20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Before I call on questions without notice, I want to warn the House again that, to-day, in conformity with the Standing Orders, questions must relate to important matters that require immediate attention. The principleadopted will be one member,’ one question - not two, three or half a dozen.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for External Affairs, relates to the United Nations Appeal for Children Fund, to which, for the last five years or bo, the Australian Government has been a very large contributor, second only to the United States of America. The Minister, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have made appeals for voluntary contributions to the fund by the Australian people. Is it the intention of ‘the Government to make a governmental contribution to the fund during this year? If bo, when will the decision be announced, and what is the amount of the proposed contribution ?
– The Government will made a contribution to the fund. The contribution did not occupy a separate line of the Estimates, because it was included in a round figure that related to all contributions of this kind I have not the precise figure in my mind, but I know that the contribution to the fund will be substantial, and in keeping with the ability of the Government, having regard to our economic situation, to make contributions to organizations of this kind. I shall ascertain the precise figure, and advise the right honorable gentleman of it. .
Photostat Copies of Documents
– I desire to address a question to the Prime Minister about security within the Public Service. It is prompted by certain fears that I have, caused by an incident that occurred in this chamber early this morning, when a member of the Opposition who represents an electorate in New South Wales produced photostat copies of confidential correspondence between a taxpayer and the New South Wales Labour Government. Apparently, the correspondence had been removed from an official file with the permission of the appropriate Minister in the New SouthWales Government. Photostat copies of it were made. The copies were produced in this chamber, and arc to be made public by incorporation in Hansard.
– Order! What is the honorable member’s question?
– I ask the Prime Minister to give an assurance that the code of ethics of the Public Service will not be- impaired in any way by that incident, and that the incident will not be regarded as a precedent for making public correspondence between taxpayers and the Commonwealth.
– As far ais. the Commonwealth is concerned, I give such an assurance with great satisfaction.
– I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, a question on a matter of procedure which requires, I believe, the urgent attention of this House. The question arises from an incident which occurred during the adjournment debate last night and which, I think, was mentioned in an earlier question that the honorable’ member for Isaacs asked the Prime Minister. It concerns the photostat copy of a document which was brought into the House. last night by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. I ask you, as a matter of procedure, whether it is in order that the private confidential documents of citizens or corporations’ in this country should’ be produced in this House for political purposes. Is the document in , question, related to a private claim - for compensation for loss and damage incurred by a private New South Wales company arising from the resumption of its land by the New South Wales Public Works Department on behalf of the Housing Commission of New South Wales? Is it correct that the document is in no sense a part of’ any legal proceedings or in any way a -public document, and that it must be the property either of the applicant company or of the New South Wales Government ? Does it follow that it could have come into the possession- of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro only-
– I rise to order. How many questions is an honorable member permitted to ask at one time?
– Order ! The honorable member for Evans has raised a question of procedure for my decision. This is entirely different . from an ordinary question without notice. An interpretation of a standing order may be required, . and the honorable member has not finished stating his case.
– Is it correct that the document must be either the property of the applicant company or of the New South Wales Government? Does it follow that it could only have come into the possession of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro either through a breach of trust or duty on the part of some New South Wales official, or with the con:nivance of a member of the New South Wales Government? When I ask that question, I am making the not unreasonable assumption that the copy of the document was not given to the honorable member by the honorable member for Bennelong himself. Oan you advise me, Mr. Speaker, of the .procedure by which this matter should be investigated, because I believe that the possession of this document by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and the use .of’ it in this House for political purposes, are nothing less than a public scandal?
– I rise to order. I submit that the appropriate time for objection to be taken to the use of the document was last evening, when it was produced in the House. However, no objection was taken then, and, indeed, the House unanimously approved .of the incorporation of the document in Hansard. In those circumstances, is it not now too late to raise this matter?
– I should like to speak to the point of order.’ I am not raising the matter of the incorporation of the document in Hansard. I agree with the honorable member for Perth that any objection to the incorporation .of the document in Hansard should have been taken last night. My question on procedure is addressed to you, Mr. Speaker, with a view to ascertaining whether the House should examine how the document came into the possession of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
– In reply to the question on procedure, and the two points of order, I can only repeat, in substance, the statement I made a few days ago on a somewhat similar occasion. Honorable gentlemen must take full responsibility for the documents they produce, and the statements they make in this House. I have no authority, and Heaven forbid- that I should ever be asked to accept it, to determine the means by which honorable gentlemen secure possession of the information which they produce in this House. Honorable members who were present in the chamber late last night will recall that there was quite a lot of feeling at the time, and when I asked whether leave was to be granted for the incorporation of the document in Hansard, there were shouts of “ Aye “ on three occasions. I was seeking to ascertain whether any honorable member would object to the incorporation of the document in Hansard, and no honorable member did so. As the position now exists, the House last night unanimously granted to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro permission to have these photostats incorporated in Hansard, and they are now public documents. The responsibility for producing them here is the responsibility of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and I am not clothed with any responsibility, and certainly do not seek it, to inquire how the document came to be in his possession. If the House wishes to start an investigation on those lines, an honorable member will have to move a motion to that end.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting outside the terms of a personal explanation.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) asked for leave to make a personal explanation. I assume that he did so on the ground that he had been misrepresented. Nothing that he has said to the House so far has shown that he has been misrepresented. He i» reiterating statements that were made in the House last night.
-I have already called the attention of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to the fact that he is getting outside the terms of i personal explanation. He can reply only to any point or points on which he claims that he has been personally misrepresented. The New South Wales Government does not come into the matter.
– Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I shall attempt to confine my remarks in accordance with your ruling. The accusation made against mewas that I had committed a breach of ethics and security. To the extent that you will allow me to do so, Mr Speaker, I shall show that no breach of ethics .was involved. The documents were produced in order to answer a charge that had been publicly made.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is not now referring to a charge against himself, and he may not deal with that matter in a personal explanation. He may deal with it on the motion for the adjournment to-night.
– The honorable member for Evans alleged that my behaviour in obtaining and producing those documents amounted to a public scandal. The fact is that the honorable member for Bennelong, who was the person affected, had publicly invited me-
– Order ! The honor.able member for Bennelong is not concerned in the honorable member’s personal explanation. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro himself, and nobody else, is concerned in it.
– I was publicly invited, by the man concerned, to produce these documents, and I simply accepted that invitation. The suggestion has been made that the documents were obtained, in some wrongful and underhand way.
– I rise to order. My point of order is that the misrepresentation that the honorable member for EdenMonaro claims to have suffered was contained in a question. As I understand it, questions may not contain imputations, and as the question was allowed by you, Mr. Speaker, I cannot see how a misrepresentation could have occurred.
– There is no substance in the point advanced .by the honorable gentleman.
– An accusation was made that the documents were obtained in some secret, underhand or scandalous manner. They were not obtained in any such way. After the invitation to verify the information that I had given to the House had been extended to me I applied openly, as the member representing the electorate of Eden.M.onaro to the New South Wales Government for that verification. I obtained the documents from the New South “Wales Government along with permission to produce them in this House in verification of the statements that I had made here. 1 produced them in the House in these circumstances, and I have nothing to’ be ashamed of or to apologize for. I acted merely in conformity with my duty as a member of this House in the refutation of an unfair charge.
– I rise to make a personal explanation arising from the state ment of the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). It might be gathered, from the discussion this morning, that I gave some permission, as the person affected, to somebody to produce certain documents.
– You invited their production.
– I invited the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to check up on the facts as I had stated them, but in no way did I condone, agree, or give permission, for any private documents in the possession of the New South Wales Government to be produced to the honorable member for EdenMonaro. At no time have I objected to the fullest investigation in regard to this matter. In fact, I invited it and I still invite it, because I consider that the wider the facts are known publicly the better. However, I repeat that I gave no instruction or permission for the production of the documents, nor do I condone the kind of action that has been taken by the honorable member for EdenMonaro.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Government intends to disclose to the Parliament the profits or losses that have been made or incurred by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited during the last ten years ? I ask the question because it has been announced that it is the intention of the Government to advance to that company a sum of £4,000,000 to enable it to continue to operate its transport services.
– A bill in relation to this matter will be introduced in the House shortly. I expect to have charge of that bill myself and, when I presented it to the House, I shall give as much information as possible with respect to the problems covered by the agreement and the action of the Government.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing” the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the fact that Connellan Airways has been given notice to quit the aerodrome at Alice Springs from which it has operated without accident for thirteen years, is the Department of Civil Aviation prepared to compensate the company for wrecking and re-erecting some miles away the buildings that it has found necessary to have for its service, such as hangars, workshops, mechanics and pilots’ quarters, as well as providing amenities for these workmen, such as a swimming pool, tennis courts, and a mess?
– I shall bring the question to the notice of my colleague in another place.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs inform me what progress has been made at the peace talks in Korea? Is it true that the talks have been broken off, or suspended, by the United Nations authorities?
– As reported publicly to-day, the peace talks at Pan Mun Jom have been suspended at the instance of the United Nations negotiator pending either acceptance by the Communists of one or other of the three alternative proposals that the United Nations representative put forward in respect of prisoners of war, or until the Communists advance some alternative constructive proposal. The attitude of mind of the United Nations negotiator is that over many months, the United Nations representative has advanced a long series of proposals, each one of which has been rejected with contumely and abuse by the Communists. The United Nations negotiator has understandably, and with general support, become fed up with this process. He can see no point in continually exposing himself to the most vituperative abuse whilst no constructive proposals emanate from the other side. The talks have not been broken off. I say that specifically. They have been suspended until either one or other of the United Nations proposals, which are positive and constructive, has been accepted by the Communists or some alternative proposal which is within bounds of possibility of acceptance has been put forward by the Communists.
– Will the Minister for the Army arrange that, when an exalted personage, such as a Minister of the Crown, makes a formal visit to the troops in Korea, the visit, with its consequent ceremonial, shall not take place on a holiday, such as Christmas Day, and thus shall not interfere unduly with the religious, social and recreational activities of the troops? .5
– I am amazed by the? honorable member’s question. I visited the troops in Korea, at the request of thePrime Minister, on Christmas Day. I” have been associated with troops for many” years, .but I have never witnessed a reception comparable with the reception that the Australian troops in Korea gave to me because I had travelled 16,000 miles to have Christmas dinner with them. The countryside was covered with snow to the level of a man’s hips, but there were no protests from the men who came out in the snow to participate in the reception. The comments of the men amongst whom I moved, which were very forceful, clearly expressed such appreciation and satisfaction that the question asked by the honorable member is made to appear ridiculous.
– Can the Minister for the Army inform the House whether Australian troops were engaged in the action that took place in Korea early this week?’
– Both of the Australian battalions in Korea are at present in reserve. They did not take part in the action to which the honorable member has referred.
– I understand that theMinister for External Affairs will leaveAustralia to-day to attend the General-. Assembly of the United Nations in New.York. Will the right honorable gentleman give an undertaking that, in theAssembly, he will oppose without compromise any proposals that would result: in a betrayal of Korean prisoners of warwho surrendered to the United Na’tionsforces under specific and definite promisesabout their safety and well-beings and5 who have declared their intention forcibly to resist any attempt to return them to> certain death and slavery under the- Communist forces. Will the Minister- givethat assurance to the Australian people?
– The principle of the voluntary repatriation of prisoners of war captured in Korea has been stated very specifically by, I think, the representatives of every’ country that is co-operating with the United Nations in the Korean war. I see no prospect of any departure being made from that principle. I do not think it- is necessary to give any undertaking of the kind for which the honorable gentleman has asked. That policy has been stated distinctly on a great many occasions. From the viewpoint of the United Nations, it has been for a very long time the mainspring of all the discussions at Pan Mun Jom “I see no prospect of any departure from that humanitarian principle.
– Does the Minister for External Affairs believe that the protraction of the truce negotiations in Korea will mean that, whilst the interests of Korean prisoners of war may be safeguarded, the lives of members of the United Nations forces will continue to be lost?
– I do not want to engage in speculation about the relative merits of action of one type or another. The United Nations has based its policy upon the principle of the voluntary repatriation of prisoners of war. That policy has a great humanitarian basis. Occasionally, principles must be observed, irrespective of the . consequences. I do not say that the consequences of a protraction of the truce negotiations would necessarily be those that the honorable member has suggested.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether, in view of the reported success of the aerial geophysical survey of large areas of South Australia and the Northern Territory in connexion with the search for uranium and other minerals, he will consider arranging a similar survey of the northern areas of Western Australia.
– I cannot speak authoritatively in relation to such surveys made in South Australia, but it is a fact that considerable survey work has been carried out, partly from the air, in the Northern Territory. That work is being performed by the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Department of National Development. My impression is that their hands are fairly full with the work that they are doing at the moment, but I appreciate the importance and attractiveness of the honorable gentleman’s suggestion, which I shall convey to the Minister for National Development, who is in another place, in order to ascertain whether or not something along the lines suggested can be arranged.
– Is the Minister for Supply prepared either to make a statement in the House about the agreement that has been entered into between the Commonwealth and a certain company for the exploitation of uranium fields at Rum Jungle and elsewhere, or to table details of the agreement ?
– I told the House sometime ago that we had reached agreement in principle with Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited, a subsidiary company of the Zinc Corporation, about the exploitation, on behalf of the Commonwealth, of’ uranium resources at Rum Jungle. We are in the process of working out the details of the agreement now’. I shall consider whether it would be advisable either to table the agreement, or to make a statement about it, and I shall inform the honorable gentleman of my decision in due course.
– Having in mind recent activities that affect-the British Commonwealth is the Prime Minister satisfied that the existing channels of communication are sufficiently expansive to allow the fullest exchange of views between the seven member nations of the Commonwealth on matters that affect their own interests? In any event, will the Prime Minister use the occasion of his forthcoming meeting in London with the representatives of the other member nations of the Commonwealth as a further opportunity to emphasize his opinion that the best interests of the Commonwealth would be served by the establishment of an imperial secretariat to supplement and facilitate the work of existing Commonwealth agencies?
– This is a matter upon which I have, in the past, spoken and written. I do not consider that it would be useful to endeavour, in an answer to a question, to recapitulate my previous statements on the matter. However, I can assure the honorable member that the subject of the improvements of the means of communication between the member nations of the Commonwealth will certainly be among the matters discussed at any gathering of the Commonwealth countries. There are many divergent views held by British Commonwealth countries on the particular matter that the honorable member referred to.
– Yesterday I received a reply to a question upon notice that I addressed to the Minister for National Development. The question sought information on the amount of hard currency expended on the purchase of motor spirit for each of the last five years. Those figures have not been supplied to me. “Will the Prime Minister say whether he has a practical knowledge of the volume of this important expenditure of dollars? If he has no such knowledge, will he endeavour to obtain the information and make it available to honorable members ?
– I shall do my best to have this information made available. I am not aware of the particular question, the honorable member referred to, but I shall discuss it with my colleague, the Minister for National Development.
– Will the Prime Minister state the reason for the Government’s decision to make the report of the royal commission which inquired into the most suitable route for a railway between Stirling North and Brachina in South Australia a confidential document? Is it a fact that the report has been circulated among honorable members, and that extracts and a precis of its findings have been published in the daily press? Does the decision mean that the report cannot be quoted from in debate in the House-
– Order! The honorable member appears now to be putting his fourth question.
– It is connected with the same matter, Mr. Speaker. Finally, can the right honorable gentleman state whether this is the first occasion upon which the report of a royal commission has been declared to be a confidential document ? “Mr. MENZIES. - This matter was brought to my notice by my colleague the Minister for Territories as the House was assembling to-day. I cannot tell the honorable member how or why this document is described as confidential. I shall look at the document to ascertain whether my own judgment accords with what I have been told. As a matter of general principle it is of great importance that what a royal commission says in a report should be publicly available. If there are some portions of the report which may be thought to have a security aspect it is possible to consider leaving out a paragraph or two, and nobody would take exception to that, and publishing the other relevant material. I have undertaken to look at the report and I shall do so with a desire to see that it is circulated as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister for the Army inform the House whether national service trainees receive a greater food ration than that received by the members of the Australian Regular Army? Also can he say whether the food supplied to national service trainees-
– I rise to order. This is the second question being put by the honorable member and I ask for your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
– The honorable member should have taken his point of order a few moments ago. I am carefully watching this matter.
– Can the Minister also say-
– Order ! Will the honorable member direct his question and let us conclude the matter.
– Will the Minister say whether the food supplied to the national service trainees is of first-class quality?
– The scales of rations made available to national service trainees and to members of the Australian Regular Army are similar, with the exception that the rations made available to all recruits, both national service trainees and members of the permanent army, are 20 per cent, higher than the standard scale for the first fourteen days of their period in camp. Experience has shown that, when young men go into the Army, their appetites for the first fourteen days are almost impossible to satisfy. We have dealt with the problem by means of very careful investigation and inquiry. Dietitians, experts associated with the preparation of food for human consumption, and managers of leading Australian hotels have been called upon to give their advice, and the collective wisdom from this source has convinced us that, if we provide a ration scale 20 per cent, above the normal scale for the first fourteen days of service, the men will settle down to the job of eating reasonable supplies thereafter. Of course, there is no need for me to advise the honorable member that the scale of rations is the best obtainable.
– My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, refers to the vicious, unjustified, and untrue attacks on the Treasurer. Does not the Prime Minister believe that these accusations have now reached the stage at which the honesty of the man responsible for handling the finances of the nation is in question? Does he not now believe that the time has arrived when it is definitely a matter for consideration and determination by the Committee of Privileges?
– I think we all agree with the honorable member’s description of these attacks on the Treasurer, but the question whether they constitute a breach of privilege is a difficult one. It has already received some consideration. I cannot say that the consideration has yet reached its final point, but the matter is being examined. The honorable member for Herbert will appreciate that it is rather a fine problem to determine when abuse of a member, and particularly a very prominent member of the House, ceases to be personal abuse, and becomes an attack on the parliamentary institution. That matter is being examined.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he will consider appointing in the near future an all-party parliamentary delegation to investigate the work that is being done by Moral Rearmament in Colombo?
– As at present advised, I do not think that the matter to which the honorable member has referred is of a kind that would warrant the institution of a parliamentary delegation. I shall consider his suggestion.
– Can the Minister for Social Services say whether an applicant for unemployment benefit would .be eligible to receive that benefit in the following circumstances : - Approximately eighteen months ago a man was obliged to resign his employment owing to ill health, but his illness was not sufficiently serious to qualify him for the invalid pension. He has now made a recovery and is anxious to return to work, but the Department of Labour and National Service is unable to find a suitable position for him. He has no income, but he possesses approximately £500 in cash. Would such a man be eligible for unemployment benefit? If not, what is the policy of the Government in a case of this kind?
– The honorable member has asked me for an opinion. If he will inform me of the details of a particular case I shall inquire into it.
– Will the Minister for Social Services say whether British immigrants to this country must reside here for a definite period of time before they become eligible to receive the age pension ?
– The period of residence required is twenty years.
Mr.- DAVIES.- I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that 200 men have been dismissed from employment on the construction of the Tallawarra power house, which is a most urgent work, havingregard to the big demand for power for large industries at Port Kembla and i- t]m surrounding district. ? Is it also a fact that these dismissals have been caused by the Australian Government in restricting the amount of loan money that it will make available to New South “Wales?
– Order ! The honorable member will have the honorable member for Hindmarsh raising a point of order if he is not careful.
– “Will the Minister immediately endeavour to persuade Cabinet to reverse its policy and thus enable these men to be retained on this work ?
– I am not aware of the facts on the matter that the honorable member has mentioned. The project to which he has referred is being carried out by the New South “Wales Government. I am not in a position to make a statement with respect to Treasury policy in the matter. No doubt the New South “Wales Government will make representations as it sees fit to this Government with a view to obtaining further financial assistance for the purpose of carrying on that work. I shall consult with officers of my department with respect to the provision of alternative employment for the employees concerned.
– Yesterday, I directed to the Prime Minister a question about the decision of the United Nations Economic and Social Council to request its associate bodies to press for equality of pay for members of both sexes who are doing comparable work, and about a private member’s bill on the same subject that has been introduced into the House of Commons. I asked the right honorable gentleman to state the policy of this Government upon that matter, and I referred to the fact that he. had mentioned it in the policy speeches that he delivered in 1946 and 1949. He said that, if I quoted the relevant portions of his policy speeches this morning, he would give a definite answer to my question. I propose to quote from those policy speeches, but, apart from that-
-Order ! The honorable gentleman must not use a quotation from a policy speech as a foundation for a question upon administration.
– I should be most happy to accept the Prime Minis ter’s invitation. I now ask him to state the intentions of this Government with regard to equality of pay for the sexes.
– The question appears to relate to Government policy. I am sorry that the honorable gentleman is not at liberty to accept the invitation that I extended to him yesterday, but perhaps we shall be able to accommodate each other if he places the question upon the notice-paper.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs, arises from an assurance that the right honorable gentleman gave about the lack of desire of the Australian Government to exclude Great Britain from the Anzus Council. I ask the Minister whether, in view of the campaign that has been conducted by certain sections of the British press, he has instructed the Australian High Commissioner in London to make a statement on this matter.
– The simple answer to the question is “ No “. The press in any British country is not under government domination. I do not believe that any good purpose would be served by such an admonition of the press of the United Kingdom.
– I asked, not whether an admonition would be given but whether a statement of the policy of the Australian Government would be made.
– Any such statement would be made, not in London but here.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior to say how many enlarged photographs of the Prime Minister the News and Information Bureau of the Department of the Interior has prepared for distribution? Are those photographs still being prepared, or has the demand for them fallen off in recent months?
– I have no idea whether my department is preparing such photographs. If it is doing so, its services are being utilized to much better advantage than they were under the previous Government.
- (Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) an intimation that he desires to submit a definite matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion, namely -
The unsatisfactory departmental interpretation and administration of section 47 of the Repatriation Act, and the consequent rejection by the statutory tribunals of many claims and appeals of ex-servicemen and their dependants, contrary to the intention of this Parliament.
Is the proposal supported?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the proposal,
. - I bring this matter before the House again because of certain developments that have ocurred since the discussion of section 47 of the Repatriation Act in the House a few weeks ago. The view that I intend to put to the House is that the interpretation, operation, and administration of that section have led to- the rejection, by the Repatriation Commission and the entitlement tribunals, of many claims made by ex-servicemen and their dependants, and that there has been a complete misconception by the Repatriation Department, as I think I can prove, of the meaning and effect of the section.
I remind the House that section 47, in its present form, was inserted in the act by the Curtin Labour Government in 1943 with, it is only fair and proper to say, the assistance of all honorable members on both sides of the House, particularly the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who, I think, originated the initial provisions in relation to the onus of proof and the benefit of the doubt. The position before 1943 was very different from the present position. A necessary change was made in 1943, yet, to judge from a statement that was made during the recent debate, the commission has not, in practice, given effect to that change. It has been stated that both the commission and the entitlement tribunals are, to a substantial degree, and mistakenly from the legal point of view, treating the amendment made in 1943 as though it had made no real change in the law. That fact was illustrated by a statement thai was made by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) to the effect that, before this provision could operate in favour of the claim of an exserviceman, there had to be a prima facie case established by the ex-serviceman that his incapacity, or, in the case of a claim by a dependant, the death of the ex-serviceman was contributed to by war service. That was the effect of the law until 1943, and it was because of that restriction on the ex-serviceman or his dependants that the act was amended in that year. The view that I submit, as briefly as I can, because this is not a matter of party significance, and many honorable members on both sides of the House share an interest in this subject, is that the matter requires an immediate and urgent review, because the Repatriation Commission, in its instructions has entirely misconstrued the law. That is a most serious thing, because so many people are affected.
This is not in any sense a party political question, and I think that it is right to say that it is also not a question of criticism or condemnation of the ministerial head of the department. After all, the entitlement tribunals have their functions to perform. It is because they perform them to a substantial degree independently of the commission that the Minister does not decide the cases himself. The importance of the matter is that, as the war period becomes more distant, latent disabilities or diseases became more manifest as ex-servicemen grow older. For that reason, the onus of proof provision on the one hand and the benefit of doubt provision on the other, assume an increasing importance.
A convenient starting point of my submission is the decision given by the High Court in 1933 in the Bott case, which is an important case. That case was decided under the law as it then stood. Before the 1943 amendment, the provision was that if the apellant made out a prima facie case in support of his claim that the incapacity from which he was suffering was caused, or aggravated, by his war service, the onus of proof that the incapacity was not so caused lay with the commission. So that the provision as to onus of proof applied only when the exserviceman had already established what the law terms a prima facie case. That is the same type of case that has to be proved by a plaintiff in any action for negligence. He has to show facts from which negligence may reasonably be inferred. It is also similar to the prima facie proof required in a workers compensation case. Until 1943, that was the law about the onus of proof in these cases, but in 1943 great changes were made. First, the rule of the onus of proof was reversed. Before 1943 a prima facie case had to be shown, and only when it had been shown did the onus of proof shift to theRepatriation Commission. Secondly, in 1943 the necessity for a prima facie case was eliminated and there is now a continuing onus of proof on theRepatriation Commission from the beginning to the end of the matter. Thirdly, it is the bounden duty of the Repatriation Commission or the appeal tribunals to draw all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant. The general meaning of the provision now is that unless it can be shown positively by the Repatriation Commission that war service could not have contributed to or caused the disability of a claimant, then the claim must be granted.
The rule about the benefit of the doubt was confirmed and strengthened in 1943, and the existence of any circumstance which would be favorable to the claim must be now assumed in favour of the ex-serviceman if there is any question at all about it. The onus is on the commission in the same way as the onus is on the Crown in a criminal case. In a criminal action a case must be proved against the accused beyond all reasonable doubt, and to a moral certainty. It is not enough to say that if the jury in a criminal case believes that the evidence is evenly balanced they must give the benefit of the doubt to the accused, because the Crown must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, which is a very different matter.
– The right honorable member says that unless it can be proved that war service could not have contributed to his disability, the claimant must win his case?
– Yes, that is the meaning of the 1943 statute. Unless it is proved by the Repatriation Commission that the war service could not have contributed to the claimant’s disability then the presumption must be made in favour of the claimant. It is not a matter of the commission simply finding an evenly balanced case, because if it should do so the benefit would then be given to the ex-serviceman. The 1943 provision means that unless the Repatriation Commission considers beyond doubt that it has a case against the claimant that the conditions of his war service did not aggravate or contribute to his injury, the claimant’s case must be upheld. There is no other way in which the relevant sections of the statute can be read. During the debate on the Repatriation Bill recently, certain instructions given by the Repatriation Commission were read in this House. “With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall incorporate those instructions in Hansard. They are as follows: -
Onus of Proof and Tribunals
Sections 47 and 48 of the Act.
Sections 55 to 82 of the Act.
With regard to original claims, the regulations under the Act provide that the Deputy Commissioner may deem any claim made in writing lodged before a claim on the approved form, to be a claim, and the commencement of benefits under the Act are dated by reference to the date of that informal claim. In the administration of the Department, full effect is given to that provision.
In addition, although the member may make a claim for a particular disability, only, that claim is treated as a claim for all disabilities which may be disclosed in the course of investigation. If in the course of subsequent reviews additional due to war disabilities are discovered, action is taken to have the assessment of pension reconsidered accordingly.
The application of Section 47 of the Repatriation Act is a matter to which the attention of allRepatriation Boards, the members of the Commission and the Assistant Commissioners has been directed from time to time, and all are fully aware of its contents, and apply the provisions of the Section in the manner in which they are directed to be applied in the Act itself.
The High Court in the case of ex parte Bott has given a judicial interpretation of that Section. Although that decision was given before Section 47 was amended in 1943 to its present form, there has been no change in the onus of proof in. an appeal to an Appeal Tribunal.
The Act does not . require a determining authority to deal either generously or ungenerously with a claim, hut that it shall draw From all the circumstances of the case from the evidence furnished and from medical opinions all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant and shall give to the claimant the benefit of any doubt. The Act requires that the claimant be given substantial justice. Shorn of its technical language, what the Section says is that when a determining authority finds that it is doubtful and can not make up its mind as to whether a claim should be allowed or refused, then the Act requires that the claim shall succeed.
The actual composition of the various Boards and Tribunals ensures that the ex-serviceman’s view is fully represented, and that full effect is given to these provisions.
The Act provides for one member of each Repatriation Board to be appointed from a list of names submitted by ex-servicemen’s organizations. In fact, all the members of the State Boards are ex-servicemen, although the Act docs not .require this.
With regard to the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals, the Act requires that the two members other than the Chairman shall be ex-servicemen, and that one at least of them shall be a returned soldier selected from n list submitted by ex-servicemen’s organizations. The Act does require the Chairman to be a qualified barrister or solicitor, and in fact all chairmen are ex-servicemen.
In the case of the Assessment Appeal Tribunals, the Act requires that the Chairman be a qualified barrister or solicitor and that he be selected- from a list of returned soldiers submitted by ex-servicemen’s organizations. The other two members are required to be medical practitioners, and’ where possible selections are made from ex-servicemen.
In this way the majority on the Board or Tribunal, as the case may be, represents the ex-serviceman’s view, and in the case of each Tribunal the requirement that the Chairman is a legal man makes certain that all evidence before the Tribunal will be given proper weight and the benefit of doubt provisions given full effect.
I am obliged to the Minister for making them available during the recent debate, and I intend to read the instructions in regard to the onus of proof that have been given by the Repatriation Commission to its officers and to all tribunals. Parts of the instructions are -
The application of Section 47 of the Repatriation Act is a matter to which the attention of all Repatriation Boards, the members of the Commission, and the Assistant Commissioners has been directed from time to time, and all are fully aware of its contents, and apply the provisions of the Section in the manner in which they are directed to be applied in the Act itself.
The High Court in the case of ex parte Bott has given a judicial interpretation of that Section. Although that decision was given before Section 47 was amended in 1943 to its present form, there has been no change in the onus of proof in an appeal to an Appeal Tribunal.
Those instructions are completely erroneous. As a matter of fact, the only judge who referred to the matter in the Bott case was Mr. Justice Starke. He analysed the position under the old section, and from the point of view of the old section the onus of proof would have to shift. The instructions continue -
The Act does not require a determining authority to deal either generously or ungenerously with a claim, but that it shall draw from all the circumstances of the case from the evidence furnished and from medical opinions all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant and shall give to the claimant the benefit of any doubt. The Act requires that the claimant be given substantial justice.
I think that that is a wrong instruction. I do not think that the word “ generosity “ is an appropriate word, because the whole spirit of the onus of proof and benefit of the doubt provisions is that any exserviceman’s case must be treated as a very special type of case because of the difficulty that he must have in establishing by direct evidence the cause of the incapacity which occurred so long ago. The whole tone of these instructions is wrong. It is wrong in detail and it is wrong in spirit. The instructions continue -
Shorn of its technical language, what the Section says is that when a determining authority finds that it is doubtful and cannot make up its mind as to whether a claim should be allowed or refused, then the Act requires that the claim shall succeed.
That is what Mr. Justice Starke said under the old prima facie rule, but that is not the position now. The onus is stronger in favour of the ex-serviceman, The instructions indicate that the benefit of the doubt must be given to the exserviceman, but the benefit of the doubt under the criminal law means something more than a slight bias, and all presumptions must be in favour of the exserviceman. I believe that the instruction incorporated above is the cause of the present concern. The date of issue is not on the instruction, but it refers to the bill of 1952 and it is now embodied in Hansard so that all honorable members can read it. It is clearly a recent instruction. All ex-servicemen’s organizations are concerned with this matter.
Some argument developed about the percentage of appeals that were allowed. The Minister said on the 1st October that the tribunals upheld appreciably more than 25 per cent, of appeals. That is not the correct figure. Ex-servicemen’s organizations say that only 15 per cent, and not 25 per cent, of appeals are allowed by No. 3 Tribunal in New South Wales and Queensland. The 25 per cent, includes appeals allowed by the Repatriattion Commission and the tribunals. In no State is anything like 25 per cent, of appeals allowed by the entitlements tribunals alone. The New South Wales branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia stated in its 1952 report -
Entitlement appeals were not so easy. The R.S.L. conducted COG appeals in that year and only succeeded in ll.fi per cent. - 47 out of 606 being allowed.
That is not conclusive but it is an indication of the anxiety that has been caused -to ex-servicemen’s organizations by this vital matter. The case that we are putting, not as a party, although the whole of the Opposition supports it, is that the Government and the Parliament should review this matter. Action should be taken immediately. First of all, I submit, after a careful reading of the instruction, that it is completely wrong. [Extension of time granted.) I am obliged to the House for its consideration. This is a very important matter, and I want to conclude my remarks by making some practical suggestions.
My first submission, I repeat, is that the instruction is erroneous in law. It declares, in effect, that there has been no change in relation to the onus of proof since the ‘thirties, but the truth is that a vital change was made in 1943, when an enactment of the Labour Government relieved appellant ex-servicemen of the obligation to prove a prima facie case. That was a heavy obligation, because each appellant had to produce facts from which it could be reasonably deduced that his incapacity ‘had been caused, or aggravated, by the effects of war service. Such a task becomes almost impossible as the date of war service recedes further into the past. This instruction makes no allowance for that increasing difficulty and it should be redrafted. I am not engaging merely in legal argument. This matter involves great hardships, because many appeals have been rejected. I contend strongly that, under the law as it stands to-day, the benefit of the doubt must be given to the ex-serviceman. He is not obliged to prove what the lawyers call a prima facie case. It is the duty of the commission to prove positively that the incapacity, or the death in the case of a claim by a dependant, could not have been caused by war service. A very heavy burden rests on the commission, and I believe that too many claims have been rejected. The system should be reviewed. I know that appeals are heard in camera, and I do not suggest that all appeals should be dealt with at open hearings. That might not cure the wrong. However, some reviewing authority should be established in order to supervise the administration of this vital provision in relation to the onus of proof.
Honorable members will realize that an applicant for a war pension cannot appeal successfully from a decision of a tribunal to the High Court of Australia. All that the High Court can do, in a very rare type of case, is to declare that as it has not heard the case it can not adjudicate. The Bott case was a case of that type, and the appeal on that occasion could not be supported. Thus, no effective appeal can be made. I should like a Commonwealth judge to be given authority to review issues in relation to the onus of proof in particular cases and without conducting a long hearing. Such a reviewing authority is provided even to deal with decisions by courts martial. Cases are reviewed by the Judge Advocate-General. I do not say positively that the establishment of such an authority would solve this problem. However, we must find a way of overcoming the difficulty.
– I think that the matter goes much deeper than that. The Government should grapple with the problem, and, if it will do so, it will have the full support of the Parliament, even if it decides that an amendment of the law is necessary.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that a Commonwealth judge should examine cases and decide where the onus of proof should lie ?
– He should decide whether the benefit of the provision in relation to the onus of proof has been given to the appellant by the entitlement appeal tribunal. I should like to have a procedure that would not involve cumbersome legal machinery. It is a curious fact that the only individuals who are debarred from appearing before the tribunals are members of the legal profession. I do not suggest that all cases should be reviewed, but I submit that, in the long run, it would be better for open decisions to be given and for a proper system of appeals to be instituted.
I urge the Government to review the instruction immediately. I should like the Attorney-General to intervene in cases of appeals in order to put the independent view, not of the Government, but of himself as a lawyer, regardless of the wishes of the Repatriation Commission. The Labour Government in 1942 established the Legal Service Bureau in order to assist ex-servicemen in such matters. The problem is not simple. “We cannot say dogmatically that all claims must be allowed, but we are now reaching a stage at which many ex-servicemen are becoming ill as a result of the effects of combat service many years ago. Serious heart disease, for instance, may strike a man 30 years after he has rendered war service. What doctor could deny, in those circumstances, that war conditions might have contributed,- and probably did contribute, to the ultimate physical condition of the victim? I think that modern medical science would hold that war service must have contributed to the condition. Under the act in its present form, all that should be necessary is evidence that war service could have contributed to the disease. I submit once more that this is a matter of great urgency, because, if my contention is correct, the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals, the War Pensions Assessment Appeals Tribunals, and the Repatriation Commission, have been act ing according to a completely false understanding of the provision that was inserted in the act in 1943. The instruction which states that there has been no change in the onus of proof provisions since the Bott case was decided in 1933 is entirely wrong.
Because the Minister for the Army has been good enough to produce that instruction, we have obtained a clue to the mystery of the large numbers of appeals that have been rejected. I do not know who was responsible for the issuing of the. instruction, but it is incorrect in my view, and I know a great deal about the subject because I, with the assistance of my colleagues, drafted the 1943 amendment of the act and deliberately went out of my way to dispose of the requirement for the submission of a prima facie case’ in support of an appeal, which is necessary in ordinary civil cases. The intention of the Parliament was that the onus of proof should not rest upon the appellant. It decided that these men were subject to special circumstances and should receive special treatment. An exserviceman who failed to report some illness that occurred during his war service is not to be condemned on that account if, subsequently, illness supervenes. The fact that he cannot produce documents from medical officers to prove that he was ill while on war service is not to the point when everybody knows that war service has had its effect on everybody who rendered such service. Those effects may take many years to reveal themselves. I ask the Minister to treat this as a matter of great urgency.
– I assure the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) immediately that the Government and the Repatriation Department desire that the Repatriation Act shall be observed in its entirety, that the benefit of any doubt shall be given to every appellant exserviceman, and that the onus of proof shall rest without reservation upon the Repatriation Commission. That is being done.
– It is not being done.
-Order! Honorable members must maintain silence.
– I remind honorable members opposite that I did not interject when the Leader of the Opposition was addressing the House, and I ask that I be given an equal opportunity to reply to his statements. I repeat, without equivocation, that the law is being observed, that the benefit of doubt is given to appellants, and that the onus of proof rests on the Repatriation Commission. The Leader of the Opposition engaged in a learned dissertation and a legal discussion of the provisions of the Repatriation Act, but he based his entire case on the claim that the Repatriation Department to-day requires a prima facie case to be established by an applicant for a war pension. That is not so. The right honorable gentleman has no grounds for making that claim, and his case falls entirely to the ground because it has been made on false premises. Certain notes were furnished to me as the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation in this House, and I quoted from some of them. While I was speaking, the right honorable gentleman asked me whether I could supply him with a copy of them. With my customary courtesy, I gave them to him but made no reference to the point that he has mentioned. I based no case on that. The right honorable gentleman, in desperation, has done so. I emphasize that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have, in the course of years, made the Repatriation Act the valuable piece of legislation that it is to-day. Let me briefly examine the history of the act. The Leader of the Opposition probably has forgotten that the first amendment of the act, in order to make it easier for an ex-serviceman . to obtain a pension, was introduced by the BrucePage Government in 1929. The relevant section was 45 w (2-.), which stated -
Subject to this Act, an Appeal Tribunal and an Assessment Appeal Tribunal shall not, in the hearing of appeals, be bound by any rules of evidence but shall act according to substantial justice and the merits of the case and shall give to an appellant the benefit of the doubt.
That provision is retained in the existing act. In 1935, the Lyons Administration incorporated section 39b in the act, which provided -
Subject to this Act, the Commission shall,’ in the determination of appeals, act according to substantial justice and the merits of each case, and shall give to an appellant the benefit of any reasonable doubt.
Those provisions have been of material assistance to ex-service men and women. When the Estimates for the Department of Repatriation were under consideration a few weeks ago I reminded honorable members that the late Mr. John Curtin, when he was the Prime Minister in 1941, invited Mr. Pollard, Mr. Watkins and Senator Lamp to co-operate with Mr. McDonald-
– Order! The Minister is an old resident of this chamber, and knows that he is not in order in referring to honorable members by their names.
– Very well! I shall be happy to say the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) and Senator Lamp were asked by Mr. Curtin to co-operate with Senator Collett, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) and myself to examine the Repatriation Act, and make recommendations for its improvement. Senator Collett and I, as former Ministers for Repatriation, had had considerable experience of those matters.
– I was the chairman of that all-party committee.
– The honorable member for Lalor was a keen and enthusiastic chairman. Whatever he does, he does keenly, whether he is in order or out of order. That all-party committee devoted a considerable amount of time to the consideration of proposals for the improvement of the Repatriation Act. We dealt with the matter of onus of proof and benefit of the doubt on a strictly non-party basis. Our function, as a committee, was to improve the act and the regulations thereunder as they applied to exservicemen who served in World War I., so that they could be applied suitably to ex-servicemen of World War II. Our conclusions and recommendations appear in sections 49, 50 and 51 of our report, which related to the onus of proof and benefit of the doubt, and made certain recommendations for the enlargement and improvement of those provisions. I shall not occupy the limited time that is available to me in this debate to refer to them in extenso. However, I remind the House that I have referred to them on a previous occasion. The recommendation of the all-party committee in relation to this matter is embodied in section 47 of the act. We are working under that section at the present time. Nothing in that provision, and in the administration of the department or instructions issued to officials, requires an applicant for a pension to make out a prima facie case. When the Leader of the Opposition expresses the contrary view, his opinion is not in accordance with the facts. Since the right honorable gentleman has made certain observations, I have made inquiries of the Minister for Repatriation and certain officials of the Department of Repatriation, and all of them have stated that there is no necessity for an applicant to prove a prima facie case.
– The act says “ No “.
– And we and the Department of Repatriation say “ No “.
– The Minister says that there has been no change on that point since the Bolt case in 1935.
– I have made no reference to the Bott case. I inform the House definitely that this Government desires the provisions of the act to bc given effect, and they are being given effect. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party have been responsible for the incorporation in the act of all the provisions that are of advantage to ex-service men and women. We have made our contribution to section 47, under which we are working to-day. We are now privileged to implement that section, which is in accordance with the terms of our recommendation to Mr. Curtin in 1941-42. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party introduced the original provisions relating to onus of proof and benefit of the doubt and, in the meantime, have made their contribution to improving them. We are now implementing them. So, why in the name of heaven is the House called upon to discuss this subject this morning?
– The Minister will find out the reason.
– I accept the challenge.
– Order ! Interjections must cease. The Minister must be heard in silence.
– The department is required to accept the onus of proof, and to give the benefit of the doubt to an. applicant. I cannot understand what is agitating the Leader of the Opposition: to-day. No protest had been received in the department on these matters until they were raised a few weeks ago by the right honorable gentleman. Since then, a certain agitation has been worked up, and some protests have been made to the department. I represent the Minister for Repatriation in this chamber, and I accept his assurance, and the assuranceof departmental officers, that there was not a single protest against the administration of the department regarding the implementation of section 47 until the last two or three weeks.
– Has the Minister received any protest as the honorable member for Moreton?
– No. I remindthe House that the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal No. 1, of its own volition, charged the Labour Government in 1947-48 with having failed to implement the provisions of the act. The tribunalcited a number of instances in support of its claim that the Repatriation Commission in those days should havegranted pensions to certain applicants. The tribunal commented on a number of occasions -
There is no reason why this application should not have been approved in the first instance. The appeal is upheld. This gallant ex-serviceman was greatly upset by the initial rejection of his claim, which, on the evidence should have been accepted when he first applied.
The tribunal, in its report for the year 1947, objected because the Labour Government was not giving effect to the provisions of the act relating to onus of proof and benefit of the doubt, and stated -
This tribunal recommends that a general inquiry into the administration of the Act. including an investigation into the matters raised in this report, be conducted by a competent authority having no association with the Repatriation Department.
The report was signed by Mr. G. J. J. O’Sullivan, who was the chairman, Mr.
The Leader of the Opposition alleged that the department required an applicant to establish a prima facie case before it would even consider an application. I emphatically deny the truth of that allegation, and I repeat that no challenge was made until last week with respect to this Government’s administration of section 47 which deals with the onus of proof and benefit of doubt, and which has been in operation since 1943. It is significant that protests have now been made following the debate that took place recently in this chamber on a bill to amend the principal act. I can only conclude that these protests have been organized. They have no basis in fact. [Extension of time granted.) The Leader of the Opposition said that the department was not implementing section 47 of the act, but he did not produce any evidence in support of that charge. He did not cite a single case in that respect. His allegation was shallow. He went on to say that the department now requires an applicant to establish a prima facie case before it will give any consideration whatsoever to an application. I have already denied the truth of that charge, which was the only point upon which the right honorable gentleman really sought to base his case. I repeat that every claim that is made is carefully examined in the light of the provisions of section 47. Indeed, in many instances, the department has found that a complaint, or disability, which an applicant did not attribute to war service, was, in fact, attributable to war service and awarded the applicant an increased pension accordingly. The department examined every application most sympathetically. I repeat that the Leader of the Opposition has failed to make a case. On the contrary, it is clear that the department is administering the act sympathetically and, I have no doubt, has won the approval of ex-servicemen generally for doing so.
– I deplore the attitude that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) adopted when he was replying to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The Minister said that the Opposition’s protests are groundless. The Opposition has raised this matter in this way as a result of the hundreds of complaints that my colleagues and I have received from ex-servicemen who are suffering poverty and misery in consequence of disabilities attributable to war service but in respect of which the Repatriation Commission has refused to grant them a pension. I regret that so few Government supporters have remained in the chamber to listen to this debate. That fact is indicative of their attitude on this matter. Indeed, when an extension of time was sought for the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) mumbled something in a way that indicated that he objected to such an extension being granted. The Opposition protests that the Department of Repatriation is failing to implement the provisions of section 47 of the Repatriation Act. Ever since I was elected to this Parliament I have been worried by the incessant calls that have been made on my time by ex-servicemen who are suffering acute misery as a result of war-caused injuries in respect of which the commission refuses to grant them a pension. Last Monday week a woman brought her ex-serviceman husband to my office and, at the conclusion of a brief interview, the man was so ill that he was unable to take his departure unaided. He claims that his ill health is attributable to war service but he has been refused a pension. I recall another case in respect of which I sought the co-operation of the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) in making representations to the department to do justice to an applicant. I supplied details of this case to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) over two years ago, and I invite any honorable member to examine my file with respect to it. It concerns two brothers-in-law, ,who served in “World War I. One of them suffered from heart trouble, which the commission failed to recognize as being due to war service. This ex-serviceman had been treated for a heart complaint by a Dr. Arnold for years. He had been granted a disability pension for gunshot wounds in back and hand, and when he died, in 1941 his widow was refused to be recognized as a war widow and is only in receipt of 7s. 9d. a fortnight war pension.
The second ex-serviceman had not been near a doctor from the time he was discharged in 1919, until 1948 when, because of shortness of breath he saw his doctor, who diagnosed the complaint as a heart condition, and advised the ex-serviceman to seek a war pension.
A war pension was granted in 1949, and in 1950, when he passed away the Repatriation Commission granted his widow a war widow’s pension, because they had accepted death, as being due to coronary occlusion, caused by warObviously, as in the first case, the disability was attributable to war service. However, the commission has rejected several applications that the widow of the first mentioned ex-serviceman has madefor a war widow’s pension. Yet the commission acknowledged that the second man, who had died of the same complaint, died through war-caused injuries, and awarded his wife a war widow’s pension.
Another case that has been referred to me is that of a man who is suffering from osteo-arthritis. He has lost more than two year’s work during the last 33 months. Dr. Kevin Johns, of Newcastle, in a telephone conversation with me last Monday week, said, “If ever a man suffered from war-caused injuries, it is this man. He is no longer ill in the spine; he is ill in the mind. That is what he must be treated for “. I give the Minister credit for having admitted the man to the Repatriation General Hospital last Thursday, on my representations, but he is still considered to be only a 100 per cent, general rate pensioner. His file shows that the Repatriation Commission stated that it was able to agree only to the payment of a pension at the rate of £3 10s. a fortnight, or 50 per cent, of the general rate, because, in its opinion, the complaint from which he was suffering was due to war service only to a certain degree. Then he appealed to the tribunal, and the tribunal took from about October of last year to about June of this year to decide that he was entitled to have his pension increased from 50 per cent, to 100 per cent, of the general rate. I am certain that the members of this House who are doctors will agree that arthritis can be caused by conditions such as those which the members of the Australian forces encountered in the fields of Flanders during World War I. At Bullecourt, Messines and other places at which our troops fought, they were up to their hocks in mud. They slept, ate and lived in mud, year in and year out.
Let me refer to the case of a man named Crook. In 1916, he was treated in France for arthritis. On the 14th
March, 1951, the Repatriation Commission, in a letter addressed to me, stated -
With reference to your personal representations on behalf of Mr. Daniel Crook, it is desired to inform you that, as he is not in receipt of a war pension from this Commission, he is ineligible to appear before the Assessment Appeal Tribunal.
The commission refused to grant him & pension, and then refused to agree to the submission of the case to an appeal tribunal for consideration. The letter continued -
The member’s condition of arthritis as mentioned in your letter was diagnosed by this Commission as “ multiple osteo..arthritis which was rejected as not being attributable to war service by the Repatriation Commission in 1940.
This man was treated for arthritis in France in 1916. Then he was sent to England, where he remained under treatment for that complaint until the end of the war. He has been treated for it in this country from 1926 to 1945 by Dr. Ostinga, of Newcastle. I have a certificate from Dr. Ostinga to that effect. The certificate stated also that the man suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, which was very progressive and most resistant to treatment. The man is now a hopeless cripple. I know that a colleague of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. “Watkins), an ex-serviceman of the 1914-18 conflict, was retired from the railway service in the early 1920’s on the ground of ill health. It is as certain as that I am standing here now that that man’s illness was caused by the rigours of war service in France in 1916 and 1917. Although he is a hopeless cripple, the Repatriation Commission has said that his illness is not due to his war service.
In 1942, the all-party committee on repatriation considered the problem of the onus of proof in these cases. Although the committee, in its report, stated that the act provided that a prima facie case had to be made out by the ex-servicemen concerned I want to point out that that provision applied only to an appellant who was appearing before an entitlement appeal tribunal. If a man’s application had been rejected by -a board and he appealed to an entitlement appeal tribunal, he had to make out a prima facie case that his incapacity was caused or aggravated by his war service, but the onus of proof that his incapacity was not, in fact, caused or aggravated by such service lay with the commission. The Minister has said that applicants for pensions are not required to make out a prima facie case, but we find time and again that applications for the grant or increase of pensions are rejected, even though the men concerned are unable to work. The man suffering from multiple osteo-arthritis, to whom I have referred, has tried to commit suicide on four occasions during the last two years. His wife has told me that she has to sit with him night and day, and that she has hardly any rest. That man, his wife and children are expected to live on a pension of £11 4s. a fortnight. “We have been told that the commission deals with every application fairly, and without fear or favour. The Minister stated recently that the act did not require the determining authority to deal generously or ungenerously with claims, but only to draw from the evidence before it-
-Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffith) has introduced a great deal of heat into this debate. It appears that he rose in his place with the intention of trying to place upon the shoulders of this Government the whole of the responsibility for the trouble that has occurred in regard to this section of the act. But everything that he said redounded to the discredit of his own party, because the present conditions existed during the eight years that the Labour party was in power. They gave rise to a conflict of opinion between the Repatriation Commission and the No. 1 Appeals Tribunal. The present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who was then Attorney-General in the Chifley Government, gave an opinion to the effect that, in these cases, the onus of proof lay on the shoulders of the commission. Later, the No. 1 Appeals Tribunal made a statutory report to the Parliament in which it stated that the then Minister for Repatriation had refused to observe the ruling given by the Attorney-General, and that he had sought, by intimidation, to prevent that report from coming before the Parliament. When the members of the tribunal refused to withdraw their report, he dismissed them. They refused to accept directions on this matter from a Labour Minister for Repatriation.
– That is not true. The members of the tribunal were not dismissed.
– They were dismissed. At that time, I read to the House a letter that had been written by the chairman of the tribunal. However, I shall not go into that matter now, because the facts are on record. The Leader of the Opposition, in his opening remarks, made a statement that appeared to me to lift this matter entirely out of the realm of non-party politics. As I have already said, the right honorable gentleman, when he was AttorneyGeneral in the Chifley Government, gave a legal opinion on the onus of proof provisions, but failed to insist upon that opinion being observed by the then Minister for Repatriation. However, that is by the way. This morning he said, knowing full well that what he was saying was incorrect, that it was necessary now for an applicant for a pension to make out a prima facie case before the commission. By doing so, he attacked this Government covertly by implying that it was less generous than was the Government of which he was a member. The right honorable gentleman knows that the principal argument upon this matter was whether the onus of proof should be borne by the tribunal or by the commission. The matter goes back as far as 1943. In 1946, the Attorney-General’s Department wrote to the Repatriation Commission a letter in which the following passage appeared: -
I am directed by the Attorney-General to inform you that he entirely agrees with the views expressed by Mr. O’Sullivan.
Mr. O’Sullivan was the chairman of the No. 1 Appeals Tribunal. The AttorneyGeneral pointed out in the letter that section 47 of the act required the appeals tribunal, first, to give a claimant the benefit of any doubt as to the matters specified in sub-section (1.) of the section, and, secondly, to draw all reasonable inferences in favour of a claimant, as directed in sub-section (2.). The letter went on to state that the tribunal could never be in the position of being required to discharge any onus of proof, and that it was for the commission to discharge that onus to the satisfaction of the tribunal. Under this Government, effect is being given to that opinion of the present Leader of the Opposition, but when the right honorable gentleman was Attorney-General he failed to enforce its acceptance. He permitted the then Minister for Repatriation to intimidate an appeals tribunal, and to dismiss the members of it because they would not bow to his will by writing the report that he wanted them to write. Yet the Leader of the Opposition has had the temerity to imply that this Government is less generous in this matter than was the Chifley Government. That is just political poppycock. The right honorable gentleman has said that this is a nonparty matter, but he has imported party issues into it.
Mr. O’Sullivan, the chairman of the No. 1 Appeals Tribunal, in a letter addressed to the Minister for Repatriation on the 28th February, 1948, stated -
For many years, the Repatriation Commission has held and still holds (despite advice to the contrary from the Federal AttorneyGeneral, Dr. Evatt) that the Commission carries no onus of proof at the tribunal appeal, but that section 47 places the onus of proof on the tribunal itself. . . . The tribunal is, therefore, obliged to record the strongest protest to you as the Minister of State controlling the Repatriation Commission against a state of affairs which is inimical to the best interests of ex-servicemen and militates seriously against the efforts of the tribunal to administer justice in accordance with the spirit and intendment of the Repatriation Act. We accordingly recommend that -
a direction be given to the Repatriation Commission that its construction of section 47 is wrong in law;
a proper code of procedure, designed to correct the anomalies hereinbefore adverted to, be framed and put into operation without delay;
such code of procedure must include, inter alia, provision for -
the preparation by the Repatriaion Commission of a proper statement of its case;
representation by the Repatriation Commission at the actual hearing of the appeal to present that case to the tribunal ;
such code should he drafted in consultation with this tribunal by a qualified officer of the Attorney-General’s Department.
The tribunal was trying to give exservicemen the benefit of the doubt in these cases, but the government of the day was determined to prevent it from doing so. The Attorney-General at that time supported the view taken by the tribunal, but the then Minister for Repatriation dismissed the members of the tribunal when they refused to be intimidated by him or to make, under his directions, a report to the Parliament that was contrary to the facts. Could there be anything more calculated to lead to ungenerous treatment of ex-servicemen ? Could there be greater cold-blooded cruelty than that in which a Labour government indulged when its Attorney-General expressed a legal opinion upon the manner in which the onus of proof provisions should be interpreted, and when its Minister for Repatriation threatened an appeals tribunal because it tried to give effect to the ruling of its Attorney-General, and dismissed the members because they interpreted those provisions in favour of exservicemen? Despite those facts, honorable members opposite have had the temerity to say that this Government is less generous in this matter than was that Government.
It is time that this matter was cleared up completely. Under this Government, the Repatriation Commission is accepting the interpretation of the onus of proof provisions which was expressed by the present Leader of the Opposition when he was Attorney-General, although the Government of which he was a member refused to do so. Now, of course, an applicant is not required to make out a prima facie case before the commission at all. The Commission is interpreting section 47 in the manner in which the present Leader of the Opposition said that it should be interpreted, although he failed to enforce that interpretation. Let us have done with this hypocritical nonsense. This Government has given effect to an interpretation to which the Labour party was never game enough to give effect. . I feel that it is necessary to place those matters on record in order that the ex-servicemen of this country may know exactly what has happened in this regard, and how much sincerity there is in the claims of the Opposition.
.- The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) simulated a fine fury about a subject which he has discussed no fewer than five times this House, and, by that means, was able to evade answers to the questions posed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) gave a long dissertation about how the Repatriation Act worked. He did not come down to cases. In the short time at my disposal I wish to bring the argument back to where it belongs. In the first place, I shall deal with the questions that were raised by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison). He said, in effect, that there was no complaint about the interpretation of the onus-of-proof provision. He went back into history and referred to a former Minister for Repatriation who had trouble with an entitlement tribunal. He also referred to other instances that are well known and have been canvassed in this House from time to time. Then he concluded by saying that the onus-of-proof provision was well administered, and there had been no criticism about the way in which it was administered. How can he reconcile his remarks with those of Mr. David Bell, an official of the Air Force Association, who said publicly and recently that tragic errors had been made as a result of the wrong application of the onus-of-proof provision, which had resulted in exservicemen suffering years of poverty. The decisions that had been given in the cases of these men were later revoked, and the men received their pensions in due course. But there had to be an unduly prolonged investigation as a result of which the tragic errors that had been made were admitted, and during that time the men were deprived of their rights. If that seems to be an overstatement, I point out that the same person, supported by Mr. G. D. Donellan, of the Returned Servicemen’s League, said that the commission and the tribunals were constantly ignoring the claims of tuberculous ex-servicemen, and were asking them, in fact, to prove that their disease had been aggravated by war service. How can the Vice-President of the Executive Council be so smug when all the Opposition is asking for is fair treatment for ex-servicemen. We on this side of the House really have sympathy for these men. The proof of that claim is that we introduced the onus-of-proof provision in 1943.
I have cited statements made by a man who is an official of the Returned Servicemen’s League, of which both the Minister for the Army and I are members. But that official went further than I have already indicated. He said that too often were diggers who made applications to the commission or a tribunal treated as potential liars. What is the Minister’s, answer to that statement?
– I should like to have proof of it.
- Mr. Bell has said that the trouble is that the onus-of-proof provision is a most intricate piece of legal machinery trying to deal with a most delicate human problem.. It is of no use for the Minister to yammer across the table that there is nothing wrong with the interpretation of the provision. Of course there is ! We have to adopt a human approach in this matter before it is too late.
Two salient points that were made very clear by the Leader of the Opposition were that the onus-of-proof provision, which was inserted in the act by the Curtin Labour Government in 1943, is clear and distinct. It bends over backwards to ensure that the digger gets justice. It says, ‘ in effect, to put it colloquially, “ In any case in which the digger can raise a doubt, give him a chance “. The Minister’s own statement says, not once but three times, that the provision means, in effect, “ Do what you can for the digger The committee, of which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was chairman, made it imperative, by a firm resolution, that the onus of proof be placed where it lies under the law to-day. The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out that, according to the Minister’s own statement, that provision is not being justly interpreted. Section 47 in its present form was inserted in the act because we could foresee in 1943 the problem that would arise from the ageing of ex-servicemen. Therefore, we bent justice a little towards those who had made the continuance of democratic justice in this country possible. There is no doubt that the interpretation placed on the provision by the commission and the tribunals is too rigid. If honorable members are disinclined to agree with that statement, let me read them two points that are made by the Minister in the statement circulated by him. Admittedly, they are taken out of context, but I do not consider that I shall be presenting them unfairly. The statement says -
The High Court in the case ex parte Bott has given a judicial interpretation of section 47. Although that decision was given before section 47 was amended in 1943 to its present form, there has been no change in the onus of proof in an appeal to an Appeal Tribunal.
The second, and most damaging, point in reference to the Minister’s own statement is that, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, section 47 leaned over backwards to try to assist ex-servicemen who had disabilities. The only reason, why some ex-servicemen did not receive pensions is that they did not often report sick during their service. Because they did not go down sick and get put on an A.46, which is the form that servicemen fill in when they have toothache, backache or any other complaint, they were unable to support their claims that their disabilities were war caused. The position seems to have been that the men who received pensions got them because they were good clerks and had filled in the right forms during their service, while other fellows, who were good soldiers, did not succeed in obtaining pensions, lt is quite obvious to-day that a World War I. veteran who seeks a pension has every right to one, but he has to go like a mendicant from one section of the Repatriation Department to another looking for his papers, and because he had not made a practice of going on sick parade during his service he is told that he has no claim. I believe that, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, the only solution is to have a federal judge to trouble-shoot this issue. We should act as we have done in relation to burnt-out pensions. When a man who has had war service in the front line, where he faced conditions that could have caused or aggravated his disability, reaches the age of 55, he should not have to prove that his disability was so caused or aggravated. It should be accepted that, in view of the conditions under which he served, it was so caused or aggravated. That would be preferable to depending on quibbles about legal terminology to get out of our national responsibility. I think the Government has been wrong in reheating and rehashing old issues. This issue is clear. Both the Ministers who have spoken so far have a creditable record outside in relation to repatriation, but why are they now backing and filling in the Parliament because the Opposition has brought this matter forward ?
I consider that the Leader of the Opposition was most moderate in his approach to the matter. He did not make a rabblerousing speech like that made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
To sum up, the onus-of-proof provision has not been properly applied. The Minister has admitted, in his statement, that that is so. The statement says -
The act does not require a determining authority to deal either generously or ungenerously with a claim, but that it shall draw from all the circumstances of the case . all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant and shall give to the claimant the benefit of any doubt.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council then tried to improve on the position by saying that, by resolution, the onus of proof lay on the commission and not the tribunal. What in the name of sweet reason does the digger care where it lies, so long as he gets justice.
Three statements have appeared in the press in the last few days, made by the leaders of ex-servicemen’s organizations who said that the digger was not getting justice. _ It has been claimed that the medical services in New South Wales deal with case after case of diggers who are living in misery, on the edge of the dole. The only way to do something about this matter is to provide that the disability of an ex-serviceman who has served in the front line, whose papers do not indicate that he had any serious illness dur ing his service, should be accepted, when he has reached the age of 55 years, is a disability that could have been latent during his service. Claims of exservicemen that heart trouble or cancer are due to, or aggravated by, war service, are rejected on the grounds that such disabilities are also suffered by civilians. That should not be so. It is up to the Government, on behalf of this nation, to say that men who have reached the age of 55 and are suffering from a disability that might have been latent during their war service, are eligible for a pension, and that the department has the onus of disproving their claims. In how many cases have A.46’s been destroyed? In many cases units have had to move from their positions in the front line area leaving their records behind them. There is a man in my electorate who recorded almost everything he did in the Army, and as a result of the fact that he had papers to prove his various sicknesses-
-Order f The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I had hoped that little heat would be generated in this debate, and that there would be no attempt to make it a political issue, because a problem which involves human values must be treated on the most sympathetic basis possible. I am disturbed that members of the Opposition are trying to make some political capital out of the matter.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) is the only honorable member who has tried to do that.
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor must not interject in that fashion.
– I have been connected with a Ministry that deals with this problem, and I am prepared to say that the number of applicants that I have received for review or for ministerial intervention in relation to decisions of the repatriation authorities can be counted on the five fingers of one hand. The people concerned in those applications have demanded and received the utmost consideration, and we have helped them in every case in which it was possible to help. I consider that we should go out of our way to give such assistance when we can. I know that the Minister who administers the act has the deepest sympathy for every man who served in the forces, and will continue to show sympathy to them. I wish to make only one comment of a political nature in regard to this matter, and that is, that although it is universally accepted that the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has sympathetically administered the act, a different position existed during the terms of office of his two Labour predecessors, Mr. Barnard, the former honorable member for Bass, and Mr. Frost, the former honorable member for Franklin. When the time came for their administration to be judged by the people, who are the proper judges in these matters, they were ignominously thrown out of office by being deprived of their seats in this Parliament.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) raised the technical question of whether or not the provisions of the act are being complied with. I wish to make it clear that the. Leader of the Opposition either deliberately or mistakenly misinterpreted the law, which is clearly stated in the document that was circulated by the Minister. That document states -
The Act does not require a determining authority to deal either generously or ungenerously with a claim, but that it shall draw from all the circumstances of the case, from the evidence furnished, and from medical opinions, all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant, and shall give to the claimant the benefit of any doubt.
On the facts that were submitted to us, I say that it is now common knowledge that the boards, the war pensions entitlement appeals tribunals, and the commission are closely observing both the letter and the spirit of the provisions of the legislation, including section 47. The Minister’s statement points out that the effect of the provisions of the law is constantly pointed out to members of the tribunals or boards, and these members are supervised to ensure that the law is being carried out. Consequently, the only question at issue is whether or not the administration is effective. If the honorable members opposite want to make an attack on the Minister for his administration, then they should be men enough to get up and do so. On the evidence available to me, and on the official evidence that has been presented to the House, the Minister is administering the Repatriation Act efficiently both as to the spirit and the letter of the law. The Leader of the Opposition perverted the law somewhat when he said that his interpretation of section 47 of the Repatriation Act was that unless it could be proved by the Repatriation Commission that war service “ could not “ - not “ did not “ - contribute to or cause the disability, the claim must be approved. In fact, that is not the law. The law is as I. have stated it. It was laid down in section 47 of the Repatriation Act, after a long history through the regimes of the Bruce-Page Government, the Lyons Government and Labour governments, that the determining authority shall draw from all the circumstances of the case, from the evidence furnished and from medical opinions, all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant. That was’ done for two very definite reasons. First, to give the tribunals and the boards an opportunity to deal sympathetically with all ex-servicemen, and, secondly, to ensure, in the public interest, that the act would not be abused. A reasonable balance had to be drawn somewhere between those two objectives. On all the evidence, and on the facts submitted ‘to the House, there is much to be said in favour of the case presented by my colleague, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis).
.- Every honorable member from the Government side of the House who has participated in this debate commenced his address by saying that repatriation should be above party politics. Then he proceeded, during his allotted time, to attempt to prove that the Government has been much more generous to ex-servicemen than have Labour governments. I shall try to put this matter on a non-party basis by saying that no Australian government can claim to have ever been over-generous, or generous in any sense, to ex-servicemen. I shall not consider whether previous governments have made mistakes, or whether this Government is even now making mistakes; the simple issue is whether the law, and its interpretation and administration, is unsatisfactory in its dealings with exservicemen. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) said that no protests have been made against the administration of the Repatriation Act. All that I can say in reply to that statement is that the Minister must be completely unaware of the thousands of protests that have been made from time to time to the Repatriation Department by various applicants who believed that they had not received justice. Every other honorable member has a personal knowledge of such protests. As the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) pointed out, the officers of ex-servicemen’s organizations- have been protesting that their members are unable to obtain justice from the Repatriation Commission or from the various tribunals that have been established under the Repatriation Act. It does not matter at this stage who has been responsible in the past, or why the matters about which ex-servicemen have complained have not been corrected; this Government is now in control of our affairs and if there is anything wrong in the administration of the Repatriation Act it is the responsibility of this Government to put it right.
I do not intend to argue the legal aspects that have been raised in this debate. I shall content myself by saying that the Minister for the Army said that section 47 of the Repatriation Act, which was introduced by a Labour government in 1943, was now being interpreted and administered in a way in which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has said it should be interpreted and administered. I deny the averment of the Minister for the Army, and the only way to prove my argument is to produce specific cases, where documentary evidence is available, to prove conclusively that the Repatriation Department is not giving the benefit of the doubt to ex-servicemen in their applications for pensions. I shall first deal with the case of two ex-servicemen, both of whom served in the Eighth Field Ambulance Brigade in the 1914-18 war.
The total service of each of them was 4 years and 56 days, 3 years and 131 days of which was overseas service. They are brothers and served as stretcher-bearers on the same stretcher and the records show that for the whole period of their service they were separated for only fourteen days. Both of the men are now getting on in years, and are heart cases. They applied for pensions, and one brother was granted a totally and permanently incapacitated pension. The other brother’s application was rejected on the grounds that his ailment is hereditary. If anybody can argue that there is not some doubt existing in that case, then surely his sense of logic is at fault. The brother who approached me about this matter has not requested me to suppress his name, but I shall not mention it in this House. I shall give it to the Minister privately. After his claim was rejected, this man visited three of the medical officers under whom he had served in the Eighth Field Ambulance Brigade, asked their opinion of his condition, and whether the condition was attributable to war service. I have before me copies of the certificates furnished by those medical officers, the originals having been sent to the Repatriation Department. The first was furnished by Dr. “Whiston Walsh, who was a major-general in the Australian Army Medical Corps. The document reads -
Mr.- was a stretcher bearer with the 8th Field Ambulance while I was associated with that Unit from December 1917 to July 1918.
During that period he was in the front line as a stretcher bearer not only with the 8th Field Ambulance but alao on loan to the 14th and 15th Field Ambulances.
His duties were very strenuous.
He was under my treatment at the 8th Field Ambulance Dressing Station at T Mills in DAORS suffering from the effects of Mustard Gas and Phosgene Gas poisoning for some weeks early in 1918. He had extensive burns about the body.
In my opinion the strenuous conditions of service as a stretcher bearer, the effects of gas poisoning and the after effects of Pneumonic Influenza contracted in 1918 were all factors causing his present condition. (Sgd.) Dr. Whiston Walsh,
The next document is a certificate from Dr. J. R. Barriskill, of 86 Percival-road, Stanmore. That certificate reads -
Mr. was with me in the 8th Field Ambulance A.I.F.
He was under constant strain stretcher bearing tinder front-line conditions for long periods and never spared himself, often working and carrying on when he should have been resting.
He was hospitalised in 1018 suffering from Pneumonic Influenza.
I had occasion to examine him at my Surgery about six weeks ago, and found that he was suffering from high degree of hypertension with symptoms.
I am of opinion that his strenuous and self sacrificing work in the war has contributed to his condition. (Sgd.) Dr. J.R. Barriskill.
Finally, I shall read a certificate furnished by Dr. J. B. McKenzie, of 15 Lord-street, Roseville. This gentleman was a major in the Australian Army Medical Corps, and he wrote -
Mr. – and his brother were stretcher bearers in “C” section of the 8th Field Ambulance during my association with it.
They both worked hard and conscientiously, both in the front line and out of it. They were with me at Bernafay Woods, Bullecourt - Passchendale - during the 1916-1917 winter - amidst snow, frozen mud, etc. -
In my opinion their hard work during this time and during their long service in the ambulance under such conditions contributed to Mr.— present disability. (Sgd.) J. B. McKenzie, Major,
Honorable members will therefore note that three medical officers under whom both , the brothers served have certified that the condition of the brother who was refused a pension is attributable to his war service. But he has not been given a pension although his brother, who had exactly the same service as he had, was awarded a totally and permanently incapacitated persons pension. One brother’s application was rejected on the opinion of Sir Charles Blackburn, who decided that his ailment was hereditary. The only evidence that it was hereditary is the fact that the man’s father died from a stroke at the age of 58 years. However, the man has two brothers who have had no war service, who have reached an advanced age and are not suffering from heart trouble. He has also a sister who has reached an advanced age and is not suffering from a heart condition. This gentleman who fought his case to its conclusion, consulted Dr. Graham and Dr. Shelton of Macquarie-street, who verified the opinion expressed by the medical officers of the units with which the brothers had served. Against the opinions of those five medical men is only the opinion of Sir Charles Blackburn. Dr. Graham made some caustic comments about the actions of the department. The file and a summary of this ex-serviceman’s case was submitted, together with the opinion of Sir Charles Blackburn, to Dr. Graham, who concluded a commentary upon the file by saying that he had no reason, despite Sir Charles Blackburn’s opinion, to change the opinion that he had originally expressed. However, he directed attention to the fact that the file submitted to him was to be regarded as strictly confidential, and he said that it was disclosed in the papers that two medical officers had recommended this man’s retirement from the Army during the 1914-18 war on the ground that he was medically unfit. That section of the report had been struck out, and the doctor wanted to know why this alteration had been made in the official files. No reply was given to the doctor’s question. Dr. Shelton said that he agreed with what had been said by Dr. Graham.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 12.42 to 2.15 p.m.
– First, I draw the attention of the House to the wording of the statement from which this debate has arisen. The urgent matter of public importance raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is as follows: -
The unsatisfactory departmental interpretation and administration of section 47 of the Repatriation Act, and the consequent rejections by statutory tribunals of many claims and appeals of ex-servicemen and their dependants contrary to the intention of this Parliament.
I remind the House of the phraseology because various honorable members have referred only to single instances of dissatisfaction, and I want to impress upon them the fact that the complaint of the Leader of the Opposition, if it has any force, is in general terms and attacks the whole interpretation of section 47 of the Repatriation Act. In fact, the Leader of the Opposition emphasized that he intended his complaint to have that meaning, because he advocated the introduction of a new method of administering the section. In other words, his criticism was directed at the general and total administration of the section. The speeches of other members of the Opposition conveyed the same impression. However, the evidence that they produced to support their claims was extremely tenuous. It consisted of perhaps half a dozen cases in which they alleged that the act had not been properly interpreted. The Leader of the Opposition produced no evidence at all in support of his arguments. No general attack on the administration of the provision can be soundly based on such weak grounds.
Under our system of repatriation, in which bodies of men are called upon to make decisions that affect thousands of ex-servicemen, a few mistakes are inevittable. No human agency could possibly conduct operations of that nature on such a large scale without making some errors. But the making of mistakes does not mean that the general administration of the law is at fault. All that such examples prove is that the administration has been faulty in a few instances. I remind honorable members of the great number of cases that are dealt with by repatriation tribunals each year. The latest statistics in my possession for the period 1939-45 show that 5,248 claims were made by applicants for war pensions during 1950-51. Of these, 2,996 were allowed, 978 were disallowed, five were reduced, and 255 were withdrawn or lapsed. At the 30th June, 1951, 1,014 cases were still pending. Those figures disclose the scope of the work of our repatriation tribunals. What do we really want to decide in this debate? What we really want to decide is whether ex-servicemen, on the whole, are being given a fair go by the tribunals. It is no denial of my positive assertion that they are being given a fair go to cite perhaps a dozen cases in which mistakes may have been made. I repeat that a few cases do not prove anything. I shall refer to one case of which I have knowledge. It is the case of a man who made a claim for treatment for a war-caused disability. He suffered from neurosis, which, he said, was a war disability. He was put into hospital, and his case was investigated for two months. Then the claim was rejected on the ground that there was no documentary evidence to support it. However, he later produced evidence to the effect that, on one occasion during his term of war service, he had received treatment at a regimental aid post. On the strength of that single piece of evidence, the entire claim was granted. If honorable members opposite wish to refer to single instances, they should select them impartially.
Not long ago, I discussed this subject with a very senior medical officer of the Repatriation Department who has been in the service of the department for twenty years or more and, therefore, has intimate knowledge of the medical aspects of claims for war pensions. He stated, as his considered opinion, that the repatriation tribunals, if they were composed of doctors instead of laymen, would reject many more claims than are rejected under the present system. The only inference that can be drawn from that assertion is that the tribunals, in fact, give the benefit of the doubt to applicants. I recently made contact with the headquarters of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in Queensland, and I specifically asked an official of the branch, without explaining my reasons for doing so, “ Does the league consider the administration of section 47 of the Repatriation Act throughout the State to be satisfactory ? “ The answer was an unequivocal “ Yes “. The official told me that the league considered the administration of the section to be extremely satisfactory, and he is a man who has had many years of experience and of personal contact with repatriation tribunals. He said that there might be a few cases in which . the claims of ex-servicemen might have been more leniently viewed but that, on the whole, the league had no complaint, and that the number of rejections must be very limited. In fact, lie used an expression that has been used to-day by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and said that the tribunals bent over backwards in order to do what they could for ex-servicemen.
My time is limited, but I wish to refer to the comments of the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) because the sincerity of his interest in this matter is obvious to all of us. The honorable gentleman based the claims that he made so earnestly on very few examples. I also submit to him that it is a matter of immense difficulty to determine that a man, who suffers from coronary occlusion many years after a war, sustained that disability as a result of war service. Prom my own knowledge of medicine, for what it is worth, I consider that only a very bold medical man would uphold the claim to which the honorable member referred.
– The Repatriation Commission upheld one such claim after a lapse of 30 years.
– On general medical grounds, I should think that, if the commission held that a coronary occlusion which occurred many years after the termination of war service had been contributed to in some way by that service, there must also have been some concomitant disease, such as generalized cardio-vascular disease, and that the occlusion must have been an incident in the course of that disease. I have made these observations in order to point out that, although I have the utmostsympathy with the honorable member’s claims, it is not possible to interpret the Repatriation Act in the way that he has suggested.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
SUPPLY. (“ Grievance Day”.)
– (Hon. Archie Cameron). - As it is now past the time which is provided for “ Grievance Day “, Order of the Day No. 1 will not be called on this afternoon. The Committee of Supply will ‘be set down for the next day of sitting.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910-1949.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, which has to be taken in conjunction with legislation submitted to the Legislative .Council for the Northern Territory, is designed to give effect to certain proposals which were announced to this House on the 6th September in a statement respecting native welfare. In that statement, I referred to the conditions under which land might be resumed from aboriginal reserves, the method by which it might be resumed, and the conditions under which prospecting and mining might be permitted on reserves. A significant part of the announcement was to the effect that, if mining took place on an aboriginal reserve or on any land which had been resumed from a reserve, a royalty should be levied on the minerals won and those royalties should be paid into a trust fund, which would be applied for the benefit of aborigines. As honorable members on both sides of the House expressed their approval of this proposal during the debate on the motion for the printing of my statement, I anticipate that there will be little difficulty in obtaining the approval of the House to the bill which is now before it.
In order to put the proposal into effect, legislation is necessary, both in this Parliament, and in the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. A bill which was recently introduced into the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory to amend the mining ordinance of the territory, sets out the conditions under which mining may take place on aboriginal reserves, and lays down the procedure for the resumption of reserves for the purposes of mining. It also lays down that a royalty shall be levied on any minerals won, and that these royalties shall he paid into a trust fund to be known as the Aboriginals (Benefits from Mining) Trust Fund, to be administered for the benefit of the aboriginal native inhabitants of the Northern Territory. The ordinance will provide that, with the consent of the Minister, the Administrator of the Northern Territory can make payments or grant benefits from the fund, either direct to, or through the agency of any person or association of persons on behalf of an aboriginal native inhabitant of the Northern Territory or a group or class of aboriginal native inhabitants of the Northern Territory in such a manner as the Minister deems fit.
Legal advice was given to the Government that the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory did not have the power to create a trust fund, and the purpose of the bill now before the House is simply to establish the fund. The bill contains one substantial clause to the effect that a new section shall be inserted in the Northern Territory Administration Act 1910-194:9, establishing the trust fund as a trust account within the meaning of section 62 (9.) of the Audit Act 1901-1950, and providing that there shall be paid into the fund, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is appropriated accordingly, amounts equal to the amounts from time to time received by or on behalf of the Commonwealth by way of royalties under any provision of the law of the territory relating to mining on aboriginal reserves or on lands which have been included in aboriginal reserves. The clause also provides that payments may be made out of the fund of such amounts as the Minister directs or approves and applied to or for the benefit of aborigines or aboriginal institutions. Interest received from the investment of money standing to the credit of the fund will form part of the fund.
That is the whole content of the bill. In commending the measure to the House I should like to repeat the assurances which were given in my earlier statement that great care will be exercised in the granting of permits to persons to prospect or mine on aboriginal reserves and that the interests of natives will be safeguarded at all times. It is not the policy of this Government to throw open aboriginal reserves or to reduce them thoughtlessly; nor should any prospector, miner or any other person be misled into thinking that he will be encouraged by this Government to enter on reserves. The effect of the action we are taking is that, in those cases in which reserves or portions of reserves are not necessary for the use -and benefit of aborigines and where the presence of minerals is suspected, we will in future have the legal power to permit the entry of the prospector or the miner, and, if minerals are found in such quantities as to make the action worth while, we will have the legal power to resume part of a. reserve for mining purposes. In every case, however, the interests, of the natives will be watched carefully, as, indeed, they must be. There will be no general rule in favour of miners and prospectors. Each application will be determined in the light of the surrounding facts and will have to be justified by the facts: Each permit to enter a reserve and the granting of each mining lease will be subject to such conditions as may be necessary to ensure that the remaining interests of the natives are respected. No resumption of any part of a reserve will be made without reference to the Governor-General and any resumption will have to be notified to this Parliament, which will, of course, be able to exercise its customary powers if it wishes to disallow such resumption.
In some quarters, the question has been asked why the natives themselves should not work any minerals that may be found on the reserves. In general, mining would be beyond the present skill and the resources of most of the natives in the Northern Territory. If it should happen that any natives living on reserves show an interest and capacity for either prospecting or mining on those reserves, they will receive every possible encouragement and opportunity to engage in this activity. Natives outside the reserves who would be entitled to apply for a miner’s right or a mining lease can, of course, do so. It may be that natives may be able to work on their own account, and benefit from it, but in the great majority of cases the present condition of the natives in the territory, and the nature of their own interests are such that, both as individuals and as groups, they are likely to receive a more practical and more immediate benefit by a system of royalties which will provide funds to he expended for their social advancement. I commend to the House this bill to create a trust fund for natives.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 8th October (vide page 2725), on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harbison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is the second cotton bounty bill introduced by this Government within a period of a little more than twelve months for the purpose of giving assistance to the cotton industry. It represents a further practical demonstration of the genuine interest which this Government a.s in helping the man on the land, and encouraging all forms of primary production. The Cotton Bounty Bill, naturally, is of great importance and interest to the people of Queensland, because that State is the foremost cottongrowing State in the Commonwealth. I feel proud that members of the Government who represent electorates in Queensland were in the forefront in pressing for the cotton bounty that was granted last year, and have been active in seeking the increased bounty that is now under consideration. I should like to pay a tribute to the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) for his interest in this matter. I recollect clearly that the honorable member, in his maiden speech in this House a little over two years ago, dealt with this important subject of the cotton industry, and it is due, in a large, degree, to his representations to the Government that the first bounty of 9½d. per lb. for seed cotton was introduced about this time last year. I also pay a tribute to my colleague, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), who has played a prominent part in encouraging the Government to introduce this legisla tion in order to increase the bounty on seed cotton from 9£d. to 14d. per lb. in 1953.
If I have any criticism of this bill at all, it is in regard to the length of the term for which the guarantee is given. This point was mentioned last night by my friend, the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm). He said that he would have been happier if the period had been increased, and I agree with his statement. The Cotton Bounty Bill introduced last year provided that the guarantee should operate for five years from the 1st January, 1951. That is to say, the guarantee will be operative until the 1st January, 1956.’ The bill now under consideration, as will be seen in clause 2, will come into operation on the 1st January, 1953. My only criticism, or ground for disappointment, is that the period of five years does not operate from the 1st January, 1953. I mention that matter particularly, because the Australian Agricultural Council has set a target for 1957-58 of 60,000 acres of cotton under cultivation. I would have been happy if the target date could have coincided with the date of expiry of this guarantee. At the same time, it is gratifying to read in clause 3 of the bill that, although the price may be varied from time to time after 1953, and during the term of the guarantee, the price will not at any time be allowed to fall below 9½d. per lb. for seed cotton.
The whole history of cotton growing in Australia shows that, in order to obtain increased production, it is necessary to have some form of government assistance. The records show that cotton production declined from a peak of approximately 17,000 bales in 1934 to just over 500 bales in 1949. There was a slight increase to 800 bales in 1950. As the result of the guarantee given in the Cotton Bounty Bill introduced by the Government last year, cotton-growers took fresh heart, and substantially increased plantings were effected. If it were not for the fact that many parts of Queensland suffered from a severe drought in the last two seasons, I feel sure that the output would almost certainly have doubled, or trebled, in 1951-52. During the war years, the cotton industry was hit very hard. Labour was scarce. Any labour that was available was concentrated, necessarily, on food production. But the cotton industry is now picking up, with the assistance that is being provided by this Government, and given good seasons for a few years, the industry should <*et well on its feet, and should never look back again.
I mention, with some regret, in passing, that during the term of the Chifley Labour Government, the cotton industry received no assistance whatever. An appeal was made to that Government to grant assistance, but the appeal was in vain. I assume the explanation is that, as socialist doctrine is so much concerned with organizing the means of distribution and production rather than with production itself, little or no attention was given to the important basic question of increasing and encouraging primary production. Since the present Government has been in office, the whole position has been reviewed in the light of world markets and present-day requirements, and the various economic factors involved have been taken into account. The Tariff Board has pointed out that almost every country in the world to-day is endeavouring to promote cotton growing, wherever possible, and to become selfsufficient in regard to cotton manufactured goods. It is a matter for considerable satisfaction that Australia is now playing an important part in this world-wide development with respect to the growing of cotton. The wide domestic demand for cotton will continue, and probably increase, over the years, and we in this country should aim to satisfy our own demand by local production. The importance of cotton in relation to defence was stressed last night by several speakers in this debate, and there is no need for me to elaborate that point.
The Queensland Cotton Board has estimated that within the next fifteen years, complete mechanization of the cotton industry will be achieved in the main cotton-growing countries of the world. With a view to increasing mechanization in Australia, the board has been conducting experiments for some time with a power sprayer, .a flame cultivator, and an improved type of cotton picker, which was imported from the United States of America. Those experiments have been carried out in co-operation with the cottongrowers themselves, mainly in the Theodore irrigation area on the Dawson River and in the lower Burdekin valley, where cotton is grown with the aid of supplementary irrigation. Expert opinion is that the expansion of cotton growing in the future depends largely on supplementary irrigation together with mechanization of cultivation and harvesting operations.
While I am dealing with this point, I stress that the development of water resources in Queensland, and an expansion of irrigation facilities in that State for cotton growing are of firstclass importance to the future of th& cotton-growing industry. It is a matter of great regret that successive Labour governments in Queensland over many years have neglected, to a large degree, theimportant duty of developing and conserving water resources. They havewasted time and money in playing party politics to the detriment of primary producers and the State generally. Therehas been too much talk of plans, too much thought about pleasing city voters, and too little thought and time given to the great developmental problems. Machinery and implements necessary for the efficient production of cotton involve a heavy capital outlay, and, as a matter of plain bread and butter, no primary producer can be expected to undertake such large expenditure unless he has some reasonable assurance of remunerative returns and markets for his products.
Investigations that have been carried out at the experimental station at Biloela, in the Callide Valley, in the electorate of Capricornia, have demonstrated that the growing of cotton must necessarily be a part of a general scheme of crop rotation, and I understand that various chemical and other experiments are also being conducted with a view to improving the quality of the cotton crop. After ali, we must concern ourselves not only with the quantity but also with the quality of the product. Climatic conditions are a big factor. That point has been mentioned by previous speakers in thi» debate. Soil fertility and irrigation facilities are equally basic. At this juncture, I should like to join with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in paying a tribute to the men of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for the splendid, painstaking and patient work that they have been carrying out over a long period. This work is of tremendous importance and of great significance. Necessarily it is carried on behind the scenes, and the efforts, of those who perform it receive little or no publicity. However, when a suitable occasion arises in this House, we should applaud such scientific efforts in the interests of Australia. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne that it is necessary for the Parliament to give a great deal of thought to the development of the northern parts of Australia. I have in mind northern Queensland, the Northern Territory and the northern part of Western Australia.
From time to time, the Tariff Board has furnished interesting and illuminating reports on the cotton industry and has traced its ups and downs since its inception. The board has consistently emphasized the great value to Australia of a soundly established cotton industry. The increase of the guaranteed price should lead to a greater production of not only raw cotton, to meet the requirements of the cotton spinning industry, but also the byproducts obtained from cotton seed which will be of great importance to industries that have already been established here and other industries that could be established in this country if these by-products were available in sufficient quantities. I trust that in the near future we shall see an ever-increasing supply of these byproducts. Cottonseed oil is used in a variety of food processing industries and cottonseed meal is one of the richest protein meals for dairy herds. The latter fact explains why in many parts of Queensland cotton growing is carried on in conjunction with the dairying industry.
In dealing with the provision of this assistance, one cannot emphasize too much our urgent need to save dollars by decreasing imports of cotton. The increase of the guaranteed price for seed cotton from 9½d. per lb. to 14d. per lb. will cover increased costs of production and, as the Minister pointed out in his second-reading speech, will give to cottongrowers returns comparable with those that are enjoyed by other primary producers. I believe that this assistance will not only help to stabilize the industry but will also play an important part in our economic development.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 7th October (vide page 2573), on motion by Mr. Hasluck -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition supports this measure with a great deal of gratification because this essential work is now being commenced mainly as a result of a plan that was evolved during the term of office of the Chifley Government. I should like the Government to assure the House that the work of standardization of our railway gauges will not cease with the construction of this short line. Honorable members will recognize the great difficulties that confronted the Chifley Government in its endeavours to obtain the requisite agreement with the States before this great national work could be undertaken. At one stage, the Chifley Government induced the Ministers for Transport in the various States to sign an agreement with respect to the standardization of railway gauges but, unfortunately, some State Parliaments did not see fit to pass the necessary legislation to ratify it. Subsequently, the Chifley Government reached an agreement with three of the State governments in respect of an amended scheme, excluding Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania, the last-mentioned State not being affected by it. However, the Victorian Parliament, when it was asked to ratify that agreement, enacted legislation that surrounded participation by that State with so many conditions as to make it ineffective. South Australia was the only State that co-operated effectively with the Commonwealth under that agreement. The Minister for Transport in that State, who took part in many of the negotiations from which the agreement was evolved, is to be complimented on the far-sighted view that he has taken of this important national work. The majority of the Australian people would not like to believe that the work of standardizing our railway gauges will be abandoned after this short line has been completed. This line will not help immediately to overcome the break of gauge problem in this country. Indeed, its immediate effect will be to increase the number of breaks of gauge from fifteen to sixteen. Standardization should be pushed on with the greatest possible speed, having regard to the nation’s other requirements. The Government should regard this work as a defence project. The ineffectiveness of our transport system to ensure mobility of troops and war materiel was demonstrated during the recent war, and it was as a result of that experience that the Chifley Government desired to press on with the standardization of railway gauges with all haste. That government recognized the value of that project also from the point of view of development.
The line that is now to be standardized will contribute considerably to the development of South Australia. It will also help to overcome the grave problem that now confronts several States in respect of coal supplies, because it is the intention of the South Australian Government, by the construction of this line and the construction of a power station which is now being erected at Port Augusta, to step up the production of coal at Leigh Creek to approximately 2,000,000 tons annually. The production will substantially relieve the strain of present demands for coal from the eastern States. This plan was delayed because of a difference of opinion that arose between the Commonwealth and South Australia over the route of one section of the proposed line. That difficulty was finally resolved by a royal commission, the decisions of which both governments agreed to accept.
The Opposition is concerned that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), in his second-reading speech, did not indicate whether the Government intends to make provision for compensation to workers who will be obliged to move their homes elsewhere because the line, on the recommendation of the royal commission, is to by-pass Quorn and other towns in which many railway workers and other workers have established their homes. When, as Minister for Transport in the Chifley Government, I was responsible for conducting negotiations in respect of this proposal I received numbers of deputations of business people, civic authorities and workers in those towns. They expressed fears that their life savings would be jeopardized if the route of the line was diverted in that way. Whilst I welcome the royal commission’s recommendations insofar as they confirm the view that the Chifley Government took at that time, nevertheless the fears of the communities affected have not yet been allayed. I refer not only to the workers but also to business people who have established businesses in these communities and whose trade will be detrimentally affected by the diversion of the route.
I understand that a bill has been introduced into the South Australian Parliament to make provision for the setting up of a committee to examine this problem of payment of compensation. I am particularly anxious to learn what financial assistance the Australian Government is prepared to give to South Australia to implement the findings of that committee. South Australia, as one of the less populous States, receives a special grant annually from the Commonwealth, and it is also one of the States that have been bitterly complaining that they are not receiving sufficient finance from the Com;monwealth to enable them to carry out urgent public works. In such circum-stances, it is reasonable to assume that the South Australian Government will not be able to meet the many claims for compensation which, no ‘doubt, will be made as a result of the decision to change the route of this railway. Therefore, I should like the Minister to assure the House that the Commonwealth is cooperating with the South Australian Government in this matter, and is prepared to assist by providing £he necessary finance to meet any claims that may be accepted. A definite undertaking which a preceding administration has given to provide compensation in cases of this kind should be honoured by its successors. Unless that principle be observed, the community generally would have cause to be very perturbed. When I was Minister for Transport in the Chifley Government, I received representations on several occasions with respect to this matter and in reply to them as well as to questions that certain honorable members, including the honorable member for Grey, asked in this House at that time, I definitely gave the undertaking on behalf of the Chifley Government that if, finally, the route of this line was altered to by-pass Quorn and other towns in that district, any persons who suffered monetary loss as a result of that alteration would be able to claim compensation, and if such claims were well-founded the Government would be prepared to meet them. That undertaking should he honoured by the present Government..
The Chifley Government endeavoured for a number of years to get a start made on the standardization of railway gauges. It is gratifying that, at long last, portion of the work, even though it is only a comparatively small part of the whole project, is now to be undertaken. Transport experts, including Mr. Elliott, an overseas expert who was brought to this country by the Victorian Government to advise it on transport matters, have emphasized the urgent need to proceed with the standardization of railway gauges. I do not think any honorable member will dispute that, if we started to build our railways to-day, we should build standard-gauge lines from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. During the war years, the condition of our railways, especially in some States, deteriorated to a very great degree. That leeway, as it were, has not yet been made up. Therefore, it will be necessary, within the space of a few years, practically to rebuild the Australian railway system. In my opinion, we should rebuild it to the standard gauge.
I hope that the Government will be able to give an assurance that this great national work, having been commenced., will proceed with all possible speed, and that, if it has not already done so, it will again enter into negotiations with the other State governments in relation to gauge standardization. The shortage of coal is not as acute as it was some time ago. There are many hundreds of thousands of tons of coal at grass, which can be used to speed up steel production in Australia. With steel more readily available, itshould be possible for the State governments to undertake this work which, hitherto, they have not done, on the plea that there -was a shortage of materials and man-power. Those shortages have disappeared now. I hope that the Government will not plead that it cannot proceed with the work owing to lack of finance. I have very definite views, which I do not propose to discuss now, upon the financing of public works. I have always expressed the view that it is unnecessary to raise loans for the purpose of carrying out essential public works in this country, but probably that is a matter which can be discussed on some other occasion. I hope that the Government will not give lack of finance as a reason why it cannot reach agreement with the States so that this great work can he undertaken. I commend the measure to the House. I am certain that it will receive the unanimous approval of all honorable members.
– I support the bill, but I do not support the contentions of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), although I give him credit for his advocacy of railway gauge standardization. When he was Minister for Transport, it was estimated that the cost of standardizing the gauges of the railways of this country would be about £240,000,000, but at the present time its cost would be £330,000,000. If the representatives of the New South Wales Government and of the Federal Opposition who headed a recent procession in Sydney, advocating a 30-hour working week, had their way, the cost of the work would be a great deal more than that. Standardization of the railway gauges of this country would be of great value, especially in a time of war, but I believe that the money necessary to undertake that task could be diverted to other and more useful purposes, such as water conservation projects on a large, scale throughout Queensland. Standardization of gauges would not result in more railways being built. Existing railway lines would be ripped up, and existing railway bridges would be torn down and re-erected, but no new railways would be provided. The railway system of Victoria - the greatest railway system in this country - would be reduced in gauge. One honorable member has remarked that the railway system of Queensland is a toy. I say that Queensland, having regard to its small population and large area, has done better than has any other State of the Commonwealth in connexion with the building of railways. If Queensland had adopted a broader gauge, it could not have provided a half of the railway services that exist there now. Many countries have used narrow gauge railways in the days of early settlement.
If we expended £330,000,000, which is the present estimate of the cost of standardization, upon water conservation schemes and irrigation schemes, we should be able to increase our primary production and, consequently, our population. In those circumstances, the wealth of the country would increase. Part of that additional wealth could be devoted to railway gauge standardization, and there would be no necessity to borrow money for that purpose. Surely it would be better to do that than to undertake a project, the only advantage of which would be to eliminate inconvenience at State borders in time of war. If we want to connect Perth with Brisbane by railway, we have only to extend the railway line from Melbourne round the coast of Victoria to Bombala. Then Brisbane would be linked by rail with all the capital cities in the south and west of Australia. That would not involve an expenditure of money to reduce the gauge but would provide a through link between capital cities and put Canberra on a main line.
If we have money that could be expended upon railway gauge standardization, let us rather use it to develop projects that would develop this country, create wealth and power, and assist our defence by enabling us to maintain a greater number of people in the north of this continent. In the great areas of Queensland that could be closely settled, most of the land is held by the Crown. Only 5 per cent, of the 640,000’ square miles of Queensland has been alienated. Only 5 per cent, of the land. is available for land taxation.-
– Order ! The honorable member is going very wide of the bill. I shall not bar absolutely references to the standardization of railway gauges, but I point out to the honorable member that this measure deals with a specific stretch of railway, as a part of the gauge standardization proposals. I shall not permit a general debate upon land settlement, primary production, electrification and water conservation.
– The reference to railway gauge standardization caused me to suggest that the money that would be required to implement that scheme could be used in the manner that I have suggested, especially in areas where railways exist already. I believe that that money, or even double the sum, should be used to create something that would be of more value to us than standard gauge railway lines all over Australia.
– I support the bill. I am pleased that the Government intends to proceed with the construction of this railway. My view, as one who has advocated the standardization of railway gauges for at least 35 years, and as one who took art active part in an agitation for standardization in Victoria, is that Victoria’ acted unwisely in not seizing the opportunity that was presented to it in this connexion. I should not be surprised if, eventually, a standard gauge railway line were built from Broken Hill to Port Pirie and, in consequence, Victoria suffered as a result of its failure to standardize its railway gauges when its portion of the share of that work was well within its monetary capacity. In latter years, Mr., now Sir Harold, Clapp became a great advocate of standardization. “When the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was Minister for Transport in the Chifley Government, a plan was prepared which, in my view, would have been of great benefit to Australia if it had been implemented. I compliment the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) upon this measure. This is not -a Labour government, but members of the Labour party are always prepared to -support proposals from governments of a different political complexion when they do useful and sensible things.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) spoke about the desirability of expending money in other directions. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that I shall be permitted to refer to that matter only in passing. He suggested that irrigation works should be undertaken before the construction of railways. To my mind, that was a very illogical suggestion, because it would be essential to have railways to handle the increased traffic that would result from the development of primary production through irrigation schemes. This measure represents a move in the direction of railway gauge standardization. I believe that I can: speak with a little authority upon this matter, because, during the early part of my life, I was a railwayman, and, later, I was secretary and then president of the locomotivemen’s union. I was succeeded in that office by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). Probably he will have something to say about the matter later. I could not disagree with any one more than I disagree with the honorable member for Wide Bay in the criticism that he offered of this measure. I think he was completely wide of the mark, and that he put the cart before the horse when he suggested that irrigation works should take priority of a part of the scheme for railway gauge, standardization. I am very sorry that only a small part of that scheme is to be .undertaken. .
I want to refer to the railway employees who will be transferred from, Quorn to. Port Augusta. In other parts. of the world, private railway companies have agreed that, when it is necessary to transfer a railway depot for business, strategic or other reasons, compensation should be paid to employees who suffer as a result of the transfer. I visited Quorn many years ago, and again quite recently. Some of the men there have made themselves very comfortable. That remark applies not only to men employed in the locomotive branch, but also to those employed in other branches, especially the operating branches. A large number of men are engaged in the operation of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line that runs to Alice Springs. As a result of the transfer, some of those men will be forced to leave their homes, and probably the business of the town of Quorn will be affected. A man who has invested his life savings in a house, suffers a ruinous loss if the value of that house decreases considerably. The honorable member for East . Sydney has asked the Minister in charge of the bill to consider the payment of compensation to these men for any loss that they may suffer as a result of this transfer. . I hope that it will be found possible for the Minister, acting on behalf of. the Minister for Shipping and Transport, to ensure that that principle is accepted. . I know that the adjustments that would arise from acceptance of it could not be made offhand and that the whole matter would have to be examined by a competent body, but we must do justice to the people who work on the line. The divisional secretary of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Engineers may be forced to try to sell the house in which he lives, a stone house that was built many years ago and that will last for a long time. Many of his colleagues may be forced to take similar action. Mr. Hannaberry, the Commissioner for Railways, has done a very good job in relation to the provision of housing for railway men. Mr. Makin, the former Minister for the Navy, and another honorable member .and I travelled over the north-south line to investigate the conditions under which the men were living and working. Since then the dreadful conditions that we found have been remedied to some degree, and I hope that
Mr. Hannaberry will be allowed to continue with his good work of providing suitable houses and amenities for railway workers.
If some of the honorable members who have never seen the conditions under which the railwaymen on that line live were to travel over the line and see them for themselves, their experiences might prove helpful in bringing such matters as this to a proper conclusion. The Labour party was sitting in Opposition when the living conditions of these men wore examined. The Commissioner embarked on a policy of providing more suitable homes for the men a? well as rest houses with refrigerators and other improvements, as a result of which railwaymen now working on the trains have ice boxes in which to keep their food. It is hard to appreciate the conditions that previously existed without having actually seen them. Men used to go to work on the trains carrying on their shoulders big boxes containing foodstuffs, which they cooked in the rest houses or sometimes even on the trains during the run. I am familiar with the conditions on that line not only through having been a passenger on the train, but also through having travelled specially on the line in order to see them for myself. The conditions that the men worked under were almost unbearable, particularly as that is a section of country where temperatures range from 110 to 120 degrees in summer time, and where in all seasons there is always sand blowing over the line at a number of places.
I wish to make reference to some statements in the report, which make it clear that in selecting the route for this new line the commission foresaw the likelihood that compensation would have to be paid. The report states -
It waa several times pointed out by Mr. Hannaberry that it is by no means certain that the Commonwealth will build houses for all railway workers, occupying houses at Quorn who will go to live at Stirling North or Port Augusta. Some of these people will obtain houses from other sources, such as the Housing Trust, or through speculative builders, or by purchase or rental.
I think that the logic of that statement cannot be disputed. The houses are not likely to be left on their hands, because the extension of the railway will mean that more, and not fewer, houses will be required. A large number of men will be shifted from Quorn to Stirling North, which is 25 miles away, and no doubt their houses will become redundant, as. the report says. . They will not be able to sell them except at a much lower figure-, than would ordinarily be obtainable forthem. Restitution should be made to them in respect of any loss that they might; suffer. The report states -
Mr. Hannaberry pointed out that workers’ come and go and houses change hands, and it is not unlikely that if a large number of houses is built the Railways may at a later date have some on their hands for sale or letting to private persons.
There would not be a sufficient number of private persons to occupy such houses, because the business of the town is largely railway business at present. The greater proportion of the business transacted at Quorn arises from the fact that it is an operating depot on the north-south line. The report continues -
While emphasizing that, as a result of railway workers leaving Quorn, there might hemany redundant houses there, the South Australian Railways chose not to make an assessment on this basis but to prefer the larger item of housing costs as a debit against railway construction on Route C. We think the proper way of approaching the matter is that which was sounded by the South Australian Railways but not followed up. In all the evidence from Quorn, the note of apprehension was the expected decrease in values following a large withdrawal of railway servants and the consequent departure of other residents, and that in our opinion is the real basis on which to consider this problem.
The report later gives estimates of the amounts of money that would have tobe expended, in relation to housing, and states on page 26 -
On this basis, and after allowing for any houses already available to meet the requirements shown above, the following is our estimate of housing expenditure at depots: -
Although this expenditure is not to- Be regarded as a legitimate charge against railway construction, nevertheless the provision of. such housing at depots, while rent producing, would involve some - loss to the railway, even allowing for the railway’s immunity from rates and taxes and the ease of collection of rent. The return would probably be below that which might he expected on an investment basis. After consideration, we have charged 25 per cent, of capital involved against each route and adjusted interest accordingly.
So the matter apparently has been examined thoroughly. As a former official of a railway union I had a great deal to do with seeking improvements of the conditions of work and the rates of “pay of these men. That work has been carried on by other people who succeeded r-me in my official union position. I am -able to say from experience that these men do not make enough money during their working life to be able to buy two houses, unless they can sell the first one at a profit. It is evident that in this case the sale of any of the houses will be at a much lower figure than would ordinarily be obtainable, because, with the removal of the depot, there will be no demand for the houses vacated at Quorn. When a railway depot in Victoria was moved from Stawell to Ararat, the men were provided with transport from their houses at Stawell to their work at the new depot so that they would not have to sell their houses at a loss. Although that occurred many years ago, the town of Stawell has not grown enough to enable those houses to be sold at a reasonable figure, despite the increase of house values in the intervening period. The .removal of that depot created consternation at the time. The shift that will arise from this measure will be a very big one indeed, and my plea is that the Minister, in consultation with his colleagues, will examine the matter and evolve some scheme whereby the men who are to be transferred, some of them compulsorily, shall receive adequate compensation for the losses that they will inevitably suffer
There are other aspects of the matter on which I could touch, but I shall leave them to other honorable members. I- do not claim that we are the only people who have the interests of these workers at heart. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) also knows something about the trials and tribulations that such a shift will involve. I commend the Minister for having brought down the bill and the. Government for going on with this part of the programme for the standardization of our railways.
I hope that the standardization programme will not end with Leigh Creek but will be extended to include Alice Springs, and finally Darwin.
I remind the House that I have also had some connexion with air travel, as I was Minister for Civil Aviation during the Labour regime. I know that the air services are doing very good work and that, according to the latest information available, the air beef scheme that was established during the time of the Labour regime has been developed to a great degree, but I cannot foresee a time, at all events within a reasonable period, when the airways will supersede the railways, even over country such as is traversed by the north-south line. Having a knowledge of both means of transport I can say that, in spite of the great development of air travel, it will not replace the railways as the backbone of our defence. For strategic purposes, if for no other reason, we should be prepared to expend the necessary money to develop this railway line so that we shall be able to defend this country properly if it is attacked. The honorable, member for East Sydney, who was Minister for Transport in the Chifley Government, did a lot of valuable work towards bringing this matter to a successful conclusion. He had- the support of men like Sir Harold Clapp, whom I regard as one of the best railway men we have ever had in Australia. Sir Harold’s interest in railway matters is just as great as ever although he has retired.
The step forward in the standardization programme, which will be taken by the passage of this measure, has taken a long time to make, and I hope it will not be long before further steps in the programme will be taken. In carrying out the programme we shall be doing something to the great advantage of Australia, both from the point of view of defence and from the point of view of production. I commend the bill to the House. I know of no objection to it on this side of the House. I conclude by repeating that I consider that the employees should not be allowed to suffer, and I hope that the Government will see that they do not suffer.
– I join with honorable members on both sides of the House in supporting the measure. As honorable members know, the necessity for this railway development arose from the need to transport coal from Leigh Creek southwards to the new power-house in the vicinity of Port Augusta, and also to improve its transport to Adelaides Leigh Creek is connected to Port Augusta by a 3-ft. C-in. gauge line which is part of the line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. About 150 miles of that line goes from Leigh Creek southwards to Stirling North, and is to be converted to the standard gauge of 4-ft. 8^-in., relocated and in all respects improved and made into a first-class line with heavy rails. The line runs southward from Leigh Creek for about 45 miles to Parachilna, and in that area already there has been extensive re-location of the line, to enable the standard track to go down from Parachilna to Brachina, a distance of about twenty miles. The line is satisfactory in its present location from Brachina southwards to Stirling North, a distance of about 90 miles. The main question that arose was whether the line was to follow the existing route which went over the ranges to the east to Hawker, or whether it was to take a new route, which was originally suggested by Mr. Goyder many years ago, when the line was first laid down, to the west of its present location, and run down parallel to Lake Torrens. Brachina itself, as honorable members know, is about 300 feet above sea level. If the line were taken down alongside Lake Torrens there would be a regular fall all the way, and no rises of any consequence. If it were to follow the existing route there would be over 1,500 feet of climbing and 1,800 feet of descent. What is much more to the point, some of that country is very difficult for engineering purposes. I have inspected the route in detail, and I consider that all except the final section of it would cause great difficulty. It would be difficult in any case to improve the grades and the radius of the grades, but it would be still more difficult to do so while maintaining the heavy traffic involved in the transport of Leigh Creek coal. Therefore, I consider that the deci sion by the royal commission to recommend the easy western route parallel to Lake Torrens should be adopted. I am in favour of that route, because it i3 likely, by reason of developments in the Northern Territory, that thd line will not only have to carry heavy Leigh Creek coal traffic southwards, but will also have to carry other heavy traffic northwards. Therefore the steep grade at Pitchi Ritchi, the difficulties of which were minimized to some extent by those who thought that the only heavy traffic would be the coal traffic moving southwards, becomes of greater moment. It has to be thought of in relation to potentially heavy traffic which will move towards Alice Springs and into the Northern Territory. For these and other reasons, I join with honorable members in considering that the report of the royal commission is a fortunate one. It should have the support of this House and is, I am glad to see, embodied in the bill now before us.
When one considers all the work of the railways in this vital area at the head of the gulf, which will become of increasing importance, one realizes that there was something to be said for maintaining the alternative run down the Pitchi Ritchi pass. Those arguments will be met to some extent in the future by the construction of another east-west link towards Marree. But that is not in the terms of practical politics at the moment. It lies in the years ahead, and is part of our eventual planning but not part of our immediate planning. I join with honorable members opposite in believing that something has to be done towards alleviating hardships caused to the inhabitants of Quorn, particularly the railway workers, by reason of the fact that their places of residence are no longer on the route of the railway. I am certain that this Government will approach the problem with justice and generosity, and I am equally certain that the Premier of South Australia will, in his own constructive way, bring forward proposals to meet the very real difficulties which have been raised and which we cannot ignore even if they are not enough to sway the judgment of a royal commission. This bill, not only provides for a new rail link, but is also, as honorable members opposite have pointed out, a step in the direction of rail standardization. As honorable members know, we have a 4-ft. 8-J-in. gauge which starts in the west at Kalgoorlie and passes through Port Augusta to Port Pirie, when it joins the 3-ft. 6-in. line north to Alice Springs and the 5-ft. 3-in. line south to Adelaide. The present standard gauge line stops at Port Pirie. The proposed new line will be the first link in the construction of a new standard gauge system in the centre of Australia.
Railway engineers consider that where there is more traffic than 200,000 tons a year it pays to standardize a line. The 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line involves extra running costs, which balance with extra fixed charges at somewhere in the neighbourhood of 200,000 tons of traffic a year. Therefore, it is clear that this line, which is expected to carry 2,000,000 tons of traffic a year, should, from an economic point of view, be a standard gauge line. I hope that standardization will not stop at this first section. I hope that this standard gauge will be pushed northwards for about 80 miles from Leigh Creek to Marree. At Marree the present line turns sharply westward, and what is known as the Birdsville track joins the rail system. I think it is clear that Marree should be a loading point for cattle, and that we should endeavour to push the standard gauge line through to Marree. A great deal of confusion has existed about the possibility of mixing gauges. Is it possible to have a line over which trains with axles of two different gauges can be run? It is not practical to mix 4-ft. 8-J-in. with 5-ft. 3-in. gauges because there is not sufficient clearance to allow a third rail to be put in, particularly at junctions. However, there is sufficient clearance to mix a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge with a 4-ft. 8-J-in. It is possible to construct a line which will carry both 3-ft. 6-in. traffic and 4-ft. 8-J-in. traffic. Moreover, it is possible to do that at small cost. There are two 80-lb. or 94-lb. rails in the 4-ft. 8-J-in. track, and it is possible to put an extra rail in and use it and one of the 4-ft. 8^-in. rails as a new 3-ft. 6-in. track. That method is particularly economic when, as in this case, light rails are used, and when the track will be pushed out into the district as it is relocated. That suggestion is well worth examination as a temporary measure, because we have not yet succeeded in pushing the 4-ft. 8-J-in. gauge rail through to Alice Springs. “We could, perhaps, mix the 4-ft. 8-J-in. and 3-ft. 6-in. gauges by means of a third rail laid between the new 4-ft. 8-J-in. lines, so that, pending the completion of the standard gauge line to Alice Springs, narrow gauge rolling stock could be worked through from Alice Springs to Port Augusta without change of gauge.
This proposed line predicates the construction of other lines. I desire to mention two lines which seem to be particularly connected with it. The first was mentioned by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), and it is a really vital project. That is the standardization and re-grading to some small extent of the line from Broken Hill to Port Pirie. It is necessary that the standard lines that we shall construct under this bill in the west and towards the north shall not remain at either terminal. It is necessary that we should be able to move rolling-stock to and from the standard system in New South Wales. It is almost incredible that the small link between Broken Hill and Port Pirie should have been allowed to remain at the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge for so long, especially as it has proved inadequate in the past., It has been responsible for banking up concentrates at Broken Hill, for loss of revenue and for loss of foreign currency which could have been obtained by the overseas sale of our products if we could have got them to the coast. Recently, new locomotives, as well as some of the Garratt locomotives from Western Australia, have improved the position. Nevertheless, there is reason, even from the point of view of Broken Hill, to convert that line to the standard gauge without delay. When one considers the matter from the strategic and national stand-points, and considers the growing system of 4-ft. 8-J-in. lines stretching towards the north, one must agree that the Broken Hill to Port Pirie link should be dealt with urgently. In fairness to South Australia, a 4-ft. 8-^-in. line should be pushed southwards from Port Pirie to Adelaide, a distance of about 135 miles, which would not involve one engineering work of any significance. I do not know whether that should be done by narrowing the existing 5-ft. 3-in. line, or whether it should be done by leaving the present 5-ft. 3-in. line in situ and building parallel to it a 4-ft. S$-in. line to carry the traffic. This construction is necessary to allow through traffic from Adelaide to Broken Hill, to allow through traffic from Leigh Creek to Adelaide, and to allow through traffic from the long-range weapons establishment at Woomera to the fast-growing munition works at Parafield, near Salisbury. It is also necessary to link the territory with the trans-continental system. For all those reasons the construction of the 135 miles long line from Port Pirie to Adelaide should receive immediate consideration.
Railway engineers know that one of our major mistakes in the construction of railways in Australia, and one of the major reasons for the inefficiency of our State railways, is the tendency to rely on single lines. Single lines cause delay and confusion when heavy traffic has to be carried, because of overtaking, passing, and so on, but not so much confusion is caused by light traffic. However, the traffic will increase in weight on the Port Pirie to Adelaide link as Adelaide, becomes the centre of the development of central Australia. Therefore two lines are justified. The economics of the matter require us to arrange for the free flow of traffic by providing greater facilities. Technically and economically, one of the gravest mistakes of Australian railway engineering has been to endeavour to make a single line carry a volume of traffic that requires a double line. That procedure increases costs’, because, as honorable members will realize, a train standing at a siding is not usefully employed. Concurrently with the excellent proposal to which the bill refers, we should think in terms of the two other proposals which must eventually be embodied in the general standardization scheme. I, therefore, press the need to introduce a 4-ft. 8^-in. line from Broken Hill to Port Pirie. There could be no reasonable objection to a plan for the construction of such a line concurrently with the laying of the line from Stirling Worth to Brachina or, at any Tate, soon afterwards.
We should preserve some sense of proportion. The timid urge us not to attempt to do too much at once and to avoid overtaxing our strength. . That advice is good, but we should not be too cautious. Let us remember that, during the decade from 1880 to 1890, when Australia’s population was only one-third of the present population, we constructed an average of 600 miles of new railways every year. All the lines to which my proposals refer traverse flat country, and, therefore, the modifications would not involve great engineering difficulties. The railways that were built between 1880 and 1890 covered vast tracts of difficult country, and I remind the House that Australia, had no steel mills then and no local sources of supply of essential materials. Bulldozers were unknown, and other modern types of equipment had not been developed at that stage. Let us retain a sense of proportion and not aim too low. In the period from 1880 to 1890 we were not concerned only with the construction of new railways. Our cities were rising, and our land was being fenced and cleared at a rate that should put us to shame even to-day. All this was done, I emphasize, by a population that amounted to only one-third of our present population. It is not sufficient to decide that we shall build 100 miles of new railway in three, four or five years. The times require a greater effort than that.
Before I conclude my speech, I propose to make some general remarks about the standardization of gauges, a subject that has been discussed by various honorable members during this debate. I should like all railway gauges to be standardized, but I realize, keeping a sense of proportion, that to accomplish the whole task at once would be beyond our powers. In fact, I agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), that, in Queensland, where distances are great and traffic densities are low, there is a case for the continued use of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. However, I suggest that a fresh approach be made to the problems of standardization. The approach that I envisage involves the standardization of gauges by stages. In Queensland, standardization should be commenced by laying 4-ft. 8½-in. lines in the regions of heavy traffic density. This can be achieved by laying a third rail so that the free movement of 3-ft. 6-in. State rolling-stock will not be impeded. By such methods, we can deal with the task of standardization piecemeal without involving the State governments in any of the difficulties that would arise from a wholesale change of railway gauges. Different problems emerge from the proposal to standardize the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. As honorable members know, the standardization of that railway track itself is a relatively small and cheap matter. It can be done almost overnight. Those honorable members who know anything of railways history will recall the week-end narrowing of the whole of the Great Western system in Great Britain, when the broad gauge was reduced to the standard gauge by one co-ordinated movement. The track is not the trouble. Rolling-stock is the trouble. Therefore, if we can find a way of standardizing gauges piecemeal, the task can be accomplished virtually free of cost, because new rolling-stock can be built to standard gauge requirements, and new rolling-stock must be provided in any case.
The great and pressing need in Victoria is a free and uninterrupted 4-ft. 8-J-in. gauge line from Melbourne to Albury. Such a line can be installed without interfering with the existing 5-ft. 3-in. gauge line. I do not want to involve the Victorian Government in the troubles of internal breaks of gauge. But a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge track could be provided from Albury to Mangalore by laying a third rail parallel with the existing rails without interfering with traffic. From Mangalore to Somerton, one of the two existing 5-ft. 3-in. gauge lines could be reduced to the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge and, from Somerton to the centre of Melbourne, there would be no technical difficulty in laying a 4-ft. 8^-in. track almost immediately.
– Order! The honorable member’s remarks are far removed from the subject of the bill.
– I am sorry if I have digressed, Mr. Speaker, but I have done so because you intimated that you proposed to allow honorable members to discuss the standardization of railway gauges in general.
– The honorable member sends me to sleep.
– Perhaps that is a mercy to all concerned.
– Order! There is no occasion for levity. We are dealing with serious matters.
– The bill represents only a partial approach to the problem of the standardization of railway gauges, which I consider to be a very serious problem to which we should make a positive approach. The problem cannot be solved by grandiose schemes for the standardization of all Australian lines in one hit. We must tackle the task piecemeal in a way that will not involve the States in the problems of internal breaks of gauge. The technique that I have suggested would overcome such difficulties. I support the bill and hope that the standard gauge rail to be constructed from Stirling North to Brachina will be but a beginning of a standard gauge line from Adelaide to Darwin. The proposed standard gauge line will pass over good grades and will have curves of large radius. That means that high speeds will be possible and that the line will be capable of carrying heavy traffic. This bill will provide- us with an opportunity to effect the economies that can be achieved by the use of new types of diesel electric or other locomotives. I join with other honorable members in commending the bill.
.- With my characteristic modesty, I shall endeavour to confine my remarks to the bill and to do so with brevity. I shall not discuss at length the plan for the standardization of railway gauges that was so ably introduced in this House some years ago by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who was then Minister for Transport. Over the years, I have been very interested in, and have viewed with a certain amount of fear, the probable outcome of the recommendations of the royal commission for the construction of a line from Stirling North to Brachina. My fear has been for the people of Quorn. I owe a great deal to the residents of that town and the surrounding districts. I am able to boast with considerable pleasure that I have enjoyed their confidence for a long time, because I was their local government auditor for about fourteen years. I claim to have an intimate acquaintance with the disabilities that those people have had to suffer. This is a very important bill and it refers to a very important railway. Quorn is not large, but it is a very fine town. Unfortunately, many honorable members are unable to divorce their thoughts from the suburban electorates that they represent in this House, and they are unable to appreciate the difficulties and the sadness that the people of Quorn are experiencing at the moment. Quorn is a town of 250 homes and a population of approximately 1,000 persons. The .town assessment on unimproved values is about £16,000 a year. Approximately 90 per cent, of the residents are employees of the Commonwealth railways and their families. The people of the town recently raised by means of voluntary subscriptions an amount of approximately £25,000 for the building of a hospital, a task which, I maintain, should have been a government responsibility. The hospital was completed only recently. The by-passing of Quorn will add another town to the long, list of places in South Australia and elsewhere that are described as “ ghost towns “. The loss of business to Quorn will have a serious effect also upon the towns of Hawker, Carrieton, Eurelia, Morchard, Hammand, Orroroo, Peterborough and Terowie, the residents of which are gravely concerned about their future prospects.
It is very unfortunate that, in the early days of Australia’s development, our parliamentarians should have made serious errors, amongst which was their failure to provide for the laying of railway lines of a standard gauge. The South Australian Government has made plans for the erection of a power plant at Port Augusta at an approximate cost of £14,000,000. This plant will use about 2,500,000 tons of coal annually. The haulage of that quantity of one commodity would be a big task for any single-line railway service. In addition, sheep and cattle instead of travelling through the towns I have mentioned, will be transported over the new line, and will be transhipped to Port Augusta for Adelaide. Of course, the change of route will mean a big saving to the cattlemen and the squatters, because their stock will lose less condition. But the matter that is worrying me, and has given me considerable food for thought, is the loss that railway employees and business people in Quorn and various other towns will suffer as a result of the construction of the new railway. I urge the Government to take a broad view of the whole position. When I raised this matter in 1948, the then Minister for Transport assured me that he would recommend to the Chifley Government that every consideration be given to those persons by way of compensation. I am confident that the Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes), the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) will give the same kind consideration to the plight of those people.
I shall now reveal something that the people of Quorn did during World War II. . Their action’ is not known to the people of Australia generally, but it is certainly known to tens of thousands of ex-servicemen. Various ladies’ associations at Quorn supplied approximately 500,000 meals to servicemen when they were passing through that town en route to the Northern Territory. The Commonwealth of Australia made a direct saving through that generosity. If the value of a meal was 5s., the total service represented a cost of £125,000. Every one of those ladies deserved to be decorated for the service that she rendered to the Commonwealth of Australia and the British Empire in general.
– I thought that the Labour party did not believe in conferring decorations upon people.
– I believe that decorations should be conferred upon people who have rendered meritorious service.
Some decorations that have been awarded have not been earned.
I wonder whether honorable members have any knowledge of the duties of railway employees on trains travelling from Quorn to Alice Springs. The men, when they leave their homes at Quorn, take with them their large tucker boxes, as they are termed, for the six days’ trip. They work in shifts on the trains, and have six hours on, and six hours off duty. I have travelled on some of those trains. Unless a person has made the trip, he has not the slightest idea of the difficulties and hardships which such a long journey involves. The driver and fireman, when they are relieved, travel in the brakevan. A stove stands in one corner of it. The temperature in the region of Alice Springs is very high in summer time. The members of the crew have to wash on the jerking train, have their meals, and sleep. I was exceedingly proud of the war effort of those men whom I have the honour to represent in this chamber. They are the men who will suffer as a result of the by-passing of Quorn. The sands are running out for these men as many of them have completed one-half, two-thirds or even four-fifths of their service to the Commonwealth. They are also in the process of buying their homes. They will be transferred to Port Augusta, which is approximately 25 miles from Quorn, and will have to re-establish themselves. That will be most difficult, in view of the high cost of houses. I have before me a copy of the South Australian Hansard, which was forwarded to me by my very capable and efficient secretary, my daughter. It contains the report of a debate on the Northern Railways Compensation , Bill, which was introduced on the 17th September last by a certain well-known gentleman. Some people wish that he did not occupy an official position, because he is credited with having socialist ideas. However, he is a personal friend of mine, possibly because of his socialist ideas. I refer to the Premier of South Australia, the Honorable Thomas Playford. He made the following statements in his speech on that bill :-
As long ago as 1948 the matter of compensation was raised in the Commonwealth Parliament -
The next reference is to me -
In answer to a question asked by Mr. Russell, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) said that if it should be necessary or desirable to depart from the present route, he was sure that any disturbance or loss suffered by workers would be taken into account by the Australian and State Governments, and that adequate compensation or assistance to establish homes elsewhere would be provided for them. . . . Payments of compensation and administrative expenses are to be made out of money voted by parliament, and as I indicated before we hope to have at least half the amount of the compensation recouped to us by the Commonwealth.. . . . I do not believe that a person who has put his life savings into a house in the area where he is employed should suffer a loss because of the adoption of a certain public policy. This is a matter which should be considered, and I submit the bill with confidence.
I had forestalled the Premier of South Australia, because I had written to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on the 11th September last, and asked that compensation be given to those persons. The last paragraph of my letter to the right honorable gentleman reads as follows: -
I would also stress the fine service given by these railway employees over a period of years, particularly during the war .period, and the hardships they were called upon to meet in the execution of their duties - the long time away from their homes caused by the slow, tedious journeys up north, and the difficult climatic conditions.
I received a very courteous reply from the Treasurer on the following day, as follows : -
I shall be pleased to look into this matter and write you further as soon as possible.
One of the strongest arguments that I can produce in favour of my request that compensation be paid to the persons I have mentioned is the fact that the Government has announced its decision to pay compensation to the miners who will be unemployed as the result of the closing of the works at Glen Davis. A press report on that matter reads as follows : -
Compensation offered included up to £275 for loss of a home or toward cost of removing a home to another site, £4 4s. a week for up to six months for a bread winner forced to live away from his family in a new job, compensation for cost of removing furniture and belongings and fares.
That is in accord with the case which 1 am submitting on behalf of the people of Quorn and other towns, who will be affected by the change of route provided for in this bill. I said, at the beginning of my speech, that I would endeavour to confine my remarks to the bill, and would not take honorable members over the 3-ft. 6-in., the 4-ft. 8½-in. and the 5-ft. 3-in. gauges. However, I consider that the Government would be wise to give urgent consideration to the extension of the 4-ft. 8½-in. standard gauge line to Alice Springs. I also advocate the construction of a line from Whyalla to Port Augusta. The residents of those two towns and I will be most gratified when that work is undertaken.
I desire to pay a tribute to Mr. P. J. Hannaberry, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. In my opinion, he has done a most remarkable job. I know that, in three months, the Commonwealth Railways will have the most modern and best equipped trains in Australia, and probably, as some of my friends have said, in the world. The advancement in our railways is a tribute to the genius of this gentleman. Since I have been a member of this Parliament be has given a kindly and attentive hearing to every matter that I have brought to his notice. I feel that I am in duty bound to pay this tribute to him.
A couple of days ago, I received the following verse from an old friend of mine : -
Take me back to Quorn
Where my old pals wait for me;
I am tired of the wide open spaces
Of the salt bush and mulga tree;
Let me live where there’s joy and laughter,
Where there’s music with sweet melody.
Take me back to Quorn,
Quorn is the place for me.
.- I rise to support the bill, and I am glad that this subject is one of those matters upon which there is no party division in this House. Honorable members who represent electorates in South Australia, irrespective of the side of the chamber on which they sit, will appreciate the intervention of honorable members from other States in this debate. We have heard some controversial remarks from the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), but I am sure that we all join in paying a tribute to my friend, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), for his most thoughtful and informative analysis of some of the problems of the South Australian railways and for his study of the northern part of the South Australian railway system. In South Australia, there is sometimes a tendency, based upon long experience, to have what we feel is a very healthy suspicion of New South Wales and. its politicians. But we welcome the fact that they come over, as has the honorable member for Mackellar, to our State and to other States, and take the trouble to travel about in rather difficult circumstances and, in this case, over country of considerable aridity in order to study problems first hand and on the spot. As the result of their travels, they are able to make a worthwhile contribution, as the honorable member for Mackellar has done, to a debate of this nature.
It is inevitable that there must be some heart burning, especially among the people of Quorn, about the decision of the royal commission on the railway route, but I think honorable members will agree that the decision was arrived at in the fairest way possible. The royal commission itself was completely independent and non-partisan. It conducted its inquiries over a long period, and both sides were represented by capable counsel and had every opportunity to put their objections fully and forcibly. One sympathizes, of course, with the predicament of the railwaymen at Quorn, but most of them, I presume, will be transferred to Port Augusta and will be absorbed in the growing Commonwealth railway workshops at that town. Much has been said in this debate aboutthe hardships these men will suffer as a result of being obliged to make that transference, but with all respect to the people of Quorn, I should think that Port Augusta would be a better place in which to live. The climate at Port Augustais more salubrious, and that town has many more amenities. Furthermore, it has. if not a great, at least a very bright future; and as the years go by it will- become one of the important provincial towns on the Australian continent.
Since Mr. Playford, the Premier of South Australia, established coal production at Leigh Creek some years ago, the need for this line has become increasingly evident. The importance of Leigh Creek coal-field to South Australia’s economy cannot be over-estimated. Opencut mining is being developed there to a degree as will make South Australia, if not independent, at least less dependent on supplies of coal from New South Wales.
– Thanks to the Australian Workers Union.
– And thanks, also, to a great degree, to the foresight and determination of Mr. Playford, who, in spite of considerable opposition, perservered with that project. To-day his action in getting that coal-field established is hailed all over Australia as an act of statesmanship.
– The workers played their part, too.
– Yes; and let us give credit to Mr. Playford, whose idea became the genesis of the project. Not only is the development of Leigh Creek coal-field vital to South Australia’s economy; in addition, a new factor has been introduced into the picture as a result of the decision in 1948 of the South Australian Electricity Trust to establish a power station at Port Augusta. I may be excused for mentioning that I have a particular interest in that project, because at the time that that decision was made, I had the honour of being a member of the hoard of the trust. It fell to my lot to be one of the five men charged with the responsibility of deciding upon the site for that power station Since that time, the trust has announced that in 1954, on the completion of the power station now being erected, it will construct a twin station at Port Augusta. The provision of this second station will double the generating capacity of electricity from that site, and the power will be reticulated not only to Adelaide but also to country in the eastern part of the State, the growing and progressive Murray irrigation areas, and many districts in the mid-north regions.
It is clear that worthwhile economies will result from the construction of this line. For instance, the grade will be much easier. Instead of going through the Flinders range, the line will be constructed to the west of it. Consequently, a further economy will be effected in that the haulage power of locomotives will be considerably increased. Some doubt exists in the minds of residents in the northern area that, perhaps, in bad seasons, sand drifts may present a problem on the new line. The royal commission investigated that possibility fully. Nevertheless, I suggest that it is a matter that the Minister and the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways would do well always to bear in mind.
I agree with other honorable members, particularly the honorable member for Mackellar that the construction of this line should be regarded as a first instalment of a bigger plan rather than merely as a proposal standing by itself. I know that it is the desire of the South Australian Government that the gauge of 4 feet S£ inches should be continued to Marree; and I am sure that every honorable member will agree that the gauge should be continued to Alice Springs as soon as circumstances permit. However, before such work is undertaken - I concur with the honorable member for Mackellar on this point also - attention should be given to the reconditioning of the existing line from Port Pirie to Broken Hill. This line should be widened, and, as it would’ be a relaying job, the work should be done with the least possible delay. The defence aspects of this proposal are so obvious that they do not require to be stated. Just imagine the advantage, in a time of emergency, of a railway connexion from Kalgoorlie to Sydney, which avoids Adelaide and Melbourne. I also remind honorable members that the line from Port Pirie, through the important railway centre of Peterborough, to Broken Hill passes through South Australia’s north-eastern grazing country, and also serves the growing uranium deposits at Radium Hill. As is generally known, uranium concentrates are now being produced in sizable quantities at Radium Hill, and the South
Australian Government is arranging for the establishment, as speedily as possible, of a refining plant at Port Pirie. These valuable concentrates, as well as other products, will be transported along this line. Perhaps, honorable members are not aware of the unsatisfactory condition of this line at present. It is true that larger locomotives are being used, but if honorable members were in my position as the representative in the Parliament of that part of South Australia and visited that area as frequently as I am obliged to do, and saw that miserable, pitiful track and the way that the antiquated trains lumber along it heaving and rolling at an incredibly slow rate, they could not regard its condition with the slightest degree of equanimity, or satisfaction. The crack train that runs from Adelaide to Broken Hill, and which bears the grandiose title of the Broken Hill Express, makes the journey only three times a week; and it cannot travel at a rate in excess of 30 miles per hour on the section from Peterborough to Broken Hill. It is high time, not only from a defence point of view, but also in the interests of the national economy, that this line was converted to the standard gauge and linked up with the system to which this measure relates.
I trust that the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways and his engineers will give special attention to the laying of the track for the line that is proposed under this bill. Let us be frank about this matter. Which honorable member can evince the slightest possible satisfaction at the state of Australian railway tracks to-day ? It is no exaggeration to say that they are worse than those of any other country. No amount of modernization on the part of various railways commissioners and no provision of luxurious, passenger-carrying rolling stock or modern freight cars can overcome the disadvantage that results from the shocking state of disrepair into which railway tracks in this country have now fallen. One hears of efforts on the part of railways commissioners to boost traffic by providing fast expresses between Sydney and Melbourne and between Melbourne and Adelaide. We also hear about the provision of fine sleeping cars and carriages of other kinds. But such improvements are small consolations to passengers who fall into the trap of those advertisements and, “disregarding the more comfortable conditions of air travel, lie in their berths at night being tossed to and fro under conditions that remind them that 25 years ago railway tracks in this country were incomparably superior. We shall not improve our railway services in respect of speed, capacity, or comfort, unless a great many tracks on trunk routes are relaid and strengthened considerably. Opportunity should be taken in the construction of this comparatively short line to ensure that the track will be laid in accordance with the best standards known to engineers in the world.
In conclusion, I commend the bill. In doing so, I express the hope that it will be simply a prelude to better things in respect of our railways. I identify myself completely with those honorable members who have urged extension of the work of standardization of railway gauges, particularly now when steel is becoming more plentiful. Let us all hope this important national work can be undertaken with all possible despatch.
– The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) made an important point when he referred to the present condition of the railway tracks in this country. He condemned them as being the worst in the world. At the same time, however, he should have acknowledged the fact that, to a large degree, the present condition of those tracks has resulted from the heavy wear, and tear on them that occurred during the period of the recent war and because of the incapacity of the nation at that time to maintain them in first-class condition. Unfortunately, our railways were then neglected to a degree because the Government was obliged to give prior attention to more urgent matters. At the same time, I admit the force of the honorable member’s argument. However, if I am any judge of the calibre of Mr. Hannaberry, the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways, the honorable member need have no cause for apprehension with respect to the standard of construction that will he observed in the provision of this new line.
– He is the best Railways Commissioner in Australia.
– I agree with that remark.
– He is good, but he is not the best.
– I shall pose a few questions to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) on that point, and shall await his comments on them with interest. It is interesting that, up to the present stage of this debate, we have not heard from either side of the House a condemnatory reference to the decision to build this new railway. Whether the Minister for the Interior likes it or not, the brain behind the proposal is the brain of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, Mr. Pat Hannaberry, if I may refer to him in that way. The Minister knows that the Playford Government wanted the line to follow the old route. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who introduced the bill, referred to the dispute that arose about whether the line should follow the old route through Quorn, or whether a new line should be constructed. Differences of opinion upon questions of that kind must be regarded as healthy signs. I can understand the viewpoint of the South Australian Government. After all, there are many differences of opinion between State Governments and the Commonwealth. If the State governments have one thing in common, it is their ability to keep the parish pump going for as long as they can, and to put the people of their States into a frame of mind in which they will support the parish pump outlook of a State government. Unfortunately, that is especially true of transport.
Let me say in passing that I did not think I should ever see the day when I should be so nearly in complete agreement with the honorable member for MacKellar (Mr. Wentworth) as I am now. Unlike the only member of the Australian Country party who has spoken in this debate, most Government members have looked at this problem from the national viewpoint. In connexion with transport, that is very important. It was wise for South Australia and the Commonwealth to agree to abide by the decision of a Royal- Commission on this matter. I believe that, because the decision to construct this line rests on the findings of a royal commission, the standardization of railway gauges in this country may be hastened. It is a fact that the South Australian Railways Commissioner - this is an illustration of the parish pump outlook - based his objection to the construction of the new line on the ground that Quorn and other places would be affected by a falling off of traffic on the present route. But, as I have said, it is quite a healthy sign when a State government adopts a parish pump outlook. After all, this proposal affects the business people and the ordinary men and women in places such as Quorn and Hawker. If they did not have a State government to turn to, it could well be that in this Parliament, which - and I say this with respect - is much further removed from the people of .South Australia than is the State Parliament, they would be voices crying in the wilderness on many occasions when decisions were taken. On the other hand, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner pressed the national viewpoint very strongly.
There is a general belief that the conversion of a railway from a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge presents no ‘ difficulties. Perhaps honorable members will appreciate more clearly why the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) spoke in the way in which he did when I point out that he spoke on behalf of a State in which the railways are all of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. I do not think the honorable gentleman really meant what he said when he talked about ripping up railways, but it may be that he knows something about what would be involved in converting a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line to a 4-ft. 8-J-in. gauge line. . In many instances, it is actually cheaper to build a new railway line than to attempt to convert an existing line from a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. In the construction of a 4-ft. 8-J-in. gauge line, one must disregard completely the standards that are acceptable for a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line. The curves on the narrower gauge line could not be used at all on the broader gauge line. I have already said that it is to the advantage of the nation that the decision to construct the line envisaged by this bill rests on the findings of a royal commission. “We have decided to build a new line, and to forget all about the old one:
The efficiency of railway operations depends upon many factors. We could not follow a bullock track with a standard gauge railway line and make a success of it. On page 10 of the report, there is a reference to ruling grades. A ruling grade is the grade at which the lowest momentum is reached in hauling a load of any given capacity. If ten miles of a 100-mile railway were of a certain grade, it might be that on the other 90 miles of the line loads would have to be much lighter than those that the engines could haul on that section. The load for the whole of the line would be determined by the load that the engines could haul on the ten-mile grade. The ruling grade on route B.2 to Quorn - which is, in effect, the existing route - is one in 20, and from Quorn to Stirling North it is one in 50; whereas, on Route C, which has been adopted, the grades are one in 150 one way, and one in 120 on the return journey. Page 24 of the report gives a picture of what that means in rail transport. Let me say, with all respect to the honorable member for Wide Bay, that this is not a matter of ripping something up. It is a question of a long-range plan for a railway that, eventually, will more than repay the cost of construction. Because of the ruling grades on the two routes, it is expected that, during the firsttwelve months, 676 trains will be run over the new route to carry 2,000,000 tons of coal, compared with the 821 trains that would be needed to carry that quantity of coal over the B.2 route. It is expected, that, on the new route, 85 goods trains will carry what 130 goods trains could carry over the old route.
The question of curves is very important in railway operations. Having regard to what is said on page 10 of the report, I cannot understand why the commission took twelve months to make up its mind on this matter. The curves on the present line, even if it were reconstructed, would be down to 15 or 10 chains, but on the new route, with the exception of a short 30-chain curve, the sharpest curve will be one of 60 chains. On the new line, engines will be able to travel at their maximum speed for almost all of the journey. On a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge line, every 15-chain curve would reduce running capacity by one-half. According to page 24 of the report, it is expected that, on route C, trains will be able to travel between Telford and Stirling in seven hours six minutes. I am speaking now of ordinary Mikardo engines, which may not be regarded as modern locomotives. I am ignoring diesel engines. On the old route, the time taken would be ten hours twelve minutes, and lighter loads would be carried because the speed of the trains would be reduced by the curves.
It may be said that it is strange that the president of the railwaymen’s union has agreed to a proposition that will reduce the amount of work available for the men whom he represents. The union which the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) had the honour to lead for many years, and which I lead now, has always taken the view that, in modern transport systems, the most efficient service that can be rendered is the best service from the point of view of railwaymen. In the long run, by maintaining a more efficient service, we are able to put a little more money in the pay envelopes of enginemen. I said in this House not long ago, and I repeat it now, that in every walk of life in this country we should relate wages to productivity. Locomotive men attempt to do that. Consequently, they have no objection to improved railway facilities. In the report of the royal commission, at page 25, it is stated that the round trip on the new route will take eighteen hours, with two sets of men working nine hours each. It will include the run from Telford to Stirling, the trip to the power station, dropping the load, returning to Stirling, picking up the empties, and proceeding to Telford.
On the older line, even if it were converted, it would take 24 hours 9 minutes for the same service to be performed. I say to the honorable member for Wide Bay that those are the factors that must be considered in determining, the future of our transport. It does not take a great deal of mathematical calculation to prove that those are the sort of considerations that can make a railway system pay.
I have every reason to believe that the type of locomotive to be used, in the first instance at any rate, is the Mikado type, ten of which have been bought by the Commonwealth railways. They were constructed at Clyde, at the request of the Government, for sale to China, but, owing to the change of attitude on the part of the Chinese Government, the sale was not completed. I understand that the production capacity of Leigh Creek coalfields is approaching 2,600,000 tons a year. Ten Mikado locomotives will not be able to handle such a volume of coal. I appeal to the Government to pay attention to any recommendation that may be made by the Commissioner for Railways in regard to this question of locomotives. If I know anything about the commissioner, he will press the Government to use diesel electric locomotives over this track. The railway union concerned knows that the use of such locomotives will mean less work for locomotive workers, but it also realizes that the workers may gain from the more effective operation that will result from the use of diesel electrics. There are distances of 90 miles between watering places on this line, and the cost of water haulage is tremendous. The money that would be saved in relation to water haulage, if diesel electrics were used, would enable the diesel electrics to pay for themselves in a short space of time. I am confident that the Minister will give consideration to this matter. I am sure the commissioner will recommend that no additional Mikados built at Clyde should be foisted on to the Commonwealth railways, having regard to the long haulage of water involved on this line, and that diesel electrics be put into service instead. We know that on such a service a diesel electric can do three trips without going near the depot, if the time-tables are properly arranged. The commissioner has shown on the Commonwealth east-we3t line what can be done with diesel electrics.
I give the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) full marks for looking after the interests of the men in that area whom he represents here. He has been watching over their interests for years in the knowledge that this development had to come. Water haulage was a deciding factor when 47 steam locomotives were replaced by eleven diesel locomotives. We know that the replacement of steam locomotives by diesels means less work for locomotive men, but we also know that the parts of the Commonwealth railways on which diesels are used are now showing a profit. As a consequence the workers have some chance of getting a better share of the fruits of their labour. I put it to the Minister that this is a very important factor in the future operation of the new line, and I ask him hot to lose sight of it.
T do not wish to say much about the subject of housing, because that has been fully covered already by honorable members on both sides of the House, particularly the honorable member for Grey. Before leaving the matter, however, I wish to direct the Minister’s attention to the statements on page 25 of the report of the royal commission which reads -
In its proposal for the C route, the Commonwealth seems to have assumed that the whole of the cost of housing workers who leave residences in Quorn to take up a now location at Stirling North or Port Augusta is a legitimate charge against construction.
That is where the charge should lie, whatever the cost that may be involved.
I consider that it is a pity that a measure of this description should come before us now without including necessary guarantees in view of the fact that a cognate bill was before the South Australian Parliament on the 17th September. The Minister has not yet made a statement about the guarantees that the Government is prepared to give these men who are transferred. The South Australian Government has made it quite clear that it was pressing this Government to make available the finance necessary to perform that very important work.
I turn now to Mr. Hannaberry’s recommendation which appears on page 34 of the report. It reads -
That us soon as the Stirling North-Chelford standard gauge railway is completed, the conversion of the Telford-Marree section to 4ft. Si in. gauge be commenced.
Another of his recommendations reads -
That the South Australian Government be requested to arrange the conversion of sufficient 5ft. 3 in. track so that a 4 ft. 8$ in. gauge connexion between Port Pirie Junction and Adelaide will be available upon completion of the Stirling North-Telford standard gauge section.
Lt is ridiculous, in view of the small distance between Port Pirie and Adelaide, that trucks have to be unloaded at Port Pirie and coal transhipped to other trucks to be taken to Adelaide. A new section of line to end that practice would pay for itself in less than ten years. If the honorable member for Wide Bay continues in his present attitude he will do a tremendous disservice to country people and to an area into which we are trying to attract people so as to increase our production of stock and beef. I ask him to look at the recommendations regarding the immediate extension of this line to Marree while the necessary material is still there.
I recommend the honorable member for Wide Bay to read the section of the report that deals with the handling of stock. I think he will agree that the recommendation made by Mr. Hannaberry, whom I regard as the best Commissioner for Railways in Australia, is one of the most humane and sound propositions ever advanced by any commissioner for railways in the world. The report says, at page 15 -
The present use of Stirling North as a spelling place is to be deprecated. Northern tattle should be spelled at Marree or Farina - preferably at Marree. Suggestions were made that Telford would be suitable but the noise of trains, mining and aircraft would disturb these wild cattle. In America there has been a rule in vogue since 1902 that cattle must be spelled once in every 28 hours unless the journey can be completed in 36 hours - a rule which has led to the speeding up of this class pf transport.
I commend the commissioner’s remarks to the House for consideration, and particularly to the Minister, because if this standardized line is operated through to Marree it will mean that Marree can become the resting spot for cattle, which then can go right through without further trouble. So again I put it to the members of the Australian Country party, and particularly to the honorable member for Wide Bay, that it is important from every point of view to. proceed as expeditiously as possible with the standardization of railway gauges. A look at the railways map of the Commonwealth, which shows the different railway gauges marked in different colours, is enough to make anybody ashamed of the mistakes that . have been made in the past. Leaving aside the defence aspect, it is important from the humane point of view to avoid the transshipment of cattle that is involved by changes of gauges. Such trans-shipment is responsible for the tremendous waste of money and a tremendous wastage of cattle. I know that the New South Wales railways failed to adopt the standardization proposals, but that was because the then New South Wales Commissioner for Railways, Mr. T. J. Hartigan, was New South Wales-minded, although he was a great commissioner. I consider that if the Minister were to put that same proposal to the States again he would find that they would be agreeable to it, and that New South Wales had changed its mind.
– The remarks of honorable members on both sides of the House in this debate lead one to the conclusion that this railway is highly desirable and necessary, but I should not wish to see £11,000,000 expended unnecessarily. During the short time that I have been in this Parliament I have heard almost every day discussions about the necessity for increased primary production and the need to improve our road and rail communications, particularly in the north-west and the Northern Territory, as a corollary to increased production. I merely wonder now whether this particular expenditure of money could not. be reconsidered with a view to doing something to prevent huge losses such as occurred in the Northern Territory and north-west Queensland in the last two years as a result of cattle perishing during droughts. The value of the cattle so lost would more than pay for the railways that honorable members are advocating. This proposed expenditure could well be reconsidered with a view to expending it in another place where it is urgently required. I do not propose to oppose the bill, but I wish to put that aspect before the House. It is no good to talk about development in north Queensland, the north-west of Australia and the Northern Territory, as we have heard every day, unless we are prepared to do something about it. The talking stage should now be over. If we built a railway line from Dajarra to Camooweal the money would be better spent and Australia as a whole would be better off.
– That is a parochial view. The honorable member is on the parish pump.
– I do not believe that I am. This is a huge national matter, and it is not yet too late for the Government to consider whether the money would not be better spent in developing the railways in the northwest of Queensland and in the Northern Territory in preference to building a line at a place where one already exists.
– But it cannot carry the traffic.
– It may not be satisfactory at present, hut we have to decide where our money can be best spent in the interests of the Commonwealth, not in the interest of one State. I do not oppose the bill, I believe that it is a progressive step, but I ask the Government to reconsider the matter and ascertain whether the money cannot be spent to better purpose.
– I rise to support the measure and compliment the royal commission on its wise findings. I only wish that the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) possessed the same wisdom that has been displayed by members of the royal commission who recommended the project that we are now discussing. The honorable member for Maranoa with his usual bovine outlook
– Order ! I shall not permit the adjective “bovine” to be applied to any honorable member.
– I thought that it was permissible in the case of the Australian Country party-
-Order ! I shall not allow it to be applied to any honorable member, and I am as fond of cattle as any one.
– I withdraw the term, and I say that in accordance with the general attitude of most of the honorable members of the Australian Country party, the honorable member for Maranoa is concerned only about the parochial aspect of our activities. He is not concerned about broad matters of national development. If the honorable member is so concerned about a few beef barons in Queensland he should have become a member of the Queensland Parliament and then he could have indulged his p’arish pump propensities to his heart’s content. I inform the honorable member who has made such a foolish observation about this proposal, that if we are to serve Australia in a national capacity we must rise above parish pump politics and argue all our problems in a national spirit for the best interests of our Australian nation. I regret that it was necessary to appoint a royal commission before constructing the line. The findings of the royal commission were obvious from the beginning to any one who has made even a cursory examination of the matter. I believe that this method of inquiry was forced upon the Australian Government because the South Australian Government, with the same parochial viewpoint as that of the honorable member for Maranoa, was more concerned with local interests between Quorn and Hawker than with matters of national importance. Or it may have been that the Premier of South Australia considered that if the line should be shif ted to the new location, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner would no longer be forced to carry Leigh Creek coal at concessional rates. The Commonwealth railways carries coal for the South Australian Government at one-fifth of the actual cost of cartage.
– I believe that it is one-sixth of the actual cost of cartage.
– No, it is one-fifth. The figures supplied to me indicate that it costs 31s. 3d. a ton to carry coal from Telford to Quorn, and of that amount the South Australian Government pays 6s. The remaining 25s. 3d. is paid by the Commonwealth railways. It is no wonder that the Comonwealth railways cannot make a profit under those circumstances. I do not say that the Australian Government should not give some support in the carriage of coal from Telford to Port Augusta, but I believe that the reason why the Premier of South Australia tried to prevent the adoption of the proposed route for the new line was because he considered that the concessional rate might be abolished if the new route were taken. I had the privilege of listening to some of the evidence placed before the royal commission in Adelaide, and I was astounded to hear the propositions put forward by South Australian advocates. The remarks of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) about the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways are well founded. The commissioner convinced me, through the evidence that I heard him give, that he had more knowledge about railway affairs in his little finger than did all the South Australian railways officials put together. He displayed a supreme knowledge of railway matters. Let us consider some of the observations of the royal commission in regard to this matter. The commission reported -
The second world war brought out the disadvantages attendant on the multiplicity of gauges, structures and rolling-stock, and the deficiencies of the Australian railway systems. Movement of considerable numbers of troops and heavy equipment took much longer than was desirable.
That aspect should never have been overlooked by the South Australian Government when this matter was first put to it about two years ago. The tonnages of Leigh Creek coal that have been carried annually from Telford, from 1942 to
The line is now carrying coal at almost its maximum capacity. Yet as the honor able member for Grey (Mr. Russell) pointed out, the South Australian Government expects ultimately to require the transport of the 2,500,000 tons of Leigh Creek coal a year. I again remind honorable members of the cost that this will represent to the Commonwealth. The more coal that is transported on this line the greater will be the loss to the Commonwealth Railways.
– Who made the coal cartage agreement?
– The Chifley Labour Government made the agreement with the South Australian Government and it was largely because of that generous agreement that Mr. Playford was able to boast of the success of Leigh Creek. Had Mr. Playford been forced to pay the correct price for the carriage of the coal he would not have been able to make such a boast. The Commonwealth has given about £320,000 towards the development of Leigh Creek, and if it had not done so, that coal-field would never have developed. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) said that Mr. Playford was a great statesman. He spoke as though he was the heaven-sent emancipator of South Australia, when he instanced what Mr. Playford had done at Leigh Creek. The honorable member agreed, reluctantly, that the workers might have had something to do with the success of the project, but the most important influence was Mr. Playford. He. said that Mr. Playford persevered with the scheme despite great opposition, but he did not say where the opposition came from. I inform him that the opposition came from the Adelaide Electric Supply Company Limited, which was a private company and had a monopoly in the generating of electric power. That company was not prepared to experiment with Leigh Creek coal in order to ascertain whether it was suitable for the production of power. That is why Mr. Playford, with the support of the Labour party in the South Australian Parliament, was ultimately forced to acquire compulsorily the Adelaide Electric Supply Company Limited and to establish an electricity trust in its place.
– He socialized the undertaking.
– Yes, and the honorable member for Angas, I am pleased to say, assisted in the task of socialization because he accepted a position on its board of control and gave the benefit of his business acumen to the State Government. The electricity service has been conducted effectively since the change was made, and has been extended in many directions, with the result that the people of Adelaide are now supplied with electricity at cheaper rates than would have been possible if the project had not been socialized. Two individuals were largely responsible for the success of the Leigh Creek coal project. They are the men who can claim credit for the fact that the miners’ federation failed to gain control of labour on the Leigh Creek field. I shall not mention the name of one of those gentlemen, because I might be accused of blowing my own trumpet. But I do say that the other person is the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin), who went to Leigh Creek alone and fought the issue with Edgar Ross and more than two hundred members of the Australian Workers Union who had changed over to the miners’ federation because the State Liberal Government had refused to grant to the men conditions equal to the conditions that the miners’ federation had obtained for its members in New South Wales. The honorable member for Kingston is entitled, therefore, to claim full credit for the defeat of the efforts of the miners’ federation to gain control of the workers on the Leigh Creek coal-field.
The two proposals that were submitted to the royal commission by the South Australian Government are well worthy of examination. It recommended that diesel electric locomotives be used. The royal commission referred to those proposals in its report in the following terms : -
The first was for two banks of three motors in series. By field weakening at various stages the horse-power at the rail was to be maintained at the higher speeds. When it was found that the rail horse-power would fall away, the State submitted the second proposition, which was for the motors in two banks of three with transition to three banks of two and further field weakenings. This involved an arrangement of motors which was not attractive.
The report added -
The Commonwealth s maintained that the locomotive proposed by the State could not surmount the grade without danger of slipping even under normal conditions. . . . The Commonwealth, quoting the experience of General Motors Corporation (E.M.D.) of America, maintained that in normal practice an adhesion ratio exceeding 18 per cent, could not be expected. If this were so the tonnage - 2,500 tons trailing - proposed by the State could not be hauled over Summit without the assistance of a pusher.
The South Australian Government could see nothing wrong with its plan to use a pusher locomotive, although, on C route, such a proposition would be absolutely unnecessary.
The Minister for the Interior has repeatedly challenged, by interjection, the Opposition’s claim that the present Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is the best railwayman in Australia. I say again, most emphatically, that Mr. Hannaberry is the best railways commissioner in this country. In my opinion he is the most intelligent railways expert that Australia has ever produced, and the value of his wide experience and wisdom has become apparent in the management of the trans-continental line, which, for the first time since it was established, is now realizing a profit. That fact alone is a great tribute to Mr. Hannaberry’s ability, and the Labour party has reason to be proud that he was appointed commissioner by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson), when he was Minister for the Interior. My praise of Mr. Hannaberry is not merely political. Notwithstanding the remarks of the Minister for the Interior, I know that the present Minister for Shipping and Transport considers that the appointment of Mr. Hannaberry was a wise action. The qualifications of Mr. Hannaberry are relevant to this debate, because section 6 of the bill provides, in relation to the employment of workers on the proposed line, that -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917-1950, the Commissioner may -
pay to persons so appointed or employed such salaries or wages as he thinks fit.
Normally, I should have opposed any proposal to vest in any individual the power to fix the wages of his employees. But, in this instance, I consider that the workers will probably receive a better deal from Mr. Hannaberry than they would receive from most wages tribunals. [ know of no other man who has occupied the position of Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to whom I should have been prepared to give that power. Mr. Hannaberry is one of those unusual characters who can combine authority over his subordinates with personal equality with them. Pat Hannaberry–
– Order! I insist on the use of the term “Mr.” in this place. The use of Christian names is unbecoming to the Parliament.
– I made use of Mr. Hannaberry’s Christian name for a special purpose. I want to emphasize the fact that he is the sort of man who can meet a fettler on the line and be greeted by his Christian name without sacrificing his authority. No other Commonwealth railways commissioner has commanded greater respect from his employees than Mr. Hannaberry commands. No other commissioner has had a greater regard than he has for the underdog. No other commissioner has been able to get more work out of the men than he.
– How many commissioners does the honorable member know?
– I know quite a few commissioners, and I also know persons who have known every Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and who whole-heartedly support my opinion. An officer of the trade union to which I belong has told me that he has never known another Commonwealth Railways Commissioner who has shown the respect and consideration for his employees that the present commissioner shows. I would therefore always be willing to allow Mr. Hannaberry to exercise his judgment in relation to the wages of the men who serve under him.
The payment of compensation to the residents of Quorn is a matter of great importance. T refer honorable members to th.n report of the royal commission, which deals with the subject in the following terms: -
Whichever route is adopted a very large efflux of railway workers from Quorn will take place, with consequent vacation of houses there. Under route B2, according to our estimate, there would be 135 railway workers of the present total of 313 left at Quorn. Under route C, we consider that there would be only 13 of these workers remaining.
Had the South Australian proposal for twin diesel electric 1,760 horse-power locomotives on the B2 route been adopted it is probable that Stirling North would have proved the better place to station train crews. The resultant removal of railway workers from Quorn would then have approximated the figure we have found for the C route, although capital and operating costs would have been reduced because, amongst other - reasons, no pusher service would have been needed . . . Why should there be so many railway workers at Quorn when Port Augusta, the centre of the Commonwealth Railways, is only 25 miles away? . . . The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner argues - we think with justification - that if the B2 route were chosen and the broad-gauge railway therefore constructed through Quorn, it would be a wasteful duplication of services to provide and maintain a running shed at Quorn and to station men there for broad-gauge working. The chief Commonwealth Railways workshop is at Port Augusta - only ii miles from Stirling North - so that on completion of a journey a locomotive would receive all but its normal servicing at Port Augusta.
There is much to commend the policy of the Commonwealth Railways of stationing all train crews at or near Port Augusta so that their services may more easily be availed of for the Trans-Australia or Central Australia lines. In present circumstances, if additional crews are required at Quorn or at Port Augusta it is necessary to transport them from one place to the other. . . In its proposal for the C route, the Commonwealth seems to have assumed that the whole of the cost of housing workers who leave residences in Quorn to take up a new location at Stirling North or Port Augusta is a legitimate charge against construction.
The final comment in that passage is of considerable importance. I hope that the Government will treat the cost of housing the workers who will be obliged to leave their homes at Quorn in order to settle at Stirling North or Port Augusta as a legitimate charge against construction costs. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), when he was Minister for Transport, gave an undertaking* that adequate compensation would be paid to those workers, and I hope that this Government will honour that undertaking. The royal commission commented as follows on the subject of compensation for other than railway workers : -
In the case of displaced persons other than railway workers the State worked on the basis that as these persons would have to obtain accommodation elsewhere the cost of that accommodation was a “ charge on the nation “. That is an erroneous assumption.
I agree that it was an erroneous assumption. Business people in Quorn will have no more right to compensation than a person would have if he went to the gold-fields in order to establish an hotel or general store and the field petered out. These business people are in Quorn, not for the purpose of running a railway service, but in order to make a profit from the workers on the. railway. If the railway system is changed, they will have no more right to compensation than had the fifteen or sixteen hotelkeepers at “White Cliffs when the opalfields there petered out 40 years ago. However, the men who are at Quorn only because they work on the railway, are entitled to adequate compensation. It seems strange to me that this Government, which was so bent on paying compensation to land-holders when the Tungkillo artillery range was established, but which was ultimately abandoned because the land-holders were not prepared to even sell their property for the purposes of a range, should allow this subject to pass without comment. I earnestly hope that it intends to pay full compensation to ordinary workers on the railway who will be obliged to leave Quorn. The Government always has a great deal to say about the compensation of private enterprise when the Crown barges in and takes some of the profit of private enterprise, but it does not appear to be even slightly interested in the ordinary working man, whose investment in a house is perhaps more important to him than is an investment of £40,000 or £50,000 to a capitalist who might lose that amount as a result of some -government project. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) has dealt with that matter adequately, and I sincerely hope that the Government will accede to his request. I do not propose to discuss the bill at greater length, because I am eager to hear the views of the Minister for the Interior on this subject. Although he prides himself on possessing some knowledge of railways, he rarely shows any evidence of it, and I shall be astonished if he does any more on this occasion than follow the old party line of attempting to make political capital at every opportunity, even on such an important subject as is now under consideration.
– Before the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) concluded his speech, I had intended to say that I was delighted to listen to a most interesting debate, which has been conducted on non-party lines. The subject of the standardization of railway gauges has .been discussed broadly, sometimes generally, and sometimes technically. Probably, the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) has discussed it more technically than has any other honorable member. This debate has been one of the most interesting that I have heard in this chamber for a long time. I have always been interested in the subject of standardization of railway gauges. The concluding remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh are the best recommendation that can be given to me. If the honorable member feels that way about me, 1 must be right.
I had not intended to speak on this bill, but the honorable member for Blaxland appealed to me, because I happened to be in charge of the House at that stage, to exert my influence to .expedite the plan for the standardization of railway gauges. Well, as an individual, I have been one of the keenest advocates of standardization since before the outbreak of the last war. The honorable member for Blaxland said that he did not often find himself in agreement with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), and I confess that I do not often find myself in agreement with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), but our views on the importance of standardization appear to coincide. We all have worked closely together in connexion with the Railway Standardization (South Australia) Agreement Act 1949, which has led to the introduction of the bill now under consideration. Actually, had the Labour Government remained in office for another week, it would not have made any difference to its ultimate fate, but it would have made a great deal of difference to the matter of standardization in general, because I think that Victoria would have sought the same kind of agreement as exists between the Commonwealth and South Australia.
The subject of standardization of railway gauges may not be completely relevant to this bill, but I should like to point out, in passing, that the standardization of any section of our railways will involve considerable expenditure. However, the complete standardization of our trunklines would not cost anything like as much as the estimated cost of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme. If the people of Australia contemplate a project of that nature, excellent as it is, I cannot understand why they will not contemplate the standardization of railway gauges, which would save this country tremendous sums of money as a result of more economical transport.
The line from Stirling North to Brachina will be only a small part of a standard gauge north-south railway. Not many people realize that the standardization of the railway gauge and the provision of new lines in the Northern Territory at a cost of £40,000,000 would do more to increase primary production than will the irrigation projects on the Snowy River.
– The cost of the construction of those railways would not be £40,000,000.
– I am speaking of the completed system. We should see these matters in the proper perspective.
The debate on this bill has been most interesting. The discussion was somewhat lightened by the contribution of the honorable member for Grey, who, in his homely manner, sought to safeguard the , interests of his constituents. I do not intend to enter into a verbal battle about who has been the best commissioner of railways in Australia. The present Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways may or may not be the best man who has ever controlled the opera tions of the Commonwealth system, but I consider that it would be invidious to enter into a discussion of that kind. Mr. Hannaberry is a good railway man - nobody disputes that fact - but I refuse to be drawn into a discussion about who is the best commissioner of railways. Similarly, I refuse to be drawn into a discussion of whether the B2 route or the C route is the better choice for the Stirling North to Brachina railway. A wide variety of opinions has been expressed about those two routes, and even experts have offered different views. However, as the honorable member for Blaxland has stated, different views are at times a healthy sign. We do not want every one to be a “ Yes “ man, and agree with everybody else. A royal commission was appointed to recommend one of the two routes. If honorable members desire me to give my own personal opinion, because I do not pretend to have a professional knowledge of this subject, I believe that the royal commission has made a mistake. But that does not make any difference.
– The Minister has always been an amateur.
– I hope so. The royal commission was appointed to inquire into the problem, and make a recommendation. The Commonwealth and the South Australian Government agreed beforehand that the decision of the royal commission would be final. The only thing that I regret most sincerely is that royal commissions which decide problems of this kind cannot be held in a better atmosphere. I myself have been the victim of a counsel who was assisting a royal commissioner and who treated me as a criminal witness.
– As a hostile witness.
– It seems to me that a similar situation arose in respect of the royal commission which reported on the Stirling North to Brachina route. Slurs were cast on a man who was selected by the previous Labour Government and myself, representing the Victorian Government at that time, to go overseas in order to investigate diesel electric locomotives and other matters of that kind. Unfortunately, as the result of a division of opinion, there seems to have been bitterness and spleen in the royal commission, which has been prosecuted outside the commission to a deplorable degree. I hope that it will cease forthwith.
There is another matter to which I desire to refer. At the moment, we are considering the construction of the Stirling North to Brachina railway. What will be the effect of this decision on the standardization of the QuornPeterborough, or the Peterborough-Broken Hill section of the line? That matter does not seem to have been thoroughly taken into account by some persons who are interested only in another part of the railway system in South Australia, whether it is operated by the Commonwealth or the South Australian Government. Is the line from Quorn to Brachina to be abolished? If not, will South Australians turn round, and say, “ Now we want you to develop that line as well under the agreement “ ? Is the section from- Quorn to Peterborough to be a 3-ft. 6-in. or a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge? If so, will that mean that transcontinental traffic will eventually travel from Broken Hill to Peterborough to Quorn and onwards, or will it go through Port Pirie?
– That matter can be clarified with the O’Halloran Government next year.
– There is no necessity for us to look so far into the future as the O’Halloran Government. I shall not be worrying about political problems when the O’Halloran Government comes into office. However, that is by the way. The series of questions I have posed are most pertinent, and should be taken into account by all honorable members. I hope that honorable gentlemen will retain their enthusiasm’ for the standardization of railway gauges or, to be more exact, the standardization of the main trunk lines.
– The standardization of all the railway lines.
– Let us take it piece by piece. I do not disagree with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). Eventually a standard gauge may be completed from north to south.
– I rise to support the bill. In view of all the circumstances, the royal commission has arrived at the only decision it could possibly reach. The unfortunate people who will have to give Up their homes in the transference of their activities, will be hard hit by the decision, and the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) has put their case fairly for compensation. I hope that the Government will take heed of his remarks and deal with the persons concerned with the utmost generosity. The honorable member for Grey pointed out that some of the residents of Quorn and Hawker have been the pioneers of this great continent, and deserve every possible consideration.
The most pleasing part of the bill, iri my opinion, is that which recognizes that any improvements in our railway system in the north must be effected by way of the standardization of gauges.’ The only doubt that I have about the bill at the moment is that it does not sen far enough, and does not take the standardization of the gauge past that point in South Australia known now as Leigh Creek North. I realize that Leigh Creek is most important to South Austraia, and I agree that the people of that State are entitled to have the line constru’ted in order to facilitate the transport of coal, which is required to feed their industries in the south. I have no disagreement with that objective, but I point out that it is also most important that the people who work in those industries sh “II be fed. That is the principal matter that I desire to raise in this debate. It is important that the people be fed, and it is o only by the continuation of the conversion pf this railway line to Alice Springs that the objective can be achieved. I wonder whether the House realizes how the people of South Australia are dependent upon sources outside their State to full,l their requirements of meat. An illustration is given in the report of the findings of the royal commission as follows: -
The question of beef production is very important and its importance is likely to be accentuated in the years ahead. If the potential is there (and it will be presently shown that there is a large potential) every effort should be made to exploit it by providing the best means of transport.
It can be demonstrated that the provision of improved railway transport will stimulate production.
The high and increasing concentration of population in the capital cities creates a demand for more beef than the southern portion of the continent can produce. In the case of South Australia the demand exceeds the State production, so that resort must be had to northern supplies.
The commission emphasized the position in which South Australia will find itself in the immediate future and also the fact that such difficulties will tend to increase. Consequently, the present is an opportune time for the Government to push ahead with the conversion of the line to Alice Springs to the standard gauge. Such a project is of urgent importance from the point of view of South Australia itself. Having regard to that State’s dependence upon outside sources for a proportion of its meat requirements, I .believe that the South Australian Premier, Mr. Playford, would share the view that I am putting forward. However, it is of still greater importance that the gauge be converted right through to Alice Springs in order to make adequate provision for the’ development of Central Australia.
I reject the suggestion of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that the conversion of the line from Leigh Creek to Alice Springs could be effected by some makeshift method. He suggested that, possibly, a third rail could be laid beside the existing rails. That would be merely toying with the problem. At present, the existing line is run down. It is not ballasted, and the rails are too light to carry heavy traffic. If it is considered necessary to convert that section of the north-south line to the standard gauge, the job should be done properly. I emphasize the urgency of such a project. Dealing with this aspect of the matter the commission, in its report, stated -
A flourishing beef export trade would strengthen the financial structure of the nation. A ready market for large quantities of beef would be found in Britain and America, and in the interests of the national economy Australia should develop the production of beef cattle and ensure that transport and handling is organized with a view to competition on the world’s markets.
Having regard to the present condition of the rolling-stock on that line and to the poor condition of the track, the line is completely inadequate to serve the purpose that the commission suggested. Dealing with the conditions under which livestock is now transported on the northsouth line the commission, in its report, stated -
The time taken in travelling cattle by rail from Alice Springs to Stirling North is 47 hours.
Stirling North is a short distance north of Quorn. The report continued -
This is far too long without a spell. Add to this the time the cattle are waiting in trucks after loading at Alice Springs, which may be sOme twelve hours, and an appreciation can be got of the severe effect which the .rigors of the journey have on their condition. The total time from Alice Springs to Dry Creek is 85 hours.
Dry Creek, which is the unloading point, is just north of Adelaide. The report continued -
This includes a 24-hour spell at Stirling North, two and a half hours travel from Stirling North to Port Pirie, two hours occupied in transfer at Port Pirie Junction, and nine and a half hours travel from Port Pire to Dry Creek. If the train is a 50-van train out of Port Pirie Junction, as is generally the case, the transfer operations take a further two hours, bringing the total time occupied up to 87 hours. The3e .times are the best that can be expected under present conditions, and in practice they are often exceeded’.
With improved transport, and with a 4-ft. 8½-in gauge which would permit of higher speeds, the total journey should be reduced as follows: - B2 to 68 hours, C to 674 hours.
That would effect a reduction in the time taken in travelling cattle by rail from Alice Springs to Dry Creek by over twenty hours. That improvement may not sound impressive to honorable members, but at present cattle that are transported over this distance of 950 miles are often in trucks for periods up to 60 hours. Allowing for the average time taken to unload the trains under the most favorable conditions and the faster fate that is possible over the section of 200 miles from Port Augusta to Adelaide the average rate of travel for the entire journey is only about thirteen miles an hour. If the section from Leigh Creek to Alice Springs were converted to the standard gauge, it would be possible to use diesel engines. However, unless the light rails were replaced with heavier rails, those locomotives would not be able to reduce the present time-table except in respect of time that they save by eliminating stops at which steam locomotives must ‘ now refuel. Consequently, the only solution is to convert the whole of the northsouth line to the standard gauge. If that were done, the time-table could be substantially reduced and, at the same time, the present capacity could be doubled.
Such an improvement would automatically reduce running costs. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Mcleay) recently stated that as a result of the introduction of diesel engines on the Trans-Australia Railway, running costs had been reduced by 75 per cent, and had enabled that line, for the first time in its history, to show a profit. A similar result could be obtained on the north-south line if it were completely converted to the standard gauge. Under such conditions it would be possible to establish meat processing plant at Alice Springs. At present, the beef is processed in A’delaide. Considerable additional employment would thus be provided in the Alice Springs district and, at the same time, much wastage could - be obviated. If a processing plant were established at Alice Springs, it would still be necessary to transport to Adelaide large numbers of fat and store cattle that are grown in the central district. As the commission pointed out in its report, stock transported from Alice Springs on this line averages about 40,000 head a year. The line is obviously overloaded. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - Recently there has been a good deal of published argument on the subject of how far taxation laws can properly be made retrospective, having regard to the reopening of business affairs which may, under certain circumstances, be involved. I have myself been accused by the Sydney Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph, with offensive reiteration, of oppressive and even dishonest action against taxpayers. I make no further comment on that matter at present.
What I want to do is to inform the House of the nature of certain transactions that have taken place during recent years - transactions, some aspects of which may require a decision by Cabinet on the question of retrospectivity, but the main features of which have already been brought to its notice. By an extremely ingenious device, the legality of which is still under consideration, a very substantial avoidance of income tax has occurred. The object of the various schemes adopted has been to enable certain private companies to succeed in placing current profits in the hands of their shareholders, without incurring income tax at the individual shareholder’s rates.
Among the schemes discovered, there are variations in points of detail. The essence of each scheme, however, is an attempt to ensure that the character of the trading profits, when received by the shareholders, shall be changed from income to capital. I shall explain this a little more closely. To effect this change, the private company attaches particular dividend rights to a selected parcel of shares. The shareholders then sell those shares to a share-dealing company, at a price determined in the light of the amount of profits which it is desired to distribute. The private company then declares a dividend approximately equal to the sale price of the shares. When the dividend is received by the share-dealing company, the latter uses the dividend to pay for the shares. Finally, to escape tax on the dividend received by it, the sharedealing company sells the shares at their face value to a specially created investment company. The loss thus sustained by the share-dealing company is set off against its dividend income.
There are, of course, many more involved movements in the complete schemes and, as I have stated, they differ among themselves, but I do not desire to confuse this announcement by the inclusion of details of those differences. The schemes date back to 1949. The Commissioner of Taxation has reported that one scheme operated by three associated private companies in collaboration with two other private companies will, if successful, deprive the revenue, at the expense of other taxpayers, of tax amounting to approximately £1,200,000. The Govern- ‘ ment is gravely concerned as to whether the law in its present form permits these cleverly designed devices to succeed. It is also conscious of the fact that, whereas formerly there was little known about these methods outside a limited circle, there is now reason to believe that the methods used are becoming common knowledge. Therefore, it becomes necessary for the Government, through me, to indicate in the plainest possible terms that, if this loop-hole legally exists, it will be blocked as soon as possible by appropriate legislation.
I desire to make it clear that the Government will, as soon as practicable, introduce legislation for this purpose, and that the legislation will certainly be made retro-active to the date of this announcement. In other words, those who, from this time onwards, seek or intend to employ these devices are put on plain notice that the legislation to be introduced will be aimed at invalidating the action whichthey have in mind. I shall say nothing more about past transactions, which are still the subject of legal investigation. Neither do I seek to anticipate what Cabinet may decide to do about them.
But I think the House will agree that, whatever views we may hold in general about retrospective legislation, it will be properly demanded by the public and taxpayers generally that, whatever law is appropriate to deal with this problem, should, when passed, be made to operate as from to-night.
– by leave - I do not want to say very much about this matter, because it must be obvious to all honorable members that the statement made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is a further incident in the battle or struggle that is going on between the Government and certain of its critics. I have never heard previously of such a statement being called for at this juncture of the sittings of the House. It is designed to threaten certain people, to tell them that probably they have broken the law, and that the Government, if it be so advised, will introduce legislation to deal with them retrospectively. I say that if those people have broken the law, the law should be enforced. The Treasurer has said that there is an elaborate scheme under which what, in truth, is profit in the hands of shareholders is made to appear to be a capital gain, and, therefore, it escapes the tax net. There is a section of the income tax legislation under which such a scheme could be dealt with, and a court would declare such transactions to be void so far at the income tax law was concerned. Nobody knows that better than does the Treasurer. Let him do that, instead of coming to the House and threatening to do it.
This statement must be looked at in the light of other statements that have been made by the right honorable gentleman. He is entitled to consideration from the House for one reason, and for one reason only. It is that, having introduced legislation on behalf of the Government, he was attacked personally, as though the legislation were his responsibility exclusively. That idea has been exploded. Such legislation is the responsibility of the Government. That remark covers, not only this matter but also a great range of other matters in respect of which he has been subjected to criticism. The Opposition has its view upon that subject, and it is not unsympathetic to the Treasurer personally. Different considerations arise in this instance. The Treasurer has alleged - and I accept that, to the best of his knowledge, the allegation is correct - that there has been a certain degree of evasion of the payment of income tax. But the income tax law of this country is not powerless, and provision has been made to meet this very contingency. A court could declare that transactions of the kind to which the right honorable gentleman referred had been made for the purpose of evasion of income tax, and that what were claimed to be capital gains were, because they were part of a system of evasion, income upon which income tax should be paid. We have been told to-night, in substance, that past transactions are the subject of legal investigations. Complete them. Take legal action. Go ahead with it. If the Government wants retrospective tax legislation to be passed, let it introduce an appropriate measure. That is the proper way in which to deal with this matter, not by making a dramatic statement over the air about what will be done. Let the Government do it.
Debate resumed (vide page 2882).
– The complete standardization of the gauge of the railway line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs would have a beneficial effect upon the development of Central Australia and of the Northern Territory. An increase of meat production in those areas is vital for South Australia, with its ever-increasing population. That State will have to rely more and more upon increased production in the Northern Territory for the meat that it cannot produce within its own borders. It is in an unfortunate position in regard to its pastoral lands, because most of them, especially those in the north and north-east, from which the major part of the meat supplies of the State are drawn, are in very doubtful rainfall areas. Therefore, it is forced to look outside its own boundaries for the meat that it will need to meet its future requirements. There are but few places in Australia in which meat production can be further expanded. The Northern Territory is one of those places. Therefore, this railway line is necessary, not only to South Australia but to the territory as well.
We know that the East- West railway line has. had a favorable trading balance since diesel locomotives have been used on it. If the line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs were entirely of standard gauge, similar results could be achieved there. I have referred already to the effect that the standardization of the gauge of the line would have upon the establishment of secondary industries in. central Australia and in the Northern Territory. I stress now the favorable effect that it would have upon the cost of living of the people of those areas. They have been told by the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways that they cannot expect further reductions of railway freights upon commodities brought into the Northern Territory, although such reductions would enable them to improve their standard of living and to obtain more value for their money. Therefore, for reduced transport charges they must rely upon the increased efficiency of the railway.
I want to stress also the effect that the standardization of the gauge of the line would have upon mineral production in the centre. The report of the royal commission states that over 1,500 tons of ore, mostly copper ore, are being transported from the centre to South Australia each year by rail. That figure is small, not because of the scarcity of copper ore but because transportation charges are high. For instance, copper ore must have a grading of at least 17 per cent, before it can be economically exported from. Central Australia for treatment. In any other part of Australia copper ore can be mined economically when it is only of a grade of 1 or 2 per cent., and 10 per cent, is considered a very profitable grade. With the construction of this line and the introduction of diesel locomotives, it would be possible to handle economically a much lower grade of ore than at present and to increase the production of ore, and, therefore, the amount of freight that would be sent over the line. It is essential for the Government to make up its mind in the very near future to proceed with this railway. The commissioner stressed the desirability and the urgency of the matter, and I hope that the Government will act on the recommendations contained in the report. I think that every honorable member will agree with me that it would be foolishness on the part of any government to assemble the plant, material and labour necessary for the job, say over a period of one or two years, and then not proceed with it. That would be a blunder of the first magnitude which no government would dare to make. There have been too many such blunders in the past, and the Government should be careful not to make any mistakes.
I shall confine my remarks to the actual railway with which the bill deals, but I should like to make a few comments on the remarks of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), who stressed the urgency for the Government to proceed with the construction of other railways that, in his opinion, are more vital to the north of Australia than this one is. He referred to the Barkley Tableland railway. I shall not proceed on that subject, but I agree with the honorable member for Maranoa .that that railway is also important. I hope that the Government will give consideration to proceeding apace with the work on the proposed line, and extend it as soon as possible to Alice Springs, because it will play a big part in the development of the Northern Territory’s pastoral industry, the industries of Queensland and the pastoral industry of Australia as a whole.
Whilst the completion of the northsouth line would be of immense value to the territory we have to take these things as we come to them. I consider that there is a moral, as well as a legal, obligation on the Commonwealth to complete the north-south line to its northern terminal at Birdum, because it has an obligation to the South Australian Government to do so. That obligation will have to be considered when the line is extended to Alice Springs. I conclude by stressing the urgency for the Government to proceed with this line, in the initial stages, as far as Alice Springs, then proceed with the construction of the Barkley Tableland line, and also embark on a comprehensive policy of railway construction in the territory that would satisfy that area’s transport requirements in the future.
– The building of the railway line for which this measure provides is something that the people of South Australia, and particularly the legislators of that State, have been awaiting eagerly for a long time. For years people in South Australia have been disappointed that not much has been done in connexion with the extension of the north-south line. Right from the time of federation they had hoped that the line would be completed so that South Australia would have a ‘proper rail communication be tween Port Augusta or Quorn right through to the north. We know that different governments, both Labour and Liberal, have side-stepped, to some degree, the responsibility of proceeding with the work. I believe that, had it not been for the existence of the Leigh Creek coalfield and the necessity to transport large quantities of coal from it to the power house at Port Augusta, the first step in relation to the completion of the northsouth line, which this bill represents, would not have been taken.
The proposed line is really vital to the future of South Australian industry. I was astonished to-day by the remarks of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), who wished to know whether this proposal could be reconsidered so that the money proposed to be expended on the line might be expended on lines further into the centre of the continent and western Queensland, with the object of developing Queensland’s cattle industry. I take second place to nobody in my desire to see our north, including the Northern Territory, the western areas of Queensland and New South Wales, and the north of South Australia, effectively developed, and I agree with the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) who said to-day that, if £40,000,000 were expended in those areas, we should gain a greater increase of primary production than will result from the expenditure of all the money that is to be devoted to the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power scheme. We know that there is ample scope in the north for great expansion, but that does not alter the fact that this railway will help the development of the central Australian area.
Honorable members on both sides of the House have to-day given illustrations of the time that it takes, under present conditions, to bring stock from the railhead down to market in Adelaide; The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) stated that the trip took 70 or 80 hours. That is not in the best interests of primary production. I say .to the honorable member for Maranoa that although this line is to be built to meet the needs of the South Australian coal trade it will also be of direct benefit to cattle raisers. I agree with the other honorable members who have urged that when the line has been completed to Leigh Creek it should be extended to Marree at the earliest possible date, and then taken up as far as Alice Springs. I hope that matter will be given earnest consideration by the Government, just as it has given consideration to the transport of coal from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta. The urgent needs of the cattle industry should also be considered. At the present time the great bulk of the coal output of Leigh Creek is brought down to the city, and most of it is utilized in my own electorate where we have the South Australian Electricity Trust, which is the major consumer of Leigh Creek coal.
I know what it means to have an ample supply of coal. I was interested to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Glyde Cameron), who gave us some of the history of the development of the Leigh Creek coalfield and told us what had been done to utilize the coal produced there. We know that there was a certain prejudice against that coal. In order to make economic use of that coal it will have to be transported at a very cheap rate. The quality of Leigh Creek coal for the production of electric power is much inferior to that of good New South Wales steam coal, because it takes more of it to produce a certain amount of power than it takes of the New South Wales coal. For that reason it is necessary that it be transported cheaply to the power house at Port Augusta. Unless we can get sufficient coal for the huge new power house being built at Port Augusta, the money expended on that great work will not have been utilized to the best advantage. I am gratified, therefore, that the Government is taking this step to give effect to the recommendation of the royal commission regarding the route of the railway.
When we were dealing with the Estimates I mentioned the amount of money that was provided last year and the amount actually expended on the railway from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta, and asked whether the construction of that line could be expedited. I know that South Australia is looking forward to having that big power house at Port
Augusta completed within two or three years, and huge quantities of coal will be required to keep it going. When we realize how much the future of South Australian industry is bound up with the provision of ample power, which itself relies on the supply of coal, we can realize how important is efficient rail transport from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta. The . South Australian Electricity Trust has done a great amount of work in erecting power lines to country areas that it now supplies with power. Its lines run from Port Adelaide right up to Port Pirie. and it supplies the needs of areas that were previously supplied from local power sources, and by Associated Smelters Limited and other small plants in various areas. The trust wishes to make the benefit of power supplies available to country districts generally and not only to big country towns, so as to make possible the development of industries in those places. We talk a lot about the need for decentralization. The erection of the big power house at Port Augusta, and the utilization of our own coal in South Australia, are steps towards decentralization. The new power house will supply power to areas that have not previously been able to obtain sufficient power at a price that would enable industries to operate profitably. I am, therefore, appreciative of what has been done, and I join with other honorable members in urging that this line be pushed further north as soon as possible. I wish to feel that South Australia has at last really come into the picture. The difference between the price of beef in Adelaide and its price in other places nearer the source of supply is due to the fact that we have not been able to bring the quantities of stock required for the Adelaide market down from the grazing areas. That has been partly due to the fact that drought-stricken .areas have lain between the source of supply and the rail-head, and partly to poor transport. The result has been that people in Adelaide have had to pay higher prices for beef than people in the other State capitals have had to pay. When we consider a project like this we must deal with it not as a parochial matter that will benefit one small part of
Australia, but rather as a matter that will benefit a whole State. I consider that the production and use of coal for power purposes is very closely connected with the economic wellbeing of the State. A few years ago, we in South Australia found it impossible to compete industrially with New South Wales and Victoria. That was mostly because the industries in the two latter States were close to ample supplies of coal, whereas our South Australian industries had to pay heavily to have coal brought to them from the eastern States. In recent years the price of our coal has been reduced because of the increase of the quantities of coal coming from Leigh Creek, and, consequently, the prices of our industrial products have been reduced and we are now on a more equal footing, industrially, with New South Wales and Victoria. The legislation now before the House will further assist South Australian industries. Anything that helps us to produce cheaper power in South Australia will be of great benefit to the State, and will ultimately be of great benefit to Australia. I do not feel any jealousy against the industries that are carried on economically in other States, but I am jealous for the well-being of South Australia and its ability to provide for the needs of its people. There are no high mountains in South Australia down which flow great rivers, from which we can extract hydro-electric power; consequently, we are dependent on coal. The Premier of South Australia is looking forward to the time when uranium can be used to produce atomic power, but until that time arrives we shall remain dependent on ample supplies of coal in order to produce the power that we need for our industries. Therefore, I offer my praise to the Government for bringing down this bill, and I hope that the Government will do all that it Gan to expedite the building of the railway. To-day there arc numbers of men seeking employment, and whereas three years ago it would have been difficult to get sufficient workers to carry out this projected work, at present it should not be difficult to carry it out with all expedition. I support the bill, and I express hope that it will not be long before the legislation is given effect to and the railway completed. Then we shall be in a position to reap the benefit of an up-to-date industrial system, whereas for many years we have had to get along with relatively poor transport. I hope that we can look forward to a new era of greater development and prosperity because of actions such as are foreshadowed in the measure.
– in reply - This is one of the very rare and happy occasions on which the House seems to be in complete agreement. At the outset of today’s debate the Opposition announced that it would support the bill, and after a debate which has lasted for over four hours the Opposition is still of the same mind. We have heard nothing but expressions of satisfaction that this action is being taken by the Government. It is, of course, very gratifying to know that any ‘action of the Government has such universal approval. It leaves me little to say in reply, but there were two points raised during the course of this very interesting debate to which I feel I should make some reference. Several speakers, particularly those from South Australia, referred to the fact that persons living at Quorn and other towns to the east of the Flinders Range may suffer disadvantage because the new line will not follow the old route, for which reason they may have some claim for compensation. My only comment is that it is a well-established principle that any claims for compensation must be based on some real disability suffered, and that compensation can only be given on proof of that disability. If the disability be proved there will be ground for the investigation of a claim, and I am sure it would be in keeping with the general principles of government in this country that if any just claim for injury suffered is proved, that would constitute some sort of claim for compensation. These are not matters which can be prejudged. Even before the construction of the railway, honorable members are trying to prove a disability which has not yet been suffered.
In the course of their speeches several honorable members referred to problems of development associated with the standardization of rail gauges. I point out, and it is of some consequence to point out, that this bill and the bill which preceded it in 1950, constitute the first direct action that has been taken by any Australian government towards the standardization of gauges. I do not want to detract in the least from the planning work done by the previous Government, but I think that this Government and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) can take considerable credit for the fact that this Government and that Minister have initiated the first direct action towards the standardization of rail gauges. ‘
– The construction of the Wolseley to Mount Gambier line was the first step in the standardization of rail gauges.
– That was a conversion to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge with provision for later conversion to the standard gauge if that should become necessary. The Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways was mentioned by name on several occasions during to-day’s debate, and was mentioned by way of praise, which must be very satisfactory to the gentleman concerned and is certainly pleasant to the Government. But I would like to observe this. Although we believe that the servants of the public should have their work recognized in a fitting form, it introduces a rather dangerous, and certainly unorthodox principle in the parliamentary debates if we form the habit of ascribing to the public servant the actions for which the government, whatever government it might be, must ultimately take the responsibility. If the action is bad it is the government and not the official who is kicked. If the action is good it is the government which takes the responsibility and credit, and not the official. I do not want to detract from the very good service that that particular official has rendered to previous governments, and to this Government, but I suggest that the House is getting on very bad ground if it introduces the practice of trying to select particular public servants and giving them the credit for particular actions instead of making governments stand four square on their responsibilities as they should do.
My final remark refers to the statements made, with a good deal of force and persuasiveness by a succession of speakers about the need for continuing the standardization of gauges, and the need for a great number of developmental railways throughout Australia. I assure the House that no one recognizes the need for standardization and developmental projects more clearly than the present Government. However, one point that we must realize as a nation is that we shall never go beyond the mere possibility of achieving any of these great works unless we get a different outlook. We shall never be able to carry out any developmental work on a 30-hour week or when people with money to invest are looking for safe and quick chances of profits in the cities. We shall never get any of this development clone while the majority of the population are looking for safe, comfortable and secure jobs with short hours, in the southern capitals. We shall get the development only by the effort of the nation. When honorable members talk with readiness about the need for this or that developmental work, they cannot escape the reality, that as a nation we can get development only by working for it. We shall not get it in any other way. In Australia to-day there are a great number of projects which are very worthy and desirable, and which it would be fine to have carried out. One could ‘talk of the north-south railway, a railway from the Northern Territory to Queensland, numerous projects around our coast, harbour works on the western coast, hydro-electric schemes in New Guinea and irrigation projects in almost every part of the Commonwealth. But we cannot do ali of those works at once. It is a job of selection. We have to do what we can, within our capacity, as the opportunity offers. That capacity and opportunity will enlarge when we learn to put a greater effort into our work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma ; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the construction of a railway from Stirling North to Brachina in the State of South Australia, and for other purposes.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Bill - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 7th October (vide page 2571), on motion by Sir Earle Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill will vary the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act in relation to the appointment of committees. It is not easy to state precisely what this legislation provides, first, because the bill itself is very vaguely worded, and, secondly, because the second-reading speeeh by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) was even more vague. The speech supplied the information that the bill - secures supervision of the pharmaceutical benefit scheme and discipline of its participants by advisory committees nominated by the executives of the professional organizations engaged in implementing the scheme. From that explanation by the Minister, it would appear to be definite that the committees are to be solely advisory in character. However, that assurance is by no means borne out by a study of the bill. There is no provision in it to limit the functions of the committees to those of an advisory nature. In fact, the Minister will be given power to make new regulations prescribing the constitution, powers, functions, duties and procedures of the committees. Therefore, the right honorable gentleman will have authority to confer unlimited powers upon the committees. A further indication that their role may not be entirely advisory is to be found in the provision that will give power to the committees to require persons to attend as witnesses and to be examined upon oath or affirmation. Those are not usually the powers and functions of a purely advisory body. There is, therefore, a pronounced contrast between the assurance given by the Minister and the actual provisions of the bill. I should be much less disturbed than I am if the bill were to be amended to bring those provisions into line with the assurance given by the Minister,
The fact that emerges most plainly from consideration of the Minister’s speech and a study of the bill is that the pharmaceutical benefits scheme is operating most unsatisfactorily in several important respects. In the first place, abuses and frauds of an undisclosed extent are occurring under the scheme. In the second place, excessive and unnecessary costs are being loaded on the taxpayer. The total cost to the nation of this scheme is far beyond the estimates that were originally made. In the third place, there is at least some reckless use of the anti-biotic drugs. The extent of that misuse of the drugs is not known to us, but at least it has reached a point of danger both to the patients who receive the drugs from the doctors and to the community as a whole. This bill represents a belated and inadequate attempt by the Minister to repair some of the damage that has been done. The Minister is doing too little, and he is doing it too late. The damage that the Minister seeks to repair will not be repaired successfully by the bill. It can be repaired only if the Minister will recognize frankly that the great trouble with which he is confronted in this scheme is trouble of his own making. It springs, if the Minister will excuse my choice of phraseology, from his inept and highhanded actions on two major aspects of the scheme.
His first, and very ill-advised, decision was to remove from the original plan of the Chifley Government the power to deal with breaches of the scheme by members of the medical profession, to which the Minister belongs. In removing that important provision from the scheme, which included power to impose penalties on members of his profession, the Minister took an action which, as events have demonstrated, caused great injury to it. His second, and equally ill-advised, decision was the decision not to re-appoint the formulary committee that had been established under the terms of section 18 of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act. I shall deal first with the need for so-called disciplinary committees, for which the bill provides. Section 19 of the act provides -
The Minister may appoint in each State a Pharmaceutical Benefits Committee and the Minister or the Director-General may refer to any such committee, for advice or report, any matter arising under this Act.
The Chifley Government intended that the committees should consist of pharmaceutical chemists, with an officer of the Department of Health as chairman, and that technical irregularities, which are unavoidable in a highly complex free medicine scheme, should be referred to them for expert examination and the submission of recommendations to the Government. In other words, the Chifley plan embraced the principle, which is well known in professional organizations of trial of professional men by their peers, subject, of course, to the right of final appeal to the law of the land in the open courts. For nearly two years after the present Minister took office, he failed to establish the committees for which the act provides. I believe that the Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia repeatedly pressed him to rectify his omission and, after approximately two years, the right honorable gentleman appointed a committee in each State. However, having done that under pressure, he did nothing more about the committees and, as far as I know, most of them have never met and those that have met have done so only once or twice. Therefore, they are not functioning effectively for the purposes for which they should have been established, and the pharmaceutical benefits scheme is at a great disadvantage as a result.
– They have been functioning all the time under the pensioners’ scheme, which runs parallel with the general pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
-The Minister will have great difficulty in persuading the chemists of Australia that he has acceded to the requests that they have so frequently made to him for the establishment and effective functioning of those disciplinary committees.
Now the Minister and the DirectorGeneral of Health have justifiably become alarmed by the evidence that has accumulated of the reckless prescribing of some of the very costly drugs included in what is known as the “ Page list “. In fact, so seriously did the Government view this scandal that the Director-General of Health, Dr. Metcalfe, wrote to the British Medical Association and asked it to stop the abuses. The association published the letter in the Medical J Journal of Australia, and the magazine also attacked the reckless prescribers in an editorial article headed, “ Antibiotics Amok “. According to reports that have been published in the same journal, the Minister also addressed a meeting of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association on the same subject, and I understand that there was some very plain speaking at that meeting. The Minister, therefore, has cause to be deeply concerned about the unsatisfactory developments that have occurred under the scheme. As I have said, the underlying reasons for those developments are to be found in the two fundamental faults for which he himself was responsible after assuming office as Minister for Health. The British Medical Association, in fact, rejected the Minister’s request to support the formation of disciplinary committees.
– I think I am correct in saying that the association refused to accede to the Minister’s request until there was some statutory authority for the appointment qf the committees and until the actions of members of the association appointed to the committees could be fully safeguarded by law. That is why the present vague committee provisions have been included in the bill. I shall return to this subject before I conclude my speech in order to make a detailed examination of the proposed composition and powers of the disciplinary committees.
Now I invite honorable members to consider why the Minister has persistently failed to appoint the formulary committee for which the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act provides.
– There is no formulary in use.
– That is a most curious answer to my inquiry. There is no formulary in use because there is no formulary committee.
– Order ! The honorare member must address the Chair and not interrogate the Minister.
– In the light of the mounting evidence of the weaknesses of a free medicine scheme that is restricted to a few of the most expensive proprietary lines of so-called wonder drugs, the obvious step to take now is to re-appoint the formulary committee with a view to the establishment of a formulary. Why the Minister fails to take that step is very difficult for an ordinary man to understand.
– The scheme would cost £50,000,000 a year if that were done.
– I do not think so. The composition of the formulary committee is laid down in section 3,8 of the act. The committee was intended to consist of three medical practitioners, two practising pharmaceutical chemists, and one pharmacologist, if available. The Minister has said that, if the committee were appointed and a formulary established, an expenditure of £50,000,000 a year would be incurred. The fact is that the Minister is deluded by the tremendous extravagance of his own scheme, which is causing doctors, in order to provide their patients with free drugs, to prescribe the most expensive wonder drugs because those are the only drugs that can be supplied free of charge. That is happening every day, and that is why the costs have so greatly exceeded the estimated costs of the full formulary scheme that would have provided complete pharmaceutical protection for the whole Australian community. The estimated cost of the scheme to provide all citizens free of charge with all the medicines that they required was only £2,500,000 a year. The restricted scheme of the Minister, which induces doctors to prescribe the most expensive wonder drugs, sometimes when they are not required, costs, on the evidence of the right honorable gentleman’s speech, two and a half times that amount annually. The Chifley-McKenna pharmaceutical benefits scheme came into operation in 1948. It was based on a list of more than 600 prescriptions of what are known as compounded medicines, as well as single preparations.
– Nobody ever used them.
– That is a most unreasonable statement, but I must not reply to it. That formulary was drawn up by the best available experts in Australia to cover all the normal medicinal requirements of the public in line with the most recent therapeutic advances. It is true that members of the British Medical Association would not accept that formulary, and I am glad to see that they are now showing a much greater spirit of co-operation and are voluntarily doing many things which, as a matter of high principle, they completely refused to do when the Labour Government was in office. That gives hope for cooperation by the British Medical Association in the future in a truly national health plan for the benefit of all the citizens of Australia.
The Chifley Government accepted the idea of a formulary as the basis of a pharmaceutical benefits scheme, because it accepted the expert view - and I have yet to hear it contradicted - that a formulary is the only way in which to define exactly the scope of a free medicine scheme. That is to say, it prevents doctors from prescribing recklessly, and enables the Government to control the cost of the pharmaceutical benefits - a point which appears to be prominently in the mind of the Minister, and I understand perfectly well the reason for that. Since it allows all the items in the formulary to be defined and pre.priced, it gives the Government complete control at any moment over the operation of the scheme.
The history of the opposition of the British Medical Association to the Chifley-McKenna scheme and the violent campaign which prevented that scheme from operating, do not need any recounting in this House. When the Labour Government was defeated in 1949, the British Medical Association lost no time in putting pressure of the strongest kind on the present Minister to truncate and, if possible, to wreck the Commonwealth pharmaceutical formulary. The Minister lost no time in doing so. He was very quick indeed to jump to the call of his masters. Members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, when they were in Opposition, loudly professed their antagonism to government by regulation. Yet this Government completely scrapped the Commonwealth pharmaceutical formulary, by means of a regulation, and the Minister established in its place the present list of about 120 uncompounded items, tablets, injectables and the like. These are the so-called life-saving and disease-preventing drugs. As I have tried to show, it is from that ill-advised action that many of the troubles, with which the Minister seeks to deal under this bill, flow. From that foolish and high-handed action have flowed many troubles and difficulties with which he is now confronted, because one of the primary objectives of a formulary is to provide the widest range of medicines and therapeutic substances, thereby allowing a medical practitioner the fullest scope to exercise the art of prescription.
The formulary also served another most valuable purpose. It kept within reasonable limits the use of proprietary lines marketed by what is apparent in the community to-day, namely, an evergrowing army of sales-minded manufacturers of proprietary lines. Despite all those reasons, the Minister, under the pressure of conservative officials of his own medical organization, completely by-passed section l8 of the law, and declined to appoint the formulary committee. Indeed, he adopted a peculiar and singular course. He appointed, without any statutory authority whatever, and by by-passing the statutory requirements of the law, an advisory committee of six doctors to draw up what is now known as the “ Page list “ of drugs. There is absolutely no statutory authority for the appointment of that committee, yet the Minister has invested it with most dictatorial powers.
– But it works.
– I am trying to show the tremendous trouble that has been brought about as the result of the foolish decision of the Minister.
– The people of Australia will have a lot of trouble in believing that statement.
– The Minister brushed aside the law of the land, and disregarded even the statutory provision for the representation of chemists on the committee. He accepted the restricted list that was drawn up by his own close medical friends, whom he had elevated to the extraordinary position of dictators in deciding the composition of this vital list of drugs. The disastrous consequences, in the development of abuses, the wasteful and reckless prescribing, and the inflated costs are shown in the Minister’s second-reading speech. In fact, they prompt the proposals in this bill. The Minister, indeed, is prepared to take any method except the right method. He recognizes the abuses and difficulties that have to be overcome, but because of his own obstinate nature and high handed actions, he is not prepared even now to take the right methods in order to overcome these difficulties. He wants to blunder along with other methods. While they will be better than nothing, certainly they will not be satisfactory in rectifying this position. The original formulary would have covered the everyday requirements of the average Australian family. If these compounded mixtures proved ineffective in a particular case, the doctor had the right to prescribe more expensive preparations. This extended list of benefits for every one would have cost the Australian taxpayer much less than the cost of the present scheme of restricted benefits for a restricted number of people, which the Minister now has in operation. The cost of the restricted scheme is approximately £6,500,000 whilst the cost of the unlimited scheme, known as the Chifley-McKenna scheme, was only £2,500,000.
Sir Earle Page interjecting,
– The Minister has shown that the cost of pharmaceutical benefits paid from the National Welfare Fund through approved chemists, doctors and private hospitals totalled £6,699,000, and that 6,512,000 prescriptions were written. In other words, each prescription Cost more than £1. The Minister has shown alarm which, I hope, he feels. I trust that he will not disregard the mounting cost, and that he is prepared to take action to avoid the waste and extravagance associated with the present scheme. The Minister, with some confusion of expression, I think, said in his second-reading speech that the cost of free life-saving drugs amounted to 16s. 6d. a head. Obviously, he means 16s. 6d. a head of the entire population, and not the number of patients who have been treated.
– That is right.
– As I have pointed out, the scheme does not cover the entire population. It exempts and excepts all persons other than those who are suffering from some grievous illness, or are nigh unto death, or are the recipients of drugs recklessly prescribed for minor ailments. They are the only persons who have received any free medicine. Indeed, hundreds of .thousands of Australians who are paying the social services contribution, have no right to enjoy any of the benefits of the scheme. The Page scheme, which covers most of the so-called wonder drugs and none of the established family doctor’s remedies, costs three times as much as the scheme that the medical profession threw into the discard. Had the Minister followed the decision of the Parliament and appointed a new formulary committee to revise the old formulary, the present scheme would not have cost half as much a year, and the public would have been just as well, if not better, served at the present time.
The high cost of the present scheme is the direct consequence of the Government restricting the benefits to expensive prepacked tablets, injectables and the like* turned out in ever-increasing quantities by the drug manufacturers who have reaped a rich harvest from the scheme. They have obtained far more benefit from it than any one else. There can be no doubt at all that some chemists have received a substantial benefit from the reckless prescribing of drugs, but I think it is correct to say that 10 per cent, of the chemists have dispensed slightly more than 40 per cent, of all the free drugs prescribed under the Page list. Consequently, some benefit has been reaped by a very small percentage of chemists, but tremendous profits have, been made by drug manufacturers.
– -That is wrong.
– Many of the tablets available under the Page list are turned out to-day by the thousand by little backyard firms, which buy ingredients in bulk from the big manufacturers and, with the aid of a tableting machine and one or two clever and voluble salesmen, launch the new tablet upon the medical world in a lightning tour of doctors’ surgeries. That is happening in Canberra, Queanbeyan, Goulburn, and every city and town throughout Australia. Any one who has any knowledge of the position can tell what will be prescribed by some doctors to-day as the latest drugs if he knows the salesman who went down the street yesterday. Once one of these newly fledged merchants gets his line in stock in Sydney or Melbourne and makes arrangements to air-freight supplies to his agents in other parts of Australia, all he has to do is to tell the Department of Health that he is in the business and has a new brand of wonder drug, and the medical committee appointed by the Minister adds that drug to the Page list in due course.
– Utter rot!
– No, it is a fact.
– It is absolutely untrue.
– It is happening in Australia every day.
– Order ! I ask the Minister not to interject. He will have an opportunity to express his opinions when he replies to the second-reading debate.
– 1 hope so.
– In confirmation of what I have said, may I add that some of the items in the Page listnotably in the sulpha group of tablets - contain up to a dozen different brand names of the same substance. I mention, in passing, that I hope that the Minister’s greatest claim to fame will not be the so-called Page list. However, since fashions in drugs change quickly at the whim of the doctors who prescribe, the average chemist must now carry a large stock of these proprietary lines. At the same time, the chemist is in the curious position of having to dispense more and more of these pre-packed proprietary drugs, and less and less of the established compounded medicines that he was trained to dispense. That is a most unsatisfactory development, although the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) may approve of it. However, I consider that to be the most unsatisfactory development of the Page scheme.
Another, and perhaps the most outstanding, defect that has become apparent in this restricted scheme of free drugs to which the Minister insists on adhering, despite the teachings of experience, arises from the tendency of the doctor to choose, wherever possible, something from the- free list. That is a natural tendency. The patient is better pleased to receive a prescription for a drug for which he does not pay. The doctor who tries to please his patient gives him the greatest pleasure by writing for him a prescription for a free drug, instead of a prescription for a drug for which he has to pay the chemist. The patient then enjoys the pleasant feeling that springs from getting something for nothing. He prefers the doctor who will give him something for nothing to the doctor who writes a prescription for a drug for which he must pay. The patient’s feeling of pleasure is increased when the drug U costly. If the doctor writes a prescription for him to receive, free of charge, a drug that costs £10, £15 or £20, the patient feels that the doctor is treating him very well indeed. He thinks that he is receiving the best form of attention because it is the most expensive, whereas hp may only require a simpler and cheaper drug. In those circumstances, the average patient tends to think that in obtaining some of these extraordinarily expensive drugs he is, in some way, getting even with the Commissioner of Taxation; and his self-importance also is increased. He tells his friends, in effect, “ Dr. J ones ordered me £10 worth of aureomycin; and it didn’t cost me a penny”. But the patient does not realize that the additional cost of those drugs is being met by the taxpayers and, therefore, if he happens to be a taxpayer, out of his own pocket. That is, unfortunately, the sort of extravagance to which the Page scheme has given rise. Particularly if a patient is in poor clr- cumstances a doctor, if he can prescribe something that will be made available to the patient free of charge under this scheme, is unwilling to prescribe something for which the patient must pay. Many examples of that kind have arisen in recent months. For instance, doctors examined patients who were found to be in need of a general tonic costing, my, 4s. 6d. a bottle. Because the patients were poor, and because they would have to pay for that tonic, the doctors prescribed instead, such liver extract tonics as Hepasol, at 14s. 6d. a bottle. Such tonics however, cost the patients nothing because they were on the free list. The Minister would not have found it necessary to have Hepasol removed from the free list if the doctors were able to prescribe a suitable cheaper drug which would cost the patient nothing.
I turn now to provisions of the bill in respect of the so-called disciplinary committees. Those provisions are good so far as they go; but the establishment of such committees would be of secondary importance if this scheme had been initiated on sound lines. I have already pointed out that the Minister, in the course of his second-reading speech, described these committees as purely advisory bodies. But the bill indicates that they may, indeed, be given plenary powers. That position should be cleared up. The Minister drew an analogy between the relevant clause and section 16 of the principal act that was passed by the Chifley Government. I point out that the committees for which that act makes provision were purely of an advisory character, whereas under the regulationmaking power to be conferred upon the Minister by this bill, practically unlimited power may be conferred upon them. The second matter which requires to be cleared up relates to the right of appeal from decisions of the proposed committees. Provision is made in the principal act for pharmaceutical chemists to have a right of appeal to a supreme court and a medical practitioner who acts as a dispensing chemist in a district in which no chemists are available, is given a similar right of appeal. However, as the Minister has already removed the provisions in respect of penal action against members of the medical profession and now proposes to establish disciplinary committees only to deal with them, a position may arise in which a practitioner may he unjustly treated by a disciplinary committee, yet he would have no right of appeal whatsoever. One might infer from statements that the Minister made in respect of the disciplinary committees that it is contemplated to provide for a right of appeal in such circumstances, hut that matter, which is important, should be set beyond doubt by being expressly provided for in the bill itself. There is a real danger that, otherwise, a committee that consists solely of doctors may cither cover up some fault or abuse committed by a fellow member of the British Medical Association, or use the tremendous powers that are to be conferred upon it to deal far too harshly and unjustly with a practitioner who might not be persona grata to the committee of members of the ruling body of the British Medical Association. A right of appeal from such a closed hearing before a committee of this kind to a properly constituted court which would hear the appeal in public should be expressly provided for in the measure.
– That point will be placed beyond doubt in regulations made under this measure.
– It should be placed beyond all doubt in the form of an expressed provision in the bill itself. Such a right should not be subject to the whim of the Minister when he is making regulations. This is a fundamental human right which should be expressly provided for in the bill.
It is also proposed that these disciplinary committees shall be composed of members of the profession of the individual with whom it may deal. For instance, committees that deal with matters that affect doctors will be composed of doctors and those that will deal with matters that affect chemists will be composed of chemists. That provision is unjust.
– It applies the principle of trial by one’s peers.
– Trial by one’s peers is alright in principle, but the trial should be conducted with the aid of a trained legal adviser in order to prevent the committee from falling into error. That principle is observed in our courts, in which the presiding judge directs juries on matters of law. It is imperative that these committees should not consist solely of members of the profession of which the accused happens be a member but should include persons who are not members of the profession concerned. They should include at least one person who possesses the necessary legal training to which I have referred. If such a provision, together with a provision in respect of the right of appeal along the lines that I have indicated, were embodied in the bill, a measure of British justice would be guaranteed to those persons who, if their right to prescribe or dispense drugs is taken from them, will be practically reduced to economic starvation. Those matters are too important to be merely brushed aside.
However, one sees a ray of hope in the bill when one considers it in the light of the attitude that the medical profession now adopts in respect of it. Some members of that profession are just as lacking in ethics or a sense of justice and of what is proper to their profession as are members of other sections of the community. But the medical profession includes many men of the highest professional standing who are rendering valuable service to the community ; and it is good to see that the objections that the profession raised to the Chifley Government’s original proposals, partly due, no doubt, to natural human conservatism, are now disappearing. It is gratifying to note that members of the British Medical Association are now complying with proposals which they vigorously opposed on grounds of high principle when they were put to them by the Chifley Government. For instance, to-day, although medical practitioners are not compelled to use official prescription forms nearly all medical practitioners are voluntarily doing so. They are using carbon copies although previously they objected most strenuously to a request that they should follow that practice. That is evidence of an improvement and of a more realistic attitude on the part of the profession in this matter. Medical practitioners have accepted the limitation of prescribing, and they are not writing more than two prescriptions on the one form. In those respects, they have given the community reason for hope for the future that whole-hearted cooperation will be established between the profession and a future Labour government in a truly just and comprehensive national health service.
In conclusion, I take the opportunity to express a personal -view upon one matter that, arises under this measure. This bill makes provision for the supply of lifesaving drugs by . the Government to patients for whom they are prescribed. That fact, to which I refer merely in passing, surely brings to mind the need also for Commonwealth action on a uniform basis to safeguard human life against death-dealing drugs. Honorable members must have read recent press reports of the horrifying effects of the indiscriminate use of such drugs as thallium, which, although it is tasteless and odourless, can cause death in the most gainful and horrible circumstances. The Government should not waste time trying to ‘ persuade the States to take action, but should deal with this problem itself, and introduce legislation to provide uniform safeguards against the use of drugs of that kind.
. - The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) based his arguments on purely theoretical grounds. I propose to base what I have to say about this measure on two grounds: First, my personal experience in the working of this scheme; and, secondly, the knowledge that I have gained from a large number of persons who are engaged in the operation of the scheme. The feature that characterizes this pharmaceutical benefit scheme is its harmonious and smooth working in respect of the relations of the medical and pharmaceutical professions with the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) and the relations of those professions with each other and with the general public. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro had much to say about the provision of a formulary. I point out that the medical profession unanimously rejected the Chifley Government’s scheme mainly because of the formulary that that Government proposed. Nothing could be further from the truth than to say that the insertion- of a. formulary in the present scheme would improve it. What does this scheme actually do? It provides a list of drugs which are known as life-saving drugs and which the honorable member claimed were extremely expensive. Practically all of those drugs are newcomers to the field of therapy.
– Are they mostly proprietary lines ?
– Some are and some are not. I shall deal with the question of proprietary lines later, but it has no real significance. I want to direct the attention of the House to the changing face of medicine. To-day, the prescribing of drugs and the treatment of disease is very different from what it was a short time ago. Even in my student days, insulin had not been discovered. Since then, the face of medicine has been altered completely by the discovery of new drugs and, as a result of those discoveries, method’s of treatment have been altered also. It is quite erroneous to assume that the many drugs contained in the British- Pharmacopoeia and other formularies that were used by the medical profession for many years have now the efficacy or the usefulness that they had even a short time ago. It would be useless to draw up a formulary containing a list o’f 600 drugs or prescriptions. No doctor in the world would ever want to use one-tenth of that number, nor could he use it under any conditions. A formulary of that magnitude would be so cumbersome as to be almost valueless.-
The treatment of disease to-day is based largely upon the use of new drugs, such as the antibiotics, the sulphonamides and other powerful drugs such as the endocrin preparations. They are prescribed in a way different from that in which the old drugs were prescribed. There is no need for me to weary the House with a long technical description of the application of drugs to disease, or of the considerations that must be taken into account when deciding the dose and the course that is necessary. The fact is that, for all practical purposes, the story is quite different from what it was some years ago. As this change has taken place during the last few years with increasing rapidity,, owing, to the production of antibiotics and sulphanilamiles and the almost daily discovery of new variants of existing drugs and new drugs and new therapeutic uses for them, so the practice in the use of the drugs has been changing constantly also. It is to those drugs that the real attack on. serious disease is now entrusted. Therefore,, the list prepared by the committee established by the Minister is of real use- far more use than any formulary - because it includes the drugs that are used in the treatment of practically all the major diseases.
Before the list of free drugs was prepared, medical practitioners were frequently in difficulty. When a patient was suffering from a disease that necessitated the use of these drugs, or in the treatment of which their use was indicated, if I may use a technical expression, a medical practitioner had not only to choose between the drugs available, but also to ask the patient whether he could afford to pay for the drug that he believed would he of benefit in the treatment of the disease. It was often very difficult for a medical practitioner to steer a course between the full use of an expensive drug and the use of that drug in lesser and perhaps insufficient quantities. Most doctors had to have some consideration for the means of their patients. All that will be altered by this legislation. These drugs can be prescribed freely, in accordance with professional judgment, whenever they ave needed.
– Not cortisone.
– They can be prescribed freely, subject to certain limitations. Obviously, if a drug is in extremely short supply it cannot be prescribed freely. There are certain limitations on the use of cortisone, to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has just referred by way of interjection, and other drugs, the full effects and dangers of which are not yet known. It would be inadvisable to prescribe them freely.
I want to say something about the use and prescription of antibiotics and what are. commonly known as the sulpha drugs. Those drugs, especially the antibiotics, are extremely effective in the- treatment of a wide range of serious diseases; A fresh discovery of their range, or what we call their spectrum, is almost a daily occurrence. The. various drug houses and chemical companies - the undertakings which produce the proprietary lines that have been criticized to-night - have experimented with hundreds of preparations. Those experiments have been of immense value to people throughout the world. Do not let us run away with the. idea that, because a drug is a proprietary line, some stigma is attached to it. Nothing could be further from the truth than that.
– I did not, mean to suggest that when I interjected just now.
– I know that the honorable gentleman did not. In the use of these drugs, two matters must be kept in mind. Some of them, in addition to being very effective in the treatment of serious diseases such as pneumonia and meningitis, are effective also in the treatment of minor diseases. They can be used to treat a wide range of diseases. The very serious diseases are at one end of the range, and the quite minor ailments, such as boils, are at the other end. I do not say that sometimes it is not right to use them in minor diseases, because sometimes it is right to do so. But it is right also that the Minister should be concerned about the cost to the community, and that there should be some control of the use of the drugs.
It is proposed that that control shall be exercised by the committees that are to be established. When a very effective remedy has been discovered, not only for major diseases but also for minor and extremely common diseases,, and when that remedy can be made available, free to patients, it is natural that there should be a great demand for it, and it is only human nature to satisfy that demand. I hope that I speak with due modesty on behalf of my profession when I say that these drugs are abused only in very few instances. The community is paying for the drugs, and the great responsibility is placed upon the medical profession of ensuring that they will be used, not only effectively but with due regard to their coat. It is true that many minor ailments,. whilst they will respond rapidly to one of the antibiotics, will respond also, but more slowly, to other methods of treatment.
Let me say something about the composition of these committees. I am speaking for the medical profession, and doubtless other honorable members will say something on behalf of the pharmaceutical profession. They were requested by the profession itself. The purpose of the committees is to inquire into any alleged instances of abuse of the use of these drugs, and to report to the Minister. Although they are described as disciplinary committees, it is not intended that they shall exercise any disciplinary powers. They will be interrogatory committees, which will recommend disciplinary action to the Minister. It appears to me to be quite wrong to say that the committees will be ineffective unless one member is a lawyer. They will be technical committees, inquiring into technical questions. Only people possessed of technical knowledge will be able to investigate such questions, and to express a worthwhile opinion to the Minister upon whether a member of the medical profession or of the pharmaceutical profession, as the case may be, has strayed from the straight and narrow path in the use of these drugs. That is the reason why it is essential that the committees should consist entirely of members of the profession concerned, except for one member of the Public Service. They will be called upon to undertake technical inquiries that can be undertaken only by technicians.
Another danger connected with the use of these drugs is that they may produce what I shall refer to broadly as a germ population immune to them. Organisms respond satisfactory to the action of the antibiotics and the sulphonamides when those drugs are used in full doses and over a requisite period, but if they are subjected to inadequate doses over a period, or even to large doses over an inadequate period, there is a great danger that immunity to the drug may be conferred upon them.. Honorable members will appreciate readily the dangers of that. There would be an individual danger to the patient, whose organisms would become resistant to the drug, and there would be a mass danger to the community that a race of organisms might be produced that would not respond even to massive doses of the drug. That process, if it proceeded to its limit, could destroy the most potent weapons that have been placed in the hands of the medical profession during the last few years. Therefore, honorable members will realize that it is essential that bodies of -experts should be able to. decide whether, in single instances, the administration of the drugs has proceeded along proper lines.
– Has that been proved, or is it only theory?
– It has been proved.
– Will the committees deal with the question of whether too much of a certain drug has been used?
– Yes. I am trying to make it clear to the House that the committees will act, first, as custodians of the public money in the broad sense, and secondly, in the scientific sense, as custodians of the public health. The committees are functioning already in connexion with the medical service for pensioners, and are functioning effectively. Severe disciplinary action by the committees is neither intended nor expected. They are investigating committees. They will be disciplinary committees only in the sense that they will report to the Minister, who will then take appropriate legal action to remove whatever dangers may arise.
– The honorable gentleman does not suggest that malpractice is impossible?
– I do not suggest that malpractice is impossible. I have suggested quite the opposite. I have said that it would be contrary to human nature if there were no malpractices. Let me say something about proprietary lines. Some honorable members appear to imagine that proprietary lines are produced by drug houses purely for their selling value, and that, having been produced, they are taken round to doctors who say immediately, “ This looks very good. I shall use it “. Of course, the process is really nothing like that. The world and the country owe a great debt to the drug houses, which continue to produce new drugs as a result of constant experiments carried out by the most expert technicians and chemists. The House will appreciate that when a new drug has been produced variants of it3 chemical formula immediately suggest themselves to the scientists who have produced it. It is then a matter, not only of interest but of importance to experiment immediately with all the variants of the complicated chemical formulae that these drugs possess. That is the reason why numbers of new drugs are constantly being produced. Surely it is in accordance with progress in the field of medical science to make those new drugs available, to present them to the medical profession and to suggest that the properties stated to be in their chemical formula are, in fact, possessed by them, and that they may be an improvement on the drugs already in use.
Reference was made to this matter by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allen Fraser), in respect of the sulpha drugs. It is, of course, true that every doctor uses numerous varieties of sulpha drugs, not only for the reason I have mentioned, but because some sulpha drugs are effective in the treatment of some diseases, while others are effective in the treatment of other diseases. It is common knowledge that all of those drugs have some disadvantages, and the numbers of drugs that are constantly being produced by the drug houses are produced and presented to the medical profession in an endeavour to overcome those disadvantages and secure new advantages. So do not let us get the idea, which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was trying to present to the House, that the medical profession is using an increased number of drugs only as a result of good salesmanship on tha part of the drug houses. The practice of medicine is not like that.
– But there is a bit of that, is there not?
– Human nature is not perfect, but in actual fact the practice of medicine is nothing like that. I cannot subscribe to the view that these drugs are sold by high-pressure salesmen. The members of my profession are frequently in contact with salesmen from drug houses who are estimable citizens in every way, and, speaking for myself, and as a result of the experience of some years, I can say that there is no attempt by the drug houses, or by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, to which I have not yet referred, but which is very active in this field, and produces many of the drugs that we might call proprietary lines-
– That is what I wanted to find out - whether they were coming from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories or from private firms.
– The drugs come from both private firms and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, and a great debt is owed by the country to both. As I was saying, it is not my experience, nor do I believe it to be the experience of the medical profession generally, that doctors are subjected to methods of high pressure salesmanship in relation to these drugs.
I wish to come back now to the general principle of this proposed amendment of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act. The bill is short, and there is no need for us to wander very far from it in this debate. I think that the fundamental idea that we should have in our minds when we are considering the bill is that, by common consent of the medical and the pharmaceutical professions and, I venture to suggest, by common consent of the people whom honorable members on both sides of the House represent, the basis on which this scheme is laid, this list of important drugs, and the method used in their dissemination, are infinitely superior to anything that has ever before been suggested in this country. The scheme is also infinitely better than any scheme in operation in any other part of the world. This is a rational, sensible method of providing the Australian people, without the use of an enormous administrative machine, with the most important drugs in modern medicine.
– That is a pretty large claim.
– It is a large claim.
– It is substantiated by the medical associations.
– But is it a large claim when we consider that according to the figures supplied by the Minister, an amount of £6,699,002 was expended in one year of the operation of the scheme? Considering the amount of health that has been secured to the people for that expenditure, I say that it is a comparatively small sum. The alternatives were, either that we provide these drugs under the reasonable, rational-, and sensible controls that the Minister is establishing, and with which the medical profession heartily agrees, or that we adopt the principle, which operates in Great Britain and other countries, of providing all medicines free. Adoption of the second alternative would mean, in effect, that the drugs supplied would have to be paid for out of taxes. If we were to adopt that method the expenditure last financial year of £6,699,002 would fade into insignificance beside the amount that the taxpayers would have to find.
There is not much more that I want to say about this matter, but I wish to reiterate that it 13 a complete fallacy to imagine that a formulary has any magic properties. One of the great advantages of the Minister’s scheme is that it deals with single drugs. The great disadvantage of a formulary is that it must consist very largely of a list of compounded drugs.
– Is not a formulary in use in hospitals?
– That is a totally different thing. I am talking of the formulary used by the medical profession as a whole. In a hospital, for reasons of economy, a special formulary is provided, but no hospital staff is expected to abide rigidly by that formulary if it considers that it would be advantageous to go beyond it. A formulary applied to a national medical service cannot work like that, because it is related to a costing system, and must be adhered to. If we are to put medicine in Australia on that basis then we shall destroy the whole value of what I believe to be one of the highest standards of medical practice in the world. The fact that the scheme is based on a list of single drugs, and not on a formulary, is one of its great benefits and advantages, and is something that the country should be eternally grateful to the Minister for Health for having secured.
– Should not we take some control over the British Medical Association?
– There should be some control over the honorable member.
– I am not asking the Vice-President of the Executive Council, but the honorable member for Oxley.
– That is all I want to say about this measure. I commend it strongly to the House. The committees have been asked for by the medical profession. Their composition has been agreed to after consultation between the Minister and the medical profession. The scheme for the provision of free life-saving drugs, introduced by the Minister, is working smoothly throughout the country, and any criticisms of it that I have heard - and of course there have been some - either from the public or from the medical profession, have been of an extremely minor nature and related to matters of detail. My own experience, and that of other members of my profession which whom I have numerous contacts, leads me to believe that this method of compiling a long list of drugs, and the establishment of committees to review the list and decide On the drugs to be placed On it, have succeeded beyond the greatest expectations of the profession, and, I believe, beyond even the fondest hopes of the Minister himself. I commend the bill to the House in the earnest expectation that it will be approved by all parties.
.- The second-reading speech of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) reminded me of the saying that1-
When the devil was sick, the devil a saint would be;
When the devil was well, the devil a saint was he.
It carried my mind back to- the days when he was in Opposition, when the Chifley
Government’s: first pharmaceutical benefits bill was introduced in- 1944. At that time he told us what a saint of a statesman he would be were he in office. In a high and mighty manner, like a reformed sinner,, he reproved the Chifley Government for bringing, down such a measure, and trenchantly criticized the legislation, which was moderate in its scope. He implied that it was unnecessary, and said that the Government, to use his own word’s, “must be convicted of a gross waste of public money “. He pointed out in his second-reading speech on this bill that the Chifley Government’s scheme had operated for a period of 27 months at a total cost of only £294,446 for the provision of 903,027 prescriptions; then, with great gusto, he told us that his scheme, which was introduced in September, 1950, cost in the twelve months ended 30th June last a total of £6,699,002 for the provision of 6,512,826 prescriptions, plus a further amount of £598,279 paid through public hospitals, making a total of £7,297,281, despite his estimate, when he introduced the scheme, that the cost would be approximately £2,500,000. We find, now that his scheme is operating, that it is costing us at the rate of £608,000 a month, compared with the cost of the Chifley scheme of £10,900 a month. That is to say, his scheme has cost 60 times more than the Chifley Government’s scheme. When we compare the Minister’s utterances on this bill with his utterances in relation to the Chifley scheme, we can see that the devil is well when he holds office, and no longer a saint would be.
What has the Minister been doing to protect the public purse against those apparent extravagances, abuses and even frauds that have taken place under the scheme, and that have given the officers of his own department considerable concern. After all, how many lives has the Minister’s scheme saved? He has not given us any indication of that. All we can say is that if anybody has been saved by the Minister’s scheme in a year, then five times as many people would have been” saved in the five years that the Chifley scheme was in operation, had the Chifley Government received the full co-operation of the medical profession. If these wonder drugs have been effective, and there are people in the community whose lives have been saved by them, then more lives, could have been saved in the five years that the Chifley scheme was in operation. Now let us see what the right honorable gentleman had to say about the Chifley scheme. I quote the following statement from Hansard of the 30th March, 1944: -
The object of a Commonwealth health programme should be to prevent the incidence of disease, to provide for early diagnosis, and to make available efficient treatment before disease reaches the chronic stage. All enlightened medical teaching has stressed the necessity of making available to the people as a whole,, in decentralized and convenient institutions, all the equipment necessary to provide, early and accurate diagnosis of disease, which every one so greatly fears. In such a programme the provision of a bottle of medicine is the last requirement. The Governments approach to the health problem is exactly the reverse. It proposes to provide medicine first before diagnosis, and before hospital and medical treatment. This is starting the national health programme in reverse gear. It could be equally logical to supply free coffins before free medicine.
The’ Minister now says exactly the reverse of what he said when he was criticizing the Chifley Government for its health scheme. In fact he is doing worse by increasing the need for coffins. It would be more appropriate to provide free stomach pumps to take some of the poisonous drugs out of the stomachs of the people treated. If that were done there might be a much better chance for the patients to survive, if the reports about some of the so-called wonder drugs are true. As an excuse for his change of front he has now coined a new euphemism, “Free life-saving drugs”. They are the so-called wonder drugs, or blunder drugs as some critics have called them. There is no such thing as a real free medicine scheme. The Minister merely waves his magic wand and produces a list of wonder drugs. As long as those drugs are prescribed by his fellow members of the British Medical Association, and as long as they can be produced by the drug combines, he will use them, and hang the cost. The Minister himself has said that there is no such thing as free medicine, because the people have to pay for it by way of increased taxation-. Honorable members should contrast his present actions with what he suggested the Chifley Government should do in 1944. At that time he said -
The amount that the nation would need to expend on medicine could be very considerably reduced if an orderly health programme were carried out by the Government.
Where is the comprehensive plan that the Government parties spoke about in their joint policy speech of 1949? We were told that it would be introduced in 1950, then in 1951, then in this year and now next year. Perhaps it will never be introduced. In 1947 the Minister also said -
The amount that the nation would need to expend on medicine could be very considerably reduced if an orderly health programme were carried out by the Government. Much of the funds that would be spent on medicine would be saved if an equivalent amount was expended in inaugurating a national health plan along the lines that medical experience has indicated to be necessary. Such a plan would insure the nutrition of pregnant and nursing mothers and children by reducing the cost of essential foods such as milk, oranges, te. Priority in securing these essential foods . . should be given.
Let me illustrate the requirements of an effective health plan by dealing with the case of a common disease, Infantile Scurvy. If there were an abundant supply of orange, tomato, pawpaw, pineapple, or black currant juice, sufficient to give 30 m.m.g. of ascorbic acid daily, children would not develop scurvy. The quantity necessary is roughly -
If the quantities are not available we are forced to rely on a very inferior substitute, synthetic ascorbic acid.
At that time I agreed with the Minister, and I still agree with what he then said. I am extremely disappointed that now when he is charged with a certain responsibility, he has done nothing to implement what he told us would be a real scheme of national health founded on preventive medicine. Natural foods are in abundant supply in this country, particularly the natural disease preventing foods, because Australia is noted for its citrus fruits. The introduction of a system such as that about which he spoke in 1944 would not only benefit the health of the people but would also encourage the production of citrus fruits, and consequently increase employment throughout Australia.
– Order I The honorable member is straying rather a long way from the measure under consideration. The bill deals with pharmaceutical benefits.
– The measure under consideration at the time about which I am speaking also dealt with pharmaceutical benefits.
-Order ! The honorable member has been referring to legislation that is no longer on the statutebook.
– The measure now proposed is designed to deal with that provision.
-Order! If the honorable member studies the bill he will see that the original act, which the bill is designed to amend, was passed in 1947.
– That is so, Mr. Speaker. That was the Chifley Government’s legislation and at that time the present Minister for Health spoke at length about a preventive health system. Introducing this bill he said that certain committees should be set up. We do not know what their functions will be, but I ask that the Minister should make provision in the bill so that these committees can function in accordance with his own views and not along lines totally opposed to the views that he expressed when he was attacking the Chifley Government’s legislation. At that time the Minister also said -
Preventive medicine is a most important aspect. During the last 40 years great advances hare been made in preventive methods and, as the result of advancements made in this sphere, huge territories throughout the world, especially in tropical areas, have been rendered habitable with an almost negligible amount of sickness and an extremely low death rate.
The Minister knows that man has strayed from the natural life and that the correct way to achieve true health is to get back to nature and use the food provided for man by nature. With regard to the socalled wonder drugs, the Minister, in his second-reading speech, despite his earlier enthusiasm for these remedies, admits that they ar,e very potent. Referring to antibiotics, he 3aid that they must bo used with discrimination, skill and rave and that their unnecessary use might develop germ resistance. He admitted the possibility of abuse, and even fraud, in prescribing and dispensing these drugs. For that reason there should be a provision for closer supervision and control, and even for the disciplining of those engaged in implementing the scheme. I shall say more about that matter in the committee stages of the bill. Unless proper control and discipline are exercised in connexion with the prescribing of the drugs, some great abuse such as occurred in New Zealand, Great Britain and elsewhere will occur. It should be remembered that huge fortunes have been made by some of those concerned in the implementation of national, health schemes. However, the Important factor in this matter is the efficacy of the go-called wonder drugs. The element of cost is very important, because at present we have very much difficulty in arranging that our imports and exports should balance, and we rely upon many imported drugs. I now refer to an article that appeared in the Scientific American of April, 1952-
To-day anti-biotics are big business. The 1051 penicillin production of some 350 trillion units was worth about 140,000,000 dollars even at a bulk wholesale value of 40 cents per million units. On the same basis the streptomycin production of more than 150 million grammes last, year at 38 cents per gramme wholesale was worth nearly 57,000,000 dollars. The other anti-biotics amounted to some 90,000,000 dollars in 1950. A substantial share of the U.S. production is going abroad.
We are now vitally concerned because some of those drugs are being imported into Australia. We should remember that penicillin production in the United States of America increased from less than 500,000,000 units a month in 1943 to 34,289,000,000,000 units in December, 1951. Streptomycin production in the United States of America increased from about. 20,000 grammes a month in 1943 to 18,006,000 grammes in December, 1951. Those figures have been obtained from the American Department of Commerce and Food and Drugs Administration. Obviously, as the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) pointed out, the big drug combines that produce these articles have salesmen travelling around, contacting doctors and others and attempting to dispose of their commodities. Therefore, we should beware of the propaganda in the press that supports the use of these nostrums. Not only is the health of the community at stake, but also the economy of the community must he considered when dealing with their- drugs. Perhaps it is time that we had another loyal commission such as r:.ie body Set up in 1907 to inquire into drugs a:id medicines, whose findings were so sweeping that the Parliament did not deem it advisable, in the interests of the community, to publish its report. The reason was that there were statements in it that might have had harmful effects on the people. I shall now quote from the issue of the 24th October, 1949, of the magazine Time -
Doctors are keenly aware that the antibiotics (sulfa drugs, penicillin, streptomycin, &c.) have two great dangers: (1) sometime? the drug has a poisonous effect on the patient, and (2) the bacteria under attack may develop a tolerance for the drug.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to refer to the bill now and then.
– I am replying to statements that were made by the Minister in his second-reading speech. The right honorable gentleman discussed thi; so-called miracle drugs, the resistance that germs develop, and allied subjects. The whole purpose of this measure is to provide drugs for those members of the community who need them. Therefore. I submit that comments on the effects pf drugs are relevant to this debate. The article from which I was quoting continued-
La?t week doctors at the 13th Congress of the International Society of Surgery in New Orleans were reminded of another danger: antibiotics speed up the clotting time of the blood, and thus subject the patient to the risk of death from blood clots forming, breaking loose, and being carried through the heart into the lungs.
A special article published in the Sydney Sunday Herald of the 20th July, under the heading “ ‘ Wonder ‘ drugs are at the crossroads . . . Some Users make them Blunder Drugs included comments: to the same effect as those that I have quoted. The article stated - “ The use. of antibiotics and other new drugs “, said Dr. W. Morrow, addressing a Sister Tutors conference recently, “ has. led, in many cases, to a lowering in the standard of medical practice “. He also blamed people who go to chemists’ shops, and buy penicillin lozenges for sore throats. “ They deserve to get sick “, he said.
In. the United States of America, it is estimated that 90% of antibiotics administered is wasted in over-dosage and in the treatment of diseases not affected by them.
Nevertheless, Dr. R. H. MacDonald, the president, admitted after the last meeting of the branch that the picture presented by the various speakers was “ rather gloomy “.
Although toxic effects are rare, he pointed out, prolonged use of streptomycin can produce permanent deafness, penicillin can produce skin ailments, and aureomycin, choromycetin and terramycin can produce gastric disturbances and mouth eruptions. The treatment of bladder infections, with antibiotics should be approached with great core because of the possibility of superinfection.
Those comments by expert members of the medical profession indicate the need for great care in the use of new drugs. Their warnings are supported by an informative article written by Dr. “Walter Modell, of the Department of Pharmacology at the Cornell University Medical College in the United States of America, which was published in United Nations World a few months ago. The article stated -
A modern medical Rip Van Winkle who had gone to sleep in 1932. would not recognize the wards of his hospital when he awakened in 1952, for never in the history of medicine has so much been changed so radically in 20 years..
Dr. Van Winkle is certain to hear of new wonder drugs in the near future. New drugs are always being introduced and always with enthusiasm and impressive claims. It would lie well if Dr. Van Winkle is careful in his acceptance of new drugs’. Perhaps our great good fortune with new wonder drugs has gone to our heads and we will now be willing to accept every new drug that comes along. Those of us with long experience with new drug* always wait nervously for the entire story to unfold.
Fools are said to rush in where angels and wise men fear to tread. The Minister for Health has certainly launched Aus- tralia on a binge with, wonder drugs. The article by Dr. Modell continued -
Far too frequently a new wonder drug for a fatal disease does not live up to the promises made for it.
The list of such fallible wonder drugs is long; but if it were only that they failed, it would not be so grave. Few follow, the story to the end to learn of the dashed hopes and personal tragedies which follow in the wake of these “ cures “. When a cure for a chronic disabling or fatal illness is’, announced to the public; a large number of the victims sell everything they own and even go into debt to make a pilgrimage to the discoverer of the cure to try to wangle the treatment for themselves. Often these victims, of disease and false promises arrive in droves and it may not be possible even to provide shelter for them, to- say nothing of medical care. Soon they leave sicker and poorer and hopeless.
That is the real tragedy of the situation.
Among the wonder drugs that the proposed committee should investigate are ACTH and cortisone. Australia experienced a tragic example of the overenthusiastic use of ACTH recently. That well-meaning philanthropist, Sir Edward Hallstrom, was induced last year to establish a clinic at which ten “ guinea pigs “, people who were suffering from cancer, were placed under treatment. Beneficial’ results were claimed on behalf of ACTH immediately. I knew one young man aged 34 years, a well-known journalist, who was supposed to have been cured by the treatment. In fact, he wrote daily accounts of his experiences, which were published by a Sydney newspaper. Every one of those unfortunate patients has died. The tenth victim was buried to-day. That should be a clear warning to us not to swallow all the propaganda that is disseminated in praise of the so-called miracle drugs that have been foisted upon the community.
.- The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) may know something about the law, but he certainly knows nothing about this bill or the subject of pharmaceutical benefits generally. The purpose of the bill is to strengthen the foundations of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme that has been in operation since this Government has been in office. It provides for safeguards against abuses of the scheme, both on the therapeutic side and on the administrative side. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has rightly ‘learned a lesson from the experiences of the Governments of the United Kingdom and New Zealand, and has endeavoured to provide means for the prevention of abuses such as have occurred in those countries. Life-saving drugs are made available to Australians, upon the production of doctors’ prescriptions, by qualified pharmaceutical chemists. It is to the great credit of the Minister that the Australian scheme has worked exceedingly well for the last two years. Approximately 6,000 doctors and 3,000 ch .mists throughout Australia are contributing to the success of the scheme, and they have been singularly free of smear attacks such as have been made against the medical services of other countries. Unfortunately, the medical profession is not entirely different from any other profession. It includes some doctors and chemists who are always eager to obtain something for nothing. Some individuals appear to gain a peculiar satisfaction from acquiring something that nobody else can obtain. There are always people who try to evade their tax responsibilities or to beat the tariff laws. Therefore, it is not surprising that a few doctors and chemists have tried to take advantage of technicalities for their own benefit under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
As the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) has said, the British Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia suggested to the Minister for Health, very properly, that committees should be appointed for the purpose of supervising the professional aspects of the scheme in order to prevent irregularities and abuses. The Minister agreed to their proposal that the committees should consist of members of the two professions. It is right, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) said, that members of the professions charged with breaches of the provisions of the scheme should be tried by their peers. Therefore, the bill provides that each committee shall consist of members of the professions, with a public servant as chairman. I sincerely hope that the public servants appointed to the committees will be chosen from representatives of the medical and pharmaceutical professions’.
– That will be done.
– I am glad to have that assurance. I am sure that, under those conditions, the committees will function very harmoniously. I urge the right honorable gentleman not to lose time in appointing the committees. Section 19 of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act provides for “the appointment of committees, but it includes a loophole, because it provides no legal protection for members of the committees, or witnesses who may be called upon to give evidence before them. The bill will rectify that omission. Committee members and witnesses will have the full protection of the law. The committees should be established immediately, and they should function regularly. The abuses of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme that may occur from time to time should be dealt with while the evidence is fresh in the minds of everybody concerned. Unfortunately, protracted delays are often permitted to hamper the work of such organizations. The committees should be appointed and set to work as soon as possible. There may be cases of blatant fraud and collusion, but I am sure that they will be very few, and that most of the infringements of the provisions of the scheme will be merely of a technical character. The statutory committees of doctors and chemists will investigate such breaches and make recommendations to the Minister. Their decisions will not be final. The Minister will be responsible for making final decisions.
I am somewhat surprised to find myself in agreement with one statement made by the honorable member for EdenMonaro. So many of his criticisms of the bill are completely reckless and ridiculous that honorable members tend to discount the. whole of his speech. However, I support his suggestion for the appointment of a formulary committee as early as possible. Science is making many wonderful discoveries, and so many new remedies are becoming available, that a committee consisting of medical practitioners and chemists should be appointed in order to make recommendations to the Minister from time, to time. Such a committee could make the best selection of drugs, and suggest certain economies. The public would derive great benefit from the. appointment of a formulary committee, which could make valuable recommendations for avoiding extravagance and waste. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro appeared to confuse the formulary committee and the disciplinary committee. We are well aware that those two committees should be distinct. One was established for the purpose of strengthening the foundations of the act by overcoming abuses and providing for an improvement in administration. The formulary committee has not yet been appointed. I believe that it would be of great advantage to the Government, from the therapeutical, administrative and economic standpoints, to appoint the formulary committee as early as possible.
One statement repeatedly made, by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and supported by the honorable member for Reid, was that the Chifley formulary which was discarded by the present Minister, contained approximately 600 items. The honorable member for EdenMonaro claimed that the public had suffered severely because the formulary was not in operation to-day. The value of a pharmaceutical service lies, hot in the ability to get drugs of little value free of charge, but in the availability of highly expensive and valuable drugs. So, any pharmaceutical service is advanced in importance if it provides drugs that are difficult to obtain and extremely expensive. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech in 1949, made some statements about the formulary prepared by the Chifley Government. I repeat his remarks because they are the most appropriate reply to the statement of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. The present Prime Minister said of the Chifley Government -
The Governmenthas approached the great problem of public health by looking for votes rather than for remedies.
Honorable members will probably agree with me when I point out that it sounds well to say, “ We shall provide a formulary of 600 items, every one of which will be free “. But if the drugs are of no great value for the. treatment of patients, what is the use of them? The Prime
Minister, referring to the Chifley Government, proceeded -
It has also got itself into the position of fighting the medical practitioners.
That fact is well known to every honorable member -
A Commonwealth Government approaching this matter with common sense will work for the co-operation of the States, of the municipalities, of hospital managements, of friendly societies, and of the medical, dental, pharmaceutical and allied professions.
That is exactly the objective of the present Minister. He has sought out those various allied professions, and has received their co-operation. The Prime Minister also said -
We need an adequate supply of life-saving and maintaining drugs, the availability of which should in no case be restricted by the means of the patient.
That is what this limited and restricted formulary, known as the Page formulary, provides. It makes available costly lifesaving drugs which many people could not afford. Some of these drugs, such as aureomycin, streptomycin and gammexane have been mentioned in this debate. The cost of some of those drugs is £5, £6 or £7. Honorable members can well imagine the effect on the household budget if a family was obliged to provide such drugs for a sick person in the home. Those drugs are provided under the Page scheme, but none of them was included in the 600 items in the Chifley Government’s formulary. Yet the honorable member for Eden-Monaro sought to make political capital out of the fact that the present Minister has discarded that formulary.
Another reckless statement made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was that many of the items provided under the Page scheme are proprietary lines manufactured by backyard concerns-
– That is absolutely correct.
– That shows how completely reckless the honorable member can be. I have here the formulary setting out the names of approximately 50 firms which the Government recognizes in making payments. Every one of them is a household word, or is well known to hospitals. They include Allen and
Hanburys (Australasia) Limited, British Drug Houses (Australia) Proprietary Limited, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, F. H. Faulding and Company Limited, Burroughs Wellcome Limited and Parke Davis and Company. Those organizations have been manufacturing for research purposes for 50, 60 or 100 years.
– The honorable member picked out six names out of 50.
– I do not desire to weary the House by reading more names from the list, but any honorable member can see them in the formulary. Every one of those firms is well known to every hospital, not only in Australia, but probably throughout the world. Consequently, when the honorable member for EdenMonaro makes such a ridiculous statement, we are apt to discount the whole of his remarks. The honorable gentleman also said that had the present Government accepted the Chifley formulary of 600 items, the cost would have been considerably less than that of the present scheme. As honorable members are aware, the cost of the present scheme is approximately £6,500,000 per annum. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro suggested that the Chifley formulary, had it been in operation now, would cost about one-third of that amount. Of course, that is merely a wild guess. N c one can say what the cost of the Chifley formulary would be on to-day’s figures., A person would need to go into the matter much more closely than the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has done, if some of the other statements he has made to-night are a guide to the accuracy of his ideas. I do not know what the cost of the Chifley formulary would be under present- day conditions, but I know that the United Kingdom and New Zealand, which have a” wide formulary similar to the Chifley formulary, have experienced a great abuse of drugs. When I use the word “ abuse “, I do not mean that the drugs have been consumed recklessly. They have been prescribed and dispensed for patients, and perhaps only two doses of medicine have been poured from a bottle, and the remainder of the contents has been wasted. That is the experience in countries which have adopted an ex tensive formulary, as recommended by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
The bill has been thoroughly examined by both professions as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) and the Minister. I support it, because I believe that it demonstrates the determination of the Government to co-operate to the fullest degree with the professions concerned in providing this so-called free medicine service to the public. The Labour party’s criticism of the bill appears to be tinged with considerable envy, inasmuch as the previous Government made every endeavour in the course of seven years to “ float “ a pharmaceutical benefits scheme, but, as every honorable member knows, it was held up to public derision. The people simply would not accept it. But the present Minister for Health has been able to produce in two years a most successful scheme, which has been accepted by the public. After all, is that not the best test we can have? The Minister stated in his second-reading speech that in one year alone approximately 6,500,000 prescriptions were written for the drugs in the Page list. Some Opposition members have scoffed at that list and called the items “ wonder drugs “. I point out that those drugs have saved many lives, and have been available to persons who could not have afforded to buy them. By and large, the public is the best judge of any social services benefit scheme and any scheme that it views with disfavour cannot he said to measure up to the requirements of the community. I believe that this scheme meets those requirements. That is evidenced by the huge number of prescriptions that have already been written and by the tremendous cost which the Government has already incurred in respect of the scheme. In a scheme of this kind, the public interest must be the Government’s first consideration; and any unbiased person will admit that this scheme stands high in the public estimation because of its success in such a short period. I congratulate the Minister upon having introduced it. I wholeheartedly support the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Atomic Weapons - Industrial Decentralization - Snowy Mountains Scheme - Photostat Copies of Documents - Compulsory Acquisition of Property - Housing - Hansard: Incorporation ot? Graphs, Maps and Blocks - Disorder.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I should not take up the time of the House at this hour had it not been for the fact that a few days ago when I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a question that related to reports that had been made by physicists and scientists attached to the staff of the Australian National University, who attended the explosion of the atom bomb recently at the Monte Bello islands the right honorable gentleman replied that he had not seen such reports and clearly indicated that he was not interested in them.
– Rubbish !
– I asked the Prime Minister whether he had seen in the press certain statements that had been made by Professor Titterton which were published under the heading “ Spread Out for Survival “. The professor made those statements upon his return from the Monte Bello islands. The Prime Minister replied in a casual manner, and it was evident that he was not interested in the statements and did not intend to take any notice of them. I rise on this occasion to deal with that matter.
I recommend honorable members to read the article by Professor Titterton in which he deals with an atomic explosion, not of the kind that will take place in the Flinders electorate next Saturday week, but of the kind with which we are becoming more informed. I shall not weary the House by reading that article. It speaks for itself. Its theme relates to the efficiency that has been achieved in respect of atomic weapons, and it should be of particular interest to representatives of country electorates in a land which, if it hopes to survive, must disperse its basic industries and huge populations that are now congregated in capital cities on its seaboard. I raise the matter now. because the Government is financing the Snowy Mountain hydro-electric scheme as a result of which power will be produced in the near future. The intention under that scheme is that power will be diverted to Melbourne and Sydney in order to boost the large industries that have already been established in those seaboard cities. I emphasize the extreme urgency of revising that scheme in conjunction with the dispersal of basic industries and also with a programme that will enable industrial expansion to take place in inland areas, particularly in the region in which this additional power will be generated. According to a report that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority issued recently, investigations are being continued on the basis that the power that will be produced will be used to boost supplies in Sydney and Melbourne. If the Government continues to carry out a policy of that nature, in spite of warnings by its most eminent scientists and its defence chiefs, it will be guilty of an act of criminal folly. Government supporters, particularly those who represent constituencies in the region in which this additional power should be made available, should bring pressure to bear upon. the Government to review its policy in this respect. Australia is already to enough trouble from a defence point of view as a result of having its most important industries established in the seaboard cities. We should not expand those industries in the way in which it is contemplated to expand them by providing additional power under the Snowy Mountains scheme. Therefore, as the Prime Minister has said that he has not seen Professor Titterton’s statements, and as it appears that he is not interested in them, I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to direct the attention of Cabinet to the plan of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to divert power to Melbourne and Sydney. I repeat that it will be nothing short of an act of criminal folly on the part of the Government if it permits this power to be used to bolster up our over-populated capital cities which,, as they are situated on the seaboard, constitute a menace from a defence point 0f view and. offer a sitting shot to any enemy that may attack this country with atomic weapons. It will be. useless for the Government to wait until after the power has been diverted to Melbourne and Sydney before it revises its policy in this respect. The Government should urgently undertake the effective dispersal of vital, industries. I again ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council to dir.ect the attention of Cabinet to this matter.
.- This morning, Mr. Speaker, I asked you a question that related to a matter of procedure which arose out of the production in this House of a photostat copy of a certain document by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). It was a copy of a claim lodged with the Crown Solicitor in New South Wales by a private company in Sydney for compensation for the resumption of its land by the Department of Public Works in New South Wales on behalf of the Housing Commission for housing- purposes. I suggested that the document was a private document. It was in no sense a part of current legal proceedings. Quite clearly, it was the property of the applicant company, which lodged it, or of the New South Wales Government, with which it was lodged. I suggested that the possession of a photostat copy of the document by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and the use that he made of it in this House were improper. The honorable member, in making a personal explanation, informed the House of how he obtained possession of the documents. He said that he had written to the New South Wales Government and requested it to supply him with a copy, which it did. In. those, circumstances, I withdraw the charge I made that the honorable member had gained possession of it wrongfully. Indeed, I am glad to withdraw a charge of that kind against an honorable member with, whom I have always been on pleasant terms. I withdraw, the charge that the honorable member improperly obtained possession of the document.
This morning; I also criticized the use that, the honorable member made of that copy. That criticism must stand, because it is’ not right or proper, that a private document of an individual,, or of a company,, should be used without the approval of the person concerned for party political purposes in this House. Having dealt with that aspect of the matter, I turn to the effect of the disclosure that the honorable member made in., this chamber. He said that he. wrote to. the New South Wales Government requesting it to supply him with a photostat copy of the document and that he was supplied with such a copy. The public would like to be informed of which member of that Government committed the improper act of supplying a copy of a private and confidential document to a member of this Parliament for the base purpose for which he used it. What are we to think of the standard of conduct of the member of. the New South Wales Government who was responsible for making the document available to the honorable member? It is reasonable to draw certain conclusions from the discussion that has taken place on this matter in this chamber. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), in the course of a debate on a bill in this House, found it necessary to criticize the Housing Commission of New South Wales. Some time ago, a company, in which he is interested, acquired a large tract of vacant land in Sydney with the intention of subdividing it for building purposes. That company performed a great deal of work and incurred considerable expense in carrying out a subdivision which had been approved by the local council. The company had planned roads and made arrangements for the supply of water and electricity. Certain, work had been carried out in that respect. In addition, approximately 30 contracts for the building of houses had actually been entered into and. some of the houses had been built. The Housing Commission of New South Wales is supposed to be providing houses for people who cannot otherwise obtain a house. One would have thought that, if it were sincere in carrying out its duties, it would have studiously avoided interfering with the activities of any person,, or corporation, that was successfully providing, houses.; but the commission resumed this land and thus made it impossible for the company to carry out its contracts for the building of the houses. One would have thought that the Housing Commission would have looked for land that had not been subdivided and on which provision had not already been made to build houses. In the light of facts that are not disputed, the commission acted carelessly and improperly in resuming this land.
The honorable member for Bennelong had occasion to criticize the commission in the course of a debate in this chamber, and, subsequently, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro made certain charges against him as a member of the company concerned. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro did not attempt to deny the charges that the honorable member for Bennelong made against the Housing Commission of New South “Wales, but merely endeavoured to discredit the company by alleging that it had claimed excessive compensation for the resumption of this land. He said that the Vainer-General in New South Wales had valued the property at £1,900, whereas the company had claimed a sum of £11,306 as compensation. I point out that the Valuer-General made his valuation at a time when land values in Sydney were pegged at 1942 values and also that his valuation was made on the basis of the resumption of one block of unimproved un-subdivided land. He did not take into consideration the facts that the subdivision of the property had been approved, that much work had been done on the site and that certain contracts had been entered into by the company. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro ignored the loss in which the company was involved by being deprived of the results of its work. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro merely invited honorable members to compare the Valuer-General’s valuation with the sum that the company had claimed as compensation, and alleged that the latter sum was grossly inflated. An interesting point about this matter is that this criticism by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has marched side by side with similar criticism made by Mr. Clive Evatt, the Minister for Housing in the New South Wales Govern- ment. It does not require much imagination to come to the conclusion that he is the member of the New South Wales Government who, so obligingly, and, I say without hesitation, very improperly, made available to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro the copy of the private document that was produced in this chamber last night. I make the suggestion that it is very probable that the Minister for Housing in the New South Wales Government, very wrongly and improperly, made available to a member of this House, for political purposes, a private and confidential document that was in his custody as a Minister of the Crown. I cannot say definitely that this is the case, but I do say that it appears to be very probable. If I have done an injustice to Mr. Clive Evatt, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro can very quickly correct it, because he must know who made the document available to him. If the disclosure of the document to him does not constitute a public scandal, I should like to know what does.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I appreciate the withdrawal by the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) of the charge that he made against me of obtaining these documents improperly. My appreciation of that withdrawal is not. lessened by the fact that he has proceeded to make even wilder and equally baseless charges against me. The point to which the House should direct its attention so that this matter can be brought to finality is that when a private citizen brings to public notice his complaints against a government department, gives his version of the transactions that have taken place between him and the department, and then uses it as the basis of a criticism of the government concerned, there is a duty on that government to give its version of the transaction so that the public can judge the matters at issue. It would be wrong to say that, when a private citizen has made public accusations against a government and has given his version of transactions that have taken place between bini and it, the government concerned has no right to give its version of the case.
The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) rose in his place in this chamber and, in the course of a speech, accused the New South Wales Government of political partiality. In support of his accusation, he bared his private transactions with that Government. He said that it had resumed land that belonged to his brother and himself and, for over six years, had failed to pay for it. It would be quito wrong to contend that, although the honorable member had accused the New South Wales Government of political partiality in refusing for six years to pay him for land that had been resumed, that Government had no right, in reply to that charge, to disclose the reasons why the transaction had not been completed.
– To disclose those reasons in this House?
– The charges were made in this House, and this is the place in which the reply to them should oe given. I made no charge against the honorable member for Bennelong. He imputed dishonest behaviour to Ministers of the New South Wales Government. When he had done so, I informed the House of information that had come into my possession. I did that, not to make any charge against the honorable member, but to show that the political partiality of which he had accused the New South Wales Government did not exist, and that the only reason why the transaction had not been completed in six years was that that Government was unable to pay more than the sum that the Valuer-General of the State had declared to be fair. The honorable member for Bennelong and his brother insisted upon the payment of a far larger sum. As they failed to bring the matter before the Land and Valuation Court, there was no alternative but to permit the case to drag on until finality could be reached. I made no charge against the honorable member. In refutation of the charge that he made against the New South Wales Government, I showed clearly that the only reason for delay in the transaction was that the ValuerGeneral had stated that, in respect of the land and compensation, a sum of £1,900 should be paid, whilst the honorable member and his brother had claimed £11,300. It would be absurd to suggest that the honorable member could make charges against the probity of Ministers of the New South Wales Government in relation to transactions that he had had with that Government, and that they were not entitled to reply to those charges by making public the facts of the case. The New South Wales Government has made the facts of the case public. I obtained those facts, and I presented them in this House, where the charge has been made.
I cannot believe that, up to that point, any honorable member could take any exception to my conduct of the matter. When I had made that statement, the honorable member for Bennelong, for reasons unknown to me, declared that what I had said was completely untrue. He invited me to verify the facts and, when I had done so, to come into the House again, withdraw the statement that I had made, and apologize for it. I obtained verification of the facts in the form of photostat copies of the documents concerned. That is the only reason why those documents were produced in this House. They were not produced for any political reason or to support any charge against the honorable member for Bennelong. I do not know, neither do I care particularly, whether the payment in respect of the land and compensation should be £11,000 or £1,900. Throughout this matter, I have been concerned only to demonstrate to the House that the honorable member was in error in charging the New South Wales Government with partiality, to show that the sole reason why the transaction was not completed was that there was a big difference between the sum claimed and the valuation of the Valuer-General, and to defend the statements that I had made, which had been denied by the honorable member. I produced to the House, and obtained leave to incorporate in Hansard, documentary proof of the accuracy of what I had said.
.- I have risen only to reply to certain statements by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro .(Mr. Allan Fraser), who is now back-pedalling. His charge was that I and my firm had made an excessive, demand on the. public purse. He maintained that the sum claimed by the company was in respect only of the resumed land. He compared that sum with the valuation of the Valuer-General. But that valuation is pertinent only to the land. Indeed, it is pertinent only to the land in bulk, not in sub-division. It has no relation whatever to the compensation that should be paid for damage to the company’s business and other matters. A part of the claim for £11,000 has nothing at all to do with the value of the land. I said that the statements made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro were completely untrue in that respect. Then, for some extraordinary reason, he brought into this chamber a photostat copy of the claim and read it out. He did not appear to be aware that, by so doing, he was confirming the truth of the statement that I had made the previous evening. If he examines the claim again, he will see that it is divided into two parts. The form itself provides for that to be done, because it contains a column for the sum claimed in respect of the value of the land and another column for the sum claimed by way of compensation for damage and other matters.
The claim made .in respect of the value of the land was for about £6,000, not for £11,000, as the honorable member tried to make the House believe. As I said last night, the company paid £4,000 for the land in 1927. Therefore, its claim is not unreasonable. I cannot understand why there has been so much argument about the claim. It does not matter whether the company has claimed £11,000 or £50,000, because the case must be decided by the Land and Valuation Court. With regard to delay, the Housing Commission of New South Wales could have brought the case to that court for determination whenever it desired to do so. We intend to bring the case before the court at the proper time. I have had interviews with an officer of the commission, and we are collecting a considerable body of evidence about the matter. The New :South Wales Government could have taken action to have the case determined years ago, if it had wanted to do so. It had only to bring /tie matter before the court. But apparently it intends to leave ii to me or to the company to do that. If we did not take the case to the court, I suppose we should not be paid anything. The charge that we have made an excessive claim is a storm in a tea-cup. It is ridiculous and nonsensical.
Let me deal now with the other aspect of the matter. I gave no permission for these documents to be produced. I ‘consider that it was most reprehensible conduct on the part of a Minister of the Crown in New South Wales to make those documents available to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. I think it is safe to say that permission for the photostat copies to be made was given by Mr. Clive. Evatt, the Minister for Housing in the New South Wales Government. I shall find out whether that .is so, but I have no doubt that it is, because it was he who attacked me upon this matter in the State Parliament. The only other remark that I want to make is that a firm that is engaged in its lawful occupation and is going about its business in a proper way should not be treated in this manner. I am glad to say that my firm ‘has built a great number of houses during its 30 years of trading. This land was its stock in trade, in the same way as the articles on the shelves of a grocer’s shop are the stock in trade of a grocer, yet that stock in trade was taken from it over-night, and the company was prevented from performing its proper functions. That is the steam-roller of socialism. The people should not tolerate conduct of that kind, any more than they should tolerate the disclosure of the documents that have been referred to. As far as I am concerned I do not want to hear anything further about the matter. My conscience is clear, and I know that my company has done the right thing. No claim of an excessive character has -been made, and I consider that the company has been injured, quite unnecessarily, by the conduct of the State Government of New South Wales.
Mr. Pollard rising to address the Chair,
-Order! I shall not permit any further debate on this matter to-night.
– Who says so?
– Order ! I am saying so.
– Well, the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), has made certain statements that are open to doubt.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I rise to order.
-Order! No point of order may’ be taken at the moment, because I am still on my feet.
– I consider that you ought to allow me to say something, when another honorable member has said certain, things that are open to refutation.
– Order ! I shall name the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) if he interjects again while I am on my feet. Last night the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) asked for, and was granted, leave to have certain documents incorporated in Hansard. Judging from something that I heard this morning, and something that I have since read in one newspaper, it appears that there is a misunderstanding about the matter, and that the House is supposed to have granted the right to have photostats incorporated in Hansard. I inform the House that I have instructed Hansard that no photostat is to be printed in Hansard, but that only the script that is shown in photostats is to appear. I lay it down now, quite definitely and firmly, that I shall not permit the inclusion in Hansard of any photostats, maps, pictures or anything else of that nature.
Mr. Haylen rising to address the Chair,
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not rise in his place while I am. speaking. It is only right that I should make it very clear now that, if honorable members ask for something to be incorporated in Hansard, the script only of the document concerned will appear in Hansard. We do not intend to go to the fuss and bother of producing Hansard in the form of an illustrated magazine.
– I rise to order. I think, and you will correct me, Mr. Speaker, if I am wrong, that the resolution of the House last night was that the photostats be incorporated in Hansard.
– There was no resolution of the House.
– It has been the practice to include sketches of electoral boundaries, and similar sketches, in Hansard when the approval of the House for their incorporation has been given, and I cannot see that a photostat copy of a document is in a different class from such sketches. It would be much easier for Hansard to have engraver’s blocks made of the photostats and incorporated in Hansard than to incorporate the documents faithfully in any other way. Is there any standing order which prohibits the incorporation of a block in Hansard? It has been done before.
– I have given instructions that only the typescript is to be used in Hansard. I did not at any time imagine that any member of this chamber had asked for, or was granted, the right to have a photostat incorporated in Hansard. If the House wishes photostats to be incorporated in Hansard it will have to vote for such incorporation. I lay it down for the future that, so long as I am in this chair, I shall not allow anything but typescript to be published in Hansard.
– If this House should authorize the insertion in Hansard of a photostat, will you obey its decision, Mr. Speaker ?
– I have said that the House must vote for the incorporation of such matter if it wants it incorporated.
– Do I understand, Mr. Speaker, that after you have allowed the House to hear the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) on this subject, I am to be prevented from making a contribution to this controversial matter?
May I ask, if that is your ruling,bywhat arbitrary power youprevent mefrom exercising a right that has alreadybeen granted to-night tothree other honorable members, andby what interpretation of fairness itcanbe justified.
– Ihavesaid, and I maintain, that for this night . Iam mot going to listento any furtherdebateon this matter. There areother honorable members who wish to address the House on other subjects. This matterhas been thrashed outlastnight and again tonight.
Mr, Allan Fraser interjecting,
– Order! There shouldbe no interjections whileIam addressing theHouse. Honorablegentlemen hadbetter watch themselves.I say, emphatically,that if the House wants any further discussion on thismatterto-night it willhaveto have adivision on it, because I rule furtherdiscussion of it out of order.
– I am going tosay that I think your ruling is anoutrage onme. You are an old dictator.
– . Order.! The honorable gentleman will withdraw that statementand apologize to me for having made it.
– I withdraw it and apologize (for having made it.
– Order!Thehonorablegentleman will mow retire (from the chamber..
-Butthehonorable gentleman withdrewhis statement and apologized for having made it.
– Yes,but it was a deliberatestatement.
Mr..Calwell. -iaskunder what standing order you propose toputhim out?
– Order.! I ask the honorable member for Lalor towithdraw from the House.
The honorable member forLalor there upon withdrew fromthe chamber.
Mr.Calwell. -Buthewithdrew the statement, and apologizedfor having made it.
– Order! I am in chargeofthe Houseuntil I amremoved fromthis chair.
Mr.CAlwell.- Then, I desire to move thatyourruling
– There wasno ruling, I asked the honorable gentleman toretire from the House, andhe has done so.
– Can your actionbe supported bythe Standing Orders,Mr. Speaker ?
-Order ! There is no question of the StandingOrders.
—I amaskingfor the right-
-Thehonorable gentleman is not going to get it.
– Order ! Inamethe honorable member for Perth , (Mr. Tom Burke), for offering an insultto the Chair. Thehonorable gentleman will apologize forthwith and withdrawthe statement.
– I have nointention of apologizing.
– I name the honorable memberfor Perth.
– VicePresidentof the Executive Council)I move
–Beforetheright honorable gentleman movesforthe suspension forthe honorablememberfor Perth, Igivethathonorablemember a final chance to withdrawandapologize.
– Instead ofnaming thehonorablememberfor Perth,I suspendhimunder StandingOrder 803.He will forthwithleavethebuilding.
Mr. Tom Burke.I wish totake a point of order.
-Order ! Thehonorablegentlemanmay nottake apoint of orderafter hehasbeen suspended. The honorablegentleman willretire from the chamber, or I shallsendfor theSer jeant- at-Arms.
The honorable memberf orPerth thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
Mr.Peters. - I rise toorder-
—Order! I do not intend to hear anyfurther points of order onthismatter.
Questionresolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at . 11.23. p:m.
The fallowing answers’ te questions were circulated: -
Commonwealth Literary Fm
Mir. Keon asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the closing’ date for applications’ fer awards from the.- Commonwealth Literary Fund?.
What were the means adopted over the past three years to publicize the fact that applications were being invited?
What- persons and organizations were notified that applications were being: called. for in 1049, 1950 and 19511 4’. Will he’ ensure- feat adequate publicity in- both press and. radio’ will £e’< given to theinvitation, for applications’ for this’ year ?
– The answers-‘ to the honorable member’s- questions are- as follows : -
Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
Mi. Joshua asked the Minister repressenting the1 ‘ Minister for National Development, upon notice -
la Commonwealth- Oil. Refineries- Limited a party to the application- for’ ait increase in thé price of petrol made’ to the State Prices Commissioners by the major distributors?
Has the company in the past charged, the same prices as other distributors and, at the sama- time, made substantial profit’s? 3 If- so;. could the- company’ be-‘ maintained! in a sound financial position- without increasing the price? 4-. What is the opinion’ of the company’s directorate on- this subject 5; Can’ a- copy of the evidence in support of an increased- price’ Which lias been’ placed before the commissioners be made available to honorable members?
Does the company have- to pay for its imports in United States dollars?
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 October 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19521009_reps_20_220/>.