties of having children. The principle appears to be the more the children, the more the assistance given per child. The Commonwealth Department of Social Services has assured me of the accuracy of the following situation: Under the new rates payable per month of 28 days (a) for a family with 8 wholly supported children, when the eldest school child turns 16 the endowment cheque drops by $7.
– Is that $7 a quarter?
– No, this is for a period of 28 days. The letter goes on:
That illustrates the difference between a small family and a large family. The smaller the family, the more you get; the larger the family, the less you get. I should like the Minister to use his endeavours to have the scheme in relation to child endowment altered.
During the Budget debate I. like other honourable senators, mentioned the situation of the wife of a pensioner who, because of age, is not eligible to receive the wife’s allowance. Although the wife’s allowance has been increased by the Budget to $8 a week, the pensioner and his wife still receive only $25.25 on which to live. Two people will find it very difficult to live on that amount of money. A pensioner whose wife is not eligible for the wife’s allowance will receive, unless he is getting superannuation or some other income, perhaps by way of war pension, only $17.25 a week. Imagine 2 people trying to live on $17.25 a week. Something should be done to rectify that position. It is true - I think an honourable senator mentioned it this afternoon - that perhaps the wife could be eligible for an invalid pension. It would be a matter for the Department of Social Services or a Commonwealth medical officer to decide whether the wife was eligible for an invalid pension or whether she could resort to the unemployment benefit.
– She would have to be 85 per cent incapacitated to receive the invalid pension.
– That is right. That applies through the whole sphere of invalidity so far as social services are concerned. The wife perhaps can register for unemployment benefit which I understand is SIO a week. That would bring the total income to $27.25 a week. But suppose the woman was between 50 and 60 years of age. Firstly, it would be difficult for the Department of Labour and National Service to place her in employment. Secondly, it would be difficult for her to go out to work. Surely no-one would expect a woman, after having reached 50 years of age, to have to go to work to maintain a decent standard of living because her husband is receiving a pension. If she is offered a certain number of jobs and refuses to take one there is a possibility - I know that this is not done but it could be done - that she would not be paid even the unemployment benefit. Those are 2 points that I wish to bring before the Senate this afternoon. I know that we want to get this Bill to the Committee stage as quickly as possible. So, that is all I have to say on it. 1 hope that Senator Greenwood will convey to the Minister for Social Services the 2 points I have raised so that some action can be taken to rectify the anomalies.
– This is the second time this year that the Senate has had before it a Bill to amend the Social Services Act. On each occasion the main reason for the measure being before the Senate has been that there has been an increase in the standard rate of pension. I can only lament that although the 2 measures are significantly different in terms of the quantum of the increase, members of the Opposition now maintain, with little variation, the same line as they pursued last March. However, in the course of the debate honourable senators raised several points to which I will refer briefly in passing and which I shall also refer to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) for his consideration.
It should be recognised that this measure has certain very significant and definite merits. Let me recapitulate very briefly what it does. In the first place it provides for an increase of $1.25 a week in the standard rate of pension. On the passage of this Bill, the standard rate of pension for a single person will be $17.25 a week and the amount for a married couple will be $30.50 a week. The Bill makes provision for an increase of $1 a week in the widow’s pension. The class B widow will now receive $15.25 a week. The Bill also makes provision for an increase of $1 a week in the wife’s allowance. It further provides that the adult rate for long term sickness benefit will be increased by $1.25 a week.
The Bill contains 2 provisions involving increases in child endowment. One is a provision under which the third child and all subsequent children will receive an increase of 50c in child endowment. Under the other provision there will be an increase of 50c a week in the endowment payable in respect of children who live in approved institutions. Possibly as significant in itself as any of the other matters provided for by this measure is the provision for additional payment for the children of age, invalid and widow pensioners. A set figure of $4.50 a week will now be paid in respect of the children of all age, invalid and widow pensioners. For widows there is a mother’s allowance, which is not introduced by this measure but which is part of the provision that has been made in recent years, of $4 or $6 a week according to the age of the children.
It is useful to state and stress the provisions that are made in this Bill. They may be criticised, as they always are criticised, by members of the Opposition on the ground that they are inadequate; but it must be recognised that provisions of this character, applying as they do to more than 1 million people in this country, involve a very considerable expenditure of money. The total cost to revenue this year of these measures will be $66m. I suppose that it is natural for an Opposition to claim that the increases that are granted are inadequate. But I believe that there devolves upon an Opposition which makes that attack the obligation either to accept criticism that it itself is being irresponsible or to indicate what it would provide and how it would finance the cost of its provision.
I have listened to members of the Opposition. I have heard them lament now, as they did in March, that the pension increase is inadequate. I think I should stress that the increase of SI. 25 a week, when added to the 50c a week increase that was made last March, makes a total increase of $1.75 a week over a period of 12 months. That is a rise of proportions never equalled since the introduction of pensions in Australia. Just to make the point a little more emphatic, I point out that last year the increase in consumer prices, as disclosed by the consumer price index, was 5.4 per cent, whereas the increase in the pension rate over the comparable period is 11.3 per cent. So, the rate of increase in the pension is more than double the rate of increase in prices. That means that there has been a real increase in the value of the pension. This is a signal achievement. Last year, when the pension was increased by 50c a week in a holding Budget, the Government’s attitude was that that increase was comparable with the rate of price increases at that time - and it was comparable because it was identical. The Government was criticised because of that. This year, when the rate of increase in the pension over the 12- month period is more than double the rate of increase in consumer prices over that period, the Opposition maintains its criticism.
That makes me doubt that 1 will ever at any time hear from the Opposition a reasoned and sustainable criticism of a measure that the Government introduces. There is a perfunctory, routine method of saying the same things over and over again without real regard to the basis-
– Do you not agree that the purchasing value will fall between next January and the presentation of the Budget in 1972
– One cannot be sure about anything in this life; but I say that there is no ground for supposing that it will and that the Government is entitled to proceed on the basis that, as a result of the economic measures we have taken, there will be that moderation and development for which we are striving and which we have every reason to suppose we will achieve.
Various matters were mentioned in the course of the debate. Senator Keeffe suggested that in some way the Aboriginals in this country are denied the entitlements to social services which are the entitlements of non-Aboriginals. All I say is that that is contrary to the policy of the Government, it would be contrary to the language of the Act and we do not believe that it is so. I say to Senator Keeffe that if he has found, at any time and in any place, any evidence to suggest that that is the situation, then he ought to produce that evidence so that the matter can be investigated. It was also suggested by Senator Gair, I think, that some consideration should be given to the situation of persons who are living together without being married - for example, sisters - on the basis that they are in a position of decided advantage over a married couple because the pensions they receive, in total, are greater than the pensions a married couple receive. There is a certain degree of merit in the point that is made.
– Do you not think that Senator Gair’s emphasis was the other way - not to bring the 2 single people down to the other level, but to lift up the other level?
– I am quite sure that that is what he intended. I know that that is an attitude which he and his Party have maintained over a period. But I believe that there is truth in the adage that 2 people can live more cheaply than one because of their ability to share expenses. I do not think it should be held against sisters or other people who may live together, or that they should be exposed to the examinations which necessarily would be undertaken if there was to be a rigorous pursuit of whether or not some practice was developing as a result of which they ought not to be receiving the total amount that they are receiving. We do not believe that this is a problem of any great proportion.
– Again it is not Senator Gair’s proposition that the Government should disturb their position but that it should look at the position of a married couple and bring them up to that level.
– I appreciate the emphasis of Senator Gair’s point. On the other hand if the Government does maintain the view that it is fair for a married couple to receive in total less than twice the amount which a single pensioner receives and if the Government desires to adhere to that belief, I think if one were to take account of Senator Gair’s proposition it might require the investigation of the position of unmarried persons living together. We do not propose to undertake any such general inquiry. Senator Gair also suggested that it might be desirable to have a tribunal independent of the Government to fix pensions. This is another point that the Democratic Labor Party has made iD this place over the years. As one who has had occasion to respond to the proposition, I developed at length, what I hoped for was at least a reasonable argument against the case that he put when a similar Bill was before the Senate last March. Senator Gair apparently was not attracted to it because today he repeated the same arguments as of yore and also asserted that he had not heard an argument against the proposal he was putting. If one’s argument is not treated as being worthy of attention, one might be pardoned if on this occasion one does not repeat it on the supposition that reiteration will not make the position any better than before. It is a point of view which one political party holds. One can see merit in it. One can see demerit in it.
The Government accepts the basic responsibility for allocating the resources which are available to it. It cannot yield that to a tribunal which in fields of pension might in a particular year involve the Government in an expenditure which economically it senses it cannot bear. It has been referred to by Senator Gair and Senator Drury-
– Would not that be an argument against an arbitral wage tribunal particularly qua Crown employees?
– It may be used as an argument against that. I certainly do not use it. I feel however that there is no reason for extending that principle into the pensions area and possibly into other areas because ultimately the point will be reached at which the Government is controlled by the money values and by the amounts which these tribunals commit it to pay. That is a matter about which the Government should always be concerned. One other point which was made related to the position of pensioners who have wives who are under age. Unless the pensioner is an invalid pensioner, in which case the wife will receive the wife’s allowance, the under age wife of a pensioner receives no assistance. I have noted the points which have been made. All I can say in that regard is that I will convey to the Minister for Social Services the arguments and considerations raised by the persons who addressed themselves to that situation.
Senator Drury raised an aspect about fringe benefits and also certain problems in relation to child endowment. I think that the Government has taken the view over the years since it introduced the tapered means test that those people who receive a pension because of the tapered means test provisions are generally in a position to be able to afford, for example, medical and hospital benefit contributions and, therefore, should not be entitled to the fringe benefits which are available essentially for those who are dependent upon their pension and nothing more than the limit of $10 a week which they are entitled to earn. There may be particular problems in particular cases, but the broad concept which the Government has in mind is that the tapered means test is of assistance to those persons who have something more than an income or means as assessed which would entitle them to a pension. Because they have that extra they should be in a better position to pay for the fringe benefits which go to the pensioners who do not have this extra.
On the aspect of child endowment I would simply say to Senator Drury that it is a fact that when a child turns 16 and receives student endowment the amount received by the family in which there are more than 2 children will undoubtedly decrease. I do not think that the anomaly exists - if there should be an anomaly, and I do not concede that there is - because the Government has increased child endowment - but because the payment of child endowment ceases when the child reaches the age of 16. Ever since child endowment was introduced in 1941, payment has ceased when the child reached 16. In 1964 the Government introduced the student endowment and that has meant that the young person living with his family after he has turned 16, if he is still a student, has gained a benefit. If that student endowment provision did not exist, naturally the position would be more grievous than that complained of at present.
The broad criticism which the Opposition followed was on the lines of the amendment moved by Senator Brown. As Senator McAuliffe said, the amendment is in almost identical terms with the amendment moved to meet but a50c pension increase of an interim character last March. It says that the proposed increases and their range are inadequate - as with the increase in March which was of a somewhat lesser range. It was suggested that they are inadequate not so much, as I understood it, because the amount should be higher but because some people were not included in the pension increases. I seem to recall Senator Brown quoting figures to show that about 660,000 persons would receive the full increase in the age pension and about 148,000 people would not benefit. He also stated figures which gave a comparable picture in regard to invalid and widow pensions. Who are the people who are not benefiting? It is a strange state of affairs when the Australian Labor Party takes up its cudgels on behalf of those people who, on a reasonably objective basis, might be regarded as propertied people who are able to take care of themselves. 1 make this point: The persons who will receive the full increase are those who are earning up to $10 a week income or who have been earning between $10 and $11 a week income or who have up to $5,600 in property or between $5,600 and $6,120. They will receive the full increase. The people who have an income between $11 a week and $13.50 a week or property between $6,120 and $7,420 will receive graduated increases. People who receive in excess of $13.50 a week and who are currently receiving a pension of about $13 a week or who have property in excess of $7,420 will not receive any increase. When the Opposition claims that certain persons are not getting the benefit of these pension increases, the persons for whom it is making its claim are those who at the moment receive $13 a week pension or possibly something less than that but who also earn $13 a week or something more than that or who have in excess of $7,000 worth of property.
– They have lost their relative position qua the pensioner.
– They may well have lost their relative position as compared with the pensioner who receives the increase, but it must be recognised that with average weekly earnings rising at the quite remarkable rate at which they have been rising - and stress has been placed on this by the Opposition - those who are earning $13 a week or more are receiving the benefits in that area also. In short they are receiving more because they are able to earn more from their part time activity. That is money that they receive apart from their pension. I sense a degree of unreality about the pleas which the Australian Labor Party makes that the persons who are not receiving the pension increases are in some way persons whose particular claims warrant criticism of the Government’s measures.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
General Business Taking Precedence of Government Business after 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:
That intervening business be postponed until after consideration of Government Business order of the day No. 9, General Business notice of motion No. 10 and General Business notice of motion No. 1.
(8.0) - When the debate was adjourned on the report of the Standing Orders Committee we had agreed to accept amendment (2) contained in paragraph 9 of the report.
– I think a vote was taken on it.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONYes, a vote was taken and an assurance was given by Senator Wright, who was leading for the Government, that notwithstanding the vote that had been taken there was an obligation on the Committee to have another look at the matter on which the vote was taken. I have said that only to give honourable senators some background information in relation to this matter. I would suggest that we should proceed with the report tonight in an endeavour to complete it and have the proposals in the report that are agreed to by honourable senators incorporated in the Standing Orders. That would not prejudice in any way the obligation on the Standing Orders Committee to have another look at standing order 64. I believe that completion of consideration of the balance of the report may assist the Standing Orders Committee in its subsequent consideration of standing order 64. I hope all honourable senators approve the way in which I have suggested the balance of the report should be dealt with.
(8.4) - I think I should for the benefit of honourable senators read paragraph 10. It is fairly brief and to the point. It reads:
It is considered that the time limits for speeches -
This is in the context of standing order 64- and for the whole discussion, could be reduced without prejudicing the effectiveness of urgency motions.
It should be remembered that standing order 64 relates to urgency motions. Paragraph 10 continues:
The recommended amendments are:
Amendment (3) - Leave out ‘the mover and the Minister first speaking shall not exceed 30 minutes each,’, insert ‘the mover and the senator next speaking shall not exceed 20 minutes each,’.
Amendment (4) - Leave out ‘and any other senator or the mover in reply shall not exceed IS minutes,’, insert ‘and any other senator or the mover in reply shall not exceed 10 minutes,’.
Amendment (5) - Leave out ‘Provided that the whole discussion on the subject shall not exceed 3 hours’, insert ‘Provided that the whole discussion on the subject shall not exceed 2 hours’.
In summary, at the present time standing order 64 provides for a 3-hour debate In which the first and second speakers shall be allowed 30 minutes each and the subsequent speakers and the mover in reply shall have 20 minutes in which to speak. The proposal is that the mover and the speaker next following him should be allowed 20 minutes in which to speak and all subsequent speakers 10 minutes. It is also proposed that the debate shall be for only 2 hours duration. It is a matter for us to determine whether we agree with the proposal. All I want to say is as the business of the parliamentary institution is developing and the demands on the Parliament are increasing it would seem that a 3-hour slot - for the want of a better expression - is perhaps a little too long for a debate on an urgency motion.
The Standing Orders Committee was not unanimous in its views about this matter. I think reservations were expressed by at least one member of the Committee. I am not certain who it was. It might have been Senator Cavanagh. But the consensus of the Standing Orders Committee was that the time allowed for this sort of debate should be reduced to 2 hours, that 20 minutes should be allowed to the first and second speakers in the debate and that 10 minutes should be allowed to the other speakers. Therefore, I move:
Senator MURPHY (New South Wales)Leader of the Opposition) (8.7) - There has been some discussion of the report of the Standing Orders Committee in the chamber and round the lobbies since it was tabled. I think it is the general view that the proposal in regard to reducing the time limit of certain debates from 3 hours to 2 hours is sensible and that the proposal in regard to reducing the speaking time of the mover of the motion from 30 minutes to 20 minutes is sensible but that the time limit of 15 minutes for the other speakers should be left as it is.
– Not if the others are cut down.
– Well, that is my suggestion.
– Still within the 2 hours?
– Yes. That may not be the unanimous view of honourable senators, but it is the general view.
– It would have to be in proportion.
– But a time limit of 2 hours has been proposed. It would work out in some way. The view I have expressed may not be the unanimous view of everybody, but the matter is nevertheless pretty clear. The second recommendation, which relates to cutting down the time limit for the supporting or other than introductory speakers to 10 minutes, should be put to a vote separately. I believe this matter should be isolated from the other matters. For that matter. I suppose we could deal with each of the proposed amendments one at a time.
– lt would be simpler if we were to handle these proposals in that way.
– All right.
– I suggest that that should be done. For my own part, I favour the first and third proposed amendments. I have been brought around to accepting the viewpoint of those honourable senators who say that the second proposed amendment is an undue limitation of time. My own original view was that 10 minutes would be ample time, but there seems to be a strong feeling that it is not enough. I propose to oppose the proposed second amendment and to support the other two. 1 have indicated that I think the 3 matters should be dealt with separately.
– I agree. I think they should be taken seriatum.
– A strong view has been expressed that the second proposal should be rejected and the position should remain as it is at present, although as a matter of symmetry the main object would be achieved if there was a time limit of 2 hours and some cutting down in the time allowed to the first speakers.
Chairman, before the debate proceeds any further could we reach agreement on whether to deal with the 3 propositions separately and put them to a vote separately?
– 1 have just formally moved that amendment (3), which is the first one in paragraph 10, be agreed to.
– That is the one in relation to the reduction of the individual speaking time?
– The first amendment in paragraph 10 reduces the time from 30 minutes to 20 minutes.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Prowse)The business before the Senate is paragraph 10, amendment (3). We are now discussing whether we will leave out certain words and add certain words.
– I hope I will be forgiven if I mention amendment (4) in order to make an explanation of what I think should be done.
– We are dealing at the moment only with amendment (3).
– Mr Chairman, if you limit it to that 1 can only speak about the proposal to reduce the time to 20 minutes. I should be able to discuss these 2 amendments even if we do not vote on the 2 because each one affects the other.
– Are you making a request that leave be granted to discuss amendment No. 4 as well?
– Yes, I will if I may.
– Is there any objection?
– We have plenty of objections. We have not been given the call yet.
– Very well, Mr Chairman. The proposal before the Senate is to reduce the speaking time of the first 2 speakers - I am not now talking about the Minister who replies but the first 2 speakers - from 30 minutes to 20 minutes. The reason why I wanted to discuss amendment (4) is that it then reduces the speaking time of the following speakers to 10 minutes. If there are people here who do not want to have an intelligent debate, I will not pursue my request. If a matter is of sufficient urgency to be brought into this place, and if other amendments to the Standing Orders are agreed to which seek to have matters wsich are matters of urgency brought before the Chair, then I do not believe that the person who is proposing the case and who moves the motion of urgency can adequately present his case in 20 minutes.
Urgency motions are usually sprung on the Government. Generally, but not always, urgency motions come from this side of the chamber and the onus is thrown on the Government to defend itself without any preparation on the subject that is presented to the Senate. In this situation I would think it would be difficult for a Minister to present an answer to a prepared case, particularly if the urgency motion relates to a portfolio that the Minister only represents in this place. It has to be remembered that the person who moves the urgency motion will have a prepared case. If the terms of the urgency motion represent an attack on a particular portfolio, the Minister concerned will not have a prepared case and he would require the extra time in order to present a case on behalf of the Government. In my opinion, the time should not be reduced from 30 minutes to 20 minutes. I think it is sensible to give the person who is moving the urgency motion an opportunity to present his case and to give an opportunity to the person in reply to present a case in an emergency. It is not something that has been prepared; it is something that has to be done in an emergency. The person who has to reply could be caught left footed. He will require time to develop a case. I do not think he could do this under 20 minutes.
– I support the proposal for the limitation of the debating time of urgency motions to 2 hours and the consequential reduction of speaking time of the initial speakers and subsequent speakers to 20 minutes and 10 minutes respectively.
– I rise to a point of order. I raise objection to the honourable senator mentioning anything about amendment (4). His leader prevented me from mentioning anything about it. He refused me leave.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Prowse)There is no substance in the point of order.
– I think that perhaps the consideration of amendment (3) and amendment (4) must to some extent go together. The point is that an urgency motion raises a matter of urgency and importance which has been considered subjectively by the person who raises it and those persons standing in their places. In a debate limited to a few hours, I think that 20 minutes is quite adequate for the presentation of a case. When we compute the present distribution of time, we see that the initial speaker and the Minister who replies each have 30 minutes. In a debate circumscribed within 3 hours, if subsequent speakers were allowed 15 minutes, the first 2 speakers plus 8 other speakers could be accommodated. This is a total of 10 speakers. With 20 minutes each for the first 2 speakers and 10 minutes for subsequent speakers, in a debate circumscribed within 2 hours, again 10 speakers could be accommodated, if my mathematics are correct. I think therefore it is important that as many people as can be reasonably accommodated within the ambit of the time available for an urgency motion should be accommodated. The time should not be monopolised by some people speaking for undue lengths of time to the exclusion of others. Therefore I think that this is quite a reasonable proposition.
We have been getting a proliferation of urgency motions. That situation does not arise from any sinister motive. It will necessarily arise from the new distribution of political strength within the Senate. The members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party or the independent senators may choose to raise matters of urgency. After all, as I say, this is a subjective judgment. If Senator Townley or any other independent senator wishes to raise a matter of urgency and he can get sufficient senators to rise in their places he is entitled to move a motion. Therefore quite apart from a proposal which may come from the Government, from the Opposition or from us - more probably from the Opposition or from us - there are 3 independents all of whom might wish to inject an urgency motion. The chances that the number of urgency motions will increase is probably great. Urgency motions by their nature are important and urgent. Nevertheless, the business of Government must go on and other matters must come before the Senate for consideration. Urgency motions should not be allowed unduly to defeat the other work of the Senate, in considering legislation and in considering motions and papers and matters of that character. In the modern Senate, in the new Senate, I think this is quite an interesting and reasonable proposal. The Australian Democratic Labor Party support amendment (3).
However, 1 point out a matter of drafting. The amendment reads:
Leave out ‘the mover and the Minister first speaking shall not exceed thirty minutes each’, insert ‘the mover and the senator next speaking . . .’ ft is not inconceivable that for some reason the mover of the motion and the senator next speaking could come from the game group or the same side of the chamber.
– That is dealt with subsequently, I think.
– Where is it dealt with, senator?
– I do not know, but it is.
– Therefore I feel that perhaps some words should be inserted there to qualify the position. They could be in these terms:
Insert ‘the mover and the senator next speaking, not speaking m support of the motion, shall not exceed twenty minutes each’.
In other words, that is maintaining the normal situation where more than 2 speakers are not called from the same side in succession.
– ls that not amendment (3)?
– That is only in relation to the subsequent speakers; that is not the initial speakers.
– No, it ls not. It states that the mover and the Minister first speaking shall not exceed 30 minutes each.
– That is the mover and the senator next speaking, but I say that the mover and the senator next speaking might both speak from the same side in support of the motion. I do not think it is right that 2 succeeding speakers from the same side and presenting the same case should monopolise 40 minutes.
– That was the position where a Government senator would be proposing the motion. In that case the person in reply would be from the Opposition.
– If it is a speaker in reply it is all right. The position may well be that it is 2 speakers who are not speaking in opposition but speaking in concurrence. That is my point.
– If you leave in present provision, which relates to a Minister, you could have both speakers from that side.
– We are abandoning that one, although I do not see why. We are now providing that the 2 initial speakers shall each have 20 minutes. It could be that the 2 initial speakers are both supporting the motion and speaking from the same point of view. I think that is unwise.
– That frequently happens when you support the Government.
– Yes, but I say that, if we write this, what might happen is not in point. The point is: Are we wise to provide that 2 concurrent and succeeding speakers presenting the same position will get 40 minutes of the 2 hours? I think that if the second succeeding speaker is on the opposite side to the mover of the motion then the second speaker is entitled to 20 minutes, [f he is merely concurring with the motion I do not see why, because he is the second speaker, he should be entitled to the same period of time as the initial mover. I suggest that what should be inserted in amendment (3) is that the mover and the honourable senator next speaking, not speaking in support of the motion, shall not exceed 20 minutes each. That gives 20 minutes to the mover and 20 minutes to the first speaker opposing the motion. All other honourable members speaking have 10 minutes irrespective of whether they support or oppose the motion. I think that is quite a reasonable proposition. I propose to move: (n Amendment (3), after ‘speaking’, second appearing, insert ‘not speaking in support of the motion’.
I think that this is not an unreasonable proposition. I think it will allow the proliferation, although not undue proliferation, of urgency motions which are good. It will enable more honourable senators to participate in debate on an urgency motion. It will enable the normal business of the Senate to go on without undue interruption. This amendment will allow the modern distribution of political strength which we must now accept as a fact of parliamentary life to continue indefinitely in this comunity. This is a very wise, very timely and relevant provision. The Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the amendment, subject to the amendment which I have moved.
– Firstly, I point out that I am a member of the Standing Orders Committee.
– The honourable senator represents me on the committee.
– I represent Senator Cant on the Committee.
– There is a meeting of caucus over there.
– I do not represent caucus. I represent Senator Cant. I draw the attention of honourable senators to the conclusion of the report. In paragraph 40, Reservation, I insisted that it be recorded that I disagreed with paragraphs 10, 30 and 31 which relate to time limits. Each of those paragraphs take away the right of an individual honourable senator which already exists. When I came into this chamber I found that there were some restrictions and it was somewhat difficult to fit in with the Standing Orders. Nevertheless I found that there was sufficient freedom for a full discussion on any matter anyone wished to raise. During my time in this chamber there will be no action on my part which will take from any honourable senator a right which I had when I came into this chamber. When I leave the Senate I will not leave to those who follow me a lesser right than the right that those who preceded me established before I came into this chamber. The 3 paragraphs I have mentioned take away some right. If there is an urgent and involved matter concerning South Australia which I think should be brought before this chamber I do not want a restriction placed on me in discussing it which I did not have when I came into the chamber. There is no compulsion on me as the mover of an urgency motion - I have never moved an urgency motion yet-
– The honourable senator is not suggesting that the Standing Orders and everything else as they existed when he first came into the Senate should never be varied, is he?
– I think the Standing Orders should be varied. They should be amended greatly to the advantage of those who follow. They should not restrict. If there is an urgent matter in South Australia which I want to bring before this chamber there is no compulsion on me to use the half hour permitted if I can put my argument in 10 minutes. I am at liberty to put the matter in 10 minutes but I have the right to extend my time for half an hour. Now there is an attempt to reduce my time. We are told that a time limit is put on debate because it will permit more speakers. If we look at the matter we see that it does not. The motion for adjournment to debate matters of urgency has not been greatly abused in this chamber. On an average we have 6 or 7 urgency motions a year which covers 2 sessional periods of this Parliament. In 1970 there was a record high in the number of urgency motions. There were 10 submitted to this chamber. Never before have we had 10 urgency motions submitted in a year. We are in our last sessional period for this year and up until now we have had only 7 urgency motions submitted. It is unlikely that we will exceed the number submitted last year.
The proposal is that an hour will be cut off the time allowed for an urgency motion. Last year - which was the record - we would have saved 10 hours of debating time by adopting this proposal. That is approximately I day’s sitting over a year. There can be no argument that the adoption of this proposal will reduce time spent in debate to a large extent. The other suggestion is that it will permit more speakers. At present, 2 speakers will take an hour and, with IS minutes allowed for other speakers, 8 speakers will take the other 2 hours. Therefore, we have a total of 10 speakers if they speak their full time. On many occasions they do not. Sometimes, for the purpose of talking an urgency motion out, we have another speaker. Taking the proposal in globo, 2 speakers will speak for 20 minutes and 8 speakers will be permitted to speak for 10 minutes each.
– That is 10 speakers.
– Yes, 10 speakers and that is the same number as we have today. That completely destroys the honourable senator’s argument that this proposal will permit a greater number of speakers.
– 1 did not say a greater number. I said the greatest possible number.
– It is the same number of speakers. There are 2 matters to be decided. Firstly, an urgency motion is something which is urgent. The Standing Orders provide that the matter is so urgent that it takes precedence over Government business. The decision as to urgency is taken by 4 honourable senators. It is not a matter for the President. We have a matter before us which is urgent. It is so urgent that we say: ‘You either get it over in 20 minutes or you do not expound it to the Parliament at all’. That is not reasonable. If an issue is so vital that it takes precedence over Government business, but subsequent speakers are restricted to 10 minutes, that is simply ridiculous. The desire to alter Standing Orders and not obtain any benefit for Parliament is something I cannot understand. I was concerned when Senator Byrne said that the Democratic Labor Party would do something. I thought we had decided that there was to be a free vote.
– I should have said: The members of the Democratic Labor Party.
– I hope they will vote according to their consciences. Looking at the 7 items we find that the Democratic Labor Party brought up 4 of them.
– That shows our activity.
– It shows its activities and its desire to bring forward matters of urgency. But on those 4 occasions Democratic Labor Party senators used the half an hour allotted to each of them. This was not compulsory and they could have dealt with the matters in a shorter time. Were they procrastinating? Were they destroying the privilege we gave them by using the full half an hour on each occasion? What is their position today? Could they have explained those matters in less time than they did? I hope the Senate will not accept the motion moved by Senator Byrne. The Opposition moved 10 resolutions relating to matters of urgency last year and I think the Standing Orders at all times envisaged that the Opposition would move urgency motions.
– What do you mean by saying 10 resolutions were moved? I do not follow you.
– All right, senator.
– 1 did not quite follow you; that is all.
– 1 say that you are not going out of your way to make any attempt to follow me in this discussion. There were 10 urgency motions moved last year. I was mistaken; 9 of those were moved by the Opposition. One would anticipate that urgency motions-
– What do you mean by last year senator?
- Mr Chairman, could you give me some protection from this?
– What do you mean by last year?
– Senator Cavanagh is asking for protection, Mr Chairman.
– That is a fair question.
Order! Senator Cavanagh has chosen not to answer your question, Senator Byrne.
– I will answer it, Mr Chairman. If Senator Byrne is so backward that he does not know when last year was I suggest that someone get a calendar for him and it will show him that it was 1970. Have you absorbed that, senator? It was 1970.
– ‘Last year’. What does that mean?
– If I refer to next year I mean 1972. Nine of those 10 urgency motions were moved by the Opposition. I thought it was always envisaged by the Standing Orders that the Opposition would move urgency motions as a matter of attack on some Government department for neglect. As the report of the Standing Orders Committee states, we do not abdicate the idea of ministerial responsibility and therefore the Minister who would be replying to the mover of the attack should have 30 minutes in which to speak. But last year one matter of urgency was moved by an honourable senator on the Government side, Senator Greenwood, who was then a back bencher. The subject was the Vietnam Moratorium. This year, 1971, we again had an urgency motion moved by Senator Greenwood and this time the subject was Papua New Guinea. The topic of the matter of urgency was that the self government and independance of Papua New Guinea should not be imposed on the people of the Territory contrary to their freely expressed wishes.
Both these motions came from an unexpected source and they must have been an attack on the Opposition. The activities of the Opposition in relation to the Vietnam Moratorium were well known and the motion relating to Papua New Guinea followed a visit by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) to that area. It was natural that Senator Greenwood would have half an hour in which to explain his urgency motion. He was not attacking ministerial responsibility but the Opposition and the first speaker for the Opposition was entitled to half an hour in which to reply. But under the Standing Orders dealing with such a motion the Opposition, having no Ministers in its Party, was limited to 15 minutes because all other speakers had only 15 minutes in which to speak. Following the reply from this side to that attack, Senator Wright, a Minister, spoke and supported Senator Greenwood in the urgency motion. Under the Standing Orders on that occasion one hour was granted for the presentation of the case by the 2 senators supporting it and only a quarter of a hour was allowed for the honourable senator leading the case in opposition to the question of urgency.
This necessitated some arrangement whereby there could be equality. Each side should have equal opportunity. The Standing Orders Committee has recommended that the person moving the motion should have 20 minutes. I oppose this idea and say that it should be left at 30 minutes. The one opposing, the first speaker in opposition-
– You do not say that, senator. I agree with you but it does not seem to me that the amendment says that, on the drafting.
– Mr Chairman, I rise to a point of order.
– Poke Q.C.
– I may be ‘Poke Q.C.* I do not know about that, but there has been a continual barrage of interruption by the Democratic Labor Party senator while Senator Cavanagh has been speaking. I bring to your notice, Mr Chairman, standing order 422 and ask that you rule accordingly and request that the people who are continually interrupting Senator Cavanagh discontinue their remarks.
– Mr Chairman, speaking to the point of order, I would not wish to interrupt Senator Cavanagh’s presentation of his case. I thought my question was a fair one. He referred to the proposal and by way of interrogation 1 said that I agreed with him and asked whether the drafting carried that proposal into effect. A discussion such as the one now taking place in the Senate is a committee type of discussion in which I think, with respect, Mr Chairman, the Standing Orders are sometimes regarded with some elasticity so that there can be discussion in a quieter atmosphere which will allow for exchange of ideas. T interjected on that basis. I did not wish to interrupt Senator Cavanagh but I think my question was a reasonable one. I think the honourable senator given the opportunity will advert to it and will answer it.
– It is true that under the Standing Orders all interjections and interruptions are disorderly However, the practice of the Senate is that so long as interjections are not made for the purpose of disrupting the proceedings they are allowed. I will allow those interjections which I consider are not designed to deny a senator who has the call the right to speak. Senator Poke, I have considered your point of order but at present I do not uphold it. However 1 would request all honourable senators to bear in mind the purpose for which there is a standing order stating that the proceedings of the Senate shall be orderly.
– During the course of my speech I have expressed some resentment of the continual interjections by Senator Byrne. I agree that if we can contribute something to an understanding it is a different matter but, without offence, I might mention that tonight Senator Byrne does not seem to be very receptive and as understanding as he normally is. I do not know what occurred during the suspension of the sitting for dinner but he seems very difficult to understand tonight.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I join Senator Cavanagh in opposing the suggested alterations to the rules governing debate on urgency motions. First, I object to the cutting down of debating time in this House or any other parliament in Australia. There is a great tendency to limit debate, to cut down public discussion. For those types of organisations that excel in executive government, this is a very good way of pushing things under the carpet without public scrutiny, ft is significant that the Democratic Labor Party is supporting this motion. Ever since the entry of members of that Party in this chamber they have consistently joined the Government in gagging debates. This happens every time that the gag has to be applied and the Government has not the numbers, I am aware of only one or two occasions on which the Democratic Labor Party has opposed the gagging of a debate.
Executive government is becoming very popular today. We find that the big decisions in relation to the government of this country are made not in this Parliament but outside the Parliament. An urgency motion is one of those types of motions which can be brought into this chamber to expose an injustice or a grievance of some type. I would venture to say that the time taken on those debates is not used in a silly way so far as the Opposition is concerned, or so far as the Government is concerned. We do not bring frivolous matters before this place for the sake of holding up the business of the Parliament. In my recollection of the short time that I have been a member of the Senate, the 3 hours which are allowed for an urgency debate have always been used to the full, except perhaps for the last 3 or 4 minutes when we have been endeavouring to obtain a vote. What will be the situation if we now cut the debating time as is proposed. The amendment states: the mover and the Minister first speaking shall nor exceed thirty minutes each,” insert ‘the mover and Senator next speaking shall not exceed 20 minutes each,’.
If 1 introduce an urgency motion - during the 6 years that I have been here I have brought in two or three of them - I find that 30 minutes is very limiting. There are many points on matters of great urgency and public importance, and one needs time to expound and to set out the subject in detail. If we whittle this away by chopping off 10 minutes we will find ourselves not able to state a case properly and, consequently it will lose some value.
Although it is not under debate at the moment, it is relevant to the point that I am endeavouring to make to remind honourable senators that the next proposed amendment seeks to reduce the time allowed for supporting speakers from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. I suppose I speak as quickly as anyone in this chamber. If I speak for 10 minutes, the most I can inject into a debate would be about 2,400 words which, in anybody’s language, is a very short argument when it is set down in a publication. I find also that when I am a supporting speaker in a debate of this nature the period of 15 minutes, as it stands at the moment, is quite insufficient. Senator Cavanagh very properly pointed out that in the last year 10 urgency motions were moved. Our friend Senator Condon Byrne had difficulty in working out his calendar and was not sure what a year was. If we look at it over 2 sessional periods covering a calendar period of 12 months we find that 10 urgency motions were moved. So it will be seen that the right to raise a matter of urgency in this chamber is definitely not being abused. We are not using the forms of the Senate in relation to the introduction of urgency matters for the sake of holding up the business of the Parliament.
I know that on this matter there is to be a free vote. 1 indicate quite clearly and publicly now where I stand. I am thoroughly opposed to the breaking down of any debating time in this place or in any House of any Parliament in this country and I propose to vote for the status quo. 1 believe that the 3 hours that we now have for a debate on a matter of urgency is far too short. So why should we took for ways and means of reducing that time?
– I oppose the motion for many of the reasons that have been submitted by Senators Cavanagh and Keeffe. One of the features of this chamber, particularly over recent years, has been the additional freedom that exists for senators to express their views on all manner of subjects. Obviously the Standing Orders of this chamber have been designed to give additional freedom to honourable senators to express their views on matters relevant and irrelevant. This pertains particularly to debates on money Bills that come into this place. We are now debating a proposed amendment to the Standing Orders which will bring about the very disability from which we believe the other House has suffered, that is, a restriction of speech.
Al the moment 3 hours are allocated for the debate on an urgency motion. As has been mentioned by Senator Cavanagh, not a great number of such motions have been submitted to this House, but when they have been submitted it has been in the belief that they are important and that a debate will proceed. It is now being suggested that the speaker who introduces the matter should be limited to a speaking time of 20 minutes, and a later proposed amendment would reduce the time of speakers who follow in the debate from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. It is proposed that in total there should be 2 hours for the whole debate. 1 know some honourable senators who in 10 minutes could hardly state their name and address, because of the manner in which they develop an argument. But that is their right.
– It depends on the length of the address.
– That is right. If it were in Wales they might have difficulty even in pronouncing it. I do not think it is unfair or that it is unreasonable for an urgency debate in this chamber to take 3 hours. There is an old trade union axiom which applies in almost all circumstances. It is that you should never give away amenities and benefits that you have because the first inroad to those amenities and benefits leads the way to the second inroad. Senator Jim Keeffe expressed this matter very well when he expressed the fear that the Executive will finally take control of debate in this place.
I have spoken on this subject on other occasions in relation to the establishment of Estimates Committees, which I believe was another inroad into the debating time of the Parliament. I have expressed my views on this matter, as have other honourable senators, by saying that we are taking into the corridors and the small rooms of Parliament House discussions that should be held here publicly and openly. It is proposed by this amendment to reduce to 2 hours the discussion that would normally take 3 hours. I suggest that the proper and perfect system would be one in which there was no restriction of the freedom of a member of Parliament to voice his opinion. This right has existed and still exists in some houses of parliament within the Commonwealth.
I recall an occasion in Victoria when a member of the upper House spoke for more than 4 hours. Admittedly that was a filibuster for political purposes. But the freedom of that man to speak for 4 hours is very important within the portals of Parliament where democracy exists, or is alleged to exist. We have no right to take from a person 5 minutes of the time allowed to him to express the views of thepeople he represents or the State thai he represents, or even to express his personal views on issues of conscience. If the Committee wishes to extend the system of Executive control it will carry this amendment and restrict further the rights of members of Parliament. If it wants to make the Parliament more democratic with less control by the Executive it will extend the speaking time allowed to members.
Any one of us could state a belief that a person has spoken for too long because we have not enjoyed or followed properly his speech, but his right to speak is paramount if we are to adhere to the system of democracy in this country. Every member of Parliament has that paramount right. Every decision and every action by the Parliament to restrict that right is a decision and an action in support of executive control. 1 oppose the amendment.
– I take the advantage of my colleagues having spoken on this matter to conclude what I was attempting to say previously. I do not know whether Senator Poyser’s remark that the time now proposed would take some persons that long to give their name and address was directed to me. It should be obvious that what I wanted to say could not be said in the 15 minutes permitted each speaker in this debate. I am one of the unfortunates who should be given some consideration because if I wanted to participate in a debate on an urgency motion I would have no chance to say in 10 minutes what I have already found difficulty in saying in 15 minutes. If the 10 minutes speaking time is adopted, I will be practically excluded from taking part in any urgency debate, and I know that even honourable senators on the Government side would not want that to happen.
When my time expired earlier I was trying to direct Senator Byrne’s attention to the fact that Senator Greenwood had moved 2 urgency motions purely for the purpose of attacking the Opposition. I think that was an abuse of the power conferred by an urgency motion. Any member of the Opposition who wanted to reply was restricted to 10 minutes. On one occasion Senator Wright, as a Minister, exercised his right under the Standing Orders and, as the third speaker, spoke for half an hour. Therefore, of the 1 hour 15 minutes occupied by the first 3 speakers to the motion, 1 hour was occupied by Government supporters attacking the opposing political Party. The Standing Orders Committee decided that that practice should be abolished, that the proposer of the urgency motion should have 20 minutes and that the first speaker opposing the urgency motion should have 20 minutes. As a matter of interest to Senator Byrne that suggestion is expressed in the report of the Standing Orders Committee in this way:
The mover and the senator next speaking shall not exceed 20 minutes each.
That presupposes that the opponent of the urgency motion will be the senator next speaking. But there is one reservation. If it happened, as it did on a previous occasion, that an urgency motion was moved as an attack on this side of the House and a Minister was so lacking in principle that he took the call for the second speaker, the situation of which I complain would not be overcome by the proposed amendment to the Standing Orders.
– The suggestion was made that if the words ‘a senator not speaking in support of the motion’ were inserted the point the honourable senator is making would be covered.
– I do not think so, because in the same paragraph to which we are referring the following appears:
This change does not imply any abdication of ministerial responsibility.
We must recognise the position of a Minister. If any matter on which we are making an attack comes within his ministerial responsibility, or if he is required to explain the Government’s attitude, the maximum time should be available to him. If it is a matter in relation to which the Minister thinks that he has ministerial responsibility, he will rise as the second speaker. We do not seek to take that right from him and that is why it has been preserved in this way. However, if an attack is being made on the Opposition by honourable senators on the Government side without the question of ministerial responsibility being involved, it would be a pretty low down action for a Minister to exercise the right to the second 20 minutes. I do not think that would happen and the Standing Orders Committee did not think it would happen.
Therefore the Committee submitted this proposal in the belief that the mover and the opponent of the motion would get the benefit of the extended time, but with the proviso that if ministerial responsibility were involved the opponent of the motion had to be sacrificed for the sake of ministerial responsibility. This gives some modicum of Government control over even urgency motions. I do not think that Senator Byrne, on consideration, could disagree with that proposition. It is not a strong point that I make. The strong point lies in the whole question of reducing the opportunities available to honourable senators to speak. As Senator Keeffe has pointed out, that privilege has not been abused.
On 21st April this year, Senator Byrne moved an urgency motion in relation to child endowment, maternity allowance and the home savings grant. Senator Byrne on that occasion took half an hour to present his case. Could he have presented his case in 20 minutes, as be now proposes for the Senate? If so, why did he waste the time of the Senate by speaking for half an hour? This year 7 urgency motions have been moved of which the Labor Party moved only one, Senator Greenwood moved one, Senator Turnbull moved one and members of the Democratic Labour Party moved 4.
– Very effectively too. They paid dividends.
– Effectively because the movers of those motions had half an hour in which to discuss the subject. To give them the right to move effectively in the future I am supporting the proposition that the half-hour should be retained.
– I shall be very brief because I see that Senator Wilkinson wishes to speak. I am delighted that that is so because we are here as a total Senate dealing with the report of a group of senators greatly experienced in the problem of managing the Senate and its Standing Orders. The Standing Orders were discussed in a bipartisan spirit by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, Leader of the Government in the Senate; Senator Cavanagh; Senator Sir Magnus Cormack; Senator Murphy, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate; Senator Wilkinson to whom I acknowledge his courtesy in allowing me to speak first; Senator Withers who is active in this senate, and Senator Wright, Minister for Works. Not without a substantial body of knowledge on these matters, they bring to the Senate a report suggesting certain amendments to the Standing Orders. They obviously have spent a lot of time and have done a lot of work on this, and the report represents the result of a job carefully done.
As one who is outside the work of the Committee, one endeavours to listen to the arguments that have been raised. Although there are differing opinions on this whole matter, the special interest in and the special understanding of the Standing
Orders that was exhibited by members of the Committee, is freely acknowledged by all. The first argument comes from Senator Byrne who has suggested that the amendment before us could perhaps stand some additional drafting in the sense that we should insert the words ‘not speaking in support of the motion’. That seems to me, in my amateurish understanding of this matter, to be a sensible drafting change that will overcome the problem of 2 speakers for the one side of an argument having the longer time. This problem was referred to by Senator Cavanagh in expressing his concern about this matter. Looking at that amendment as an issue by itself, it seems to have quite a deal of merit in the view of a person endeavouring to understand the work of the Senate Committee that specialises in this area. I have heard no argument that has persuaded me that Senator Byrne does not have a valid point.
It has been mentioned that in paragraph 11 of the report of the Standing Orders Committee, under the heading ‘Ministerial Responsibility’, the point is made that, under the amendment proposed by the Committee, the Minister could abdicate his right to speak for 20 minutes, give somebody else that right and speak for only 10 minutes himself. It is suggested by Senator Cavanagh, I think, that this would produce a situation in which the Minister could not defend himself. Surely that is unreal. If the Minister is under attack and he believes that he has at his command the material with which to defend himself, he will take his 20 minutes. But the matter of urgency may be one in which the Minister is not under attack. We Ministers freely acknowledge that in this chamber there are people who know more than we do about certain subjects. In such a situation 1 would simply say to myself: ‘If an honourable senator on the Government side knows more about this matter than I do, let him have the 20 minutes and I will take the 10 minutes, because the balance of the argument is what counts’. Speaking quite factually, that is how I would approach it. So, that seems to me to dispose of the first issue.
On the other hand, the second issue is a separate one, although it intrudes into the present argument. A body of senators oppose the proposal that the total speaking time on urgency motions be reduced from 3 hours to 2 hours. Those senators are entitled to their viewpoint. They are entitled to take the view that this restricts the ability to debate; that it is a negation of human rights and freedoms; and that it puts the Senate in a posture different from that which existed when they came hire. The world today is different from what it was when we all came here. It will be different again in 6 years time. Things must change. The Senate must change. The rules must change. This is proper. We look to our colleagues in committee assembled to reach a judgment which they recommend to us. Here we have a judgment recommended by a body of senators representing all sides of the Senate. One does not lightly set that to one side.
When I hear people say that one cannot express an argument in 20 minutes, I am reminded of President Roosevelt’s great comment. A group of people said to him: Mr President, will you speak to us?’ He asked: ‘For how long?’ They replied: ‘It is entirely a matter for you’. He asked: ‘Do you want a long speech?’ They replied Yes, we do’. He asked: ‘When do you want me to deliver this speech?’ They replied: ‘We would like you to deliver it, if possible, in about a month’s time’. He then said: ‘lt is quite simple rule: A long speech I can give you immediately; a speech of about 20 minutes duration will take me a good fortnight to prepare; but a speech of 10 minutes duration will take me 3 months to prepare’. With that thought, I commend to all honourable senators the suggestion that we might well profit by having less debating time on some of the issues we debate, less wordy argument and more concentration on the point.
– In the Standing Orders Committee the arguments and reasons offered by Senator Cavanagh, Senator Keeffe and other speakers who believe that we should leave things as they are were duly put forward and duly considered. In this chamber we are faced with a change that is taking place in the work load that has to be handled each session. One of the problems with which we as a Senate are faced is that a tremendous amount of work is never completed.
– We should sit longer.
– We are not considering that point at the moment. If we look at the notice paper for today we find 8 notices of motion listed under Business of the Senate, lt is doubtful that we will be able to deal with all of those. Under Government Business there are 15 orders of the day. They have to be dealt with because they are largely Bills. A few of them relate to reports. They will have to be dealt with, too. Under General Business the number of items put on the notice paper during this session has already reached 25. These are matters that should receive reasonable and considered attention.
On the other hand, when urgency motions are introduced here only on extremely rare occasions do we reach a decision. Normally no division is taken on an urgency motion; we merely express our points of view. If we were to use adequately the time that is proposed to be allocated - we are not actually dealing with that point at the moment - and if we planned the debate properly, we would find that different speakers would take different points and each side would be able to cover any urgency motion in the time that was allocated for it by giving the first speaker 20 minutes and each other speaker 10 minutes. We never make a decision on an urgency motion. All we do, if the motion is carried, is decide to meet the next day 5 minutes earlier than we normally would. So, we do not achieve anything beyond that purely nebulous result.
– Why do you not recommend the abolition of urgency motions altogether?
– I am not saying that we should cut out urgency motions. 1 am suggesting that we should plan debates on urgency motions a little more carefully because of the work load that the Senate has to handle. I would agree with all the suggestions that are put forward by Senator Cavanagh and Senator Poyser if we had nothing to do but to continue speaking. But we have other things to do. We have to attend to all the matters that come before us. That is extremely important. We should not simply say: ‘We will have the urgency motions and let the debate on them continue for as long as we like*.
– For 3 hours.
– The honourable senator cannot put a time limit on it because he said that the debate should just go on. The present limit is 3 hours, but he would like the debate to continue for as long as possible. The position is that we meet for only 19 hours each week. If we have a 3-hour debate on an urgency motion we chop off about 16 per cent of the time available for work.
– You want to chop urgency motions out altogether.
– No, 1 am not suggesting that we chop them out altogether. I consider - I am not alone in this; the Standing Orders Committee took this view - that, if we look carefully at debates on urgency motions and plan them as I believe they can be planned, each and every speaker can make his contribution so that each side presents its whole case and makes its point. My attitude is based on that and the fact that the Senate has to deal with the business that comes before it. We have to do that properly and not, as we usually do, rush the business through on the last day, when somebody moves that half a dozen or more matters be discharged from the notice paper, and that is agreed to. When that happens, the opportunity to debate those matters goes, although they were regarded as tremendously important at the time they were put on the notice paper. Because time has gone by and they have not been dealt with, that is no reason why they should be scrubbed, as some matters are. lt is important that we consider this matter reasonably and take into account the points Senator Cavanagh has made. They would be legitimate points if we had unlimited time; but, when we have only a certain amount of time, we have to fit all the business into a pattern so that we can deal with it all. I believe that this is most important.
– You want to chop out urgency motions.
– Apparently Senator Poyser did not hear what I said about planning debates on urgency motions. I believe that if we do that we will find that we can deal properly with urgency motions.
– This is a matter to which the Senate should give very deep consideration. I look with a great deal of concern upon the Senate proposing to reduce the time for debate on an urgency motion. This Parliament is the focal point of democracy in this country. 1 think that if we look at it in that way honourable senators should have the right to debate matters for a reasonable length of time. If they feel genuinely and strongly about something they should have the right to speak on it for a reasonable length of time. Tonight I heard honourable senators say that we should speak for only 10 minutes and so on. Everybody does not speak in the same manner. I think Senator Cavanagh made the point that some people may take longer to get to a point than others. That is their natural way. lt is all right for those of us who speak quickly to say that the others should speak quickly and get their points across, but they are not cut out that way. We have to remember that in this democracy of ours people are of different types and have different ways. If honourable senators feel strongly about a matter they should have a reasonable amount of time to debate it. The mover is supposed to get a certain time and other speakers get a certain time also. The proposal is to limit the time of other speakers to 1 0 minutes.
Tonight somebody said that times have changed. Times have changed in many ways. Possibly democracy is so important that it is necessary to take more time to debate matters in a democratic way than was taken in the past. We can keep on contracting things. That may seem all right if they fit in with other things, but they might not properly suit the main purpose. Take motor cars today. Designers keep lowering the hoods so that higher speeds can be attained. If hoods are lowered much further the only way in which a passenger will be able to get into a car without knocking his head will be to be catapulted in. That is cutting the cloth according to today’s conditions.
– The old push bike is better.
– Yes. My old push bike still remains the same. From the democratic point of view there is an importance in giving people sufficient time in which to speak. Some honourable senators may say that 3 hours is sufficient time in which to debate a subject. The subject may be a burning one. There may be questions of real national importance at the time. In a chamber such as this a number of people may be bursting to speak on the subject. In those circumstances I feel that we should play safe and make sure that we have sufficient time to debate subjects.
Let me give an instance. I have been a member of the Senate for nearly 21 years. I cannot recall speaking on an urgency motion. I would like to have spoken on one. It was an urgency motion dealing with the Great Barrier Reef. Strange as it might seem, not one Queenslander on the Government side was permitted to speak in that debate. I helped to establish the Great Barrier Reef tourist industry, of which a former Premier, Senator Gair, will know something, but I was not permitted to speak because so many people from other States desired to speak. Those who may have known a bit more about it were permitted to speak. Sometimes there is not enough time even in 3 hours for all who wish to speak. Some of us were deprived of that privilege. I was deprived of that privilege. I always remember that occasion. I do not think that the time should be limited to 2 hours. If a number of people feel that they want to have a say on some matter on which they feel strongly, I think democracy demands that they be given sufficient time to debate the matter.
It is all right saying that we have a workload and that we have this and that. Let us arrange our debates in a proper way. Let us cut out a silly lot of filling in of time. I know that at times we on this side could have got legislation through, but we talked on. Sometimes the Opposition stopped talking and we could have got it through, but what did we do? We kept on talking. The purpose of debate is to get a matter through. Sometimes the Government does not want to get it through; it just wants to keep on talking. If they want to keep on talking on Bills, what is wrong with leaving at 3 hours the time allotted for urgency motions? I know that urgency motions are often brought on to gain a political advantage, but on occasions the matter may be such that people feel very strongly about it from a national point of view. Therefore I think it is wise for us, as a deliberative chamber, to play safe and to retain the 3 hours allotted for debating urgency motions. I believe that full debates in this chamber are important to the democracy of this country.
– I draw the attention of honourable senators to the fact that what is at issue is the maximum and best use of time allotted for debating urgency motions. Everyone knows that matters of urgency arise about which honourable senators feel very strongly. It is the subjective judgment of the person who moves an urgency motion whether he can attract the support of another 4 senators standing in their places. But there is a tremendous throughput of important work to be discharged by the Senate. I invite honourable senators to look at today’s notice paper. It contains 8 notices of motion under ‘Business of the Senate’, none of which has been dealt with at all. There are references to a series of standing committees in the name of Senator Davidson, Senator Sim, Senator Devitt, myself, Senator Murphy, Senator Mulvihill, Senator Murphy and Senator Murphy again. Under ‘Government Business, Orders of the Day’ there are 15 matters, including some legislation - and there is much more to come - and very important matters such as the adjourned debates on the Australian Forces in Vietnam, a ministerial statement on international affairs by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen), Fourth Report of the Standing Orders Committee which we are now debating, employment training scheme for persons displaced by technological change, and similar subjects. Under General Business’ there is a whole mass of matters - 11 in number - of very great consequence in the name of Senator Willesee, Senator Murphy, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson twice, myself, Senator Devitt, Senator Murphy, myself, Senator Willesee and myself twice. None of those has been dealt with totally. Under ‘Orders of the Day’ there are 25 matters still awaiting the attention of the Senate. Not all of them are pertinent or relevant now, but many are. That is the work programme of the Senate.
If a matter of urgency attracts the particular attention of one senator and the support of only 4 more is required, should those 5 be able to impose their views, though they may be important, in the light of the tremendous work burden that these important matters on the notice paper impose on honourable senators? Many senators would regard some of these matters on the notice paper as vastly more important than the matter that Senator Gair, supported by the 4 additional members of the Democratic Labor Party, might raise. That is their right. It is not right that all the matters on the notice paper should be put aside merely to allow protracted debate on urgency matters which may have an urgency character to only a limited number of senators. In the economic use of time I think it is important to try to achieve a balance. I think that the limitation of 2 hours for debate, with no restriction on the number of participants in the debate - although the time allotted to individual participants is limited - can accomplish that economy of time which is so important in this chamber.
- Mr Chairman-
– This will be a typical example of how time can be wasted.
– As Senator Gair said, this will be a typical example of how time can be wasted in discussing this subject tonight, but 1 think that in this wasting of time an important argument has been raised as a justification of why we should vote to take away the rights that senators now have and why we should restrict rights which normally would not be restricted. The contention is that the taking away of those rights is justified because of the important business that has to be debated in the Senate. This reminds me of the earlier discussion at a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee. The Committee met prior to this session of Parliament. I do not think I am at liberty to discuss what took place at that meeting, but the same kind of argument that we heard from Senator Wilkinson and Senator Byrne tonight was advanced at that meeting as the reason for wanting to deprive honourable senators of certain of their rights. 1 advanced the argument that when the Senate met on the Tuesday which was the opening date of this session there would be questions in the afternoon and the Budget would be presented in the evening, then someone would move for the adjournment of the Senate and we would all agree to it. Normally on the night the Budget is presented we would go home at half past 8. I do nol think that actually happened on the occasion that this year’s Budget was presented because on that day we had the swearing in of a new President and his presentation to the Governor-General. But no-one is concerned with pushing through business when the motion that the Senate do now adjourn is moved on Budget night. After the presentation of the Budget we have a motion that the Senate do now adjourn, and at half past 8 on Budget night we normally adjourn. The Government can justify this action on the ground that it has to arrange its business.
It is not necessary that Thursday night should be the only night on which we can discuss general business. We have a responsibility to go through the notice paper. We have a provision that on Thursday night general business will take precedence over Government business, but if on any day the Government has no business with which to proceed general business could and should come on. It has been argued that some business is urgent and we have many Bills to deal with. As I pointed out, last year was a record year which will not be exceeded this year. This proposal gives only an extra 10 hours, possibly an extra day, of sitting time. If the business is so urgent, 1 submit we should sit the additional time and deal with it. But we are counting on possibly an hour extra each week which will permit more honourable senators to speak on the following Bill that is presented to the Parliament because that Bill is set down to be dealt with on a particular day.
It is fallacious to argue that we are preserving time to get through this business. This is all that is left to be said by those who want to restrict the liberty of the individual. It is not a realistic argument. The suggested reduction in speaking time would under normal circumstances give us an extra 6 hours a year or 3 hours a session. That is a statistic that has been mentioned in relation to the amendment moved but the necessity for this small saving cannot be borne out in fact. Those who are determined to vote for the amendment and to take away the rights of senators should at least put their argument on some sounder basis than the one on which they have presented it, namely, on the volume of business on the notice paper.
– 1 was intrigued with the argument that was put up by Senator Byrne when he quoted from the notice paper to indicate to us how much business we already have on it, and he implied that we will have a lot more on it before this session is over. I ask him to declare honestly and sincerely whether he believes that if one hour is taken off the time allotted for the discussion of urgency motions in the Senate we will clear the business sheet before we rise for the summer recess. The answer of course is no, and it is an emphatic no. The argument that by cutting down by 1 hour on our 3 hour debates on urgency motions this is something that could be achieved is an argument that cannot hold water.
Honourable senators know that during the early stages of the last session the Senate had no Government business with which to deal. The Government had no business to bring forward and I know that honourable senators on our side of the chamber - I presume the same applied to honourable senators on our side of the the chamber - were asked to speak on matters on which they had no intention of speaking so that we would fill out the day and appear to be working. At that time certain Bills that were presented in another place were kept for 6, 8 and 10 weeks before they saw the light of day in this chamber, and during that period we had no business at all. It was a matter of comment in this place on more than one occasion that the Government had no business for us to deal with. During the last fortnight of sitting in another place last session we had the shocking position when 20 or 30 Bills were forced through in one week. It was to the credit of the Senate that we sat an additional fortnight, and I give credit to all parties represented in the Senate for agreeing to do that. We were not panicked into the type of shemozzle that occurred in another place. I think each and every one of us - the Liberal Party, the Democratic Labor Party and ourselves - agreed that we were not going to run our chamber in the manner in which the other chamber was being run. In that additional fortnight we were able to go through the rest of the business paper without the use of the gag and without the use of any of the restrictive measures that were imposed in another place. We were able to complete all the business that the Government desired to be completed by the end of that sitting time.
For any honourable senator to say that by denying ourselves an extra hour on urgency motions, which are not a regular feature of this chamber, we will attain something that has never happened in the history of federation is to put forward a fallacious argument that should not be considered by any honourable senator when he votes on this matter. The simple facts are that we should retain the privileges that we have. We should not under any circumstances, by making a decision tonight, place ourselves in a situation which will make it easier next year to make a decision that will cut back further the rights of honourable senators. I can see developing a situation in which someone will say: ‘We were successful with getting the time allowed for the discussion of urgency motions cut back to 2 hours and the speaking time for each honourable senator speaking to an urgency motion cut back to 20 minutes and 10 minutes. We will introduce the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives in relation to the norma] debates that take place on legislation.’ So the hour allowed for speaking goes back to half an hour.
Honourable senators do not abuse their speaking time. Not- even the leaders of the parties in this place take the full hour in introducing matters that they desire to introduce unless they have a lot of say. I say that with respect. The 3 Party leaders in the Senate do not say: ‘I have an hour. I will take the full time.’ But if they need the time they have it. Then we could reach the situation where instead of having an hour for question time the Standing Orders Committee could say that the House of Representatives has only 45 minutes and that by adopting the same practice we could save another quarter of an hour which could be used to discuss the matters which Senator Wilkinson says are so urgent and with which we should be dealing instead of dealing with urgency motions. Then we would get to the stage of altering the Standing Orders that relate to ministerial statements, petitions and all the things that come before question time and we would find a Minister rising from his seat 45 minutes after the opening of the Senate and asking that all other questions be put on the notice paper. I have seen question time reduced to less than 30 minutes in the other House. The thin edge of the wedge is in this amendment. If we give now we will give later and we will give often, and we will become a complete replica in every respect of the other place, completely controlled by Standing Orders designed to meet the situation in the other place. Let us retain the Standing Orders we have now, which make us somewhat distinguished from another place, which in the last fortnight of the last session had the kind of situation that we do not see in this place.
– I remind honourable senators that the Committee is considering amendment (3), which states:
Leave out ‘the mover and the Minister first speaking shall not exceed 30 minutes each,’, insert The mover and the Senator next speaking shall sot exceed 20 minutes each,’.
That the words proposed to be left out be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator E. W. Prowse)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The ‘ TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Davidson)- The question is that the words in amendment (3) proposed to be inserted be inserted.
– Mr Temporary Chairman, I wish to move an amendment to the words proposed to be inserted. I move:
That the words proposed to be inserted read as follows: the mover and the Senator next speaking shall not exceed 30 minutes each’.
I believe that honourable senators require a reasonable amount of time in which to present a case on a matter of urgency. I believe that one needs a reasonable amount of time in which to develop one’s argument on a subject of national importance. Of course, if the matter raised has been brought up for political reasons-
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Temporary Chairman. I do so not because of any discourtesy towards Senator Cant but for the purpose of my own elucidation. I understood that we were going to deal with an amendment that Senator Byrne proposed to move. Would it not be proper to dispose of Senator Byrne’s amendment before we consider Senator Cant’s amendment?
– I did indicate that I proposed to move an amendment, Mr Temporary Chairman. With great respect to you, Sir, and with gratitude to the Minister for Civil Aviation, I point out that I tried to get the call but did not succeed. Senator Cant did in fact get the call and has gone on to propound an amendment. My amendment was not formally notified. I do not know whether I would be entitled to any priority in presenting my amendment. If I am entitled to do so I will do so. But it appears to me that, Senator Cant having caught your eye and propounded his amendment, he should be entitled to priority and my amendment should wait.
– Senator Cant, are you prepared to defer to Senator Byrne in order to allow his amendment to be discussed first? I understand he foreshadowed it.
- Senator Byrne had every opportunity, having foreshadowed an amendment, to seek the call to move that amendment; but he did not do so. He sat in his place during the whole time that Senator Cavanagh was speaking and, by way of interjection, fired a continual barrage of questions at Senator Cavanagh until he was called to order. Now that 1 have risen to speak he wants priority. Are we handing this place over to the Australian Democratic Labor Party?
– I claim to have been misrepresented, Mr Temporary Chairman. My attitude was exactly the contrary of what Senator Cant said it was. I said that if, in the opinion of the Chair, Senator Cant was entitled to the call 1 would most certainly cede that to him. I said that I did not attract your eye, Mr Temporary Chairman, but that Senator Cant did. It is quite possible he is entitled to priority over me in presenting his amendment, even though I bad indicated in general terms what I intended to move. My attitude is quite the contrary to that which has been stated by Senator Cant.
– Senator Cant caught my eye and I gave him the call. The debate will proceed along those lines.
– If Senator Byrne did not create the mischief, I apologise to him; apparently the Minister for Civil Aviation did.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Temporary Chairman. I have no wish to embarrass either Senator Cant or Senator Byrne but, in view of the procedural mist in which we are proceeding, I am anxious to have some guidance and I was hoping to get that from the Chair.
– Mr Chairman, I have proposed this amendment deliberately because I believe that the standing order as worded led to the position that Senator Greenwood moved an urgency motion and spoke for half an hour, as he was entitled to do as the mover of the motion. Senator Wright was the first Minister to speak. He took half an hour out of the 3 hours. Then when Senator Willesee rose he was entitled to only 15 minutes. Having carried the motion that the words be left out - I think the proposal is a good one - we now get to the stage that the mover and the next senator speaking will have the extended time. I propose that that time should be 30 minutes. I do not believe that the initiators of proposals are necessarily able to put up their cases in 20 minutes. If it is resolved that the mover and the next senator speaking are entitled to 30 minutes, we do not say: ‘You shall use 30 minutes’. If they think they can present their cases in 15 minutes that is all right. It allows another senator to speak. If we decide that 30 minutes be allowed, we do not make an abuse of it; we give ample time for the mover to state a case and ample time for the senator who is replying to the mover. We do not say to them they must speak for 30 minutes. They may speak for 15, 20, 25 or 30 minutes, depending on their ability to make out their cases on the proposal. Therefore I think the 30-minute provision should be retained.
– I second the motion. I tried by voting against the previous proposal to indicate that there was quite a mixture in all of this. Very obviously I want to see reference to the Minister cut out, but there is another way of doing this. Had we defeated the previous proposal the Standing Orders Committee could have done the very obvious thing and put back reference to the Minister. However, it has been decided otherwise. I approach this whole question on a completely practical basis. The first time I ran up against this problem was when I was acting Whip many years ago. I found that all sorts of things happen during the course of a debate. Senator Cant has pointed out that if a speaker does not take the 30 minutes it is not lost because the debate runs to the 3- hour limit. The same situation applies in relation to those who are limited to 15 minutes. A Whip or a Leader who looks at these things finds that very few people time their speeches to finish in exactly 15 minutes. Frequently they stop after 13 minutes. It needs only 3 or 4 people to do this and an extra 8 or 10 minutes have been accumulated. This means that the extra speaker who gets these 8 or 10 min*utes at the end of the debate is not getting much less time than the fellow who spoke for 13 minutes. I approach this matter completely from the practical point of view.
A lot of theory has been expressed. This is very interesting when we are thinking about things that might or might not happen. If the speaking time for the first 2 speakers is reduced to 20 minutes only ID minutes is being saved on either side. As
Senator Cant has explained, the full time does not have to be taken. For instance, Senator Greenwood moved a proposal which condemned the moratorium on Vietnam. Would it have been fair to ask him to reduce his time to 20 minutes on a subject such as that? Would it have been fair for the person in reply not to have 30 minutes to deal with a subject such as that? The whole general question of whether this moratorium should have been held was raised. Then all those incidental things were raised, such as court cases being heard, police action, the actions of the demonstrators and so on. As T say, the overall time of the debate will not be altered.
My attitude will please some and displease others. I am going to vote to retain the 30 minutes and the 15 minutes and then I am going to desert the supporters of those proposals and vote for an overall time of 2 hours. My reason for doing this is again because of experience. Time and time again I have seen our Whip running around trying to get enough people to pad out the 3 hours. 1 would like to see written into this proposal one of two things. It might be remembered that the last time we discussed this matter we were not able to resolve it. I spoke on this matter previously and I will not repeat it. I believe that we should either have a vote always on these matters or never have a vote on them so that we do not go through the schemozzles that we have experienced. By leaving the matter up in the air we push the Government into talking out time. There is nothing worse to destroy debate. There is nothing worse to destroy any system at all than just to talk out time obviously as a filibuster.
I regret that there are not more honourable senators in the chamber, particularly on one side, so that they might be convinced by the arguments put forward. I have been swayed quite a bit by the arguments advanced tonight. I think something will be lost by not allowing 30 minutes to the openers in a debate, and something will be lost also by reducing the time for subsequent speakers from 15 to 10 minutes. Honourable senators should not be misled into dividing the time allowed for each speaker into the total time for the debate because it rarely happens that everyone takes his full time. A speaker cannot go for more than 15 minutes but he may speak for less than 15 minutes.
When Senator Young has a little more experience as Whip he will see that invariably enough time remains to fit in at least one more speaker. If honourable senators on either side want to create that situation they can do it by each speaker taking a few minutes less than the specified time. The 2 speakers who have 30 minutes could take 10 minutes less which would allow one other honourable senator to speak. If each of the subsequent speakers fell short of his time by 2 minutes, enough time would remain to fit in 2 more speakers. We allow ourselves a lot of flexibility in this way, but not if the times are reduced to 20 minutes and 10 minutes respectively.
I ask through you, Mr Chairman, that the 30 minutes be retained. Later 1 will ask that the 15 minutes be retained. I do this as a result of the experience that I have had of the way that these things work. I can go back quite a few years now - more than I care to remember, incidentally - and remember the way that this thing has worked. What is wrong with our writing into the Standing Orders the very practice that we have built up over the years.
– One is interested in the persuasive arguments of Senator Willesee. Once again I think it is appropriate to remind oneself, if not one’s colleagues, that here we are dealing with a report presented to the Senate as a whole by a body of its members on a matter which they have studied very deeply. Honourable senators are proposing to set this report to one side. Since we are talking about experience, I calculated that there is about 100 years of experience amongst the members of the Standing Orders Committee. If the Senate is going to appoint committees and then set their recommendations to one side, it seems to me that this is getting to be nearly a total waste of time. The Government is disposed to support the recommendations of its own Senate committee.
– I wish to bring only one point into this debate. I think honourable senators will appreciate the point that both the mover and the seconder of this proposed amendment voted against the proposal to alter the clause to the form in which it stands now. Both honourable senators wanted to leave the standing order as it stood; that is that the mover and the Minister first speaking shall not exceed 30 minutes each. They did not want anything struck out. Now when it has been struck out-
– lt is true.
– No, it is not.
– Yes, it is.
– The honourable senator did not hear my explanation.
– Yes, I did. All we were voting on was whether the words should be left out. Neither Senator Cant who moved the amendment nor Senator Willesee who seconded it voted to leave the words out 1 think this is important. Now that the- words have been left out, the 2 honourable senators have suddenly adopted the idea that a way for them to achieve their objective is to return to the time of 30 minutes. That is what they wanted all the time. Of course there is the added advantage that only one Minister can claim 30 minutes in which to address the Senate. We have not appreciated the point which was brought forward by the Standing Orders Committee in all sincerity. The Committee considered that the time should be reduced to 20 minutes in order to meet all the requirements of the Senate’s work load. I propose to vote against the amendment.
– 1 regret that my colleague Senator Wilkinson raised the way in which honourable senators voted on the last amendment. He was critical of those honourable senators who voted against the proposal - which was that the words proposed to be left out be left out - on the basis that they had seen fit to attempt to take advantage-
– No; only the mover of the amendment and the seconder.
– This is what the honourable senator was saying.
– I did not say anything else.
– The honourable senator took exception to the fact that they proposed to take advantage - if I might use that terminology - of an opportunity to achieve much the same result as they desired. Let me make the position perfectly clear. I had a discussion with a senior honourable senator on my side of the chamber prior to the completion of the debate in relation to the first part of the matter before the Chair. I spoke to him with the intention of moving a like amendment to the amendment which is now before the Chair in relation to the words which were proposed to be left out. Because it was thought that my action would create confusion I accepted the wise counsel that I should wait until the first part of the proposal was dealt with which was that the words proposed to be left out be left out.
– What would the honourable senator have done if that proposal had been carried in the affirmative?
– The status quo would have remained. That was a risk I took. I repeat that I think that my proposed action would have further confused the thinking of many honourable senators who have not applied themselves to this matter tonight. With great respect to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) I make the point that 1 was not impressed with the suggestion that the Senate is obliged to or expected to accept without question recommendations from any Senate committee.
– 1 think it has an obligation to treat them seriously.
– I assure the Minister that 1 think the Senate is, in fact, treating the proposals which are before it this evening very seriously. I repeat that I do not believe that under any circumstances the Senate should be expected simply to accept any recommendation from any committee. I am impressed with the arguments which have been put in relation to reducing in any shape or form the rights which presently exist for honourable senators to speak in this chamber. Such a reduction would be a regressive step. In this day and age it is said that we are concerned about time. I accept that proposition in the vein in which it is said. But I am also conscious of the fact that government is becoming much more complex as each day goes by. Having regard to the fact that this chamber is considered a second House which is said to review the work of the other place, I believe it is important to ensure that we have time thoroughly to examine the proposed changes of law which are placed before us from time to time from the other place.
The question has been asked: ‘What are we going to save anyway?’. On the one hand, we probably save a maximum of one hour but on the other hand we prevent an honourable senator - who may feel the necessity to speak for a certain time - having an opportunity to place his point before this chamber in a fashion which will be clearly understood by the Senate. For those reasons I support the amendment which has been moved by my colleague, Senator Cant. I sincerely trust that honourable senators will reconsider the way in which they voted recently. Technically, I think the vote was taken on the question of whether the time should not exceed 30 minutes or 20 minutes. I do not think the majority of honourable senators were really considering the matter of whether it would be appropriate that an honourable senator other than a Minister should be allowed to follow the mover. I again ask honourable senators to reconsider this position on the basis of the curtailment of the right of an honourable senator to speak for more than 10 minutes in addition to what is proposed in the Committee’s recommendations. I support the proposal to allow 30 minutes.
– I rise in this debate again to reply to some of the remarks that have been made. They deeply concern me. I have placed before the Committee my views as to why there should be no restriction of time. I do not want to go through that matter again. When we were debating the last issue, I expressed concern about a statement made by Senator Byrne. He said that the Australian Democratic Labor Party would vote in a certain way. We were of the opinion that on this matter there would be an open vote and that honourable senators would be permitted to vote according to their conscience without receiving instructions from their Party. When the last vote was taken we saw that the Democratic Labor Party followed Senator Byrne. If they voted according to their consciences then their consciences led in that direction. In the meantime we have seen the division of opinion within the Australian Labor Party. This is not pleasant. In my position I do not appreciate being on the opposite side to my leader. That illustrates my point. Nevertheless, in complete conformity with the undertaking we gave we voted according to our consciences.
As a member of the Standing Orders Committee I disagreed with other members as one can gather from the debate. I voted as my conscience dictated I should vote. There have been no reprisals against me. I think my position has been appreciated. Now the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) has said that as this is a Committee appointed by the Senate as a whole, the Government will support the recommendations of the Committee. That statement takes freedom away from members of the Government Parties. The poor Opposition - the Labor Party - which carries out undertakings in relation to committee decisions is left divided on this issue. But in relation to the other Parties in this chamber there is a Party direction or a solid Party vote on the matter. Senator Cotton’s remark was most unfortunate because he is not a member of the Standing Orders Committee. I do not think he has any privilege to know any more about what went on in the Standing Orders Committee than any other senator who is not a member of it. He can benefit from the knowledge he may attain from the report presented to the Senate. Paragraph 40 of the report states:
On some of the foregoing matters, where there was not unanimity, honourable senators reserved their position.
Senator Cotton has no more knowledge than that about whether this was a majority decision of the Committee. He knows from reading paragraph 40 that I was opposed to it because that is stated. He does not know whether the matter was carried with only myself dissenting or carried by one vote or by the casting vote of the Chair. Without any knowledge he asks us to oppose the amendment moved by
Senator Cant because of the decision of the Committee - obviously the majority of the Committee.
I draw the attention of the Senate to the last occasion on which we discussed the Standing Orders. A unanimous decision of the Committee was brought to this chamber relating to standing order 64 and the giving of notice. But when the vote was taken all Government members on the Committee voted against the Committee’s recommendation. Senator Cotton put some obligation on Government supporters today to vote against the amendment because of a decision of the Committee a week ago, but on the last occasion on which such a matter as this was discussed all Government supporters voted contrary to the recommendation of the Committee. There is no logic in this. The Party that has been torn apart in this debate is the Labor Party because it is the only one which has struck to principles and the only one to honour the agreement about a free vote on this particular question.
-I would like to make a couple of comments. I noted paragraph 40 and Senator Cavanagh’s sole disclaimer in the body of the printed report, specifically in regard to time limits.I do not think he is entitled to anything more than to complain against me for not supporting his views - no more than that. I have read the report as it has been presented and I note his disclaimer in that area. I note no other disclaimers. I am entitled to assume from that, that that is the fact of life. AllI am saying to Senator Cavanagh is this: He has not persuaded me or Government supporters in a situation of open voting that the force of his argument means anything.
– Mr Chairman, I just want to stale that Senator Cotton is not correct. He can gather nothing else.I say he cannot read properly. The report slates:
On some of the foregoing matters, where there was not unanimity, honourable senators reserved their position.
The plural, ‘senators’, is used. That is the end of the sentence. If he interprets those words as meaning that only I took a definite attitude, I do not think he is correctly interpreting the wording used.
– Let us just finish this off by reading the whole of paragraph 40. With respect, Senator Cavanagh is perfectly entitled to defend what he believes is true in his case. I am entitled to believe whatI read. The report states:
On some of the foregoing matters, where there was not unanimity, honourable senators reserved their position. Senator Cavanagh requests that it be recorded that he disagrees with paragraphs
That is what we are discussing - 30 and 31 relating to time limits.
I mean no offence to Senator Cavanagh and I hope none is meant by him to me.
– I support the proposition submitted by Senator Cant and which was supported by Senator Willesee. I do so because of the time limit that will be imposed if the proposition is passed by the Senate. I believe the time is completely inadequate. I draw the attention of honourable senators to an episode that happened in this chamber only yesterday. Quite a number of us were impressed with what Senator Rae said. I have counted the approximate number of words he used in a period of 1 1 minutes and they total fewer than 1,700. If honourable senators believe, as I believe, that Senator Rae is a fluent speaker - he is not particularly fast and he most certainly is not slow - and if he could utter only 1,700 words in 11 minutes, what possible hope would anyone, even Senator Rae, have of propounding his argument when introducing a subject in a period of 20 minutes?
I suggest., Mr Acting Deputy Chairman, that it would be a sheer impossibility for anyone to introduce a contentious matter in 20 minutes and do justice to it. If honourable senators care to check the record they will find that Senator Rae is reported at page 740 of yesterday’s Hansard, when he spoke in the Budget debate, as having commenced speaking at 5.10 p.m. and that he was followed by Senator Brown who commenced his address at 5.21 p.m. Senator Rae had approximately 10 or 11 minutes - probably 10 minutes - and he was able to introduce only a subject which was important to him; but he could not complete his arguments. With respect, how then could anyone speak adequately on a question such as that referred to tonight, the Moratorium? How could anyone introduce a subject such as the attitude of the trade union movement, which is dear to my heart, should the Government endeavour to interfere with the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the Opposition wanted to raise this as a matter of urgency? With respect, no-one could possibly do justice to a subject such as that in 20 minutes. After all is said and done, 30 minutes is not a particularly long time but an honourable senator could do reasonable justice to a subject he wanted to introduce if he were allowed 30 minutes.
In my opinion the proposition before us for a period of 20 minutes only would restrict proper debate. No-one can convince me that a matter of consequence can be introduced and dealt with by an individual in a period of 20 minutes. It is true that on some occasions nothing like half an hour would be required. The mover of a motion may be content to address the Senate for 15 minutes. He may not think it particularly important that he continue for 30 minutes, as is referred to in the amendment, but I believe he should have the right to develop his argument if he believes it is of sufficient importance.
Consequently I believe, apart from other considerations, that it is most unfair for a person introducing a matter of urgency to be restricted to 20 minutes. Those honourable senators present now who heard Senator Rae speak yesterday for 10 minutes know that he could not propound all the arguments he wanted to advance in that limited time. If he had had 20 minutes he could not have done justice to his argument for the simple reason that the topic he was referring to in the debate yesterday was of great significance. He was drawing attention to water and air pollution. He could not possibly have given adequate attention to his contribution to the debate in the 10 minutes at his disposal and, with respect, I suggest he would not have been able to do it in 20 minutes. Honourable senators might say that if a speaker cannot do it in 20 minutes he cannot do it in 30 minutes. I disagree. I think he would have been able to deal with the subject more adequately if given more time. I was most interested to hear him speak on that subject and I think it would have been to the advantage of the Senate if Senator Rae had been able to advance the arguments that he desired to put forward by being allowed 30 minutes instead of being limited to 10 minutes. I believe that such a limitation is quite wrong and is contrary to the best management of the Senate. I support the amendment proposed by Senator Cant.
– Once again I find that we are dealing with the matter of restriction. This is a case for the individual. As I mentioned before, some people can express themselves in a very short time whereas other people need longer. The suggestion is that the half hour allowed for a speaker should be shortened to 20 minutes. Whether 20 minutes is sufficient depends upon the subject and upon the person speaking. I cannot see why the 30 minutes cannot remain. If the person presenting a case does not require half an hour, there is no reason why he should not speak for a shorter time. The fact that a person shortens his speech may give others an opportunity to speak on the same matter. So it is a matter of the person, the subject and the amount of material that he has to present. This chamber is a House of review. It has always had, and was intended to have, longer periods for debate than the other place. It is more in keeping with this chamber to have a longer period for debate.
Senator Cotton has mentioned that the proposal to shorten the speaking time is based on the report of the Standing Orders Committee. The very strong inference is that because it is based on the report of a committee which is composed of very worthy senators who have given the subject much consideration, we should accept the proposal. That is a very nice thought. If only the Government were consistent in this direction it would be wonderful for the working of this chamber. If we are to accept the argument and vote according to the report of the Committee, I might ask what has happened to the very many fine select committee reports which have come before this chamber and have been presented to the Government but which have never been acted upon. Honourable senators know as well as I do that some committees have spent months and sometimes 1 or 2 years in research into the ramifications of a problem to find a solution. If they go to all this trouble and then present a report containing recommendations, there should be time to debate the report. If Senator Cotton is. right, why have those reports not been acted upon?
I mention also the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of which I am the Chairman. Very deep consideration has been given to questions which have come before that Committee. We have made recommendations, but over a period of years the Government resisted recommendation after recommendation despite the intense consideration that had been given by the Committee to the matters in question. The Government fought the Committee over a period of years. It was only when it felt that it could no longer win, because of the set-up in this chamber, that eventually it began to give way. It was not to the credit of the Government that it acted in that way. If we are to talk about committees giving consideration to a subject and then bringing before this chamber recommendations which must therefore be accepted, let the Government set the example.
I understand that in this debate there is to be a free vote, but judging from the last division which took place it is amazing how many senators on the one side of the chamber appear to hold the same view. Of course it might be that they are unanimous in their opinions, but it seems rather strange to me that such a thing happened when we had what is termed a free vote. So far as I am concerned a free vote is one in which a person exercises his conscience. On this side of the chamber we are supposed to have a freedom of conscience. Probably some senators consider that they exercised that freedom. I exercise my freedom of conscience at all time and, therefore, I do not require a special free vote. It is something that the Liberal Party is supposed to have but it is not always very evident. I understand that on this occasion it was announced that was to be a free vote, so the attitude adopted rather surprised me.
Once again I feel that the Senate is trying to restrict itself. It is all right to talk about what is done elsewhere, changing times and so on. In this same building a committee of the other chamber apparently investigated the length of speeches in that chamber and came up with a recommendation which was accepted. I hope that such a recommendation will never be accepted in this chamber because I believe that it is a downgrading of debate in a democratic institution such as a House of Parliament. In the other place, because of the committee’s recommendation and its acceptance by members of that chamber, members may now read their speeches. Just imagine, in the national forum it is now accepted that members may read their speeches. When we talk about change, let us try to keep for ourselves a standard. Let us not sell the democratic rights of senators down the drain, for they might at some time very much regret having done so. It is better to allow a margin by having too much time than to restrict a debate by having the time limit too tight.
As I said before, a subject might be of paramount importance and a speaker may require half an hour to treat that subject, but there are other questions on which a speaker may not want half an hour and probably deal with the subject in much less time. Therefore, what is wrong with playing safe and leaving additional time for the speech of a senator leading in the debate and other senators who follow in the debate so that they are sure they will have sufficient time. If there is spare time it is quite easy to fit in other speakers. 1 am sure that quite often other speakers would like to enter the debate on an urgency motion, but they are unable to do so because of the time limit. As I mentioned earlier, I recall well the debate on the Great Barrier Reef. As a Queenslander I shall never get over the fact that not one Queenslander on this side of the chamber was even allowed to speak on that question. Things of that sort stick in one’s mind.
Let us have a reasonable time not only for the debate itself but also for people who wish to take part in the debate. I emphasise again that it is a matter involving individuals, the subject and the amount of material to be presented. If the Senator leading in a debate wants half an hour, give him half an hour; if he does not want that time he need not take it. But it should be there for him to use at his option. I think it is only right for this chamber, as the Senate of the Parliament of Australia, to ensure that people are not so cramped lor lime that they cannot express themselves as fully as they may desire in presenting a case which they may feel just as earnestly about as you or I.
– 1 think the only sensible motion that has been moved here tonight was that proposed by Senator Cant a few moments ago. His amendment provides that ‘30 minutes’ be inserted instead of ‘20 minutes’ as was recommended by the Standing Orders Committee. This was a genuine attempt to preserve freedom of democracy in this chamber. If we accept the recommendations of the Committee, in my view it is quite obvious that urgency motions will become a farce. When I spoke earlier on the previous amendment I pointed out emphatically that if one has an argument to develop when leading in an urgency debate he cannot develop it in 20 minutes, any more than supporting speakers can hope to make their contribution in the 10 minutes proposed in the suggested alterations. It will make urgency motions a farce. When an urgency motion is brought forward normally the person who leads goes to a great deal of trouble to prepare his case. Irrespective of the side from which the honourable senator comes, the matter raised has always been fairly important. So far as the Opposition is concerned, when an urgency motion is put forward there are always more senators wishing to speak than can be fitted into the time allotted for the debate. Without exception they are matters of public interest, and when the Whip puts up the notice of the debate in his office and the names of those who wish to speak are put on the list, he eventually has to eliminate up to 6 speakers.
If the time is to be reduced to 20 minutes for the leader in the debate and 10 minutes for supporting speakers, I will not be interested. If I have a matter of urgency to raise I will use the debate on a money Bill to raise it, so the time of the House will still be taken up. If I cannot do it then, I have no problem of conscience in speaking for an hour in the adjournment debate.
– That will soon be altered.
– I suppose that will be the next move - to eliminate speakers on money Bills and then on the motion for the adjournment. One can almost guess from where the lead is likely to come. As was said by Senator Wood a few minutes ago, it is consistent with practice and policy for this chamber to spend longer in debate than is generally expected and accepted in the other place where it is normal practice for debates to be gagged at the convenience of the Government Parties. We saw an example of that at the end of the autumn session when this place continued for 3 sitting weeks after the other place rose. By that means many measures were debated properly in public so that at least the people of this country had some idea of what was happening in the Parliament of the land.
– It made us a responsible House.
– As my colleague has interjected, it made us a responsible House. We sat for sensible hours and did not go into the early hours of the morning on more than one or two occasions. As far as possible we kept to the normal hours provided in the Standing Orders, and consequently we were able to give the matters before us the airing that they deserved. If an urgency motion is brought before this chamber at any time it obviously needs a proper airing too, but it will not be given a proper airing in the limited time suggested by the Committee. The introduction to paragraph 10 of the report which deals with time limits is in these terms:
It is considered that the time limits for speeches, and for the whole discussion, could be reduced without prejudicing the effectiveness of urgency motions.
I submit that this will not alter the spirit of an urgency motion, nor will it give us the opportunity which we expect to get. Like Senator Wood, I am rather worried that this so called free vote was not a free vote, ft was rather inspiring, in fact, to see a solid block vote in one section and some confusion in another section. The situation has now resolved itself and we are pretty firm in our minds on what we want. I know what I want. I want the forms of this House to be preserved. I want the rights of members of this House to be preserved so that they will be able to ventilate their grievances and to discuss in detail legislation that comes before them. After all, if we take away this freedom of speech now, tomorrow someone will bring in a recommendation to eliminate other things too. It will extend even to the area where probably the next move will be to reduce the number required for a quorum so that we may live in more comfort. I do not believe that any of those things should happen. The rights that we now have should be preserved in toto.
I am not opposed to change when the Standing Orders require change. It is significant that a number of Standing Orders should be brought up to date, but what are we doing about them? They arc much more important in priority than a recommendation such as that before us tonight. But we are not interested in them. In the 6 years that I have been here, a number of Standing Orders have come under dispute in this chamber and we have never got down to resolving them. To my mind they are of very great importance. But any proposal to cut down debating time is regarded as a matter of great urgency which must be brought into the chamber with the greatest possible speed so that the rights of members can be whittled away. I am fearful of the result of continuing this process. If this matter is taken to its logical conclusion we will be put in the situation in which debating time on very important subjects will be whittled away.
As I have said, the amendment moved by my colleage Senator Cant was one of the most sensible propositions to come before the chamber tonight. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Senator Willesee, pointed out, in accepting the motion he also highlighted the things that he felt he was doing his bit to preserve.
– After years of experience, too.
– That is a very important interjection because very few honourable senators have been in this chamber longer than has Senator Willesee, and I am amazed at my colleague when he took us to task for what he claimed to be our very narrow approach to a most important question. Those are my views. I hope that the amendment moved by Senator Cant will be carried.
– In supporting the amendment which has been submitted by Senator Cant I repeat what I said earlier tonight. The proposed curtailment of the rights of members of this House does not seem to concern many honourable senators to any great extent. I think it is tremendously important to preserve our rights because - I repeat this for the sake of emphasis - the moment we give way on this issue we give the green light to the Committee to bring in a number of other amendments to short cut the proceedings of this House and to take into other rooms of the Parliament discussions that rightly should be held in this House.
The Minister in charge of these proposed amendments is not the Minister who was in charge of the amendments the last time we discussed them, and a different Minister was in charge of them the first time we discussed them. The Minister in charge of the amendments tonight said: This is a very important Committee. It has brought down very important amendments to the Standing Orders. The Committee has given the amendments great consideration. Therefore they should be carried’. On the last occasion that these matters were discussed the Minister then in charge of the proposed amendments - the Government soon will run out of Ministers who want to present the proposals - spoke to them and immediately led all of those behind him to vote against them, i can remember ordinances that have been opposed by notice of disallowance coming into the House with the full connivance of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, and when the recommendations have been discussed Government members, including some Committee members who agreed on the disallowance, opposed it in the Senate.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Prowse)Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Chairman having reported accordingly)
– by leave - With the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate in Hansard a statement on the rural reconstruction employment training scheme made in the House of Representatives by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch).
The Aural Reconstruction Employment Training Scheme is an integral element of the Government’s policy for the reconstruction of rural industries. The intention of the Scheme is to assist farmers whom I shall describe later to transfer to suitable alternative employment away from their farms. This explains the reference to the Scheme by my colleague the Treasurer in his Budget Speech as applying to ‘farmers not in a position to achieve commercial viability’. The Scheme is to be available to farmers affected in the whole range of agricultural and pastoral production industries.
Principal Features of Scheme
Eligibility of Applicants
IS. Farm workers who had been employed by eligible farmers for an uninterrupted period of at least 1 year immediately prior to their dismissal will also be able to apply for training assistance.
Women Restricted from Employment by Domestic Responsibilities. Farm workers displaced from their employment because of technological change on the farm where they worked should submit applications for training under the Employment Training Scheme for Persons Displaced by Technological Change. My Department will inform enquirers of the appropriateness of each Employment Training Scheme to their circumstances.
Selection for Training
Nature of Training
Approval of Institutions and Employers as Trainers
Length of Training
Applications and Information about the Scheme
To assist eligible farmers to transfer to alternative suitable employment away from their farms. The Scheme will become operative from 1st October. 1971.
Selection for Training
The objective of the training is to help eligible persons to obtain alternative suitable employment away from their farms. Some may be able to take up employment in their chosen fields without the need for further training, and they will be assisted by the Commonwealth Employment Service. The considerations taken into account when selecting applications for approval are:
Nature of Training
Length of Training Period
The costs of fees for existing courses in State Government training institutions will be met by the trainee’s State Government. The costs of fees for courses in other institutions will be borne by the Commonwealth Government. Regardless of the training institution, all other costs, including training allowances, will be the responsibility of the Commonwealth. 11. (a) While undertaking an approved fulltime training course at an approved training institution and not available for placement in employment -
All training allowances are subject to an income test*;
In addition to (i) a contribution of $10 a week towards expenses for a married person when full-time training is undertaken in a school located in a town other than that in which the trainee normally resides.
An allowance for essential books and equipment up to a maximum of $80 in total.
Applications for Training
Date of Effect
If a trainee receives. In the period during which the allowance is payable, income from employment other titan vacation employment, or from investments other than savings bank deposits, the amount ot the training allowance payable each week will be reduced by the weekly equivalent of that Income. The income of the spouse is taken into account.
– 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 10.31 p.m. till Tuesday, 28 September, at 3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 September 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19710916_senate_27_s49/>.