20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the ‘ chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Air. GRIFFITHS. - In view of the published reports that Soviet submarines have frequently been seen in waters adjacent to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, will the Minister say whether the development of .that territory is important to the defence of Australia? If so. is it a fact that many people will not remain in Papua and New Guinea longer than is necessary, because there are no facilities for secondary school education there, and that other residents incur undue expense by sending their children to Australia to complete their education? Is at true that Australia’s present representative in the United States of America, while a Minister of the Crown, promised to have a high school built at Wan and did he actually order and purchase, in New Zealand the necessary crockery for the school ? If that be so, will the Minister say why the school has not been built, and will he indicate when it is likely that a start will be made with it, so as to encourage the more rapid development of this most important possession? .
– I think that I ought to observe that the premise on which the honorable member’s question is based was yesterday stated by the Minister for the Navy to be false. As for secondary education in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, the position is that the Government provides a subsidy m respect of children who need to go to Australia to be educated. There is a division of opinion in the territory as to whether the best way is to allow the children to tome down to Australian schools, with the assistance of the subsidy, or to provide for their education in local secondary schools. My own opinion is that we need both methods. The provision of a secondary school at Wau has been under consideration, and we hope that something can be done about it, but the project must take its turn with the many other urgently needed works in the territory.
– Does the Minister for the Interior know that the Australian Medical Congress now sitting in Melbourne expressed the opinion that Australia was unprepared to deal with the consequences of an atomic attack!! In view of tho fact that “Brigadier Wardell-
-Order! Name* of outside persons must not be mentioned in the asking of questions.
– In view of the face that an Australian representative was sent to the United Kingdom to attend staff schools on civil air defence in order to gain information on this subject, will the Minister say whether it is intended to assemble a corps of instructors capable of disseminating information on the subject to recognized bodies,, such as the Red Cross and St. John’s Ambulance, which would be in a position to serve the community in time of national trouble?
– I have seen something of the report of the Australian Medical Congress that is being held in Melbourne, and T have also read some of the comments that have been made by certain individuals attending that conference. However, such matters are by no means simple. They are most complex and are a part of the general defence scheme which is tinder constant consideration and appreciation by the Defence Council and also by the Government. I have no further comment to make on the matter at the present time.
– Is the Minister for Supply aware that recently tenders wore invited by his department for the supply of many thousands of yards of I special carpet If he is aware of the; fact, will he name the departments fori which the carpet is intended ? Is he also; aware that the conditions on which,’ tenders are to be made, as stated in the specifications, make it almost impossible for Australian firms to submit tenders? Will he arrange for the . conditions governing the submission of tenders to be altered so that Australian firms can submit tenders?
– T have no personal knowledge of the calling of such tenders, but I shall have the matter investigated. I doubt whether the conditions of tender were such that they made it impossible for Australian firms to tender, but if they were I shall certainly consider having thom’ reviewed. I do not know which departments are involved. I imagine that the carpet is probably intended for one of the defence services, but, of course, that may not be so. Certain carpeting is necessary, of course, for use in establishments for national service trainees and others. I shall have the whole matter investigated and let the honorable member have a full reply.
– Has the Treasurer noticed that Australia had a surplus of approximately £6,000,000 in its balance of payments overseas for the month of July? Oau the right honorable gentleman inform me what effect this will have on the economic position of Australia?
– Any easing of the dollar and gold difficulties of the sterling area naturally lias a beneficial effect upon its component parts. I should not be over optimistic about the recent improvement of our overseas balances, because I think that such an improvement was to be expected at this juncture. It all goes to show that we must put our shoulder to the wheel and do our best to improve the economic position.
– Has the Treasurer seen the report of a comment said to have made by Mr. Justice Toose–
– Order I The honorable member must not introduce the name of an individual.
– Is it a fact that certain comments have been made recently regarding the need for uniform divorce laws ? Is it correct that if an Austraiian ‘woman marries a. foreigner she must accept her husband’s nationality, it being necessary for her to seek a. divorce in the country of the person whom she has married ? This is a most serious matter to at least some of the 12,000 immigrants who are at present living in my electorate.
– Order! The honorable gentleman must ask his question.
– Is it not a fact that the immigration laws were amended in 1946 in order to provide that an Australian who marries a person of foreign origin may elect to adopt the nationality of the person he or she marries or to retain Australian nationality?
– The matter raised by the honorable member is most important, having regard to the circumstances which at present exist in this country. I understand that a temporary relaxation of the nationality condition has been made, but I shall have the matter investigated and furnish the honorable member with an adequate reply.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Social Services a question relating to a question that I asked yesterday regarding tenders for the erection of nine war service homes at Albury. Does the Minister believe that his inability to obtain contracts for this necessary work is evidence of a reduction of the number of people in the building trade seeking employment? If it be. found impossible to obtain contracts for this work will the Minister consider calling for tenders for a larger number of houses so as to interest more builders in tendering and thus provide the homes that are urgently needed by ex-servicemen ?
– I am not in a position to express an opinion on the subject nf unemployment, which is dealt with by the Minister for Labour and National Service. However, I am certain that honorable members will be pleased to hear that last week there was a considerable reduction of the number of applications to my department for pensions and benefits including unemployment benefit. Between 600 and 700 fewer people applied for unemployment relief than had applied in the previous week and that tendency was noticed in every State except Queensland.
– Order ! The Minister is going beyond the scope of the question.
– In reply to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I inform him that tenders have already been called for and the Government would be prepared to build at least 50 or 60 houses on the Walsh estate.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is correct to say that, owing to the absorption of the amount that was allotted by the Government in 1951-52 for war service homes, loans to applicants were restricted towards the end of the year to advances for the purchase or construction of new houses. Are loans being made available during this financial year according .to the system that previously applied?
– The last financial year was a record year for the provision of houses under the war service homes scheme. There was such a rush of applications for loans with which to buy existing properties in February last that the allocation for the year was exhausted earlier than had been anticipated. Applicants for loans were, therefore, required to take their places on a priority list. By the end of the financial year there was a back-log of about 2,000 applications pending. The Government immediately provided £3,000,000 to eliminate this deficiency, which has been almost wiped out already. Applications are still being dealt with on a priority basis but we hope that, in a. month or perhaps two months, the situation will be normal and we shall be able to carry on as we did formerly.
– In view of the increase of the cost of building construction and the growing unemployment in all Rta.te« will the Treasurer consider making a greater allowance available from the petrol tax to the States in order that work may be provided for the unemployed and the States may be enabled to cope with their necessary road work ?
– The subject of the honorable member’s question, was considered at the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers and lias been dealt with legislatively.
– Yesterday I Asked the Minister for Supply a question regarding the placing of defence orders with Australian textile firms. The Minister replied that he would obtain the relevant figures. “Will he state whether they are now available?
Mi1. BEALE. - I regarded this matter as of some importance because false statements had been made about it. Consequently, I obtained the following figures regarding textile orders for the two financial years 3950-51 and 1951-52: - Orders placed in Australia for woollen piece goods and blankets amounted to £7. 507,850. ‘ No orders were placed overseas. Orders placed in Australia for cotton materials amounted to £5,039,000 whilst orders placed overseas amounted to £4,372,350. The last of these orders were placed overseas in December, 1951 and the last deliveries in respect of them are now being made. Not a single order was placed abroad until after my depart.ment had been assured that the Australian industry could not supply the materials required. Our soldiers had to be clothed and we therefore had to get our materials where they could be obtained. If the Australian industry had been able to fulfil all our requirements, no orders would have been placed overseas.
– My question, is addressed to the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration. What action does the Government intend to take to provide kitchenettes or other suitable cooking facilities for British immigrants in order that they may be able to prepare their, own meals and not be obliged to. con tinue to pay the exorbitant charges now being made at government hostels?
– The matter of providing kitchenettes for immigrants in the hostel groups was considered some time ago, and it was decided that we could not provide them. The matter has been raised again and it is now being reinvestigated. I am afraid that I cannot give, at this stage, any indication of what the decision will be.
– Can the Treasurer state whether the investigation of the sugar industry that was to have been made by a committee of inquiry has- been completed? If so, has the report of the committee been received? If the report has not been received can the right honorable gentleman indicate when it is likely to be received, and if it. has been received has the Government considered it and arrived at a decision? If such a decision has been made, what is the nature of it?
– I assure the honorable member that I am just as interested as he is in the outcome of the inquiry into the sugar industry. Recently I made certain inquiries about the matter, and the latest information that I have received is. that the committee’s report will be available on the 16th September.
– I ask the Minister for Defence to indicate the extent, if’ any, of Australia’s participation in the atomic tests that are to be conducted in the Monte Bello Islands? Is it correct, as has been reported, that the British authorities who are undertaking the tests are reluctant to allow active Australian participation in their work? If that be so, what is the reason for their attitude ?
– A considerable time ago the British Government asked the Australian Government whether it was prepared to provide a site for atomic tests. The Government intimated that it was prepared to do so, and was then asked whether it would do some preliminary preparation on the site selected. We undertook to do that, and completed the work required to he done. The conduct of the tests themselves is entirely in the hands of the British Government, which has not asked us for any further help. If the British Government should need further help, the Government would comply with any request it made. However, the British Government is the authority responsible for the tests, and will itself decide the nature of the tests to be carried out, who shall attend them and the information that will be released as a result of them.
– Has the Treasurer seen the report of the top management conference that was recently held in Adelaide to the effect that industries which find difficulty in disposing of their products should- seek new avenues of production and not retrench employees? Is this progressive outlook in accord with government policy, and will the Government encourage it in every possible way? Does the Government agree that the relationship between employers and employees will be greatly improved by the retention of employees at the present time.
– I assure the honorable member that the Government will continue to apply the policy t .h a f he has mentioned,
– Some time’ ago I’ submitted a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for National Development about certain prefabricating works at Villawood, Dyke Brothers which had to dispense with the services of 400 workers because of the falling off of orders from governmental and private concerns.’ The Minister said that he would consider whether the works could be put back’ into production. At present the establishment is merely held together by a technical staff and is operatiug at a loss. “Will the Minister indicate whether there is any possibility of production being resumed at the factory and of providing it with government orders either in Canberra or elsewhere?
– I have no personal knowledge of the matter. I shall refer the question/to. the Minister ‘.for National
Development and ensure that the honorable member shall receive a reply as soon as possible.
– In the absence of the Postmaster-General, I direct this question to the Treasurer. In view of the fact that the director of the Australian Broadcasting Commission went abroad about a year ago in order to study television in the interests of Australia and again went abroad a couple of months ago for the same purpose and is still overseas, why is it so important that the PostmasterGeneral should now go abroad to study a subject that that gentleman has already studied thoroughly?
– There is nothing like thorough investigation, and the Postmaster-General will look into every aspect of this very important subject while he is overseas.
– Oan the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service tell me whether the department keeps any records of the classifications of persons who are receiving the unemployment benefit? If such records are kept, will the Minister advise me why he told .me in answer to a question recently that he could not inform me of the number of building tradesmen who were unemployed? If the statistics are available, will he advise me of the number of building tradesmen, including carpenters, who are now receiving the unemployment benefit?
– The reply that I gave to the question that the honorable member asked upon notice was, I understand, in accordance with the facts. The particular classifications for which he asked are not recorded by the. department. However, I shall examine the matter in order to decide whether there is any real need for such statistics to be compiled, and shall advise the honorable gentleman of the result of my examination.
– In view of the generous awards of the Nicholas committee to some members of this.House, particularly the Prime Minister, who was granted a pension of £1,250 a year, will the Treasurer appoint a committee to investigate the deplorable plight of age and invalid pensioners. In view of the plight of the age and invalid pensioners, who are living almost in destitution, and in view of the inadequacy of the provisions that have been made for them in the budget, will the Treasurer appoint a commission to investigate the living costs of those unfortunate people?
– I do not think that there is any need for a commission to go into the matter because we hear enough of it in this House. The answer is “ No “.
Mr. Jeff Bate having risen in his place.
-The honorable member cannot have another call until other honorable members have bad an opportunity to ask questions.
– I thought that you had not seen me, Mr. Speaker.
– There is nothing wrong with my eyesight. As I have stated before, I do not regard the asking of questions as a party matter. Honorable members have an equal right to information and I repeat that I do not. grant a second call to an honorable member until all those who rise in their places have had one.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Interior with reference to those States which chose to operate as principal States under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme but have since realized that the scheme is a failure in all States which rejected the offer of the Commonwealth to permit them to operate as agent States. Will those States be given an opportunity to re-enter the scheme as agent States?
– The question raises a matter of policy and is so wide as to be difficult to answer at short notice. In the first place, no such application has been made by any one of the principal States, but should any such application be made by them, I have no doubt that the Government would give very serious consideration to it. When the suggestion was put forward at the last Conference of Commonwealth and State Minister? when Queensland asked for a special grant without any Commonwealth control of its administration, the idea that they should become agent States was not only scouted but also scorned by ali three Premiers of the three principal State–.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker, relative to questions that are asked in this House. Recently you informed the House that the best way to have more questions answered was to adhere to the Standing Orders by making .sure that the questions were urgent and suddenly arising, and that they had relation to the Minister to whom they were addressed. In the circumstances, I ask you in what category do you place the questions of the honorable member for Bennelong who, I find - having checked Hansard, during the wakeful hours of !a.-t night - has asked twelve questions in this House all of which have referred to New South ‘Wales and State matters? Is it a fact that the honorable member for Bennelong is a real estate agent, that hp saw an empty house and walked into it, nui that he docs not know whether it is a State or a federal house.
-The honorable member for Parkes has referred to something of which I have no knowledge. As far as I arn aware, there are not twelve questions on the notice-paper in the name of the honorable member for Bennelong. If the honorable member happens to be referring to committee proceedings, the. matter is one for the committee, not for me to determine.
– I am referring to questions that have been answered in the past.
– Once again I direct the attention of Ministers and honorable members of the Opposition to observations that are broadcast through the central microphones at the table in this chamber. From all over Australia I have recently received alarming reports which show that there is being broadcast matter which is no credit to this Parliament. 1. have had engineers of the Postal Department here from Sydney this week, and if there is not an improvement on the part of those honorable members who alone have the right to sit at the table, I propose to have a recording made of what takes place, and to have it played back.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 28th August (vide page 776).
Proposed vote, £3,230,000.
Proposed vote, £1,806,000.
Proposed vote, £11,055,000.
Proposed vote, £3,179,000.
Proposed vote, £1,230,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
. -I propose to confine my remarks to the Estimates for the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works, because they have an immediate and continuing effect on the progress and development of the Territory which I represent. The Department of the Interior is, in effect, the administering department, whilst the Department of Works is largely the constructing authority for the Department of the Interior so far as the Australian Capital Territory is concerned. I think the present budgetary limitation on the proper development of Canberra is wrong. The limiting hand of the Treasurer of the day falls too heavily on the departments and authorities which are responsible for the progress and development of the Australian Capital Territory. I speak of the area not merely as my electorate, but also as the national capital of the Commonwealth of Australia. Expenditure on the development of Canberra as the National Capital is a responsibility the nation accepts and I think the present approach of governments to th is matter is wrong.In making that remark, I criticize, not the present Government only. The people of Australia should be encouraged to take a proper pride in their national capital, and that pride can be fostered only by really building the capital as it was planned. Too many things have been left undone that ought to have been done, and there have been sins of commission, also. The proper approach to this matter would be for the administration to decide in June of each year just what works should be done during the ensuing twelve months. That is to say, it should decide how many houses are to be built, what bridges are to be constructed, what public buildings and facilities are to be commenced or completed, what length of roadways is to be sealed, what rural extensions of electricity services are to be made, and what sewerage works are to be undertaken. Those decisions having been made, the amount of money necessary to put the works in hand, and to complete them within twelve months, should be voted by the Parliament. There are in the Australian Capital Territory, of which the City of Canberra is a part, too many costly and wasteful temporary structures, too many temporary bridges, and too many makeshift services and facilities.
– And temporary members of Parliament !
– Yes, and temporary Ministers, also. Tempus fugit. Under the present system of budgeting, expediency is always placed before the proper development of the Australian Capital Territory. The amount of money placed on the Estimates for the development of Canberra is not sufficient, having regard to the increasing cost of labour and materials. The Estimates for the Department of Works have been reduced this year by a considerable amount.
– No, only by a very little.
– The effect of the reduction will be that works will have to be tapered off, and before the expiration of twelve months operations may come to a standstill, and men will be unemployed. The Minister for the
Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) said that the vote had not been reduced by much. With that I agree. The amount of money has not been substantially reduced, but the amount voted in this year will not buy or build or provide what a similar amount would have done last year. It has been suggested that building costs will fall within the next year. I hope that is true, but so far there is no evidence to support the contention. Present indications are that the proposed vote will be insufficient even for the limited volume of work planned, and that the development of Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory will be seriously retarded. In 1946, the cost of building a brick cottage in Canberra was £148 a square. In 1947, the cost increased by £12 to £160. By 1948, the cost had risen to £195, and by 1949, to £233. In 1950 costs took a major jump from £233 to £285, and in 1951, the average cost of building a brick cottage in Canberra was £315 a square. Thus, the trend has been consistently upwards. It may be that the peak has ‘been reached, but present indications do not support that view.
I wish to express appreciation of the work that has been done by the Minister (Mr. Kent Hughes), who is in charge of the Department of the Interior and also of the Department of Works. His impact on those two departments has been beneficial. I pay a tribute also to the senior officers of the departments, including Mr. McLaren, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, a most competent man who has brought a commonsense outlook to the consideration of problems associated with the Australian Capital Territory, I refer also to Mr. Taylor, the Director of Works. He .is a man who is keen on developmental works, and I am quite sure that if he were provided with the necessary funds he would push ahead with major works that are crying out for development. .
The greatest problem that faces the people of Canberra is the shortage of housing. It continues to be a serious worry to people who are brought here in the course of their employment to work for Government departments or for private enterprise. No fewer than 2,000 applicants are waiting for houses. For government employees, the waiting time will be two years if the present rate of building is maintained. For persons not employed by the Government the waiting time will be three years and there is no way in which they may get cottages other than that of waiting for them to be built by the Government. There does not exist in Canberra the same opportunity as there is in other places to obtain houses privately by rent or purchase. The allocation of houses is a difficult matter, but it .is being handled most efficiently by the officers in charge of the Housing and Accommodation Branch of the Department of the Interior. They are performing an unenviable task with complete impartiality, yet with a proper sense of sympathy. They are willing to help whenever the opportunity’ to do so exists. I have come in contact with th, Assistant Secretary of that branch, Mr. Lucas, and his senior- assistant, Mr. Cameron. I know of no more efficient public servants than those two officers.
It is pleasing to note that the new administrative block near Parliament House is nearing completion. Apparently it will be ready for occupation within the next two years. It will be a permanent structure and will add to the dignity and usefulness of the capital. Its completion will mean that many people will be brought here as Commonwealth departments are transferred from Sydney and Melbourne. A greater strain will thus be placed on the housing position in the Territory. Those people will be coming from homes in other cities and it is to be hoped that the housing programme in the Territory will be stepped up sufficiently to enable an assurance to be given to them that when they come here they will at least .have houses to occupy.
I have heard recently that it is proposed to discontinue the day-labour system of cottage construction in the Territory. I hope there is no truth in that suggestion. In expressing that hope, I wish to refer to figures that were supplied . to me by the Minister, for the Interior earlier this year. I had previously asked him to make inquiries concerning the relative costs of building under day-labour conditions and under contract’ conditions. On the 4th April last the honorable gentleman supplied to me figures in respect of comparable cottage building projects, side by side in a particular suburb, under contract and under day-labour conditions. Those figures indicated that day-labour costs of building were then £305 a square, whereas the contract costs were £354 a square, a difference of £49 a square for houses of an average size of 11.7 squares. That difference meant that day-labour construction was £573 cheaper for each cottage constructed. The conditions of construction were as nearly as possible comparable. There were minor differences in the sites on which the cottages were constructed. If expenditure on houses in the Territory is to be limited, I suggest that the best use should be made of the money that is available in order to build the greatest possible number of cottages. I hope that the Minister will continue the day-labour system, of building to the greatest degree possible and that he will seek the co-operation of an advisory panel from the building trades group of unions in order to assist in the elimination of bottle-necks in the supply of materials and the wasteful use of man-power which results from such bottle-necks.
The day-labour housing projects in Canberra have been quite successful. As the figures supplied by the Minister indicate, the cost of construction is substantially cheaper under that system than under the contract system. At the same time, the quality of the houses constructed has been more than comparable with that of houses constructed under contract conditions. In addition, maintenance on day labour projects has been less than that on contract projects. In 1950-51 the total number of houses completed in Canberra was 545 of which 499 became available, through the Department of the Interior, for letting to citizens of the Territory. Of that number, day-labour construction provided 128. .In the financial year which ended on the 30th June last, 635 houses were completed by the Department of Works as the constructing authority for the Department of the Interior. Of .that number, 478 became available for letting through the Department of the Interior, the remainder being war’ service homes, or for use by the various armed services and the Australian National University.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden) . - Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.-! wish to refer to the provision of biological products, such as vaccines, a matter that is covered by the proposed vote for the Department of Health. Last year, provision was made for an estimated expenditure of £10,000 for this purpose, but only £5,000 of that sum was actually expended. Provision is being made this year for the expenditure of £5,000 in that connexion. During the last financial year a free issue was made of a new vaccine to combat an outbreak of blackleg in the cattle industry. An extremely serious outbreak of blackleg had occurred throughout the coastal ‘ districts . of New South Wales and the southern and centra? parts of Queensland, and had caused alarming losses of cattle. The losses of calves, coming on top of losses already sustained through drought and fire, resulted in a serious position, which still prevails in the beef industry. Several years will elapse before the losses suffered in the disasters of last year will be made good. It is therefore most essential that this Government shall do everything possible to relieve the position and to ensure that the factors which operated last year shall not be permitted to recur. I do not. suggest, of course, that the Government should attempt to. control the elements, but it can take certain action to ensure that a future outbreak of the same kind will be minimized.
The outbreak of blackleg to which I have referred was apparently of a new kind which did not respond to the normally-used and well-tried vaccines. It was found that the old vaccines were ineffective to combat the disease. The Serum and Vaccine Section of the Commonwealth Department of Health therefore set to work at short notice to tryto prepare a serum which would be effective against the new strain of the disease. The officers could not guarantee that the serum which they produced would be effective, but something had to be done urgently, and they therefore ‘ took the somewhat unprecedented step of sending out the serum without having first tested ir, to determine its effectiveness or otherwise. They requested the graziers who proposed to use it to keep a careful record of the results obtained, so that by means of such co-operation a serum could !>e developed which would bc effective, not only against the outbreak at that time but also against possible future outbreaks. The results obtained from the use -of the new serum were encouraging but by no means conclusive. Because of the unavoidable lapse of time before the serum became available the result eventually achieved may have been due either to a lessening of the outbreak itself or to the effectiveness of the serum, lt was not possible to prove that the wran had been successful. Now there U a possibility of a similar outbreak in the forthcoming season and we are not quite sure that we have a serum that will be effective against it. I do not know the results of the consideration in the department of reports from the industry. But the position is so serious that we should co-operate in every way with the agricultural departments of the States and with the industry so as to ensure that the Government will bc in a position to tackle the problem immediately should it arise again in order to control the disease before it reaches the alarming proportions of last year. The amount provided for this purpose in the Estimates is not very large and I doubt whether it would be sufficient to cope with mother outbreak. I suggest that finance he provided for the purpose of sending out members of the serum laboratories to consult officers of the Departments of Agriculture in the two States concerned. They should also contact the grazing industry so that at the first signs of any further outbreak ample supplies of . serum will be available and officers will be present in the districts affected to note the result of the application of the serum. If this action is not taken the industry could experience serious results similar to those of last year, and to be affected in this way in a second successive year would be a very serious blow to the industry. The loss of calves which occurred in some parts of the affected areas amounted to more than 50 per cent, of the year’s drop. This came after losses due to drought and fire and placed the industry in a serious position. Consequently the Government should do everything possible to assist the industry this year. _ I applaud the Government for having made provision on the Estimates for this work, but if early investigations indicate that the vote is insufficient then I urge the Government to increase it.
.- I desire to speak on the proposed vote of £3.179,000 for the Department of Trade and Customs. This is a department in which the people’s money is being uselessly thrown down the sink. The table at the foot of page 40 of the Estimates shows that it is proposed to expend on this department £248,034 more in the coming year than was expended lastyear. A part of this amount is for salary increases which are common to all departments, but most of it is for the purpose of financing the Import Licensing Branch. The amount required for increased salaries can easily be ascertained by examining the figures for three subsidiary departments - the Tariff Board, the Film Censorship Board, and the Prices Branch. The number of staff in these three subsidiaries is exactly the same as it was last year and the proposed increased expenditure in connexion with- them is £2*106. That figure is’ 3.3 per cent, of the total expenditure of last year. From this fact it might be expected that the main administrative department would require a similar percentage increase for its extra wage and salary payments, but the proposed additional expenditure in this respect is 8.5 per cent, of last year’s figure. Therefore the difference of 5.2 per cent, in the two amounts that I have mentioned represents the degree of the increase which the Import Licensing Branch will require for its work this year. This increase amounts to £162.000.
The expenditure of such an amount of the public’s money requires some inquiry by honorable members into the circumstances of the payment and the benefit, if any, which the public will receive in return. This is a tremendous sum. Why is it necessary to pay out this additional £162,000? The facts about the imposition of import controls are. fresh in the minds of all honorable members. Last year the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) decided to’ use the importation of goods from overseas as an antiindationary measure. I do not criticize the general principle involved in this decision, because the importation of goods when they are scarce can do much to overcome inflation. At a time of full employment there is always a strong tendency for a. country to increase its purchases of goods from overseas. When everybody has money to spend the attraction of the imported article is very strong. The question arises as to whether the Prime Minister took into account this’ urge to buy imported goods when he embarked upon his programme of encouraging the importation of goods on a grand scale. I believe that’ the Prime Minister disregarded it entirely, and completely failed to provide any means by which he might properly regulate the policy that he had embarked upon. The thing that matters is not so much what people say about a state of full employment as what they do. The Prime Minister’s complete, indifference to a wellestablished principle of economic science can lead honorable members to only one conclusion, namely that the right honorable gentleman does not believe in a state of full employment in Australia.
The tendency to buy increased quantities of goods manufactured overseas during a period of full employment was ever present in the mind of the former great Prime Minister and Federal Treasurer, Mr. Chifley. Mr. Chifley knew that it was fundamental to his policy of full employment that we should have ample sterling and foreign funds and he will be remembered for having established great resources of sterling funds for Australia’s use as well as for having improved our financial stability by subscribing to the International Monetary Fund.
– I rise to order. The committee is dealing with the Estimates for the Department of. Trade and Customs. Are honorable members, after assuming that a sum of money in the Estimates is intended to cover certain projects associated . with a department, to be permitted to make a budget speech on their own terms? 1 suggest that in doing that, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) is going outside the accepted scope of the debate on the Estimates.
– It is clear that the sum of money mentioned is for the whole work of the ‘epartment of Trade and Customs, and that that is related to the vital subject of imports, control of which is a basic element of policy.
– The committee is not dealing with policy. It i.= debating the Estimates.
– -The remarks of the honorable member for Ballarat concern the administration and control of the Department of Trade and Customs and I submit that they are fully relevant to the debate.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - The honorable member for Ballarat was in order at the commencement of his speech in discussing the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs. He began to wander away from the subject in dealing with international banking, which could have been introduced during the debate on the Estimates for the Department of the Treasury. If the honorable member wishes to make only a passing reference to this subject I shall allow it, but he should keep to the subject.
– I thank you for your observations, Mr. Deputy Chairman. What I have to say is completely relevant to these Estimates.
– Is the honorable member challenging the Chair?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - The honorable member’s remarks will be irrelevant if he deals with the subject of international banking.
– Mr. Chifley utilized import control machinery, but it was administered so capably that practically nobody noticed it. The control allowed ample funds to be made available for travellers, importers and every one who needed overseas currency. Indeed the control system was capable of ensuring that there would always be sufficient funds available to the people of Australia to buy all the goods that they needed, and a fair share of the goods that they merely wanted. That is in strong contrast to the policy and actions, of this Government. The Prime Minister has launched a deliberate campaign to flood the country with imports. He removed all controls and allowed an “ open go “. To him the sky was the limit ! Of course it was not long before heavy importations of goods similar to those we make in Australia began to react against Australian manufacturers and their employees. Some textile mills closed down and put off thousands of workers. Although the Prime Minister may declare that suchactions indicate that his anti-inflation policy is working well, he will not find the Australian manufacturers or the men who have lost, their jobs inclined to agree with him. However, it is fairly safe to assume that the bankers, to whom the Prime Minister, has to listen attentively because they put him intooffice, told him quite plainly before Christmas that their advances had increased from £509,000,000 . in June, to £624,000,000 at that time, that they had enormous guarantees to fulfil in the form of millions of pounds worth of letters of credit for further imports, and that a serious financial situation was developing. The Prime Minister, according to a report published in the Melbourne Herald of the 2nd January, apparently decided that he would not do anything about the matter until the end of February.
The banks’ advances increased by a further £30,000,000 in the next two months, making a total increase of £145,000,000 in eight months. Not only were the banks guaranteeing to supply foreign currency to importers, but they also had to finance them with huge advances when the bills of exchange fell due. . We have the. authority of the chairman of directors of the Commercial Bank of Australia Limited, and of the Ballarat Banking Company, for the statement that most of the new advances had been made to assist importers.
By the end of February the situation was completely out of hand. Some importers, according to the statement of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay), were facing bankruptcy, and there was a run on our sterling funds. The Government, in a panic, imposed a ban on imports more stringent even than those which operated in war-time. Those are the reasons that have entailed the hugeoutlay of £160,000 for the administration, of import licensing. Honorable memberswill not pass lightly by the method by which the control of imports is being handled at present. The import controls represent the greatest departurefrom parliamentary authority that hasever occurred- The whole system, amounts to sheer totalitarianism. I now refer honorable members to theeighth report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. Paragraphs IS, 19 and 20, read -
IS. On the 6th March, 1952, tha Government decided upon import restriction controls, aimed at preserving Australia’s international solvency.
Paragraphs 25 and 26 read -
Honorable members were not a little disturbed by the completely misleading statements that were made by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) on the 28th February about our sterling balances. Those remarks can be described in terms which I have recently been reminded are unparliamentary. Honorable members were also disturbed by the sudden closure of the parliamentary sessional period on the 5th March, and by the imposition, on the 6th March, without any debate or discussion by the representatives of the people of a repressive and unfair form of imports control. Those actions made a mockery of the Parliament, and may be described as a piece of fascism. Honorable members want to know what we get for our large expenditure on import controls. Do we get a well-regulated system of controls working under an explicit regulation or act of the Parliament, assisting Australian manufacturers to save valuable overseas currency, and ensuring the necessary supplies of machinery, equipment and goods for farmers and others? We get nothing of the sort. This is how a prominent manufacturer describes the position -
I would say without reservation that the import licensing department is being administered in a most inadequate, clumsy and damaging manner. It is being administered by officers whose slowness is only matched by their inability to sum up the true position.
Then he explained to me that he had been struggling for five months to try to get a hearing by the import licensing authorities. The position is that the Collector of Customs does not know where he stands. He must keep details of the Government’s import plans permanently before him. A Cabinet committee gives him directions-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
. - We have just listened to a most irresponsible and unrestrained speech by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua). He concluded his remarks by making a most unprovoked attack upon public servants who cannot answer in this House for their conduct. That is a most reprehensible action, and I consider that the honorable member has not done justice to himself or to any other honorable member in this House.
– I rise to a point of order. Because of the interjections of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) my time was wasted.I was therefore prevented from concluding my speech, in which I did not attack public servants.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN:- Order ! That is not a point of order at all.
– Now let us review the honorable member’s speech, and consider whether he spoke with sincerity or whether he was just talking in the manner that is characteristic of the Opposition whenever a matter arises, even a national crisis, out of which it can make political capital. The honorable member for Ballarat rose in this chamber and read a carefully prepared statement. That is an action that is contrary to the Standing Orders. The statement that he read might have been prepared by some interested person outside this chamber. That is something that is not unknown to us. Then the honorable member imported into this debate the name of the late leader of his party. [Quorum formed.] As I said when I raised a point of order, the honorable member selected a particular item in the proposed vote for the Department of Trade and Customs and used that as a means to make an attack upon the Government’s policy of import control. He made some extraordinary statements in which he sought to give the impression that the socialist party that formerly occupied the treasury bench is not a control-minded party. But, of course, it is control-minded.
Controls are the very breath of life to socialism, and the Labour Government imposed controls such as Australia had never previously experienced. The Labour Prime Minister and Treasurer, the late Mr. Chifley, said in the last budget speech that he delivered in this Parliament, that he had made it perfectly clear to the then British Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, at a conference with him in London on the subject of overseas balances, that Australia would have to curtail imports.
– The honorable member for Ballarat said that.
– He skirted the subject and challenged this Government because it had imposed import controls. I remind him again that, before the Labour Government was thrown out of office because of its maladministration, its leader warned us that such controls would be necessary. He showed much more courage than the honorable member has revealed when he made that declaration almost on the eve of a general election. Mr. Chifley told the people that governments would haveto be courageous and do many unpopular things. Why was that statement necessary? The answer is that the inflation that had resulted from four years of Labour administration in peace-time had made unpopular actions inevitable. All the talk by honorable members opposite at this stage is revealed as so much nonsense when we remember what Mr. Chifley told the nation. I repeat that the honorable member for Ballarat selected one item in the Estimates and used it as a stalking horse for the purpose of launching an attack on the Government. The increase of the proposed appropriation is due to the increased cost of living. The honorable member is well aware of that fact, which has affected every item in the Estimates, and therefore, his criticism of the Government is unforgivable. He spoke with his tongue in his cheek merely for the sake, of making party political capital out of the crisis that besets the country. As I said recently, the Labour party is indulging in a fiendishly cruel game. Honorable members opposite should remember that human lives and human values are at stake, and should not juggle with them. The honorable member, who read a carefully prepared statement, did a great disservice to his party, to this Parliament and to the people whom he claims to represent.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I prepared the speech that I made. I am well aware of my shortcomings as a speaker, but I delivered the speech in the best way of whichI am capable.
Mr. GALVIN (Kingston) [11.461 - The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has just said that a fiendishly cruel game is being played. Members of the Government and their supporters indulge in a fiendishly cruel game when they set out, deliberately to try to ridicule an honorable member who has presented a good case in a speech that does credit to himself and should be of great service to the electors whom ho represents. The Government seems to be determined to embarrass the honor able member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) at every opportunity by raising points of order and to belittle him in the eyes of the electors because he happens to represent an electorate that is known as a “ swinging seat “. No doubt its plot will fail dismally because Australian electors are always proud of a man who has the courage to express his views honestly. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) is doubtless doing his best, with the assistance of his departmental officers, to administer the Government’s system of import restrictions. But, as the honorable member for Ballarat said, the situation has been so complicated by the decisions of Cabinet that even the Minister does not know how to administer the plan and. in spite of his determination, is unable to carry out the work quickly and efficiently.
Almost every honorable member has iliad occasion during the last few months to make representations to the Minister tor Trade and Customs on the subject of import licences, and we all know how long we must wait before our letters are even acknowledged by the Minister. I do not blame him. Like the honorable member for Ballarat, I appreciate the complexity of the problems that he is expected to solve. The honorable member for Ballarat was justified in blaming the Cabinet for the mess that has been made of import restrictions. His criticism did not reflect in any way on the Public Service or the administration of the. Department of Trade and Customs. f bring to the notice of the Minister of the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) a matter that concerns South Australian members of this Parliament. The accommodation provided for us in Adelaide is not satisfactory. We are fortunate in some respects in having rooms at the State, House of Parliament in Adelaide in which some good amenities are available. However, it is a shocking fact that four members of Parliament are. often forced to interview electors in one room at the same time. Under such conditions, it is possible to overhear anything that is said in any of the groups that crowd the room. That is not fair to electors who wish to see a senator or member of the House of Representatives privately to discuss problems that worry them. One can readily appreciate the difficulties of a person who is in trouble and wishes to give the details to the member in such circumstances. I ask the Minister to consider the provision of a room for each honorable member in South Australia so that members can interview electors in privacy. If that is not possible. I suggest that a room for interviews should be provided.
Another problem in South Australia is the West Beach airport. In the Estimates, that work is coupled with the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Works. About eighteen months ago, when aeroplanes were frequently diverted from Parafield to Gawler, I made representations to the Ministers in charge of both departments because I wanted to ma.ke sure that T would get an answer from one of them 1 asked whether the airport at West Beach could be used as an emergency aerodrome when. Parafield was closed. The Minister for Works replied promptly that he was agreeable if the Minister for Civil Aviation would agree to the proposal. After inspections and some brief delay, the Minister for Civil Aviation and officers of his department stated that it was not desirable to use that airport as an emergency aerodrome until it was completed and fully equipped as an airport. Perhaps there was a good reason for that decision. I readily understand that the department is nor eager to allow aeroplanes to land there even in an .emergency because once they do so, the use of the airport might become a habit before work on it is completed. However, the position is so desperate in South Australia that I believe the airport could, without much effort, be prepared for use in an emergency. One landing strip has been completed and two-thirds of the work has been done on another strip. The officers in charge of the work and their men have done a magnificent job with the labour and the material at their disposal. Nobody knows that better than I do, because I was associated with the project in itearly days, but those engaged on the work cannot do it well without money and materials. This is such a vital project that money must be found for it. I hope that the Estimates contain provision for the completion of the work so that the West Beach aerodrome can be used as an emergency field at the earliest opportunity. I am sure that the Minister for Works will do everything possible and I hope that he will confer with the Minister for Civil Aviation and will try to convince the responsible administrative officers that completion of the project will not be jeopardized if the aerodrome is used when required in an emergency.
I wish to refer now to the Department of Health. I wonder if something could be done to assist the district bush nursing societies, in South Australia in particular, which are virtually conducting home hospitalization. There are not enough hospitals and hospital beds, and the district nurses are makins every home where there is sickness a hospital. I should like to see co-operation between the Department of Health and the bush nursing societies so that a method of assisting these organizations could be devised. They are providing hospitalization which the Australian Government and the State governments seem unable to give. While on the subject of health, I. draw attention to the plight of hospital patients ‘who have to buy brandy for medicinal purposes. Recently the case of a pensioner who had to buy a fairly large quantity of brandy on medical advice was brought to my attention. The Minis.1 (,1, for Social Services (Mr. Townley) was very sympathetic and helped me considerably in getting the matter adjusted. Excise on brandy is 85s. 6d. a proof gallon, which is equal to about 9s. 6d. a bottle.
– Most of it was imposed by this Government.
– That is so. I ask that nr-tion be taken to assist sick people by the removal of the excise on brandy used foi- medicinal purposes. At present it is on using great hardship.
.- I wish to draw the attention of the committee to licensing control under the Department of Trade and Customs. This time last year, Australia was passing through a great crisis. Imports were entering Australia at ..the rate of £1,200,000,000 per annum while exports were about £600,000,000. I remind the committee that the imports were arranged almost entirely by private individuals and not- by the Government. Therefore, it was quite impossible for the Government to adjust the position except by very drastic means. Some months ago the Government took such action in an endeavour to secure a balance of trade. That action has been highly successful. In July of last year the trade deficiency was £50,000,000 but last month the surplus of exports over imports totalled £8,000,000. In September and October we begin to sell our lambs and we can now look to the time when exports will exceed imports. That being the case I urge the Government to consider the removal of many of the import controls which have now a nuisance value only. I admit that, in order to protect our overseas funds, it will be necessary for some time to maintain control over certain items, payment for which uses up a substantial, amount of our overseas credit, but a careful consideration of the (various items shows clearly that thegreatest drain on our credits is in respect of a small number of items. The Government should review the schedule of imports, and remove control on such items as spare parts, and on goods which* constitute .the raw materials of Australian industries.
The honorable member for Ballarat (M’r. Joshua) criticized the officers of the Import Licensing Branch of the Department of Trade and Customs. No human beings could have done the joh that they were called upon, to do in the time allotted to - them without causing bottle-necks. There were millions of different items of imports to be considered, and I do not exaggerate when J say that. In order to apply the Government’s policy of restriction, millions .of items had to be examined and classifiedaccording to their order of importance. The policy of import restriction was highly repugnant to the Government, but it was necessary. The Government hates controls, and they would not have been imposed were they not necessary to protect our economy. No responsible government could allow the country tobecome bankrupt, and that is the term that would have .been applied if we had had to default in our overseas payments. Therefore, the Government imposed import controls on a basis which was fair,, even though the policy was extremely difficult to administer. The Import Licensing Branch suffered growing pains,, as was only natural, but most of the initial anomalies have been corrected, and I believe the time has now arrived when the situation should be reviewed, and controls removed from those items which, though perhaps great in number, do not make any important demand upon our overseas credits. I pay tribute to the men in the branch who were called on in an emergency to do a job that they were not trained to do. I know that many of them worked literally day and night, and that as many as 10,000 letters were received1 in the branch in one day. The men, whohad their ordinary jobs to do, were given this extra work, and they should not be- abused, in this chamber by honorable members who do not understand the position. I do not deny that there were bottlenecks. Indeed, it could not be otherwise in the circumstances, but in my opinion, it. is hitting below the belt to abuse officers who, at great cost in effort to themselves, grappled successfully with the serious economic problem that faced the country.
However, I rose, not so much to answer the honorable member for Ballarat, as ro urge the Government, now that the situation appears to be coming under control. to remove restrictions when and where they are no longer serving a useful purpose.
– And let the country get into 51 mother mess.
– There is no danger that the country will get into a mess if the situation is closely watched, and if controls are removed only from- those items which constitute the raw materials of our own industries, and from spare parts which it is. necessary to import in order to keep in working order machines already in the country. For example, there should be no restriction on the importation of the materials from which baskets and cane chairs are made. Those materials are not produced in Australia, and are never likely to be. Once import controls are imposed, there is a tendency to keep them in operation. Merchants and importers should be given greater freedom of operation within particular categories. All that the Government is concerned with is to ensure that the value of our imports does not exceed that of our exports, so that it is only necessary to impose an overall monetary control of imports. If, for example, a merchant has a licence to im port £10,000 worth of nails, screws, and. hammers, be should not be required to specify the quantity of each article he proposes to buy. He should be free to select. within his quota, the items that his customers- require. Private enterprise should be given the greatest freedom of operation within the limits of the policy imposed by the Government.
.- I remind honorable members of the need to ensure adequate supplies of oil and petrol to meet our current requirements, and any possible emergency which may arise in the future. It should not be forgotten, that not so long ago we found ourselves quite unprepared when an emergency arose. It is necessary to protect the publicagainst unfair trade practices and the operations of monopolies. For the supply and distribution of oil and petrol in Australia we are dependent very largely on. overseas firms, because oil has not yet been discovered in commercial quantitieswithin Australia. Uranium has recently been found here, and we know that the Government is eager to assume control over its production. It is necessary toretain organizations such as the Commonwealth Oil- Refineries Limited. This subject is of particular interest at the moment because of the revelations recently made concerning the major oil companies which dominate the distribution of oil in this country and other countries overseas. The Sydney Sun of Friday last stated that -
United States Mutual Security Agency today accused five United States oil companiesof “ exorbitant price discrimination “ which, added 50,000,000 dollars (£22,321,428) to the cost of the foreign aid programme.
It was also reported that a Federal Grand: Jury in the United States of Americawill investigate, on the 3rd September,, charges that seven big oil companies control world oil markets-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order 1 The honorable gentleman must relate his remarks to the proposed vote which is at present being considered.
– I am dealing with the importation . and distribution of petrol, for which Australia is dependent on the companies to which I have referred. I contend that we are vitally concerned with the operations of overseas oil companies which do not recognize national boundaries. They are worldwide organizations and are concerned only with profits. The ramifications of the oil cartels were described in an article in the Canberra Times on Tuesday last, which read as follows: -
Five American and two Britishdominatedcompanies held a monopoly of most of the world’s oil-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! I inform the honorable gentleman that anything pertaining to oil and its importation must be dealt with when the proposed vote for the Department of National Development is being considered.
– I submit that as the Department of Trade and Customs is concerned with import and export duties, the importation of oil may properly be discussed now.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! Et must be discussed when the proposed vote for the Department of National Development is being considered. The honorable member must confine his remarks to matters which arise from the proposed vote for the Department of Trade and Customs.
– I shall comment upon the works and housing projects being carried out for the Department of the Interior. I entirely endorse the remarks of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser). It will be remembered that he stated that the recent lag in public works programmes should be overcome and that such programmes should he accelerated in order to meet the increasing unemployment problem. Recent figures supplied by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) show that the number of unemployed is now 35,000. I know, from indications in my electorate, that that number is increasing rapidly. In my electorate the number of unemployed workers is now 5,000. So far, the Government appears to have no major plan to cope with the emergency. On the contrary, it seems to have been caught flatfooted and to be fumbling, as its political predecessors were in 1941 when, after two years of war, there were still approximately 250,000 persons unemployed in Australia. In New South “Wales alone, there were then 250 idle or semi-idle factories. Considerable agitation was necessary on the part of those concerned before the Government took any action in the matter. There seems to be an air of futility about this Government, and that, in turn has led to a general sense of frustration throughout the community. The fact that an unemployed pool now exists may be of some satisfaction to Professor Hytten and Sir Douglas Copland, but at least Sir Douglas Copland admits that public works on a large scale are essential for our economic development. When addressing the Construction Industries Fair recently, he said that few countries had been able to develop and conserve their resources without a vigorous programme of public works. In his opinion, the expansion which Australia needs requires a high rate of investment. Public enterprise must provide transport facilities for a widely dispersed population and other forms of collective capital to provide social amenities for such a population. The low rate of investment during World War II., following a most severe depression, ran down Australia’s capital equipment to what he described as a “ grievous level “. He continued -
Now that the Australian economy is in difficulties, the tendency is to say that investments, particularly public investments, must be reduced. That is a policy of despair and does not show a proper realization of the role investment plays in the economy. Public investment is crucial and is basic to all economic activity in Australia. If public works are allowed to fall from their present proportion of total investment it will be to the detriment of the whole economy.
Those statements come from a most authoritative source. Surely the Government will accept that advice.
The Australian community generally, and particularly the unemployed section of it, will never again accept conditions similar to those which prevailed during the last economic depression. At that time, hundreds of thousands of people who had never known much prosperity became conditioned to unemployment. Australian workers have tasted a semblance of prosperity since then and will not willingly accept unemployment again. Many of them have committed themselves to repayments on homes and are in dire circumstances because they have lost their employment. Many who have married and now have families find that the unemployment relief is quite insufficient to > meet their commitments. The’ Government could do much to relieve their distress, not only by increasing the. number of public works projects, but also by means of governmental and semi-governmental housing schemes. Assistance should also be given to private building organization’s. In 1937, when the co-operative building system was launched in New South Wales, the unemployed in that State were more numerous than in any other State of the Commonwealth. Nine per cent, of the work force was unemployed. Yet within two years, because of the activities of the cooperative building societies sponsored by the State government, the percentage of unemployed had been reduced to 4$ per cent., which was the lowest in Australia. That is an example of what this Government could do if it were alive to the situation.
The position of immigrants-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member must keep to the matter under review.
– I propose to discuss the provision of work for unemployed immigrants.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.That matter should be dealt with when the proposed vote for the Department of immigration is being considered.
– I submit that it is « matter for the Department of Works. Under the proposed vote for that department, in Division 69 - Repairs and Maintenance - provision is made for the expenditure of a considerable sum of money in respect of the Immigration Department.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable gentleman has had several contests with the Chair and he has lost on each occasion. He has now lost again.
– If you wish to act as referee and also to launch the blows, Mr. Deputy Chairman, there is not much that I can do about it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable gentleman must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark, Mr. Deputy Chairman, and accept your ruling. I submit that there is ample scope for the establishment of largescale public works in this country. For instance, we could build completely new cities, from the grass up. Time is running out for us. It is not merely a matter of providing employment or of developing the country; the security of the nation is also involved. Surely the Government feels some sense of urgency about this situation. I hope that it will take immediate steps- to avert another economicdepression, which might well lead to the loss of our country.
.- I wish to make a few observations concerning the Department of Trade and Customs, with particular reference to import licensing. I make it plain at the outset that what I am about to say is being put forward in the spirit of a plea to the Minister rather than in the form of an attack. I refer particularly to purchases of paintings, sculptures, old furniture and works” of art by the national art galleries in the various States. Applications by those galleries to the department for licences to import articles which, so far as value and quantity are concerned, represent comparatively small purchases, have been subjected, to considerable delays, in some instances amounting to three months. The result has been that members of gallery boards have not been able to give firm orders to their buyers on the other side of the world. The amount involved is not large. Purchapes made overseas by the National Gallery of South Australia have averaged only £2,500 a year during the last five years. I am sure that the amount spent by the Brisbane, Perth and Hobart galleries would have been considerably less. The amount spent by the Sydney Art Gallery would not have been very much larger because it is not a rich institution. The sum spent by the Melbourne gallery would have been considerably more because of the munificent endowment by the Felton Bequest. However, compared with the total figures relating to Australia’s trade balance the amount involved in art gallery purchases would be relatively small.
I suggest to the committee that the importation of works of art should be placed on the same basis as the importation of books. The Government permitted firms to import books during the past financial year to the value of the books imported by them during the financial year 1950-51. If similar treatment were accorded art galleries a great deal of delay, confusion and frustration would be avoided. Some of these galleries are singularly fortunate in regard to the men who are prepared to buy for them overseas. The National Gallery of South Australia, for example, has secured the services in a purely honorary capacity of no less a man than Sir Kenneth Clark, of London..
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Will the honorable member relate his remarks to the Estimates? Do they come under the. heading of “Tariffs”?
– They definitely do come under the heading of . “ Tariffs “. In pleading for greater leniency to be extended to these important public institutions it is unnecessary to remind honorable members of the great value of national art collections. I would not say that they render as much service to the community as libraries do; nevertheless, works of art not only provide pleasure for many thousands of people who visit the galleries every year, but they also provide most valuable instruction for students, the greater proportion of whom cannot afford the high fares necessary to go abroad and study at the fountains of culture. I hope that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) will refer my proposal to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) and ascertain whether better treatment can be accorded our art institutions.
– Is customs duty payable on these items?
– I do not think that duty is payable on imports for national are collections but, as I have said, - it is necessary to obtain a licence for the importation of each item, however, small.
Under the Constitution it is not always possible to- have the Minister in charge of a department present in this House in order to answer criticisms of his department and join with other honorable members in the debate on the Estimates. This is one of the many inconveniences that we suffer under the Constitution and we should direct our minds towards removing it. Section 43 of- the Constitution prevents a Minister from ‘ another- place from sitting in this: House and participating in its debates. That practice does not obtain in certain legislatures1 in other parts of the world. It is not followed, for example, in South’ Africa. I hope that when the Government is considering alterations of the Constitution in future, it will examine the feasibility of providing that a Minister may speak on such occasions as this in the House of which he is not a member. That would greatly assist members of each chamber and generally expedite the process of legislation.
– I rise - to a point of order, Mr. Deputy ‘ Chairman. You ruled just now that I could not deal with the subject of petrol and fuel. I refer you to page 38 of the Estimates, which concern the Department of Civil Aviation. In view of the fact that the committee is dealing with ‘ that department, would you reconsider your ruling? I desire to deal with the supply of petrol and fuel, particularly to government departments-, in the case of an emergency.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- I- shall not alter my ruling. The honorable member may discuss fuel- but not the general subject of its importation. The honorable -member spoke about oil companies and that is a matter which comes under the heading of national development.
– Mr. Deputy Chairman, how can an honorable member discuss that section of the Estimates dealing with civil aviation and examine the aspect of profits without discussing the price of petrol which .plays such an important part in the costs of civil aviation ?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- An honorable member is not limited in his discussion of that matter, but, beyond, it he must not go while the committee is dealing with that section of the Estimates.
– In dealing with the estimates for the Department of Trade and Customs I desire to support the remarks of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) concerning the application of import restrictions. The honorable member referred to the difficulty that individual importers, particularly men with small businesses, have experienced because of the administration of these restrictions. The honorable member was subjected to a most humiliating attack by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who failed to reply to his objections and simply tried to discredit him. That honorable member intimated that considerable difficulties attend the implementation of the relevant regulations and because of those difficulties Opposition members appeal for a more sympathetic handling of this matter. We are not attacking public servants. We consider that there are not enough public servants to handle the number of problems that arise in connexion with this matter. This Government claims to be an apostle of free enterprise, but the way in which it is handling the import regulations is doing much to strangle many businesses and to give an advantage to large concerns at the expense of small ones. Periods of three or four months have quite often elapsed before the Department of Trade and Customs has given a satisfactory reply to requests made by small businessmen. Perhaps £2,000 each quarter has been involved in the licences sought, but the granting or denying of that comparatively small amount has been a matter of life or death to small businesses. In many cases while traders were negotiating with the department goods ‘ were already on their way to Australia and banks were expecting payment by the importers. However, because the importers could not obtain a determination of their quotas they were involved in overdrafts, bank charges, demurrage and other charges, all of which had to be added to the costs of the businesses and all of which placed in jeopardy the future of many businessmen. I know that up to a month ago the administration of import regulations was chaotic.
I shall now examine the broader matter of the operation of the Department of Trade and Customs. During a discussion about trade and customs about twelve months aso, I asked the Vice- President of the Executive Council to give the House an opportunity at an ‘ early date to debate the operations of the tariff and other matters that affected the Australian economy. ‘ He said quite glibly that he would, but almost twelve months have passed by since then, and the Government has allowed no discussion to take place about these very important matters. The difficulty in which we are placed by the import restrictions is having an adverse effect on the Australian economy, and on our balance of trade, which is a matter that affects the Department of Trade and Customs. Our exports amount to about £600,000,000 or £700,000,000 a year and our imports are of the same order of magnitude. The nature of the goods imported, the duties to be paid on them and the kind of goods manufactured in Australia are all very important to the destiny of the nation. It has recently been pointed out by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) that about 450,000 Australians are at present directly engaged in primary production. - That indicates that the remaining part of the working force, about 2,700,000 persons, is engaged in pursuits other than primary production. Therefore, approximately six out of seven of the Australian working people are dependent upon trade and commerce for their livelihood.
Questions have been asked in the Parliament time and time again about Australia’s commitments under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Each time questions have been asked the Government has shirked its responsibility to answer them properly. The importance of the tariff regulations became apparent last year when an estimate was made of the cost of printing the tariff guide. ] now show the House volume 1 and volume 2 of the Tariff O-wide. They are both large volumes, >and in them is listed every single item that enters into tariff considerations. These volumes cost .£13,388 to print. They arc not works of general reference, but they are publications of considerable interest to importers and of indirect interest to manufacturers. The size and the cost of those volumes indicates that the Parliament should be more concerned about the Department of Trade and Customs than would appear from the estimate of £3,179,000 to be expended on <the maintenance of the department in the present financial year. The activities of the department involve a great sum of money. Last year our revenue from customs duties was about £”1.13,000,000, and from excise duty about £90,000,000. That is more than £200,000,000, all of which is channelled through the Department of Trade arid Customs in some way or other. Therefore, it is unfortunate that this committee has been allotted only seven hours to deal with the most important matter of trade and customs. That has been done in spite of the fact that the department deals indirectly with £200,000,000 of revenue and that its actions have a direct bearing upon the carrying on of many businesses. lt ia high time that the Government gave more serious consideration to the problems involved in our external trade., lt is very well to say that the matter of the tariff should be left to the Tariff Board. After perusing the last two or three annual reports of the Tariff Board I have reached a conclusion that it is time that the Parliament considered whether, in the light of present-day circumstances, the Tariff Board as. now constituted is adequate to handle the tariff problems facing the Australian people. We must give consideration to the future of Australia’s secondary industry, and its fate i; completely bound up with the matter of the tariffs. In turn, the tariff is closely concerned with Australia’s commitments in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The Vice-President of the Executive Council will say, perhaps, that a Labour government entered into the negotiations initiating that agreement, which is quite true. However, it was expected at that time that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade would be only one branch of a vast organization that was to be called the International Trade Organization. That was apparently one of those noble aspirations that people had immediately after the end of the last war, but which has perished on the a I tor of economic expediency. However, one of the remaining vestiges of it is the General Agreement on Tariffs mid Trade, and that is a much different ‘ proposition now from what it was in 1946. Later we shall consider estimates that involve expenditure in connexion with our further participation in the conferences of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. During the last six or eight months Australia has taken purl in these conferences, but no report has been presented to the Parliament about what has transpired. During the last sessional period, I asked the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), whose department administers this matter, whether he would present a report about Australia’s participation in the conferences held under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. He said that he would, but since then no report has been produced and honorable members, industrialists, and the people of Australia, have been left in the dark about Australia’s commitments and obligations in the very important matter of external trade. The Government should not run away from, this issue on the ground that it is political, because it. is more than political. It involves the fate of the whole Australian community. The Government too readily assumes that the Opposition seeks to gain party political advantage in every discussion that takes place in this chamber. There are many ways in which we can obtain advantage from the Government’s mismanagement of the nation’s affairs. We are entitled to seek information during the consideration of the Estimates, and the Government, should make it available to us without hesitation. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to provide us with an opportunity to debate the important subject of the tariff at a later stage of the current sessional period.
– The honorable member has made a reasonable request and it is worthy of consideration.
Mr. GLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh) ‘l 2.411. - I am pleased to note that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) has been present this morning to hear the remarks that another honorable member has ma.de in relation to the inadequacy of the accommodation- at the Federal Members’ Rooms in Adelaide. I wish to discuss the same subject. To be fair to the Minister, I must acknowledge that, as far as I know, this matter has not been brought specifically to his attention since he assumed office.
– That would have made no difference. The Minister would have done nothing about it.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is, perhaps, too harsh in his judgment of the Minister. At any rate, I take advantage of this opportunity to learn whether that is so or not. A deputation of members of this Parliament two and a half years ago waited on the then Minister for the Interior, who i3 now the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride), and asked him to provide them with single offices . in Adelaide so as to make available private interviewing rooms similar to those provided at the Federal Members’ Rooms in all other capital cities. The Minister was most sympathetic, and assured us that he would ha.ve the matter investigated at once with a view to granting our request, which he considered to be reasonable. Unfortunately, several ministerial changes were made soon afterwards and he ceased to be Minister for the Interior. The present Minister apparently i3 giving complete satisfaction to the Government, and there appears to be little possibility of a further change in the near future. Therefore, I make my appeal to an honorable gentleman who appears to be likely to remain Minister for the Interior for the duration of the term of office of .the present Government.
Sitting suspended from 1845 to 2.15 p.m.
– The accommodation provided for honorable senators and honorable members at the Federal Members’ Rooms in Adelaide is completely inadequate, as I shall show. Five Labour senators are required to share one room, two Liberal members, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), share another room, and four Labour members, the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin), the honorable in em her for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), and I, are obliged to share a room. The objection to this arrangement Ls that an honorable member has to interview his constituents in the presence of his colleagues, and carry on telephone conversations in their presence. Such conditions are neither fair to honorable members nor to the persons whom we interview. The absence, of a proper waiting room subjects persons who are waiting to interview honorable members to considerable discomfort. People are obliged to sit on a wooden bench in a cold corridor. When a visitor enters an honorable member’s office, he may often be obliged to speak about private, confidential or intimate matters in the presence of other honorable members and perhaps some of their constituents. I am certain that every honorable member, regardless of the political party to which he belongs, can be relied on to respect completely the confidences imparted to him by persons who interview him on various matters. Members of the public know that they can place implicit trust in an honorable member to respect their confidences. An honorable member is a gentleman, and a constituent is satisfied that anything he says in the course of an interview will not be conveyed to another person. But how can an honorable member be responsible for those confidences when they are imparted to him in the presence of. members of the public who are interviewing other honorable members?
Another disadvantage about the Federal Members’ Rooms in Adelaide is that no permanent office . is provided for the Leader of the Opposition or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In Melbourne, Sydney, and probably in some of the other capital cities, an office is always retained for the Leader of the Opposition or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Similar provision should be made in every capital city in the Commonwealth. Today, the Labour party constitutes the Opposition, but to-morrow, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party may constitute it. When the position is considered from that standpoint, it is wrong that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when he becomes the Leader of the Opposition again, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who doubtless will be the next Deputy Leader of the Opposition, should have to rely upon a government department to provide makeshift accommodation in an office for them when they visit Adelaide. The Leader of the Opposition, whether he be the right honorable member for
Barton (Dr. Evatt) or the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) occupies such an important position iri public life that his status should be properly recognized in the Federal Members’ Rooms in the various capital cities of the Commonwealth. I ask the Minister for the Interior, when lie is examining the inadequate office accommodation provided for private members in Adelaide, to endeavour to make a permanent office available in that city for the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I admit that the same urgent need does not exist in Adelaide for the provision of an office for visiting members of the Parliament as exists in Melbourne and Sydney, and I do not press for accommodation for them at this stage, but I urge that effect be given to the other important representations that I have made. The honorable member for Angas will doubtless agree with me when I say that the honorable member for Barker and he have no objection to discussing business in each other’s presence, but the honorable gentleman must feel, as I do, that his constituents are not at case when they interview him in the presence of his honorable and distinguished colleague. The comfort and feelings of honorable members should receive just as much consideration as the comfort and feelings of their constituents. I shall be grateful if the Minister will examine this problem. I know that he will not take this opportunity to fight back in an endeavour to make it a party political matter, because my plea, by its very nature, is on non-party lines. I have pointed out that the Leader of the Opposition to-day may be the Prime Minister to-morrow, and vice versa. That point should commend itself to the Minister.
I also ask the honorable gentleman to reconsider his decision about the use of duplicating machines in the Federal Members’ Rooms. I admit immediately’ that the use of the duplicating machines may have been somewhat abused in the past. It is the duty of the Minister to prevent the undue abuse of public funds, and the unwarranted use of public property, but I consider that the first step taken by the Minister in that matter was the correct one. He rationed the quantity of duplicating paper made available to each honorable member. If that procedure were reintroduced, the use of paper supplied by the Commonwealth for duplicating work would not be abused. I am sure that the Minister has not placed restrictions on the use of the Gestetners merely foi” the purpose of prolonging their mechanical lives. His decision to prohibit the use of Gestetners in Federal Members’ Rooms was prompted by a desire to prevent the use of duplicating paper for non-official purposes. ] do not think that the Minister has any objection when an honorable member purchases paper, and uses a duplicating machine for his own purposes* I appreciate and fully respect his -desire to prevent the waste of public funds in the way in which I know they have been wasted in the past in every capital city by members of all political parties represented in this chamber. I have not been guilty of that abuse, and I assure the Minister that I shall not be guilty of it in the future.
– The Minister talks in millions, and plays with pennies.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) can help me because at this stage, I desire to avoid any suggestion of party political bias. I believe that the Minister is sympathetic towards my representations on this matter, especially in view of the fact that Adelaide is the only capital city in the Commonwealth in which the request that I am making has not been granted. I do not blame this Government for the position because it has persisted for about ten years.
I urge the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Anthony) to review the recent decision of Trans-Australia Airlines regarding meals. The serving of fruit juices to passengers has been discontinued, and poultry lunches have been withdrawn. In addition, air hostesses have been instructed that they must allow a passenger only one niece of barley sugar. Newspapers must be purchased by passengers, and the distribution of route maps and publicity materials has been prohibited. Even coffee, which is served in the buffets at terminal airports, must- be purchased by passengers, whereas previously it was made available to them free of charge.
– Were there no all-day suckers’?
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J.’ Harrison) may have all-day suckers, if they are his choice. It was not a case of passengers taking handfuls of barley, sugar as the Minister for Civil Aviation alleged. Such a practice could not be justified. However, when I travel by air I must, unfortunately, continue to chew until the aircraft reaches its maximum altitude, because of the effect of the change in atmospheric pressure on my ear drums. Last Friday, when I was travelling by air., I took two pieces when the hostess offered me barley sugar. That has been my practice for many months. The hostess took back one piece from me and said that she was under instructions not to give more than one piece to any one passenger.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to refer to a matter that comes within the control of the Department of Trade and Customs. It relates to the protection of the wool industry upon which the prosperity of this country depends probably to a greater degree than upon any other industry. I do not need to emphasize the importance of a prosperous wool industry to the Australian economy. The operations of the wool industry directly affect- our balance of payments and, consequently, our national income. A prosperous wool industry is a means of earning income from the sale of exports. Income from that source is new money which is distinct from the wage and salary income of the nation, and, therefore, it does not contribute to increases of costs. A prosperous wool industry has a profound effect upon the Government’s full employment policy and, automatically, helps to raise the standard of living of the community. For these reasons, and many others that I have not mentioned, it is clearly in the national interest that everything possible should be done to foster the industry. However, at present it is in real danger because, owing to increases of prices of wool in recent years, considerable expenditure has been incurred upon scientific research and experiments in the development of synthetics. The future of the industry depends very largely upon the result of experiments that are being carried out particularly in the United States of America in the production of synthetic ‘fibres which some people hope will ultimately take the place of wool. I am sure that every honorable member will agree that such a development would be detrimental to our economy. Synthetic fibres have already been produced that have the appearance of wool and are practically of the same texture, whilst materials fabricated from synthetic fibre, when new, are difficult to distinguish from wool. Unscrupulous traders and astute businessmen have already taken advantage of those facts and have sold synthetic fabrics as woollen material. But synthetic fabrics do not have the same wearing or waterproof qualities as woollen materials have and are not as capable of withstanding the . effects of laundering and dry cleaning.
– Are not synthetic fabrics labelled in any way?
– They are not. That is the burden of my story. For years, the wool industry has realized that the prestige of wool is essential to the popularity of wool, and for that reason it has been agitating for the introduction of compulsory labelling of fabricated materials. Shortly after World War II. ended, all the State governments passed legislation which made it compulsory’ to label textiles to indicate the fabric from which they were manufactured. That step met with opposition on the part of certain interests that .believed that it would involve them in additional costs. Manufacturers contended that it was unwarranted. However, State action alone, clearly, was incomplete and could not satisfy the needs of the wool industry unless similar action was taken with respect to imported materials. . Subsequently, further conferences were held between representatives of the Australian and State governments with a view to evolving regulations to ensure that imported fabrics should be fully labelled. Those negotiations were interrupted when the Labour Government went out of office.
– The Labour Government actually gazetted regulations that required all imported fabrics to be labelled.
– That Government proposed to introduce regulations that were to take effect as from the 1st January, 1950, but before that date it was succeeded by the present Government, and, as usually happens when there is a change of administration, the thread of earlier negotiations had to be picked up again. That was done, and it was again decided that the Commonwealth should introduce legislation to enforce the labelling of imported textiles and that the relevant regulations should take effect as from the 1st October, 1950. Before that date, for some reason, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) notified the States that he believed that it would be preferable to introduce regulations that would enforce labelling only of fabrics that contained wool. That was a’ departure from the request that the industry had made that all textiles should be labelled. The Minister’s proposal was quite unacceptable to not only the wool industry, but also the majority of the manufacturers. So far from helping the industry, such an arrangement would penalize it. The manufacturers of textiles that contain wool would be burdened with the cost of labelling, an expense not borne by the manufacturers of synthetic materials. As far as I can gather, that is where the situation rests. Persons engaged in the wool industry are very disturbed about it, and most manufacturers, also, are very concerned. Even manufacturers who are not primarily interested in wool consider that full textile labelling would be an advantage. I hope that the Government will review the position as a matter of urgency. It is indisputable that the degree of prosperity of the wool industry has an important bearing on the state of our national economy, which is more or les3 in the balance at present. I urge the Government to settle this matter within the shortest possible time. Above all, I urge it not to introduce legislation to provide for partial labelling only, as that would give to the manufacturers of synthetic materials an advantage over the manufacturers of woollen materials. The Government should bring down legislation to provide for the labelling of all textiles in such a way as would enable the purchaser of an article to see at a glance the percentages of various materials that have been used in its manufacture.
– I wish to refer to some aspects of the administration of the Department of Health, and particularly to the recent decision of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) in relation to Commonwealth assistance to be provided for public hospitals. I register my emphatic protest against the Minister’s decision. When the Chifley Labour Government introduced its social services scheme it undertook to pay to all public hospitals in Australia, per medium of the State governments, an amount of 6s. a patient a day. The payment was subsequently increased to 8s. a day. The only condition that was imposed was that patients in public hospitals should not be subjected to a means test. That condition was accepted readily by the various State governments and the public hospitals.
Under Labour’s administration, taxation was imposed in accordance with the principle of ability to pay. The social services contributions of taxpayers were paid into the National Welfare Fund, out of which payments for hospital benefit and other social services were made. Under that system the amount of contribution for social services by a person on a low income was less than the amount that was contributed by a person on a high income. From the National Welfare Fund the Commonwealth contributed to the maintenance of public hospitals. However, since the present Government has been in office, that system has been entirely altered. During the campaign that preceded the general election of 1949 the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) promised the people that if the anti-Labour parties were returned to office the means test would be abolished. As I have already pointed out, the application of the means test to patients in public hospitals, which was abolished by Labour, has been reintroduced by the Minister for Health under the new scheme. It is now impossible in any State, other than Queensland, for a person to receive treatment in a public hospital without first being submitted to a means test. Although supporters of the Government have stated that they believe in freedom of thought, freedom of action, and the liberty of the subject, in effect, the Minister for Health has said to the State governments and to the public hospitals “ Unless you subject your patients to a means test, the Commonwealth will not subsidize the cost of their hospitalization. However, if you impose a means test, the Commonwealth will provide 12s. a patient a day, provided the patient is a member of a hospital benefit organization “. Of course, each person has to pay a weekly, monthly or annual contribution to that organization.
Not only has the Minister reintroduced the means test in relation to patients in public hospitals, but also he has introduced what amounts to a compulsory health insurance scheme. A person has to pay his contributions to a hospital benefit organization in addition to the social services contribution that is included in his income tax assessment. If a person who is not a member of a hospital benefit organization enters a private hospital for treatment the Commonwealth contributes 8s. a day towards his hospital expenses. If he is a member of a hospital benefit organization, however, the Commonwealth contributes 12s. a day. In short, the hospital benefit organization pays portion of his bil], the Commonwealth contributes 12s: a day towards it, and the patient pays the remainder. ,If a person is not a member of a hospital benefit organization the Commonwealth says, in effect, “ Although you have contributed to the National Welfare Fund, we will allow you only 8s. a day, should you have the misfortune to . require treatment in hospital “. I contend that, to be fair, the Commonwealth should contribute a like amount in respect of every taxpayer who has the misfortune to require hos pital treatment, irrespective of whether or not he is a member of a hospital benefit organization, because each taxpayer contributes a fair and just amount to the National Welfare Fund. Tt. is inequitable for the Commonwealth to pay 8s. a day towards the cost of hospitalization of one person and 12s. a day in the case of his neighbour. One section of the taxpayers of this country is being unfairly treated. Despite the fact that the Government has proclaimed from the house-tops, both in season and out of season, that it favours the complete abolition of the means test, the Minister for Health has, by devious means, introduced what is tantamount to a compulsory hospital insurance scheme. This matter demands urgent reconsideration. The leaders of the Government parties solemnly promised the people that, if they were returned to office, they would abolish the means test, but now they have seen fit to re-introduce the means test in relation to treatment in public hospitals, which was abolished bv the former Labour Government. That is arrant hypocrisy. The Government is laughing in the face of the people who were gulled during the election campaign.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The word “hypocrisy” is unparliamentary.
– If it is unparliamentary, I withdraw it. The Government is guilty of double dealing. Honorable gentlemen opposite should read again the parts of the policy speeches delivered on behalf of the- present Government parties in which the means test was dealt with, and then they should consider the actions of the Minister for Health. When the right honorable gentleman was the Treasurer of this country, he was called the “ tragic Treasurer “. It is probable that, in the not too far distant future, his administration of the Department of Health will cause people to refer to him also as the “ tragic Health Minister “.
– Cheer up !
– I leave the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to his misery. I advise him to reconsider the promises that he has made to the people - promises which he has flagrantly broken. If the right honorable gentleman has a. conscience, I think it will prick him when he thinks those matters over.
The next subject with which I wish to deal is relevant to the Estimates for the Department of Trade and Customs. I was interested to hear the attempted defence by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) of the Government’s policy and actions upon import restrictions. The honorable gentleman sought to prove that the Government had acted correctly, and that import restrictions were necessary. I agree with him to the extent that import restrictions were necessary, but I do not agree with him that the Government handled the matter correctly. After import restrictions had been imposed, the Prime Minister said that the Government had encouraged the importation of various commodities into Australia because it believed that a flood of imports would check inflation by bringing the volume of available goods more into relation with the purchasing power of the people. He stated that the Government made no apology for having encouraged imports. To a degree, additional imports were necessary, but the Government discovered suddenly that such a flood of imports was entering Australia that our credit balances overseas were decreasing at an alarming rate, and that something had to be done. The Government considered the position. It dilly-dallied for at least six months before it arrived at a decision. Eventually, it decided that import restrictions were necessary and that, in some instances, imports should be curtailed by as much as SO per cent. A blanket restriction upon all imports was imposed immediately.
That was panic action. The Government should have acted at least six . or nine months earlier. One result of the blanket restriction was that thousands of workers in essential industries in this country were thrown out of employment. I refer particularly to workers in tha textile industry, the clothing trade and the boot trade. Before the restrictions were imposed, such a flood, of imports had entered Australia that we had more’ goods available than the people could afford to buy. If the restrictions had been imposed six months earlier, they would have been 60 per cent, or 70 peT cent, less severe, and could have been of such a nature as not to upset Australian industries or to cause confusion and chaos.
Since the imposition of the restrictions, the Department of Trade and Customs has been snowed under with work. It will take the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) and the officers of this department months to get out of the trouble that they are in. I do not blame the Minister or his officers, because I believe that an almost impossible task was placed upon their shoulders. It was necessary to arrange quotas and to issue import licences. Now, a. special sub-committee of Cabinet, the Tariff Board, a committee of departmental officers and a committee of private citizens are involved in the matter, and each of those bodies will make decisions and recommendations. I say that it is impossible for the customs authorities to do their job, and that the Government should formulate a definite policy. I remind the committee that the blanket restriction upon imports affected not only manufactured articles but also raw materials required by Australian industries. By restricting imports of those raw materials, the Government has increased unemployment in this country.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden) . - -Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I intervene in this debate only because I wish to try to prevent a misunderstanding to which the remarks of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) about the Government’s health plan and other activities of the Department of Health may give rise. The. honorable gentleman has completely distorted the position. He has referred to a promise which, he has said, was made to the electors of Australia by the present Government- parties in 1949. He has, I believe deliberately, mixed the promises or statements that were made about the means test applicable to pensioners with those applicable to hospital patients. He has said that honorable members on this side of the chamber would be well advised to re-read the policy speech that was delivered by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and to refresh their memories. I suggest that the honorable member for Wills should read the speech. If he did so, it would have a great impact upon his political outlook. Let me read to the committee the part of the policy speech in which reference was made to the means test. It is as follows : -
During the new Parliament we will further investigate this complicated problem with a view to presenting to you at the election of 1052 a scheme for your approval.
No promise was made to remove the means test. The promise was that the problem would be further investigated. That investigation has been made, as I can testify personally. The promise related clearly to the means test applicable to pensions. If the honorable member for Wills would like a copy of the speech, I. shall be delighted to give one to him. It would do him the world of good to read it.
When this Government came into office in December, 1949, the national health scheme was a mass of theoretically perfect proposals, but nothing of a practical nature was apparent. This Government was faced with a task of unravelling the tangled skeins and formulating a national health scheme that would really wark. The Government was quick to recognize that any scheme, to be a success, must have the- co-operation of all parties interested in the health of the people, and must be devised in such a way as to make it acceptable to the Government, the .individual, the medical and pharmaceutical professions and all other persons in the community who are responsible for health and the care of health. The scheme adopted by the Government seeks to bring those interested parties into a co-operative and equal- partnership system, based on voluntary insurance supported and stimulated by financial aid from Government funds. That is the scheme that we have envisaged. The wisdom of basing the scheme on co-operative partnership is evidenced by the achievement already made in the development of various aspects of the national health scheme. It was apparent to the Government that finance would be a major factor in any national health scheme. Modern health services can produce amazing trans- f carnations in the cure of the sick and the injured, but many of the procedures, services and drugs used, particularly the new synthetic and anti-biotic drugs, are extremely costly and are beyond the resources of the ordinary person unless financial assistance i3 provided. Realizing this position, the Government took steps to provide free life-saving and disease-preventing drugs, and a free medical service to pensioners and their dependants, as well as to pay generous allowances to tuberculosis sufferers. It also provided free milk to school children. The benefits paid under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act reveal the extensive contribution made by the Government to meet the needs of the community for expensive medicines and drugs* A comparison of the pharmaceutical benefits provided through approved chemists, doctors, and private hospitals on the limited formulary basis adopted by the previous Government with the same services provided now shows that this Government is doing a great deal more in that direction than did the previous Government. The figures which I am. about to cite refer to the health scheme of the Labour party after it had been eight years in office. In its last year of office the previous Government provided 273,114 prescriptions at a cost of £64,044.
– Do not omit to mention the attitude of the medical profession.
– In September, 1950, this Government introduced a new scheme based on a list of life-saving and disease-preventing drug3. The actual number of lives saved and the actual amount of happiness produced as the result of the adoption of this new scheme cannot be measured by statistics, but some reflection of it can be obtained by a study of the figures relating to the pharmaceutical benefits paid through the same channel that I have already mentioned. Far the purposes of comparison I repeat the figures relevant to pharmaceutical benefits provided by the previous Government in its last year of office. It provided 273,114 prescriptions at a cost of £64,044. This Government has provided in less than two years 10,130,642 prescriptions at a total cost of £9,401,166. In addition, the cost of pharmaceutical benefits paid through public hospitals and other instrumentalities) including benevolent institutions, increased from £82,770 in the previous Government’s last year of office to £598,279 in the last financial year.
In July last year the Government introduced an extension of the scheme under which life-saving and disease-preventing drugs are provided free to patients by providing a free medical scheme to certain classes of pensioners. Pensioners may now receive free any drugs prescribed by a doctor which are to be found in the monograph of the British Pharmacopoeia, as well as some others outside it. The appreciation with which this extended service has been met is clearly shown by the fact that in the first eleven months of operation of the scheme 1,599,823 prescriptions were written. The cost of them to the Government was £357,632. It is estimated that at present about 25,000,000 prescriptions of all types are filled in the Commonwealth every year. Of that number the Government is meeting the cost of more than 8,000,000 prescriptions, or approximately one in every three prescriptions filled. When I say that the average costs of these prescriptions to-day, because of the high cost of the new synthetic and anti-biotic drugs, is 20s. 8d., the value of the scheme can be realized. The need of pensioners for medical treatment has not been overlooked. In February, 1951, the pensioners’ medical service commenced to operate. It is designed to provide a general practitioner medical service for age, invalid, widow and service pensioners, as well as allowances for tuberculosis sufferers and their dependants. The policy of the Government has been vindicated by the response made to this new service in its first year of operation. The majority of doctors engaged in general practice in Australia were enrolled at the 30th June, 1952, when approximately 501,400 pensioners and their dependants were covered by the service, which cost £1,036,225 in the last financial year. That is the answer to the interjection a few minutes ago of the honorable member for Wills. From the inception of this service in February, 1953, to the 30th June last, 2,562.808 medical services had been given either in the homes - of the patients or the surgeries of doctors, and 1,600,000 prescriptions had been dispensed.
Aware of the importance of preventive medicine the Government encouraged medical research through the National Health and Medical Research Council. The appropriation for the council in 1948-49, the last year of office of the previous Government, was £60,000, but it was apparent that this amount was inadequate if the work of the council were to be effective. In 1951-52 the Government therefore provided a’ sum. of £144,300, which included £15,000 for the establishment of virus” reference laboratories in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide for the council. When this Government came into office in 1949, the Tuberculosis Act of 1948 was in existence, but arrangements had not been completed with two of the States for the national campaign against tuberculosis. The Government completed arrangements with all the States, and the campaign has been accelerated. The formal agreements with the States provide that the Commonwealth shall reimburse to each State all approved maintenance expenditure to the extent to which it is in excess of maintenance expenditure during the financial year 1947-48, and all approved capita] expenditure incurred after the 30th June, .1948. Since the 30th June, 1948, the Commonwealth has reimbursed to the States £3,403,987 for maintenance and £1,280,160 for capital expenditure, making a total contribution of £4,684,147 towards the diagnosis, treatment and control of tuberculosis. The Commonwealth reimbursement represented 68.6 per cent, of the total maintenance expenditure in 1950-51. Because the Government was aware of the need of the infectious sufferer to relinquish work if he or she were to have a chance of recovery from tuberculosis, it has provided a liberal scheme of pensions for tuberculosis sufferers. A man with a dependent wife will receive, under the new proposed rate, £9 a week-
– That scheme was instituted by the Labour Government.
– Yes, but the Labour Government paid exactly half the amount that this Government is paying. Those allowances are costing the Commonwealth £2,250,000 annually and the scheme has been widely praised. In order that honorable members may realize that my remarks on this subject are not biassed because I am a member of the Government, I shall quote a statement made by an important medical body on the other side of the world about our campaign against tuberculosis. The National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis in London had this to sayabout our efforts -
This bold, purposeful attack on tuberculosis in Australia, mounted cm a broad economic front, and hacking away all sorts of public restrictions, wakes the efforts of other countries look niggardly by comparison.
This morning the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) asked why assistance had not been given to bush nursing hospitals in South Australia.
– The honorable member referred not to the hospitals but to the nurses employed in them.
– Bush nursing hospitals receive a generous measure of assistance from the Government. They receive not only the ordinary benefit of 8s. a day but also an additional benefit of 4s. a day.
– I referred to treatment in the homes of outback patients.
– The Government assists certain States to finance housekeeper services. The Governments of New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania receive assistance from the Commonwealth for that purpose and the women of those States have the benefit of the service to which the honorable member for Kingston has referred. For some reason South Australia has refused to co-operate with the Commonwealth in the scheme. The honorable member should use his influence to induce the South Australian Government to co-operate with the Commonwealth in. this matter.
The Chifley Government made arrangements with the States for the States to cease the collection of fees from patients in the public wards of public hospitals in return, for a Commonwealth hospital benefit of, first 6s., and later 8s. a day in respect of each patient. The result of that Commonwealth interference in State hospital policy has been calamitous.
The States have not been able to take adequate steps to cope with rising costs of maintenance, treatment and equipment, and consequently, this Government has notified the States of its intention to terminate the hospital benefit agreements and to restore to them complete autonomy in respect of hospital charges. Since January, 1952, the Commonwealth has supplemented the existing benefit of 6s. a day by an additional payment of 4s. a day for patients in approved hospitals who contribute to a registered hospital insurance organization. In February, 1952, the plan was extended to cover those patients who occupy beds in the intermediate and private wards of public hospitals who are charged not less than 18s. a day for hospital treatment. Negotiations are now proceeding for the making of new agreements with the States. Under the new agreements the States will not be required to provide free hospitalization, and the Commonwealth will pay in respect of public ward patients a total amount of 12s. a day for insured patients, and 8s. a day for other qualified patients, provided that a hospital treatment charge of at least 18s. a day is made by the State. The Commonwealth will also pay 12s. a day for pensioner patients in public wards, whether or not the pensioners are members pf a registered hospital insurance organization.
Adoption of the voluntary’ insurance scheme throughout Australia would increase hospital revenues by £10.010,000 per annum. The Government beileves that this system of voluntary self-help will assure the buoyancy of hospital revenues, encourage a sense of personal responsibility among the sick, and restore local control and interest in our hospitals. There are 122 registered insurance organizations that operate . under the scheme, and. more than 3,000,000 persons are already covered by hospital insurance. These figures will give honorable members some idea of the popularity of the scheme.
In order to assist individuals to meet the costs of medical treatment, the Government proposes to introduce a medical benefit scheme in the new year. The scheme will offer virtually a full range of medical services, treatments and. procedures, including, consultations, radiological services, anaesthetics, major and minor operations and pathological services. The system of voluntary self-help in the hospital, benefits scheme will be followed in the medical benefit scheme. The organizations of existing friendly societies and similar medical insurance organizations will be. used, and will be supported by Commonwealth subsidies so that increased benefits may be provided to members for a small subscription. The Commonwealth subsidy will be paid through an approved, organization. The combined benefits available from the Commonwealth and from the organization will cover- the major cost of any medical treatment, leaving only a relatively small amount to be paid by the member.
– Regimentation !
– Not at all. The member will be free to consult the doctor of his choice.
At. present, benefit, societies do not pay benefits to members until after the expiration of. a qualifying period, or for the full period of a protracted illness. Many sufferers from chronic complaints, are excluded from benefits and persons are not accepted, as members because of the age limitation. The Commonwealth subsidy will be payable as soon as- a person joins an insurance organization. The purpose of the- medical benefit scheme coincides with that, of the national health service as a whole. The’ aim is to reduce the incidence, of sickness in the community. By the cooperative effort of all persons in the health field and in the community generally, helpful conditions will be established for the early diagnosis and treatment of disease, the loss of efficiency through sickness in the community will be reduced, and the resultant improved health of the community will ease the demand for hospital, beds. It is impossible to gauge the lessening of the demand for hospital beds that has resulted from the. introduction of lifesaving and disease-preventing drugs, and the pensioners’ medical benefit and medicines schemes. The pressure on hospitals would certainly have been con siderably greater than it is now had these schemes not been formulated. The Government has made a significant contribution to the health of. the nation. The steps to be taken this year, and. the consolidation of the plans that are already being implemented, will assure the health of the people and greatly assist the hospitals in their financial problems, and make it easier for the individuals to meet the cost of hospital and medical treatment.
.- The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) commenced his speech by attacking the honorable member for Wills (Mi-. Bryson) on the ground that the honorable member had- given a distorted version of certain statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in delivering the joint Opposition policy speech on the 10th November, 1949. “ The Minister said that he was ‘ familiar with the contents of the speech, and read an extract from it, which was taken from page 22 of the booklet in which the speech has been printed. I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that the honorable gentleman read only a portion of the paragraph of the speech and that, he stopped short of the most important word’s in that paragraph. I propose to read the remainder of it.
– Read the whole of it.
– I shall do so. The Minister read the following sentence: -
During the new Parliament we will further investigate this complicated problem, with a view to .presenting to you at the election of 19-52 a scheme for your approval.
The scheme to which reference was made was a scheme to abolish the means test. The remaining sentences of the paragraph read as follows: -
Meanwhile, existing, rates of pension will, of course, be at least maintained. We will, much more importantly, increase their true value by increasing their purchasing power.
The promise contained in the last sentence was the promise to which the honorable member for Wills referred. That promise has not been honoured. In 1948, the age pension was £2 2s. 6d. a week. In order to have the same purchasing power to-day, the aged people should be receiving £4 9s. a week, but they are paid £3 7s.’ 6d.
– I rise to order. The honorable member is discussing pensions payments. That matter is not under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health.
– I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the subjectmatter that is before the committee.
– The Minister for Social Services talked about the health of the community. That subject occupied most of his speech. He also talked about hospitals.
– The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) has not read the notice-paper. Social services are in the next group. The Minister was talking about health.
– I am not particularly concerned with securing the same latitude as that which was granted to the Minister, so I shall turn to the matter of import restrictions. First. I wish to inform the committee that I am in favour of import restrictions. I believe that goods that can be manufactured adequately and efficiently in Australia should be made here. Much humbug is being talked about the displacement of people from secondary industries so that they will secure employment in primary production and in basic industries. .The disemployment that was engineered by the Government has- taken place, but the people are not being employed in rural industries. Thousands of immigrants at Bonegilla want employment in rural industries and the Government has the power to send them to any part of Australia, but it has not been able to secure full employment for them in rural industries. Therefore, I believe it to be most desirable that restrictions be impose’1 on imports in order to develop essential secondary industries. Any government that is worthy of being called an Australian Government will endeavour to develop in Australia secondary industries of every description so that this country may multiply its resources in time of peace and be able to defend itself in time of war. The main objection to the import restrictions imposed by this Government is that they do not bear equally upon all citizens. Soon after they were imposed, I informed members of the Government that being a comparatively new member of the Parliament and of a trusting disposition, I had been led up the garden path by members of the ministry. Moreover, I had been left there. I was referring to the importation of cigarettes. In my electorate there was a big importer of cigarettes who distributed them throughout the length and breadth of Victoria. He was importing them by means of irrevocable letters of credit through an indent agent. When the Government introduced its import restrictions, he went to the indent agent and asked for 20 per cent, of the quantity of cigarettes that he had previously imported. The indent agent informed him that under category B as prescribed by the Government, he, the agent, could import a number of items, including textiles, as well as cigarettes. He said that he intended to import in future textiles and some other items but not cigarettes and that in consequence the distributing firm, although one of the biggest distributors of cigarettes in Victoria, could not have a quota of cigarettes. I told the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) that that was not just and that all importers should be treated alike ;. that I did not want the distributor to receive more than his share, but that he was entitled to 20 per cent, of his previous allocation. The Minister more or less agreed that that proposition was just.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ more or less “ ?
– A lawyer’s term.
– A bit each way?
– In much the same way as other members of the Government led me up the garden path, the Minister agreed with the proposition that I put before him. Then I went back to Melbourne and ultimately, after much trouble, I received a communication from him to the effect that he could do nothing about the matter. But what has been happening about the importation of cigarettes? On the 17th May an artcile published in the Melbourne Sun reported that some people were so anxious to fulfil their obligation to their customers that they were offering indent agents 20 per cent, above the existing price of cigarettes. I showed that statement to the Minister, and being no longer as credulous and trusting as I had been previously, I said that I did not believe those people wanted to import cigarettes at 20 per cent, above the fixed price in order to sell them at the ordinary price. 1 was of the opinion then, as 1 am now, that they wanted to make a greater profit by selling them on the black market. When cigarettes become scarce, they will reap the resultant benefit. That should not be allowed. Legitimate traders in cigarettes who have been in the business for years should be entitled to a quota of 20 per cent, of their previous imports. The reduced supplies should not be going to the racketeers. I have learned since that some people in Melbourne are offering to retailers and vendors of cigarettes not 20 per cent, of their previous supplies, hut 30 per cent, and more. By what means are they able to do that? When one representative of a big firm was questioned he said, “At Canberra they realized that there were difficulties in t-hi.s matter, so they permitted me to import from overseas a- particularly big quota of cigarettes.
– What was the “name of the firm?
– I am not at present in p position to tell the right honorable gentleman the name of the firm.
– I see! It is just a supposititious name.
– It is not a supposititious name. The cigarettes that were i cing imported were the Kensitas brand. Every honorable member knows that until there is a proper system governing the issue of import licences and their operation, there will be racketeering. There has been racketeering in connexion with the importation of cigarettes, and if t can happen with cigarettes it can happen with other items, too. The operation of the import licensing system should he subject to review by the Parliament. Honorable members opposite are fond of talking in grandiose fashion about freedom and ‘democracy, but for practical purposes freedom means ensuring to a man from day to day the right to carry his business on equal terms with his competitors, whether that business be the importing of cigarettes or the doing of anything else. When, through the issue of import licences, the Government places trade advantages in the hands of some people to the detriment of others, it destroys the very freedom of which Ministers prate so much.
I have said what I wanted to say. I said it on a previous occasion, and I then ended with a plea to the Government to treat all members of the community with even-handed justice. Without asking the Government to alter its policy I repeat my’ plea for justice. The case that I submitted to the Minister for Trade, and Customs, a.nd to the Comptroller-General of Customs, was irrefutable.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. A. Fraser) complained that the proposed vote for work in the Australian Capital Territory had been reduced. Actually, the amount is almost the same as was provided last year. The proposed vote of £3,350,000 is only about £1.50,000 less than the appropriation for 1951-52. This will involve a slight reduction of the volume of work, but when we consider the allocation for repairs and maintenance, and for expenditure by the Australian National University, we realize that the total volume of work provided for during the coming year in the Australian, Capital Territory will be very much, the same as was provided for last year. The honorable member need have no fears in that respect. Just at the moment, the Department of Works is in a bit of a jam over getting out tenders for certain work. For some reason associated with the administration of the department, there is a slight hiatus, which is cousins: uneasiness, and perhaps that is what prompted the honorable member’s remarks. The position is new under review, and will be corrected within the ne.vt couple of weeks.
The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) mentioned the West Beach Aerodrome. The honorable member finds it convenient to bring this matter forward on any and every occasion, and I do not altogether blame him. The amount allocated for the work this year is between £600,000 and. £700,000. The runways have been completed, and the principal work remaining to be done is the provision of hangars, and amenities such as an airport station, &c, for the comfort and convenience of passengers. The aerodrome could be used as an emergency landing ground now. The undertaking has not been neglected this year. The money is there, and the work will go ahead.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) spoke at some length about the Federal Members’ Rooms in Adelaide. He was right when he said that the matter had not been brought to my personal notice since I have been the Minister for the Interior, but, I understand that it was brought to the notice of a previous Minister, and I have no doubt that the facts are as he stated them to be. I shall make inquiries, and shall see whether anything can be done immediately, but I doubt it. I do not know what extra accommodation is available, but there is no reason why federal members in South Australia should not have one room each as do members in every other capital city. I shall let the honorable member know what is the position as soon as I have investigated it.
The honorable member was not on such firm ground when he referred to the amenities provided at the present time by Trans-Australia Airlines. He may not realize it, but the fact is that hostesses on aircraft are not the persons to whom complaints should be directed in quantity. They have a difficult task to perform, and I think that the honorable member will agree with me that the hostesses of all airlines do a very good -job. On the particular trip to which he referred, the two persons who complained so vociferously, and who caused a great deal of embarrassment to the hostesses, were the honorable member for Hindmarsh himself and the Communist leader. Mr. Healy, Whether poultry or meat is served for lunch on aircraft is not po much a matter of economics as of varying the menu occasionally. The difference in price of the two kinds of food is small. The hostesses con cerned in the incident referred to were rather upset about it. They did not complain to any member of the Parliament, but some one who was a passenger on thaeroplane saw what happened, and knew that it was the two gentlemen I havmentioned who caused the upset. Many other members of the Parliament were in the aircraft and saw the whole incident. There is no question of the employment of gestapo methods. I refer to this matter so that if, in future. honorable members wish to make complaints they will make them in this chamber or to senior officials of Trans-Australia Airlines. They should not endeavour to “take it out of the hide” of the air hostesses.
Mr. Clyde Cameron. - I wish to make a personal explanation, because I contend that I have been misrepresented. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) commenced his remarks very well, but concluded them on an exceedingly bad note. He said that I complained to the hostess and that my complaint, and that of the Communist secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, Mr. Healy, were the only complaints that the particular hostess received. Usually, statements by the Minister are made on reasonably firm ground, but such is not the case on this occasion. The only time I spoke to the hostess about this matter was on Fridaylast, in the aeroplane travelling from Melbourne to Adelaide. I invite the Minister to check the flight record of the Skymaster aircraft which left Melbourne for Adelaide at 11.40 a.m. on Friday last. I am sure that he will be bin enough to apologize if he finds that Mr. Healy was not even a passenger on that plane.
– Order! I do not thin! that that point comes into the matter.
– I contend that it does, because the Minister has said that, the Communist Healy and I made the only complaints that were received. T am certain that Healy was not on the plane and I therefore ask the Minister to have the flight list checked.
– I rise to a point of order. If the honorable gentleman claims that he has been, misrepresented he is entitled to make an explanation, but as far as I can see, his reference to Mr. Healy merely shows that Mr. Healy has been misrepresented.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.No point of order is involved.
– I come now to the other part of the misrepresentation, which is to the effect that I embarrassed the hostess and complained bitterly to her. I invite the Minister to ascertain from Trans-Australia Airlines the name of the hostess on board the aeroplane. She should be asked whether I complained to her and whether it is not a fact that I said to her, “ This is not your fault.. I am not blaming you.” She should also be asked whether it is not true that I paid a tribute to her and to dic other hostesses for the grand work that linn- always perform on Mich nights. In view of the fact that 1 made no complaint in the hostess as such–
– What does the honorable member mean by “as such”? Did lie- or did he not complain ?
– I did not accuse the girl of any dereliction of duty. In view of the fact that I informed her that the complaint was levelled not at her but at the heads of the department, I contend that I have been grossly misrepresented.
– I rise to a point of order. I suggest that the time of the National Parliament should not be taken up with, trivialities such as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) examining his conscience in public. I submit that the matter is irrelevant and that discussion of it should cease.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Hindmarsh is in order, but I ask him to come to the point.
– It is not true that I blamed the hostess. I made it clear to her that I did not blame her for anything that had happened and that I appreciated the excellent work that she and the other hostesses have always performed. It is also completely untrue to say thai; Mr. Healy was on the plane.
Mi-. THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) [3.40]. - The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) went to great pains this afternoon to show how many thousands of pounds had been expended upon the provision of pharmaceutical benefits during the regime of the Australian Labour party compared with the expenditure since this Government has been in office. The Minister should know only too well that had not certain medical practitioners refused to be tied by instructions isued by the British Medical Association but accepted the scheme inaugurated by the Chifley Government, no expenditure at all would have been incurred on .pharmaceutical benefits during the regime of that Government. The honorable gentleman stated that onethird of the prescriptions dispensed during the year to which he referred had been paid for by the Government. If the medical profession had accepted the Chifley Government’s scheme, not onethird but almost 99 per cent, of prescriptions would have been paid for by the Government.
– The doctors would not have a bar of the Chifley Government’s scheme because it was unsatisfactory.
– They were never parties to the scheme simply because the British Medical Association refused to approve of it.
I wish, to give credit to the Government and to the Department of Social Services for .the part that they have played in providing free medicine for pensioners, which has been a great boon. However, the Minister and the Government should not attempt to .claim credit for having done something which they say the Chifley Government would not do, because if the medical practitioners had acted under the Chifley Government legislation, pensioners would have received those benefits at a much earlier date. The Labour Government believed in free medicine for everybody, provided that the proper prescription forms were used.
The Minister stated, in the course of his remarks to-day, that a doctor may make out a prescription for a pensioner provided that the drug to be prescribed is included in the British Pharmacopoeia. When the Labour Government introduced legislation to provide for the free supply of medicine, the complaint was made that a formula was being laid down and that doctors could not prescribe medicine under a formula.
– The formula was not the same as the British Pharmacopoeia.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) should know that the scope of the formula was wider than that of the British Pharmacopoeia. The endeavour of the Minister for Social Services to play down the Labour Government’s scheme, when the fact is that the medical profession would not cooperate in the scheme, indicates to me that he is not playing the game. I give credit to the Government for having made life-saving drugs freely available to the people of this country. It is not my intention to take away from the Government any credit to which it is entitled, but at the same time it should be remembered that the Australian Labour party would have provided similar, or perhaps even greater benefits for the people, had the medical profession co-operated with it.
In connexion with hospital treatment, the Minister spoke about the means test, and the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) also mentioned that subject. I am not in possession of a copy of the joint Opposition policy speech, made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in 19-19, and, indeed, I do not need it. I am able to submit my contentions without reference to the right honorable gentleman’s speech. This Government, instead of abolishing the means test, is fostering it in connexion with hospital treatment. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) advocated the absolute abolition of the means test in connexion with the granting of pensions. If the means test should be abolished in that connexion it should also be abolished in connexion with hospitalization. No really poor person would benefit if the means test ceased to apply to pensions. Despite the existence of the means test an aged couple can have a combined income of £9 a week including the pension and income from earnings or superannuation. In Adelaide the public hospital, which has about 800 beds, has only public wards and for many years the means test was applied to the patients at that hospital. When I was a member of the Parliament of South Australia, before the Commonwealth benefit of 6s. a day was payable in respect of hospital patients, a pensioner told me that she had been in hospital for eight weeks and had received a bill for 10s. a day, which her son would iia ve to pay unless he could show that he could not possibly pay it. She said that she would rather chance dying at home without’ hospitalization than place her son in that position. That is the state of affairs that will result from the Government’s present health scheme. The Minister has stated that pensioners will not have to pay for hospitalization. But what will be their position if their children are able to pay for them?
– Why should they not pay ?
– I shall reply to the honorable member’s question by giving further details of the case that I have mentioned. The woman to whom I have referred was a widow whose son had kept her for years. He had been endeavouring to save up to get married and had about £90 in the bank. Because he had saved that amount, the hospital authorities said that he would have to pay the bill for his mother. I am pleased to say that after I had made certain representations the claim was waived, but only after a big struggle. I ask the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) not to place people who have to go to hospital in the position that this woman found herself in. It is more important to remove the means test from the granting of hospital benefits than it is to eliminate it in connexion with pensions. The honorable member for Sturt said that 90 per cent, of the people would not mind paying into a fund in order to receive a pension when they retire. But 90 per cent, of the aged pensioners who are receiving free medicine and free hospitalization could not possibly pay for those services.
I wish now to speak about hostels for immigrants. At page 36 of the Estimates for the Department of Works, there is a proposed vote of £258,000 for the construction of hostels and other places for immigrants. There are two hostels for British immigrants in my electorate. One of them is an old wool store which has been converted. The other is an old building of a poor type which was converted to one of a better type by the Department of Work.-, in recent years. I understand that the people who live in these hostels have to pay sufficient to reimburse the Government for its expense in keeping them there, but I am told that the amount that they pay does not represent any repayment of the capital cost of the hostels. Instead of the Government handing these hostels over to a company and allowing it to charge people whatever it wishes to charge for board and lodging, this accommodation should be rented to immigrants. The immigrants could then attend to their own requirements and the expense of providing them with meaLs and other services would be eliminated. Such action would assist the immigrants and enable the Government to receive from the rents a return that would cover the cost of the maintenance and repair of the buildings, which is estimated to amount to £258,000 during the current financial year. I inspected the Finsbury hostel, where bathrooms and lavatories of a very temporary nature have been erected. Some tarred material has been used for roofs. The material is torn and, in the case of one structure, has a hole about a foot wide in it through which the rain falls. This structure contains a bath for the women. One woman told me that she had never been into that bathroom. She would not go there. She would rather take the tub into the little house than use a place like that.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
, - I support the general tenor of the remarks made to-day by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) about textile labelling. As the honorable member rightly said,, there is now a cogent reason to fear the competition of synthetic fibres with natural wool. Both the United States of America and Great Britain have progressed in methods of production of new synthetics, and there seems to he no doubt that in time, provided the cost of production of synthetic fibres can be reduced, the synthetics will become a real danger to our wool industry. Such competition will have a serious effect on our economy, which is largely based on the quantity and price of the wool that we sell overseas. The whole matter of textile labelling was before the previous Government, and’ it has been receiving consideration for some time by this Government and the State governments. Indeed, the subject has been under discussion for much too long a time. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) rightly said, the matter had more or less reached the stage of decision when the last change of government occurred. However, it had reached that stage only after a very long period of investigation and discussion, and, as yet, no firm decision has been made by this Government.
There are two fundamental method s of approach to the matter of textile labelling. The first is that goods should be labelled to indicate the kinds of material used in their manufacture and whether they are of wool or of artificial fibres. The second method, which has received some consideration by this Government and the previous Government, is tha-t the label should further distinguish between garments containing virgin wool, which is 90 per cent, pure wool. re-‘processed wool and reusedwool. The proposal that such a labelling system, be adopted has been delaying the finalization of the whole matter. There is no cheap chemical process for ascertain ing the presence in a garment of virgin wool, re-processed wool or reused wool. That fact is well known to many people. But it h.ns also been argued that ;t is possible easily to analyse the constituents of garments. The authorities in New Zealand and South Africa have adopted a system of textile labelling designed to show whether garments ure made pf wool or of synthetic material, and to indicate the quantities of each kind of material used. Those labels do not distinguish between garments made of virgin wool, re-processed wool or’ re-used wool. It is scandalous that this matter
Las not yet been, settled, and I urge the Government to examine it at once and to reach some final decision. I ask that the matter be treated a3 one of extreme urgency, because it is of decided consequence to our most important industry, the wool industry.
Mr. W. M. BOURKE (Fawkner) 3.59]. - I desire to refer to a matter that was raised earlier to-day by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua). It concerns the machinery that has been employed by this Government to implement its import restriction policy. The honorable member for Ballarat pointed out, quite rightly, that the method of giving effect to the Government’s policy was most undemocratic, and that it took no account of parliamentary authority, which is a most precious heritage of’ all Australians. It was most significant that the Vice-President of the Executive Pound! (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who is an experienced debater, did not mention this very vital matter when he replied to the honorable member for Ballarat. The whole matter of import restriction has been dealt with quite extensively in this debate. It has now passed into h history that the Government, as a part of its so-called anti-inflationary policy, encouraged a flood of imports. That flood eventually reached the magnitude of a. deluge, and our overseas money balances which had been built up during many previous years began to disappear at an alarming rate. Action then became necessary to preserve the international solvency of this country. As a result of the profligate policy and the downright carelessness of the Government in allowing this grave situation to develop it became necessary to impose drastic import restrictions. Tn my opinion the restrictions so imposed constitute one of the most vicious and undesirable forms of control that can be imposed on any community at any time. The quantity, type and quality of goods entering the country is a very important factor in the standard of living of the people.
When the flow of goods has to be interfered with this should be done by the application, of scientific methods. The most obvious method of control in order adequately to protect our secondary industries is by means of the Tariff Board. I suggest that very few honorable members do not believe in the adequate and proper protection of our secondary industries, and there is no doubt that the only proper and effective way to protect them is by means of the machinery of the Tariff Board. The Tariff Board always considers the public interest when arriving at its determinations as to whether protective tariffs shall be imposed and, if so, to what degree. I suggest that those who believe that import restrictions are desirable as a means of protecting our industries are looking at the problem from the wrong angle. Import restrictions are a most vicious and undesirable form of control. The present method of imposing import restrictions confers a very ‘great discretionary power on individuals a.nd that power is capable of being arbitrarily exercised. The decision of one official can determine whether certain goods shall flow into the hands of certain persons, and that d’ecision may involve sums amounting to thousands of pounds. Moreover, one person can determine whether or not a great industry may import badly needed materials. Such a decision might decide the fate of an industry in which much capital had been invested, as well as the fate ‘ of the thousands of workers who depend upon it for their livelihood.
Blanket import restrictions have allowed many manufacturing industries in Australia . to take advantage of the .lack of overseas competition. They are now enjoying not only the protection afforded to them by the decisions of the Tariff Board, but a]so the further protection of being assured practically a monopolistic control of our internal markets. That, of course, is because overseas competition has been removed. The industries concerned have, in some cases, increased their prices and have thus given further impetus to the inflationary spiral. Those are personal reflections that have come to my mind on the subject.
Afv chief purpose in referring to it is to comment on the method that the Government has employed to give effect to these restrictions. The Customs Act originally provided for the control and regulation of imports and, as I understand its purpose, the general effect of it was that goods could be imported unless a specific prohibition was imposed. That seems to me to be a proper attitude to take towards the importation of goods. That situation continued unchanged until 1939, when the Customs (Import Licensing) Regulations were promulgated. Those regulations completely reversed the situation that had prevailed under the terms of the Customs Act, because they provided that no goods could be imported unless a licence to import them was in force and the terms and conditions of that licence were observed, or unless the goods were excepted under the regulations. Consideration of this change immediately provokes the thought that it is wrong in principle that legislation enacted by this Parliament should be overturned, in spirit at any rate, by a regulation issued by the executive. The Customs (Import Licensing) Regulations of 1939 were considered by the High Court of Australia and that body, which is the highest judicial tribunal in the country, commented very adversely and severely upon the measure. I refer honorable members to the case of Poole v. Wah Min Chan as reported in Commonwealth Law Reports, vol. 75, at page 218. An individual .had been charged with having in his possession prohibited imports in the form of 634 diamonds, and his conviction on that charge and subsequent appeal to the High Court gave to the court the opportunity to discuss in general the legality of the regulations and to comment upon the principle underlying them.
The legality of the regulations was upheld only by a very slender margin. Three of the six justices held that the regulations were invalid, and three held that they were valid. As the court was equally divided, the decision accorded with the view of the Chief Justice, who was then Sir John Latham. Although the Chief Justice upheld the validity of the regulations, his opinion did not prevent him from making very strong comments upon regulations of that type. The following passage is an extract from his judgment : -
The Customs Act, dealing with the importation of goods, provides for importation of goods subject to the operation of a limited list of prohibitions. Additions to that list may be made by regulations. The effect of the Import Licensing Regulations is to substitute for this system a general prohibition of imports subject to allowances of importation by licences. There are many obvious objections to a system which so clearly involves the risk of arbitrary control and discrimination in respect of which n member of the public has no effective remedy. But whether economic or other circumstances justify the establishment of such a system notwithstanding such objections is a matter for Parliament, and not for the court.
I should like to quote other extracts from that judgment and from the judgment of Mr. Justice Dixon, but limitation of time prevents me from doing so.
The most significant feature of the Government’s decision to impose blanket import restrictions in March of this year, a decision of major economic consequence that represented a radical change of Government policy, is that it was not put into effect by an act of Parliament, or even by a regulation promulgated under the authority of this Parliament. That very important decision was implemented by a mere ministerial determination based upon the Customs (Import Licensing) Regulations of 1939. That was a remarkable course of action for a. government to take. The determination, of course, was not subject to any parliamentary review as would have been the case had it been framed as a regulation. This state of affairs should not be allowed to continue. It is entirely contrary to parliamentary tradition and to the conception of liberty in Australia. The Government has flouted the Parliament, and its action merits our serious attention. Not long ago, honorable members heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) express, his adherence to the principles of the liberty of the subject laid down in Masna Carta. Even as recently as yesterday he declared that there should be complete freedom of literary expression irrespective of the political views of individuals. Here is an instance in which the right honorable gentleman could well give practical effect to the theories of democratic liberty that he has expressed.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired. “Mr. JOSKE (Balaclava) [4.14].- During this discussion, members of the Opposition have referred frequently to liberty and to justice. It is not unusual, when a speaker has very little in the way of substance with which to support an argument, for him to call Upon those abstract notions in the hope that he will be able to beguile his listeners into the acceptance of his views. It is much more important to state facts than to deal in a highly theoretical way with matters out of which one may be endeavouring to make party political capital, but which are far removed from the facts. Why were the import restrictions imposed? Notwithstanding the speeches of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke), the reason may be explained simply. Last year, Australia was short of goods, and the Government, in an endeavour to stem ihe inflationary tide, considered it necessary , to import as many goods as possible, because they could not he manufactured locally. Consequently, the Government decided, quite rightly, to admit .to the country as many goods as could be obtained from abroad, and, in that way, stemmed, to a large degree, the tide of inflation. But the markets of overseas manufacturers, other than the Australian market, were suddenly closed to their goods, and those manufacturers proceeded to dump their products in Australia. The dumping occurred suddenly, so that it became necessary, almost overnight, for the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), as the head of this Government, to order the imposition of import restrictions. From time to time, it becomes necessary for the leader of a government to take drastic action quickly, and that kind of action often requires considerable courage. On this occasion, the Prime Minister, very rightly, promptly imposed import restrictions almost overnight. Had he submitted the whole matter to the Parliament, as the honorable member for Fawkner has claimed he should have done, the proposals would have been debated for weeks, and the whole purpose of the restrictions would have been defeated. The restrictions had to be imposed promptly. The Prime Minister, by his action, exposed himself to the criticism of the Labour party; but he was not afraid of criticism, because he was acting in the interests of the country.
– Does not the honorable gentleman believe in parliamentary rule?
– I believe that it is a part of the duty, of a Minister to carry out the administration of government, and that if it becomes necessary for him to make a decision, he must do so. It is open to the Parliament subsequently to disagree with his decision. However, so far from the Parliament disagreeing with the decision of the Prime Minister to impose the import restrictions, his action was upheld. That fact cannot be disputed.
Reference has been made during this debate to health services, and Opposition mem hers have claimed that the policy of this Government in providing a larger sum of money for State governments and, through them, for State hospitals, and in permitting the hospitals to re-impose a means test, is improper. I remind the Opposition that the Government has decided to increase by 4s. a day the subsidy of 8s. a day that was paid by the Chifley Government to hospitals.
– By how much have hospital costs risen since this Government has been in office?
– I have no doubt that it was the Communist majority, to which the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) owes his presence in the chamber to-day, that spoke then.
Mr. Thompson interjecting,
– The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) believes that the hospitals should be open to the wealthy, and that the poor should find accommodation for themselves as best they can, whether or not they have to pay for it out of their own pockets.
Opposition members interjecting,
– I hope that this unseemly interruption will cease, so that I may proceed with my speech. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) stated that this Government was guilty of a denial of justice because it said, in effect, “ If a person requires more than 12s. a day towards the cost of his hospital treatment he should insure himself “. A married person for the expenditure of6d. a week, or a single person, for the expenditure of 3d. a week, may insure himself so that he will be entitled to £6 6s. a week towards his hospital expenses. I am unable to understand the claim that a person who is given a freedom of choice in that matter is denied justice. This scheme, far from being a denial of justice, is definitely an important factor in the health of the community. When I make that statement I use the word “ health “ in a broad sense. It represents an attempt to get the community to rely upon the important principle of self-help. Unfortunately, it has been the custom for some people to believe that all they have to do is to rely upon the good old government for financial assistance when they require hospitalization. They ask: “ Why should we bother? Why should the sound principles of thrift and self-help be our concern ? The Government will come to our assistance should we become ill.” It is encouraging to know that at last Australia has a government that regards the principles of self-help and thrift as of first importance. The Chifley Labour Government refused to provide financial assistance for hospitals unless they abolished the means test in respect of patients occupying beds in public wards. Not many months ago, Opposition members complained that the Government was interfering with the sovereign rights of the States. Actually the Government was acting well within the limits of its constitutional power on that occasion, but the Opposition chose to ignore that fact. However, the Commonwealth has no right to interfere with hospital finances and administration in any State. The former Labour Prime Minister, the late Mr. Chifley, who was obsessed by the idea of promoting socialization and achieving unification, in order to make the Commonwealth the supreme authority in Australia, agreed to provide financial Assistance for hospitals on the condition that they abolished the means test in respect of persons occupying beds in public wards. The present Government declares, in effect, “We will not have socialization. Hospital finances and administration are entirely the concern of the States, and the States shall decide whether their hospitals shall abolish, or retain the means test “.
– Is the honorable gentleman aware that the Chifley Government’s scheme for assisting hospitals was endorsed by an all-party committee?
– The condition that the Chifley Government attached to its grant of financial assistance was an interference with the sovereign rights of the States. I take the matterto the next stage. What has been the result of that interference? Hospital administration in the States and the finances of State hospitals are in a state of chaos because of a lack of money. Hospitals are reduced to all sorts of expedients, such as lotteries, in order to raise funds. As a result, the administration of hospitals has been completely undermined. Persons who, previously, were interested in helping hospitals from purely philanthropic motives have now lost all interest inthem because they cannot tolerate such interference. I remind the honorable member for Port Adelaide in particular that when the means test is re-applied wealthy persons will no longer be able to make use of public hospitals without contributing a proportion of the cost of their treatment. There is a big distinction between the effect of the abolition of the means test with respect to recipients of pensions who are elderly persons in comparatively poor circumstances and its effect upon wealthy persons who become sick.. The latter, after they recover from illnesses are able to carry on in a normal way, but many elderly people are entirely dependent upon meagre savingsand cannot easily carry on without help. Undoubtedly, such persons are entitled to assistance from government sources. The abolition of the means test with regard to hospitals w ill put a stop to the practice of making free useof public hospitals by persons with mean?. At the same time, they have crowded out persons with no means who have been more deserving of free treatment. Do honorable members opposite ever think of the position of poor persons who have been excluded from hospitals for that reason? Do they ever think of the plight of the womenwhoundersuch conditions, have been obliged to vacate beds in hospitals four days after they have been confined i Members of the Opposition should keep those facts in mind. Unfortunately, they are more concerned about making party political capital by attacking the Government in respect of these matters. They should bear in mind the claims of the more deserving individuals in thu community. Under the Government’s new scheme, justice will be done to those persons.
Mr. J. R. FRASER (Australian Capital Territory) 1/4.27 . - 1. spoke earlier of the need to retain the day-labour system in the construction of houses in the Australian Capital Territory. 1 pointed out that of 499 cottages that the Department of the interior built in 1950-51 for letting, 328 were constructed by day labour, and that of 4’7S houses that the department built for letting in 1951-52, 103 were built by day labour. I ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to take the earliest opportunity to say whether the Government proposes to abolish the day-labour system in the Australian Capital Territory. On the basis of figures that the Minister supplied to me in April of last year, brick cottages were constructed by day labour at a cost that was .570 below that of cottages constructed under the contract system. In addition, experience has shown that houses constructed by day labour are at least as good as houses that have been constructed under the contract system. That is proved by the fact that maintenance costs of cottages constructed by day labour have been lower than those in respect of houses constructed under the contract system. On the basis of those figures, seven bouse?, of better workmanship, could be constructed by day labour for what it would cost to construct six houses under the contract system. I point out that daylabour gangs at present employed in the Territory have been working together for periods of up to eleven years. The result is that, the men work efficiently as a team. They believe in the principle of day labour and are ‘proud of the record that they have already established. All of the houses that »ve situated in the brick area at Narrabundah were constructed by day labour, and those structures pre a credit to the men who worked on them. i trust that the Minister will continue to employ the day-labour system in the construction of houses in the Australian Capital Territory and that he will accept the offer of co-operation by the building wades unions to provide an advisory panel to advise him of methods of making the best use of materials and men. In order to show that such advice could be of great value, 1 point out that many delays have been occasioned on day-labour jobs, involving corresponding additional costs, because the supply of materials to the jobs has not been properly organized. Recently, flush panel doors for brick houses, which were purchased by the department in Queanbeyan at a cost of 61s. each were supplied from the government stores to a day-labour job and charged to that job at a cost of 81s. each, or an increase of 33 per cent. Surely, that difference in cost cannot be justified by the handling between Queanbeyan and Canberra. In other instances, the supply of ceilings and accessories, such as bath vents, to subcontractors has been delayed because tenders were not called, or accepted, in good time. Owing to such delays, members of day-labour gangs have been obliged to wait around on jobs. The initial costs of plant and the construction of the government saw-mill were heavy charges against the overall cost of daylabour jobs. I believe that the Minister will agree that those costs have now been cancelled in the allowances that have been made for depreciation. If the daylabour system is abolished, men who are put off will lose benefits in ‘respect of long service leave to which they would have become entitled on a pro rain basis after they had been employed for a period of twelve years. Many of the men concerned have already been employed for periods up to eleven, years. They will lose also the benefit of sick leave which has accumulated during this period. Many of those put off would find it difficult to obtain employment with contractors in the Territory because the contractors have already organized their teams. I again urge the Minister to make a clear statement of policy regarding the Government’s attitude towards the continuance of the day-labour system in the construction of houses in the
Australian Capital Territory. I trust that that system will be retained and that the Minister will co-operate with the building Trades unions through an advisory panel of thekind to which I have referred.
Another problem associated with housing in the Territory is the need to provide temporary accommodation. A survey that was conducted recently by officers of the Department of Health revealed that 50 families, consisting of 120 people, were living in sub-standard conditions, that is, in garages, shacks, humpies, tents, and cubicles within the city area. Those conditions are most unsatisfactory from a health point of view. Sometime ago I submitted to the Minister a proposal that a part of Riverside hostel should be made available for use as temporary housing accommodation. Officers of the Department of Health were of opinion that that particular hostel was not suitable for that purpose, but agreed that the Eastlake hostel, if it were available, would be suitable. However, doubt exists about whether the Royal Australian Air Force will require the latter hostel to house air force personnel. I trust that the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) will be able to announce that that hostel will not be so required, and thus enable the Department of the Interior to make it available for temporary housing accommodation. Opponents of temporary housing accommodation have expressed fears that the introduction of such a system would result in the establishment in the Territory of another Watsonia or Herne Bay. Those fears are groundless, because, in this instance, the Government exercises sole control and is not limited by the decisions of State governments or local government authorities. The Government need admit to such temporary accommodation only persons whose names already appear on the waiting list for houses. In those circumstances, there would be no danger that such accommodation would become permanent. I ask the Minister to reconsider that matter, and to confer with the Minister for Air to see whether the Eastlake hostel can be made available for this purpose.
I should like to ventilate another matter that relates to conditions in areas outside Canberra. The Australian Capital Territory is 900 square miles in area and includes tracts of farming and grazing land which carry a considerable rural population in many small settlements. They are ill-served in the provision of roads. Much money hasbeen expended in the development of the city area, and the provision of services and facilities, but insufficient money hasbeen expended on the country roads of the Australian Capital Territory. The programme of works for this financial year should include greater provision for the re-shaping, gravelling, grading, and draining of both the major and minor roads, particularly those in the Tharwa and Tidbinbilla districts. For some time the Australian Capital Territory had the highest ratio of motor vehicles to population in any part of Australia. There was one motor vehicle to every 3.3 persons, that is men, women, and children. I understand that that figure has since been exceeded in South Australia, where so many impoverished farmers reside! That is a valid reason why more money should be expended on the roads of the Australian Capital Territory. The retail price of petrol in Canberra is 4s.0½d. a gallon, and the motorists of the Australian Capital Territory receive no direct benefit from the petrol tax. There is no provision for aid from the Australian Loan Council, and no State government has any control in the Australian Capita] Territory. I urge the Government to consider whether additional money can be made available for rural roads, the extension of electricity services to the rural areas, where it is so urgently needed, the construction of bridges particularly over the Murrumbidgee River at Pine Island, the construction of a crossing over the Naas River in Naas Valley, and the construction of proper high-level crossings over the Molonglo River at the site of the present Lennox crossing, Scott’s crossing and the King’s-avenue crossing. When there is a fresh in the river these crossings are inundated, and only the Commonwealth Bridge remains open to traffic. I referred this morning to the need for the construction of permanent buildings and works. I hope that the construction of the new Commonwealth Bridge will be put in hand as early as possible.
I should like to pay a tribute both to the present Government and to the previous Government for the work that has been done in l.he development of kindergarten pre-school centres in Canberra, which has been an inspiration to the whole of Australia. The system here has been admired by visitors from every State, and also by overseas visitors who have seen it in operation. The new infants’ school that has been established at Narrabundah should be inspected by every one who has an opportunity to do so. Anything less like the schoolhouses that existed in the younger days of every member of this chamber could not be imagined. This magnificent building was constructed under contract for the Department of “Works. The design was the responsibility of the Director of Works, and a young architect in that department who deserves considerable credit, as also does the department itself. However, there is a need for increased school facilities. More primary schools should be built on the northern side of the river, and another high school should be established on the southern side to cater for the residents of that part of the city.
The Minister for the Interior has stated that the proposed vote for works within the Australian Capital Territory is not very much smaller than was the vote for last year. I point out that even if the proposed vote were equal to last year’s vote it could not maintain the same volume of work as during last year. The Australian Capital Territory is constantly growing. Statistics compiled by the Department of the Interior show that at the 15th September, 1951, the population of the Australian Capital Territory was 25,300, which was an increase of 55.3 per cent, on the 1947 census. With the transfer of additional departments to Canberra, that rate of increase will probably be maintained. It is perfectly obvious that the amount of a vote that was adequate last year could not !be adequate in this financial year, because of the decreased value of money and the additional services that will be required by the increased population.
.- I shall not delay the committee for very long. I wish to make a passing reference to a statement that was made by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). There are times when his parsonical voice should not be taken seriously. This was one such occasion. The honorable member described as the scourge the fact that of the comparatively young men and women of our country to-day some have to accept responsibility for their aged and indigent parents from time to time. I am convinced that the honorable member spoke with his tongue in his cheek, because he shares my views precisely in this matter. Both he and I would do all in our power to free our parents from social indignities and financial embarrassment. The honorable member replied to an interjection that I made by citing the case of an age pensioner who had obtained hospital treatment. Out of sheer necessity, and for no other reason, the hospital sent its account to the pensioner’s son, who had a credit balance of £90 in a bank. The honorable member said that he thought it was unjust that the son should have been called upon to pay the bill, because of his mother’s invalidity.
– What do we pay taxes for?
– I am sure that the honorable member for Port Adelaide would gladly undertake the financial responsibility of his parents, if they were even to a degree dependent upon him, for so long as they lived. The Government’s hospital scheme has been designed to meet cases such as this. There is no possibility of many thousands of people in this country receiving urgent hospital treatment until adequate provision is made for them in terms of physical accommodation in hospitals. Although the honorable member for Port Adelaide spoke very feelingly, I am convinced that he did so solely for political purposes.
A few days ago, I addressed a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Anthony) in which I asked whether it would be possible to devise a method to end vacillating delays between his department and the Department of Works. The Minister, in his reply, said that there was neither Taci11atio.ii, nor confusion, nor was there delay between the two departments. That may be his view, hut it is not my experience. What I say now is said not in criticism, but as an expression of my experiences. I believe, that there’ is considerable confusion between the Department of the Interior :md the Department of Works in their relations with other departments. In all probability, it is possible to argue that that confusion is inevitable and unavoidable; but, to my certain knowledge, it exists.
I want to clear up some public misapprehension about the relationship between those departments and other departments of the Commonwealth. Let me explain what happens when a request is made and accepted. A request is made to the Department of Civil Aviation to take over an aerodrome that is in operation. Because the aerodrome is required, mid because the necessary regulations have been complied, with, the Department of Civil Aviation reaches a decision, and the aerodrome is acquired. But it is not acquired by the Department of Civil Aviation. In conies the Department of the Interior. It is necessary for the Department of the Interior to take the steps necessary for the Commonwealth to stand possessed of the piece of land that is to he used as a. CiVil airport. If that were ihe limit of the confusion, it might be pardoned. But every piece of construction work and every piece of building that the Department of Civil Aviation requires to be done on land that is vested in the Department of the Interior involves another department. In comes the Department, of Works. It is that department which is required to carry out all the construction, building and maintenance that is necessary.
– Does not, the Treasury have a finger in the pie?
– The Treasury is involved, as doubtless are other departments such as the Attorney-General’s Department. That confusion must inevitably lead to vacillation and delay. The physical task of resuming an area of land for aerodrome purposes or any other purposes, and then the task of passing on to the Department of Works the job of doing the necessary construction and maintenance, must cause delay.
T shall cite the ease of the Narrandera aerodrome. I say this with a great deal of sorrow in the presence of the Minister foi- Works (Mr. Kent Hughes), becauseI know he is exorcising himself to rectify an injustice as quickly as possible and in the most effective way. This is a classicexample of what I am trying to point out to the committee. The Narranderaaerodrome was taken over by the Department of Civil Aviation. Because that happened, the Department of the Interior was involved : and because that happened,, the Department of Works was involved. A number of contracts were let, more or less successfully, I suppose. Early in 1951, a contract was let for the extensionof the runways. It was estimated that the work would take sixteen weeks. The- Narrandera municipal council was eager and willing to undertake the necessary construction work, but the Department of Works considered that its plant and equipment was inadequate for such a major task. So it was that early in 1951 the contract was let. I suppose it was hoped that the work would be started expeditiously, but nothing happened until the municipal council complained.
Subsequently, the contractor arrived on the scene with the most inadequate plant, and he started on this major job”. It was obvious to the municipal council that he would be overwhelmed by the climatic conditions that prevail in that locality in the winter time. However, the contractor assured the council that the work would, be completed by August, 1951. But, by then, very little work had been done. So the municipal council again complained, and again it drew the attention of the contractor to the facts that plant, machinery and equipment were available to him, and that no less than twenty trucks were standing by, ready to cart gravel to complete the work. But nothing was done. Subsequently, when a complaint was made to the department, the contractor gave as an excuse that rain had prevented him from completing the work within the specified time. It was pointed out to me .that during the relevant time, a period of months, the rain that felt was only 52 points, which, in that locality at that time of the year, is no rain at all. The delay continues.
Nothing can be attempted, and nothing can be done because the scope of the Department of Works is so large. I am informed that it lets contracts to the aggregate value of approximately £1,000,000 a week. It is almost physically impossible for a department of that kind adequately to supervise contracts and to prevent delays. I suggest that an attempt should be made to shift to the Department of Civil Aviation the burden that now lies “jj the Department of Works in respect of civil aviation undertakings. The same thing applies to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. If a post office is required anywhere, land must be acquired by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works must construct the building. So the process continues. lt is my considered opinion that until these departments are required to accept responsibility for the land that they use and for the building and construction work that they are required to undertake from time to dme, there will be vacillation and delay. The solution of the problem seems to be decentralization, both in the Department of Works itself and geographically. There is no sound reason why these departments should -have their headquarters in Sydney. Melbourne, or the other capital cities. They should bc: decentralized throughout the Commonwealth so that they can give the most effective service to the people that they serve.
Mr. KENT HUGHES (Chisholm - Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works) 14.54]. - I sympathize with the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) in his difficulty about the Narrandera aerodrome, but I cannot go as far as he has gone and sympathize with the Department of Civil Aviation and the Postmaster-General’s Department in their dealings with the Department of Works and the Department of the Interior. I could tell him some stories showing the other side of the. picture, that, would make the instance that he has cited look like an old wives’ tale. 1 promise the honorable member that-T shall ensure that, the Minister for the Interior confers with the Minister for
Works. I assure him also that they will reach a unanimous decision. I am noi sure how far that unanimity will apply to the Department of Civil Aviation.
I should like to reply briefly to the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), who asked about Government policy with regard to day labour. That is not a difficult question to answer. When this Government came into office, building in the Australian Capital Territory was being carried out’ on the basis of cost plus, cost plus ‘fixed fee, or day labour. There is no doubt that in many instances day labour is cheaper than cost plus or COS plus fixed fee. One example is the cost, of erecting the new administrative building across the road from’ this House. I have suggested that a plaque should be put at the entrance to it as a memorial to cost plus, because the cost of erecting it will be about £4,000,000 by the time it is finished.
– Will it be completed in our time?
– I do not know whether any of us will see it completed. There are, however, other comparisons that could be made. Recently the department took delivery of some flats that are exactly similar to others that had been built under the cost plus fixed fee system. The new flats were built under a system of straight-out tender by private contractors. The price a square for the flats built under the cost plus fixed fee system was £420, whilst the price a square of those built by the private contractor, who did an excellent job, without any shilly-shallying or jerrybuilding, was £220 a square. The poilcy of the Government is definitely, to return, wherever possible, to the system of open tender by private contractors. Thai: does not mean that we intend to allow any two contractors in a certain place to out their heads together and submit a price that is not fair and reasonable. All estimates of the cost of building jobs are known beforehand, and therefore it is quite easy to know whether anybody is trying to “ stack up “ on the Government in relation to any particular job. At. the same time I am perfectly certain that a job is done better, more quickly and more, cheaply by open eon tract than even under the best day-labour conditions. I have seen one first-class job done by the Department of Works in one of the States. The department was asked to tender, on the same basis as outside tenderers, for another section of the same job exactly similar to the one that it had done. The tender prices submitted by private contractors were from £4,000 to £5,000 lower than the tender price that the Department of Works submitted. There is no doubt about the justification for the Government’s policy. At the same time, I can assure the honorable member for the Austral ian Capital Territory that, if a changeover is made in the Territory from day labour to private contract, which would probably be more difficult to manage here than anywhere else, the men will be fairly treated with respect to service leave and other conditions of employment. Nobody in a temporary day-labour job can expect to receive all the advantages that are received by a permanent public servant. To make such advantages available would be utterly impossible. It would give us n totally inelastic system that could not be operated.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory mentioned that the saw-mills in the Territory were an example of good operation. That is not correct. T went to the saw-mills recently and found a beautiful new boiler that had been left lying on the ground for eighteen months. It was a part of a boiler plant to cost £16,000. I also found that steam was being raised in the kilns with dieseline. I do not know why. The saw-mill .was not a good example of a government-run job to be cited by the honorable member. The brickworks in the Territory is also not a good example. lt is not necessary for me to deal with the other two points raised by the honorable member, which I shall have an opportunity to discuss at a later date.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of the Interior, the Department of Works, the Department of Civil Aviation, the Department of Trade and Customs and the Department of Health has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1952 - No. 5 (Mining Ordinance ) .
Public Service Act - Appointment - PostmasterGeneral’s Department - K. H. Cope.
House adjourned at 5.1 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
What sites in1 Canberra have been allocated to Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited for 1 h’. construction of garage and service station buildings
What were the condition* under which the sites were purchased T
Was opportunity given to other interested persons including local residents, to tender for the lease of these sites?
When a garage site was olfered at the last mixtion sale of leases on the Sth December, 1!>31, wor it known that sites for garages would bc made available ‘ In Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited?
Two sites on the southern side of Canberra have been leased to Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited for motor service stations, namely block 2, section .10, division of Griffith, and block” 2, section 6”, division of Barton.
Both sites were leased for 99 years under terms requiring the lessee to construct a motor service station at a cost of not less than £lo,00fl and to provide petrol-pump facilities for the. sole of petrol distributed by certain other companies whose product would not otherwise be available locally The lessee was required to pay a premium of fi, SOO for the lense of each site. A premium of £1,150 was paid for a garage site at, an auction sale of leases last December.
The leases were not open to tender. They were granted direct to Commonwealth Oi! Refineries Limited, a company in which the Commonwealth has a substantial interest, mainly to ensure that reasonable facilities would continue to be available for the sale of those brands of petrol the local garages were not prepared to Keep on selling because of the introduction of one-brand stations.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 August 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520829_reps_20_218/>.