22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– 1 desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs two questions arising out of the answers he gave yesterday to questions about the dispute between Jordan and Israel. First, can the Minister confirm the view he expressed yesterday that Australia is not involved in any military commitment of any kind arising out of the treaty arrangement between the United Kingdom and Jordan? Secondly, and more importantly because the matter is now with the Security Council, can he state the rival claims of these two countries? As 1 understand it, each country has made a claim against the other before the Security Council.
– Since the right honorable gentleman asked me a question yesterday, I have discussed this matter with the department. The reservation 1 made yesterday was, 1 think, a natural one. For myself, I would hesitate a great deal before expressing a completely firm opinion on the interpretation of an international treaty. 1 said at the time that I could not conceive that there was any obligation on Australia, direct or indirect. Discussion with the department enables me to say that there is no obligation on Australia in respect of the British-Jordan treaty. In answer to the second part of the right honorable gentleman’s question, I inform him that the Jordan-Israel matter goes to the Security Council to-morrow. Friday, New York time. The council is to consider a complaint made by Jordan. The complaint by Jordan against Israel is in the following approximate terms: -
On 11th October, Israel launched a major unprovoked and premeditated attack against four Jordan villages. The attack lasted 6i hours. It ceased on the order of General Burn.
He is the United Nations truce supervisor -
The attackers used heavy arms, including bombers. Twenty-five Jordan soldiers and national guards were killed and thirteen wounded. A police post was demolished and a number of villages were shelled. Another major attack was launched by Israel on 25th September against Jordan territory and 25 Jordanians were killed. These acts of aggression are flagrant violations of the Armistice Agreement and a threat to peace.
That is the end of a condensed version of the Jordan complaint against Israel, which is now before the Security Council. I have not the precise text of the counter-claim by Israel against Jordan, but, in general terms, it is in respect of the persisent violations of the Armistice Agreement by Jordan. That is the complaint and the counter-complaint. Although every one, 1 think, would deplore the use of force in these circumstances, I suggest that instead of looking at any one of these unfortunate incidents, the whole history of the tragic relationship between Jordan and Israel should be considered in perspective. That history should be kept in mind when one is looking at any particular act of what might be called aggression. No one of these incidents can be looked at in vacuo; they must all be looked at against the background of the extreme tension, and the action that has resulted from it, that has unfortunately existed between these two countries for a number of years.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, with the statement that it is considered that a new university is most urgently needed in Victoria, and that in my electorate of Corio the admirable suggestion has been put forward that the ideal site could be found in Geelong. In fact, one site already mentioned is in Hearneparade, overlooking the lovely Corio Bay, the most outstanding sheet of bay water in the south. If this suggestion is adopted, and work is commenced on the construction of such a university, what financial assistance can be expected from the Commonwealth Government?
– I appreciate the interest of the honorable member in this matter. I agree with him that, subject, perhaps, to the claims of Ballarat, Geelong would be an admirable site for a university.
– What is wrong with Jeparit?
– I am very grateful for that suggestion. I think, though, that there may be a little difficulty in providing accommodation at Jeparit. Our position in relation to universities or proposed universities is this: We have not undertaken to contribute to the capital cost of the establishment of universities, but if and when one is established we regard it as eligible to receive its share of the annual grant that we make to universities on revenue account - which is, of course, quite substantial.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether any decision has been made in connexion with future aircraft production m Australia? A large number of men have been dismissed from factories engaged in aircraft production. The production programme for Sabre jets and Canberra bombers is practically at an end, I believe, and, having in mind the necessity to maintain efficiency in the aircraft industry, can the Prime Minister say whether the Government intends to follow a policy of purchasing aircraft from overseas? If- the Prime Minister can give us any information on this matter it will be very helpful to honorable members, especially those in whose electorates are located aircraft production works that have provided employment for great numbers of men.
– I agree that it is very desirable that these matters should, as soon as possible, be the subject of a statement. They are under very active consideration at the moment. I shall arrange, with the appropriate members of my Government, to make a statement as to future policy as soon as possible, because 1 realize that many matters will be affected by it.
– I apologize for intervening at this moment, but, rather than asking a series of questions, I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement to the House in connexion with the proposed direction or suggestion which would prevent the visiting Chinese opera or ballet company from performing in Melbourne during the time when the Olympic Games are conducted there.
– I am quite willing to say something about this matter, and I presume that the appropriate time to do so will be at the conclusion of question time.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the right honorable gentleman’s attention been directed to a report by Mr. Arnell, president of the Brisbane branch of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, who recently returned from a trip to Russia, that waterside workers work a 48-hour week without smokos, and that working women who are expectant mothers are allowed 56 days’ rest before and after the birth of a child? In view of the freedom from turbulence and strikes on the Soviet waterfront, will the Minister have the working conditions of that “ socialist workers’ paradise “ examined to ascertain how they compare with conditions in our capitalist country?
– I am afraid the honorable gentleman has set me a rather difficult task. The penetration of the iron curtain has so far not been included by my leader in my ministerial duties, although, with the liberalization of relations that is going on at the present time, even that may be possible. In the meantime, of course, we depend for information upon those who not only are welcome in the iron curtain countries but also have more ready access to enable them to observe conditions there than the normal official visitor has. One of the striking things about these trade union officials who go to Russia and who make no secret of their Communist affiliations is that very few of them emigrate there in any permanent sense. 1 can only assume from this that, having had a good look at the “ workers’ paradise “, they find that the lot of those “ exploited “ under capitalism is not so bad after all. It is refreshing to find one who has seen these conditions at first hand having the frankness and courage to speak plainly to his fellow workmen, lt may bring a greater sense of realism to our own waterfront.
– Last week another honorable member asked me a somewhat similar question. I am glad to be able to inform the honorable member for Gellibrand that the Tariff Board’s report has been received by the Department of Customs and Excise and has been closely examined, and a series of recommendations is now being prepared for submission to the Government. I should like the honorable member to know that this is a complex matter which involves not only the producers and manufacturers, but the consuming public as well. Therefore, most detailed consideration must be given not only to the facts presented at the inquiry, but also to the implications of the recommendations made. I think there has not been excessive delay, and that the matter has been handled with responsibility and caution. The recommendations for submission to the Cabinet will be completed shortly and, I hope, will be submitted next week. As to the last part of the question, as soon as the Cabinet makes a decision on the proposals, the matter will be dealt with by my colleague the Minister for Customs and Excise. It is customary to make the final report available for the perusal of all members of the Parliament then.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that there are many non-European people, men and women, who have lived in Australia for many years as law-abiding persons and who will continue to live here, but who are denied the- privilege of naturalization. Has the Minister considered the problem of these people and. if so, has he any solution to the problem?
– It is a fact that within Australia there are a number of people in the category mentioned by the honorable member for Capricornia. It is also a fact that, up to the present time, unless they have been born in Australia, they have not been regarded as eligible for naturalization. This has produced some anomalies. For example, a man who came here in the early years of our federation and lived here all his life might have brought up a family in Australia. All the children would take Australian citizenship upon birth but the father - the head of the household - would not have been considered eligible for naturalization. Similarly, in more recent times, we have had the problem of wives of ex-servicemen from nonEuropean sources or of non-European people, who have come here and who also, by virtue of past practice, have not been eligible for naturalization, even though they are married to Australian citizens. The whole question was examined recently by the Immigration Advisory Council, which has recommended to the Government that in circumstances such as these - each case being examined on its merits - eligibility for naturalization might be accepted when it was felt that conditions suitable for such acceptance had been complied with. The Government has decided that non-European wives or husbands of Australian citizens should become eligible for naturalization upon marriage. In respect of other persons who are in Australia without restriction by virtue of their special circumstances - merchants who have been here for a long period of years are a case in point - each case would be considered on its merits; and in suitable cases eligibility for naturalization would be approved. I feel that this decision will be welcomed, not only by the non-Europeans directly affected but by non-European countries, as evidence of our determination to maintain our traditional immigration policy, but to see to it that good sense and humanity are exercised in the administration of it.
– 1 wish to bring to the notice of the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade the matter of the importation of 8-millimetre movie film, ls the Minister aware that there is likely to be a shortage of this film during the Olympic Games?
Owing to the publicity which could be given to Australia when the Olympic visitors return to their own countries through the medium of films, will the Minister increase the importation of 8-millimetre films during the next two months in order to meet the extraordinarily high demand for such films by visitors from overseas and by our own people who may wish to record the games in their own way? I feel sure that the extra cost in dollars that would be involved would be more than repaid in the publicity that we would get at a later time.
– I am glad that the honorable gentleman has shown such interest in this matter. It is obvious that it requires the closest consideration. I assure him that I will look into the matter as soon as 1 can, and let him have a personal reply as to what can be done.
– I preface a question to the Postmaster-General by saying that a new telephone exchange building has been erected at Stockton but, as yet, remains unoccupied. I therefore ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he can give me any information on the following points: - To what use is the new building to be put in the immediate future? What measures are proposed for the improvement of the present unsatisfactory working accommodation available to technical staff employed at the existing exchange at Stockton? What is the general position in regard to telephone installations in the area?
– The honorable member for Lyne referred to me some time ago the position at Stockton, in respect of telephone services, and I supplied him with some information on the subject. At present, I can reply to his question by stating that the installation of the equipment for the automatic exchange in the new building at Stockton has been deferred because of the pressing claims of other areas where it is not possible to make alternative arrangements to relieve their position in the same way as is possible at Stockton. It is proposed, in order to deal with the immediate situation, to extend the cable service in the areas at Stockton where applications for telephones are still outstanding. This cable extension will be completed early in the forthcoming year, and it is expected that the present exchange, with some slight extension of board facilities, will be capable of dealing with all those outstanding applications when the cable supplies are put in. Therefore, for the immediate future the position as regards telephone installations at Stockton is that the new exchange is not essential to serve these needs, which will be serviced by the existing installations. New equipment will be put into the new automatic exchange as circumstances permit. 1 cannot inform the honorable member, ofthand, about the immediate use to which the new building has been put, or about the accommodation position that he mentioned, but I shall obtain that information as soon as possible and let him have it.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that dismissals at short notice from defence production establishments are causing a good deal of hardship? Does he recall that, in the years from 1945 to 1948, hundreds of thousands of servicemen were demobilized and replaced in industry without unemployment and hardship being created, and that, similarly, many thousands of workers were transferred from war-time to peace-time production without causing any industrial upset? Will the Minister undertake an examination of the methods used at that time, so that the reduction of defence production activities will not throw the burden of readjustment on to the workers employed in. defence production establishments? Will he issue instructions that no man will be dismissed until the Minister for Labour and National Service has fulfilled his pledge, so often given, to maintain full employment by arranging for these men to have other jobs to go to? Will he also arrange for a longer period of notice of dismissal than one week, with its implication that workers are expendable stores? Will he suspend all dismissals until after Christmas? Finally, will he examine the position of ex-servicemen in this matter, in view of the Government’s oft-repeated claim to be the special protector of the interests of ex-servicemen, and in view of the fact that ex-servicemen are being dismissed from some establishments while employees who did not serve in the forces are being retained?
– To reply to the last part of the honorable member’s question first, I will not withdraw any dismissal notices that have already been issued or stop any that may have to be issued before Christmas, although I do not expect that many such notices will be issued. I would also say that in respect of the dismissals that have already taken place, the very closest co-operation has existed between the Department of Defence Production and the Department of Labour and National Service, and that there is no expectation that any great difficulty will be faced by the people dismissed in obtaining employment. As to the order of dismissals, that also has been very carefully scrutinized, and we are satisfied that the proper order of priority has been observed in the dismissals that are taking place.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs say whether the question of Cyprus will be a subject for consideration at the forthcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly?
– Yes, it is certainly most likely to come up at the assembly.
– Well, it is about time it did so.
– The matter has been discussed in each of the last two years, but the General Assembly really has not had a great deal of discussion on the substance of it. The subject was discussed fairly briefly two years ago, but the General Assembly decided not to discuss it further. Last year, the matter was not inscribed on the agenda, on the basis that it was a domestic matter and therefore outside the purview of the United Nations. This year there are no fewer than three items on the provisional agenda, one by Greece seeking self-determination for the people of Cyprus, another by Great Britain, directed against interference - though that is not the word used - by Greece in the domestic affairs of Cyprus, and a third which, although not expressly directed to the Cyprus item, asks the assembly for an interim order in respect of the recognition of human rights, pending the formal adoption by the United Nations of the Human Rights Convention. Shortly then, there is one item by Greece, directed specifically to the Cyprus matter; one item by Great Britain also directed specifically to Cyprus; and a third item, more general in its terms, but quite certainly directed to the Cyprus matter also. In view of the increased membership of the United Nations, and other factors, 1 believe it to be fairly certain that this matter will be discussed in a fairly big way at the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that many American crooners and swooners will shortly arrive in Australia? Is he also aware that America’s latest heartthrob, Elvis the Pelvis, may shortly come to Australia to add to our cultural standards? Does the right honorable gentleman agree that the dollars paid to these entertainers could be better used in the purchase from the dollar area of more essential lifesaving drugs?
– 1 did not fully hear the question. It is something about Elvis the Pelvis-
– lt relates to the expenditure of valuable dollars.
– Who is spending dollars on a pelvis? I think I shall have to look into this matter.
– 1 understand that an Indian lady, a member of the Government of India, is now visiting Australia. Can the Minister for External Affairs indicate the purpose of her visit and what hospitality she is receiving from the Commonwealth Government?
– It is a fact that a distinguished lady, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur. the Indian Minister of Health, is at present in Australia at the invitation of the Commonwealth Government. This is, I think, except for a short visit to the finance conference a number of years ago by the Indian Minister of Finance, the first visit to Australia by a member of that country’s ministry. This very distinguished lady spent ten or fifteen years in the entourage of Mahatma Ghandi and, in one capacity or another, has been in Indian public life for a great many years. She was invited to this country to see the medical and nursing facilities that are available in Australia. She has also taken the opportunity to visit New Zealand. A considerable number of Indians are taking advantage of educational opportunities provided under the Colombo plan, and in other ways. The Commonwealth Government, largely through my colleague the Minister for Health and myself, is particularly preoccupied with this distinguished lady’s visit, and we have endeavoured to show her every possible courtesy and to provide opportunities for her to see the things in which she is professionally interested. I think I can say on behalf of all of us that we greatly welcome her visit to Australia.
– As a preface to my question, which is directed to the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade, I explain that about two months ago I submitted to the Department of Trade an application by a firm in my constituency for an increase of its import quota. So far, I have received no communication from the department other than an acknowledgment of the receipt of the application, despite the fact that in the last two weeks I have sent to the department both an ordinary telegram and an urgent telegram on the matter. Will the Minister advise me when I am likely to be informed of the decision in this case? What action, if any, is being taken to avoid delays of this nature, which, evidently, are now accepted as usual by the department that deals with applications for increased quotas?
– Naturally, I do not know the particular matter to which the honorable gentleman has referred. I am sure that he and all other honorable members appreciate that some delays are inevitable when so many applications are being received but the staff of the department has not been significantly increased. If the honorable gentleman will let me have a look at the file, I shall attempt to get a decision and communicate it to him by letter in the course of the next few days.
– Will the Minister for Supply consider the preparation of a full statement for the information of the House on the possible application of nuclear energy to ship propulsion, railway traction and other industrial operations, especially in view of the reduction of dependence on oil supplies that could be expected to occur within the next ten or twenty years as a result of such developments?
– I shall ask the chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to prepare a statement on this matter, and I shall supply copies to the honorable member for Bradfield and any other honorable members who may be interested in it.
– The Minister for External Affairs will recall the case of a naturalized Australian who was called before an Australian court last May to answer an application for his extradition to the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia to be tried there for an alleged offence. Will the Minister inform the House whether, arising out of that case, steps have been taken by the Australian Government to adjust the laws relating to extradition that are in force in Australia and to review any treaties dealing with the subject? If no such action has been taken, will the Minister ensure that immediate and favorable consideration will be given to bringing our extradition arrangements up to date by terminating all treaties existing between Australia and Communist-dominated countries, after the necessary notice has been given, and by amending the Australian laws relating to extradition so that in this free land a newly arrived immigrant who has escaped from a totalitarian country will be protected from a misuse of extradition arrangements that might force him to appear before an Australian court to answer an application for his extradition for what was in reality a political offence?
– This matter is one that has preoccupied my friend and colleague, the Minister for Immigration, and myself. In its international application, it falls to me, and in the practical day-to-day operation of extradition arrangements, it falls to the Minister for Immigration. It was fully ventilated at the time of the incident of which the honorable gentleman has spoken. The undertakings that were given then, on behalf of the Government, by the Minister for Immigration and myself, as well as, I believe, by the Prime Minister, should have quelled any fears in the minds of recently arrived foreign immigrants about the attempted misuse of extradition treaties. Since then, the matter has been under constant review by the Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of Immigration and the Department of External Affairs, but I do not think any final decision has been made yet on Australia’s proposals for the continuance or otherwise of the treaties. In actual fact, the matter is under current discussion between the Minister for Immigration and myself, and I would expect that in the relatively near future the final Government view will be reached in respect of the main subject of the honorable gentleman’s question, that is, the future of the extradition treaties between Australia and iron curtain countries.
– I direct to the Minister for Immigration a question which relates to a matter that 1 mentioned to him some time ago and that I know he has had under consideration, namely, the case of an immigrant suffering from Hansen’s disease, which is known also as leprosy, who has been confined to the lazaret in Sydney, pending deportation. 1 ask the Minister whether some special consideration might be given to this case, to determine whether deportation may perhaps be avoided because, first, the man was not known to be suffering from any disease at the time he entered Australia, and it seems a little hard to add the deportation penalty to a disease which has undoubtedly had a most serious effect on his life; secondly, he has family responsibilities which must be taken into consideration; and, thirdly, it is, I think, desirable that immigrants to Australia should have, in their own minds, a feeling of security against deportation arising out of matters beyond their own control.
– 1 have given quite a lot of careful thought to this very difficult case. It is difficult for the two principal reasons that the honorable gentleman has mentioned. One arises from the practice in this country, which goes back very many years, and perhaps needs some reconsideration in the light of post-war developments and the settlement of a very substantial number of people here, of requiring immigrants who have become a charge on public funds, by virtue of the development of some serious illness, to be deported from the Commonwealth on the decision of the Government. I know that that practice does create a good deal of anxiety in the minds of persons who have uprooted themselves and come here to settle and establish themselves with their families. A case such as that mentioned by the honorable gentleman does stimulate such fears. On the other hand, we have the problem of . safeguarding the health standards of the Australian community. I have gone into this matter thoroughly with my colleague, the Minister for Health, and have in turn taken it up with the New South Wales health authorities, who raised the matter with us in the first instance. It appears that the form of the disease from which this man is suffering is a relatively mild one, and that it is curable and not likely to be infective. Having regard to these circumstances and the fact that he has a wife and two children here, it has now been decided not to proceed with the deportation. 1 think that the general question of what should be the legislative position calls for some careful review in the light of our current situation, and I am arranging for the Immigration Advisory Council to examine that question and make some recommendations to me.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is the Government aware that Victorian hospital services are being greatly retarded because of the inadequate facilities available in the teaching public hospitals in that State; also, that because of insufficient finances the Victorian Hospitals and Charities Commission is unable to help in any great degree to bring these teaching public hospitals up to the standard required for such work? In view of these circumstances, will the Government consider allocating a special grant, spread over a number of years, for this essential work?
– If the honorable member’s question involves a proposal that a special grant should be made to the State of Victoria, he will see, of course, how difficult that would be, because we have to deal with six States. If he is proposing that there should be further tax reimbursement, grants or loan allocations by the
Commonwealth to all the States, then I remind him that those matters are dealt with each year in the Australian Loan Council, which is the appropriate place in which to discuss them.
– I preface a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade by referring to a report issued by the Department of Trade, dated 21st September last, which stated that an Australian egg promotion campaign, which will cost approximately £30,000, was put into full operation in the United Kingdom at the latter end of September. Is the Commonwealth finding all the money for this campaign to benefit the industry? If not, from what sources is the money being supplied? Is the campaign being well received in the United Kingdom? Finally, may I be sent a copy of the brochure which, the report stated, was being distributed in the United Kingdom?
– I am not certain whether the Commonwealth will provide the whole of the moneys, or whether the egg boards of the various States also will make a contribution, but I shall ascertain the facts and let the honorable member know. As to the second part of his question, I can give him my personal assurance that the campaign has been well received. On all reports that we have had, the campaign is being effective, and the name of Australian eggs is becoming better known throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. Concerning the third part of the question, as to whether I will make available a copy of the little booklet that has been printed, yes, I shall obtain copies, and should any other honorable member, particularly the honorable member for Werriwa, want a copy, I shall let him have one.
– Does the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization believe that the amount of money allocated by the Government for research in the primary and secondary industries is adequate? Is a greater contribution for research in connexion with these industries being made by the various State governments? Is it correct to say that, judging by the amount of money spent in this connexion, with notable exceptions, private interests in the primary and secondary industries are not interested in this important matter of research? In view of the highly competitive character of world markets and the necessity for Australian products to obtain an adequate share of those markets, will the Minister invite both primary and secondary interests to become more research-minded and so assist our economy, particularly by boosting the placing of Australian goods on overseas markets?
– I am afraid I did not get the whole purport of the honorable gentleman’s question, but I think I understand its general terms. There is a difference between research in respect of primary production and secondary industry research. I do not think it is really appropriate for individual primary producers, such as farm and station owners, to pursue research into their problems. The matter is too complicated and entails the use of facilities that are not available on a farm or a sheep or cattle station. That is not quite the case in respect of secondary industry research. I have always believed, and I still believe, that a great deal more research should be undertaken by individual units - at any rate, medium scale and large scale units - of industry in Australia, particularly in respect of what might be called day-to-day and week-lo-week research. Fundamental research in respect of secondary industry, of course, must be a government preoccupation. I have said on more than one occasion that 1 deplore the fact that industry in Australia is not more research-minded than it is. I believe, as the honorable gentleman has said, that the increasingly competitive nature of industry on a worldwide basis means that Australian industry has not to rely on overseas research, as there is an appreciable delay in the results of that research reaching Australia and being put into operation, but has to become very much more research-minded. I am speaking particularly of secondary industry.
I know very well that there are a good many notable exceptions, and that responsible units of industry do conduct their own research, some of them in a big way. But I believe that research is not nearly as widespread as it should be and as it is with industries of similar size in other industrialized countries. Speaking of research in general, I think it is widely known that a government cannot make a better investment than to undertake intelligently directed scientific research.
The dividends we have had from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and its predecessors are quite phenomenal. We could, of course, use appreciably more money if the economic situation made that possible. But, as I have said before in this House, another bottleneck is the shortage of trained research personnel. They do not grow on every tree by a long way. We are now attracting research workers from overseas. That has happened in the last couple of years, but had not happened before. I make no complaint about the amount of money that is allocated in the budget to research. We could, of course, quite we use double that amount, but research, as well as everything else, has to take cognizance of the economic situation generally and the size of the budget that is determined by the Government.
– by leave- The Leader of the Opposition at question time asked me whether I could say anything about the Chinese Classical Theatre Company which is now playing in New Zealand and which is billed to play in various Australian cities. This company, which includes the Peking Opera and which is, of course, a company from Communist China, is quite a large one. lt has about 80 or 90 members. The Government, or one of the government departments, first came into this matter some little time ago when an application was made for the issue of visas for members of the company to enable it to perform in Australia in August and September of this year. Much more recently, it was learned from the theatre interests who are sponsoring the company that the plan had been changed so that it would be performing in Melbourne during the period of the Olympic Games in November-December. It will be recalled that the original agreement was for AugustSeptember.
In the view of the Government, it would be inappropriate for that company to be performing in Melbourne at that time. It was bound to be a matter of very considerable controversy, having regard to the number of people who will be in Melbourne at that time, many of whom have very strong views on some of the problems associated with these people. The Government’s view was expressed to the theatre interests concerned. I should like to say that the Australian theatrical companies concerned fully appreciate the Government’s point of view on that matter, and 1 understand that, in fact, other arrangements are being made.
I add two observations. The first is that it has not been and is not the intention of the Government to prevent this company from performing in Australia or, for that matter, in Melbourne or any other capital city. What we believe is that we cannot leave out of account the fact that during the time the Olympic Games will be held, Melbourne will be the scene of a very important international occasion. We believe that it would be better in accord with the spirit of the Olympic Games if the controversy were to be kept in the healthy rivalry of the arena and that we should endeavour to avoid the cause of difference or even of acrimonious dispute outside the arena in Melbourne at that time.
– by leave - It seems to me that a very foolish decision has been made and it should be reviewed. First of all, permission was given for this company to visit Australia. No one has suggested for a moment that the performances of this company would not be welcomed by the people of Australia. Nothing has been said about its standing as an opera or ballet company and. as 1 have said, permission has been given for it to be admitted to Australia. It has visited New Zealand. The question of some change in the date of its performances is completely immaterial. The Government says that it should perform to Australians, but that it should not perform during the one period in which the Olympic spirit of sportsmanship should govern all Australians. Representatives from continental China will be participating in the Olympic Games. They should not be allowed to come here? They might have a dispute with the Chinese who are concentrated on the island of Formosa? They may be in dispute or other people may be in dispute with them?
How absurd it is that on this one occasion when the people of Melbourne would be glad to see performances of this kind, they are not to do so at that time! What mind conceived such an absurd position! It is a reflection on the sportsmanship of Australians and on the Olympic Games. It is a slur on Australia that such an idea should be held. What controversies will arise? As the actors or actresses dance on the stage, are there to be interruptions from the audience? I have no doubt that some people in Melbourne would be very pleased to interfere with those performances. They have shown on some other occasion an inclination to make demonstrations against people on political grounds. But surely there is nothing political in this matter. One wonders what is the dominating motive of the Government in this matter. Is it to stop incidents? Incidents of an international character, of course, happen frequently. Sometimes incidents that are apprehended are incidents that are organized. Is it feared that there may be some organized demonstration against the actors and actresses and, therefore, a performance must not be given in Melbourne at that time? This decision brings Australia into ridicule and contempt in its cultural and international relations with other countries at a time when it is the host country to all the nations in the great Olympiad. The Government should be ashamed of itself!
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act 1922-1955, as amended by the Superannuation Act 1956, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Superannuation Act 1922-1956. Three of the amendments arise from the sixth quinquennial investigation of the superannuation fund as at 30th June, 1952. The Commonwealth Actuary’s report has been laid on the table of the House, and in accordance with his recommendations certain increases in pensions to officers retiring after the date for which they were contributing to the fund are being granted. That part of the cost of such additional pensions which has temporarily been borne by the Commonwealth will be met from the resources of the fund in accordance with the conclusions of the Actuary. Section11A of the act provides for the payment to the fund from Consolidated Revenue of the amounts necessary to maintain an average rate of interest of 3¾ per cent. on the assets of the fund. The decision of the Government, taken in 1947, to grant this assistance was conditional upon any surplus disclosed at a quinquennial valuation being used to repay it. The drafting of the existing section is defective and does not conform to that decision; the amendment will provide for the amount of any Commonwealth subsidy to be repaid to the Commonwealth from a surplus.
The other principal amendment provides for continued contributions to the fund by temporary employees. The effect of the act, as now drafted, is that if an employee moves from one position in the Commonwealth to another, even without a break of continuity, he is disqualified from further contributing to the fund, at least for another period of three years. This was not the intention when provision was made for temporary employees to contribute to the fund, and the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that employees preserving their continuity of service will not be disqualified from contributing to the fund.
The other amendments are of a machinery nature and will be explained if need be in the detailed discussion of the clauses in committee. I commend the measure to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 12th September (vide page 421), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is designed to repeal the Wool Products Bounty Act 1950. In the 1950-51 season the price of wool soared to unprecedented heights. Merino wool was bringing £1 per lb. Australian manufacturers were so seriously affected that even this Government became concerned at the effect that the high price of wool would have upon woollen goods purchased by Australian consumers. It therefore introduced a bill into this Parliament to provide for the payment of a bounty on wool products produced after November, 1950, but not later than June, 1951. During that period an amount of £16,000,000 was paid to Australian manufacturers by way of bounty. The legislation contained provisions to ensure that the manufacturers themselves did not scoop up this £16,000,000, and that, as far as could be ensured by administrative action, the Australian consuming public reaped the benefit. In the following season the price of wool, unfortunately from the point of view of Australia’s economy, fell to a lower level than that of the previous year, and this Government was not, apparently, willing to continue to pay the bounty. Since then the legislation has been allowed to remain on the statute-book, and it may well be said to be superfluous. For that reason the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) has introduced this measure, and the Opposition will not oppose it.
In view of the fact that the prices to consumers of all goods in this country have increased so much since 1950, one may well consider that the Government should introduce legislation along the lines of the Wool Products Bounty Act, but wider in scope, so as to provide bounties not only on wool but also on all other consumer goods required by the people of Australia. The Government should consider this suggestion, as a means of improving our unfortunate balance of payments position, and of slowing down the continuous chase of wages after prices. Such a measure would constitute at least one step towards reducing the level of the cost structure in Australia, and enabling us to compete with other exporting countries in the markets of the world. I shall say no more about this matter. I merely wished to direct attention to that feature of this type of subsidization and bounty payment. The Opposition supports the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17th October (vide page 1534), on motion by Mr. Cramer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill to amend the Defence Act 1903-1953. The Opposition supports this measure. The bill provides, first, that a soldier of the Australian Army may engage for further service on the expiration of his current engagement before that engagement has expired. At present it is not possible for a soldier to re-engage in this way, and 1 believe this to be a very worthy amendment. Many difficulties confront Australian servicemen. If a soldier is serving overseas, and his term of service is due to expire while he is overseas, the Government at present must bring him back to Australia before he can re-engage, and send another soldier overseas to replace him. This would entail considerable expense. I think it is an advantage to a serviceman to be able to re-engage prior to the expiration of his service, and the Opposition supports the proposal.
The bill makes provision also in relation to courts-martial. We know that since the first Defence Act was passed following federation, it has been provided that in general the laws and regulations relating to courtsmartial in the British Army shall apply to the Australian Army. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) has informed us that the United Kingdom Parliament has passed a new Army Act which will come into force on 1st January, 1957. The reason for the provision relating to courts-martial in this bill is that time does not permit the Australian Army to re-write its manual of military law by 1st January, 1957, and therefore it will be necessary to continue to apply the existing regulations until such time as the necessary re-writing has been completed. I would direct the Minister’s attention to only one other thing. We have seen recent reports - do not know how true they are - that the Australian Government may in the future fall into line with the United States of America in defence matters. If that is Government policy I suppose we shall be told about it. If such a policy were adopted it would probably be necessary to amend the Defence Act again to bring it into conformity with practices in the United States and to abandon the practices of the United Kingdom. I mention that matter only in passing.
The Opposition considers that the amendments to be made to the principal act by this measure are necessary, and it supports the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17th October (vide page 1534), on motion by Mr. Cramer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- As this measure is entirely consequential upon the proposals embodied in the Defence Bill 1956 the Opposition does not oppose it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
The bill. [Quorum formed.]
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 10th October (vide page 1306), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Although apparently the Government would like the measure to go through without comment, even from its own members, I wish to take this opportunity to state that the Opposition supports the new International Wheat Agreement.
– The honorable member should not be too sure that Government supporters will not speak.
– PerhapsI should not be.
– The only thing the honorable member knows much about is apples.
– The honorable member cannot say what I know about wheat. My father was a wheat-grower in Victoria for 30 years. I was born on a wheat farm and worked on a farm for years. The new agreement is for a term of three years, from 1st August, 1956, to 31st July, 1959. This is the third post-war agreement. The Labour government, under the guidance of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), brought the original agreement into being in 1949. The present Government parties, which were then in opposition, severely criticized that agreement. It is remarkable how the views of the present Government parties change according to the side of the chamber on which they sit. Now they are bringing in this agreement in a blaze of glory. They are giving their blessing to it, and rightly so. But when the original agreement was proposed most of them were opposed to it. We are very glad indeed that the Government has seen fit to have this agreement ratified by the Australian Parliament. We fall into line, by doing this, with many other exporting countries, the largest and most important of which are the Argentine, Canada and the United States of America.
The principles in this agreement are identical with the principles involved in the previous agreement which was ratified during 1953. However, there are one or two changes in the new agreement to which I wish to refer. The great principle behind the International Wheat Agreement is to try to get some stability in international price levels for the exporting countries and some kind of stability in prices for the importing countries. I believe that it is one of the greatest feats that have been achieved in international arrangements. Forty-four importing countries and four, five or six exporting countries are involved in this agreement. That one can get any sort of agreement between people who export wheat and people who import it is, in itself, a remarkable thing. Those who thrashed out this matter at the United Nations wheat conferences which were held during October and November, 1955, and again from February to April, 1956, are to be congratulated on the fact that they could get some kind of order out of a situation that has nearly always been chaotic. I refer to the international wheat set-up. The main principle, then, can be stated in the words of article 1 of the agreement as follows: -
To assure supplies of wheat to importing countries and markets for wheat to exporting countries -at equitable and stable prices.
The working out of that principle is not easy at all. A great deal of detail is attached to it. A formula had to be worked out and put into operation. All these things are most difficult, and I feel that we owe a great debt to the men who represented Australia at these conferences. We all realize what a chaotic situation the wheat industry was in before the introduction of the agreement, and particularly up to the beginning of the war years. As I was engaged in the wheat industry with my father for many of the pre-war years, I can speak with some feeling about the chaotic conditions of the wheat industry then. Prices fluctuated disastrously. In one year we got ls. 6d. a bushel for our wheat. The next year we got 2s. 9d. The next year, the price might have gone up to 3s. 6d. at the beginning of the season and dropped to 2s. 6d. by the end of the season.
As wheat-farmers, we were absolutely and entirely in the hands of merchants, agents, bankers and others. Upon our farms would descend like a plague of locusts the wheat agents, all representing different merchants, and one might offer a farthing a bushel more one day than another. The poor wheat-farmer had to work out in his own mind whether he would accept the price that he was offered one day, or whether It might be lower or higher the next day. No industry was a greater gamble than was the wheat industry in those years. During the depression, in four years, 20,000 wheatgrowers were forced off their farms in this country because of the chaotic nature of the industry. Due to the failure to achieve any degree of price stabilization, these farmers left their farms. It was a tragedy, and it dawned on Australia, and on other nations that unless stability could be brought to this industry, the future would be very dark indeed for people who were connected with wheat-growing.
So the principle of the international wheat agreement is designed to bring stability and orderliness to wheat marketing. The violent manner in which prices fluctuated before the existence of the wheat agreement are known to all, particularly to the wheat-growers of this country. A system of maximum and minimum prices has now been worked out. 1 shall leave that to my colleague, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to mention in more detail. I want to speak about this matter in more general than detailed terms. This is the interesting point: The agreement has worked. In spite of the jeremiahs who said that it could not work, it has worked. When the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) introduced the bill he made this statement -
The experience of the past seven years demonstrates that these arrangements work satisfactorily in practice-
He was referring to the minimum and maximum price system - and go a long way towards providing a reasonable degree of stability in the international wheat trade.
The agreement now before the House differs in two important points from the 1953 agreement. The first point concerns the basic maximum and minimum prices which, in the new agreement, are 2 dollars and 1 dollar 50 cents respectively; or, in Austalian currency, approximately 18s. and 12s. 6d. Those prices were fixed after the conference of the United Nations Wheat Committee was held last February as a result of a general lowering of wheat prices throughout the world. The fall in prices was not catastrophic but the new prices were sufficiently lower than the old ones to force the maximum and minimum prices down to the amounts that I have mentioned. Those prices are 5 cents a bushel lower than the prices specified in the 1953 agreement. I am sure that that will not, in total, affect the working of this agreement very much. The new agreement includes the same formula as that which the 1953 International Wheat Agreement included for the purpose of determining the equivalent maximum and minimum prices for wheat shipped from exporting countries. This formula, interestingly enough, takes into account the differences in transportation costs, relative quantities of various types of wheat, and different currencies.
The second point on which this agreement differs from the 1953 agreement is in respect of membership and guaranteed quantities. In the 1953 agreement, 44 importing countries participated, and the volume of wheat covered by that agreement amounted to 395,000,000 bushels. In the new agreement 44 importing countries submitted their figures for inclusion but, in many cases, the quotas for which they were willing to subscribe were substantially less than their commitments under the 1953 agreement. As a consequence of this, the total quantity covered by the importers’ side of the agreement has been reduced by almost a quarter, that is, from a total of 395,000,000 bushels to 303,000,000 bushels. These reductions in the quantity of wheat that the importing countries wish to import indicate two main trends. First, they reflect the growing dependence on domestic production, often stimulated by high support prices in importing countries. Secondly, it indicates the expectation by the importers of securing wheat outside the agreement, under one or other of the United States programmes for the disposal of accumulated American wheat stocks.
We realize that the population of the world is increasing at a tremendous rate, and that food production must be increased accordingly, but when one country decides to put its surplus products on the world’s markets without due regard to the repercussions on other exporting countries, we are starting to head for trouble.
I might mention, further, that, on the exporting side, the new agreement differs in another important respect from its predecessors. In the first two International Wheat Agreements, the main exporting member countries were the United States, Canada and Australia, whilst France, although a member, had a nominal quota only; but in the last three years Argentina and Sweden have come into the picture as exporters. They have joined the International Wheat Agreement as exporting countries, and France, which before had only a nominal quota, has emerged as a substantial exporter in normal seasons and has a very significant quota to export on this occasion. That is a very interesting and disturbing trend. Again, we see the competition that is developing throughout the world in respect of markets for primary products. Australia, as one of the great food exporting countries, is jammed, as it were, between the devil and the deep blue sea on this issue. We cannot prevent other nations from growing food. Even Japan is now growing wheat in quantity. 1 was in that country last year on a mission and 1 saw glorious crops of wheat, about 6 to 9 inches high at that stage, growing on farms, the average size of which is 2 acres. Japan is also growing barley. When I was in Scotland as a member of a parliamentary delegation four years ago, I saw, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, one of the best crops of wheat I have ever seen in my life.
– Biscuit wheat?
– The trouble with the honorable member for Moore is that he thinks he knows everything about everything. He thinks he is the only wheatgrower in this House, but there again he is wrong.
– He has long ears.
– Before I was interrupted 1 was trying to point out that wheat was being grown to-day in the most unlikely places.
– What sort of wheat?
– Good marketable wheat. Argentina and Sweden have now entered the field as exporting nations in competition with Australia, which will mean that the quality of our wheat must be raised if we are to compete with those countries. The emergence of these countries as exporters means that two changes have taken place on the exporting side. One is the reduction in the total quantity sought by the importing countries, and the other is the participation of France, Argentina and Sweden as exporters, which will mean a reduction in the quotas for Australia, Canada and the United States. In our case these changes have meant that our quota has been reduced from 45,000,000 bushels in 1953 to 30,000,000 bushels in the new agreement. That represents a very great percentage reduction for Australia, and will have a very definite effect on our new season’s crop.
The volume of wheat produced in Australia each year is between 170,000,000 bushels and 200,000,000 bushels, lt is estimated that the coming crop will yield between 170,000,000 and 180,000,000 bushels. As we will export, under this agreement, only 30,000,000 bushels, we shall have to find other markets for at least 140,000,000 bushels. The difficulty there is that we already have millions of bushels of wheat in storage and unsold from previous crops.
Mr- Brimblecombe. - Where?
– Throughout Australia, but not as much as there was six months ago. We have done a wonderful job in getting rid of much of the wheat in store. Japan has taken millions of bushels off our hands. It is most pleasing that towards the beginning of a new season we have got rid of most of this stored wheat, but there are still millions of bushels in store, and we have to sell between 140,000,000 bushels and 150,000,000 bushels of the new crop on the home market and overseas, apart from the 30,000,000 bushels to be sold under the agreement.
I wish to mention also the need for us to do all we can to find new markets for our wheat in Asia. This is the only way, in my opinion, that we can hope to get rid of our abundant production. Asian countries are now taking to bread more than ever before as a supplementary item of food to rice. Japan is unable to obtain sufficient rice for its population of 90,000,000 people, and is now importing wheat, and also growing wheat, to provide a supplement to rice. Other Asian nations will act similarly. This is our great chance to boost our sales in Asian markets. India and Pakistan are buying a great deal of wheat from Australia. We should also try to sell wheat to South-East Asian countries. We should use publicity in those countries to increase the consumption of bread as a supplement to rice.
– If we do that, will it in any way affect our plans for the development of rice production in the Northern Territory?
– That is an interesting question. Australians are increasing their consumption of rice, which is now cooked in more ways than ever before in this country, and I believe that we can very well develop our rice industry in the Northern
Territory without its affecting our wheat sales, and without promotion of wheat sales to Asia affecting the plan for rice-growing. I do not think that we would grow enough rice, in the early years anyway, to affect the situation very much.
– The plans for a rice industry in the Northern Territory are laid on the basis of exporting a great deal of the rice produced.
– Well, 1 do not think we shall have much chance to export rice in the first few years, because we will be able to consume our total production. As to disposing of our wheat surplus, we do not want to see the same situation arise next year as arose in the past when at one stage we had 100,000,000 bushels in store and no way of getting rid of it. Russia has outdone the west in its efforts to win the South-East Asian countries through gifts of foodstuffs. I understand that last year Russia gave India 50,000 tons of wheat. The Russians have taught us that wheat can be used for ideological purposes. The Russians are trying to win the countries of the east to their philosophy of life.
– Why? Because they want to extend their influence across the world. They are using gifts of foodstuffs to that end. We must attempt to win SouthEast Asia over to the democratic way of life by such means as the Colombo plan, and gifts of wheat and other foodstuffs. In the long run this country would benefit if Asia could be won to the democraticway of life, even at the cost of giving away wheat at certain periods. All the churches have stressed that we cannot call ourselves a Christian country if Asian people starve for want of wheat while we store it here.
– They would not eat our wheat when we offered it to them for nothing!
– I do not think it has been handled in a very sincere way.
– What about Russia?
– It gave 50,000 tons of wheat to India last year, but to my knowledge Australia gave away not one bushel. Let us look at this question without panic or nervousness. Other countries, by gifts of foodstuffs, machinery and the services of technicians, are winning the ideological war. We have been far too stingy, and have no ideological outlook on these matters. We do not realize that such a war is going on in Asia, and that it can be won by offering foodstuffs and friendship.
The statistics reveal that a smaller acreage of wheat is being sown than was the case four or five years ago, but that the actual quantity produced has remained at a very high level. We cannot afford to weaken one of our great primary industries, and we must make sacrifices in order to keep it functioning at a high level.
I am in favour of every possible assistance being given to the wheat industry. Unfortunately, it has broken thousands of farmers - more than has any other industry, but many of the farmers’ sons have carried on. My brother is carrying on the farm in the Victorian Wimmera where we were born. He has been fortunate, and has encountered the good years since the war. He is making a success of it. But before the war the wheat farmer knew only tragedy, heartbreak, financial loss and often bankruptcy. I want the Government to know that we, on the Opposition side, are 100 per cent, behind ratification of the new agreement. I commend it to the House and to the country, because a complete, breakdown in the international framework of the industry would put the clock back twenty years.
.- The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) felt called upon to produce evidence that he had a right to speak about the International Wheat Agreement. He prefaced his remarks by proving that he had had some association with wheat-growing, that his family had been engaged in that industry over the years. Although there are not now any growers of commercial wheat in my electorate, it is rather interesting to recall that certain areas which it now embraces played a very important part in the early history of wheat growing in Australia. in 1787, when Governor Phillip set out for Australia, he was given quantities of corn and wheat and instructed upon his arrival to proceed immediately with the cultivation of the land. The one serious oversight was that, among the 1,030 people who accompanied him, there was only one farmer. There were quantities of wheat. people, and poor equipment, but only one farmer, lt was not until 1792 that Governor Phillip pushed out into the areas which the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and myself now represent. I am sorry to have to inform the honorable member that the most fertile area was generally agreed to be Prospect Hill, which is in the division of Mitchell, lt was so fertile that some of the fields returned 30 bushels of wheat for every bushel of seed planted. lt is interesting to dig back into the past and note that in 1795 the plough was first used in the adjoining electorates of Werriwa and Mitchell, and to some effect at Ruse’s farm at the junction of South Creek and the Hawkesbury River. But all that is in the past, and over the intervening years farmers in the former wheat-growing areas of the division of Mitchell have become the wheat farmers’ best customer on the home front. I refer to the stock feed purchasers.
Under the International Wheat Agreement we are called upon to export less, and it may soon become necessary to examine what alternative markets exist either at home or abroad. Secondly, it may be profitable to examine our own methods of production and the quality and quantity of the wheat that we produce. The stock feed purchaser, though one of the wheat-grower’s best customers, receives scant consideration, and harsh treatment, at the hands of the industry. Frequently he has been the victim of the system of one-grade wheat. The wheat farmer need only produce wheat that conforms to the f.a.q. standard. On the other hand, the stock feed buyer has very often to pay top price for inferior grade wheat. I have always maintained that he should be able to buy it at a lower price. This would be possible if there were a proper wheat grading system.
The rigid attitude of the wheat-grower has forced many poultry farmers and pig producers to sell up their properties or seek jobs elsewhere. In the process, the grower has endangered one of his best markets on the home front. Moreover, I am satisfied that wheat politics are hampering Australia’s wheat export market. I agree with the honorable member for Wilmot on the possibility of finding markets in the East. In my recent visit to the East, I saw enough to satisfy me that there are plenty of opportunities for increased trade in Australian wheat and flour, provided that we give to the buyers what they want in the way of quality. There is nothing new in a statement of that kind. That has been said many times by many people who have returned from other lands. In Manila, for instance, Canadian and American wheat and flour exporters do a very big business, but Australia, despite its favorable position geographically, supplies only about 1 per cent, of the wheat imports. That is because Canada and America supply the high-protein grain that the trade wants. We, too, grow high-protein grain in Queensland and northern New South Wales, but, under our f.a.q. system of marketing, customers abroad cannot buy it. They are offered Australian wheat and they must trust to luck for what they get.
For many years, there have been demands by millers and exporters for Australia to introduce a grading system, but that has always been refused by the southern wheatgrowers, who grow - I say this with all deference to them - the poorer-quality wheat. The southern wheat-growers fear that if wheat were graded, their returns would be lower. There is where politics come into the wheat industry. It so happens that the southern wheat-growers are far more numerous than the northern growers, and that they are in control of the wheat-growers’ associations. In addition, most of the public men on both sides of politics in the State and Federal spheres, who are recognized as spokesmen for the industry, come from the south. That applies to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a Labour administration. In New South Wales, where there should be a demand for a grading system in the interests of the northern growers, the Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Graham, represents a southern wheat-growing constituency. On the Government side in this Parliament, in both the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, the leading spokesmen for the wheat industry come mainly from southern wheat-growing areas. I put it to the southern wheat-growers and their representatives that their opposition to grading is short-sighted. I do not think that under ;i grading system their wheat would bring lower prices than it brings now.
– The honorable . member is out of date.
– 1 have already explained to the House and to the honorable member for Lalor the situation that exists in my electorate. The stock-feed consumer is one of the biggest customers of the wheat-growing industry. I offer no apology for espousing the cause of people in my electorate and, in the process, putting a national view to the Parliament. Australian wheat brings the minimum price, not because of poor quality, but because of variable quality. There is a market for the softer wheat which is grown in the south, and many millers, if they knew with some degree of accuracy the protein content and other characteristics, would be willing to buy it at prices at least equal to those which Australian wheat brings now, and probably at higher prices.
The f.a.q. system is not only holding back prices for the northern growers, but also is holding up the development of the industry in that part of the country. An expert stated recently in Toowoomba that the area sown to wheat in Queensland could be increased fourfold, and he estimated the potential wheat production of Queensland to be 78,000,000 bushels annually. Many countries have expressed to the Queensland wheat-growers their willingness to buy the type of wheat grown there, but the present position is thai Queensland grows barely enough wheat to meet its own needs. Almost all of the wheat grown in Queensland is consumed in that State. Nearly all of our export wheat comes from the south. The growers’ associations have always taken the line that the solution of the problem is to evolve varieties of wheat with a high protein content which could be grown in the south. That prospect has been held out to us for the past 20 or 30 years, without coming nearer to realization. I think it is entirely unrealistic in any case. For so long as we have a system under which the grower is paid according to quantity, without regard for quality, he will grow for quantity alone. All that he is concerned with now is to fill the bags, and that is all that he will be concerned with until he gets a premium for better grade wheat. I admit that a limited premium system, is in operation in the northern districts, but it is operating erratically. The premiums vary from season to season, and the system does not give great encouragement to growers to plant the better quality wheats. It is not nearly as efficient in that respect as a proper grading system would be.
I have stated that my interest in wheat arises from the fact that I represent a large number of stock-feed consumers, who have been forced to purchase a good deal of inferior quality wheat. There is a roughandready grading system in operation which often directs the worst of the wheat to the stock feeders, who are required to pay the full price for it. If there were a proper grading system, that wheat would certainly be available at a lower price. The wheat industry should be concerned at the situation that has arisen. For the twelve months ended on 1st December, 1955, stock-feed consumers used 16,500,000 bushels of wheat, but in the ten months from the end of January to the beginning of October of this year they used only 12,500,000 bushels. Sales of wheat to stock-feed consumers have already declined by 10 per cent., and it is probable that the decline will be at a higher rate during the next two months.
The great incentive for the introduction of a grading system is that it would serve, not only the interests of the stock-feed consumers, but also the interests of the nation as a whole. I repeat that I believe the southern growers are mistaken in their opposition to a grading system, because in the long run a grading system would be as much to their advantage as to that of the northern growers. However, I have little hope that a system of grading will be introduced. Therefore, 1 suggest to the northern growers that they break away from the southern associations and form their own wheat-growers’ organizations with the object of furthering the case for the production of wheat with a high protein content. If they do that, they may, in due course, succeed in getting a grading system at least in their own districts. If we had a special grade of northern wheat, as distinct from southern wheat, the way would be clear for the encouragement of more varieties of high protein wheat in the north and for an export programme for these varieties. The southern growers then, I think, would be forced to follow suit and introduce their own system of grading, because if the southern grower were offered an incentive I am sure he could improve the quality ot his wheat, with resulting benefit to the nation as a whole.
– The question is, “That the bill be now read a second time “. All those in favour say “ Aye “-
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Lalor did not rise at the proper time. When he rose, you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, had already put the question. He heard you do so. He was watching you while you put the question to the House, and he did not rise. I submit that, in the circumstances, he has no right to be heard.
– The declaration had not been made when the honorable member for Lalor rose. The honorable member may proceed.
– This measure, to provide for the acceptance by Australia of the International Wheat Agreement 1956, and for other purposes, gives me a good deal of gratification. As 1 looked around this chamber prior to rising, I thought to myself, “ What a different atmosphere surrounds the discussion of this bill from that which prevailed on the occasion in 1949 when I, as Minister, introduced into thi: Parliament, not the first measure to ratify an international wheat agreement, but the first for many years, and faced opposition and criticism of a most destructive character “. The opposition and criticism to which I was subjected were in every way destructive of every attempt made by the government of the time to have this House ratify, for the first time in at least fifteen or twenty years, an international agreement signed by four exporting nations and, I think, 39 importing nations. The executive of the Australian Wheat-Growers Federation had given its blessing to the ratification of the agreement, which indicated that the agreement was acceptable to its members, but from the Australian Country party corner of this House I met the most vicious opposition, and the most destructive critic of the government and the measure I introduced was the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). Other members of his party were almost equally vociferous in their condemnation of the bill and all that it contained. They comprised the greatest assemblage of Jeremiahs whom I ever heard talk on any good measure that has come before this Parliament. Fortunately, it is now demonstrated that they have been fully converted.
– Oh, no.
– No, we deny that.
– They say, “ No “, but I am quite sure they will not now be as critical or unfair as they were in 1949.
– We were quite fair then.
– The honorable member for Mallee should not get excited.
– Fancy the honorable member saying that!
– It has been demonstrated over a number of years not only that the 1949 International Wheat Agreement worked,” but also that the subsequent agreement worked. The first, of course, was for a period of four years, and the second for three years. Both agreements worked admirably. None of the prophecies that were made at the time those measures were introduced was fulfilled. The fears simply faded away. It is quite true that international agreements have not solved the problem of exporting the gigantic surpluses which have been produced in all. or most, of the wheat-growing countries of the world, but I think it is true to say that they have proved of inestimable value, and these sentiments were expressed to some extent in the second-reading speech of the Minister when this bill was introduced. Although these agreements are inadequate in relation to the quantities with which they deal and, indeed, the number of signatory nations, the hope is expressed that as time goes on it will continue to be demonstrate that agreements of this sort, successfullyoperated by countries of the most diverse political views, confer a distinct advantage nationally on the signatory nations and their people, and incidentally, but most importantly, give a substantial measure of protection to the. wheat-growers here and overseas.
This industry is a most important one in this country. In Australia there are, in round figures, 50.000 wheat-growers. The year 1953-54 is the last completed wheat year for which I have figures, and in that year payments by the Australian Wheat Board to Australian growers for wheat produced amounted to £112,000,000. Indirectly, of course, immense benefits accrue to the machinery manufacturers and the suppliers of all sorts of goods and chattels to the wheat-growers. Whilst ii is true that these agreements have operated satisfactorily, it is unfortunate to have to record that when the first four years’ agreement expired, the Minister for Trade, who was then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, dug his toes in, with the approval of his government and the blessing of many members of the Australian Wheat Board, and the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. The attitude of the Minister and of members of the delegation that went to Washington was such thai the United Kingdom, which had signed up the first agreement for the purchase of about 177,000,000 bushels, did not become a signatory to the 1953 international wheat agreement, which had a currency of three years.
– It was not Australia’s fault.
– Yes, it was, all for the sake of 5 cents which, converted to Australian currency, meant about 4d. in those days. Because there has been a change, I am not SUre on what date, ii would now amount to about 5d. It is beyond dispute that at the 1953 convention on this matter Australia’s attitude, no doubt supporting the attitude of the United States of America and Canada, was such as to price our very best customer for very many years out of participation in the international agreement.
– The result would have been the same without Australia’s adoption of that attitude. You know that, too.
– The honorable member can have a go later. As the honorable member for Mallee knows, despite his assertion that the position would have been the same in regard to that 5d. if Australia had not adopted that attitude, it is unlikely that the United States and Canada would have proceeded to ratify the agreement without Australia as a signatory nation. At least, if the Minister or his delegation had decided not to press for an additional 5d. a bushel, it is more than likely that the United States and Canada, which are infinitely more wealthy than Australia, would have conceded the point, and we should have had the United Kingdom in the 1953 three-year agreement. But probably the worst feature of the matter is that the United Kingdom is again absent from the agreement. We see in that a continuing process, because from 1949 to the present time, there has been a gradual deterioration in the trade relations between the United Kingdom and Australia which, in my opinion, has been due, in large part, to the manoeuvres and the attitude of the present Australian Government.
In the 1948-49 wheat year, this country sold to the United Kingdom no less than 80,000,000 bushels of wheat. That, of course, was before the International Wheat Agreement. Since the inception of the International Wheat Agreement, I notice from the returns of the Australian Wheat Board that, in the export year from 1st August, 1955, to 31st July, 1956, the United Kingdom took from this country only 23,000,000 bushels of wheat. We have to go further afield - and rightly so, of course - to exploit less dependable markets than was the United Kingdom for the products of Australian wheat farms. That is an unfortunate and, I think, tragic situation. In addition, in recent years we have suffered the grave disadvantage of a catastrophic fall in the price of wheat on overseas markets. That situation has been aggravated by the ever-increasing costs of production within the confines of the Australian continent. In 1949, according to the authorities charged with the responsibility of ascertaining the facts, it cost 7s. Id. to produce a bushel of wheat in this country. I am not sure, to the penny, of the exact figure to-day, but the cost is in the vicinity of 13s. The end result, I have reason to believe, is that at this very moment Australia is selling wheat in the markets of the world at a figure that does not return the cost of production, as ascertained by the Government’s own costing tribunal. That is a rather shocking state of affairs.
The situation has been worsened by the very startling fact that, whereas in December, 1954, it was possible to charter ships to send our wheat to the United Kingdom at a cost of 2s. 3d. a bushel in Australian currency, by December of last year the freight rates to the United Kingdom had increased to 6s. 2d. a bushel. In December, 1955, the Australian Wheat Board was selling wheat in the United Kingdom at 17s. lOd. Australian a bushel, but by the time it had paid freight charges and met other incidental costs, such as insurance, the return to the board was as low as 10s. Id. a bushel. That is my understanding of the position. I may be wrong by a penny or two, and if I am, perhaps an honorable member opposite will correct me. We now have the amazing fact that, because of ever-increasing costs and the fall in prices overseas, the Government is confronted with a most serious economic problem because it is exporting our major crop at a price which does not return the cost of production in the previous wheat season. The irony of that, of course - and I know that what I am about to say may not be quite in order - is that the Government is doing nothing to ensure that a government instrumentality, or some other Australian body, will undertake the construction of ships with a view to keeping us out of the claws of the international shipping ring. People blame the wharf labourers for high freight costs and the long periods spent in Australian ports by ships that come here to take our products overseas. But in a publication issued by the Government itself, we read that the phenomenal and outrageous cost of freighting Australian wheat to the United Kingdom is due, not to the pranks of wharf labourers, as somebody has been pleased to say, but to the unprecedented demand for ships to transport coal across the Atlantic.
Whereas, in 1949, the shipping companies were freighting our products to the markets of the world for approximately 112s. a ton, they now change almost double that amount. Of course, that figure has no relationship whatever to increasing costs. The fact that freight costs have almost doubled indicates that the shipowners are still playing their old game. They are not philanthropists. They are in business, and they want to be able to report to their shareholders that they have exploited their customers to the maximum and are thus able to pay handsome dividends. But in the long run, the Australian nation has to pay for the increases. It is about time that this Government told the shipping interests of the world that it proposes to put down slipways and to build ships in the interests of the Australian people. I have no doubt that honorable members opposite will say that the Government might incur losses in building ships and operating them.
– Order! The honorable member must return to the bill.
– Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker, 1 shall come back to it. I conclude my reference to the matter by saying that, after all, the very presence of the Government in the field would be a deterrent to exploitation by the people who provide ships to transport our wheat to overseas markets.
The new International Wheat Agreement varies slightly from the previous agreement. 1 note that there is to be a reduction of 5 cents a bushel in the maximum and minimum prices, compared with the previous agreement. No doubt, the representatives of this Government at the convention that was held to draw up a new agreement - and I am glad that it was successful in <doing so - knew that, when the Australian representatives stood out for an additional 5d. a bushel in 1953, they did a distinct -disservice to this country. Whilst it is -regrettable that the margin has been reduced by 5 cents a bushel, it is better to “have protection under an agreement which ^provides for a price 5 cents lower than the previous price than to have no international wheat agreement at all.
I am sure that honorable members will -appreciate that not the least important feature of the new agreement is the fact -that more wheat-producing countries have been brought within the ambit of the agreement than was the case with either the previous agreement or the first one. It is disappointing that the quantity that we have contracted to sell under the agreement has been reduced from 45,000,000 bushels to 30,000,000 bushels, but I believe that, eventually, the United Kingdom will come back into the agreement and that even more countries will participate than do so at present. The number of countries that participate in the agreement is important, and if more nations can be converted to appreciation of the soundness of orderly marketing, -through an instrument of this character, the greater will be the hopes of success for the wheat industry in the future. Wheat farmers in the exporting countries will be given a measure of protection, and in addition, the vast number of consumers in the various nations of the world will benefit because they will be able to purchase wheat at a reasonable price.
When we look at the signatories to the agreement, we see that Australia and the other exporting countries have some very important customers. For instance, Belgium has signed up for 16,000,000 bushels, and Egypt for 11,000,000 bushels. In the past, Egypt has been a very valuable customer of Australia, but perhaps it will not be so happy about taking its quota of wheat from us after the performance of this Government in connexion with the Suez Canal issue. Japan, a relative newcomer, has signed up for 36,000,000 bushels, the Netherlands for 25,000,000 bushels, and Norway for 6,000,000 bushels. Altogether, there are 44 signatories.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I have nothing further to add to the remarks I made before the luncheon adjournment.
.- I support the bill, as it continues, in principle, the conditions for wheat marketing under the International Wheat Agreement, which was first introduced in 1949, and extended in 1953. In April of this year, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) announced that the United Nations Wheat Conference had decided, in London, that a new International Wheat Agreement should be opened for signature. This remained open for signature in Washington until 18th May. Sir Edwin McCarthy, the leader of the Australian delegation, was authorized to indicate that Australia would sign the agreement. This he did, and the agreement which was signed at that time is now before the House for ratification. It is quite obvious that all members of the House are prepared to agree to it.
I do not intend to weary the House by repeating the information given by the Minister regarding the variation in price under the new agreement and the reduced quantity that Australia will be called upon to supply. The main objective of the agreement is to foster stable prices and equitable marketing in the world wheat trade. It does this by defining a price range within which transactions in wheat under the agreement will take place and by giving exporters and importers the right to call on the International Wheat Council to see that market opportunities at the minimum price or supplies of wheat at the maximum price are available up to the limits of the specified quotas. The contribution to trading stability which this agreement can make obviously depends mainly on the proportion of the world wheat trade which comes under the agreement. For this reason, it has been a disappointment that the United Kingdom has decided not to join the new agreement and that lower quantities submitted by some of the other importers have reduced the total quantity of wheat substantially below that provided under the agreement which has recently expired.
The United Kingdom representatives probably felt that they had very good reasons for refusing to re-enter the International Wheat Agreement. They evidently felt that it was in the interests of the United Kingdom to stay out. Whether or not the International Wheat Agreement can exist much longer without the inclusion of the United Kingdom, its effectiveness as a floor to the wheat markets will continue to diminish. I believe that this could very well mean cheaper wheat. The United Kingdom representatives, in presenting their arguments, stated that they were adhering to the principle that commodity markets should be free from government interference. They also said that they believed that the International Wheat Agreement would do nothing to reduce the world’s excessive stocks. The Minister for Trade gave a very effective answer to both of these points. He said, “ No country has engaged more deeply in the production of wheat at uneconomic levels of cost than has the United Kingdom itself “.
Part of the British case was left unexpressed, but is perhaps more convincing than the expressed part. The United Kingdom representatives must have felt it a little inconvenient, to say the least, to plead direct self-interest, because they must have remembered that for the four years of wheat scarcity up to 1953, the International Wheat Agreement provided the United Kingdom with cheaper wheat than was obtainable outside the agreement. This does not absolve the United Kingdom entirely from some obligation to exporter nations, especially Australia. Australia has a right to claim this because of the one-sided way imperial preference has worked against her. I hope that in the future we shall have the United Kingdom in the International
Wheat Agreement, for I believe it can function at its best only if the United Kingdom is a member.
In the preliminary discussions preceding the present agreement, Australia supported international action aiming at stability of markets during periods of wheat scarcity, and continues to support such policies now when wheat is in ample supply. Some of Australia’s competitors have at times adopted selling policies out of line with normal commercial practices and the comparative cost of producing wheat. Those nations signing the agreement formally subscribed to its objectives of price stability and equitable marketing. . A valuable feature of the discussions preceding the agreement is that the administrative machinery of the agreement has provided a suitable and convenient forum for the discussion of problems in the world wheat trade experienced by both exporters and importers.
This agreement, as all members of the House will know, is basically a trading agreement. The problems of surpluses and the production policies of individual countries are indirectly rather than directly affected by it. I hope that discussions between the member nations and with the United Kingdom will continue at appropriate times. I am very pleased to see that provision is made in the International Wheat Agreement for discussions such as these. Article XIII., sub-section 7 (a), of the agreement reads -
The Council may study any aspect of the world wheat situation and may sponsor exchanges of information and inter-governmental consultations relating thereto . . .
I believe that Australia as an efficient producer of low-cost wheat will’ be vitally interested in such discussions as are allowed under this agreement. I hope that some constructive action will emerge from them. I support the bill.
.- I have listened to this debate with great interest because I was in the House when the International Wheat Agreement was debated on two previous occasions. One occasion was referred to by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. .Pollard), who was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture at the time. I listened with interest to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) this morning because he has spoken on a similar bill on a previous occasion. He said one or two things on which I should like to make some comment. He said that the honorable member for Lalor brought the agreement into being. Of course, the honorable member for Lalor brought the agreement into being only so far as Australia was concerned, and I believe the honorable member for Wilmot meant to say that. The honorable member for Lalor introduced the bill which ratified the agreement in 1949. Of course, the International Wheat Agreement would have gone on whether Australia had ratified it or not; at least, that is my considered opinion, and I think members generally will agree with me.
The honorable member for Wilmot made one remark with which I cannot agree. He said that, before the International Wheat Agreement was introduced, prices were low and that when he was on a farm with his father in the West Wimmera they received ls. 6d. a bushel one year and 2s. 9d. a bushel the next year. I do not doubt his figures for one moment. They will be accurate, and I am prepared to accept them. But I am not prepared to accept the implication that when the International Wheat Agreement was ratified and Australia became a member, prices rose as a consequence and everything was right for the wheat-growers. If Australia had not joined the International Wheat Agreement, it would have received higher prices than it ever received under this agreement. On 9th October of this year, the chairman of the wheat section of the Australian Primary Producers Union, as reported in a country newspaper, said -
Since World War II. wheat-growers have had thrust upon them by governments, supported by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, a quota of the harvest to the International Wheat Agreement, for which the price has varied from 3s. 10 5s. below world parity.
I do not think any honorable member will dispute that statement. Australia could have received a lot more money had the wheat-growers been able to sell in what is known as the free market, instead of in the market in which signatories to the International _ Wheat Agreement buy and sell their wheat. Of course, a certain amount of our wheat is sold in that free market, because only the fixed quota need go into the pool established under the International Wheat Agreement. I do not contend that such high prices would have prevailed in the free market had there been no International Wheat Agreement. 1 am not offering complete condemnation of the agreement. After all, it is not necessary for us in this House always to condemn or praise, although we must take a strong line on occasions. We need to consider seriously what has happened and what might happen in the future in connexion with this agreement, lt would appear - and I say thai advisedly - that Australia has, so far, lost money through being a party to the agreement. But if this country had not been a party to the agreement, could it have gained the advantage of the prices that have been available for what I may call free wheat?
– Perhaps it could have, on a short-term basis.
– The honorable member for Wilmot says that it may have done so on a short-term basis. Let us look into the future. The Government now intends to ratify a new agreement, and, quite candidly, I believe that Australia must be a party to the agreement. It is not a question of whether Australia should enter into it or not, as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) suggested. The question is whether Australia would be better off if there were no International Wheat Agreement at all. When the honorable member for Lalor was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Labour government and this matter was being debated, members of the Australian Country party pointed out that if any of the purchasing countries under the International Wheat Agreement decided to buy their wheat on the free market, there was nothing to prevent them from doing so. The honorable member for Lalor said at that time, “ What do you suggest we should do? Should we train machine guns on them to make them buy the wheat under the terms of the agreement? “ I believe I have quoted the honorable member’s remarks fairly accurately. The point is that many of the signatories to this agreement will buy their wheat in the cheapest market, and they cannot be forced to buy it from countries which supply wheat under the agreement at the price laid down in the agreement. When the price of wheat was as high as 22s. a bushel on the free market, and only about 18s. under the International Wheat Agreement, the purchasing countries, in some of which I have not much confidence, naturally bought their wheat under the terms of the agreement. As the price of wheat is falling, however, can they be depended upon to continue to buy at the price laid down in the agreement, particularly if the price of wheat on the free market falls below the agreement price by 2s. or 3s. a bushel? That is the question that honorable members must ask themselves.
– What country would sell it to them?
– Russia would sell it, for one. That is the perfect answer to the honorable member’s question. As the quotas of the various countries have been reduced, more free wheat is becoming available, and any country that has a surplus of wheat over and above the quota laid down in the agreement will be eager to sell that surplus. A country that has a large surplus of wheat over and above its quota may sell that surplus to one of the smaller purchasing countries listed in the agreement, and that smaller country may not purchase any wheat at all in the terms of the agreement.
– Which are the smaller countries that the honorable member refers to?
– 1 have a spare copy of the document that contains a list of these countries, and I am only too happy to hand it to the honorable member for his information. I cannot do more, however, than give the honorable member the figures and the facts; 1 cannot give him the power of comprehension.
Of course, all three parties in this House support this bill, because we really must be a party to the agreement now. that a worldwide organization has been established. 1 have crossed swords on a previous occasion with the honorable member for Lalor regarding the failure of the United Kingdom Government to enter into this agreement. On that occasion the honorable member said that the Australian delegate was responsible for the failure of the United Kingdom Government to become a signatory.
– lt was the fault of the Minister.
– The honorable member made his strongest attack on the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). and other members of the Aus tralian delegation, b_:(, as I said this morning by way of interjection, if Australia had taken no part at all in the discussions, or had not even been a party to the agreement,, exactly the same action would have beentaken by the United Kingdom Government. Australia is a relatively small wheatproducing country. The table headed “Guaranteed sales for each crop-year” contained in the document entitled “International Wheat Agreement 1956 “, shows an. amount for Australia of 30,257,380 bushels,, whereas the amount for Canada is- 102,896,902 bushels, and that for the United States of America is 132,098,561 bushels. Those larger countries would naturally dominate the conference. The honorable member for Lalor can adopt a liberal outlook at times, and I think he will agree thai Australia was not wholly responsible for the failure of the United Kingdom Government to ratify the agreement. Australia was forced to accept the views of the larger wheat-selling countries, but we have played only a very small part in bringing about what I believe is a catastrophic result in the field of wheat marketing.
I have given the House the facts, generally. I do not intend to go into aD the details. We often hear honorable members, in this chamber, giving us the full history of the International Wheat Agreement, and the stabilization policy and all other matters connected with it. The honorable member for Lalor was quite correct when he said that we must have orderly marketing. The honorable member for Wilmot has said that, in earlier times, when he was connected with the wheat-growing industry in the West Wimmera district, the wheat-growers were in the hands of the traders. That is very true. However, 1 would suggest that orderly marketing is achieved by means of the Australian Wheat Board, and whether or not we have an international wheat agreement, or even a wheat stabilization act, we can still have orderly marketing. I wish to make it clear that I do not suggest that we should not have stabilization. I have to be very careful in what I say in this House, lest it be suggested that I am opposed to stabilization. We have our Australian Wheat Board, and that body will ensure that we have orderly marketing. Let me pay a tribute to the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, who was appointed by the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the right honorable member for Murray (Mr. McEwen), who has been condemned for his activities in connexion with the International Wheat Agreement by the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the honorable member for Lalor.
– And a very good one the latter was!
– I am not saying anything against him. I am merely saying that he, like the right honorable member tor Murray, was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– The honorable member should agree that the honorable member for Lalor was a capable Minister.
– If I choose to bring politics into it, I might say that the present Minister has shown greater ability than the honorable member for Lalor showed when he was Minister. But that kind of statement does not get us anywhere, and I merely suggest that both those gentlemen have been capable Ministers, although they have pursued different politics. The policy of the present Minister is one of noninterference through what 1 may call the veto provisions of the act. The policy of the honorable member for Lalor, and, more particularly, of his ministerial predecessor, resulted in action being taken of which the Australian Wheat Board was not aware until the matter had been brought up in this chamber and made known to members of this Parliament, the Australian Wheat Board, and to Australians generally. There is no need for me to mention what that action was. It has been mentioned so often in this House that 1 think I should probably be called to order for tedious repetition if I were to mention it again.
– What was it?
Mr- TURNBULL. - If the honorable member asks any one who was a member of this House at the time he can find out. In the meantime, let it remain a secret.
Sir John Teasdale, who is now chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, was subjected to some criticism when the Labour government went out of office in 1949 and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the new Government appointed him ^chairman in place of the Labour appointee.
– The new Minister was a member of the Australian Country party.
– As the honorable member should know, I am not talking politics. I want to make the point that the chairman of the board is the direct representative of the Minister and of the Federal Parliament, which, one might say, controls the destinies of the wheat-growers and other producers through the Australian Wheat Board. The former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who was a member of the Australian Country party, said that he was not satisfied to have as his representative on the board the man appointed by the Australian Labour party. The former chairman of the board said at a meeting at Ouyen-
– Who was that?
- Mr. Cullen. He said that the. Minister was quite in order in making the change, and his only objection was that it should have been made in a less hasty manner that would not have caused him any embarrassment and this is probably so. The- point is that the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture appointed Sir John Teasdale as chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, and many objections to the appointment of this gentleman, who was an outstanding authority on wheat, were immediately made in this House and elsewhere. I want to tell the House what the honorable member for Lalor said about Sir John Teasdale on 8th June, 1948, not knowing at the time that he would have to criticize him later.
– Read what Sir John Teasdale said about me.
– The honorable member will have to listen to this. It is unavoidable. He said, referring to a committee appointed to inquire into wheat-growing and stabilization -
The members of the committee were John Smith Teasdale -
A dash follows to show that the honorable member paused for emphasis - he is one of the most knowledgeable men in the Australian wheat industry and a respected member of the Australian Wheat Board . . .
I ask Opposition members: What better man could we have as chairman of the board? He has been spoken of as one of the most respected and most knowledgeable men in the wheat industry in Australia. Yet members of the Australian Labour party are always grumbling because he was appointed chairman of the board by the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture after Labour went out of office in 1949! Apparently the honorable member for Lalor and his colleagues did not take the long-term view in 1948 and did not think about what might happen in the future. Their expressed views about this great authority on the wheat industry and the changed opinions that they have voiced in this House on other occasions are on record.
The wheat industry stabilization legislation is closely linked with the International Wheat Agreement. The two go together. It has recently been said that the wheat-growers are doing remarkably well, but I agree with honorable members who addressed the House earlier that handling costs and rail freight charges are excessively high. The guaranteed price based on the cost of production is paid on wheat at the port and not at the point of delivery to the silo. The average cost varies to some extent. In the far north of my electorate the freight for the transport of wheat to the port is almost 2s. a bushel. On a rough estimate, 1 should say that freight and other charges average approximately 2s. 6d. a bushel. So, the return to the wheat-grower is 2s. 6d. a bushel less than the cost of production if wheat returns on overseas markets an amount equal to the cost of production.
It may seem irrelevant to some city people, but it is quite true that the price of sheep illustrates the dissatisfaction of the wheat-growers with the condition of the wheat market and the present returns from wheat after costs have been deducted. Sheep chat were bought about ten weeks or two months ago in wool are being sold after shearing at about the same price as that at which they were bought. The sheep market throughout Victoria, especially in the Wimmera and the Mallee, is at a record high level. Wheat-growers are buying mixed-sex lots of weaners and lambs in competition with fat stock buyers. This indicates that many wheat-growers are turning to sheep. It is partly the result of the very bad season we have had recently, with heavy rains which have prevented the sowing of wheat. As a result wheat-growers are buying sheep to run on pasture. But generally speaking they are turning to sheep because of the high freight charges on wheat, and other factors associated with the stability of the wheat industry. I am not prepared to say whether they will derive financial advantage from turning to sheep, because I am somewhat doubtful about the outcome.
I should like to mention one other matter. If honorable members read the text of the new wheat industry stabilization measure they will see that the Government Wil guarantee for five years a return equivalent to the cost of production for 100,000,000 bushels of export wheat provided it is f.a.q.
– It must be exported.
– I am talking about export wheat. When wheat is received into the silos most of it is f.a.q., but owing to the slow sales overseas deterioration results from infestation by weevils, and from other causes, and much of it will be below f.a.q. when it is shipped for sale in the markets of the world. As- a result the wheat-grower may receive a return of 2s. or 3s. or more a bushel below the price of f.a.q. wheal. Under the agreement entered into by the honorable member for Lalor when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, which was renewed by this Government, the wheat-grower had to suffer the loss of that 2s. or 3s. a bushel. I know that the legislation provides that they shall do so, but the wheat-growers may not have known that when they voted for the stabilization scheme. I did not hear any mention of it in the debates on the stabilization measures in this Parliament, and I do not think honorable members were at the time aware of the possible repercussions. We were clearing our surplus stocks then and no one foresaw circumstances in which deterioration of the quality of wheat would occur. However, serious deterioration of quality is taking place at the present time, and the wheatgrowers in some districts, and the wheatgrowers’ organizations, are anxious that the Government give consideration to paying the f.a.q. price when wheat that has been accepted into silos as f.a.q. is exported. That is the point.
I know that I can turn to any wheatgrower and say, “ This is the legislation that you voted for “. But the point is that we want to foster production. We do not want too many people to raise sheep on wheat country. We need to continue to grow wheat. Although wool is our great asset, we must also have wheat, because exports must be varied if we are to get the best advantage of world markets. So I suggest to the Minister that he should look at this proposal and find out what it will cost the Government. Even if it were to cost many millions of pounds he should find out whether it would be of advantage to Australia generally because, after all. the wheatgrower is a large taxpayer. 1 would be prepared to support in this House legislation that would guarantee the wheat-grower the f.a.q. standard that he was given when he delivered his wheat to the silos. When the wheat is handed over to the silo some wheat-growers say, “ I have delivered my wheat and my troubles are over “. But, of course, it has not been sold! lt has only been handed over to a vast selling organization known as the Australian Wheat Board. The proof of that is that wheat-growers have representatives on that board. If the wheat still did not belong to the wheat-growers under the legislation in accordance with which the board operates, the wheat-growers would not have a representative on the board. That is certain. But, in spite of all these things, I ask the Minister to give this matter consideration, because I am of the opinion (hat it would do much to foster this industry. Vast sums of money have been spent to keep the dairying industry and other industries solvent and to foster them, and the wheat industry wants the same treatment so that it may continue at the highest possible point of productivity.
The Wheat Stabilization Act has been operating for a number of years. Of course, the wheat-growers have not received any financial benefit from it. However, I know of members in this House who have been insuring their motor cars and houses for many years and who have not got any definite advantage from it. However, they feel that if a. fire did damage their houses or motor cars, they would have some protection. But the difference between the two things is that if one pays money to insure a motor car or a house, that money has gone altogether. One never sees it again. But when the wheat-grower pays into a revolving fund for the stabilization of prices he gets the money back again if it is noi required, plus interest; so nothing could be fairer and nothing could be more to the advantage of this industry.
I always believe that the Australian Country party, because its members come from primary producing areas, is in a position to put forward in this House the opinions of the man on the land. I know that we must build up our exports in order to combat the problem of our balance of payments. We in this Parliament can aci most effectively by fostering primary production so as to bring greater wealth and prosperity to Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 10th October (vide page 13U9), on motion by Dr. Donald Cameron -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The object of this bill is to authorize financial assistance by the Commonwealth to approved organizations engaged in the conduct of home nursing services. Insofar as this bill relates to the subsidizing of home nursing services, the Opposition is in complete accord with its provisions. I believe that it is a step in the right direction. My reason for saying that is that home nursing organizations have rendered a great service to so many people in the Australian community who have been sick and in need of some nursing assistance. We know that many hundreds of Australian citizens, particularly the elder section of the community, have illnesses which do .not warrant hospitalization. But, owing to the fact that there is no one in the home to take care of these people, they seek hospitalization; or their family doctor may realize that unless they can go to hospital and get nursing attention, they will be at a very great disadvantage.
We know also that there are many in the community, particularly wives or husbands over 60 years of age who, having some form of illness, have been advised by the family doctor to seek hospitalization because there is no opportunity for them to secure nursing assistance other than by paying a private nurse to come into the home. We know that private nurses are not easy to obtain. But these elderly people would prefer to be attended to in their own homes. They prefer to remain together in their own homes if it is possible. 1 want to pay a very great tribute to those home nursing organizations which have done such grand work over the years. Those district nurses of whom we have heard right down the years have done a tremendous amount of work and are welcome in every home into which they go. But we also know that there is a great dearth of nurses in the various organizations. The numbers of people in those organizations, including district nurses, members of the bush nursing organization and religious organizations, are far below the requirements of the community. Under the scheme provided in this measure the Government will subsidize nurses in addition to those at present registered with such organizations. That is a good thing.
– The Government could have gone a little further.
– Yes, I believe the Government might well have gone a little further than it has gone in this measure. But, of course, we can always suggest that it is possible to go a little further. I believe that many of these nursing organizations could well do with some extra finance, additional to the subsidy which they will receive, and so be able to render even greater service than they do at present. I should like to see them have more money, quite apart from the provisions of this measure, so that those employed in the organizations may have some extra recompense for the work they are doing.
I believe that the scheme, as outlined by the Minister on behalf of the Government, is a good one, and 1 wish to pay a tribute to the Minister personally because I believe the scheme to be of his own creation. I may be wrong in that, but that is what I believe. I think that under this scheme it will be possible to bring into the nursing organizations trained nurses who would not, in normal circumstances, take up permanent employment in hospitals. Many trained nurses who have given up their calling to marry would not be disposed to return to nursing in a permanent capacity, but might well take up part-time work under this scheme. Perhaps they could work for a morning, or an afternoon, and still be ableto attend to their family responsibilities. Additional recruitment of nurses in that way is probably the only means by which the present scheme will augment the membership of the nursing organizations, because we know that, as I have said, there is to-day a great dearth of trained nurses in thiscountry. One of the reasons for that position is that the remuneration of trained) nurses is not commensurate with the work expected of them, and therefore no encouragement is given to women or girls to enter the nursing profession. It is a pitysomething could not be done to give greater incentive to young girls leaving school totake up nursing as a career, and so help to alleviate the shortage of nurses. With the nursing situation as it is, I think that the scheme provided for in the measure is a very grand scheme.
There is one thing, however, that must be very closely watched. I refer to possible results of the measure, and I shall explain? what I mean by saying that I hope themeasure is not an attempt by the Government to dodge its responsibilities in respect of the construction and maintenance of hospitals. We know that it is possible that, under this scheme, people who suffer from illnesses which require treatment in hospitals, may be provided with district nursing service instead of hospitalization. The services of a district nurse may be of some use to the patient, but may well be insufficient. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Health made the following statement: -
Since the war, it has been impossible for hospital construction to be maintained at a rate in any way commensurate with the growth in population. Consequently, it has become necessary for surgical and acutely ill cases to be discharged from’ hospital at the earliest possible time, whilst the chronically and less acutely ill have found it progressively more difficult to obtain hospital accommodation at all.
A serious situation is disclosed by the Minister himself in the first part of that paragraph, when he states that he realizesthat since the war there has been a great need for extension of hospitals in Australia. It does not matter what State one picks, one will find in it a great need for more hospital accommodation. Irrespective of the number of persons who may be recruited to the nursing organizations as a result of this measure, the great difficulty of obtaining a bed in a hospital will still face seriously ill people. If any honorable member were to ask in any State in this Commonwealth why so many people cannot readily gain admittance to hospitals the State Minister for Health would immediately say that the States cannot finance the construction and maintenance of the hospitals required. Under our present taxing system, with the Commonwealth collecting the bulk of available tax revenue, the responsibility for providing finance for such highly necessary public utilities must devolve on the Commonwealth, and I repeat that I hope that there will be no attempt to use this measure to the detriment of people who require hospital treatment or to allow to continue the lag in the provision of necessary hospitals throughout the Commonwealth. It is a tragedy to see in this country so many people who require hospital treatment having to do without it. I refer, not to the chronically ill, but to people suffering from illnesses requiring hospitalization. Their doctors acknowledge the need for hospitalization, and perhaps for surgical operations, which have to be done in hospitals, but the patients are told that they must wail six or eight weeks, sometimes even months, to gain admittance to a hospital. It is recognized that in many cases delay in surgical treatment can have serious effects on the patient by exacerbating the disease or ailment.
– And in many cases people cannot get into public wards.
– That is quite so. In public hospitals the waiting list is so long that in some instances it is a year or eighteen months before patients can gain admittance for treatment. Of all the important requirements in any community surely one is the discharge of our responsibility to sick people.
– But the honorable member explained only a few moments ago that there was a nursing shortage.
– The nursing situation is certainly acute, but that is not the only reason why people cannot gain admittance to hospitals. The Minister admitted in his second-reading speech that there is a very great requirement in Australia for new hospitals. He admits that the increase of our population in recent years has left us short of hospitals to meet the requirements of the community.
The measure provides for treatment for persons who would not normally requirehospital treatment. I agree entirely with that aspect of the measure, but I have mentioned the great need for more hospitals because I hope that this Government will not claim that, now that it is providing under this measure for persons to secure nursing treatment in their homes, it is thereby relieved of the responsibility to provide funds for the construction of more hospitals, and the maintenance of hospitals, throughout the Commonwealth. I have nodoubt that, despite this measure, the Minister realizes- the necessity for more hospitals. So far as the bill grants subsidies for organizations providing trained district nurses we compliment the Minister upon it, but we also hope that the Government will face up to its responsibility and provide more finance, so that greater hospital facilities will, be available to those who are in such dire need of them.
.- 1 am very pleased to know that the Oppositionsupports this bill. Indeed, it would be very strange if it did not, because this is one bill that deserves a speedy passage through this. House and redounds to the great credit of the Government, and the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) in particular. When one looks at what has happened in. the health field in the last four or five years one realizes that the hospital nursing subsidy will provide just one more link in the long chain of health services forged by this Government.
I should like to remind honorable members of some of those services. In August, 1950, the new life-saving and diseasepreventing drugs were made available free, on a doctor’s prescription. Since then more than 20,000,000 prescriptions of these powerful and costly drugs have been made available to the sick people of Australia. In December of the same year this Parliament passed legislation to inaugurate a free milk scheme for school children under the age of thirteen. The Commonwealth is now providing more than 750,000 children of school age with free milk.
– It took the Government 30 years to do so!
– The honorable member should not forget that Labour was in government for a very long time but did not think of providing any of these services. I am repeating them now so that honorable members opposite will not forget this Government’s wonderful record in the field of health.
– The honorable member cannot get above party politics even on a measure like this.
– 1 want the honorable member to know of this Government’s wonderful record in health so that, when he rises to speak, he, too, will be able to congratulate it. In January, 1951, the Government introduced the hospital benefits insurance scheme, a system of governmental aid to voluntary insurance. It was offered to the Australian States with the object of improving hospital revenues throughout Australia. Honorable members are, no doubt, familiar with the popularity of this scheme and the great help that it has been to the sick. In February, 1951, free medical treatment for pensioners was offered for the first time in Australia. In May of that year, arrangements were made for pensioners to receive free medicine on a doctor’s prescription. Something like 5,000,000 services have since been rendered under that scheme.
In July, 1953, the medical benefits scheme began to operate. Under it, the Commonwealth Government encouraged voluntary insurance - towards prepaid medical care - by making available throughout Australia a flat uniform contribution for 600 medical and surgical services, on condition that the insurance organizations would at least match the Government’s contribution. Now, we have another link in .this chain of health services. For the last five decades, home-nursing services have been provided by a variety of organizations, which have depended upon charitable organizations and public-spirited citizens for financial support. The work of these district nurses, who go into the homes of the most deserving section of the community, must commend itself to honorable members. The service does not receive very much publicity and, consequently, not very much praise.
The type of patient that it serves usually has been ill for a very long time and, as the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) has said, is a chronic sufferer. They are among the most difficult to nurse, and treatment is not limited to the mere application of nursing skill. The district nurses enter their homes with a spirit of cheerfulness, courtesy and kindness which probably many of them have never before experienced.
I want to remind the House of some of the services that these people provide because 1 do not think that their extent is generally realized. I have in mind, in particular, the Melbourne Districts Nursing Society. There are numbers of others, of course, and I refer to this organization only because I am familiar with its work. It has been in operation for the last 70 years. In 1954, these women performed 129,695 services. By 1955, the number of services had increased to 209,694, and, this year, it has already gone up again to 217,118. One can appreciate the tremendous help that that is to a community when one realizes that those are the figures of only one organization. One can appreciate just how enormously difficult it would be to provide beds for all the patients who are treated by district nurses throughout Australia. 1 understand that, in 1956, 9,401 patients have been visited by the Melbourne Districts Nursing Society. Something like eighteen 500-bed hospitals would have to be found if those people were to be given hospitalization. Each of those hospitals would be about the size of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, but would meet the demands of patients in Melbourne only. Of course, all of the people visited by the district nurses would not require hospitalization, but if half were in that category, nine major hospitals would have to be built to accommodate them. When one multiplies that by the number of States, and adds to it the number of patients cared for by similar organizations, one realizes the colossal degree of hospitalization that would have to be provided if there were no visiting nurses. 1 quite agree with the honorable member for Adelaide in regard to the great need for more hospitals and shall make specific reference to that matter later, but chronic illnesses mainly affect people over 60 years of age, and it is people in that age group who comprise the majority of the patients now being attended by the district nurses. Without the district nursing services, they would have to be admitted to hospitals, where they would remain for considerable periods. My purpose in drawing the attention of the House to those facts is to stress the importance of this part of the national health service. 1 congratulate the Minister. 1 think that he has made a very good start b) recognizing that the home nursing service requires all the support that the Commonwealth can give to it. The State governments and the State hospital authorities will, in future, be relieved of the burden ot providing hospital accommodation for some patients, because they will be treated in their homes. Additional nurses will be required, but I share the view of the honorable member for Adelaide that we shall be able to use the services of trained nurses who, on marriage, left the hospitals in which they were working. 1 am certain that many of those nurses will be prepared to help an organization such as this. 1 hope that it will be possible in future to provide a night nursing service - something which has not been possible so far because of a lack of funds and a shortage of staff.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, made a remark that we should reflect upon. He said that the capital cost of providing new hospital accommodation had risen to extraordinary heights, and that in the case of hospitals completed recently it was at least £7,000 a bed. I believe thai we are building hospitals which, architecturally, are too luxurious. Do not mis.understand me. I do not dispute that adequate medical equipment and the comfort of the patients are supremely important considerations. No expense should hi spared to obtain proper equipment and to secure the comfort of patients. But when we compare the capital costs of hospitals in ,his country and in the United Kingdom, we find that there is a tremendous difference.
I visited England recently. My view is that although the English hospitals are not anything like as costly as Australian hospitals, they provide medical services, Sulgical services and nursing services which are by no means inferior to those provided here.
The death rate for patients in English hospitals.is no greater than that for patients in Australian hospitals. I admit that hospital* in the United States of America are much more luxurious than those here. Nevertheless, the question that we must ask ourselves is: Can we afford hospital buildings of the types that are being constructed in our capital cities to-day? We must consider whether, by spending less on the buildings, we could provide more hospitals with the money available. I believe that the time has come when hospital authorities should give serious consideration to that aspect of the problem. The value of the services rendered by the district nurses cannot be estimated. In view particularly of the tremendous capital cost of public hospitals, the Government should do all that it can to encourage home nursing. In conclusion, 1 congratulate the Minister and the Government for the decision to provide a subsidy for a very essential service and, in that way, to complete the chain of benefits available to the community under the national health service.
.- The Opposition supports the bill. I compliment the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) on the part that he has played in its preparation. It opens up a wide field for discussion, and I propose to be rather more critical of certain aspects of our health services than was the Minister. He made some quite critical remarks ‘about the shortage of hospital accommodation, the lack of hospital staff and the like, but I do not agree with his diagnosis of the -causes of those shortages. Let me emphasize now that the views that I shall express are my own views only. The Minister explained that the bill was related to domiciliary medicine and he expressed the view that the standards of the general medical practitioner would tend to improve. He stated that, in his opinion, those standards were very high to-day. It is good to know that the Minister holds that view, but there is abundant evidence in support of the contrary view. There is evidence that, compared with 30 or 40 years ago, the standards of the general medical practitioner have deteriorated! due to the tendency of members of the medical profession to specialize, rather than to concentrate upon performing the functions that the general medical practitioner performed 30 or 40 years ago.
Specialization brings with it the spectre of even larger hospitals. There seems to be no limit to the size of our hospitals. On this subject, there is a conflict of opinion amongst the authorities but, apparently, the prevailing view is that the larger the hospital, the better it is. However, there are many authorities who disagree with the theory that the bigger the hospital, the greater are the facilities that it provides and the better are the services that it renders. I know that there are members of the medical profession holding high administrative posts in this country who are constantly demanding that hospitals be enlarged. They disagree with the view that a hospital with 500 or 600 beds is, in terms of size, adequate to perform the normal functions of a hospital.
Cost is a factor that should be borne in mind by governments throughout Australia in considering whether the practice of building hospitals with almost no limit to their accommodation is wise and in the best interests, not only of the members of the medical profession but also of the patients. I say quite definitely that big hospitals tend to foster an impersonal atmosphere, rather than the personal atmosphere that is so necessary for the successful treatment of sick people. The trend towards larger hospitals is, in my opinion, a phase of automation, and if hospitals are enlarged to the point where patients are regarded merely as numbers the personal touch will be completely lost and there will be a completely adverse effect upon them. Some organizations and members of the medical profession to-day display a tendency to discharge patients from hospital altogether too quickly. I know that on this score, in tilting the lance at the medical profession, I may be accused of not knowing what I am talking about. However, I am prepared to take that risk. The attitude of hospitals to-day is completely different from their altitude twenty years ago. An immediate nation-wide inquiry into the - approach of hospital administrators to this matter is justified.
I regret to say that the approach to the treatment of aged persons who need hospital attention is utterly deplorable. When an aged person desperately needs hospital treatment, sometimes disclosure of his age leads to refusal of admittance. I think that to-day the idea that old persons are not entitled to hospital accommodation and treatment is altogether too prevalent. This attitude cuts completely across all the canons and precepts of the medical profession as we know them. Hospital administrators always advance the argument that a shortage of beds exists. That may be so, and a number of factors are responsible for that state of affairs. I have no doubt that almost every hospital in the Commonwealth would be able to cater for more patients if it could obtain additional staff, but I submit that not only the question of staff is involved. Also involved is the matter of finance, and hospitals, particularly State hospitals, are dependent in the final analysis upon the assistance they obtain from this Government, which must accept some responsibility because it is restricting advances to the States. The States have numerous responsibilities, and they can allocate to hospital services only a certain proportion of the amount received from the Commonwealth. There is no escaping that fact, because finally the Commonwealth determines precisely the amount of money the States will receive. When that determination is made, the States in turn determine how much they will spend on maintaining existing services and building new hospitals.
It was a deplorable step on the Government’s part to bring an end to free hospital treatment which was available under the Chifley Administration. In those days we did not encounter some of the difficulties which we meet to-day. It is useless for the Government to say that it is impossible to provide free hospital treatment, when such free treatment is provided in Queensland. One appreciates the contrast between the position of persons who live in a State where they are not called upon to meet medical and hospital bills, and the position of those who live in States which do not provide free medical and hospital services. The cost of hospital treatment to-day is so high as to place a very heavy burden on persons who have to undergo hospital treatment. The Government’s approach to this problem is therefore open to criticism simply because it is not a national approach. The Government proposes by this measure to provide limited assistance which will not add up to very much in the long run. On the other hand the Government abolished free hospital services, and I have not the slightest doubt about what the people would say if they were asked whether they would prefer to return to the conditions when free hospital services were provided or, alternatively, to meet the enormous expenses which result from illness to-day.
The Minister said that the cost of each visit of a member of a nursing association was about 7s. I am not correcting the Minister in a critical way when I say that there is also a point of view that differs from his in relation to that matter. A letter over the name of Elizabeth Teece, the chairman of the board of the Sydney District Nursing Association, was published in yesterday’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “. In the letter the statement appeared that the cost of each visit by a member of the association was 10s., and that the number of patients visited last year totalled 2,797. The contributions received averaged ls. 7d. a person. The patients are not obliged to subscribe, and the members of the association visit many persons who are not in a position to pay. Members of the association visit and care for patients, and, in addition, administer free drugs. The experience of the association, which I think is as large as most organizations of this kind, has been that each visit costs 10s. A point which intrigues me is that the Minister went on to say that the subsidy to be paid under this measure is not to exceed the State subsidy. I should have been much happier had the Minister been able to give the House some idea of just how much money will be involved as a result of the passing of this measure. The Minister stated the conditions which will apply after a certain date and how the subsidy would be payable. We are not in a position to say anything about the cost of the scheme, simply because that information is lacking. Further, it appears to me that this measure has been completely tied up in such a way that the Government will not be called upon to pay very much in the long run. The Government suggests that what it proposes to do will make a major contribution towards rectifying a problem. However, no one knows just how much this will cost the Government. In my opinion, the assistance will be so effectively hamstrung that it will be almost impossible for many organizations to benefit.
I am intrigued by a particular aspect of the measure, and perhaps the Minister will enlighten me when he replies. The honorable gentleman stated, in his second-reading speech, that the Government proposed to recognize the work of religious organizations in this field. I have in mind two organizations in Sydney, one run by the Methodist Church and the other by the Catholic Church. Assistance is to be provided on the basis of the number of people employed, but the Brown Sisters, members of a Catholic nursing organization, do not receive any salary at all, and therefore cannot be classified as employees. Notwithstanding the statements of the Minister in this respect, I can see no way in which organizations of that kind will be assisted under this legislation.
In principle, I support the bill, because 1 think that it will assist those who are urgently in need of assistance. At the same time, I. am of the opinion that the Government has painted a misleading picture of the benefits that will flow from the measure. For instance, it has been said that, as a result of this legislation, more beds in public hospitals will be available. I believe that a more appropriate approach to the problem of hospital accommodation would be for the Government to make more money available to the States, so that they could build more hospitals. It is the practice of certain organizations - and I do not criticize them for it - not ,to visit patients unless they are referred to them by medical practitioners or hospitals. There are in the community many people who, although not chronically ill, are in need of attention, either because of the disabilities of old age, or because of relatively minor illnesses. Whether organizations which cater for the needs of such people will receive assistance under this bill, the Minister has not yet made clear.
As honorable members are aware, hospital accommodation in this country has reached a deplorable state. This Government has aggravated the difficulties by its attitude to the Chifley Government’s hospital benefits legislation. Because of that, the demand for hospital beds has reached unmanageable proportions and is increasing daily. The lamentable stage has been reached at which people who seek hospital treatment are asked their age before they are admitted. That should not be tolerated in a civilized community. It seems that no one knows the precise number of people who are waiting for hospital beds in this country. I have before me reports prepared by the New South Wales and Victorian hospital commissions, and whilst they contain statistics concerning many phases of hospital activities, there is no reference to the number of people in urgent need of hospital treatment and unable to obtain it because of lack of beds.
I submit that the shortage of hospital accommodation cannot be overcome by legislation such as that now before the House. The position calls for a more energetic approach and for recognition by the Commonwealth that it has a responsibility to the States in this connexion. The Commonwealth must appreciate that it is impossible for the States to bear all the burdens that are being imposed on them to-day, due, in large part, to mounting building costs. I suggest that if the Government really wanted to do something tangible to relieve the position it would provide for free hospital treatment, instead of granting subsidies to particular organizations.
.- 1 was most interested in the speech of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor), in support of the bill, but although he said that he was in favour of it, he tried desperately to find in it something to criticize. He said that it was not all that it set itself up to be. The first assertion we have to make in respect of this measure is that it represents an amazing idea on the part of the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) and is a very sound step in the right direction, because it will help to overcome the Australia-wide problem of hospital accommodation. Honorable members on this side of the House do not believe that the Government has rushed into the matter without really considering the problems involved, because obviously, a great deal of research has been undertaken. The measure now before us is aimed at alleviation of a desperate position, and I believe that it will be successful.
We are fortunate that, in Australia today, there are in each State voluntary organizations which care for people who are not able to care for themselves and which, by so doing, are reducing the demand for hospital beds. In my own State of Western Australia, there are two such organizations, one engaged in a home nursing service, and the other in a service which, although not strictly of a nursing nature, is of great assistance to elderly people. I refer to the Silver Chain District and Bush Nursing Association which conducts a home nursing service, and the League of Home Help, which provides a “ meals on wheels “ scheme, so that elderly people who are not able to care for themselves may have at least one good hot meal a day. Because nutrition is being supplied to them, their liability to sickness is reduced, and in that respect it can be said that the activities of the organization are preventing calls for hospital beds in the future. I was interested to hear the honorable member for Dalley say that there was a terrific hospital problem throughout Australia. 1 understand that the authorities who deal with this matter have stated that 8.6 hospital beds for every 1,000 persons are sufficient to meet the needs in any given area. Therefore, if there are approximately eight hospital beds for every 1,000 people, it should be possible to meet the hospital accommodation needs of the future.
– But not for chronic cases as well!
– I shall develop thai theme in a moment. In Western Australia, we have the best hospital figures in the Commonwealth. The average number of beds is 8.2 per 1,000. In Victoria, the average is 6.4 per 1,000. I do not know the exact figure for New South Wales, but it is well below eight beds per 1,0.30. However, the authorites there do not agree that even eight beds per 1,000 is a sufficiently high proportion and are aiming at 9.6 beds per 1,000, because they believe that that proportion is necessary to meet all requirements.
Various methods have been adopted to alleviate the shortage of hospital beds. I disagree with the honorable member for Dalley that what people really need is free hospital treatment, not voluntary care. I believe that if a government does anything to discourage voluntary effort in the community it has not the interests of the nation at heart. Australians are totally dependent on voluntary effort in numerous fields. Home nursing is one of those fields and is one of the most praiseworthy. 1 have in my hand an article written by Gavin Casey, a well-known Australian writer, who is at present undertaking research into various problems in Western Australia. The article appeared in the publication “ Hospital Administration “, and reads as follows: -
Aged people must, as far as possible, be kept out of hospital beds for three reasons. The most important of these is that bed is bad for them. Another is that hospital beds are needed for people who are ill, rather than old. The third is that it costs the community too much to maintain them with trained hospital staff at their beck and call.
In Western Australia, for instance, a group that makes up only 7.39 per cent, of the population occupies more than 30 per cent, of the hospital beds. According to doctors of the Western Australia Public Health Department there would be no shortage of accommodation for the ill if, by some magic means, all these people of the “ over 65 “ group could be accommodated elsewhere.
Even if all sorts of other arrangements were possible they could not all leave hospital, of course, for many are truly ill as well as aged. But students of geriatrics (the care of the old) throughout the progressive countries of the world have been astonished at the large numbers of old people who need not, and should not, take to bed in their declining years.
He goes on to say that patronage is resented and any old person, told by the doctor that he must go to hospital, first of all raises violent objections. He thinks of a hospital as a place where old people die and he thinks he is capable of looking after himself, anyway. Then having been hospitalized and having found that he is in a delightful ward with delightful surroundings, with some of the latest colour schemes on the walls, and that the wards are calm, clean and quiet, that the nurses are obliging and the food warm, varied and served on time, nobody is going to get him out of there again. When the time comes for his discharge he finds he is suffering from some other ailment, that he has a toe ache, a backache or a neck ache, and he longs to stay in surroundings which were better than those he has had for a long time. That person, as well as those who are chronically tick, must be taken into consideration. I do not think that this bill was ever designed to offer treatment by visiting sisters to those who are chronically sick and who would normally be hospitalized. It is aimed, however, to cover those who need attention only in their homes. That attention can be given to them and they will not use a hospital bed to the detriment of somebody who is in a much worse state of health.
Western civilization has changed. In nonindustrialized countries, such as India, the problem of the aged is not as great as it is in the civilized, industrialized countries such as Australia. In India the family is still the centre of the social unit. Regardless of the age or condition of a person, there is still room for him in the hut or house, or whatever it is and nobody begrudges the small amount of rice that goes into the bowl each day to keep that person alive. Here, the big family idea no longer exists. We have given up the idea of the young looking after the old and we have a tendency to look to the Commonwealth or the State to do the work that in the first place was the responsibility of the person himself.
The honorable member for Dalley expressed concern that, although this bill provides that aid will be given to any organization if it is not under the direct control of the Government, religious organizations will not become eligible for the subsidy because they do work as a labour of love and do not receive payment. The bill covers that situation. Payment can be made on the basis of what those people would receive if they were working under award rates.
I return now to the Silver Chain Association in my own State. This bill will not only lessen the call on hospital beds, but also provide a great advantage in the encouragement it will give to people who have worked in a voluntary capacity for so many years, doing a service without any thought of reward. Among the office-bearers of the Silver Chain District and Bush Nursing Association of Western Australia - and I venture to say among the office-bearers of any of these organizations throughout Australia - are to be found persons who are associated with countless other charitable undertakings and who are leaders in the business and commercial life of the State. Those men and women are devoting their spare time, and sometimes time that can scarcely be spared, to the cause of people who are worse off than they are. If one of the results of this bill is the encouragement of those people, then the bill will have given us something worth while.
One thing that the bill will not do - and there are sufficient safeguards to see that it will not happen - is that it will not deter those who have made contributions in a voluntary capacity to the organizations in existence, so that in the future they themselves may think that it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth. Looking quickly at the bill, I would say that the clause limiting the amount of subsidy to an amount equal to that granted by the State will be a good safeguard and that the State will continue to pay a subsidy to those organizations.
Mention was made of the cost of a visit by a home nurse. I think the figure given was 10s. The whole basis of the measure is not what it will cost to visit somebody at home, but how much need there is for a visit. If the person is not capable of paying anything, the nurse will not be prevented from making a visit. No means test is applied and the visit is made where the necessity arises. In Western Australia, about 69,000 visits were made during the year, and the total collections from those visits were in the region of £5,800. It is safe to say that the visits would have been made to people in all strata of income and that some people may have been quite willing to donate £1, £2 or 10s. for a visit. The average is about ls. 8d. a visit, which shows that a lot of work is being done at no cost to the people concerned.
There has been a rapid development. I said earlier that Western Australia had 8.2 beds to each 1,000 of population. We certainly have insufficient beds in the metropolitan area, because the figures are taken on a State basis. Some country hospitals may have a surplus of beds because of the moving population. We have had quite a lot of that because, perhaps, the timber industry has changed its place of operation or the population of mining towns has decreased. But in the metropolitan area, with the concentration of population, there is a distinct shortage and the figure for that area would probably fall well below the average of 8.2. I think that in every State the private hospitals which existed in the days before the last war have slowly disappeared. I know the immediate reaction is to atttribute this to rising costs and the state of the economy. But it is always well to remember that other factors are involved.
I suppose those whose conditions have improved the most in those periods are the nurses at hospitals who, prior to that period, were housed under shocking conditions in many places and- many hospitals. I take as an example the Wangaratta Base Hospital.
I do not know it, but I have some information here about it. In 30 years receipts and expenses have increased 30 times. The annual bed cost in 1924 was £90 and to-day it is £1,156. The staff in 1924 was one to each two patients. To-day it is two nurses to one patient. It can be seen, therefore, that increased staffing, different conditions and better awards for the staff - and I think that nurses and other people who work in hospitals have been brought under much more favorable conditions - have all contributed to the higher cost of hospital administration.
We have reached the stage where something must be done to care for the aged and the needy who do not require treatment for chronic sickness. It is estimated that the cost of building a modern hospital is £7,000 for each bed provided. I am not sure that this estimate includes the cost of provision of nurses’ quarters. There are some very beautiful hospitals in Western Australia, and I quite agree that our hospitals should be the finest buildings that we can erect. They should be the best that science and man’s ingenuity can design. But alongside them there are magnificent buildings that house the nurses, and those buildings add to the colossal cost of hospitalization.
Another difficulty may be encountered after this bill becomes law. Although the need for nurses exists, and although the money may be available to provide them, it may be difficult to find people to fill the positions. The duties of a visiting sister are quite different from those of a resident sister in a hospital. Something extra is needed of her, and the position of visiting sister may not attract every person trained in the nursing profession. This difficulty may be overcome. One of the Opposition members has said that there is a terrific shortage of nurses in his State. Steps have been taken in Western Australia to overcome the shortage of nurses in that State, by making the profession attractive to those entering it. Girls are given financial encouragement to enter the nursing service. The policy adopted is similar to that followed by the .Education Department in Western Australia, which offered bursaries worth about £80 to students in their fourth and fifth year of high school who would guarantee to train as teachers. By that simple method, sufficient trainees were found to fill the training college. I believe that the nursing authorities have offered a similar incentive to girls who are proceeding to higher education, if they will promise to take up nursing as a career. I always think that a lot of idealism attaches to nursing and other activities associated with the sick, and the method of attracting people by monetary means has disadvantages as well as advantages. I also feel, however, that those who are not suited temperamentally to the profession will not stay in it for very long. The subsidy scheme in Western Australia will help to obtain more nurses to do this necessary work. The last annual report of the organization about which I have been speaking contains the following comments: -
It is clear that the increasing financial burden cannot be met by the resources of a voluntary body. Subsidies granted by the State government, begun eight years ago, have had to be increased each year. We place on record our appreciation of the Western Australian Government for financial assistance and for the sympathetic understanding shown by the Medical Department in relation to the problems which confront the “ Silver Chain “.
The report says that the problem is an urgent one, and that a modern hospital is a most expensive institution. This is quite obvious when it is considered that the cost of a hospital works out at £7,000 a bed. The report continues -
There are, however, nol a few cases where home conditions are entirely unsuited to nursing, for example, where the patient is living alone. Others need welfare officers who can spend much time and infinite patience in helping to straighten out domestic, financial and other tangles.
The nurses engaged in this work often have to be more than simply nurses or sisters administering a needle or providing some form of medical attention. They become the friends and advisers of the persons whom they treat. They provide shoulders for these patients to cry upon. They are the persons to whom some of the patients turn for solutions of all kinds of problems. Though it may be a humanitarian act to provide this kind of sympathetic assistance, it results in the sisters being unable to visit as many persons as they may wish to.
It is rather interesting to note in the balance-sheet that a major part of the expenditure of the organization is taken up by salaries. The nurses have light motor cars, which cost little to run and are economic propositions because they enable the nurses to visit many more people than they could visit if they were compelled to use public transport. Of a total expenditure of £23,076 for district nursing activities in the year, the salaries of the nursing staff amounted to £14,997. For the benefit of those who speak of complete socialization of hospitals and medical services, it would be interesting to compare a balance-sheet of this organization, which is a voluntary body, with that of the completely socialized medical service in Great Britain, about which much has been said.
The receipts side of the balance-sheet shows that the Western Australian Government subsidy amounted to £17,000, but 1 am fairly sure that this amount represents an overall subsidy. Besides conducting the district nursing service, this organization also conducts cottage homes for elderly persons, and the Alfred Carson Hospital, which is in the Claremont region, and I should imagine that the subsidy of £17,000 would cover the three undertakings. The organization also received from the Lotteries Commission of Western Australia an amount of £2,500. I hate to think what the hospitals position would be in Western Australia but for the assistance given by the Lotteries Commission. I think that that commission has operated for about 20 or 25 years. It has practically financed the building of most of our hospitals, and it has supplied amenities not only for the hospitals but also for aged persons’ homes and similar institutions. Whatever objections there may be to the conducting of lotteries, they seem to me to constitute a very subtle form of indirect taxation, the receipts from which go to an extremely good cause.
Mention has been made of the costs of hospitals. It is always a source of wonder to me that the salaries offered for some of the positions in hospitals are so low. I noticed with some interest recently an advertisement for a fully qualified tutor sister, for whom a salary of about £730 a year was offered. That is about the amount received by the secretary df a member of this Parliament, and it is less than would be received by the confidential typist of a manager of a commercial undertaking. An administrative assistant who is needed for hospital administration work, and who must be a university graduate, is offered a salary ranging from £1,216 to £1,260. Although hospitals cost £7,000 a bed, it is obvious that difficulties will be experienced in obtaining staff to fill some of these positions. But I hope that, whatever difficulties are experienced by other bodies, the Silver Chain organization of which I have spoken to-day, will be able to obtain the staff needed to carry on its work, which is designed to reduce the need for hospital beds in Western Australia.
In conclusion, I wish to say that whatever criticism may be offered of this measure - and as yet 1 have not heard any, and I doubt very much whether any one could properly criticize the principle behind it - the Minister who presented the bill should be congratulated on making a move towards assisting organizations that depend mainly on voluntary efforts. If these organizations are encouraged by us, we will be doing a service, not only to the sick and the aged, but also to every other person in the community, and perhaps, in this materialistic age, we may regain some of the idealism that used to grace the thinking of our forefathers. I congratulate the Minister once again on this bill, and I support it in its entirety.
.- As honorable members are aware, the object of the bill is to authorize the Government to give financial assistance to approved organizations which conduct home-nursing services. In the words of the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) in his secondreading speech, this means that in general terms the Commonwealth’s policy will be to grant to non-profit-making home-nursing organizations now in the field subsidies approximating the salaries paid to nursing sisters employed by them over and above the number ordinarily employed during the year prior to the commencement of the act. I support the measure mainly because it is based on humane principles. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) has suggested that the Minister is personally responsible for this bill. I do not know whether he is or not, but I congratulate and commend him, and also the Director-General of Health and the other officers associated with the measure, on its introduction.
The bill takes on a far wider significance than the simplicity of its clauses would indicate. Perhaps quite a lot of people, both in this House and elsewhere, will say that it is designed to prevent people who would normally seek hospital treatment from receiving it. I want to make it quite clear that I do not and never would share such a view. 1 do not believe any doctor in Australia would prevent a person who needs hospital treatment from receiving it, but I am afraid that such assertions and charges will be made by some people. Homenursing services provide treatment for people who are not ordinarily seriously ill. The Minister made it quite clear in his secondreading speech that the persons treated are mostly people 60 years of age and more. Those of us who have had experience with old people who are ill appreciate just how dogmatic they can become. How many old people have we known who would throw one out immediately one suggested hospital treatment of an illness? lt is far from true to say that this measure will prevent old people from obtaining hospital treatment. It will calm and soothe elderly people who are ill and who perhaps would have to enter hospital if home-nursing services were not available, and will greatly assist in their recovery. For that reason, I consider the measure is a good one. lt is based on humane principles, and every one associated with it in any capacity has earned the everlasting thanks of the Australian people.
I suppose I have been going too well to continue in the same strain for ever. The only complaint I could make - I would say rather that it is an honest and sincere comment - is that the bill does not go quite far enough. I know it is easy to suggest how some one else should allocate his expenditure, but the Minister, in his second-reading speech, gave me some help in making the point I propose to raise now. Not only should the Commonwealth, together with the States, subsidize home-nursing services in respect of nursing sisters in excess of the number employed at the present time, but’ also it should go further and pay subsidies in respect of at least half the present number of nursing sisters engaged in this work. The Minister has assisted me in making this point by comparing the cost of hospital treatment with the cost of home-nursing treatment. He stated that new hospitals cost £7,000 a bed to construct, and that the cost of maintaining a hospital bed is very rarely, if ever, less than £3 a day. He said also -
Can I give the House a further example? If in a few years’ time home-nursing were to expand to four times its present level there would be, on these considerations, a saving of 3,600 beds, resulting in the following financial savings: -
He had said earlier that the cost of homenursing services is approximately 7s. a visit.
I do not wish to take from the Minister any of the credit for initiating this measure, but I suggest that if home-nursing treatment saves the use of a hospital bed for every patient so treated, and the cost of home nursing is only 7s. a visit, the Government should be big enough and rich enough to go further. I do not want to take from it any credit, but. now that it has thought of the idea-, it would be advisable, and it is certainly financially possible, to be a little more generous to home-nursing services. I do not say that in condemnation, or even critically. It is merely a suggestion for the improvement of an already humane measure.
I find myself at variance with some remarks made by previous speakers about Australia’s hospital system. By that I do not mean that I will argue with any one about the position in some States, but I think I should fail in my duty if I allowed such statements to pass without comment. I am not taking a party political line on this matter, because some of those statements were made by Opposition members. I think I should fail in my duty as a Queenslander if I did not contradict the statement that Queensland’s hospital system is intolerably bad and atrociously inadequate. I assert with all the vehemence at my command that, on the contrary, it should earn everlasting credit for the Queensland Government and hospital administrators in that State. I will go further and say that not one person in Queensland in need of hospitalization cannot get it. That is not a new position. It is not a position that has arisen overnight. It is a position that has existed for a considerable period.
I know, of course, that a lot of private and intermediate beds and wards are provided in the general hospitals. < But no person requiring public ward treatment in Queensland has ever had to wait any longer than it has taken him to get from where he was to that hospital ward. That position does not apply only in the metropolitan area. It applies throughout the length and breadth of Queensland. My colleague, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor), said that it would be better if this Government provided hospitalization, and I agree completely with that view. But the extraordinary fact about Queensland is that not only can people get hospitalization in public wards when it is necessary, but it is completely and utterly free.
I do not want to start anything in this chamber in connexion with this matter, particularly because you have been verytolerant, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. My remarks have not been completely relevant to the bill, except that they relate to something that has been mentioned in the course of the debate and which I feel I have a bounden responsibility to answer. I know from personal experience that the position in other States is very bad; but such is not the position in Queensland.
Getting away from that subject and returning to the bill itself, I am terribly afraid that this measure, in itself, will not solve this problem. I know the great value of the home-nursing service. I know the great work that is done by those nurses who visit private homes. They are more than nurses. They provide more than medical attention. They do not merely wash and give medical treatment to the people. They have to be prepared to listen to the troubles and the sorrows of people, especially the aged and infirm.
– They are their friends.
– They are friends. In many cases, they act as housemaids. They do all sorts of work when they go to private homes.
I want to refer to remarks that were passed by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney). Whatever these nurses get is not half as much as they deserve for the work that they do. But just because a subsidy is to be given to these nonprofitmaking organizations, that doss not mean that they will get more nurses. The honorabb member for Adelaide, in opening the debate for the Opposition, said that the only people who could be expected to do this work were trained people who, at one time, may have been nurses in hospitals and who had subsequently married but whose occupation was now described on the rolls as “ domestic duties “ or “ housewife “. In order to supplement the income of their husbands those people take on this work. They are also usually people with merciful minds, and merciful hearts who want to do something good and kind and charitable for the sick and more unfortunate sections of the community.
But nurses will not be attracted - and 1 hope that they will not be attracted - away from hospitals, whether private or public. That would denude, or partly denude, those institutions of nurses whose services are probably more necessary in the hospitals than in the private homes. When 1 make that statement, I do not want to throw a wet blanket on the bill. I sincerely hope that it will have the effect of enabling these organizations to employ more nurses. But the problem will not necessarily be solved merely because they will get some money with which to employ more nurses. I do not know what the position will be. Time will tell. We shall find out, eventually, exactly what the position will be.
I shall finish on this note, because it was not my intention to speak, and I shall not take up very much of the time of the House in my contribution to the debate. The honorable member for Perth, who seemed to have volumes of reports and statements of all sorts in connexion with this very simple matter, seems to think that the nurses are doing all right in respect of their award rates and conditions. He has said that the figures prove that there has been a marked improvement in the conditions of and the salaries and wages paid to members of the nursing services in the States. There has been an improvement. But the conditions of nurses, only three or four years ago, were so intolerable that we are lucky to have any nurses in the hospitals at all. The honorable member referred to the improvement of quarters for nurses. I have heard complaints, even in my own electorate, to the effect that the State government spent too much money on the provision of what were called elaborate quarters for the nurses.
I do not believe that any money spent for the purpose of encouraging people into this work would be too much. But regardless of the living quarters and nurses’ conditions, and regardless of whether there was one nurse to a patient, two nurses to a patient, or one nurse to two patients, the salaries that the nurses received a few years ago did not permit them to live in the same manner and enjoy the same amenities as any other female section of the community. . So wages and salaries had to be increased. I, personally, consider that their salaries are not nearly enough yet. They are not adequate, and we can not expect that girls between sixteen and twenty years of age will submit themselves to the most onerous work of nursing. When I say that, I do not mean that it is onerous for any girl to attend to a sick person. I do not want my remarks to be misconstrued. But the general conditions, atmosphere and environment of a nurse are probably worse than those of any other female employee. We must make the conditions of employment such that there will never be any hesitation on the part of girls in that age group to train as nurses and to accept the responsibilities associated with nursing.
I am surprised that the honorable member for Perth seemed to get such satisfaction from the improvement of the rates of pay and conditions of employment of nurses. They have improved. They had to improve! But I suggest that they have to improve far more yet before we can hope to get sufficient nurses for our hospitals.
I come back to the point at which I started. I congratulate all those responsible for this measure. I do not believe, and I sincerely hope I may never be disillusioned in this respect, that this measure could have the effect of preventing anybody in need of treatment in hospital from receiving it. If that ever happens I am satisfied that we will lose, once and for all, our faith in human nature. 1 cannot believe that it will happen. I know the sort of persons who will be mostly affected by the measure. They are persons who are in need of treatment by trained nurses, but want to have that treatment in their homes. There is no doubt that when people are seriously ill the only place in which they can be properly treated is a hospital. But people who are getting on in years sometimes hate the thought of hospitals. Not that they hate doctors and nurses; but they hate the thought of being taken away from their homes, the familiar environment in which they have lived for so long. This bill is the answer to the needs of these people. I suggest that, rather than hinder the progress of such people to good health’, the scheme will help it, because they will have easy minds when they are sick, knowing that they will be able to receive efficient nursing service at home which will be as good as, if not in some respects better than, the treatment they would receive in a hospital.
I support the measure, and I sincerely trust that the Minister will consider my suggestion that, having regard to the enormous costs of the provision of hospital beds and services, compared with the very nominal cost of nursing services, he could go just a little further than he has gone on this occasion.
– 1 am sure that the House will agree with me when I say that we have had a great privilege in hearing the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) in a very delightful role, for a change, a very delightful role indeed, commend the Government, the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), and, deservedly, the departmental officers concerned with the production of this legislation. It is to be hoped that we shall hear the honorable member speak in a similar vein on future occasions rather more frequently than we have heard him in the past. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
However, I wish to correct what appears to be a misunderstanding on the part of the honorable member about the remarks of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney). I listened very carefully to the honorable member for Perth, and not for a moment did I believe, when listening to him, that he implied that the conditions of employment in the nursing profession to-day were ideal or, as the honorable member for Herbert put it, that nurses were being well looked after. The honorable member for Perth referred to improved conditions in the nursing profession, and gave as an example the improved accommodation now provided for nurses in hospitals. But I direct the attention of the honorable member for Herbert to the fact that the honorable member for Perth, in the closing stages of his remarks, particularly emphasized the poor remunera tion that nurses receive in comparison with the pay of other sections of the community. So I think that the honorable member for Herbert can rest assured that the honorable member for Perth is fully alive to conditions in the nursing profession to-day, and knows that they are anything but satisfactory, or as satisfactory as they might be.
The House is considering a comparatively small bill which might be regarded by some as of no particular significance. But, in my opinion, it is a measure of tremendous importance and significance. I, too, Mr. Speaker, wish to add my meed of praise to the Minister, the Government and the departmental officers who have adopted the principle which underlies the measure.
– That is an unusual role for the honorable member.
– I am not aware of the outside associations of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), but I am speaking, Mr. Speaker, with the background of a very long association with the work of the bush nursing organization and the activities of home nurses and hospitals, and of hospital boards of which I have been a member for many years. As a result of my experience I am fully aware of the problems incidental to this whole matter. The Silver Chain District and Bush Nursing Association, to which the honorable member for Perth so kindly referred, is an organization which started entirely on a voluntary basis. Trust funds were ultimately established as the result of contributions, donations and legacies, and that organization took on a work of tremendous value in providing nursing assistance where nursing assistance was most greatly needed. Throughout the length and breadth of Western Australia, for instance, we find what are called, very modestly, “ rest homes “, which are provided in conjunction with local hospitals in country districts. Their object is to provide a place where expectant mothers can receive attention prior to entering hospital for confinement and also have a rest period immediately after leaving hospital, and where other people who require nursing attention for illnesses the treatment of which is not of an urgent nature may also receive the benefit of such attention as well as the benefit of rest. That association has done a tremendous work in Perth, but it is its activities in the country districts with which I was personally associated. For a very long time it was a struggle to get governments to recognize that the work of the association was worth while and was not just somebody’s silly idea of creating more work for voluntary workers.
– Those were Liberal governments, of course.
– I am afraid that my friend is quite right, but I do not want to enter into a political argument on that aspect of the matter. The day has arrived when governments are recognizing that the work which was started by good citizens out of the fullness of their hearts was not extraneous work, but was work that governments were not doing although they should have been playing a part in it. A study of the history of what one can only call welfare and social activities will show that in every case the genesis of the organizations engaged in such activities has been a sense of Christian fellowship, the kindly regard of man for his neighbour and concern for his neighbour’s welfare, and that only later have governments come into the picture on an official basis.
So, there is an important principle in this legislation: This National Government has recognized the necessity for a nursing” scheme of this kind, has realized that nursing attention is required not only in hospitals but also in the homes of sick people. I disagree with the statement of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) about the medical profession. I regret that he made the remarks he made, and I hope he did not mean them in the way that I understood him, at the time, to mean them. He said that the standard of the general practitioner in recent times had degenerated considerably compared with the standard in the early days of the medical profession. He laid the blame for that on the modern tendency to specialize. I disagree with him entirely, and I think that if he cares to analyse the vital statistics he will find that, on the contrary, the general practitioner today is as efficient as, or more efficient than, his predecessor.
The modern general practitioner realizes that there are better facilities available than he is able to provide. The general practitioner is, as the term indicates, a man who engages in a general, non-specialized medical practice. In the early days, when there were no specialists, general practitioners were called upon to do work which many of them will admit was beyond their particular skills. Whereas, in those days, a patient had to risk having his ailment treated by a general practitioner, to-day skilled specialist treatment is available. The modern general practitioner knows his limitations. The outback practitioner, especially, is honest and will unhesitatingly refer a patient to a specialist if he feels that a certain illness is beyond his capacity. The result is reflected in the fact that the number of deaths from many illnesses has fallen over the years. In my opinion, the standard of the general practitioner has increased considerably. A higher standard is demanded of him nowadays, because the specialist, with his greater knowledge, acts as a critic. The general practitioner must know something about the cases that he refers to the specialist, because if he refers cases unnecessarily he will soon lind himself with an unhappy reputation.
I would very much prefer that the Commonwealth’s contribution to the work of voluntary organizations should be tied up not with the contributions of the State governments, but with those of the voluntary organizations themselves. The biggest problem facing these organizations is finance. Governments are usually approached to make up the deficiency between the voluntary contributions and the running cost. As a result, to some extent voluntary contributions are limited because people say, “ The Government will come good “. It would be better if the Government said, “ If you will help yourselves we will help you to the same degree “. That would provide the perfect tie-up between voluntary work and government aid, and would encourage voluntary organizations to expand their operations. In schemes of this kind, where the State government comes into the picture, I would like to see financial responsibility shared in a new way. The organization, by way of voluntary contribution, could meet one-third of the cost, the State government could meet one-third and the Commonwealth could provide the other third. That would give us the perfect relationship. I want to stress that we must encourage voluntary organizations to do their share, and more.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the total cost should be met in this way?
– Yes. I am sorry that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) is not in the chamber, because he would agree that the spastic organization of Queensland provides a splendid example of the successful working of such a scheme. The work of the organization has expanded because the Queensland Government pays a £l-for-£l subsidy. Such an apportionment between voluntary contributions, and those of the State and the Commonwealth Governments would be ideal.
To-day we often speak of citizenship, and every year we gain thousands of new citizens from among immigrants to this country. 1 sometimes wonder whether we stress sufficiently the difference between being a subject of the Queen and a citizen of a country. It is so easy to be a good subject. One has only to obey the laws and carry out the obligations to which one is sworn. That is the beginning and end of becoming a good subject. We have many good subjects but too few are good citizens. The good citizen is not only a good subject of the Queen but also understands, and attends to, the needs of his fellows. In other words, he does a little more than he expects to be rewarded for. Being, a good citizen involves taking an interest in what goes on around one, and making a contribution to the welfare of one’s neighbour. That ought to be encouraged in every field of public activity. The matter before us provides an avenue for that encouragement. I am not criticizing the Government’s contribution but am merely suggesting - it might be an entirely new thought - that the Government should provide both the substance with which the work can be carried on and expanded, and the encouragement to voluntary contribution which is the mark of good citizenship. If Government supporters were subject to those conditions r, as a citizen, would be encouraged to give more. I would know that whatever F gave would be doubled by the addition of the government subsidy. That angle is surely worthy of consideration.
The Minister said, in his second-reading speech, that hospital service can never be a true substitute for the family doctor. I could not agree more. All my life I have been opposed to the centralization of hospital services, and the building of huge metropolitan or regional hospitals. In common with the Minister, I believe that a person who needs care and attention should receive it as near as possible to his home and loved ones. The treatment of illness and incapacity has a psychological aspect, lt is not merely a matter of giving pills, potions, powders and injections, or providing good nursing by a paid nurse. The patient must be given the desire to live, and that cannot be done if the patient is in Sydney and his loved ones are out in the Riverina. The patient feels lost in a huge hospital, and out of touch with his own folk. He should be where his loved ones can see him frequently, and can spur him on to resist the inroads of illness. Once that is done the medicine he receives is well on the way to being effective. No doctor can save the life of a person who doss not want to live. No one can assist a person to get well if he will not assist himself. That principle is inherent in the bill. The temptation to send people to hospital often leads them to an early grave.
I am wondering whether it is wise to state in the bill that, for the purposes of the legislation, the word “ nurse “ shall mean a trained, registered nurse. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, referred to the fact that many of the people who will receive nursing attention under this scheme will not be in need of hospital attention or skilled attention from a trained person. I am inclined to agree with the honorable member for Herbert that not enough trained persons will be available to operate the scheme. There are many occasions when a person who is incapacitated by either age or the after-effects of an illness does not require the services of a trained nurse. The attention that is required is attention of the kind which, in a hospital, is given effectively and efficiently by trainee nurses or by what we call nursing aides. I think that we should do a great deal to increase the efficiency of the scheme if we widened the definition of “ nurse “ to include a nursing aide. I put that suggestion to the Minister so that he can think about it during the next twelve months or so.
The nursing aides, of course, would have to be trained to a certain standard. They would have to be competent to give normal home treatment. In hospitals, nursing aides and trainee nurses wash and turn patients and provide many other kinds of attention, whilst the trained nurses, who have a higher degree of medical knowledge, act as watchdogs, so to speak, for the doctors. If we extended the definition to include nursing aides, we should be doing something more to achieve what the Minister and the Government have in mind. There may be objections to the employment of nursing aides, but it would appear to have definite advantages in that it would make more trained people available to give skilled attention. 1 spent a couple of years in a hospital, and during that time I think I received more attention from nursing aides than I received from the trained nurses.
There is another aspect of the matter that I should like the Minister to consider. There are some activities in the field of nursing, I think it could be called, which will not be covered by the bill. Occupational therapists and physiotherapists are employed by organizations such as the spastic welfare associations to give treatment to young children, sometimes extending over a period of years, with the object of helping the children to overcome disabilities. I believe that assistance should be given by the Government to organizations such as the spastic welfare associations which provide skilled professional attention for persons in need of it. If spastic centres were not available, many physically handicapped children would seek treatment at a hospital. Generally speaking, that would be the only place at which they could obtain, without charge, the attention that they needed. Spastic welfare organizations are relieving the hospitals of a considerable burden. That means that the skilled staffs of the hospitals are able to devote their attention to more urgent cases. If all spastic cases were referred to hospitals, an impossible burden would be placed on hospital staffs. These associations are doing work similar to that which is being done by the nursing associations. By providing equipment and skilled staff for the treatment of persons who require long courses of treatment, they are lifting a burden from the hospitals. Their work is carried on without profit, because no charge is made to the parents of the children who are treated.
I appreciate that in this scheme the Government is entering a new field. Therefore, I refrain, as an ordinary member of he Parliament, from criticizing the pro visions of the bill which, in my opinion, will give a little too much authority to people outside the Parliament to make decisions. I hope that when the scheme takes shape finally, we shall be presented with a measure to tie up the loose ends, which must be allowed to remain untied for some time. I realize that the scheme is in the experimental stage and it is with a desire to help that I have submitted my proposals, for consideration.
I appreciate deeply the move that the Government is making in the bill. I think that the Minister is deserving of all the credit that we can give to him. Our thanks to him and the officers of the department have already been expressed, though perhaps not very generously. I have no doubt that the Minister played a big part in the preparation of the scheme. I persuaded him to attend an annual conference of the spastic welfare associations that was held in Queensland last year, and I know that he convinced the delegates to the conference of his sincerity. In this bill, he is giving effect to his desire to achieve better conditions for a section of the people that is deserving of them. I support the bill.
.- There is a great deal of unanimity in respect of this bill. That proves to the general public that on all the really worth-while measures brought before the Parliament we do nol fight one another, but work together for the good of the community. It is interesting to note that 85 per cent, to 90 per cent, of the measures brought before the Parliament are agreed to by both sides, but the press has a field day when we disagree violently on a measure. This bill has our complete support, so far as it goes. It is a nervous but sincere entry by the Commonwealth into a new field of humanitarian work. I congratulate the Minister and the Director-General of Health on the introduction of the measure, but I think that both of them will admit that it is only a beginning. When the bill has been passed, we might say that we have reached the end of the beginning of a system which will, in years to come, be of inestimable value in rural districts where sickness, combined with loneliness and isolation, is so frightening. Reading this bill, one realizes that the Minister and the department are only feeling their way in the dark. The field is entirely new to them. In my view this measure is complementary to the Aged Persons Homes Act, which was passed by the Parliament in 1954, and which enables the building of homes for the aged on a subsidy by the Government of £1 for every £2 expended by organizations and churches proposing to conduct such homes. Many lovely homes for aged persons have already been provided as a result of that legislation.
Under the measure which we are now considering, it is proposed that Commonwealth aid be given to voluntary organizations in the nursing field. There is a great deal of practical Christianity behind the two measures. To me it is wonderful that the National Parliament can devote itself to the implementing of a Christian ideal through legislation. That in itself is good, but the practical day by day fulfilment of the ideal will be in the hands of individual persons, in the hands of humanity. In this instance it will be in the hands of nurses, who will render a great home service to the aged, the sick, and injured, and the convalescent. These are salient features of the measure. The subsidy to be paid by the Commonwealth will not in any instance exceed the State government subsidy paid to a nursing service. The Minister’s approval must be obtained before an organization is granted a subsidy. All organizations which are granted subsidies will, quite rightly, have to supply the Director-General of Health with adequate information and properly audited accounts and reports. The Director-General will have to be satisfied in all cases that the nurses in respect of whom a subsidy is claimed are properly qualified. No attempt will be made by the Government to interfere with an organization’s management and control of its affairs, except insofar as is consistent with a proper expenditure of public funds. 1 am inclined to agree with the point raised by the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) in respect of proper qualification. The term “ properly qualified “ is interpreted, of course, to mean nurses who have completed their training, and we are all aware of the scarcity of such persons in this country at the moment. The use of nursing aides for this work has everything to commend it. I suggest that the Minister examine that suggestion. I have been chairman of a hospital board in my own State for the last four years. The board had much to do with the engaging of staff, including matrons, single-, double- and triple-certificated sisters, nurses, and nursing aides. I have a tremendous admiration for the work of the aides. A remark made by the honorable member for Moore might well have caused us to sit up and take notice. He said that while he was in hospital for two years the greatest service rendered to him was given by nursing aides. They are rendering magnificent service and they are more qualified to-day than they have ever been before. We employ as aides young folk from our local towns. They undergo training for a year or two years under the matron and qualified sisters. At the end of twelve months they have a wide knowledge of nursing. If the position were otherwise, they would not remain in our hospitals. I earnestly support the suggestion made by the honorable member for Moore. There are too few qualified nurses to make the home nursing service the success which the Director-General and the Minister want it to be, and I submit that we shall have to bring nursing aides into the field.
I agree with the contention of other honorable members that married persons should be encouraged to go into the service. I refer to nurses who have completed their training, matrons and sisters who have married after giving perhaps half a life-time to the profession. They ‘may have no children, or their children may have grown up. Here is an excellent opportunity for such highly trained persons to render service, providing that they can make happy arrangements with their husbands about the hours that they will be away from their homes, in the same way as politicians have to make similar arrangements with their wives.
I want to stress that this will be a scheme newly born. We must examine the possibility of using qualified nursing aides in the home nursing service. Nursing is a profession of the highest order, as we all admit. Many a person has been saved from death by the kindness, consideration, and constant attention of a sister or nurse. When a doctor’s work has been done to the limit of his skill, it is nursing which really brings a person back to health. There is a stage beyond which a doctor cannot go in the treatment of the sick or injured. Beyond that stage the patient is in the hands, first, of the Lord, and, secondly, of the nurses. Nursing is a magnificent profession. Unless nurses are born to the work they cannot possibly last in the profession.
– lt is a vocation.
– As my colleague says, it is a vocation of the highest order. In my view, a nurse must be called to her work in the same way as a minister of religion is called to the pulpit. Both render complementary services to humanity. How will these payments be worked out? No member has raised this matter. The Minister, in moving the second reading of the bill, said -
In general terms, the Commonwealth’s policy will be to grant to non-profitmaking home-nursing organizations now in the field subsidies approximating the salaries paid to nursing sisters employed by them over and above the number ordinarily employed during the year prior to the commencement of the act. Thus, if an organization has ordinarily employed, say, ten nurses during the past year and increases its staff to twelve nurses when the scheme commences, it will receive a subsidy approximating the salary of the two additional nurses.
That means that the salaries of the two additional nurses will be met from this fund. If a staff of ten is increased to fifteen, the subsidy will equal the salaries of the five additional nurses.
– What if the staff is not increased?
– 1 am coming to that. An interesting situation could develop. I have discussed the matter with the DirectorGeneral of Health, and he admits that it represents a difficulty. What will happen if, after an organization increases its staff from ten nurses to twelve, so that the employment of two nurses is subsidized, four nurses resign for various reasons within three months, reducing the number of staff to eight? How will the scheme work in such a case? When the Minister for Health replies to the debate, I should like him to say how he proposes to solve such a problem. Will the subsidy be withdrawn once the number of nurses falls below the number employed before the operation of this legislation, or will the subsidy continue? I know that, in the early stages, it is difficult to see how all the aspects of the scheme will work, but I suggest that that is something that should be clarified.
The Minister stated, in his second-reading speech, that there are 150 nurses employed by voluntary nursing organizations in Australia to-day. What a pathetically small number that is! Not a penny will be paid by way of subsidy under this legislation until that number has been increased, so that, as the matter stands at the moment, no organization is being assisted. 1 agree that the scheme will act as a stimulus to the voluntary organizations and will encourage them to increase the number of nurses, and, of course, that is one of the reasons for the introduction of the bill. One of its objects is to increase the number of nurses working in Australian homes. The Minister has pointed out that the work of these 150 district nurses reduces hospital running costs by at least £1,000,000 a year. He stated, also, that the total cost of keeping the nurses in the. field is less than one-fifth of that sum, or less than £200,000 a year, and he rightly said that, by increasing the number of district nurses operating in the homes of sick people, we shall, in a sense, reduce the total expenditure on hospital treatment. That is a good point. The scheme, in principle, is 100 per cent, praiseworthy and should benefit the community.
It is appalling to learn that there is a shortage of 2,500 nurses in Australia to-day, having regard to the total number of hospital beds and the number of nurses needed for those beds. I may say that I have obtained this information from the previous Minister for Health. I understand that there are approximately 62,000 beds in Australian hospitals at present, and that about 34,000 nurses are working in our hospitals. However, we need, as I say, 2,500 more nurses to staff the hospitals adequately. The result is that increasing burdens are being placed on hospital matrons. I know that the matron of the hospital at Longford, where I live, has to work a great deal of overtime. Although the staff is short of only one nursing sister, much additional work is thrown on the shoulders of the matron. I believe that a similar position applies in most hospitals throughout Australia. In Tasmania, we did something to overcome the nursing shortage which has since been adopted by the Tasmanian Department of Health. We made a direct approach to our Agent-General in London, Sir Eric von Bibra, and asked him whether he could engage the services of two double certificated nursing sisters. There is in England an organization known, I think, as the Colonial Nurses Association, which helps to provide nurses for countries overseas. We negotiated with Sir Eric for approximately six months, and he was completely co-operative. Eventually, not two but three nurses were selected to come to Australia. They arrived here in January last and since then have done magnificent work in the hospital at Longford. As I say, the Tasmanian Department of Health has since adopted this method. A Tasmanian hospital which needs qualified nursing staff applies to the department which, in turn, makes a direct approach to the Agent-General in London. Action of that kind is necessary if our hospitals are to be kept going. We must not reach the stage where wards have to be closed because nurses are not available. That would be a tragedy.
The thing that worries honorable members on this side of the House is where the additional district nurses are to come from, having regard to the limitations imposed by this bill. It seems to me that the State Departments of Health must try to recruit staff in new fields, and perhaps even the voluntary organizations themselves will have to try to obtain additional staff from overseas.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that Sir Eric Harrison may be able to help?
– Perhaps. After all, the right honorable gentleman said recently that he would do everything in his power to help Australia as a whole, regardless of political parties.
The Minister for Health has said that the main field of operations of the voluntary district nurses is in respect of people of 60 years of age and over, who suffer from chronic illnesses, such as arthritis, one of the greatest scourges in Australia to-day. It is a disease which is increasing year by year, and it seems that very little can be done for the people who are crippled by it. They are maimed and immobilized until, finally, they become pathetic invalids in wheel chairs. The work of the nurses also is concerned with people suffering from cardiac disease, incurable carcinoma, and other ailments that demand special nursing.
The women who take up this calling have to be strong, both physically and spiritually, because their task is arduous. It is a timeconsuming job, as the Minister has said, and it involves both detailed and routine work.
One of the tragedies in Australia to-day is the neglect of aged people by their children. Recently, a survey was made in Melbourne of the problems of the aged, as a result of which it was discovered that a great number of aged people are neglected entirely by their children and are forced to live the last years of their lives in loneliness, forgotten and destitute. They . are mainly pensioners who live in dreadful hovels. In some instances, their children do not visit them once a year, not even at Christmas time. They have become forgotten people.
– Where were these discoveries made?
– They were revealed by a survey in Melbourne, but unfortunately, similar conditions are becoming apparent all over Australia. They are a tragic reflection of the materialism that is eating the heart out of our nation to-day. When Australians neglect their parents for their own selfish ends, they are really reaching a grave situation.
I want to mention just one point that will apply to Tasmania. Tasmania has a bush nursing service and a similar service is to be found in New South Wales, but bush nursing services will not come under the provisions of this bill, because they are government-run and government-controlled. Clause 5 (2.) reads -
An organization conducted or controlled by the Government of a State is not eligible for a subsidy.
That provision will exclude all bush nursing organizations as they are constituted at the moment. The organizations in New South Wales and Tasmania are government-run and government-controlled. I spoke to the Tasmanian Director of Health by telephone just before I began this speech, because I wanted to find out one or two things about the organization there. He informed me that a bill would be introduced in the Tasmanian Parliament when it met on 29th October. Honorable members will recall that the Cosgrove Government was returned to office last Saturday.
– What about Mr. Bramich? Where is he?
– He will be there too. The Director of Health is altering the set-up of our bush nursing organization. The measure he mentioned will divide the present bush nursing organization into three sections - first, district nursing centres; secondly, resident district nurses; and thirdly, tourist nurses. But, as the organization is constituted at the moment, although it accords with the spirit and letter of this bill, it will not be entitled to Id. subsidy from this Government.
– What is wrong with that?
– I will tell the honorable member what is wrong with it. Tasmania, like all other States, has been allocated less loan money than before. The Director of Health has been told by the Premier that he must reduce expenditure in his department. The district nursing centres will suffer. Only a limited number of centres will be established in the coming year and only a limited number of district nurses will be appointed. That is a tragedy. It is a pity that this bill does not cater for bush nursing work like that done in Tasmania.
– Are there any voluntary organizations in Tasmania?
– I do not know why the honorable member has asked me that question. We have no voluntary organizations of the kind mentioned in the bill. All the work in Tasmania is done through the Government and the Department of Health. The St. John’s Ambulance Corps is the only really voluntary organization in the State. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) has made an interesting comment. He suggests that the lack of voluntary organizations in Tasmania is a credit to our State. It may be.
– No. The honorable member has misunderstood me. I said just the opposite,
– 1 do not suggest that there are no people in the State willing to do this kind of work, but in the past the organization has been a State organization. The set-up throughout Australia should be considered. Western Australia has the Silver Chain organization, of which it can be proud. But there are only 150 nurses in voluntary organizations in the whole of Australia. Therefore, other States must be in the same position as Tasmania. I hope that the measure mentioned by the Tasmanian Director of Health will so alter the organization in Tasmania that resident district nursing there will come within the scope of the scheme envisaged by this bill. I hope that the new organization will be such that we shall get a subsidy for the nurses operating in the field of district nursing. I ask the Minister to see whether he can bring bush nursing organizations within the ambit of this scheme.
.- The bill provides for the grant of subsidies to home nursing organizations, which was visualized by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) when he presented his budget this year. In other words, it is a part of the plan of the Government to provide for the care of the aged and the sick in the community. The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) must be very gratified that the bill has been received so well. It is a long time since we had a bill for which all parties and all members commended the Minister so much. I add my bouquet of congratulations to the many others that have been handed to the Minister. He must feel that to-day is really a red-letter day in the sense that it is roses, roses, all the way. In the course of what we believe will be a long and successful career as Minister for Health, doubtless he will receive many more bouquets.
While one gives praise to the Minister, it should not be forgotten that the officers of his department have assisted him and have done a great deal of work in providing the material upon which he was able, with all his skill and specialized knowledge, to form the opinion that this bill was an excellent measure. I should like to include the officers of his department in the congratulations which I have extended to the Minister.
For very many years, home nursing organizations have been carrying on with very little government assistance. In the main they have been voluntary organizations. I was somewhat dismayed to hear the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) express the opinion that, so far as he knew, Tasmania did not have any voluntary organizations. Certainly in other parts of Australia, the work has been undertaken, in the main, by voluntary organizations and charitably minded people. Such organizations and persons have willingly given their very best so that the nursing services which the community so greatly required could be supplied. No praise is too high to give to people who, in that way, give of their best to the community. The sickness in the community, and particularly the sickness or invalidity amongst the aged, are matters- of great concern, and have always been matters of great concern; but with the growing span of life they have become matters of even greater concern.”
It has been pointed out in the course of this debate that a great shortage of hospitals exists in the community and that the cost of building hospitals is becoming tremendous. The cost of hospitalization is very great, and very often is far beyond the means- of the ordinary person. In the course of the debate, the question was raised whether hospitals could be built and maintained’ more cheaply than is the case at the present time. It would be a great mistake to think that we could have hospitals built cheaply but built in such a way that they would not enable proper care and attention to be given to the sick. The fact that hospitals are expensive to-day is simply part of what has been happening generally in the community. It is part of the rising cost of living and1 expenses, which have grown greatly over the years. A hospital becomes necessarily more expensive with all the additional scientific knowledge of to-day. Whereas in the old days a person who was ill would receive some sort of simple treatment, today a great many processes have to be followed, and a great many tests made, in order to ensure that the patient receives the right treatment. A hospital must have available to it the necessary equipment to enable the required tests to be carried out. lt has been said that medical science is progressing at such a rate that by the time a hospital has been built it is out of date. That may, ot course, be regarded as an exaggeration, but it shows the speed with which medical knowledge is increasing. Hospitals must be constantly acquiring new equipment and adopting new techniques. If persons cannot be admitted to hospital, cither because no beds are available’ or the expense is too great, some form of home treatment must be provided. With that requirement in mind, the Minister has introduced this bill.
The idea of having district nurses visiting patients in their homes is, of course, not a new one. As I have already said, certain organizations have been carrying out this work for a number of years. The district nurses can give treatment that is of great value from a number of points of view. It is of value not merely because of the simple fact that treatment is given, but because the patients are treated in their own homes, with all the comforts that they are used to. A sick person greatly appreciates being treated in his own home rather than in a hospital or similar institution. He has the familiar surroundings of his home and the company of his dear ones. He is as comfortable as he possibly can be, having regard to the fact that he is ill. He derives psychological benefits from being treated in his own home.
Another advantage associated with home treatment is that the patient can be visited by his own local doctor. In the old days we often saw long queues of elderly people standing in the cold outside the out-patients’ departments of hospitals. That practice is, fortunately, becoming a thing of the past. Legislation of the kind before the House is designed to provide elderly persons with proper treatment in their own homes. If a patient eventually is forced to go to a hospital, or if his admission to a hospital is delayed because of the shortage of beds, he has had the advantage in the meantime of treatment in his home.
Besides giving the usual treatment for illnesses, a home nurse can give advice on matters relating to nutrition, diet, and related subjects. Most of the people over 60 years of age, to whom the Minister has referred, do not require to have a nurse constantly at their bedsides. It is often sufficient to give treatment for half an hour a day, or, perhaps, a couple of times during the day. In some cases it is not necessary to give treatment every day. Treatment of some kind is, however, required, although hospitalization is not necessary. If such a patient can be treated at home, a hospital bed is thereby made available for a more urgent case. As I have mentioned previously, the cost to a patient of home treatment is very small indeed, when compared with the tremendous cost of treatment in hospital.
Something has been said in this debate about the medical profession. As a general rule, the doctor who will attend a patient in his own home will be a general practitioner. The cases that will be treated at home may be generally described as chronic cases. They will not require the attention of a specialist. However, I do not propose to be drawn into an argument on the question of whether a general practitioner to-day is less capable than was a general practitioner 30 years ago. It is true that nowadays more doctors specialize, but that fact does not appear to me to show that the general practitioner to-day is less capable than was the general practitioner of 30 years ago. That, however, is a matter of opinion. In my experience, the members of the medical profession carry out their duties with a high degree oskill, and the fact that some specialize and some practice generally does not alter the fact that each of them is able to exercise great skill in his own sphere. To-day there are many medical clinics at which four or five doctors practice. Very often those clinics include general practitioners and specialists, who work side by side. The patient who is treated at home can then receive attention from general practitioners or specialists from nearby clinics, as well as from the district nurse.
The sick persons to whom 1 particularly refer are those who are chronically ill. A great many old people are in this category. Those who have had experience of hospital management have found that it is impossible to keep a chronically sick person in a hospital for any great length of time. Because of the shortage of hospital beds, patients are discharged much earlier than they used to be, and there is no place in most hospitals for persons suffering from chronic illness. For the future treatment of such persons we must look to the district nurse and the local doctor, who can visit the patient in his home.
I believe that this bill will be shown to be of increasing value as time goes by, because the nursing organizations will greatly expand, and treatment will be available for many more chronically ill persons in their own homes. One of the problems confronting the community over recent years has been the shortage of nurses. It may be suggested that this shortage will show up a weakness iti the present measure, but the answer to that suggestion, I believe, is that the home-nursing organization will be able to employ nurses part-time. Many nurses who have married, or who are now elderly, are still capable of doing a certain amount of work each day, and those nurses who, for various reasons, cannot accept full-time employment, will be prepared to undertake part-time employment with the home-nursing organizations. Instead of working for the usual eight hours a day, or whatever it is, they may work four hours or three hours a day. But they will expand the pool of employable labour, and thereby to a great extent relieve the shortage of nurses that affect these organizations if they had to employ full-time nurses. Nursing is a vocation, and those who are attracted to it generally remain in it for life. However, various events in life take nurses away from their calling. This bill may give them the opportunity to go back to it for part of their time and to help in the magnificent work which is being done by homenursing services. It is a fine thing that the home-nursing organizations are to be given the opportunity to expand in this way. It is an excellent thing from their point of view, and it is something which they deserve to give them a fillip to continue the magnificent work they have done in the past. But what is much more important is that the aged sick in the community will be able to obtain much better care.
.- I support the remarks of other honorable members on both sides of the House who have commended this measure. It is good to see that there is among them a great deal of common ground in their opinions on the problems of the aged sick and infirm which are highlighted by this bill. Although 1 commend it, I intend to offer some constructive criticisms in relation to certain aspects of it and of the Government’s treatment of the aged, particularly in relation to their need for hospital treatment. At the outset I wish to commend and compliment the nursing profession on its great contribution to human welfare. I think no words uttered by myself or by any other member of the Parliament could suitably honour the profession for its contribution to social welfare in Australia and other countries. This measure is long overdue. I think that’ if the Labour government had remained in office in 1949 a measure such as this would have been implemented forthwith. Although the bill is long overdue, it is nevertheless acceptable, and it will go some way towards meeting the costs of home-nursing services. But much more could have been done a great deal earlier.
I propose now to deal generally with the second-reading speech made by the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), who at one point mentioned the national health scheme. I believe that every one in the community, whether rich or poor, is entitled to the best of medical attention in time of sickness, whatever scheme must be implemented to provide it. Any hospital scheme, whether or not it be a socialized scheme, that does not provide for the poor as well as the wealthy is not deserving of the support of the people of any country. If it does not give full benefits immediately a person requires medical attention, it lacks the essentials of a national scheme designed to meet the people’s needs. The Australian Labour party’s policy on this aspect of social services is well known. Labour believes that medical and hospital treatment should be available to all, and the Labour government, in the closing years of its term of office, made tremendous progress towards providing for all sections of the community medical and hospital services commensurate with the needs of all without regard to income. But to-day many people, both young and aged, are urgently in need of medical attention which they are unable to obtain because, as has been pointed out, there is a great shortage of hospital beds.
I happened to be a member of the Joint Committee on Social Security, which, on 15th February, 1944, presented to the Parliament a report on a Commonwealth hospital benefits scheme. Other members of the committee were Senator Cooper, who is now Minister for Repatriation, Senator Dorothy Tangney the present honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the late Rupert Ryan, Sir Frederick Stewart, and Mr. H. C. Barnard, who was chairman. Sir Frederick Stewart and other members of the committee could not in any sense be regarded as socialists. Yet the committee presented a unanimous report recommending that the people of Australia should enjoy without the application of a means test, free treatment in public hospital wards! The committee recommended not only the provision of free hospital treatment, but also a scheme under which sufficient hospitals beds might be provided for the free treatment of the people of Australia. The committee’s first recommendation was -
Payment by the Commonwealth from a fund raised by taxation for the purpose of a subsidy of 6s. 6d. per daily occupied hospital bed, for general medical, surgical and obstetric cases, conditional upon … -
provision of public bed accommodation without additional charge to a patient . .; or
an allowance, equal to the rate of sub sidy towards the cost of an intermediate or private bed in a public or private hospital of an approved standard . . . ;
payment into a trust account for the ex tension and improvement of hospital services of any savings resulting to a State from the payment of this Commonwealth hospital benefit subsidy
It was estimated that by postponing the payment of Commonwealth hospital benefits for a year we should be able to build up a fund of approximately £4,250.000 to provide for the improvement and construction of the hospitals that would be needed to give treatment to all who would want it. It was considered that if the scheme were to be introduced immediately, not many people could not be provided for. The committee’s report contemplated an expenditure of £10,000,000 on hospital services. At the present purchasing power of the £1 that would be equivalent to £30,000,000 to-day at a very conservative estimate.
Had the present Government implemented that scheme it would have relieved much of the distress that the Minister mentioned in his second-reading speech. This Government must stand condemned for destroying the free hospital treatment scheme by pointing a gun at the States as it were and denying them funds. The people of Australia to-day need a government pledged to give them free hospital treatment and social services without the means test, which is forcing people everywhere in Australia, except in Queensland, to pay heavily for hospital treatment in negation of the scheme that was introduced at the behest of all parties in the Commonwealth Parliament. The Queensland Government has stood firm on the question of free hospital treatment. It is interesting to note that this Government wishes to forget that it has denied the people free hospital treatment. Government supporters do not mention that to-day the people are paying heavy charges for treatment in the public wards of hospitals because this Government has repudiated part of its former policy and has refused to keep hospital costs down and to proceed with an extensive construction programme.
I notice that the Government says that it is necessary to pay subsidies to homenursing organizations because the cost of treatment has increased greatly. The Minister pointed out that new hospitals cost at least £7,000 a bed to construct, and that it costs £3 a day to maintain a bed in a hospital. I accept the figures as accurate, for that certainly seems to be the state of affairs. But the Government deserves no commendation for its administration of hospital finances. In 1944, when the Social Security Committee presented the report that I have mentioned, 6s. 6d. a day represented approximately 50 per cent, of the cost of maintaining a bed in a hospital, which was then 12s. lOd. a day. We are now told by a government which boasts of its social services programme and its sound economic policy that since 1944 costs have increased by several hundred per cent. The Government must accept the full responsibility for its failure to take effective measures to keep costs down. Its approach to these problems throws overboard the principles enunciated in the report of the Social Security Committee, which was supported by honorable members on both sides of the House. This Government has turned its back on programmes that were implemented by the Chifley Government as a result of that report. Had that report been given effect with respect to subsidies since the Government assumed office, had effective measures been taken by the Government to provide a sinking fund for hospitalization, and had economic measures been introduced to keep down the costs of hospitalization, we would not have been in the parlous state that we are in to-day.
I agree that some measure is necessary in order to relieve the demand for hospitalization. In my own constituency many thousands of aged, sick and infirm people are unable to get hospitalization. Whilst I do not disagree with the speeches of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr.
Joske) and the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), it is not correct to say that this scheme is designed for people who do not require hospital accommodation. The Minister for Health, in his secondreading speech, said -
The majority of patients nursed are those with long-term illnesses such as patients suffering from cardiac disease, arthritis, incurable carcinoma, and so on. Many of these patients are very ill and would be transferred to hospitals and other institutions but for the serious shortage of hospital beds.
What I fear is that this legislation represents a side-stepping attempt by the Government to escape its responsibility to build many more hospitals in this country, to give funds to the States to provide beds and to provide for cases which cannot be adequately catered for in homes. I do not make that statement as destructive criticism. But I hope that Government supporters will not accept the bill as being all that is required because it provides for the payment of a small subsidy, and escape the grave responsibility of seeing that hospitals are built to provide for all who may be aged, sick and infirm.
– That is a State responsibility.
– It is a State responsibility, admittedly. But the people who control the purse-strings of this country are the members of the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Treasurer. This Government has seriously curtailed the loan moneys and other moneys available to the States and has demanded that they cut down on hospital building. The Government will not give the States enough money to enable them to build hospitals, and the States, as the result of this Government’s maladministration, cannot meet the high cost of building. The Government should get back to tors on that question. It is all very well for the Government to say, “ That is a responsibility of the States. They should be building the hospitals “. The Government tells the States, at every conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, to cut down expenditure on schools and hospitals.
– That is not true.
– I know it is true. It serves the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) no good purpose to interrupt because he has plenty on his mind with the aircraft industry and Sir Frederick Shedden. I point out these matters in order to show the Government that, whilst this is a necessary and a good measure, the Government has certain responsibilities which, I hope, it will not side-step as the result of the implementation of this legislation.
The Minister for Health has estimated that the Commonwealth will save, under this scheme, £4,000,000 per annum on the maintenance of beds, and £20,000,000 in capital expenditure. Like the Minister, I am inclined to think that these savings have been very conservatively estimated. We may save four times that amount. In view of the million or so pounds which, I presume* are involved in this scheme and the tremendous benefit to the Commonwealth Treasury from the saving on the maintenance of beds, the Government should apportion that sum of £20,000,000 to the States in order to provide hospital beds for the people who urgently require them.
Again, I point out these matters in order that honorable members will see that, whilst the measure is good as far as it goes, it is belated. In addition, the Government has certain responsibilities which, I hope, it will not endeavour to escape. Many of our aged, sick and infirm people are housed in rest homes. With other honorable members, I say that some rest homes are very well conducted and that the sick and aged are well cared for in them. At the same time, I think that there are a lot of rest homes, particularly in my own State, which should be looked over very carefully, because some people undoubtedly exploit the aged and infirm in order to make a few pounds out of their suffering. That kind of thing must be removed if we are to do justice to these people. The Commonwealth, by granting to the nursing organizations the assistance proposed, will make a contribution to the -solution of this problem.
What amount is involved in this bill we are not exactly told, and I realize that it is very difficult to estimate. But it is beyond doubt that only a very small amount will be allocated to this important section of our social legislation. As the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) said earlier, there are only about 150 nursing -sisters engaged in this calling throughout the length and breadth of Australia. That is a small number, when one considers that there are 9,000,000 people in Australia, and that many thousands of them are aged, sick and infirm. I hope that this bill, even if it does nothing else, will bring into this section of the nursing service many more nurses who could be fully occupied, not only throughout the metropolitan areas, but throughout the country districts. If the bill does nothing else, I hope that it will encourage people to join this service so that the organizations may meet their commitments. I cannot see much reason why the Government could not subsidize every nurse engaged in this service if there are only 150 of them. A tremendous amount of money would not be involved. Of course there are the difficulties, as the honorable member for Wilmot has outlined, in respect of an increase of this nursing service and, at the same time, there may be several difficulties which it might be administratively impossible to overcome. Undoubtedly, the department realizes that, and may yet find that it will be advisable to amend this bill in order to cover all nurses involved, instead of only one or two of a particular type.
I do not wish to speak at much greater length on this bill, but I make these comments in order that honorable members may know that all is not well with respect to the social services programme. A great responsibility devolves on this Government to introduce further legislation which will benefit the people whom we seek to benefit by this legislation - the aged, the sick and the chronic sufferers. I do not want to be uncharitable to the Government. I think that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party in this Parliament’ are no different from the conservatives in other countries. They do not believe in social services legislation. They introduce it only because they know that they will not be re-elected unless they give effect- to social services programmes. There may be some humane members amongst Government supporters. I believe that the honorable member for Moore is a charitable person. But the history of Liberal-Australian Country party governments reveals that they have given effect to social services legislation only because they know that the people will reject them unless they introduce legislation of the kind that Labour has pioneered for the benefit of the people in the social justice sphere. Throughout, it will be found that the socail services legislation of Liberal-Australian Country party governments has been to a great extent piecemeal legislation. I should like this bill to be amended to enable every nursing sister to be covered by it.
I will summarize my views by saying that 1 hope the Government will not sidestep its responsibility in regard to hospitalization. 1 hope that additional grants will be made to provide adequate hospitalization for everyone who needs to go into hospital in the great country centres and the great metropolises of Australia. In my own electorate I have known cases in which people have died because of lack of attention. We must have beds for chronically ill people. The nursing services will find it impossible to cater for chronic cases in certain instances. Unless beds are made available for them, those people could die much earlier than would normally be the case. Therefore, whilst commending the measure as far as it has gone, whilst realizing that the Government is endeavouring, in this case, to do something for the aged and sick, and whilst realizing that the aged and the sick - particularly those who cannot get into hospital yet desire to do so - will receive some benefit from the bill, at the same time I think that it only goes a fraction of the way that it could go to provide an over-all cover. I think that the big problem of social services in this country is that too many people pay too much attention to the question of the pounds, shillings and pence associated with the provision of such services, instead of supporting the introduction and implementation of- legislation to make social services available on a wider scale. The Government can find plenty of money for atom bombs and hydrogen bombs, and for war needs or defence needs, and I am no’ quibbling .about that; but surely it is not too much to expect that a fraction of the amount expended on the means of war could be put aside for expenditure on building hospitals and on providing hospital beds even at a cost of £7,000 each, and also on providing free hospital treatment for people who need it. Surely it is not too much to expect that 150 nurses throughout Australia can be paid more than the bill provides for. particularly when we consider that the budget provides for an expenditure of £1,200,000,000, and that the Treasurer is budgeting for a surplus of £108,000,000 - a surplus which will probably be distributed as tax concessions among the wealthy supporters of the present Administration.
With these few constructive comments, and with my criticism of the Government’s policy on social services, my commendation of what has been done, and my compliments to the nursing profession, which will benefit by this bill, I close my general remarks, but I wish to express a hope thai the Minister for Health, whom 1 regard as a sincere man, and therein quite different from many of his colleagues, will consider expanding the programme provided for in the bill so as to cover a wide field of social services. Whilst I am not very hopeful, I have some little hope that I will be in this Parliament when some party introduces legislation giving social services cover to every person in the community, because I believe that the sick, the infirm, the people who fall on evil days in respect of health and require medical attention, are entitled to it. Any government that does not give effect to a policy of providing a full cover of this sort in social services is not deserving of the confidence of the people and will not get that confidence.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
.- Before the dinner adjournment we heard the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) attacking, to no mean tune, the social services policy of this Government. I should like to join issue with him in regard to much of what he said, because no government has done more for the welfare of the Australian people than has this Government over the last seven years. This bill is yet another example of the principle upon which our social service legislation is based. We aim to help those who are prepared to help themselves. That policy has been clearly demonstrated in the provision of homes for the aged. This Government has contributed to that scheme on a £l-for-£l basis with charitable institutions.
Under the bill organizations providing nursing services in town and country districts will be helped by both the State and the Federal governments - each will play a part. That surely must be a better method than Labour’s old policy of conducting a completely socialized service under which everything is paid for by the Commonwealth Government and nobody need take any interest in whether the money is spent wisely or not. Therefore, I wholeheartedly commend this bill to the House as a far-sighted measure that fulfils a long-felt need. I would only say that in my opinion it possibly does not go far enough, but that can always be remedied in the future.
For many years I have felt the need in my own State of Victoria for expansion of the home nursing service. There is no doubt that a patient .is able to get better much more rapidly if he is being nursed in his own home. The matter of expense has also to be considered. I should like to examine the advantages of the bill from the point of view of the public hospitals, so many of which, in Melbourne especially, have beds occupied by old people who cannot be evacuated to their own homes for lack of an adequate nursing service. There is a tremendous need, in Melbourne and Sydney especially, for the after-care of patients who have been seriously ill. I have in mind particularly older patients. This bill, by helping to expand the home nursing service, will enable old people to leave public hospitals very much sooner after their operation, or period of acute sickness, with the assurance that they will be well looked after during their convalescence.
I should like to speak now as the president of one of the great teaching hospitals of Melbourne. We have for a long time had lengthy waiting lists of people seeking operations of particular difficulty. There are only a limited number of beds.
– Which hospital is that?
– 1 refer to the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, which deals with blindness, and certain diseases of the ear, nose and throat, which probably cannot be treated as efficiently anywhere else in the Commonwealth. If we could feel absolutely certain that some of our patients could be sent to their homes for nursing after an operation and be well cared for, we would be able to cope with the many applications for admittance. That is the main benefit that will accrue from this bill.
Turning now to the other main needs of the special teaching hospitals in Melbourne and Sydney, I should like to join issue with the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) on this matter of the high cost of building hospitals. Possibly he did not distinguish between the special needs of the teaching hospitals and those of the ordinary country and general hospitals throughout the Commonwealth. Already we have seen, especially in Victoria, that the needs of the country hospitals are really being taken care of. If the proposed augmentation of the home nursing service becomes a reality we can say that, within a reasonably short time, there will not be a scarcity of hospital beds in the general hospitals. But there will remain the special needs of the teaching hospitals.
As the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) remarked in his second-reading speech, each bed in a teaching hospital costs about £7,000. In view of the tremendous number of specialized services that have to be provided that ought not to be considered an exorbitant sum. I refer to such things as the cost of special nursing, of the teaching of both doctors and nurses, and of the research that is always carried out in a teaching hospital. Those costs are inescapable if Australia is to remain in the forefront of medical practice.
– How does the honorable member reconcile that with the costs in the United Kingdom?
– Research centres are separated from teaching hospitals to a much greater extent in the United Kingdom than they are here. I can only speak, of course, of the realm of ophthalmology. There is in London a special research institute, and it is financed independently of, say, the general eye hospital at Moorfields. In this country the funds for both research and general treatment must be found by one institution. The honorable member for Isaacs possibly did not realize this.
The main teaching hospitals are to be found in Sydney and Melbourne. Their costs are continually rising and the services that they now provide may have to be curtailed in the very near future.
– Why does not the Government do something about inflation?
– I point out to the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) that the provision of assistance to hospitals is chiefly a matter for State governments. This scheme is an indication of the way in which this Government is prepared to go out of its way to help the State governments to provide hospital services. The teaching hospitals are in need of assistance, and I want to put their case to the Government. If we want to maintain the present standards of medical teaching and research in Victoria, an extra £2,000,000 a year for the next ten years must be made available for building purposes to the eight main teaching hospitals. This Government and the State governments have done a great deal for the welfare of the people by providing hospital and health services, but it will be impossible to continue those services unless an’ adequate number of doctors and nurses is trained - and that training can be given only in the teaching hospitals. The Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne may have to curtail certain essential services in the very near future. The Alfred Hospital, in my electorate, is in a similar plight. lt is finding difficulty in financing its day to day expenditure and its building programme.
We should not neglect any opportunity to bring the needs of the teaching hospitals to the notice of this Government. The work of training doctors must be carried out in conjunction with research work. No programme for teaching either doctors or nurses can be efficient unless, side by side with it, there is a research programme, because research enables a hospital to keep ahead of the needs of medical practice. Only if the needs of the teaching hospitals are met will there be available in future enough nurses to enable the scheme that we are now considering to be extended. The future efficiency of the scheme will be jeopardized if there are not enough nurses available to enable it to be expanded. I agree with the Minister that married nurses will be able to come into the new service on a part-time basis. They will fill a gap in the immediate future, but the supply of nurses must be maintained - and it can be maintained only by an expansion of the teaching hospitals.
I commend the bill to the House. It will help to reduce the present long lists of people waiting for admission to hospitals. When the scheme comes into operation, patients will be able to leave hospital much sooner than now because nurses will be available to look after them in their homes. In addition, many old people will be cared for at home and it will be unnecessary for them to go into hospital. A feature of the scheme that must not be overlooked is that patients who are cared for in their homes probably will get better much more quickly and much more happily than at present.
– This is a bill for an act to provide for the grant of subsidies to home nursing organizations. I am afraid that in the course of the debate we have wandered far from the bill. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) said that an additional £2,000,000 a year was required by teaching hospitals of Victoria for building. Thisbill will not go far in that direction. However, it does represent the first step along a. road that we must travel.
I compliment the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) on this proposal to assist nursing societies which care for people in their homes. I do not know the position in Sydney or Melbourne, but I do know the position in South Australia. In that State, the organization that will benefit most under the scheme is the District and Bush Nursing Society. I do not know of any other organization of any size in the State that will be entitled to a subsidy. The District and Bush Nursing Society has had a very hard row to hoe. I have been a subscriber to the branch of the society in my district for the last quarter of a century. For years I was an active member of thecommittee in Port Adelaide. As a vicepresident of the society, I became aware of the difficulty of finding enough money to carry on with the work.
I should like to put a question to the Minister now so that, if he wishes, he can. reply to it later in the debate. Will this scheme apply to the District and Bush Nursing Society in South Australia as a whole, or will it apply only to the districts where the people raise funds for the nurses?’ I assume that it will apply to the society as a whole. There is a central body in Adelaide, and the suburban municipalities have branches in their districts. In my electorate, we have the Woodville District and the Port Adelaide District, which covers the Semaphore area. I think there are only twonurses in each of those districts, so they have a lot of work to do.
The benefit to the community that will’ accrue from the operation of this scheme, asthe Minister has stated, is that help will be given to people who need attention that cannot be given to them at home by their relatives, but who are not ill enough to require to be kept in a hospital. Some of the patients treated at home by the district nurses are suffering from heart disease. In some instances, the nurse has to visit them every day. Other people are suffering from the after-effects of strokes, as we call them, and are unable to look after themselves. Others are suffering badly from arthritis and need expert nursing attention frequently. The district nurses help those people considerably. Patients occasionally need injections, some of which may be given by relatives, but others must be administered by a qualified nurse or physician. Those nurses are kept very busy indeed. Over the years, our difficulty has been to raise sufficient funds to retain the nurses in our district. Continually rising costs have made this very difficult. As stated by one honorable member opposite, these nurses usually have small motor cars for transport purposes. Without them, the nurses would not be able to fulfil their duties and meet the calls upon them. It takes quite a lot of money to meet all the expenses, apart from the salaries of the nurses. In the poorer districts of the metropolis many patients are not able to make any contribution whatsoever for the services received. Others make small donations to the society or branch in return for the assistance obtained from the visiting nurses.
This measure represents a forward move by the Government, but it is only a first step. I do not think that initially it will make an appreciable difference to hospitals. Some effect, but not much, will be felt. The Minister spoke of extra hospital beds being made available and the saving of the cost of new hospital accommodation. He said that the capital cost for each bed averages about £7,000. I can appreciate that this scheme will help to a degree, but I would say, not in a carping spirit, that the effects of the Government’s actions on hospitals in my own State will make it more necessary than ever for home-nursing activities to be intensified. Adelaide Hospital has, on an average, over 700 inpatients. It is quite a big hospital and for years accommodation and treatment have been entirely free. Through force of circumstances, South Australia has very recently - in fact, during the last few weeks - been compelled to introduce a system of payment by patients of the Adelaide
Hospital. This action has been caused partly by the provisions in relation to Commonwealth grants to South Australia. Western Australia, and Tasmania, whereby they have to charge for public services approximately the amounts charged by the bigger States. In order to qualify for a grant, they have been forced to come into line with the other States. In Adelaide Hospital every inmate, other than age pensioners, is being charged a fee, according to his means. There is provision for assistance to destitute people, but many persons who in the past have gone to Adelaide Hospital will not be able to go there now because they cannot pay the fees being charged. I stress that the hospital is not charging extortionate fees in comparison with the fees being charged elsewhere. The result, to my way of thinking, will be a greater need for district nurses than has existed in the past. The Minister may say. logically, that more beds will thus be made available in the hospital. The waiting list may be reduced to a degree, but the charge may also be the means of keeping out of hospital some persons who should be admitted for expert attention.
To support this bill is to support a course which many years ago I said the Commonwealth should take. In fact,, when I first came to this Parliament, I told the people in my electorate that if I were ever given an opportunity in Parliament to do anything at all for the aged and infirm, I would urge that action be taken. Although we provide social services benefits and pensions for aged and invalid persons, we could do more to assist in providing hospital treatment. It has been said to-day that hospital services are the responsibility of the States. I do not know whether the States would bc prepared to hand over to the Commonwealth control of hospital services, but 1 think that even under the Constitution in its present form the Commonwealth could provide for hospital treatment of age and invalid pensioners. On that point I may be contradicted, but I hope to see that step taken in the future. In introducing this legislation, the Minister acknowledges that the Federal Parliament is responsible, to a degree, for the nursing of the people and the subsidization of nursing services. This is a step in the direction that I have mentioned.
Another benefit which will flow from me extension of nursing services may be felt by aged persons, whether pensioners or not, where one partner is sick and the other is not able to look after the sick one, and they have to go into a government institution. There are a few places where husband and wife may enter the same government institution; generally there are separate wards for men and women. Some years ago I happened to be in Queensland and I went by boat to an island, the name of which I forget.
– Was it Magnetic Island?
– No, it was an island in Moreton Bay, near Brisbane, on which was established a home for old folk. I understand that the institution has since been removed to the mainland. The superintendent met our party and he took my wife and me and a member of the Queensland Parliament over the institution. He showed us the barriers between the female and male sections. The wives were behind an iron curtain, as it were, on one side and the husbands on the other side. 1 thought that such segregation was inhumane. The same conditions prevail to a degree, perhaps without dividing fences, in other States. Persons have come to me and said, “ We do not know what to do. We have become so old that we cannot look after ourselves at home. If we enter an institution we shall be parted and we want to remain in our own home “. I think that that sentiment expresses the desire of old people generally. We need adequate provision for the care in their own homes of old people who are sick. I believe that this measure will help towards that end. I am concerned to know how this scheme will apply to people in rural areas. Let us lake, for instance, a small country town. I do not know that many such towns have voluntary nursing organizations. Some may be visited by district nurses periodically, but I do not think many of them would have organizations to provide daily service. lt seems to me, therefore, that although the scheme will be of assistance, it will be of greatest assistance in the cities and large towns.
On perusing the second-reading speech of i he Minister for Health-
– And a good speech, loo!
– I do not deny that. I am complimenting the Minister for bringing this bill forward, and I think that’ the Minister for Defence (Sir Phillip McBride) appreciates that 1 am doing so. The Minister for Health stated -
In general terms, the Commonwealth’s policy will be to grant to non-profit making homenursing organizations now in the field subsidiesapproximating the salaries paid to nursing sisters employed by them over and above the number ordinarily employed during the year prior to the commencement of the act.
That means, as the Minister has said, that the degree of subsidy will depend on the number of nurses employed by an organization. The Minister went on to say -
Thus, if an organization has ordinarily employed, say, ten nurses during the past year and increases ils staff to twelve nurses when this scheme commences, it will receive a subsidy approximating the salary of the two additional nurses; if it increases its staff to fifteen nurses it will receive a subsidy approximating the salary of five additional nurses.
Again, I ask the Minister whether, if an organization increases its staff from ten nurses to fifteen nurses and the subsidy paid by the State government is not sufficient to meet the cost of those additional five nurses, the full cost will be met by the Commonwealth. I understand that it is the intention of the Government, under this measure, to provide an amount of subsidy not exceeding that paid by the State governments. Therefore, if the number of nurses were increased from ten to fifteen, or by 50 per cent., would not the amount of the Commonwealth subsidy depend on the subsidy being paid by the State government?
I know that the Minister is not responsible for statements made by other honorable members during the debate, but he will remember that the question of eligibility for the subsidy has been raised. Clause 5 (1.) of the bill states -
Subject to this section, an organization which conducts a home-nursing service and is carried on otherwise than for the purpose of profit or gain to its individual members is eligible for a subsidy.
So far as I can see, that is the only kind of organization that is eligible to receive the subsidy. As I stated earlier, it seems to boil down to the fact that, in South Australia,- the only eligible organization will be the District and Bush Nursing Society. The Minister went on to say that if new organizations were formed they would be entitled to subsidy, in respect of the new nurses “employed by them, equal to approximately half the salary paid to each nurse employed on home-nursing duty. I suggest to the Minister that the formation of new organizations will depend largely on whether they are eligible for subsidy by the State governments.
– Surely the State governments will come to the party.
– Yes, I imagine that they will subsidize such organizations, but I maintain that the extension of this form of nursing depends largely upon the degree of State subsidy.
I am not criticizing the Minister in relation to this matter but am merely putting forward points that I think should be clarified. I do not want to debate this bill simply for the sake of doing so. I have been trying to make constructive suggestions with a view to extending the steps which the Minister has already taken. I should particularly like to know what the position will be in areas where there are no day nursing organizations, and I point out that it is not possible to have a daily home nursing service unless there are nurses on the spot all the time. I should also like to know whether the Minister has in mind the provision of assistance in areas remote from the head-quarters of the nursing organizations. In conclusion, I support the measure. It is a departure from previous practice and should receive the commendation of the House. At the same time, we on this side of the chamber would like to see a wider and better scheme than that proposed by the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pearce) adjourned.
– by leave- I think it proper that, at the first opportunity, I should acquaint the House of the rearrangements that are being made in the Cabinet as a result of the resignations of two of my colleagues. I will, first of all, read the list as it will be after the new appointments have been completed. 1 myself, oddly enough, will continue to be Prime Minister, and my colleague, Sir Arthur Fadden, will continue to be Treasurer. Mr. Harold Holt will be Minister for Labour and National Service. He is, of course, in addition, Leader of the House, and I shall refer to that again. Mr. McEwen will continue to be Minister for Trade; Mr. Casey will continue in his present post and Sir Philip McBride in his. Senator O’sullivan will be the Vice-President of the Executive Council, as well as AttorneyGeneral. Senator Spooner will continue to be Minister for National Development. Mr. Townley will be Minister for Immigration and also will perform certain other functions in relation to the Prime Minister’s Department, to which I shall refer later. Mr. Hasluck will continue to be Minister for Territories; Mr. Beale will be Minister for Supply and Minister for Defence Production, and Mr. McMahon will be Minister for Primary Industry. Senator Cooper will be Minister for Repatriation, as before. Senator Paltridge will continue to be Minister for Shipping and Transport and, in addition, will be Minister for Civil Aviation. Dr. Donald Cameron will be Minister for Health, as before; Mr. Cramer will be Minister for the Army, as before; Mr. Davidson will continue to be PostmasterGeneral and will also be Minister for the Navy; Mr. Osborne will become Minister for Air; Mr. Fairhall, as before, will be Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works; Mr. Roberton will continue as Minister for Social Services; and the new Minister for Customs and Excise will be Senator Denham Henty.
It will be seen that I have made several structural changes designed to improve the working of government and administration. The Minister for Defence will, of course, as at present, be in the Cabinet, but the three service Ministers will be outside the Cabinet. This will get rid of what has been to some extent an anomaly, two service Ministers having been in the Cabinet and one not, and will confirm the special responsibility of the Minister for Defence for broad policy.
I am transferring from the Department of Supply to the Department of National Development the following matters: - Uranium, atomic energy, the developmenof bauxite and certain other minerals. All these matters, I have concluded, should be dealt with in association with the other mineral activities of the Department of National Development. They should no longer, in my opinion, be part of the Department of Supply, whose activities are principally, if not entirely, military. I am taking the opportunity to place both the Department of Supply and the Department of Defence Production, subject to the changes that I have mentioned, under one Minister, Mr. Beale.
Mr. Harold Holt, who will from now on have extremely arduous duties as Leader of the House and chairman of what has previously been called the Vice-President’s Committee of Ministers, can clearly no longer continue to administer both Labour and National Service and Immigration, each of which is indeed a busy and extremely important portfolio. I regret very much that, by sheer necessity, Mr. Harold Holt should have to terminate his own administration of immigration, for which the country owes him a great debt.
I am appointing Mr. Townley to be Minister for Immigration. In addition, he will be associated with me in my own department, where he will be able, as Sir Eric Harrison did, to relieve me of the administrative aspects of a number of problems which are associated with the Prime Minister’s Department; for example, the Office of Education, the National University, the universities’ grants, the Public Service Board, and the like.
In addition to his present portfolio of Shipping and Transport, Senator Paltridge will take over Civil Aviation, thus bringing within the purview of one Minister the transport problems associated with shipping, the Commonwealth railways and civil aviation. This is a heavy assignment, but our experience of Senator Paltridge already suggests that he will cope with it.
Mr. Davidson retains the Postal Department, and, in addition, takes over the Navy from Senator O’sullivan, who will become Vice-President of the Executive Council and will continue to be Attorney-General and will, of course, have the particular responsibilities of Leader of the Government in the Senate. Senator Spooner will become Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate.
I am transferring Mr. Osborne to the Department of Air, where his abilities and energies, already shown in his present department, will be of particular advantage in a period of reconstruction. I am nominating Senator Denham Henty to the Department of Customs and Excise.
It will be seen that the number of Ministers will, for the present, stand at 21: It is, in my opinion, undesirable that the Senate representation should be reduced. That would be the result if both Ministerial vacancies, one in the Senate and one in the House of Representatives, remained tinfilled. The statutory authority is for 22: Ministers. I do not propose to ask for any alteration of the act, nor, indeed, may I say, for any alteration of the salaries now paid to Ministers, but will see how the rearrangement of work indicated in my earlier remarks succeeds. The two vacancies in the Cabinet will be filled by Mr. Beale and Mr. McMahon.
Debate resumed (vide page 1651).
– X am sure that the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) must be very satisfied with the reception that his bill has received during the course of the debate to-day. Except for one or two questions from the Opposition, honorable members have unanimously approved the plan outlined by the Minister and expressed their eagerness that this scheme should work to the advantage of the sick people. This is not a scheme that was entered into lightly. A good deal of work, examination and research was devoted to the proposition before it appeared on the business paper.
I want to commend the Department of Health for the very careful analysis that it made of the Australia-wide position in relation to the sick and suffering and the degreeto which their distress could be relieved by this bill. We should pay a tribute to the Director-General of Health, to the officers, who were assigned to the task and in particular to Miss Peterson, who travelled around Australia and gave us the benefit of her extensive knowledge in the field of nursing in general.
This bill will be of great benefit to the people of Queensland. In years past we in that State had a bush nursing service, but the previous Premier became obsessed with the idea of centralization of hospitals. As a result, we have centralized governmentcontrolled hospitals in the major cities throughout the State. The old system, under which boards looked after hospitals. and private hospitals operated, has slowly been subjected to a squeeze. Many of them have faded out and as they faded out great centralized hospitals came into being. Unfortunately, too, the bush nursing services drifted away, mainly because of the neglect and disapproval of the State government. Not so many years ago some very good work was done by bush nurses in my own area. It was sad that the bush nursing associations had to close through lack of government support. They were finally centred in the metropolitan area of Brisbane. The remnants of the bush nursing service are still operating, but the organization is centred in the metropolitan area of Brisbane and does not extend into the country.
– Are there any in the country?
– No, there is not a bush nursing service in the whole of the country.
– Or any other similar body?
– There is no other similar body. In fact, through the centralized hospital plan of the Government, the situation is such that no other hospital can be found within 70 miles of a district hospital. The City of Brisbane has a mammoth hospital on the north side of the river. It is overcrowded and altogether too large. A new auxiliary hospital has been opened on the southern side of the river. But the area from Brisbane to the border with New South Wales does not contain another hospital. If somebody living on the Gold Coast - a glorious holiday resort - took ill, no hospital would be available to him, except a small private one. People needing hospital attention have to be transported 60 or 70 miles to Brisbane. . In my area, Rockhampton has a general hospital, but there is no other hospital for 146 miles west, 246 miles north or 93 miles south of that city. People are compelled to leave their home environment to go to the centralized hospitals.
I could not attempt to measure the advantage of this scheme to the people of Queensland, but I feel it will be of great benefit to them. The only gauge that we can use is the gauge of experience. I recall, that two and a half years ago an energeticMethodist minister at the West End Methodist Church in Brisbane decided to establish a nursing service. The Reverend Arthur Preston, who is rather a dynamic character, as well as conducting his own circuit affairs, set about to establish the Blue Nursing Association in Brisbane. That service has developed rapidly. He found that the need was there, he gained the necessary financial support, and the scheme has expanded so that now a very worth-while organization is operating, and is earning a great deal of praise from the people of Brisbane. I spoke to the Reverend Mr. Preston quite recently about this service. He is grateful to the Queensland Government for the subsidy that it grants, but he made it quite clear that the only reason why the service has not expanded still further is that insufficient funds are available. He said that there wasa need for a larger service. He did not believe that there would be any difficulty in obtaining nurses to undertake this work of travelling around and succouring the sick. The only problem was the lack of sufficient money.
If this service could be built up in Brisbane in two and a half years to the organization that is operating at present while the district nursing service operates in the same city, it augurs well for the establishment of a similar service in other places. The Blue Nursing Service Association in Brisbane, under the direction of this Methodist minister, has extended its activities so that it now controls and operates a nursing service in the nearby City of Ipswich. I am told that the Reverend Mr. Preston receives inquiries from Methodist centres in all parts ofthe State, asking for particulars of his scheme so that a similar service may be established’ in other provincial cities and country centres. I am sure that we will hear more of this service in Queensland, and that it will continue to perform the good work that it has done in the metropolitan area of Brisbane.
In addition to that service we have what I presume to call the remnants of the old bush nursing service, which operates in Brisbane. This measure will provide an. injection of hope and cheer for that service.
– What has replaced that service?
– Nothing has replacedit in the country areas. If a person is ill. he travels by train or motor car or ambulance to the nearest hospital, which, in many cases, even in rather thickly populated areas, is up to 200 miles away.
I was very pleased to learn that His Grace, Archbishop Duhig, the Catholic archbishop of Brisbane, has brought to that city some Catholic sisters who intend to set up a service in the Brisbane area similar to the two that are already operating. For those people also this bill will provide an injection of hope and encouragement. I listened to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) asking, earlier in the debate, “ How do these people get on? “ 1 think it has been made clear that although these Catholic nursing sisters give their time, love and labour for almost nothing, as they expand their staff the payment that will be made to them will be approximately the award wage for a nursing sister.
These services that are being established and expanded demonstrate the great need that exists for them in the Brisbane area, and the fact that they must extend their activities to the country areas. There is evidence that the nursing sisters perform work that is not merely straight-out medical work but is also of great psychological benefit to the people whom they treat. The education that they give in general health matters is also of great benefit. As one who has been privileged to see some of the sisters at work, I can testify to the happiness and contentment that comes into a home that is visited regularly by one of the nursing sisters. In many cases the persons whom they visit are old. As the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) has said, they are frequently people who are getting on in years and find it a little difficult to look after each other. Perhaps the husband or the wife becomes sick, but has no wish to leave the home and go into a hospital, because the task of keeping the home going would be too much for the one who remained. A nursing sister who can call regularly on such a couple will ease the burden, and make it possible for those people to live as we feel they should live, in their own home, under their own roof, and as they wish to live, without being subject to the dictates of any other person.
One honorable member during this debate spoke of his visit to the Eventide home at Sandgate. There is an Eventide home in my electorate. At that home there are wards for people who become chronically ill as they approach old age. I pay tribute to the Queensland Government for the way in which it conducts these Eventide homes. The one in Rockhampton is a place okindness and charity in the truest sense of those words. The male and female hospital wards are located in the centre of the establishment, and around them are small cottages in which two people may live. A cottage may be occupied by a married couple who go there to spend their declining days. They may be occupied by two men or two women who can live together in harmony. A visiting doctor gives his service in an almost honorary capacity. The payment that he receives is very small. He visits the institution daily and takes care of the medical needs of the inmates, whether they are in the wards or the cottages. It is a happy community.
Despite the fact that it is quite a large organization, and that Rockhampton is a relatively small city of about 44,000 souls, there is a long list of people waiting to enter this institution. Persons apply to enter this home for a variety of reasons. The main one is that they need care and attention. 1 am quite sure that the waiting list would be substantially reduced if a district nursing service operated in the town. If a kind nurse could call at their homes regularly, even if only once a week, to attend to their medical requirements, I am sure that many of the applicants for admission to the Eventide home would withdraw their applications. The visiting sisters would be able to give them advice about health matters, and the old couples could continue to live together in the way that they have lived for perhaps 30 or 40 years.
If we can reduce the waiting period for admission to the Eventide home, so that persons who still wish, for a variety of reasons, to enter the home may quickly do so, we will bring happiness to a large number of people. There is nothing more dreadful than the anxiety that I have seen in old people who have applied for entry to an old folks’ home only because they cannot continue to look after themselves outside. They wait until the last moment before making application, because they want to hang on to their own home environment. Having made application, in the desperation of their need, they are told that it may be six or twelve months before they can gain admittance to the Eventide home or the benevolent home or some other institution. During that waiting period they undergo a terrific strain, and they wonder whether they will ever be taken into the home. In many cases I have made application on behalf of these people to the appropriate State Minister, asking him to try to give them early admittance to a home. 1 may receive a letter from the Minister to say that a particular person will be admitted to a home next week, only to find that the old lady or gentleman has passed away in the meantime. It is the long wai. ing period that we must try to eliminate. If we establish a home nursing service to cater for these people, so that they may remain in their own homes, we will do a great deal of good.
I welcome this measure, because it will convey many psychological as well as medical benefits to the people to whom I have referred, lt will enable us to extend the work of the home nursing sisters, and bring happiness to the chronically ill and others who desire to remain in their own homes, so that they may, in the company of their own loved ones, enjoy the benefits of medical care.
I think you, Mr. Speaker, in a private capacity, have made some caustic remarks about the nursing service in Queensland. As I have explained, it is at present limited to the capital city, and to the town of Ipswich, which is some 20-odd miles away.
– A very good town!
– I appreciate the Minister’s unbiased opinion. There are many provincial towns and important country centres apart from Ipswich in Queensland, which is a very big State indeed. Doubtless the Methodist Church, which has gained considerable knowledge and experience in the conduct of the Blue Nursing Service in Brisbane, will extend this scheme to other centres. I believe that the Roman Catholic Church, which has been set an example by the Archbishop in Brisbane, will also extend its service to provincial towns. But there still remains a great need, in a vast countryside, for public-spirited citizens to support the principle of this bill and establish new organizations for home nursing. There are vast country areas in Queensland in which this scheme could be of great benefit. There are many public-spirited citizens who will take up the cry and encourage the establishment anywhere in Australia of voluntary organizations that will qualify for a subsidy of 50 per cent, of the wages of the nurses they employ from the time of their inauguration. Of course, this subsidy will depend upon the payment of a similar subsidy by the State governments. I appeal to those who belong to the same political Labour party as the Queensland Premier and to those who belong to other Labour factions to request the Queensland Government to give full support to the principle of this measure, because I have at the back of my mind a niggling fear that the Queensland Government may not wholeheartedly co-operate in the extension of home-nursing services. This fear is not born of airy thoughts. It is based on experience.
– The honorable member is spoiling his speech now.
– I am stating the facts. These things must be said, because if we examine the past we find that the Bush Nursing Service was severely curtailed by the centralization policy of the Labour Government in Queensland. I hope that the present Queensland Government, under the leadership of Mr. Gair, who, it must be admitted, adopts a policy different from that adopted by Mr. Hanlon when he was Premier - Mr. Gair is more expansive - will look kindly upon this scheme and assist new organizations to establish themselves. If the scheme is to work successfully in Queensland new organizations must be established. The State is too large for home-nursing organizations in every part of it to be controlled by a parent body in Brisbane. Since the payment of the Commonwealth subsidy will be conditional upon the payment of a similar subsidy by the State, the success of the scheme depends upon the goodwill of the Queensland Government, which will have to give it its blessing and extend the subsidy paid to existing organizations on a pro rata basis to new organizations established in country areas.
We need have no fear that there will be a shortage of nurses for this work, as was stated earlier. Although many areas of Queensland are sparsely populated, there are in almost every country centre former nurses who married and who, now that their children have grown up, are prepared to devote themselves again to nursing. There are also nurses who, tired of the officialdom and routine of general hospital work, favour the heart-warming and humane work of home nursing, and widows with children who are able and willing to work five or six hours a day in a home-nursing scheme if they are guaranteed regular work. I cannot think of any district in Queensland, or indeed elsewhere in Australia, where the scheme would be a failure owing to a shortage of nurses, because trained women are available everywhere. They would be favorably disposed to a scheme such as this, and I am sure that when the call goes out women who have had nursing experience will respond, because that experience has given them a love of humanity and a desire to serve it. I am sure that this measure will in every way promote the advancement of nursing services throughout Australia for the benefit of men and women who, though growing old, wish to remain in their home circle, and who need nursing attention and the love; succour and support of those who are stronger and more fortunate.
I commend the bill to the House, and I hope that under the guidance of the Minister for Health and his experienced officers we shall see the scheme work successfully for the great benefit of the people of Australia, as we all desire.
.- No honorable member can take exception to this bill. I do not think the most ambitious Minister would be dissatisfied with the praise which it has been accorded. However, I think it is possible to exaggerate its significance for sick persons and the generosity of the Commonwealth. We are told that after 50 years there are now only 150 district nurses in Australia. I think that is less than one for every 200 nurses in public hospitals, mental hospitals, and repatriation hospitals. The bill contemplates that the Commonwealth will pay the salaries of all additional nurses engaged by organizations which already conduct home-nursing services, and that it will pay half the salaries of the nurses engaged by any new organization established to conduct home-nursing services. Those facts emerge from the second-reading speech made by the Minister for Health (Dr.
Donald Cameron). The only financial commitment which emerges from the bill is that the Commonwealth’s subsidy to an organization shall not exceed the amount paid to that organization by the government of the State in which it operates. So one sees that in fact the Commonwealth’s commitments are quite nebulous and artcertain to be very small.
If it has taken 50 years to get 150 women into this occupation, we can imagine that its subsequent growth, even with the encouragement afforded by this measure, is not likely to impose a burden on the Commonwealth exchequer. The Minister contemplates at the very most that in some years’ time the home-nursing organizations may have quadrupled their employment of nurses. If another 450 nurses are engaged by the existing organizations the Commonwealth will be committed to an expenditure of about £450,000. If new organizations which are established employ another 450 nurses, the Commonwealth will be committed to an expenditure of half thai amount. That is assuming that the salary of these nurses would average £1,000 a year. 1 think many nurses would be happy if their salary did, in fact, average thai amount. Looking at it from the cool standpoint of the outlay involved, one sees very little expenditure on the part of the Commonwealth.
Then one compares the Commonwealth’s commitment here with the commitment that the States have undertaken regarding hospitalization in general. One finds that in the last year for which the Commonwealth Statistician has published figures. 1954-55, the six States spent £44,689,000 in maintaining public and mental hospitals. That averages out at nearly £5 per head oi the Australian population. I repeat that the States have spent £44,689,000 which in view of the maximum commitment ot £450,000 a year which the Minister envisages in this bill, is 100 times the amount that the Commonwealth can conceivably be committed to under this bill as interpreted by the Minister in his secondreading speech.
The debate has ranged very widely, as you will recall, Mr. Speaker, because you have always taken an active interest in this and other social service matters and have been very regular in your attendance during the proceedings of the House. So you will know that the debate has ranged very widely. Therefore, I propose to pursue the debate in some of its nearer reaches. I would think that the truest statement the Minister made was as follows: -
Since the war, it has been impossible for hospital construction to be maintained at a rate in any way commensurate with the growth in population.
That is a statement which will be very swiftly disowned next week by whatever Minister is in charge of the States Grants (Special Financial Assistance) Bill. We are told, on every occasion, by the responsible Ministers that the States are receiving all the money they require for their functions and that if they carry out those funcions inadequately, it is not because of the inadequacy of their finances but because of the inadequacy of their administration. I am not concerned whether functions such as the conduct of hospitals are carried on by local governments as in the United Kingdom, by State governments as in Australia, or by the Commonwealth. The main thing is that the provision of hospitals is one of the necessities which we all admit in a modern society. Yet since the war, under the system, be it Federal or State, wherever one places the blame, the standard of hospital provision in Australia has declined. The waiting list for all hospitals has increased. The period for which patients have stayed in all hospitals has decreased. That is not because the process of healing has been accelerated or because illness has increased disproportionately. It is because we are not installing beds, as the Minister for Health rightly said, at the same rate as we are acquiring population by immigration and by natural increase.
Our rate of immigration is the largest per head of population in the world and our rate of natural increase is larger than it is in most industrial countries. Accordingly, one would think that the proper way in which to approach hospital provision in this country would not be merely by means of this chicken feed, relatively - this provision of an extra £1 for every £100 which is already being spent. That is the maximum amount contemplated. At the moment, no amount is actually forecast. Looked at in that light, this bill surely shrinks into insignificance.
The Minister’s main justification for the bill was not a humanitarian but a financial one. The more district nurses that were made available the more the necessity for installing hospital beds would be obviated. The oldest section of the population, who are the main recipients of the ministrations of district nurses, do, in fact, appreciate the opportunity of staying at home. They do not need constant attention. It is enough for them to receive a daily or weekly visit from a qualified nurse. They do not feel as lonely and they get the more personal attention of their family. Their families appreciate their being at home because they do not have to visit them, at some expense and trouble, in public institutions. But surely it is a rather mercenary way to look at it when one says, as the Minister has said, “ Let us provide more district nurses, and we will escape the obligation of spending money on the erection of hospitals “.
The other lesson which emerges from the Minister’s speech - other than the fact that hospital construction in Australia has been inadequate since the war - is that it is possible for the Commonwealth to make direct subsidies for this sort of purpose. Whenever a question is asked or a suggestion is made in a speech in this place that the Commonwealth should subsidize some activity, the invariable reply to the question, either immediately or at the conclusion of the debate, is that it is a matter for the State governments and that they can subsidize it out of their reimbursements under the uniform taxation system. It is said thai it is not a matter which the Commonwealth administers and that, therefore, it is not a matter which the Commonwealth could subsidize. Yet here we have a case in which the Commonwealth is directly subsidizing one of those functions which, hitherto, has always been carried on - to quote the usual story - by the States.
So never let it be said again that the Commonwealth cannot subsidize these things. If it wishes to subsidize them it can, just as it has granted subsidies with respect to aged persons’ homes and just as it has granted the subsidy under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. Indeed, the amount of money involved in these matters is quite disproportionate to the amount of publicity involved. We have spent the greater part of to-day discussing a matter which will involve, at the very most, in about ten years, the expenditure of £450,000 a year, which is no greater than we dispose of in the discussion on the Estimates in every minute of every sitting day for a fortnight or three weeks.
The concluding point that I wish to make is that this is one of the very few points where the Commonwealth has concerned itself with the provision of hospitals. The other point where the Commonwealth has concerned itself with the provision of hospitals is in regard to repatriation hospitals. As long as we have a system of administration under which the Commonwealth is unwilling to take over further obligations in attending to the sick, we shall have demarcation and jurisdictional disputes between public hospitals and repatriation hospitals. Many honorable members have had cases of this kind: An ex-serviceman, while he has been a patient in a repatriation hospital, has been found to be suffering from a serious illness - a serious illness, however, which was not caused by his war service. Then the repatriation administration has been under the necessity of putting him out of the repatriation hospital, however serious his illness may have been, and letting him find some public hospital in which he can receive attention. I believe that a great number of members have come in contact with such cases. Therefore, the position should be in this country as it is in the United Kingdom or in unitary States, where hospitals, whether veterans’ hospitals or public hospitals, are run or financed by the same authority. In the United Kingdom, for instance, people receive attention in hospitals whenever they need it. A British citizen does not have to go to one hospital if he is an ex-serviceman suffering from a disease caused by war service, and to another hospital if he is suffering from another disease or is in any category other than that of ex-serviceman. If a British citizen is suffering from a condition requiring hospital treatment he or she enters hospital and, if necessary and if desired, automatically receives treatment without charge.
The Australian system of hospitalization is unduly cumbrous and irksome because patients who enter any public hospital in Australia now, except in Queensland, are subject to a means test, whilst people who wish to enter repatriation hospitals have to submit to an examination of the cause of their particular disabilities. There are, in fact, thousands - not just hundreds - of people in Australia whose job it is to determine whether persons are eligible for treatment in repatriation hospitals, or are required to pay for treatment in public hospitals. Would not we streamline the procedure and have a more humane, as well as a more economic and efficient, system if everybody who needed hospital treatment were freely admitted to public hospitals? That could be done and all these jurisdictional and demarcation issues would disappear overnight if the Commonwealth were to say to the States, “ We shall accept the administration of hospitals “, and if the States said, “ Yes, we shall pass the hospitals over to you “. If the Commonwealth took over the hospitals and spent on them, proportionally, the money and care which it spends on repatriation hospitals, which are, I believe, the best hospitals in Australia, everybody in this country would be immeasurably better off in respect of medical treatment.
This is not something beyond our means. It has been done in the United Kingdom under the system introduced by a Labour government and maintained by a Conservative government. It is practical and feasible in a properly run modern State. But as long as we have this absurd federal system applying to health, then we shall always have this passing of the buck, with the States saying, “We do not get enough money from the Commonwealth to erect and conduct hospitals, and we now have to charge for admission “, and the Commonwealth saying, “ That is a State matter; therefore we can wipe our hands of it “. This unctuous Pilate-like attitude is surely at least two decades out of date.
It ought to be possible for all medica treatment for the whole population to be given in public hospitals, run by the same authority and financed by the same authority. I know that it will be said that hospitals have always been a State responsibility, and that under the Constitution we cannot do anything about them. But if we look at the Constitution we shall see that the word “ hospital “ did not occur in it until the 1946 amendment, in which it occurs in connexion with hospital benefits. An examination of the budgets of the States in 1901, when federation came into being, shows that the subsidy paid by State governments to all the hospitals within their borders were even less than the amount which will be paid by the Commonwealth under this bill, the objects of which are limited. Because hospitals are not mentioned in the Constitution, we cannot administer hospitals, but this bill shows that we can spend anything on them that we wish to spend. Therefore, I take this opportunity to make a plea for the co-ordination and the modernization of Australian hospitals on a national basis. Perhaps it suits some of the wealthier parts of Australia, some of the wealthier cities, the big capitals, to have the system as it is. But people fall sick in the outback just as much as in the cities, and if we are to have uniformity in health services - and not least in hospital services - throughout Australia, wherever Australian men and women live and work, we ought to have the hospitals financed and administered by the Commonwealth. I believe that the States would jump at the opportunity of the Commonwealth taking over the hospitals. If they did not they could never thereafter complain about the Commonwealth’s parsimony.
I wish to conclude by saying that this bill is a good step in the right direction, but it is only one step, a very tentative step. It will provide, at the very most, only £1 for every £100 that is already being spent on hospitals in Australia. It will pay, at the most, for only one nurse in every 200 nurses in Australia. I hope the Minister is encouraged by the cordial reception the measure has received on all hands to do better in subsequent sessions of the Parliament.
.- It is indeed a treat to rise to speak in support of a bill that has received the unanimous support of all parties in the House. May I add my congratulations to those extended to the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) for the valuable part he has played in the preparation and presentation of this bill. The measure truly typifies Liberal principles. The basis of the bill, is that government will help the people to help themselves. We, as Liberals, do not believe in laisser-faire. We do not believe that government should do nothing in respect of humanitarian problems; nor do we believe in socialism and that government should do everything for the people. This bill represents a partnership between government and people - a partnership under which the Government says to the people, “ We shall help those of you who are doing the humanitarian work of caring for the sick, those of you who are providing bush and district nursing services, to expand your activities “.
We recognize the valuable work that is being done, and has been done, by the district nursing organization, and we desire to help that organization to expand its activities. We shall do that for humanitarian reasons but at the same time we are not unmindful of the valuable aid that this measure will give to the various governments in Australia. The Minister for Health has said that at present the average capital cost of a hospital bed is £7,000, and that the average cost of maintaining a patient in hospital is £3 a day. lt is perfectly obvious that it is most uneconomical, most wasteful, to send people to hospital on occasions when they can be better cared for in their own homes; so the policy of the Government is to give every aid in the provision of nursing services in people’s homes. The Minister has pointed out that threequarters of the persons attended to by district and bush nurses are of pensionable age. Within that class in Australia there are at present 1,000,000 people of pensionable age. Inevitably one must expect a considerable amount of sickness when one’ reaches advanced age. It does not help the old person, or for that matter the State or the Commonwealth, to put him in hospital if he can be treated better and more economically in his own home. The plan embodied in this bill is humanitarian, in that it allows aged people to receive adequate treatment in their own homes, and it is economical in that it allows them to receive treatment in a place other than a hospital.
Those of us who have carefully studied the problem of age realize that the aged can be classified in four main groups. First, there are those of pensionable age who are able to look after themselves in all respects, and whose main needs are adequate finance and housing. The second class consists of those who are able to look after themselves in certain respects but cannot, for example, cook or do other essential things. Thirdly, there are those who are not hospital cases but need a certain amount of nursing. Fourthly, there are those for whom only hospital treatment is possible. When we look at those four groups we find that this Government has done something to meet the particular requirements of each. Those who are able to look after themselves are provided for by not only the pensions legislation but also the very valuable Aged Persons Homes Act which was passed last year to provide subsidies for churches and charitable organizations willing to build homes for the aged. In pursuance of that legislation Aged Cottage Homes Incorporated, a charitable organization of which I have the honour to be chairman, has, in my electorate, raised money for this purpose and received a subsidy. The organization is providing, at a cost of £500 for each aged person, accommodation of which any honorable member might be proud. The actual cost of a group of homes for three aged couples, or six aged persons, is £6,000. Of this the organization raises, with the aid of a charitable and generous public, £3,000. The Commonwealth provides the remaining £3,000. This means that every person who subscribes £500 is, in effect, providing accommodation for one aged person. The organization proposes to go on and build homes for married couples, for widows, and for aged single persons, until the whole problem of housing the aged is solved. The nursing service will be of tremendous value to this organization because the district nurses will be able to visit the aged in their own homes if they become sick.
Members of the next group that I have mentioned are able partly to look after themselves, but cannot cook or otherwise provide for all their needs. They are being cared for, under the Aged Persons Homes Act, mainly by religious institutions. In my own district there are the Church of Christ Christian home, the Salvation Army home, the Eventide home, the Felixstowe Methodist home and the Illoura home, which is conducted by the Baptist Church. In another area there is the Church of England St. Laurence home for the aged. Since the passing of the Aged Persons’ Homes Act these organizations have been able to build additional wings in these magnificent homes so that more of the aged can be given full board and accommodation. Here again the district nurses will be invaluable. The sick will be able to receive treatment without having to go to a public hospital.
The next class, those who are sick, are now being cared for in infirmaries. A number of hones which I have mentioned, for example, Felixstowe Methodist old folks home and St. Laurence’s Church of England home have, since the passing of the act, either erected, or intend to erect, infirmaries for old people who are able to walk about, but suffer intermittent sickness which would ordinarily necessitate hospital treatment.
We can see how this Government, since it has been in office, has quickly filled the gaps in the methods of meeting the needs of the aged. Although the operation of this bill is not, as the Minister has stated, in any way limited to the aged, at least threequarters of those who will be attended by the district nurses will be in that category. Therefore, I believe that the bill is a challenge to the people of Australia. It virtually says to them, “ Are you prepared to solve this problem of medical and nursing care for the aged? If you are, go to it. Raise money in your own districts and the Government will assist by the means provided in the Aged Persons’ Homes Act and the Home Nursing Subsidy Bill.” This is a challenge to every member of Parliament, who should ask himself what he is doing to solve the problem in his own district. Is his district nursing society standing still, or is it prepared to go forward and expand its activities, and receive the subsidy that the bill offers, to enable it to provide additional nurses? This is a challenge to every mayor, who should ask himself whether in his district there is a problem of the aged, and, if so, whether he is availing himself of the facilities that the Government has to offer. Every mayor should ask himself whether he is encouraging people to give money to the charitable organizations and the religious organizations which are providing homes and nursing services for aged people. This is a challenge to the people of Australia, to municipalities and to members of Parliament. It is up to us to solve the problem.
It has been said repeatedly in this House that, no . finer measure was presented to the Parliament than what is now the Aged Persons’ Homes Act. It has worked wonders in the short time that it has been in operation, but I should like the people of Australia to know that although this Government has appropriated £1.500.000 for the purposes of the act in each of the last two years, not all of the money has been used. In 1954-55, only £783,979 was used. In that year, almost £800,000 of government money available to churches and charitable organizations was not taken up. In 1955-56, the amount paid out was £699,000, so again nearly £800,000 of the money appropriated was unspent. In this year, because the demand is not there, only £700,000 has been appropriated.
There is no doubt that we have a problem of the aged in Australia, lt is up to us, as citizens, to solve that problem. We will not solve it by saying that the care of the aged is the responsibility of the States or of the Commonwealth. It is our responsibility. We owe to the aged people everything that we have in the country. Every house, factory, street and park is the fruit of their labour and their savings. We have inherited all of those things. Are we prepared to say that somebody else should do something for the aged? It is up to us to tackle the job and see that homes for the aged are built and that nursing services for them are provided. We should throw the whole of our weight behind the district and bush nursing societies to ensure that in every district the societies will have sufficient backing and financial help to enable them to collect subsidies from the Government. There should be a nurse in every district.
.- Honorable members have been very generous in their praise of the Government for presenting the bill to the Parliament, but, in my opinion, the most pleasing feature of the bill is the preamble, which states that it is a bill for an act to provide for the grant of subsidies to home-nursing organizations. After the conclusion of the preamble, the bill becomes less attractive. Provision is made for subsidies to be paid to homenursing organizations, but many conditions are imposed.
We are grateful to the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), on the Government side, and to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), the Opposition Whip, on this side, for the explanations they have given of the provisions of the bill. They have explained the clauses very clearly. I find that although the preamble to the bill refers to the grant of subsidies to home-nursing organizations, subsidies will be paid only if a nursing organization increases its staff beyond the number em- ployed at the time the legislation comes into operation. If an organization has a staff of twenty nurses who are visiting homes and providing a much needed and’ much valued service, it will not receive a subsidy unless it increases its staff. If it engages two more nurses, the subsidy will be paid only in respect of those two nurses. Therefore, it is not very apparent why honorable members opposite gave high praise to the Government and the Minister. I agree that subsidies should be paid to nursing organizations, but I say that they should be paid on the basis of the staff employed now.
The Minister and the honorable member for Wilmot have made it clear that there are, in Australia, only 150 nurses available to provide a most desirable service to a population of nearly 10,000,000 people. As the number of nurses has not increased to an appreciable degree during recent years, it is doubtful whether the Government will bc asked to pay much by way of subsidy under this measure. I do not wish to detract from the value of the principle underlying the bill, which I support, but I feel that as the bill has been given so worth while a preamble, something equally worth while should have been included in the body of the bill.
In the electorate that I have the honour to represent - which comprises South Brisbane, in effect - there are several organizations supplying this much appreciated service to the people; Three of them are conducted by religious organizations. The District Nursing Service is conducted by the Anglican Church, the Blue Nursing Service is conducted by the Methodist Church and the Brown Sisters Service is conducted by the Roman Catholic Church. If the effect of the legislation is to enable those organizations to engage more staff, much will be achieved, and citizens who enjoy the benefits of home-nursing services will applaud the legislation. But the Minister has made reference to the subsidy approximating the salaries paid to nursing sisters employed by the organizations or societies. It will be admitted that the District Nursing Service and the Blue Nursing Service employ nurses and pay them a salary, but what will happen in relation to the third organization, the Brown Sisters, the members of which receive no salary and ne money by way of donation from the persons whom they serve? They pledge themselves to the work, they take the vow of poverty, and they attend only persons who cannot afford to pay. I take it, from a close perusal of the provisions of the bill and the Minister’s speech, that the Brown Sisters will receive no subsidy, because reference is made to the salary which is paid to nursing sisters. I hope that my interpretation, which is based on the purity of the English language, is wrong. The only person who may satisfactorily correct me is the Minister who, I hope, will be able to do so when he closes the debate after 1 have concluded my speech.
The Minister has referred to the great savings which will be made by the State governments, because his investigations show that less capital expenditure will be involved in the construction of hospitals and the provision of hospital beds. The capital cost of each bed in a public hospital has been estimated to be £7,000. In my opinion, this statement of figures has been somewhat overdone, because while I pay full tribute to the Minister, who is a highly skilled medical man, I think that many of the persons who will be receiving benefit from the services of home-nursing organizations and who have received it in the past would not be admitted to public hospitals. They are not in such a bad state of health as would permit their admittance, but the attention that a district nursing organization can provide alleviates the worry of the sick person and of other members of the family. I think that there has been considerable over-emphasis of the saving that will be made by the operation of these provisions.
The Government of Queensland is very generous to district nursing services and public hospitals. The Brisbane City Council also plays its role in subsidizing the District Nursing Service in Brisbane, to a small amount, 1 admit, but even a small amount is acceptable. The Queensland Government is most liberal - spelt with a small “ 1 “, because it is a Labour government - in subsidizing district nursing services and public hospitals, and it is the proud boast of every Queensland government that because of Labour’s policy in that State Queensland leads the States of the Commonwealth in the standard of public hospital facilities available to the people of Queensland and, I must admit, the northern part of New
South Wales. The Government will even subsidize the construction of hospitals by religious organizations if public wards are provided in the hospitals. That, of course, is an explanation of the satisfactory position that exists in Brisbane. I must not trespass on your generosity, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, by discussing the excellent system of hospital services that prevails in Queensland, because 1 should be committing a breach of the Standing Orders and, as you know, I should be the most reluctant member of this House to commit that grievous offence, but I could, if you would so permit and I were of that frame of mind, speak for longer than the Standing Orders allow about the wonderful policy of the Queensland Government in relation to hospital services. I do agree with the title oi the bill and I say, in charity, that the Government deserves some commendation for introducing the measure. The bill leaves itself .open to innumerable amendments, which I am sure the succeeding Labour government will make as soon as it takes over the treasury bench.
– in reply - 1 should like to thank the House for the generous way that it has received this bill, and also for the remarks of approbation that have been made about officers of the Department of Health, particularly the Director-General of Health and the principal of the Division of Nursing, as well as other officers. They have done a great deal of investigation work in getting this measure ready, and I am very grateful to them for what they have done. I propose to reply briefly, as far as I can, to the various matters that have been raised by honorable members during the debate on the motion for the second reading, but first I should like to say that this is not a measure which any one claims will immediately bring into operation a vast new network of services or will make some immediate, revolutionary change in the state of affairs that prevails at present. No one makes any claims of that nature for it. What I said in my second-reading speech was that I believed it would be very valuable. I believe that it will, and that time will make it more valuable still. I accept the view of honorable members that it may be susceptible of amendment later on. It is, I believe, a beginning, and it establishes a principle, and
I hope that we can work on it. I have no doubt that it will require changes in the future, and I hope that when they are made they will be received as well as the original measure has been received to-day.
I would also like to make it plain that we are not, in this measure, asking the States to undertake some new commitments of a nature that they are not familiar with. In fact, in every State except Tasmania, to which I will refer a little later, there are already organizations of what we may call district nurses, which are assisted by the State governments. We are proposing to supplement the resources of those organizations still further. I want to emphasize that this is a measure to assist voluntary organizations. If new ones are set up and can attract subsidies from the State governments, we are prepared to assist them, provided that the requisite conditions are fulfilled. So, while it is perfectly true that the bill provides that Commonwealth assistance shall not exceed State assistance, it does not appear to me that there is any reason to imagine that the States will suddenly reverse the procedure which they have employed for years and cease to assist these organizations.
There has been some discussion about the position of hospitals, and one or two honorable members have suggested that perhaps this bill may be construed as an endeavour to keep people away from hospitals. That is a perfectly baseless fear. The Government has no intention of doing anything like that, and I do not think that there is any real substance in the idea that it might do so. There is no antagonism at all to hospital services. There are many cases which are suitable only for treatment in hospital, and the fact that this measure, I hope, will provide more assistance to domiciliary medicine I am sure will not have the effect of making general practitioners averse to sending patients to hospitals when they really ought to be in them.
Now, sir, I should like to say a few things about the finances of hospitals, and I shall say them in no partisan spirit. There has been considerable discussion to-day about the provision of finance for hospitals, so I should not like it to be thought that the Commonwealth Government is indifferent to this question. 1 acknowledge straight away that there is an immense problem of hospital finance existing in Australia. But let me make it plain to the House how hospitals are financed and the part that the Commonwealth plays in doing so. Hospitals are, of course, basically the responsibility of the States and within the control of State governments. Funds for them are State funds which come from three sources. First, they come from loans, the amount of which is allotted, not by the Commonwealth Government, but by the Australian Loan Council. Secondly, they come from the many millions of pounds by which the Commonwealth has supplemented loan raisings. The third source, of course, is the tax reimbursement which the States receive according to the formula. It is within the prerogative of the States, and, in fact, a matter for them, to decide how much of those funds they make available for their hospitals.
There has been some discussion during the debate about the question of free hospitals, and I want to point out that this is not a decision which can be made by the Commonwealth Government, nor, in fact, does it attempt to do so. It is purely a decision to be made by each State government, and, in fact, it is made on a different basis . in each State. If public hospitals charge patients who go into public wards, then that is a decision made by the government of the State and is entirely separate from any decisions made by the Commonwealth Government. But, in fact, there have been made available, directly or indirectly by this Government, in addition to what the States themselves make available from the funds about which I have just been speaking, other very considerable sums of money over the last six years. In hospital benefits alone, from 30th June, 1949 to 30th June, 1956, the States received from the Commonwealth Government, by way of hospital benefits to supplement what other funds they had for hospitals, no less a sum than nearly £60,000.000.
– ls that government hospitals?
– Yes, government hospitals.
– And not the others?
– It has been made available by way of hospital bed subsidy. Some of it would have been for private hospitals, but of course, very little.
The vast bulk of it would have been for the State or public hospitals. In any event, it is a very large amount. In addition to that, the Commonwealth Government is providing, in instalments for capital expenditure by the States on mental hospitals, the sum of £10,000,000, and over and above that, the Commonwealth has assumed all the responsibility for providing capital expenditure for all the chest or tuberculosis hospitals which are being built all over Australia and which has amounted, in the same period of time, to a little more than £7,000,000. So, we have now come to a sum of something like £77,000,000, not all yet expended, but most of it expended within the last six years. When honorable members opposite stand up in this House, therefore, and say that the Commonwealth is perhaps not doing all it could for the State hospitals, all I can say is that the record for six years is not a bad one.
Having said that about the hospitals, 1 want to come back to the particular things which honorable members have said about the provisions of the bill. 1 was rather amazed to hear the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) say that the standard of general practice in Australia had deteriorated in recent years. Perhaps his experience of general practice is more extensive than mine, but all I can say is that I am very surprised that he should think so. Two honorable members raised the question of the Brown Sisters and whether they will be eligible for subsidy under this legislation. That brings me to say something about the basis on which we have decided we should calculate the allotment of funds to the various district nursing societies. We must have some basis for doing it. As I have pointed out, the object of this bill is to assist voluntary organizations. We propose, in general terms, that for those that are already in existence, a sum of money should be provided when they add another nurse to their staff, roughly equivalent to the salary which that nurse would be paid; but that does not mean that the society is, therefore, compelled to use that sum of money specifically to pay a nurse’s salary. It is only a basis of calculation to arrive at a sum, and it will, of course, be paid into the general funds of the society and used for whatever purpose the society wishes to use it. It is a matter of no concern to the
Commonwealth whether the society pays its nurses a salary, or whether they work without salary. The basis of calculation is merely taken as, roughly, the amount of a nurse’s salary, and the society will add it to its general funds and use it as it wishes. The Brown Sisters, therefore, will be just as eligible as will any other organization to receive the subsidy.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) referred to bush nursing in Tasmania and pointed out that this was entirely a government service. As this is a bill to assist voluntary organizations, it would not, of course, be feasible, proper or, indeed, sensible to pay the subsidy to governments. On the one hand, the organization is already, apparently, adequately provided for by its own State government, and on the other hand, the Bush Nursing Association of Tasmania, in particular, and other bush nursing associations in general, maintain hospitals for which they are entitled to draw hospital benefits under the National Health Act, so that they are in fact already being assisted by the Commonwealth.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) asked whether the Government would make the subsidy available - I think I have this right - to the head-quarters of an organization or to its various branches. I do not think that that question is susceptible of being answered categorically. Each case would have to be judged on its merits. The general intention is not to make the conditions onerous for a society, but to treat the matter as sensibly as possible. In general terms, it probably would be easier for the Government to negotiate direct with the head-quarters of an organization, but that may not always be the case. In any event, the honorable member will realize that the bill provides that the organization must first attract a State subsidy. If it is doing that, then it can attract Commonwealth subsidy to match the State subsidy.
– The State treats the society as a whole.
– Yes, we also would probably treat it as a whole, but we do not want to attach onerous conditions to the societies. We intend to examine each case and treat it on its merits. I do not think that T have left any questions unanswered.
– What would be the position if the number of nurses were reduced?
– I think we will deal with that when it occurs. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) asked what would we do if an organization had branches in, different States. In general terms, the answer to that is the same as the answer I have given to the honorable member for Port Adelaide about different branches in the State.
I am grateful to the House for the reception it has given to this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Sir Philip McBride) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is not in the House at the moment, because I want to refer to a matter which concerns him. This matter is causing some mental anxiety and distress not only to members of this House but also, I understand, to people outside this House. As all honorable gentlemen are no doubt aware, litigation upon a certain matter is proceeding in a certain State. Stories by way of rumour have referred to this litigation.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in raising a matter dealing with litigation? The matter is before the courts.
– Order! The honorable member for Port Adelaide is correct. Any reference to the litigation would be out of order.
– May I put it this way, without contravening the Standing Orders? I understand, by way of rumour - and the rumour has been given a certain amount of backing by newspaper reports - that the Leader of the Opposition has been in touch with one of the parties involved. I, for one, say quite plainly that I find it difficult to believe that the right honorable gentleman, who leads Her Majesty’s Opposition in this Parliament, and who is a former jurist, a former President of the General Assembly of the United Nations and a man with great forensic skill, would disturb the elements of propriety in this matter. I hope that the right honorable gentleman will deny that this circumstance has occurred. I hope that if he does deny this rumour, every newspaper which has published his connexion with one of the parties to the matter to which I have referred-
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in speaking of some report in a newspaper in connexion with the litigation?
– Order! The honorable member is not making any reference to the litigation now.
– I also rise to order You, Mr. Speaker, have ruled previously that any reference to a matter which is sub judice cannot be debated in this House. I understand that the honorable member for Moreton has referred to some communication
– Order! I have already given a ruling on that point and I ask the honorable member not to canvass it. Any reference to the litigation would be out of order.
– I am submitting-
-Order! I ask the honorable member for Darebin not to canvass my ruling. I ask the honorable member for Moreton not to make any reference to the litigation.
– I conclude by asking the right honorable gentleman whether he could resolve the anxiety which attends many people by affirming or denying the rumour.
– Whether or not the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) progressed as far as he intended, I think I should say a word or two on this matter. I will not be placed in the position of commenting before this National Parliament on the litigation that is now pending, upon the parties to it, or upon any of the charges made in relation to it; still less will I comment on the personal charges which affect one of the litigants. I will not do it. Last evening the press asked me to comment on this matter and 1 declined to do so. I told the press that I thought any comment from me would be a contempt of the court of Tasmania because the case is pending. Nevertheless, none of the papers that referred to this matter published my statement that I could not comment for that reason.
I do not think the honorable member has any anxiety about this matter except the anxiety to say something that is embarrassing to me. He is not worried about anything else. I regret to say that on more than one occasion he has made a personal attack on me. Having said that, I want to say this: 1 have never at any time considered, or expressed any opinion on, the personal charges which have been featured in the press and with which, naturally, I was associated because of the publication of a reference to me in the newspapers. The case involves issues quite different from this litigation. It involves a question, on which a public inquiry was held in Tasmania, of the rights of professors, the limitations of those rights and so on. Again, it is scarcely possible to say a word on that without going into the matter with which the judges of the court are now dealing. I submit that is an improper thing. I am not criticizing your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but it is not proper to do that at this time. At the appropriate time I will say something.
I assure the House that I have done nothing improper. I have done nothing in any way contrary to what is proper for me to do not only as a member of Parliament but also as a member of the bar.
.- I desire to raise a matter of some importance in relation to the way in which the Government has been dealing with reports of the Tariff Board. There were a number of characteristics about the presentation of the report of the Tariff Board for 1954 in September, 1955. First of all the date of its presentation to the Parliament was much too late. Further, it was presented at 1.30 a.m. in the Senate. This report was not signed by one member of the board, who disagreed with parts of it.
When the report of the Tariff Board for 1956 was presented to the Parliament, it was again late. The date was outside the period laid down in the act for the presentation of the report, and the document contained the signature of one member of the board, Mr. A. Date, with a special proviso. The proviso read -
Signed at Kew, Victoria, subject to the observance of the provision of the Act and reply to letter dated ‘15th December, 1955, to the GovernorGeneral.
He did not sign the report last year. As a result of the situation, I placed a question on the notice-paper on 14th June last, but it was not until 4th October that that question was answered. Why did the Minister take that length of time, from 14th June until 4th October, to answer quite a simple question? The important part of the question was as follows: -
In view of the responsibility of members of the Tariff Board to Parliament, is it desirable that, when a member of the board dissents from other members, the other members may be able to exclude altogether his opinions from the report?
The Minister, on 4th October, answered that question in this way -
When the board is preparing the annual report under section 18 of the act, the inclusion of dissenting views would, I take it, be considered by the board in the light of its views on the question whether the minority opinions were of sufficient relevance and importance.
I want to know whether, in this particular case, the board did so consider the matter. What occurred in the Tariff Board’s private deliberations, when it was decided to exclude from the report the opinion of one member of the board, who is under an obligation, cast upon him by the act under which he was appointed, to report directly to Parliament? What right have the other members of the board to exclude from the report the opinion of a member of the board whose responsibility it is to report directly to Parliament?
– I rise to order. I desire to direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that no Minister of this Government is taking the slightest notice of the charges and remarks of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns).
– Order! No point of order is involved.
– By way of reply to the last part of my question, the Minister decided not to present this dissenting opinion to the Parliament, but to place it upon the table of the Library. What procedure was he following in taking that action? The strange situation arises in which the report of a member of the Tariff Board, who is obliged under the provisions of the act under which he was appointed, to report directly to Parliament, ends up on the table of the Library. I should think that the Minister would hardly take to the table of the Library a report unless he was satisfied that its contents were of some importance. Yet it has been freely said concerning that report of a member of the board that the opinions were “ open to question “, that it was “ a cause for great concern “ and “ quite misleading “, and that because these remarks have not been withdrawn the member signed the annual report for this year in the manner that 1 indicated, showing that he had written to the GovernorGeneral. Did the member of the board receive a reply from the Governor-General? What is the position of this board member at present in relation to this matter? The opinions, as I have said, have now been officially produced in the proper manner. It now appears that the Minister felt justified in placing these opinions on the table of the Library, but not in presenting them in this House. If the opinions of a member of the board can be treated in this way, and if the board itself has the power to exclude from its report the opinion of one of its members, a very serious situation arises.
Another matter that I raised by way of a question on notice last week concerns the investigation by the board of the woollen worsted industry, which took place in April and May, 1955. The report of the board on that industry was sent to Canberra on 15th February of this year, but the Parliament has not yet been given any indication as to when that report will be presented to it. It appears to me that the act under which the board was appointed requires such a report to be presented directly to the Parliament - not to the Minister, not to the Department of Trade, but to the Parliament. If the Department of Trade wishes to subject this report to any kind of scrutiny, which I understand it has been doing, or if other departments desire to do so, or if the Minister wishes to scrutinize the report in order to see in which way it accords with Government policy, the report must first be presented to this Parliament, so that the Parliament itself can scrutinize it at the same time as the Minister does so.
I suggest that the two matters that I have brought to the notice of the House indicate that conditions within the Tariff Board itself are such that the opinions of a member of it can be excluded altogether from the report by the decision of other members of the board, ls this a correct and proper procedure? The circumstances surrounding the submission of the 1955 report of the Tariff Board, and its report on the woollen worsted industry that was sent to Canberra on 15th February, indicate that the decisions made by the department or the Minister could amount to contempt of the Par*liament and of the proceedings of the Parliament, because the reports are required to be presented not to the Minister but to the Parliament.
– By whom?
– By the Tariff Board and by the members of it. That is their responsibility under the act. The reports should not be side-tracked into the department for scrutiny and kept there for months on end. They should not be placed on the table of the Library. They should be presented to this Parliament, lt is the responsibility of the members of the Tariff Board to do this.
The very serious situation to which I have directed attention is evidence of the bureaucratic methods that are being adopted in this capital city of Australia. lt is an indication of the methods being adopted by a government that has little regard for the responsibilities of this Parliament or for the fact that the Parliament should discharge its function. How can the Parliament discharge its function when it is being denied, by improper procedures, the facts in relation to important matters of this kind?
This is a matter that should be placed before the House at this time with all the stress that we can lay upon it, and I would hope that members of the Australian Country party, who should have a special interest in seeing the Tariff Board carries out its functions properly, would support my submissions.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to refer to a matter that vitally concerns a member of this Parliament in the person of Senator Amour. As honorable members are aware, Senator Amour has been very ill for a considerable time. He is suffering acutely from osteoarthritis, which has been accepted as a war-caused disability. Yet this Government refuses to provide him with transport backwards and forwards to this Parliament so that he can attend to his parliamentary duties. In my opinion, Senator Amour is to be commended for the great courage that he has displayed in continuing to attend this Parliament regularly when he is under such a great handicap. Instead of providing him with adequate transport, the Government is doing everything possible to prevent him from continuing to function as a senator. Together with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the Deputy Leader, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), 1 took this matter up with the responsible Minister, who expressed a great deal of sympathy, but I have learned to-night that he has cancelled the arrangements for Senator Amour to use a government car.
Let us examine the position. Here is a veteran of World War I. who, in the course of his service, was blown up and buried for a considerable time, and then lost his voice. He is now suffering a disability as a result of his war experiences, and this Government, which is always talking about its consideration for ex-servicemen, has set out to victimize him, probably because of political bias, by refusing him adequate transport facilities.
If the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), under whose administration the transport of members comes, raises the question of the cost of sending a car backwards and forwards between Canberra and Sydney to transport Senator Amour to and from the Parliament, 1 shall tell him one or two things. First, in order that Senator Amour may attend to his duties in this Parliament, he is now obliged to travel by rail. There is no train from Sydney to Canberra on Monday evenings. So, this suffering war veteran must leave Sydney by train on Sunday nights and twiddle his thumbs in Canberra for 24 hours before any other member of the Parliament is obliged to leave for Canberra. Senator Amour submits to this out of a sense of duty to the people who elected him to the Parliament. What would be the cost of sending a car backwards and forwards between Canberra and Sydney? Any one would imagine that this Government had evercised great care in protecting the interests of the taxpayers in respect of the use of government cars. But 1 guarantee that this is one case in which every decent-minded person in Australia would consider the expense justified. As I have said, Senator Amour’s car has been cancelled. If the Government argues that it is too costly to transport him between Canberra and Sydney by car, what has it to say about the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), who flies to Perth every week-end? I understand that the return air fare is something like £90.
– He does it every weekend.
– He flies backwards and forwards between Canberra and Perth every week-end. So, I say the Government stands condemned for its treatment of Senator Amour.
Let us consider some of the ways in which government cars are used without justification. Every time 1 arrive at KingsfordSmith airport in Sydney, I find that cars are provided for former Ministers. I make no objection to that. But I find, also, that cars are often provided for typists, many of whom do not even share a car with some one else. Minor public servants are also provided with cars for their sole use. When I arrived at Kingsford-Smith airport the other day, I was denied a car because I was returning from Melbourne, and not from Canberra. While I was waiting, I saw one Commonwealth car leave occupied by only one public servant - at least I take it he was a public servant - and another leave with only two public servants. There was room in those two cars for a number of other passengers. I can give the Minister the number of the cars if he wants them. If one has time to stand outside David Jones’s store, in Sydney, for an hour or two on any day of the week one can see Commonwealth cars parked outside waiting for the wives of Ministers while they are shopping. Under present conditions the Government stands condemned for its treatment of Senator Amour. How far will it carry this vendetta against Labour members of the Parliament who were elected to represent people just as much as Government supporters were? Senator Amour has been a member of this Parliament for many years, and has given great service to it and to the country. He should not be treated in this cavalier fashion by the Government and the Minister.
I want to take the opportunity to refer also to another aspect of the Minister’s administration and to a statement made by him in this House the other day which is not in accordance with the facts. This matter concerns the explosion of the first atomic bomb in the current series of tests at Maralinga on 27th September. When I implied in a question in this House that an. order had been issued prohibiting aircraft from flying in a particular area the Minister denied that any such order had ever been issued. He either spoke in ignorance or deliberately misled the House On 28th September, the day after the bomb was exploded, an order was issued declaring an area prohibited to aircraft. I understand that the prohibition remained in force for seven hours. The area was not in the far interior of Australia. It covered parts of New South Wales, a corner of Queensland, and parts of South Australia and Victoria. 1 can give the Minister the exact location of the prohibited area if he wants it. It is significant that the order was issued after the bomb had been exploded. So, it was not issued as a normal precautionary measure, as the Minister will no doubt try to convince us. When the bomb was exploded at 5 p.m. Adelaide time on 27th September the wind was not blowing in the direction that the scientists regarded as favorable. The explosion had been postponed fifteen or sixteen times, and the Minister and those responsible for the test were receiving a lot of criticism in the press. It is my opinion that the wind was blowing in a westerly direction when the bomb was exploded, and that the authorities became impatient. They yielded under press criticism and finally said, “ Explode the bomb, and we shall hope for the best “. Instead of the atomic cloud being blown in the direction that it was supposed to take it began to travel across the populated areas of Australia. No one can yet tell what harm it has done to the Australian community.
I challenge the Minister to produce in this Parliament the records of the meteorologists so that honorable members may ascertain the wind direction at the time of the explosion. 1 have examined meteorological records, and find that on both 27th and 2Sth September the winds at 10,000 feet, 20,000 feet, and 30,000 feet were blowing from the west. Further eastward they were veering to the north-west. When the authorities discovered that the atomic cloud was not blowing in the direction intended they panicked and issued an order prohibiting the area I have mentioned to aircraft. Either the Minister did not know what had happened after the bomb was exploded or he deliberately misled the House. I challenge him now to lay on the table for the information of honorable members the reports he received immediately prior to the explosion and those which he obtained after it had occurred, and also the meterological reports from which honorable members could ascertain the direction of the wind at the time of the explosion. The people of Australia are not satisfied with the Minister’s explanations.
Finally, I ask the Minister again to reconsider the position of Senator Amour.
.- I should not have participated in this debate were it not for the attack made upon me by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
– It was not an attack.
– Of course it was an attack, lt was made not upon me, but upon the privileges which the Parliament has decided that senators and members, including those who represent Western Australian electorates, shall enjoy. Let us have it clearly stated for the record that the regulations provide that each member shall be entitled to travel from his electorate to Canberra and return once a week during the sittings of the Parliament. No restriction is made as to distance. This Parliament, which is presumed to be a democratic one, treats all senators and members equally without regard to the distance they must travel to and from Canberra. Western Australian members, and I in particular, have often been singled out for attack in relation to the cost of our transport to and from Canberra to attend our parliamentary duties, lt appears to me that the Western Australian electors are begrudged the right to have their representatives attend to their duties in both their electorates and the National Parliament.
According to the honorable member for East Sydney Western Australian representatives should not enjoy the privileges which are accorded to those fortunate members who represent the eastern States. According to him the Western Australian members are not entitled to maintain contact with their electorates if they attend to their duties in this Parliament regularly. But it is hardly an exaggeration to say that there is nothing to prevent some members who represent eastern States electorates from sleeping in their own beds in their own homes after they have attended to their parliamentary duties here. I am reminded that some of those who live nearest to Canberra have the worst records for attendance in this Parliament.
– A scandalous statement!
– Nothing of the sort! lt is a direct statement which apparently has hit the honorable member where it hurts. We members from the distant States make a considerable sacrifice in order to be here. Distance, in itself, is a sufficient penalty for those of us from Western Australia, yet the honorable member for East Sydney apparently makes the undemocratic suggestion that we should be prohibited from attending to affairs in our electorates. I hope that this constant attack on me, personally, which is also an attack on Western Australian members and, indeed, an attack on the whole of Western Australia, will now stop. Apparently, the honorable member for East Sydney begrudges Western Australian members their rights, and Western Australians the rights which they were promised if the State joined the federation - rights which they were promised again in 1933 at the time of the secession movement. It is all very well for some honorable members to talk in this way about Western Australia, but I remind them that they went out of their way to make sure that Western Australia would remain a partner in this Commonwealth. No suggestions were made then that it would cost too much money for Western Australian members to travel to and from their State to Canberra.
– Take the honorable member for East Sydney with you when you go back.
– Earlier, I spoke about the penalty which we already suffer. I can assure the House that it would be an unbearable penalty to take the honorable member for East Sydney to Western Australia. Apparently, it is only East Sydney that can put up with the honorable member.
These attacks have to stop. A few days ago, two Labour party speakers played on this theme, and the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), said that evidently a concerted attempt was being made in this matter. I say that as long as this Parliament is a democratic one, as long as there is not prohibition on the travel of any members, I. on behalf of my Western Australian electors, will insist that they shall enjoy and I shall enjoy the same privileges as those more fortunately situated persons in the eastern States.
– What does the honorable member go home for?
– I can tell the honorable member what I go home for every week-end.
– Order! There is too much noise. I ask the House to come to order.
– If the honorable member for Grayndler wishes to represent his electorate in a really efficient manner, I shall offer to take him with me to Western Australia so that he may see how well I carry out my duties in my electorate. I understand that he accepts the offer. Anyway, I hope that I have heard the end of this constant attack by the honorable member for East Sydney on the honorable member for Moore, and the cost of his travel.
The honorable member for East Sydney has referred to the matter of a motor car and has suggested that there is an anomaly. 1 am not suggesting that a car could be made available every week-end to take me to Western Australia and to bring me back to Canberra. I doubt whether any honorable member, whatever his circumstances might be, would have the right to make such a suggestion, even if the place were as close as Sydney.
– I am asked to say to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) that the remarks that he has made will be noted and due consideration given to them.
I do want to make a brief reply to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), first of all. about Senator Amour
I have some diffidence about discussing this matter. Senator Amour is undoubtedly in bad health. He has my sympathy, and I am sure “he has the sympathy of every one here, because that condition is the sort of thing that overtakes many of us, and we know what it means.
Representations were made to me, as the honorable member for East Sydney said, that because Senator Amour was incapacitated with some arthritic condition he should be permitted to have a car to take him between Sydney and Canberra during the parliamentary session. The first step that was taken was this: Because of his disability, instructions were given that he should be treated as an incapacitated member - as several other members of this House who are partly incapacitated are treated - and given a car from his home to the airport at any time when travelling to and fro on parliamentary business. I should have thought that that was at least something.
Then the question was asked as to whether he should have a car, all the time, to and fro from Sydney. After all, no matter how sympathetic we may be towards individual members, we in this House are the custodians of the public purse. We have an obligation to the people for the proper disposing of public moneys. It was pointed out that Senator Amour could come overnight by sleeping car on the train to Canberra. In reply, it was pointed out that the trains were not convenient. I then asked, “ Can he not come by the very comfortable diesel car which, leaving Sydney about 8 o’clock in the morning, comes to Canberra every day and returns to Sydney? He would be brought by car from his home to the station for that purpose? “ It was said to me, “ That is not comfortable enough for him “. My reply was, “ I cannot really understand how it can be more comfortable to spend four and a half or five hours bouncing up and down in a motor car between Sydney and Canberra instead of coming by comfortable diesel train “. So, because it costs about £60 a week to bring one member up and down each week by special car-
– Sixty pounds?
– lt costs between £50 and £60 a week.
– Explain how it would cost that amount.
– I do not explain it. I assert, as a fact, that that is what it costs. Therefore, in the interests of public economy, I decided, and the Government decided, that this thing could not be done. I ask any reasonable man in this House: “ Is it to be expected that any member who is sick should be catered for in that way? “ I do not believe that any Labour government or any Liberal government would acquiesce in that sort of expenditure of public money. For that reason, with all the sympathy in the world for a man who is undoubtedly indisposed, we decided that it could not be done.
– You penalize him for his war service.
– I know all the rubbish that is talked about penalizing people for their war service. I did not argue the question of whether or not his disability is due to war service. I do not know whether it is or not, and it does not matter. I see him as a sick man, but I say that, sick or not, the public purse has to be protected, and it was decided - and I think rightly decided - that we could not provide th facility for an individual member of the Parliament.
– What about the transport of wives of Ministers?
– Do not drag this business of Ministers’ wives into it, because if members of the Opposition want to get really difficult about government motor cars, they will be the first to suffer, make no mistake about that. This Government has done more for private members in the way of car facilities than any other government ever did before, and there are members of the Labour party who are prepared teconcede that. As for this nonsense about Ministers’ wives, the wives of Ministers in the Labour government, notably the wifeof the honorable member for East Sydney, enjoyed the privilege of government transport. That honorable gentleman sent ;i car to Brisbane for his wife’s luggage.
– All right. The fight ison now.
– I challenge the Minister to prove that from the records.
– Order! The House will come to order.
– We are quite prepared to drag up the records of everybody.
– I challenge the Minister to produce them.
– Order! I must ask honorable members to refrain from interjecting.
– I suggest that that sort of childish talk about individual Ministers and their wives should stop. Ministers and their wives have enjoyed the privilege of the use of government cars for their purposes from time immemorial under all governments, Labour and anti-Labour. And it is right that it should be so.
I hope I have conveyed that we approached this matter in a sympathetic spirit and decided that, on principle, and having regard to public finances, the facility sought could not be provided.
Now, as to the furphy of the honorable member for East Sydney about the bomb, all I can do is to repeat that the scientific safety commitee said that the bomb went off as predicted, that the atomic cloud was as predicted, that the safety conditions were as arranged, and that there was no danger whatever to anybody.
– What about the aircrafthat were grounded?
– I repeat that no aeroplane in Australia was either grounded or diverted during that explosion.
– Make the records available. Table them?
– If the honorable member for East Sydney says that he does not believe me, that is his privilege.
– Make the records available. Table them in the Parliament.
– Order! I must ask the honorable member for East Sydney to refrain from interjecting.
– I merely repeat, as Minister in charge of this matter, that no aeroplane was grounded or diverted, that there was no danger whatever to any citizen, or to any stock or property in Australia, as a result of this explosion. 1 think that that disposes of the matter.
– I feel that the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr.
Ward) have been misinterpreted by both the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) and the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale). The honorable member -for East Sydney did not attack Western Australian members for going forwards and backwards to and from their homes at week-ends.
– That is what he meant. T asked him.
– No, he did not. He meant nothing of the kind. He merely said that in dealing with the question of costs it might be well to bear in mind the fact that there are some members whose costs in going forwards and backwards to and from their homes at week-ends runs into approximately £90 a week in individual cases. He did not say that that money should not be spent.
– He mentioned me.
– It is not surprising that he should have done so because the honorable member was interjecting continually during his speech.
– 1 did not interject on thai matter at all.
– Well, it sounded like your voice from where I was sitting, and the honorable member for East Sydney did exactly what the honorable member for Moore would do in similar circumstances - he turned round and said that the honorable member for Moore’s transport cost £90 a week. And so it does, and nobody criticizes him for that. Nobody criticizes the Government for providing transport for members whose homes are a long way away from Canberra. Neither did the honorable member attack the Government in respect of the use of cars by Ministers.
– Then what was he doing sneering about Ministers?
– He was not sneering. He was trying to direct attention to the inconsistency of the Minister in refusing to give Senator Amour the right to use a car while the Senate is sitting, and he said, incidentally, that the cost of providing ministerial cars is a big item. But he did not suggest - and 1 am sure that no one would have supported him had he done so - that the cars used by Ministers should be taken from them. When we were in office we had ministerial cars, and 1 would be the last to say, and so would the honorable member for East Sydney be the last to say, that Ministers should not have the use of government cars. Ministers are busy men and must have transport readily available to them so that they will not have to hang around wasting time waiting for other transport. The whole of the honorable member for East Sydney’s remarks on these matters has been misinterpreted by the honorable member for Moore and the Minister. All that the honorable member for East Sydney has asked - and it is a plea, and I hope that the Minister’s attitude towards Senator Amour will not be hardened by what was clearly a misunderstanding of the remarks of the honorable member - is for some consideration for Senator Amour. It is pitiful to see this man walking about this building. Is it generally realized that Senator Amour is suffering excruciating pain every minute of the day and night and that he is unable to sleep unless he drugs himself? The pain that this unfortunate man is suffering from is really cruel. Anybody who knows the facts of osteomyelitis knows that it is no exaggeration to say that the pain of the sufferer from a bad case of that disease is the most excruciating and cruel pain that could be inflicted on a human being. Senator Amour carries an air cushion with him wherever he goes in order to get some relief whenever he takes his seat, either in the Senate chamber or elsewhere. I do not think the Minister is a hard man.
– He is a hard man.
– Why does the senator not resign?
– What did you say?
– Order! I must ask honorable members to refrain from interrupting by carrying on a crossfire of interjections.
– 1 must say, speaking from my own experience, that I have never found the Minister to be a hard Minister in respect of the provision of transport, if a good case is put to him. 1 suggest that if the Minister will disregard the bitterness that has crept into this matter because of a misinterpretation by the honorable member for Moore of the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney, and will look at the case on its merits, and try to remember that this unfortunate man is a war veteran who is suffering excruciating pain-
– I know he is a war veteran, but it would not matter.
– Why does he not resign from the Senate?
– You are a mongrel.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker, in respect of the interjection from the honorable member for Herbert.
– I did not hear the interjection.
– I called the honorable member for Gwydir a mongrel.
– I must ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– A precedent has been established. The late Mr. So) Rosevear, who was also a sufferer from this disease, had a car provided for him, and I say that it is to the credit of the various Ministers-
– But he was Speaker of this House.
– I know he was Speaker.
– As Speaker, he was in the same position in respect to the provision of transport as a Cabinet Minister.
– I know that, but after he was no longer Speaker, he still had a car provided for him because of his physical condition. None of us would like to exchange places with poor Senator Amour. None of us would want to be sitting in a government car if we were compelled to accept the circumstances that Senator Amour has to accept, in order to get the use of such a car. I ask the Minister to reconsider this matter and see whether he cannot agree at least to give this unfortunate senator that right. The Minister quoted £50 or £60 as the estimated cost of providing this facility.
– Between £50 and £60.
– That seems to me a little high, because taxi fares are about ls. 3d. a mile. That would work out at about £25. The Minister may find, as is often the case in some capital cities, that it is cheaper to hire a taxi, but I do ask him to reconsider the matter in the light of the representations that both the honorable member for East Sydney and I have made.
I do not, of course, want the cars taken away from the ministerial typists because very often they have to get to their offices quickly, and ought not to have to waste hours in waiting for ordinary public transport. Very often when they arrive at an airport they are not going home. Though it may be late at night, they may still have to do some ministerial work.
– A typist has to take files into the office, lock them up and do all sorts of other things.
– Rather than suggest that the cars be taken from the ministerial staffs, I ask that the privilege be extended to private members. The Minister should bear in mind that we are busy people, too.
– We have provided cars after certain hours.
– I appreciate that at one time we did not have them at all, and that at least we do now get them before eight o’clock in the morning and after eight o’clock at night, but often private members arriving at airports during the day have to get to their offices in the city quickly so that they may get as much work done as possible. However, I do not wish to put that suggestion in such a way as to prejudice the main claim on behalf of Senator Amour. I do hope that the Minister will forget the acrimony that has crept into this matter, will look at the case again, and will give this unfortunate senator, who is suffering terrible pain, some assistance during the few years that might be left to him.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Sir Philip McBride) put -
That the question benow put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.
Majority . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.7 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
k asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
h asked the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he consider an amendment of the provisions for postal voting at federal elections to include the right to claim a postal vote if a person, because of religious beliefs, is prevented from voting between the hours of sunrise and sunset on a Saturday?
– In response to my invitation for suggestions for consideration during the forthcoming review of the Electoral Act, I have received from a number of sources the request that the rights to claim a postal vote be given to people who, because of their religious affiliations are prevented from attending at polling booths on election day. The suggestion will receive my sympathetic consideration.
Oil from Coal.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The matter raised by the honorable member is under constant review by my colleague, the Minister for National Development, who has supplied the following answers: -
z asked the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -
What is the present position of experiments which are being conducted by the organization, in conjunction with Queensland authorities, into the control or eradication of lantana?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Investigations on the biological control of lantana are proceeding very satisfactorily. The Division of Entomology of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is in constant communication with the Queensland Department of Lands, whose officers are carrying out a mutually agreed programme of work. Four species of lantana insects now present in Hawaii, following their introduction from Mexico, have been subjected to a series of tests aiming at determining whether or not they can, with safety to economic plants, be introduced into Australia. These tests, carried out in Hawaii, are now complete. One species has been pronounced dangerous to certain crops, and no application will be made for the introduction of this insect into Australia. The other three species were considered to be sufficiently safe for introduction into quarantine in Australia. An application by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, on behalf of itself and the Queensland Department of Lands, was made to the Commonwealth Department of Health for permission to introduce these threespecies into quarantine in Australia, and this has been approved. These three species have been introduced, and are now being cultured in Queensland in quarantine. During the next few months further tests on the ability of these insects to attack economic plants will be made. If these species successfully pass this series of tests, application will doubtless be made for permission to release them in Australia. It is hoped that this stage will be reached within about six months. There are other insects which may be suitable for introduction into Australia for lantana control, but these will require further work not covered by the current investigations.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 October 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19561018_reps_22_hor13/>.