23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. G. J. Bowden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade a question in relation to the proposals of the shipping companies’ to alter freights. Would the Minister be able to obtain for the information of honorable members, at any rate by the time that the House re-assembles after our forthcoming short recess, details of the flow and rate of profits of the shipping companies concerned? I am not asking that a new inquiry be made, but that the basic figures which are in our possession be brought up to date so that, if necessary, the matter can be discussed in the House.
– I would think it proper and relevant that I should endeavour to compile information that is published by the shipping companies relating to their profits. I take it that the right honorable gentleman refers to those companies which are members of the conference lines and, therefore, concerned with the carriage of Australian goods. I will endeavour to collate what is publicly available. Let me add that the Australian shipper and exporter interests will have in their possession many facts and figures that are not in the possession of the Government. I think, perhaps, that it is scarcely appropriate for the Government to ask for that information, because I remember that in 1956 a deputation of Australian shippers and exporters visited London at a time when I myself was there for other negotiations. They, with the aid of accountants, were given access to the accounts of the shipping companies of the conference lines, and the information that they obtained was to be the basis of the formula arrangements which eventually emerged.
Although I myself was in London at that time for three months during these negotiations, the Australian shipper and exporter interests did not on any occasion seek to see me to solicit assistance from me or from the Government. That is a pretty fair indication that they have set for themselves a policy of assembling their own facts and. on those facts, making their decisions.
– Would that information be in the Government’s possession to-day?
– No. To the best of my knowledge - I will check what I am now saying - it is not with the Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health in his capacity as acting Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Can he say when the results of the merino strain trials will be made public?
– These trials, which were conducted at Cunnamulla in Queensland and at Armidale and Deniliquin in New South Wales have now been completed. A vast amount of data has been accumulated but it will take a long time to assess it. It will be months before the final results can be made public.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in his capacity as acting Treasurer: Is he aware that the Russian State Bank in London has lent £62,500 to the Woodford County Council in Essex, England? The Prime Minister would be aware that Woodford is in the heart of conservative England, that it is the capital of Sir Winston Churchill’s electorate of the same name and the centre of a great cricketing county. Is the Prime Minister aware of the fact that the Woodford County Council needed the money for public works, that it put an advertisement in the London “ Times “ asking for replies from those interested in a short-term loan, and that the Russian State Bank replied and got the business? In discussing this deal, the tory mayor, Mr. Guy Dixon, who is also a bank manager, said: “ It seems strange for Communists to invest in Conservatives. But no doubt, like us, they know a good business deal when they see one.”
– Order! The honorable member must not make a debate out of his question.
– I will ask the Prime Minister direct: In view of the fact that he was unable to raise a loan of 25,000,000 dollars for the Mr Isa to Townsville railway from the World Bank in the United States of America, will he approach the Russian State Bank in London to see whether he can raise the wind in that direction?
– I know nothing about this fascinating case mentioned by the honorable member, but I am bound to say that if the Soviet Union or any of its instrumentalities have been able to find a few thousand pounds to improve some cricket grounds in England, that is the best thing I have heard about them for years.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral noticed that considerable discussion has arisen in New South Wales over the capacity of the New South Wales Auditor-General to comment upon the terms and present state of loans advanced to Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited by the Rural Bank of New South Wales? As questions have arisen concerning the powers of the Commonwealth AuditorGeneral to comment on similar situations if they arise in respect of the Commonwealth Bank, will the Attorney-General define the powers of the Commonwealth Auditor-General in regard to matters similar to those under discussion? Are not the duties of the New South Wales AuditorGeneral and those of the Commonwealth Auditor-General similar in that they both have a responsibility to safeguard public funds and inform Parliament of matters with which it should be acquainted?
– Of course, I cannot discuss the position of the New South Wales Auditor-General or go into the question of what his powers are. I can inform the honorable member that the powers and functions of the Commonwealth Auditor-General are fixed by the Commonwealth Audit Act. Without going into particularities I can say that one would expect the Commonwealth Auditor-General to make suitable comments on any transactions which came under his notice, the auditing of which he was required to do under the act.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Since 5,000 more students this year entered the universities than in the first year of the Commonwealth scholarship scheme and 2,000 more than in the year when the Murray committee reviewed this scheme, how soon will the Government carry out the committee’s two-year-old recommendation that the number of scholarships should be increased without delay? I ask him, further, whether the Universities Commission has recommended, or if not, when he expects it to recommend, by how many the original number of scholarships should now be increased.
– Beyond certain changes which I announced at an earlier date about certain limited scholarships, I have nothing further to say on the matter. The Universities Commission has been established. It is at work, and, of course, I will look to it for guidance, constantly, on the various aspects of university education, including the scholarship scheme.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is intended, under the new airmail system, to send mail addressed to destinations outside Australia by air to the most convenient port. For example, is it intended to send mail addressed to the United Kingdom by air from the eastern States to Fremantle in order to save the period of seven to fourteen days which it now takes to send mail all the way round the continent by sea?
– I think that the honorable member for Gwydir is referring to mail posted as surface mail, not as airmail.
– It will be remembered that, in explaining the airmail proposals in my second-reading speech, I pointed out that the proposals applied to letter form mail posted in Australia for delivery in Australia. Therefore, they would not apply to mail posted in Australia for delivery overseas. The existing conditions would still prevail. However, the Post Office is having a look at the possibility of extending this scheme at some later date to embrace the point raised by the honorable member. At present, certain difficulties are in the way of such extension and it is not proposed, for some time, to do anything along those lines.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Suppply by stating that it is reported that the Echuca ball-bearing factory, a Commonwealth asset, has been sold to a syndicate of three overseas firms. Is the Minister prepared to make a considered statement on this sale to the House so that it may be debated?
– I shall be pleased to look at the question raised by the honorable member and let the House know the answer as early as possible.
– I wish to address a question to the Attorney-General as the representative of the Minister for National Development. In the main, supplies of bauxite for the Australian Aluminium Production Commission at Bell Bay have come from Indonesia. I ask the AttorneyGeneral; whether these supplies are still available in the desired quantities and whether the price has increased during the past two years.
– I have some knowledge of the honorable member’s question in another capacity. Until May last, the principal source of bauxite for the Australian Aluminium Production Commission was Indonesia. In January, 1959, the Indonesians raised the price by some 25 per cent, and the commission had then to look around for other suitable sources of supply. It has been able to find such sources and is now deriving its bauxite from Malaya and India, but the predominant portion of it comes from Malaya.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Is the honorable gentleman aware of the increasing public disapproval of the excessive time being devoted to advertising on commercial television stations? What check is made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to ensure that the standards for television advertising are not infringed? What action is taken by the board or by the Minister if the standards are repeatedly infringed?
– From time to time, I have heard reports from various sources about the time spent in advertising on commercial television programmes. I suppose it is natural for people who are interested in a programme to resent, to a certain extent, an advertising spot being introduced into the middle of the programme. At the same time, it must be remembered that advertising is practically the only source of revenue for commercial television stations, and, therefore, a reasonable amount of such advertising must be permitted. However, the standards laid down by the Aus-* tralian Broadcasting Control Board prescribe definite limits to the time which may be devoted to advertising, and also to the frequency of advertising, in commercial programmes. These programmes are monitored constantly by officers of the board. It has two monitors in Sydney and two in Melbourne, and it will have one each in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth when television broadcasts begin in those cities. It is the task of these monitors to check the advertising in the programmes broadcast by the various licensees and to ensure that the programme standards are not infringed. Those standards are rather complex. It would take too long for me to outline them to the honorable member now,but, if he desires to see them, I can let him have a copy so that he may study them for himself.
I want to say that it has been found that the licensees co-operate with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in observing these standards, which, by the way, the licensees have agreed to. It is at times a little difficult, in live advertising broadcasts, to comply exactly with th& requirements down to the last second. So infringements occasionally occur in live advertising, but not in film advertising. When there is an infringement, the licensee’s attention is directed to it. We have always found that the licensees are prepared to make any necessary adjustments.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. I ask the Minister: What aircraft have been fitted with the Sidewinder air-to-air weapon? Further, is the Sidewinder missile being used in Malaya, and, if so, with what results?
– I expect that Sidewinders will be fitted to the first of our operational squadrons early next year, in accordance with the time-table announced when the decision to adopt the weapon was made some time ago. It has been necessary to carry out fitting tests, because the Australian-built Avon Sabre aircraft differs slightly in design from the American Sabre. These fitting tests, which are being made by the Aircraft Research and Development Unit, at Laverton, are proceeding satisfactorily, and a firing test will take place today over the air gunnery range in the Bass Strait.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Will he re-examine the Commonwealth scholarship scheme in view of the fact that, when this Government took over the policy propounded by the previous Government, the 3,000 scholarships granted annually under the scheme almost completely covered the total qualified intake of the universities, and in view of the fact that, with the passage of the years, the proportion of students who receive scholarships has decreased, as there are now some 12,000 new entrants each year and only 3,000 Commonwealth scholarships? In answer to a question a few minutes ago, the right honorable gentleman said that he would rely on the Australian Universities Commission for guidance. Since it was almost a matter of principle, in 1951, to ensure that all qualified applicants were covered by the scholarships available, will the Prime Minister regard this objective now as a matter of government policy and give directions to ensure that university training shall become available to all qualified applicants?
– I am unable to accept the proposition that in 1951 every entrant to a university held a Commonwealth scholarship. If that were so, scholarships must be remarkably easy to obtain. However, they provided for a fraction of those who entered universities. Apart from that, I have nothing to add to what I said in reply to an earlier question.
– Has the Minister for Trade seen the report of a statement by Mr. Poage, Deputy Chairman of the United States House of Representatives Agricultural Committee, that at present the United States is carrying the surplus farm commodities of the world; that chaotic world marketing conditions inevitably would develop unless countries other than America attempted to control the production of primary products already in over-supply; and that there was heavy pressure in America for that country to abandon its existing farm programme? Will the Minister consider action with a view to bringing about a meeting of representatives of various primary producing countries in order to solve, if possible, the problem of surpluses?
– I have seen the published statement attributed to Mr. Poage, who is a distinguished American Congressman and, as the honorable member said, is Deputy Chairman of the House of Representatives Agricultural Committee. I have found him to be understanding of Australia’s problems, as well as those of his own country. I could not agree that at the moment there would be an advantage in holding another international conference on the disturbing problem of world surpluses of agricultural products. This matter is under regular discussion in the food and agriculture organization of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The Australian Government has frequent discussions with the United States administration and other countries. This subject has also been discussed at Commonwealth conventions such as the Montreal conference. I do not think that a new conference would really add much to what has been done already.
I would, however, make the point that the United States of America really has no ground to point the bone at other countries in respect of the accumulation of world surpluses. With wheat, for instance, American surpluses are vastly in excess not only of its own requirements, but also of the quantity that world markets are prepared to take at the cost of production in the United States of America. On the other hand, Australia to-day is sowing a smaller acreage of wheat than it did pre-war and, due largely to the sale of American wheat on noncommercial terms, is actually selling less wheat overseas than pre-war. A problem that is not readily recognized but is very real is the problem of extreme or excessive agricultural protection practised in Europe. There, the guarantees given by governments frequently amount to a return to producers of up to double the price at which wheat could be imported from lowcost countries such as Australia. This is an aspect that we are also constantly discussing. Our record is that we produce for export broadly the commodities that our production costs enable us to offer competitively in world markets. In the United States of America, and, largely, in Europe, surpluses are brought about by government promises of prices far in excess of what could ever be expected to be realized by commercial sale.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. In view of the continued suppression of the workers’ freedom in employment under the compulsory arbitration system now in operation in Australia, and of the need to observe strictly the principle of freedom in all aspects of our democracy, will the Minister cause a searching inquiry to be made into the arbitral powers arising from the laws operating in Great Britain and the United States of America, where the workers’ freedom is not suppressed to the extent that it is in Australia? Will he then make a suitable recommendation to the Cabinet, designed to remove or at least to loosen the legal shackles that are gradually but surely being tightened on Australian workers?
– The administration of those aspects of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act does not rest with me.
– But I thought you might try to do something about it.
– I will refer the matter to my colleague. For my part, I should have thought that the workers are not freer in any country than they are in Australia.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I direct attention to the appalling acoustics of this chamber. I can tell that it is question time only by reference to the clock and by seeing honorable members rising frequently in all parts of the House. I would say that 75 per cent, of what is said at question time is inaudible from this section of the House, and we cannot, therefore, take an intelligent interest in the proceedings. I ask you to convey my remarks to Mr. Speaker. If nothing can be done to improve the acoustics, may I request that members be given the opportunity to undergo courses in lip reading? The difficulty in hearing is not diminished by the continual hum of conversation coming from the Opposition benches.
– I shall convey the honorable member’s question to Mr. Speaker.
– I desire to ask a question of the Prime Minister, in his capacity as acting Treasurer. Is it a fact that investors in Commonwealth public loans, particularly long-term loans, have suffered great losses as a result of depreciation of the real value of their investments, resulting from the inflation that has occurred before the date of repayment has been reached? If so, is the Government prepared, in all future public loan raisings, to give a guarantee to repay such borrowing on maturity on the basis, not of payment at the face value of the security, but of the real value of the investment at the time it was made?
– It is very well known that there have been times when Government bonds stood at quite a marked discount. I am not prepared, however, to entertain in any way a proposal that we should alter the whole structure of loans by making the ultimate repayment depend upon some index figure.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the developments that have taken place in the manufacture of protein in edible form without the use of ruminant animals? Is he also aware that these processes are very much more efficient, in the sense that a higher proportion of the available protein is extracted from the raw material, than is the case with processes involving the use of ruminant animals? Can the Minister say how far these developments have progressed, and whether consideration has been given to their effect on our meat and dairying industries?
– I have seen a statement by the chairman of a British company to the effect that the company has equipment which it claims can produce protein from grasses and other vegetable matter, and operates as a mechanical cow. If this is true, and if the process is effective, no doubt it will be very interesting and helpful to undeveloped countries. However, I should need to make further investigations, and to know much more about the matter, before I could say whether it would have any detrimental effects on the dairying and meat industries.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration: Will he say why migrants who .have not been in Australia long enough to become naturalized are permitted in certain States to purchase or build homes for themselves, while in other States, particularly in South Australia, severe restrictions are placed upon them in regard to this? Does the Minister agree that it is most desirable that if migrants have the necessary finance, they should be able to build homes for themselves as early as possible, thus relieving the severe housing shortage? Finally, can the Minister suggest a way to solve this problem?
Mir. DOWNER. - I must confess, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to some degree of sym pathy with the honorable gentleman’s complaint. But, as I think the honorable gentleman will realize, what he brings before the House is really a subject for the respective State governments. I have investigated this matter, Sir, and I find that there is quite a variety of regulations on home ownership as between State and State. There is, for example, very little control in Queensland and Western Australia. In South Australia, as the honorable gentleman says, restrictions on migrants owning land and building houses before they are naturalized are infinitely more rigorous. I shall take the matter up with the various State governments to see whether some degree of uniformity can be brought about so that we can promote the objects which the honorable gentleman quite properly has in mind.
– My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask: Is the Minister aware of the problems that are causing great concern to apiarists? Does he know that up-to-date poisonous sprays, which are an aid in pastoral and agricultural pursuits, are a menace to the bee-keeping industry, and that the disease, nosema, is active? Is he aware of the great value of bees in the pollination of many of our most valuable crops? Will the Minister cause investigations to be made with a view to assisting this valuable industry to survive?
– I have seen the statement concerning the trouble that is happening in the bee-keeping industry. The Department of Primary Industry is looking into the matter, and as soon as I have further information I shall convey it to the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Trade: Is it a fact that there are three tariff headings under which goods may be imported - British preference, mostfavourednation and general rate? Is it also a fact that imports from Communist China are admitted under the mostfavourednation heading, which is next in order to the British preference heading, and which provides the most favourable terms available to exporting nations other than British countries? Will the Minister agree that there are members of the Western bloc which do not receive this favourable treatment?
– No, I would not agree. There are, indeed, the three tariff headings to which the honorable member refers; but the only alteration that has been made in the headings - or “ columns “, as the jargon has it - applicable to a country is the transference of Japan, under the terms of the Japanese Trade Treaty, from tine general tariff column to the most-favoured-nation column. “Most-favoured-nation “ is really a misnomer. In fact, mostfavourednation treatment is applicable under the terms of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to every country which is a party to that agreement. Japan, of course, was not an original member of Gatt. Neither Communist China nor Soviet Russia was originally a member of Gatt, but historically pre-war China, Soviet Russia and a number of other Communist countries had been entitled to mostfavourednation treatment. This Government, like the Labour Government, has done nothing to alter that classification.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question supplementary to a question that I asked him on notice on 25th August last, when I suggested that an annual prize should be granted to honour Albert Namatjira. On that occasion I asked the right honorable gentleman whether it would be possible for a prize of this nature to be competed for throughout Australia on lines similar to the privately endowed Wynne Landscape Prize. The Prime Minister said that he would discuss the matter with the Art Advisory Board. Has he anything further to report on that matter?
– As a matter of courtesy to the honorable member I have referred this matter to the Art Advisory Board. I have not yet received the board’s views on the matter.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question related to on-demand trunk-line calls - calls that are connected straight through without delay. Is it possible for a person making such a call to give the number of another subscriber, causing that other subscriber to be charged for the call? Is it a fact that there is no way of discovering this deception? If so, can a warning be given to subscribers and more careful and tolerant attention given to the applications by subscribers to have their trunk-line calls checked?
– This is a matter to which attention has been given by the department from time to time, and which has been referred to previously in this House. As the honorable member for Yarra points out, as a result of the development of our trunk-line system it is now possible very often to make an on-demand call. In other words, the caller is asked by the telephonist to hold the line and is put straight through. This practice gives rise to the possibility that some one, when asked, “ What is your number? “ could give a wrong number. The department realizes this and from time to time carries out checks, but it has not yet found it necessary to go to the extreme of having the operator say to every caller, “Will you hang up and I will call you back? “ That would mean a delay of another five or ten seconds on every call and as calls run into millions a year there would be a very appreciable reduction in the efficiency of the trunk-line system. I assure the honorable member that this is a matter that receives constant attention, and if at any time it becomes necessary to institute some more rigorous method of control, the department will not hesitate to do so.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether he agrees with a statement made publicly by the former Director of Army Medical Services, Sir Kingsley Norris, that the widespread use of antibiotics has caused the outbreak of a number of illnesses that formerly were not known. If he agrees with that statement can he say what steps are being taken, or can be taken, to correct the situation?
– I have not seen the statement referred to by the honorable gentleman, but it is a well known and widely acknowledged fact that the use of antibiotics does in fact involve considerable dangers in organism resistance. The measures that are being taken to counteract this rising resistance of bacteria are not uniform and perhaps I might say they are the subject of considerable trial and error by the practices of the medical profession.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence, who represents in this chamber the Minister for Civil Aviation. By way of preface, may I say that I am sure all honorable members are aware of the excellent and courteous service that is rendered to air travellers by the hostesses of the various airlines, particularly TransAustralia Airlines. In view of this fact, of which, I know, the Minister is well aware, does he consider that hostesses receive an adequate salary? If not, will he take appropriate action to ensure that their salaries are increased?
– I shall convey the honorable member’s question to my colleague in another place. Obviously, he has had good service at the hands of the hostesses. Probably they have held his hand when he has been nervous.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is it a fact that Qantas Empire Airways Limited is anxious to construct a hotel of international standard in Sydney? Is it a fact that certain private hotel interests and members of the Government parties are opposing Qantas in this venture? Is it a fact also that this matter has been before Cabinet for several months? If these are facts, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House when Cabinet is expected to make a decision?
– There was, I understand, some discussion on this matter during my recent absence abroad. I have not had first-hand acquaintance with it, but I will ascertain the present position - whether there are negotiations proceeding and whether some rule has been laid down - and I will advise the honorable member of the result of my inquiries.
– My question to the Minister for Defence relates to the services retiring conditions upon which the Allison committee was asked to report about two years ago, the report having been received about six months ago. Will the increased benefits that were mentioned by the Treasurer in his Budget speech be available to members of the forces who retired at any time after the committee was appointed, or to those who retired after the committee reported, or after the Budget speech, or will they be available only to those who retire after the legislation is passed? If they will be available only to those who retire after the legislation becomes law, will the Minister state when the legislation will be introduced?
– The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund, like all other superannuation funds of the Commonwealth, is under the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Treasurer. He mentioned the fund in his Budget speech, and the appropriate legislation to implement the proposal is in the process of drafting. It will be brought down in due course.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister in his capacity as acting Treasurer. Under section 80 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, a taxpayer is entitled to a deduction of the amount of any loss incurred by him in the seven years next preceding the year of income. However, in calculating the loss which may be carried forward, concessional deductions otherwise claimable in the year of loss are excluded. The effect is to deny to the taxpayer the benefit of concessional deductions for dependants, medical and education expenses and the like. Will the Prime Minister consider correcting this apparent anomaly prior to the preparation of the next Budget?
– The question is, of course, a highly technical one. I do not profess to know about this particular point. I will take the opportunity to find out about it and form some view in relation to it.
– I address my question to the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact that a building maintenance worker was interrogated by Commonwealth investigation or security officers early this year for having used a scrap of paper taken from a wastepaper basket in the Canberra office of the Department of Defence in the course of his work? If so, will the Minister furnish full details of this incident? Will he say whether it is the practice in the Department of Defence to place in waste-paper baskets scraps of paper which can be classified as being of a secret or confidential nature?
-I will consider the point that has been raised.
.- On behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, I bring up the following report: -
Forty-second Report - Treasury Regulation 52 - and move -
That the report be printed.
To table a report on a regulation does not seem to be very exciting, and I am sure that to the uninitiated it is not. But to the informed, Regulation 52 embodies provisions that have been hammered out over the past 100 years in an endeavour to find ways and means to protect the people and the Public Service against malpractices that may arise when the Government is arranging to purchase the millions of pounds worth of goods and services that it needs from time to time. This, in effect, is a proposal for an amendment of the Audit Act.
The committee came into the matter in this way: Some time ago the committee discussed with the then Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) the part that it might play in amending the Audit Act. The Treasurer agreed to arrange for the Treasury to submit to the committee the more important proposals that were made from time to time to amend the Audit Act. In accordance with this arrangement, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) early this year saw me and informed me that it was proposed to amend Treasury Regulation 52, and that he would like the committee to undertake an investigation of what was involved in the proposal. It seemed to resolve itself into whether the amount specified in the regulation should be £200, £100 or £1,000. That was the problem that was presented to us. The committee, having considered the matter, decided to conduct an investigation, and the report that I have now brought up is a result of that investigation.
What commenced as a relatively minor inquiry into what seemed a relatively minor problem developed into what is probably one of the most important inquiries that the committee has undertaken on behalf of the Parliament. Broadly, Treasury Regulation 52 provides that tenders shall be publicly invited for individual contracts involving expenditure of more than £200 and, as such, establishes the basis on which Commonwealth Government contracts for constructural projects, stores and supplies totalling more than £150,000,000 a year, are let.
It would be within the knowledge of honorable members that after our inquiry commenced the same subject became highly controversial in another area of government activity in the Commonwealth. Witnesses who came before the committee complained that Regulation 52 was both wasteful and time-consuming. They suggested that these defects could be overcome by increasing the sum from £200 to £1,000 or even £2,000. In effect, this would release millions of pounds worth of goods from the necessity to have tenders called. The result would be that the larger the sum mentioned the fewer tenders would have to be called.
In general, the proposals for change submitted to the committee were not acceptable but we found also that the present procurement system as prescribed by Treasury Regulation 52 was not entirely satisfactory. Because of this the committee came to the conclusion that the present arrangements for controlling expenditure on works, supplies and services should be completely reviewed. In making that recommendation we felt that something could be gained by introducing a system, referred to as the trades list procedure, which we think would give safeguards equal to those of the present public tender system but result in more effective procurement. As well, it would give better control in the lower levels of expenditure at present relatively unprotected against patronage and malpractice. We are therefore proposing an entirely new system for handling these tenders. But the trades list system is relatively untried in the Commonwealth sphere and we have therefore recommended that a departmental working party be established to explore fully all the factors involved in the introduction of this system we are suggesting.
In the course of our examination a number of disturbing features emerged. Our inquiry was preceded by an interdepartmental investigation which culminated in certain proposals being submitted to the Government. The same departments submitted their proposals to us but, as I have said, the committee, in the main, found those proposals unacceptable. Many of the supporting arguments and reasons submitted to us could not withstand critical examination and were erroneous or misleading. This forced us to the conclusion that some, at least, of the departments had supported proposals for change without proper investigation and without fully understanding the purpose or effect of Treasury Regulation 52 or the inter-relation between the regulation and other Treasury regulations concerned with expenditure.
In general, we found that the problems about which these departments complained so much were not a product of Treasury Regulation 52, but were of their own making. Even more surprising, we found that with the concurrence of the Treasury, certain departments had been acting illegally for a number of years. We found also that, in part, the present Treasury Regulation 52 is invalid.
The committee is sure that honorable members on both sides of the House will find much in this report to interest them and we commend it to them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 20th October, at 2.30 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 104 - 11 o’clock rule - be suspended for this sitting.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Deputy Speaker do now leave the chair.
.- At the outset, may I congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on being the first occupant of the Chair in this House since 7th May to preside over the private member’s day, or Grievance Day, debate. It is almost an historic event in the life of this Government that private members should be given the opportunity to debate matters of interest to their electorates. Although this opportunity is somewhat belated, honorable members are grateful that at this late period in the session we are given an opportunity to raise a few matters of particular interest in our constituencies and in other places.
The subject I wish to discuss is the release of land in the metropolitan area of Sydney which has been occupied by the Army authorities. As honorable members are no doubt aware, some time ago an inquiry was set up by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) and certain municipalities in the metropolitan area were asked to submit proposals in regard to land occupied by the Army authorities within their boundaries. Subsequently a statement was made by the Minister, arising out of that inquiry, in which he listed certain areas which were released for purposes required in those areas.
At Addison-road, Marrickville, in my electorate, an area of land is occupied by the Army which, unfortunately, was not included in the list of areas announced by the Minister as being released and made available for various purposes. To-day I wish to submit to the Parliament and to the Minister in particular, a request from the Marrickville Municipal Council that further consideration be given to this matter with a view to making this land also available to the municipality. This land is occupied by Army barracks and was the subject, among others, mentioned to the Minister by a deputation.
On Thursday, 24th July, 1958, at a conference of various metropolitan municipalities it was decided that submissions should be made to the Commonwealth authorities in respect of land occupied by the Army. The Honorable W. T. Murray, M.L.C., who is an alderman of the Marrickville municipality, pointed out that in Marrickville there was an urgent need for the clearing of slum premises numbering approximately 2,000.
The military authorities occupied an area of approximately 9.3 acres in the centre of the municipality. Although there were buildings or hutments on the land, it was comparatively unused and was occupied principally for Citizens Military Force training. During the last war it was used, but only to a very small degree in relation to the 1914-18 war when it was established. The council was of the opinion that if this area could be made available it would be used as a basis for slum clearance. The council would establish on this site sufficient home units to house from 560 to 600 persons. This would permit the demolition of a number of units and so, progressively, the council would eliminate slums and substandard houses.
That summarizes the position, because this area is in the centre of a residential district which could be used for the purposes I have mentioned. Representations have been made in respect of this matter for many years. As early as 1940, there was talk that it might be used for housing purposes. The municipality at one time made submissions to the authorities. It said -
Council does not presume to have a knowledge of the Army’s present needs nor to predict its future requirements. Nevertheless, it is of the opinion that the original purpose for which the land was occupied may now exist only to a lesser degree. Moreover, it is felt that at the time the Depot was established its location in relation to the city and transport was such that it may have been necessary, but to-day with improved means of transport and communications it could be relocated without detriment to Army organization.
I think that is a fair summary of present conditions. In this modern atomic age, I think it is quite unnecessary for the Army to have establishments in the centre of residential districts close to the heart of Sydney. There is plenty of land available on the outskirts of the city which not only would satisfy the Army’s requirements, but would be better suited to them.
This establishment at Addison-road is like Victoria Barracks, I suppose, in that there is a tremendous demand in the two areas concerned for residences and improvements associated with housing. I feel that the Minister for the Army, in making his statement some time ago, did not take fully into consideration the claim of the Marrickville Municipal Council for this land to be released for the purposes stated.
I do not know what can be done at this stage but I have been approached on the subject by the Marrickville Council. The Premier of New South Wales has been asked to make representations in respect of the matter. There is general concern in the district of Marrickville about the continuance of this Army depot in the heart of this residential district. Therefore, I ask the Minister if he will give further consideration to the claims of the council, taking into consideration the evidence that is no doubt available to him from his own sources, the evidence that has been submitted to him by members of the Opposition, and the evidence that has been forwarded to him by letter, in order to see whether, at this stage, he can add this depot to his list of properties to be released and so make this land available to the people of Marrickville for the purposes that I have mentioned.
I think that I have expressed the views of all the citizens in the Marrickville district. They and the general public of Australia consider that there is plenty of room on the outskirts of the cities for Army establishments. Surely in those areas there are facilities which, in peacetime, would serve the purpose of the Marrickville depot. With national service training possibly to be terminated, as the Minister knows, this area at Marrickville will not be required for the training of these recruits.
The City of Sydney is land hungry. In order to buy land for homes, people have to go many miles outside Sydney, so great is the development and growth there. I think that it borders on the scandalous that, when people are crying out for homes close to their places of employment, 9.3 acres should be tied up by the Army authorities in the heart of a residential district close to the city.
I ask the Minister, with his knowledge of real estate, to take these matters into consideration. I hope that he will give favorable consideration to the representations that I sincerely make on behalf of the council and of the people of Marrickville in an endeavour to assist them to solve the problem qf housing in their district.
– I appreciate all the factors that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has brought before the House. It is quite fitting and proper that he should do so as a representative of this important district of Marrickville, which I know very well, and which does need as much land as possible to provide for housing demands in that area. I appreciate that fully. But there is always a tendency to think that if the Army or another Service is holding an area of land within a municipality, it is a very simple matter for it to move out of the district and hand the land over to the local authorities for development. That is a very difficult action, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and one which, in this case, cannot be accomplished. I say that quite finally, because the matter has already been given every possible consideration.
As the honorable member said, I met a deputation headed by the Mayor of Marrickville in connexion with this matter. As I promised to do on that occasion, I saw that this area was fully examined by the expert committee that I had set up. All the circumstances were examined in the hope that something would emerge that would enable us to hand the land back. But I can assure the honorable member that it is quite impossible. In the first place the depot is urgently needed by the Army in that particular district. Apart from that, it would cost millions of pounds to establish a suitable depot in some other place. Even if the Army disposed of this land to the municipal council and full value was paid for it, that money would go into Consolidated Revenue and the cost of replacing the depot would have to be met out of the appropriation for the year in which the new land was acquired by the Army. That could not be done. It would be quite impossible, even on the score of priorities, for that to be done.
Apart from all that, I have found that there is a tendency in the minds of many people in Australia to think that a military depot in which the Citizen Military Force is trained should be isolated - that it should be thrown to the outer areas. They believe that the present depots are wasting good space in the closer suburbs. This view is quite erroneous and is quite unfair. It does not take into account the sacrifice which is made by members of the Citizen Military Force in undertaking training in the interests of the defence of this country.
Surely the convenience of people who are prepared to devote their own time, voluntarily, to the training of young men and to increasing their own training in order to be prepared for any eventuality, is deserving of some consideration. Yet I find, all over Australia, a desire by localgoverning bodies to throw these depots out into the wilderness and to try to take over their land. It is essential in the interests of the training of the Citizen Military Force that depots should be conveniently situated for members who come at night time and at week-ends to devote their time, unselfishly, to this very important national purpose.
The depot in Marrickville is such a centre. It is necessary for the Army to have it there. It is necessary for the convenience of the soldiers who train there. I try, wherever possible, to fit in with local-governing bodies and I think it can be said that my attitude has been one of co-operation with all public bodies throughout Australia.
– What about Randwick?
– We have just given away some 60 acres of land to the Randwick Municipal Council for housing development in that area but apparently that is not enough. The council wants more, but I can assure the honorable member that we need the remaining land in that area for the new train-fire system which we are developing in that area. We would not keep the land if it were not needed.
I can assure this Parliament that while I am Minister I will keep a close check upon the properties that my department holds. Any properties for which we have not or cannot foresee a need will be made available to the State concerned because I think it is quite wrong for any public department to hold unnecessarily any land or assets that it does not require.
– ls the Marrickville establishment a training depot or a leave and transit depot?
– It is not now a leave and transit depot. It is used for training. It is needed by the Army and I do not want to hold out false hopes. Much has been published about this in local papers and in Sydney metropolitan papers. The other day I made a final statement concerning Victoria Barracks, to the effect that the release of that land had been considered and that we would not do anything about it. Similarly, in this case, I say to the honorable member for Grayndler - and he may convey this to those concerned - that full and sympathetic consideration has been given to the request for the Army to relinquish the Marrickville depot. I say, finally, that the Army needs it and that we cannot make it available to the Marrickville Municipal Council.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I did not intend to say anything about Army properties, but, in view of the presence at the table of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) and his remarks in response to a plea made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), I also should like to make a plea to the Minister in respect of a property in Kogarah which is held by the Army, and which is very much needed by the local civic authorities. I do not intend to dwell on the matter at length, but I should like to express the hope that, when the Kogarah Municipal Council again approaches the Minister, as it did recently, he will consider the matter as sympathetically as he then indicated he would do.
I see that the Minister is engaged in conversation with one of his colleagues at the moment. I should like to have his attention, if he does not mind. The local council will communicate with the Minister again very shortly on this matter. The Army occupies a property in the heart of the civic centre at Kogarah. In this instance, it is not proposed that the Army be relegated to a site in the back-blocks, as it were. The Kogarah Municipal Council is able to make available in a park nearby a piece of land which would be quite suitable for the Army’s purpose. The only problem is the transfer of the Army building to the new site. I hope that the Government will assist the council to meet the cost of transferring the building if the proposal is approved. The council is very hopeful that such assistance, will be forthcoming and I am merely giving the Minister notice now. He was gracious enough recently to receive a deputation consisting of the mayor and the town clerk of Kogarah, which I introduced to him.
My main purpose in rising to address the House now is to deal with a certain matter which concerns the Postmaster-General’s Department. This is Grievance Day, of course, and the Government can expect, in a debate such as this, a certain measure of parish-pump politics. A debate such as this affords our only opportunity to bring up local grievances. My grievance this morning is the inadequate telephone facilities in the Kogarah, Hurstville and Blakehurst areas in my electorate. Blakehurst is developing fast, not only residentially, but also industrially and commercially. This Government is always telling us that it is very keen to sponsor industrial and commercial development in this country. The development of which I am speaking at the moment is the result, not only of local investment, but also of United States investment, in commercial and industrial undertakings.
The Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs has informed me that, although big telephone engineering projects are planned for the Blakehurst district, he is not able to say when they will be undertaken. The uncertainty and the lack of a definite decision as to when these projects will be carried out are impeding the development in this area proposed by various industrial and commercial firms. I hope that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) will consider specially the requirements of this area.
I note with approval that the estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department for the current financial year provide for the expenditure of £50,000 on the Kogarah telephone exchange in order to overtake some of the back-lag in telephone installations in the district. I hope that this work will be given priority and that it will be undertaken early in the financial year. Many residents and many commercial firms in the area have had to wait a long time already for services which cannot be provided until this work is undertaken, and I hope that it will not be further delayed.
Hurstville is0 one of the most important commercial centres in the Sydney metropolitan area. Only recently, I have had to make representations on behalf of a number of commercial firms at Hurstville. In each instance, the response has been thai nothing can be done for at least twelve months. We have only recently debated the new high level of postal charges imposed by the department. Perhaps the public would be a little readier to accept these impositions if it had any guarantee that services would be substantially improved. I can say that the people of Hurstville, Kogarah and Blakehurst, whom I am privileged to represent in this House, will be looking forward to a quickening of the tempo in respect of the provision of necessary services for both homes and commercial and industrial enterprises.
The other matter which I wish to mention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is an individual case relating to import licensing, in which I consider that justice has been denied. I shall mention the name of the gentleman concerned. On his behalf, I have made representations through the whole field of appeal tribunals associated with import licensing, and there seems now to be no alternative but to raise the matter on the floor of this House. The gentleman concerned is Mr. A. P. Sinclair, of BrightonleSands, New South Wales. He has applied for a licence to import optical equipment. In the first place, he was knocked back on all counts, but, after I had made representations on his behalf,, the Import Licensing Branch of the Department of Trade agreed to allow him to import certain optical equipment on the replacement list. Mr. Sinclair applied for a B category licence to import complete optical frames. He maintains - and I think his argument is fair - that it is not of much use for him to try to establish his business on a restricted basis and that he must deal in the whole range of optical equipment. His application for a B category licence was rejected on the ground that he was not a traditional importer.
I know that there is much talk about traditional importers, but there are special circumstances in Mr. Sinclair’s case. I shall give a little of his history briefly in order to indicate what these circumstances are. Before his health broke down two years ago, he was a director of a firm which imported optical equipment. He has established very wide contacts overseas, and he has been overseas recently, since his health has been restored, and has reestablished contacts which he had before the war in the United States of America, West Germany and Great Britain. Mr. Sinclair is a man of high professional reputation in the optical field in Australia. He has nation-wide contacts and he has done busness on behalf of wholesale and retail firms throughout Australia, but principally in New South Wales. It is clear, therefore, that he is a man of extremely wide experience in his field. His professional reputation in the optical field is among the highest in Australia, and he was able to provide testimony of this to an Import Licensing Advisory Review Board which recently considered his case.
Mr. Sinclair’s ill health forced him to withdraw from the optical equipment importing firm with which he had been associated, and he now desires to set up business in his own right. The most significant point - and I hope that I shall be able to make it effectively in the minute or two that I have left - is that, during the Second World War, Mr. Sinclair was seconded by the Commonwealth Government to special work of great assistance to this country. That work involved the manufacture of optical equipment, including glasses, for all our service personnel and for the civilian population. He played a very prominent part in designing that equipment, which would have cost Australia millions of pounds had it been imported. I understand that, at that time, it would not have been possible to import it, anyway. The fact is that Mr. Sinclair helped very substantially to meet our needs of optical equipment when supplies from other countries were cut off. Surely a man who, in his professional capacity - his very special professional capacity - helped to provide thousands of pounds worth of optical equipment which, normally, would have had to be imported1, ought to be entitled now to consideration at least equal to that extended to persons who, in 1950 and subsequent years, came to be designated as traditional importers.
I hope that the Minister will consider sympathetically Mr. Sinclair’s special case. All the details, many more than I could give here, are on record. They are available to the Minister from his own Import Licensing Branch. I suggest that this is a very worthy case, and the Minister’s review-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I thought that in a few minutes of Grievance Day to-day I would attract the attention of the House, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) and perhaps the Defence Division of the Treasury to what I believe is an unwarranted discrimination between servicemen on the subject of concessions for travel whilst on week-end leave. I am sure that honorable members will appreciate that at present a serviceman may travel from his station of service to his home, or to a nearby large town, once a month at a flat rate of 7s. 6d., providing always that the town or his home is within 100 miles of his service station.
Centering this problem on Sydney, it seems that a member of the services serving in Sydney could travel to Newcastle, for instance, for 7s. 6d., but if he wants to go on to Maitland or to any other of the excellent towns in my electorate, he loses all the concession and is charged a minimum fare of £2 0s. 6d. In other words, for his temerity in daring to live in a country area when he is serving in Sydney, he is penalized to the tune of 33s. I put it to the department that, if it is” reasonable to give a concession of 26s. to a serviceman travelling to Newcastle, surely it is unfair to remove all concessions from a man whose home is a mere 10 miles farther along the line.
When I inquired as to why this was happening, the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) said that he could not quite see any good grounds for it himself but referred me to the Department of Defence. Having discussed the matter with that department, it appeared that, because the Allison committee, in its review of service conditions and pay, which was made last year, did not recommend any change, we are unable to get anywhere with this problem. But the fact is that there is no equity in this arrangement and it is a discrimination against the serviceman whose home is in the country.
I have had occasion before in this House to draw attention to the difficulties under which people in country areas live. In all of those services which have to be attended to by governments, such as roads, water, sewerage, telephones, radio and television, the man in the country is always at a disadvantage. It may be true in the matters to which I have referred the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number must be paramount, and I know that the economics of the matter come into it. But surely in a matter of this kind, where we are considering not only discrimination against the countryman, but also the restoration of equity as between servicemen who are giving the same service to the same defence agency, the appropriate department should have a second look at it.
In something of this same context, I should also like to refer to conditions which cover the operation of country telephone exchanges. Any one in a country electorate these days will know that the difficulty of staffing country post offices is increasing. The reason for this is not hard to find. Postal officers and those with non-official offices and exchanges are very poorly remunerated for the splendid services that they give. We are all well aware that, although restricted hours of service are prescribed for country exchanges, almost invariably the officers in charge of the exchanges are willing to give an enormous amount of out-of-hours service without charging the requisite opening fee. Indeed, they recognize the importance of doing so, because in country areas men engaged in primary production find it essential to go about the normal outside affairs during the day and to reserve the night hours for attending to what might be called the paper work of the business. If the telephone exchange is not available, and if this producer is out of contact with the market town or its auctioneers or his brokers, he is not only at an enormous disadvantage in terms of convenience but he is really out of pocket, because he must use production time to attend to the paper work.
So, in this field, the officers in charge of country exchanges render magnificent service. We would all hope that it will be found possible before too long to convert all these exchanges into rural automatic exchanges, because 1 believe that this is the only, way for country people to get a fair deal with their telephone services.
I come back now to the question of officers in charge of country exchanges. Recently, a change was made in the system of booking short distance trunk line calls. At one time, a person making a trunk line booking could leave the telephone and the called exchange would notify him when the called party was available. But that arrangement was changed recently and there is now no booking of short distance trunk line calls. This means that if the party called is away or, for some reason, is not available, the call must be re-booked. Inevitably, this places a greater burden of effort on the officers in charge of the telephone exchanges. Very often this is a housewife or the keeper of railway gates or some person who has other work to do. These circumstances have been taken into account when the remuneration has been fixed for country telephone operators, but, as I say, the rates are very low and are based on the volume of work done. Here is an instance where a change in procedure within the Postal Department on the booking of short distance trunk line calls has undoubtedly doubled the burden of work on the officer in charge, and yet, because he is paid only on the volume of trade done at the office, there is no increment in the remuneration.
So important is the conduct of these offices and so faithful is the service that is given by the officers in charge that I hope that the department will find it possible to review the scale of remuneration to officers in charge of these country exchanges so that something a little more appropriate will be given to them. I commend the problem to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson).
– This morning I want to continue remarks I had been making on 24th September when speaking to the Repatriation Bill. I told the House then that many servicemen from World War I. had not been given the benefit of section 47 of the Repatriation Act, which is the onus of proof section. I intimated that I had a case of a serviceman whose pension, which he had been receiving for some sixteen years from 1917 to 1933, was cancelled on the recommendation of a doctor who had not even seen him. Before the Repatriation Department would agree to re-open the case, the serviceman would have to produce new evidence.
I submit that the department has deliberately denied this man justice. This has been so with thousands of other soldiers of World War I. The onus of proof section has never been applied to the case that I have mentioned. This man’s pension was taken from him in 1933 and the onus of proof section did not commence until 1943. I join with the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), who recently appealed passionately to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) to do something about the onus of proof. I am glad to see the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) here to-day, because he is one who believes that the onus of proof provisions are being correctly applied. I want to show him that they have not been so applied in the particular case that I shall mention, nor are they being correctly applied in numerous other cases. The figures, I believe, are staggering. Consider the number of pensions of soldiers from World War I. that have been cancelled. The records show that 75,000 war pensions were cancelled between 1931 and 1939. This was an average of more than twenty a day throughout that period.
– Do you find any difficulty in having a pension restored to a person whose pension was previously cancelled?
– I have found difficulty all along the line. The Repatriation Commission has stated that it is not prepared to re-open these cases without new evidence being offered. I believe that a man who had his pension cancelled prior to 1943 need not, under the provisions of section 47 of the act, produce new evidence in order to have his case re-examined.
– As long as the disability is exactly the same.
– I cannot hear what the honorable member for Perth is saying, but I will discuss this case with him later, if he so desires. I point out to the committee that before an accurate diagnosis can be made in any case, the history of the case must be known. This man enlisted in 1915 and went to England some months later. During gun practice at Lydd, he strained his side and arm. He was then admitted to the Lydd military hospital and was under the control of the doctor who had examined him and passed him as fit for military service at South Head in 1915. According to A. C.M.F. form D.l, dated 4th June, 1915, Dr. Whiston Walsh found nothing abnormal at that time in this man’s condition. The form provides, in paragraph A, that “ marks indicating congenital peculiarities or previous diseases “ be indicated and, in paragraph B, that “ slight defects but not sufficient to cause rejection “ should also be mentioned. No entry was made by Dr. Walsh with regard to either of those paragraphs. When this man was admitted to the Lydd hospital on 8th October, 1915 Dr. Walsh said that he was suffering from neurasthenia, not neurosis. From that time until 26th November, 1915 there is no record of the treatment given to this soldier in the Lydd hospital.
He was then transferred to the London General Hospital with what was described as “ neurosis right arm and rheumatism “. The doctor who examined him at that time said that he went sick in England on 1st September, 1915, with loss of the use of his right arm, which had previously occurred two years before in Australia, and that he had had a nervous breakdown at that time and had recovered in six months. I have evidence to show that this man had, at the time referred to,two years previously, obtained a first-class certificate in gun laying and had re-qualified some three months later.
On 10th January, 1916, Dr. E. B. Allan made the following notation: -
Neuritis of the right shoulder and leg. Sent away from Lydd training camp on 28th September, 1915. Had same condition on Thursday Island three years ago.
We find one doctor saying that he had this condition two years previously, and then, some two months later, another doctor saying that he had the condition three years before. I put it to this committee that the act requires that boards and tribunals of the Repatriation Commission shall examine all the evidence in relation to the condition of an ex-serviceman, and that they - shall draw, from all the circumstances of the case, from the evidence furnished and from medical opinions, all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant.
This man was a fit man before he went to the war. He served in the Boer War. I have here a photograph showing him in soldier’s uniform at the time of the Boer War. I have another photograph of this man taken in 1904 when he was a member of the Natal police force. I have another one, dated 1908, showing him in the uniform of the New South Wales mounted police. There is another photograph of this man showing him as a member of the premier Casino rugby league football team in 1908. There is another photograph here which shows him as a member of the Waverley team that won the premiership in 1910. He is then shown in the uniform of a physical culture instructor at Thursday Island in 1912. In 1913 and 1914 he was with the military band, the R.A.A. trumpeters, at Victoria Barracks. Then we see him in 1915, before he left for service overseas. He has a military discharge which shows that he joined up on 26th September, 1910, and was discharged on 9th May, 1917.
These two doctors that I have referred to created their own history of this case, but failed to make any record of the treatment received by this soldier between September, 1915 and November, 1915. I have a certificate here, issued on 10th August, 1913, which shows that Bombardier A. T. Ford was qualified to act as an auto-sight layer. The certificate says that he passed a very good examination, and re-qualified on 1st November, 1913.
The picture that tells the story is the one I have before me at the moment. It is a photograph taken before this man came back from England in 1917, and it shows that his right arm is at least 2 inches shorter than his left arm. I would like exservicemen members on the other side of the committee to take a look at this photograph, because it shows the condition in which this man returned from the First World War. I have another document here, dated 10th December, 1913 - the time when, according to the doctors I have already mentioned, the man in question was suffering from neurasthenia and was in hospital for four months. The document is hand-written and reads -
The attached application of Bombadier T. Ford for employment on the instructional staff is forwarded and recommended. This N.C.O. has been attached to this camp since 1/12/13, and gives promise of becoming an excellent instructor. He is very attentive to his duties and regular in his habits.
It is signed, “ G. Bushell, Captain, Camp Commandant “. I have another document here which shows that on 8th October, 1914, at Little Coogee Fort, this man made an application to Lieutenant Christianson for appointment to the instructional staff.
- (Mr. Chancy). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.-I suggest to the Government that a very serious and urgent study should be made of the practicability of building a suitable Australian ship for service in the Antarctic. This is a matter of interest to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), whose department includes an Antarctic Division, and also to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. It is of interest, too, to the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton), and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) as far as it has relation to fisheries.
The reputation of Australia in the Antarctic is very high among those nations that have stations in that continent.
At the present time the arrangement that is in operation, as I think most honorable members are aware, is that we charter a Danish ship, which is used in the Arctic during the northern summer, and used by us in the southern summer. This ship costs us ?662 a day at charter rates. It cost us ?81,111 in 1957-58. Now, Sir, capitalizing this sum of ?81,111 at 5 per cent. you get a sum of ?1,622,000. I do not suggest that if we could build a ship for that sum, or probably less, it would necessarily be an economic proposition to do so because, naturally, you have to take into account in the charter rates the cost of running the ship. Nevertheless, we could probably run a ship with Royal Aus tralian Navy personnel who might otherwise be employed in other forms of training.
However, I do not put the case purely on the grounds of economy. There might be some economic advantages, but there would certainly be very great gains in other ways. First, one of the purposes that could more readily be served if we had such a ship of our own would be the relief of our bases on Heard Island, Macquarie Island, Mawson and Wilkes, the transport of supplies there, and the carrying of personnel in both directions. Secondly, improvement of our means of transportation to the Antarctic is one of the various ways by which we would be able to assert still further, internationally, our claim to part of that territory.
I suggest further, that if we had such a vessel it would be advantageous for our R.A.N. personnel, because they would be able to gain experience in iced waters. In any future war in which we might become engaged it is not impossible that fighting would be carried on in that part of the globe as well as in other parts. Fighting a war in the Antarctic would require great experience, and experience cannot be acquired in the twinkling of an eye. Certainly the experience necessary for navigating among icebergs, growlers, bergy bits, ice floes, and compacting and rafting ice, and the finding of leads, and in the strong winds often of hurricane force that come down over the glaciers into the sea, and in the strong currents, and so forth, cannot be obtained at short order. If we should have to fight in such waters we should be at a great disadvantage compared with other nations which have gained this experience.
From the commercial point of view we may have great resources of fish in our section of Antarctica. South of the Falkland Islands is the Birdwood Bank, where I believe there are rich resources of fish. We simply do not know what fish are available in the Antarctic waters to the south of Australia. So, for the purposes of both defence and commercial exploitation, a great deal of hydrographic and oceanographic work will have to be carried on. This means the making of charts, which will require, of course, not only the mapping of coastlines, but also the taking of soundings so that the mountains, valleys, plains and so forth under the sea may be clearly delineated, and so that the currents that sweep through them may be studied as to velocity and change of direction from season to season. Furthermore, marine life, both botanical and icthyological, has to be studied. It is also necessary to study what food that marine life lives on, and the way in which marine life resists enormous pressures at great depths. Those are things that cannot be done in the twinkling of an eye, and that is the whole burden of what I wish to say.
Suppose that in ten years’ time valuable minerals are found in Antarctica, and we wish to exploit them. We should have to get in the machinery to concentrate the minerals, and we should have to get the concentrates out. This means having charts and ports to meet the varying climatic conditions according to season and the state of the ice. If that became necessary in ten years’ time we could not suddenly do it unless observations had been made stretching over a period of many years, and a great deal of scientific work had been done, and our people had already gained the necessary experience. The same consideration applies to the needs of the Navy if it had to operate in those waters.
I am not suggesting that Australia should build an icebreaker. I believe that the Argentine is the only country in the southern hemisphere which has an icebreaker. It is true that the Americans, the Canadians and the Russians use icebreakers in the Antarctic, but that is because they already have icebreakers which they need for defence and commercial purposes in the Arctic. When I say “ commercial purposes “ I mean that they are used for clearing passages into and out of icebound harbours. That is beyond our capacity and our needs.
An icebreaker is a big, reinforced heavy ship of deep draught and, of course, a characteristic of an icebreaker is that it has to have very powerful engines to drive it through the ice. It also has to carry a vast amount of fuel. This means that an icebreaker is a big, heavy ship not suitable for carrying cargo, or for any purpose other than breaking lanes through the ice. On the other hand, we need a ship, first of all, for the relief of our bases. That means, that the ship must be capable of carrying personnel and a considerable amount of cargo. Secondly, I suggest that we need the same ship for survey and scientific work, and it would have to be adapted to meet that purpose. It would need a big open bridge, a good big chartroom, a gyro-compass, radar, echosounding devices, asdics, laboratories and quarters for the survey and scientific personnel to work in. It might also need two helicopters, and a deckhouse in which they could be repaired.
Whether it is possible to construct a ship that would fulfil all those conditions is a question that I would not set out to answer. But I do say that within the next six months we ought to get together a committee consisting of a representative of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition, probably Mr. Phillip Law, a marine architect with experience in the building of Antarctic vessels, practical mariners, including a master mariner accustomed to navigating in ice floes, a marine engineer with experience in the same conditions, and a man experienced in the handling of cargo in such conditions. This last is not unimportant, because in order to land cargo under Antarctic conditions you simply cannot go into a wharf and have a derrick unload your cargo. Unloading in those conditions is a very delicate operation which requires a great deal of specialized equipment and a great deal of experience.
Fourthly, I suggest that, of course, the Navy would have to be represented because of the hydrographic work it would have to carry out, and because it would have to man the ship. Fifthly, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should be represented in regard to its requirements for scientific work.
I suggest most earnestly to the Government that now is the time to get such a committee together to study this problem, because our shipyards will be lacking orders in twelve months’ time. It is quite within the capacity of our shipyards to build such a ship, which might cost £1,250,000. They have the capacity, and it would be foolish when we have a need like this to fulfil, not to use that capacity.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Being a new member I feel that there are so many things that urgently require attention that I do not know which to start with. I admit that most of them are parochial in character. However, I shall start with a non-parochial subject - the subject of national development. I believe that I should blame the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and his colleagues in the administration of this portfolio for their ineffectiveness and inefficiency - ineffectiveness because they have not a planned programme for the undeveloped areas of Australia, and inefficiency because they have not taken the portfolio seriously enough. This is a most important portfolio, and more cooperation between the State Parliaments and this Parliament would be to the great advantage of Australia. The States are just as much concerned over their undeveloped areas as we are, and if they were urged to give to this Federal Parliament specifications of their undeveloped areas which could be developed by irrigation or other means, it could be decided whether it was possible to bring irrigation to those areas and what climatic conditions would enable them to produce. The Federal Government could collate all that information from the States. The States could then plan production in their undeveloped areas according to the demand on world markets. The States should have their fingers on the pulse of world markets in order to know how much beef, wheat, corn or cane should be grown in their undeveloped areas in order to satisfy world requirements. If that were done the Department of National Development would be able to plan the orderly development of Australia, giving priority to the undeveloped areas that were most deserving of attention according to the economic situation. That would be of great advantage to this country. I will have more to say on that subject at a later stage.
I want to say something about the PostmasterGeneral’s Department as it concerns my electorate. I have asked the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) a question about the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programmes in northern Queensland. In the area that I represent are two A.B.C. stations within 50 miles of each other and they broadcast the same programme. There is no alternative programme whatever. I will pursue this matter as far as possible, because every organization in the north of Queensland has been screaming for an alternative programme. When they see television being developed in the southern States they feel that at least they should be able to listen to more than one radio programme.
The telephone service throughout the Cape York Peninsula should be thoroughly investigated. I have made a nuisance of myself to the Postmaster-General and I will be a greater nuisance to him if nothing is done about this matter. Areas throughout the peninsula are seething with discontent because they have inadequate telephone services. I refer to areas such as Ravenshoe, Millaa Millaa, Miallo and Coen. The residents of those areas have grievances. They read with amazement that money is being spent lavishly to provide television for the southern part of Australia and they seethe because they cannot hear properly, let alone see. These matters should be investigated. At the present time the Minister relies too much on his departmental officers, who are too far away from these centres of discontent. If information is required it is sought from the officers in charge in the area, who in many cases are part-time officers and are not prepared to give the information sought. There should be a thorough investigation into the activities of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in the Cape York Peninsula.
I wish to say something about the pearling industry on Thursday Island. The local pearlers are hampered by regulations. They would like to exploit certain areas of pearl shell but they are prevented by regulations. But Japanese pearlers may enter those areas because the regulations do not apply to outsiders. Outsiders are not required to be immunized, for instance, against diphtheria or chicken pox. The Japanese may fish for shell in those areas but our own pearlers are hampered by regulations. If it is good enough for the Australian companies to comply with the regulations it should be good enough for the outside pearlers to comply with them also. I have been in the Thursday Island area and I know that the local pearlers are seething with discontent because they are bound by regulations, whereas outside interests can harvest the shell from our beds unhampered by regulations.
.- I think that the Government should encourage development and decentralization, and in this regard I support the remarks of the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton). But when we talk about decentralization and development we talk in terms that are too general. We should be more specific. If we could point to particular areas that have the potential for decentralization, we would stand a chance of getting some action.
I refer to certain work that I believe should be undertaken. If it were undertaken it would lead to increased development, increased production, and a greater measure of decentralization. The boundary between Victoria and New South Wales is the great Murray River. I have always maintained that too much of the water of the Murray River flows into the sea. The fertile soil of New South Wales and Victoria could, if given water from the Murray River, produce almost anything. If a high-level weir were built on the Marraboor River - or the Little Murray River as it is also called - just above Swan Hill it would mean that the waters of the Murray River could be put to greater use in developing the fertile soil along its banks. It is well known that the building of that weir would bring into greater production thousands of acres of country and so would enable a certain measure of decentralization to be practised.
– Would that affect the flow of the river at the lower stages?
– I appreciate the honorable member’s interest in the flow of the river towards South Australia because he is an active South Australian member. However, it is my opinion, although, of course, I am not an engineer, that the amount of water impounded by the weir would not materially affect the flow into South Australia. All it would do would be to enable the surplus that now flows into the sea to be put to good use. If there was any danger of South Australia being impoverished for water the matter would have to be looked at more closely.
The building of this weir has been advocated by local residents for years. It comes, of course, under the purview of the River Murray Commission, in which Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and the Commonwealth are partners. The great trouble is to get some action to start the project. The Victorian Government says that it is willing to contribute a certain amount of money, but it has never said how much. New South Wales said that the project had not a very high priority but at a later stage the Premier of New South Wales said that the project was very important and that New South Wales was prepared to go on with the work. But nothing definite has been done. It was reported recently that a meeting was being organized between the Commonwealth and the States concerned in order to bring the plans to some fruition. But within the last 30 minutes I have had inquiries made at the office of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and have been told that they have no knowledge whatever of a meeting pending to discuss this most important matter. Although the States should indicate first what they are prepared to contribute, because definitely it is their function to ask the Commonwealth Government to participate in any scheme, I ask the Minister for National Development to convene a meeting of the Commonwealth and the States concerned to look into this matter, which is of vital importance to production in Australia. More of the Murray River waters that are flowing into the sea should be impounded so that people in the vicinity of the river will have a better opportunity to increase production and enjoy a higher standard of security.
– How will the Snowy waters affect it?
– The Snowy waters will affect it favorably because the more water that becomes available the more water you can impound with a weir without affecting South Australia. So the water coming in will make the position more favorable. In fact, the suggestion would not be so practical if the Snowy waters were not available. I urge the Minister for National Development to convene the meeting that I have suggested. It would be for the good of Australia and, although the weir would greatly benefit my electorate, the people of New South Wales would share the advantage.
The Murray River is of wonderful value to Australia. There is in the area an organization called the Murray Valley Development League, which has the objective of developing the Murray valley. The league believes that within a short time 1,000,000 people could be settled in the valley because both fertile soil and water are available. Honorable members have spoken about populating the Kimberleys and developing other outback areas. Although I am not against such proposals, I believe that there is a great potential for development in proximity to existing amenities, a factor that should not be overlooked. Every one knows that the fertile soil of the Murray valley could be used to greater advantage with the water that could be made available.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) should investigate the suggestion that donations to the Murray Valley Development League should be a deduction for income tax purposes. All donations to the league are voluntary, and they come from people who live along the Murray, and in other places, who desire to see the valley developed. It is not too much to ask that the Treasurer investigate the proposal that donations to the Murray Valley Development League be allowed as deductions for income tax purposes. Of course, I believe that the league should be subsidized, but we must stop somewhere in our requests for subsidies. We cannot continue indefinitely subsidizing. Nevertheless, the question of a subsidy could also be investigated.
I wish to refer now to a matter relating to broadcasting. Without mentioning any particular radio station or any particular commentator, I say that it would be wise if commentators who are new to country areas, whether in Gippsland, in my own electorate or elsewhere, were given a list of local town names and told how to pronounce them, 1 have been listening to radio stations, not all adjacent to the area in which I live, but also in other districts, and have been amazed at the pronunciation that commentators have given to various local town names.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
, - As to-day is Grievance Day I can assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and all honorable members, that I have many genuine grievances to bring forward, but I, shall not be able to cover them all in the ten. minutes that is allotted to me. The most important point, to my mind, is that we have in this country, according to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), some 60,000 people out of work. If those 60,000 unemployed are spread over the six States of the Commonwealth; I can assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that possibly one-half of that number are in New South Wales, and that possibly one-half of the number of unemployed in that State are in the electorate of West Sydney.
– What kind of a representative have they got?
– I will soon tell you. In my electorate many men and women are out of work, and the number of unemployed is increasing each day because in some cases employers believe that people are too old to work at 50. When unemployed people reach the age of 60 in the case of women, and 65 in the case of men, naturally they apply for the old age pension. However, some five, six or seven weeks elapse from the time of application for a pension until the pension is granted, and during that period the people are in dire distress because they have no income. The Minister for Labour and National Service, if only for humanitarian reasons, should instruct the Sydney branch of his department that arrangements be made for applicants for a pension to draw social service benefits until the pension payments commence. That is a fair proposition. Any amount that has been paid to the pension applicant by way of social service benefits could then be deducted from the pension or, if the applicant returned to employment, it could be deducted from his earnings. Under the present arrangement men and women have to manage some how for five or six weeks without any income.
I see that the good wife of the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) is in the chamber, so I hope that she will intercede with the Minister on behalf of the people to whom I am about to refer. In my electorate are two departmental offices, one at Newtown and the other in Grace Building. When a person goes to the office and asks for a pension he is told by the interviewing officer that he should look for light work because if he is able to go to the office he is fit for light work. But with business firms dismissing workers while they are still at a comparatively early age, what earthly chance is there of these people obtaining the light work that the departmental officers talk so much about? What is the use of a local qualified doctor or doctors certifying, for instance, that a man is unfit for work, and should be receiving the invalid pension, when he is told by a departmental officer that he should be doing light work? I can cite cases to prove my statement. I should like the officers of the Department of Labour and National Service to tell me where this light work can be found, because I have requests from people with genuine grievances every day of the week who cannot find it. They come to my home, they go to the office in Newtown and they come to my office in the Commonwealth Bank Building in Martin Place. I feel that I am in the same position as the Government because I am guilty of telling them that I will write to the employment office to see what can be done whereas I could tell them straight out that nothing will be done for them by this Government.
It is a downright shame that the Government will not assist these people by paying them the unemployment benefit of £3 or £3 5s. a week until such time as they receive the age or invalid pension. I hope that in the near future the Government will take some heed of what I have said. I assure honorable members that in a big city like Sydney there are many unemployed who need help. Dozens of them have no homes and are forced to sleep in the parks at night. When they go to the Labour Exchange they are told they must look for work. If a man goes to a factory and asks the man at the counter or at the door for a job, it is not likely that that person will sit down and write a letter to the Commonwealth employment office and say that so-and-so asked for a job but he had nothing to give him. But that is what this Government asks that unemployed man to do. He is expected to come back within two weeks with proof that he has looked for employmentwithout success. With the introduction of automa tion into factories the prospects of these unemployed getting a job arc more remote than ever. The Government is betraying these poor unfortunate men, and it will not be long before they are in a very bad way.
In regard to ex-servicemen applying for repatriation benefits, my experience has been that the opinions of doctors and specialists in Macquarie-street, Sydney, do not count with the department. They may say that an ex-serviceman’s injury has been caused by war service, but the referee for the Repatriation Commission will suggest that he is able to do light work and that his disability is not the result of war injuries. Even if a man may have had one of his legs shot off, or his heart may not be in good condition, the commission will not accept the fact that his war service was responsible for his condition. It is disgraceful that after two world wars the Government should treat the men who fought for their country in such a manner. I trust that this situation will be remedied. There are not many ex-servicemen left now from World War I. If the Government would grant them a pension it would be one of the finest things it had ever done. It should not be necessary for applicants for repatriation benefits to have to pass three or four doctors before they can get a war pension. Hundreds of people in my electorate are in desperate need. It is useless for me to tell them that I will try to get them jobs and that I will write to the department on their behalf, because I know that the reply will be that no work suitable for them is available.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 291.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2.15 p.m.
– by leave - I thank the honorable member from Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who is in charge for the Opposition, for the indulgence of his colleague in granting me leave to make a statement.
The Japanese Government has agreed to limit the export of man-made fibre piecegoods to Australia to 8,000,000 square yards a year. Australia’s imports of these materials from Japan in the year 1958-59 have risen to 8,500,000 square yards, compared with a little over 1,500,000 in 1956-57. In addition, import licensing statistics indicated that this upward trend in imports from Japan would have continued even more sharply if controls had not been imposed.
Although Japanese imports have, to an important extent, replaced imports from other sources, this has occurred during a period in which total demand for manmade fibre piecegoods in Australia has been declining. The result has been that local production of piecegoods of rayon and other man-made fibres has declined. There has been a reduction in employment in local weaving mills, most of which are located outside capital cities.
After careful consideration of these developments, and of representations made recently by the Australian industry, the Government has decided that the whole question of protection for the industry should be re-examined by the Tariff Board. The board has been asked to hold the necessary inquiry and to submit a report to the Government. The matter has also been raised with the Japanese Government under Article V. of the trade agreement with Japan with a view to preventing any further increase in imports whilst the matter is before the Tariff Board.
The agreement reached with the Japanese to restrain exports of these piece goods to Australia is another indication of the effectiveness of the provisions for restraint and emergency action written into the trade agreement to safeguard Australian industry. It also demonstrates the spirit of co-operation and understanding with which the Japanese Government approaches trade with Australia.
The Japanese Government has suspended the issue of licences for the export to Australia of rayon piece goods and spun yarn piece goods. These types were already covered by Japan’s export control regulations and action is being taken to extend the controls to other synthetic fibre piece goods not covered at present. The Department of Trade is also taking steps to discuss with importers the implications of the restraint exercised by the Japanese Government in meeting Australia’s request.
I thank the House for permitting me to make this short statement. I preferred to make it to the House rather than by way of an issue to the press. To facilitate debate, should that be desired, I shall move that the statement be printed. I acknowledge the representations and advice that have come to me on this matter from the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten) and the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Clay) as well as other honorable members. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Rayon Imports from Japan. - Ministerial Statement - and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 7th October (vide page 1888).
Proposed Vote, £9,626,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- The committee now returns to its consideration of the Estimates which was interrupted somewhere near midnight last night. The estimates now before the committee concern the Commonwealth Railways, the Postmaster-General’s Department, and broadcasting and television services. Much of the discussion so far has centered on television and the quality of the service that is offered to the Australian people. It is a little early to offer a firm opinion as to whether the Government has really acted wisely in the plans that it has made for the provision of this medium to the Australian public. We all accept the view that it is an exceedingly important phase of our community life. It is potentially a very vital influence in the life of our nation. In its dissemination of news and information, particularly in regard to world affairs, it can be very important in forming the mind and character of the people. Furthermore, there is a very substantial possibility of the future of public affairs in this country being influenced through this medium. As we know, such an influence is being exercised in the British general elections now being held. Television has been put to extensive use throughout the election campaign in Britain. We need to exercise a great deal of care in order to ensure that no influence harmful to the Australian mind generally, and particularly the minds of the younger generation, is allowed to enter into television programmes.
I suppose that I have had as much real experience of television as has any other honorable member. I have been a television viewer and have had an opportunity to judge the programmes offered to the general public. I was in the United States of America for five years, and was able regularly to watch the programmes broadcast by the various television stations there. Some programmes are most acceptable, but I think that others are questionable, and we shall have to consider very seriously whether these questionable programmes are likely to contribute anything of value to the people.
Those who produce television programmes ought to be given some guidance to help them to understand what programmes we think would be appropriate in Australia. I hope that Australia will not become a dumping ground for programmes which are not wanted in the United States - programmes which are regarded there as waste material, as it were. In the initial stages of television development in this country, it would be wise for some kind of board to review the programmes likely to be submitted to the Australian public and to give some guidance on that aspect of television development.
I earnestly hope that the television companies will use as much Australian talent as possible in the programmes that they offer, and that the Australian point of view, and everything that is characteristic of the spirit of the Australian nation, will feature prominently in our television programmes. We owe a duty to the Australian people generally, and particularly to young Australians, to keep before them the great traditions that are being built up in this country, and to foster that typical and truly Australian outlook that has come to be known throughout the world as being peculiarly our own. I think that the best way to achieve this object is to ensure that Australian men and women who have a gift for acting and presenting the Australian point of view are used in television programmes. The average Australian man or woman has undoubted ability, and I hope that Australian performers who are prepared to give their time, effort and talents to this work will be encouraged to take part in television broadcasts and will not be excluded from this field by the importation of programmes from other countries.
One of the principal reasons for my rising at this stage, Mr. Temporary Chairman, is to bring to the notice of the committee the unsatisfactory position that has arisen in the introduction of television in Adelaide. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, after having taken evidence on the applications for licences for stations in that city, recommended that one commercial station should be established there, and that the licence should be given to a company which represented the combined interests of Macquarie Broadcasting Service Proprietary Limited and News Limited, which publishes the Adelaide “News”. The remarkable thing was that the Government, instead of adopting this recommendation, issued a second licence to another newspapercontrolled organization. This was quite contrary to the recommendations made by the Broadcasting Control Board. We ask the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) to explain why the Government departed from those recommendations. It has been rumoured in Adelaide that the managing director of Advertiser Newspapers Limited, which publishes the Adelaide “ Advertiser “, made a hurried visit to Melbourne in order to see the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), upon whom he was able to exercise so much influence that, ultimately, the right honorable gentleman was prepared to use his good offices in the matter. A further licence was granted in order to accommodate the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ company.
I want some more definite information from the Minister about that matter. It was brought to his notice when legislation dealing with television was before the Parliament, and he was asked for an explanation. But, up to the present time, we have not received any satisfactory explanation or any real information. In matters such as this, where the Government is granting licences for certain purposes, we have a right to know exactly who are the people involved and why the Government felt compelled to depart from the recommendations that had been made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. No adequate or satisfactory explanation has been given, and I hope that the Postmaster-General, who is now at the table, will give the committee and the nation some explanation. We require to know whether there has been an abuse of a public office which has enabled this tremendously influential medium of disseminating information to extend its powers to the field of television. It is rather unfortunate that newspaper interests are obtaining the major control of television companies. I feel that it is not desirable or helpful to the Australian mind to find-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I note from the Estimates that the cost of keeping the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the next year will be £225,000. Frankly, I wonder whether we are getting value for our money. In that context, I want to refer to what I believe are some of the major deficiencies in the approach by the board to its present task of advising the Government on the issue of television licences for stage 3, which is the extension of television to country areas.
The board will shortly begin its examination of 45 applications for licences in thirteen areas. It proposes to hear all this evidence in Melbourne. While I readily understand that this is a matter of great convenience to the board, and while I frankly concede that it has other tasks to perform, I believe that this will discourage the presentation to the board of a good deal of evidence which I would have thought it would have found necessary for the completion of its task. I have a letter from the council of the Shire of Murrurundi which is in my electorate. The council has a- right and proper regard for the need to ensure that people in its area secure good television services. It asked to be heard by the board, but in this recent letter it said -
If the inquiry is now to be moved to Melbourne it would not warrant the expenditure of ratepayers’ money to be present.
I merely register my protest that the board should hear all this evidence in Melbourne and should not deign to go to the capital cities of the States concerned. At the same time, I am glad to have an assurance from the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) that the board will accept written evidence. In the original hearings in Sydney of applications for television licences some years ago, the applicants were represented by legal counsel. On this occasion, I understand that the board is also to be so represented. Of course, it follows that if any one is to be so represented then every one must be so represented. But I doubt the desirability of having applicants represented by legal counsel. I have some very vivid impressions of the party that went on in Sydney. That inquiry became an examination not of applicants by the board but of counsel for applicants by counsel for other applicants. In other words, the hearing became a verbal donnybrook with legal giants pursuing each other into all sorts of irrelevant avenues, while the board sat on the sidelines. The only time that I saw the whole set-up in character was an occasion when the propriety of certain material published in a Sunday newspaper was under question. For that moment, the whole of those present, including learned counsel, members of the board and the witnesses, were sitting there reading Ginger Meggs.
The fact is that the board’s job is to examine applicants and to probe the details of their applications, and so make its report to the Government. If the board is incompetent to do this job itself, then I believe that we ought to get another board. If the applicants are incapable themselves of submitting and sustaining their applications, then they are hardly worth powder and shot; they ought to be put aside. The employment of counsel, in my view, is merely an added expense. Since some 32, probably, of the 45 hopeful applicants will not be able to win in this race, it adds up to a major cost to these people without result. My legal friends, of course, will contend that every applicant has a vital interest in pulling down the application of every other competing applicant. But, Sir, I submit again that it is the responsibility of the board to examine these applicants and to probe the weaknesses. From this very long process of examination, some questionable results will, in my opinion, flow.
In answer to an interjected question by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) recently, the Postmaster-General was heard to offer the opinion that the hearing of evidence would take something under six months. But having regard to the sixteen questions in the application form and the variety of material that will have to be presented to and examined by the board, I should think that a day and a half, or possibly two days, for each applicant will not be unreasonable. In these circumstances, with time out for Christmas and perhaps adjournments, it is quite easy to see six or seven months flowing away before the board has finished taking evidence. After that the board will need to assess the evidence, prepare its report and present it to the Government; and the Government will itself, I should think, take some time in deciding who will get the licences. So, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the end of 1961 would be a conservative date by which we might see television extended to the first of the country areas. When all of these applications, which will be taken together, have been dealt with and licences have been issued, some thirteen, or possibly more, commercial stations and maybe thirteen national stations, making 26 or more, will have to be produced by the limited number of builders of television equipment. Inevitably, there will be long delays arising from that cause.
I should have thought it desirable to have had these areas examined one at a time. Individual reports could have been made, licences issued and the production of equipment proceeded with. The immediate answer will be, of course, that it is necessary for the board to look at all these applications together and so get an overall picture of the effect on the Australian economy, the ability of the economy to support such a number of stations, and various other considerations, including technical considerations. That is no doubt true, but it is here that I believe the board has fallen down on the job that has been entrusted to it. When the Postmaster-General announced the Government’s decision to proceed with stage 3, he said that the Government would not necessarily limit licences to one in each area.
I shall advert now to paragraph 106 of the report of the Royal Commission on Television, which recommended a thorough examination of technical aspects of frequency assignment. This question, in my view, was foolishly omitted from the terms of reference of the royal commission. I offer the opinion that we will rue the day when the Postmaster-General’s Department did not follow up the recommendations of the royal commission in that regard. Sir, not only will consideration of the issue of two licences call for a review of the proposed frequency reservations which provide for only one licence in most areas, but it will also put applicants to the difficulty of doing a good deal of guesswork as to the terms of the application that they are making. They do not know whether they are to operate with sole access to a market or whether they are to share that access with one other or perhaps more licensees. In answer to a question I asked earlier in the week, the Postmaster-General said that the board would no doubt look into the technical and economic considerations which underlie the whole problem. I trust that it will, because I believe that it will be on unsound ground in reaching a decision if it does not do so.
Question 16 of the application invites applicants to say where they propose to locate their station and what service they propose to give. Surely this is a travesty of the responsibilities of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The board has not specified the areas to be covered, nor has it specified the grade of service that is to be given. It has left the applicants to say where they will put their stations, at what power they will operate and, therefore, what grade of service they propose to give. It is well within probability that an applicant for a licence will deliberately choose a site which will give him access to the widest possible market. This is axiomatic. But in so doing, he may well produce problems of intrusion into other areas to be served by other applicants, and there may be unfortunate consequences flowing from such a situation.
It is also clear that applicants in the same market would have proposed to operate from different locations. If this is to be the case, clearly one or two of them will have to move their proposed locations, and so the economic considerations of their applications will virtually have to be recast. I believe that the board itself is responsible first to see that the people of this country get an adequate television service. The board is in complete charge of the situation, and it should have said to the applicants, “ In return for a television licence you will broadcast from this point, you will use this amount of power, and you will provide this grade of service “. In other words, the department should lay down a specification for the service that is to be given.
I come back to the matter of broadcasting, because my honorable friend from Perth (Mr. Chaney) last night complained that some areas in his State could not get broadcasting services. The reason that they cannot is that we have run out of frequencies, and we have run out of frequencies because in the early days the Postmaster-General’s Department did not exercise sufficient foresight in issuing licences. With something less than 200 stations operating in the broadcasting band we have run out of channels, although a country of the same size, the United States of America, is able to operate about 3,000 broadcasting stations in the same band. I believe that we are in grave danger of doing something similar with regard to television. I suggest that before it called for applications the Australian Broadcasting Control Board should have been much more specific about the areas and the grade of service to be provided for the Australian people.
The Government has already said that it will give preference, as far as practicable, to independent applications. This was a praiseworthy statement in itself. Lacking something, perhaps, in definition, it seems to have raised an odd sort of fear that these new country stations will not be per mitted to relay or take programmes from city stations. Any such proposal would be, of course, completely foolish. If I interpret the statement aright, it means that the Government - and I applaud its view - is insistent that these country licensees shall not be put in a position in which they will be encouraged or obliged to surrender what, for want of a better word, I am pleased to call the editorial content of their programmes.
A couple of interesting things have happened recently in this field. It is clearly understood that the city press interests, which control city television, want to get into the country in the television field. The chairman of directors of one station in Sydney, Mr. Henderson, has used his access to the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ to put his case. This is a slightly better opportunity than would be available to other applicants. However, I do not mind this, because it is simply an open and shut statement. He said, “ he wants to have a voice in the operation of country stations, and will seek a shareholding in country stations, so that these stations will be assured of his company’s continued interest and assistance “. In other words, he makes no bones about wanting to be in it. But slightly more dubious is the effort of the other Sydney press interests, the “ Sunday Telegraph “, which some time ago ran what purported to be a market research quiz on the subject of preference of country listeners. It asked a series of questions, all heavily loaded to produce answers favorable to its interests. One question, for instance, was “ Do you want TV extended to the country? “ Is it any wonder that 90 per cent, of the people said yes? But the loaded question was No. 4, “ Would you prefer country stations to be locally owned, even if this meant shorter viewing hours and a lesser number of stations to choose from? “ I imagine that even the publishers were a little taken aback by the fact that 19 per cent, of those who were asked said yes. But the 76 per cent, of “ No “ answers were used in this way: When the results of this quiz, in dubious propriety, were published, there was the simple item, “ Would you prefer locally owned - 76 per cent.”. I would hope that this sort of nonsense would not find its way into the evidence to be presented to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on behalf of applications in which that particular unit of the press might be interested. Of course, every one knows that we have an open and shut statement and we can make up our own minds with regard to the arguments published in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, and the points made as a result of this so-called market research quiz are so threadbare that they are not likely to affect or influence anybody at all. They do, however, point to the fact that people who have some access to public opinion already, through the press medium which they control, are not above using that medium to assist them to expand their access to public opinion in quite a different medium. For myself, I am delighted to see that the Government has made its decision, that as far as practicable - and I hope that that will be a good way - it will see to it that these country stations retain complete independence as to control of their editorial policies.
Apart from that, I can only hope that even at this late date, although the timetable has been set for the hearings, the board will find some other method of carrying on these ancillary investigations which will be necessary to establish the background against which it must consider the applications.
.- T refer to that section of the Estimates that has relation to broadcasting and television services. I would like to analyse the attitude of the Parliament, and particularly that of honorable members on the Government side, to the highly desirable practice of increasing the Australian content of television programmes. Before indulging in any argument about the merits or demerits of Australian artists, let me say that surely, in a country that has gone to a great deal of public expense to provide television services, we should make sure that our programmes are imbued with the Australian spirit and the Australian ethic and the Australian way of life. We all heard the honorable member .for Perth (Mr. Chaney) speaking last night, and we heard you, too, Sir, but not in your capacity as Temporary Chairman. I cannot refer to you in that capacity because it would be contrary to standing orders, and I have no desire to offend. You seemed, however, to have some wretched inferiority complex when considering the question whether Australian artists can make the grade.
The feeling amongst honorable members on the Government side is opposed to the battle being waged by honorable members on this side of the Parliament on behalf of the Australian artist and playwright. Whether honorable members opposite like it or not, there is going to be a considerable amount of Australianism in future television programmes. Although the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) may not be prepared to help us, and although the Australian Broadcasting Control Board may not be able to help us, the force of public opinion will help us. There is no hostility displayed by those who are operating the stations and who are trying to solve the problem, and I would invite the Minister to consider these factors.
If the honorable member for Perth repeated in his electorate what he said last night in this committee he would have to answer to such writers as Katherine Susannah Prichard, Henrietta Drake-Brockman, K. S. Ewers, Gavin Casey and Mr. Stowe, who recently won the Miles Franklin award. There is in Western Australia a surging flood of literature, capable not only of being channelled into television, but also of being adapted for the stage. It is part of our literary heritage, in which Western Australia has always had a high place. The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) has also a negative, apologetic and retreating attitude towards this question. The Minister knows that the reason why we have programmes such as are now being shown - outside of the national stations - is that they are a cheap commodity. If it were a question of filled milk, or condensed milk, or foreign cheese or some other such gimmick being imported into the country, the private interests concerned would be badgering the Tariff Board or asking for subsidies and controls. There is no great artistic merit in most of the programmes that we get from overseas. In many cases, they have been brought here simply because they are cheap and nasty and were lying in store, unsure of any certain resurrection, until television came to Australia. They were sold, but they are nearly all finished. This House has to get up to date on this matter. There is a great opportunity for both the Minister and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and for the members of the Government to say, Now is the time to push the ball along for the Australian writer, the Australian technician and the Australian actor,” because television, being a greedy medium, is absorbing all this rubbish that we have been getting. While there are good westerns and good medium performances, and while we must be prepared to have a certain amount of imported entertainment, there is no reason why we should regard ourselves as having this cursed colonial inferiority. We must go right to the people and tell them they can have something of their own. We may make pious resolutions here, but we are going to be urged along by the people outside to do something about the lack of Australian material in television programmes.
The point I make to the Minister is that he should get to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and ask it, in turn, to do something about the matter. There have been efforts faithfully made by at least two television stations in New South Wales - I speak only of my own State - which are prepared to give the Australian his representative role in television either as a writer or as an actor. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has been considerate enough to send its representatives here to listen to this debate, and to give any honorable member who seeks it information on the subject. I have sought their advice and opinions, and I have found that the A.B.C. has put on in various ways about 79 plays. Ten of them have been Australian plays.
The A.B.C. has put on, in my opinion, the most memorable “ Hamlet “ that I have ever seen on stage, screen or television. It was done by Australians with a British producer, I believe, and it was a magnificent effort. It was seen by people who had never before seen Shakespeare performed. They thought Shakespeare was some highbrow gimmick, but when they saw “ Hamlet “ on television they thought it one of the greatest things they have ever seen. The A.B.C. followed this up a few nights later with a performance of “ Julius Caesar “. Now there is a thriller, if you like, or a western if you care to call it that. It is one of the greatest action plays and the public, which had not had an opportunity to see it before because of the snobbery that surrounds the presentation of Shakespeare and opera, saw it on the people’s medium, television, and liked it immensely.
Let me tell honorable members that in a recent television diffusion of “ Macbeth “ in the United States there were 8,000,000 viewers of the work of Shakespeare. Yet we are told that we have to accept American trash and all sorts of stuff that is brought in for transmission to Australian viewers. Nothing of the sort! There is a grand opportunity for the young Australian writer to get right into television and make it something distinctly ours. Then we will have none of this unwarranted expenditure of public money, which is a complete negation of the responsibility of this House to help to preserve the Australian tradition.
The A.B.C. has also established a workshop of well-known Australian writers who are being trained, and whose plays have been discussed. They include people like D’arcy Niland, the young man Kenna, who wrote “The Slaughter on St. Theresa’s Day “ - a very fine piece of work which was produced at the Elizabethan Theatre - Ric Throssell, who works at the Department of External Affairs, Canberra, and who is a very fine playwright, Miss Lansbury and others, all working with Australian material and all learning the techniques of television. We ask on behalf of such people: “ Give us, first, television of an Australian character and wipe out the second rate stuff which is coming into this country. Secondly, give us a percentage minimum content of Australian material on television.” We pleaded for a minimum of 33 i per cent. Australian content. This was refused. We were told that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board would look after the content of television programmes. God help us if we are relying on it to do so! It could not look after anything. Look at the infernal mess it is getting into with television transmission licences, where monopoly is being piled on monopoly. There is a reason for that, but it has never been explained to the people of Australia.
This is the place in which to do something about Australia and Australianism, and ,to see that we have Australian .plays and turns on television. They may be comedy turns, or turns of the western type, or anything you like, but they ought to be Australian.
Finally, I think that the A.B.C., in the thoughtful way that it is trying to do things, has pioneered to some degree in the television field. But its efforts are nullified in this House by honorable members opposite asking: “ Why do you want to complain about television? Television is all right. There is nothing wrong with westerns.” We do not say there .is. But we do say that it is unpleasant that this ‘Government has provided no machinery to make television programmes more representative of Australia, and to give opportunities for Australian writers and actors. “They do not form a pressure group. I try to be their pressure group in this place, and I am very proud to be so.
Now I turn to the work of another television channel - Channel 7. There has been nothing done in television more brilliant than “Johnny Belinda”, an overseas play, true enough, but .done with sensitive skill by Australians. It was one of the greatest experiences of television to have sat in on “ Johnny Belinda “ and seen the way that our artists did it - not just through artistry and not just for television purposes. Theirs was a sympathetic production brought to life by Australian actors. So, first the actor, then the playwright and then the quota. We tell the Minister that if we cannot have a quota in the formative years to help us we will get it eventually by the force of public opinion, because of the desire of Australians to see their own shows on television.
Let me say that there is nothing to feel inferior about, because man for man, writer for writer, actor for actor, technician for technician, our television is equal to the world’s best. So why should we have this feeling of inferiority about developing our own writers? Why should we let the tide of cheap and nasty stuff come into this country without saying, “ So far, and no further”, at least for a little while. Let us gather our forces together. Here is a new dramatic medium. Why should it be flooded with something alien? Every time an Australian sits down to write he gives us something of his own country, he gives us something of your mind and his mind in what he says, and he gets an answer from your heart and .mine.
I sum up by appealing to members of the Government, and to back-benchers on the Government side particularly, to show a little more courage in relation to Australian television programmes, to have ;i little -faith in their own people. I ask them not to use that outworn old gimmick thai, after .all, art is international. I agree that it is, but old, phoney 20-year-old films hiding in some hill in Hollywood waiting for some rube country to buy them for television is not high art. It is very lowgrade business. That is why I ask the Minister at this stage to give us a percentage >or a quota. He ought to look at the machinery of television so as to preserve the right of Australians to have presented to them by Australians the Australian way of life. There need be no apologies about it. We do not say that something that is no .good should be put on television just because it is Australian. We have had enough of that We have had things that have been repeated four or five times. We have had some films over and over again that were just period pieces. They were put on for the housewives on the 12 o’clock session, when they had the opportunity to see the old clothes and old hats that they used to wear themselves in the days when those films were made.
Some of the critics of television and of our attitude to television say, “You have to measure up to world standards “. Well, we have not been getting world standards to measure up to. I submit that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, in regard to Shakespearean plays and some other shows, has been up to world television standards. I submit in all sincerity that “ Johnny Belinda “ was well up to world standards. It was a most moving and remarkable play, and I was deeply moved and pleased to think that it was produced by Australians. Later on we had an Australian play called, I think, “The Big Day “. That was a memorable occasion. It was beautifully acted. Therefore, on the dramatic side we can produce first-class plays and we ought to have more of them. It is a shocking thing that the Government and the Minister should leave our
Australian playwrights and actors standing outside the door of this Parliament asking for a quota, asking for an opportunity to develop themselves in the television medium. You have not had the guts, Mr. Minister, nor has the Government had the guts, to do something for them. You have a colonial mind on the matter. But behind you is all the force of Australian culture, waiting to be seen and waiting to be heard.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented?
– Yes, I claim that the honorable member for Parkes has completely misrepresented something I said in this committee last evening. I shall quote from the “ Hansard “ report portion of the speech which I made last night which, I think, will prove conclusively that I have been misrepresented. In the matter of Australian artists appearing on television, I submitted certain arguments and referred to certain difficulties. I said-
In submitting this argument. Sir, I do not wish to imply in any way that Australian artists and programmes cannot hold their own with overseas artists and programmes . . . Anybody with a proper appreciation of the situation, and with any experience of the matter, knows that Australian artists and productions can hold their own with overseas artists and productions, and, in many instances, improve on them.
I think that proves conclusively that the honorable member for Parkes was completely incorrect in saying that I was opposed to Australian artists on the ground that they could not hold their own with overseas artists and that they were not capable of appearing on television. Once again, with tongue in cheek, he has completely misrepresented what has been said.
.- My friend the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) inferred that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) had some doubt about the capacity of the Australian writer to provide material for television. I approve of the advocacy of the Australian writer by the honorable member for Parkes and I subscribe to his views, but I point out that the honorable member for Perth last night stated very clearly that he hoped that more and more Australian work would appear on television. He said that he hoped that the capacity of Australians to write would become more evident and that more of their work would be used on television.
I want the honorable member for Parkes to realize that he is not the sole advocate of Australian writers in this place. We on this side of the chamber have faith in the Australian writer; so much so that we even hope that the honorable member for Parkes will free himself from the drama that he enacts every week in this place and will write something that will appear on television. We know that he has the capacity to write something bright, witty and cheerful. We on this side of the chamber subscribe to the view that the Australian writer has his place in television. We hope that the honorable member for Parkes can put his words into practice and write something of which we will all approve.
I want to speak on the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department generally. If the average individual were asked what was the most unpopular aspect of the Budget I have no doubt that he would nominate the increased postal and telephone charges. For the ordinary citizen these increased charges far surpassed even Khrushchev’s moon rocket as the sensation of the year, because they hit everybody and aroused tremendous and perfectly natural indignation. For years the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has been relying on the taxpayer to help it balance its budget. That is the big shock of the whole matter. It is not only the extra money which the people will have to pay, although that in itself is bad enough; it is the realization that the Post Office, often held up as an example of what a publicly owned business can do, is really inefficient. Where there is inefficiency there is also waste. Here is this monopoly protected by law. It has had a capital gift of £400,000,000, interest free, yet it still makes losses. This is an unbelievable situation. In effect, the Post Office is also swallowing a hidden subsidy of £23,000,000 a year in interest that it does not pay. Just imagine the profits that a private business could make if only it could get even £10,000,000 interest free. It is no wonder that people are asking what goes on and what is happening to our money. It is time that we found out and gave the answers to those questions.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) indicated that a committee is to be appointed to report on the basis on which the Post Office commercial accounts should be prepared. I believe that it is a good idea, but I suggest that the committee should go further and inquire into the whole organization and running of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Such an inquiry or investigation is long overdue in any case. The Post Office has been trying to get along on the same basic structure that it was given in the horse and buggy days of 1901. Bits have been added from time to time to try to cope with the changing conditions, but the structure is hopelessly rambling and disjointed. Inquiries were made in 1910 and in 1919, and my friends on the Public Accounts Committee, which is chaired by my honorable friend from Warringah (Mr. Bland), made an investigation into it not so very long ago.
– What about me?
– I include the honorable member for Watson. But little was done as a result of the investigations in 1910 and 1919 and since that time the reformers have apparently given the problem away. To-day, the Postmaster-General’s Department is a huge commercial monopoly with a huge annual pay-roll, but its organization is obviously out of line with modern thought as to how such a business should be run. Continuation on these lines could only be justified if it worked successfully and this, of course, it does not do. The latest revelation has made us realize how bad the results are and the question is not one of interest to only a few people. This year, for instance, in addition to the increased postal and telephone charges, the Treasurer has indicated that a further £50,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money is to be passed over for capital works. Add to that sum the £23,000,000 of unpaid interest that I referred to previously and it will be seen that the department is leaning on the taxpayer to the tune of £73,000,000. If the Post Office did not grab that extra £73,000,000, it would be sufficient to provide a further cut in income tax or an additional increase or extension in socal service benefits.
Of all government undertakings undoubtedly one of the most vital and progressive is the Commonwealth Bank. It is run by a board of directors which includes representatives of outside industry, who can give the bank the benefit of their experience and advice and keep it informed of the needs of its customers. This is a similar structure to that employed by most of the great successful businesses throughout the world, and I suggest that its adoption for the postal services is something that an investigating committee might well consider.
Another step long overdue is the separation from the Post Office of enterprises such as the telephone service, which have no real connexion with the Post Office. In my speech on this subject last year I contended that the telephone service should be autonomous and self-financing, and I have had no reason to alter my opinion. The telephone service, under Post Office control, has not produced the results that it should have produced and something must be done to give subscribers a better deal. When people in my electorate, who live within a few miles of such an important city as Parramatta, have been waiting as long as nine years for a telephone service, the problem has reached desperation point. One constituent of mine recently wrote an appealing letter to me to see whether he could be given conditions equal to those available in the desert fastness of the Northern Territory. He pointed out that people in the Northern Territory at least have the pedal wireless. One suggestion that I am sure would quickly remove the lag in telephone installations is that long-line construction and new cable laying should be done by contract, leaving the PostmasterGeneral’s staff free to concentrate on the speeding up of individual services.
I said previously that undoubtedly there is waste and inefficiency within the department. Some of this is superficially evident but mostly the workings, and therefore the faults, of the organization are hidden from the public gaze. That is why I should like to see an independent examination made of the whole machine. I feel that such an examination would reveal some amazing things. This problem of red tape and inefficiency in government departments puzzles me greater the more I study it.
I say without hesitation that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has in its service many men of zeal and high character. The gentlemen who sit on my left in the official advisers’ benches to advise the Minister and inform him of matters pertaining to the department are men of unquestionable ability. They are not alone in that -regard. I have met many of them personally. There are thousands of them who, within the limits of the rules which bind them, have given a lifetime of good service. No doubt the mental defences of these gentlemen on my left are now rising to refute what I have said. I do not blame them; they have only to carry out their duties faithfully.
– There’s no need to crawl.
– I am not crawling but I appreciate that these men have no opportunity to defend themselves. Nevertheless, any socialized undertaking seems to drift into slower and more wasteful methods as the years go by. Some at first function well, but they develop a hardening of the arteries after the first twenty or 30 years and the malady gets worse with age. Postal and telephone services have been a Government responsibility for more than a century. The only hope seems to be a periodic examination from outside and, in the case of the Postmaster-General’s Department, this is long overdue.
The overall administration of that department should cause concern. Despite the fact that it has been given free capital with no interest charges, its trading activities have resulted in losses. To recoup those losses increases in telephone and postal charges have been made. If these increases have done nothing else, they have drawn critical attention to the real position in the department which is one of alarming high costs. Perhaps a searching inquiry into the department such as I have suggested could bring reduced costs through greater efficiency. If a general inquiry is held, I suggest another dark corner in need of a spotlight. This is the method of calling tenders for equipment, particularly in the telephone and electrical fields. It is common talk that a few overseas firms and their subsidiaries have these contracts in their pockets before tenders are called. Sometimes this is because the specifications are so drawn up that only their particular brands of equipment will fit them. It is contended that under these conditions the Post Office is paying too much for equipment and that if the supply were really thrown open to world competition a very considerable amount might be saved each year.
The ready explanation to this may be that the Postmaster-General’s Department is setting up a specification in order to maintain standard equipment. But this must mean, surely, that the Post Office has specified equipment differing from that of other telephone and postal authorities throughout the world. The question arises whether this is wise policy in view of the possibility that it costs much more for equipment which does no better job. Whatever the Government may or may not do, no one can rest easily now about the Postmaster-General’s Department. A general inquiry into the whole administration may be the- means of resolving many doubts. The department is not only the biggest business in Australia but also the most important. Every citizen is its customer and most of us do business with it many times a. year. Any major weakness which exists is a major fault in the Government’s administration, and there is need for a constant investigation and surveillance to ensure its efficiency.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Perhaps not in the ordinary sense, but misrepresented by the honorable member who claimed that he had been misrepresented by me. However, it concerns you, yourself, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I now find that your children are to appear on the Australian Broadcasting Commission television programme in Melbourne tonight, so mat whatever errors you committed last night will be amply compensated for when your children appear on television in Melbourne to-night.
– I wish to refer to the Australian broadcasting and television services. A very wide divergence of viewpoint has been expressed by honorable members in regard to the quality of television programmes at present being exhibited to the viewing public. As the owner of a television set for the past two years and three months, with my licence fully paid up, and being a constant viewer whenever time permits, I should like to express my personal opinion of the programmes. Firstly, I consider television as good relaxation, good entertainment and enlightening to the mind. No doubt there is much room for improvement in the quality of the programmes, and I think that as time goes by that improvement will be made. It is perfectly true to say that people’s tastes vary very considerably with regard to entertainment. What would suit one person might perhaps be unsuitable or boring to another.
I should like to convey my impression of the programmes on the national station ABN Channel 2. I believe that this station presents the best news and also news digest service. The session “ Face the People “ is very good and presents views on interesting topics by prominent people and also of the important films. For entertainment “ The Phil Silvers Show”, the “Life of Riley” and “ Amos and Andy “ are all very good entertainment indeed. Now 1 turn to station ATN Channel 7. At the outset I take this opportunity of congratulating this station on its presentation of plays using all Australian artists such as “ Johnny Belinda “ which, I believe, is an outstanding production, well acted and presented and, in my opinion, as good, if not better than any other play since the inception of television. Another play which was locally written is entitled “ They were big, they were blue, they were beautiful”. That also was very good. Another good play was “ Thunder of Silence “, and a further outstanding production was “ Other People’s Homes “. A locally written serial called “Autumn Affair “ has been running for about seven months and this is proof of its popularity.
These productions exemplify the outstanding calibre of Australian artists, and the viewing public are proud of our local talent. Then there is the early morning show “ To-day “ with Ron Taylor and the “ Toppanos “. This is a very bright presentation and I recommend it to honorable members if they want to wake themselves out of a deep slumber in the early morning. It is good entertainment. Then there is Jimmy Parkinson’s “ Hit Parade “ and “ Shower of Stars “ with Hal Lashwood. These are all first-class entertainment. For matters of current topics and items of public importance, the session “ Comment “ conducted by George Baker, in which he interviews prominent people in the public eye is appreciated because, by candid, open discussions, derived by direct questions and answers, light is thrown on many subjects which were previously unknown to the public. The session entitled “ The Burning Question “, conducted by the Reverend Dr. Mackay, also reveals the opinions of prominent people on current topics of great importance. For variety, the “ Take a Chance “ session and Bob Dyer’s “ Pick a Box “ show are very good entertainment.
I should now like to comment on some of the imported films presented on this station. Again I emphasize that I am expressing only my personal opinion of these programmes. “ The People’s Choice “, “The Eddie Cantor Show”, “The Burns and Allen Show “ and “ Hey, Jeannie “ are all good comedy entertainment. I must admit that I have a weakness for good western films, despite all the shooting that takes place, and in this sphere I believe “ Maverick “ is really good. For mystery films “ 77 Sunset Strip “ is excellent. A new film called “ The Invisible Man “ impresses me with the possibility of encouraging Australian actors. Who could play the leading role in this film better than the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey)? I remind the committee that Australian actors and actresses such as the redoubtable Errol Flynn, who closely resembles the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray), Ron Randall, Michael Pate and Merle Oberon all made names for themselves overseas.
I pass on to TCN Channel 9. Of the productions featuring Australian artists in the entertainment field, the Bobby Limb Show with Buster Fiddess is excellent. This show provides good singing, dancing, comedy and other variety acts. Then, for good music, one of the world’s best pianists, Isadore Goodman, provides good entertainment. For variety, the “ Tell the Truth “ session conducted by George Foster is really very good. For matters of public interest and importance “ Meet the Press “ conducted by David McNicoll is very interesting and presents a wide variety of views by prominent people. Coming to the interviewing of politicians, I have noticed Alan Reid firing a few sticky questions to the person or persons being interviewed. Then we come to “ Viewpoint “ conducted by Eric Baume. Although Mr. Baume has criticized me on several occasions, I always watch this session whenever possible, hoping and trusting that, some day, Eric will agree with somebody else. I have a lot of patience and I shall keep on hoping.
Now I pass on to the imported films. The Dave King Show and the London Palladium Show, “ I Love Lucy “ are very bright entertainment. When it comes to mystery, the Perry Mason Show is excellent. Perry is certainly a good lawyer. He has not yet lost a case. I have no doubt that he would lose the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) in presenting a case in court. As for the western films, “ Gunsmoke “ is very good. Marshall Dillon, in many ways, reminds me of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) because he is very quick on the draw and when he fires he never misses. The sporting commentators and announcers employed by the three Sydney television stations are of a high calibre.
In conclusion, I again emphasize the need to give more Australian artists a fair go. On making inquiries, I have discovered that, to date, ATN Channel 7 has displayed five shows sponsored by the Shell company. These shows employed 45 actors, all Australians. Each actor received about £93 per play and leading artists received about £20 extra. Actors included Lou Vernon, James Condon, Kathleen Gorham, Diana Perryman and John Mellion. These are only a few of the many good artists who have taken part in these plays. The plays are presented every fourth week, one coming from Sydney and one from Melbourne alternatively. The figures for the Melbourne produced plays are similar to those for the Sydney plays. They have the same sponsor and, up to date, this company has sponsored eight plays in all - five from Sydney Channel 7 and three from Melbourne Channel 7. There are two more in rehearsal at present. I suggest that Channel 9 and Channel 2 should do more in this field to encourage Australians in the entertainment industry.
.- This afternoon, discussion of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department estimates has centred mainly on television. Unfortunately, that medium is not yet operating in Western Australia and members from that State have to base their opinions on what they see occasionally in the eastern States. I take exception to the endeavour of some Opposition members to inculcate in the minds of honorable members and of the listening public the idea that the Government takes no interest in the Australian content of television programmes. That, to my way of thinking, is a very grave misstatement of the facts. Pursuant to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Television, provisions prescribing a minimum Australian content for television programmes were included in the Broadcasting and Television Act. I think it would be bad for our television artists if the minimum Australian content of television programmes were made too high. We would be doing a disservice to the nation and to the people engaged in the television industry if we specified such a high Australian content that it could not be adequately met. That would result in inefficiency and a lowering of programme standards.
If the public considers that the Australian content of television programmes is too low, it has the remedy in its own hands. T take exception to the action of Opposition members in criticizing the Government for not doing anything about this matter. They know very well that everything possible is being done. When this subject was last debated in this chamber, the television people themselves submitted statistics to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) concerning the number of hours for which Australian artists were employed. I have not the figures with me just now but I can say that, generally speaking, there has been no decrease since that time.
Some members have complained about programmes which are harmful to the Australian mind - especially the mind of the younger generation. With such sentiments I have no sympathy at all. I do not want to see the day arrive in this country when it will be the responsibility of governments to legislate to tell parents how to bring up their families. That is the responsibility of the parents. If a programme is not fit for children to see, the parents can ensure that the children do not see it, and then lodge a complaint in the proper quarter.
During various debates over the years, members have given all sorts of descriptions of overseas television programmes. Last year, I had the opportunity of seeing some of them. My wife, who was with me, took every opportunity to look at children’s programmes. I found that some of the descriptions of overseas programmes which we have heard in this House are very far from the truth indeed. I think that, instead of continually criticizing television programmes, we should really take an interest in this matter and supply those who are responsible for providing programmes with information to enable them to correct any undesirable features. If honorable members will go as I have gone to the offices of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in Melbourne, they will be shown examples of the undesirable features which the board does not want to see creeping into our programmes. Members would then be much better informed on this subject than they are at the moment. However, I do not want to spend too much time on television because we have only a limited period for the discussion of the estimates now before the committee.
I want to say something about the remarks of the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) who complained about the inefficiency of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. He criticized the department for not engaging in the contract system for long line construction and cable laying. I am glad that the honorable member raised that matter because it has been pointed out many times in this chamber that officials on the planning, engineering, and other staffs of the department work under great difficulty because they have to wait to see how much money will be voted to them by Parliament each year. I have repeatedly advocated that the department should be told that it will receive a certain amount over a specific number of years, because unless this is done there cannot be the continuity that we would like to see in the development of postal services. Therefore I am surprised that the statement to which I have referred should have come from the honor able member for Mitchell, because I do not think anybody will deny that he has some business acumen. Is it imagined that any private contractor would be prepared to undertake jobs for the Postal Department if there was not to be some continuity of work? No man with business sense would invest money in the equipment necessary for constructing telephone lines or laying cables if he was only guaranteed work for one year. What would he then do with his equipment? Would he put it on the scrap heap or have it lying idle? If the contract system is to function successfully, you have to make certain that those people who could tender are sure of continuity of work.
– Contracts should be let each year.
– They could be let each year, but would anybody invest £10,000 or £20,000 in equipment for which only one year’s work was guaranteed? Of course not. No man in his right senses would spend money on equipment like that unless he could see three, four or five years’ work for it.
We in this Parliament have had ample experience, Sir, of contract prices being higher than the cost of having a job done by the staff of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The outside tender price for a job that is going on at this moment only a few miles away from this building - a few miles is nothing in a country the size of Australia - was much higher than the cost of having the job done by employees of the department.
I am somewhat amazed at Australians exhibiting such an inferiority complex all the time as to criticize constantly the work of a great public department such as this. Over the last three years, the volume of traffic handled by the department has increased by 20 per cent., but it has been handled by a staff that has increased by only 8 per cent. That is something of which we can feel justly proud. Last year, one contract was entered into for the installation of 30 rural automatic exchanges - commonly known as R.A.X.’s - and 131 exchanges of this kind were installed. Many other countries, also, have lists of outstanding applications for telephone services and the like. I think it would do us all a lot of good if we were to find out the position in respect of outstanding telephone applications in small countries like New Zealand, and in the United Kingdom and other countries which are governed in accordance with the same democratic principles that we know in Australia.
If my memory serves me correctly, Sir, the honorable member for Mitchell said that it looked as if the overseas suppliers of equipment required by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department think that contracts are cut and dried, because they know that they will be the successful tenderers, irrespective of the prices at which they tender. At least, I took it that that was the implication made by the honorable member.
– That is right.
– I thank the honorable member very much for agreeing with me. Surely members of this Parliament know that the department has a contract cost investigation section which, over the last four years, has saved Australia almost £450,000, although it has cost the country only £35,000 to have that section of the department always watching the suppliers of equipment and their prices, and everything else involved. The work of that section has saved us about £450,000 in this one field alone in four years. The officials of the department are noted, not only in Australia, but also overseas, for driving hard but very fair bargains. I suggest that we all should think carefully before we criticize them too much. We should remember that any criticism that we direct at the Minister himself obviously must fall on his officers, who do the detailed work, while he is engaged only in administering policy. Before we engage in these criticisms, we should make careful inquiries so that we may know exactly what has been happening.
At times, the telephone services have come in for a great deal of criticism. It may well be that these services have lagged in some respects. The Post Office has been charged with slow and wasteful operations. I have watched the department’s employees at work on many occasions. Some years ago, I myself worked at a trade. I have seen people working, also, in private offices, in other Commonwealth and State departments, and in private enterprise. Would anybody seriously suggest that trademen and others should keep their heads down every minute of the day from 8 or 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.? Of course not. My experience is that those who are so prone to criticize the man who works with his hands in order to make his living are not usually very good at doing a day’s work themselves.
– That is a hit at the Liberal Party.
– I would have a crack at some of the field-marshals like the honorable member if I had an opportunity.
I have heard criticism from all sides, Mr. Temporary Chairman, of the way in which the employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department do their work. 1 know, for instance, that, if a man at work out in the countryside with a line party is seen to stop work in order to roll a cigarette, the immediate thought in the minds of some people is, “ I should like to have a job like that “. But one never finds those same people applying for these jobs. The worst criticism of the working man comes from some of the people who claim to represent the workers. I have seen that happen many a time. I do not think that anybody in this country expects the employees of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to be hard at work every minute of the day. If they were, they would soon crack up and the department would not have the work force that it needs. The employees of the department are not slow or wasteful in their work.
Most of the criticism directed at the Postmaster-General’s Department and its staff relates to telephone services. Let us see what the position is. Over the last four years, we have halved the number of deferred applications for telephones, at the same time introducing the latest ideas and methods. Anybody who studies the document entitled “The Australian Post Office: Progress - Policy - Plans “ made available to us by the Postmaster-General in August, will find that our telephonic communications are well up to the standards of the telephone systems of the most advanced countries in this respect. I can illustrate very simply the high standard that we have attained. As most honorable members know - at least, they should know - a telegram could be lodged at, say, Cape Leeuwin, in the south-west corner of the continent, and before the operator there had finished typing it on the machine it could be coming off another machine as far away as Cairns, in north Queensland. Do honorable members realize that, very soon now, a subscriber will be able to dial from his own home direct to another subscriber anywhere in Australia? The attainment of all these things takes time, however, and it is made possible only by the exercise of the ingenuity and initiative of the staff of the Post Office. Therefore, instead of being so ready to criticize because we do not get the things that we want in our own immediate area, we should acknowledge that, by and large, the Postmaster-General’s Department is doing its job very well.
I agree with the honorable member for Mitchell that, if we want to improve the services of the department further, we should not tie it down to a yearly hand-out, as it were, of funds from the Treasury. We should give it an allocation of funds over a specified period - say, five years - so that it will know where it stands and what it can do in that period. That would make it possible for the department’s planners to get to work, and they would be saved from the frustration of having works taken off the programme after a great deal of preparatory planning and other work has been done. It would not be necessary to pigeonhole projects as it is now. Australia is developing very rapidly, and we must keep up with the times. But unless we give the officials who are planning our progress some encouragement and a firm basis on which to plan, and relieve them of the present frustration, their efficiency will, unfortunately, be impaired instead of improving.
The Post Office is not merely an organization; it is a business. And it is time that the representatives of the people acknowledged that the planners in this business should be assured that they can, over a specified period of years, count on the expenditure of a sizable sum, in order that plans may be made properly and progress may continue. If this were done the development of the past few years would be sure to continue in the future.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, the group of estimates now before the committee includes the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which, I understand, expects to spend about £105,000,000 in tha current financial year. That is an enormous sum. It includes, of course, the revenue to be obtained from the various imposts embodied in the Budget, amounting to £17,800,000 in increased charges for telephones and postage alone, and various other imposts which have brought forth a great outcry from all sections of the Australian community. This is an interesting debate, because it covers many subjects. Of course, no honorable member is able to deal with all the issues comprehensively in the limited time available. I was interested to note that the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) advocated the relinquishing to private enterprise of some of the work at present being done by the Postmaster-General’s Department. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), of course, was not satisfied with that; he wanted to go one better. He said, in effect, that if there was going to be a racket, we should make sure that it is a good one.
– I did not use that word.
– I said, in effect. He said that we should make sure it is a good one and that a reasonable period of tenure is involved. He said also that we should not try to let these contracts on a yearly basis, that contractors would not accept such a tenure but would want to make sure that they had some really worthwhile period to get their teeth into. We can reliably anticipate that the Government will adopt this process. It is not a new process. This Government has already disposed of many profitable instrumentalities and there has already been evidence of this tendency to relinquish some parts of the activities of the Postmaster-General’s Department to private enterprise.
About two years ago, I asked a question about private automatic branch exchanges, which are known throughout the department as PABX units. I was told that the installation of these PABX units, which previously had been done by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, was being handed over to a select group of private establishments. In answering my question, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) told me that the firms involved were British Automatic Telephone and Electric
Proprietary Limited, British General Electric Company Proprietary Limited, Ericsson Telephones Limited and Standard Telephones and Cables Proprietary Limited. He also said that it was anticipated that contracts worth £1,000,000 each year would be involved. That is not an isolated incident. We can expect a great deal ot that sort of thing. It is not without significance that the honorable member for Mitchell has submitted that we should move the telephone branch from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. In the long run, when it is clearly established that this branch is economically solvent, moves will be made to transfer it or to dispose of it to private enterprise. These are the things that we can reliably expect from this Government, and it is a crying shame, because I believe that most people in Australia are really proud of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
I am sure that the department enjoys the enthusiasm of all sections of the Australian community, including the business and industrial fraternity. Every one agrees that this instrumentality is outstandingly successful. It is the biggest enterprise in Australia and I am sure that the Postmaster-General would be the first to claim that his department is efficient, well run and dedicated to the task of providing public service of a very high, if not unequalled, standard. Honorable members opposite may not like to be reminded of the fact that the Postal Department, with all its ancillary services, is probably one of the best examples of nationalized or socialized industry available in Australia. They may not like to view it from that standpoint, but I believe it is very important to take this and every other opportunity to point out to the Government that we have successful public enterprises such as the Postal Department, the Australian Broadcasting Commission in radio and television and Trans-Australia Airlines.
– The Commonwealth Bank and Qantas Empire Airways Limited.
– Yes, the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas Empire Airways Limited and many other public authorities in both the Commonwealth and State spheres. In the State sphere, we have public enterprises concerned with the provision of transport, water and sewerage services, and the Sydney County Council, which is a great electricity reticulation instrumentality. It is useless trying to sustain the old conservative myth that public enterprise cannot do the job. Public enterprises are doing the job and are inspiring the people. In unguarded moments, I believe that honorable members opposite would say that the Postal Department has inspired even them. It is doing its work with outstanding success and without the benefit of the profit motive, but with very considerable benefit to the Australian taxpayer.
I do not want to get bogged down in parish pump or parochial issues, because I feel that there are more important subjects to discuss. I came into the Parliament representing an electorate which at that time had the largest number of outstanding telephone applications of any electorate in Australia, and the post office situation left much to be desired. I had to concern myself with this problem. On 9th October, 1957 - two years ago to-morrow - I asked the Postmaster-General how many telephone applications were outstanding in my electorate. I was told that in the ten exchange areas in the Division of Hughes, there were 4,361 outstanding applications. It had been worse; the figure had been as high as 5,000. However, I am pleased to say that the present position is much more gratifying. There has been a substantial improvement and the figure is now down to 1,200. This is a reflection not only of the work done by the PostmasterGeneral but also of the consistent representation made by the local member.
There has been a substantial improvement in the provision of telephones throughout the whole of Australia, but at 30th June, 1958, some 43,383 applications were still outstanding. Many applicants have waited for six, eight and even ten years. I can tell the Postmaster-General of many instances where people have waited for ten years for a telephone. The position is still far from satisfactory. 1 believe that it is possible to gear the Postal Department to the point where telephones could be installed within two or three weeks of the application being lodged in the major cities and provincial towns. This has been accomplished already in other countries.
There is a tendency for officials to become accustomed to poor standards, and we must have the present position overhauled and substantially improved. We should not accept a standard where a person lodges a deposit with his application and then sits back for the customary wait of three or four months. The Postmaster-General’s Department should get down to the point of providing telephone services promptly.
I want to raise the question of public telephones. I am not satisfied that sufficient attention is being given to the needs of the Australian community for public telephone services. There is a need to develop here the use of a cheaper public telephone unit. I was in Japan with the Postmaster-General not very long ago and T saw that units had been provided in convenient places there without expensive telephone booths. The capital cost of public telephone booths in Australia is £400 anc! they require about £95 a year for maintenance. The provision of these mitigates against our prospects of developing adequate public telephone services.
In Japan, we saw public telephone units standing about 12 or 14 inches high - just a box effect. They are located on a large scale in bus waiting sheds, refreshment bars, railway stations, on shop counters and in various places where the public is inclined to congregate. If consideration were given to the suggestion that units of this type be installed, I believe that the present number of 21,000 public telephones in use throughout Australia would be greatly increased. The present number is most inadequate and does not provide the required service. The public and the department would both benefit as a consequence of the increased use of the telephone system. Privacy would not be sacrificed because these units would do no more than supplement the ordinary units now installed in booths. The present public telephones would continue to be used but these economical units would augment the service already provided. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to give some consideration, if it has not already been given, to this suggestion.
The last annual report available shows that we have been installing a large number of duplex telephone services. I understand that at June, 1958, 90,722 duplex services had been installed throughout Australia. Though I have heard that this sort of development is not uncommon overseas, I am not terribly impressed with duplex services. I regard them as inferior, unpopular and, in some minor technical respects, unsatisfactory. With 1,900,000 telephones for a population of just over 10,000,000, Australia holds seventh place in the world in terms of telephone density. Australia has 19.67 telephones for every 100 of population. This may look good on the surface, but the fact of the matter is that the six countries that lead Australia are so far ahead that one would think they were in the preceding race, and that Australia leads an untidy bunch of stragglers.
I hope that the Government, in its desperation to catch the field, will not rely too heavily on duplex telephones. They are not popular. Most of those who have them have been required to take them and have not volunteered to do so. I think the honorable member for Mitchell will enthusiastically agree with me. Duplex services involve the use of one cable pair serving two subscribers. This is different from the old party-line system, as each subscriber has a separate meter and complete privacy. When one subscriber is using a duplex line, the other is deprived of the service. The capital cost of a duplex telephone is £210 as against £290 for an exclusive line. This is one of the reasons why we have made fairly rapid progress in reducing the number of outstanding applications for telephones during the last twelve months, but this has been achieved only by providing an inferior service.
The number of outgoing calls that have been made on the duplex line determines whether or not a subscriber can qualify for a direct line. This is bad policy. Many people want a telephone for health reasons. The aged and infirm, or those suffering from chronic heart conditions, want a telephone so that it can be used in a crisis. If some one is using the other unit of the duplex system, the phone cannot be used even in an emergency. I believe that depriving these people of an exclusive line is nothing short of a tragedy, as the anxiety which results often seriously aggravates their condition.
There are other people who, because their businesses are such that they have a high incidence of incoming calls and few outgoing calls, have had to take duplex telephones. If a business attracts a large number of incoming calls it is a good thing for the Postmaster-General’s Department, because the result is a large number of outgoing calls originating from other lines. This, however, is not taken into consideration when deciding whether to provide an exclusive service. I believe the department should consider both incoming and outgoing calls in deciding whether a person qualifies for an exclusive line.
I suggest, too, that the department might arrange for its accomplished technicians to consider another big problem involving duplex telephones. The users of these systems do not know whether a phone is out of order or whether it is being used by the other duplex subscriber. This is quite a serious problem. I have had this experience myself on many occasions. I am sure it must be possible to devise some kind of signal to indicate whether the phone is being used or is out of order. I refer that suggestion to the department without giving it the further attention that I had intended to devote to it.
I wish to refer also to deficiencies in training facilities, at least in New South Wales, for telephone technicians. Probably the position is the same in every other State. I have mentioned this matter previously, and the Minister has undertaken to consider it. I am told that there are 1,255 telephone technician trainees at the present time. They are accommodated in three buildings that were not designed for their training, and which need considerable attention.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not want to take up too much of the time of private members in a debate of this sort, but certain points have been made in this debate to which I think I should reply as briefly as possible. It has been interesting to me to hear most speakers devoting their attention to the new medium of television, and
I shall shortly turn to some of the comments made in relation to that field. Before I do so, let me say that the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) had quite a lot to say about the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and I would like to deal with his comments first.
The honorable member offered some pretty trenchant criticism of the financial position of the Post Office. I do not intend to traverse all the points that he made or to go over all the figures he quoted, because to do so would occupy the whole of the time available to me, and that would not be meet. I point out, however, that in voicing his criticism he built up, somehow or other, the estimated capital expenditure of the department in this year to about £70,000,000. He started off with £50,000,000 as representing the actual amount that will be taken from the Treasury to provide for our capital expansion during the year. I submit that these figures indicate just how foolish are the arguments of the honorable member, because, as will be seen by a moment’s glance at the vote for capital works and services, the estimate for capital works for the Postmaster-General’s Department in this year is £39,400,000. This is made up of £35,000,000 for the technical engineering vote, £3,800,000 for the buildings vote, and something approaching £1,000,000 for sites and incidentals. When it is realized that there will be a surplus of at least £10,000,000 in the accounts, it can be seen that the actual net amount that the Post Office will be taking for this purpose is £29,000,000. I admit that this is a fairly large amount, but it does not help a consideration of the question to give this figure at something between £50,000,000 and £70,000,000.
The honorable member for Mitchell referred also to the alarmingly high costs and the need for greater efficiency. I do not take any exception whatever to critical comments, with regard to any instrumentality, which can be sustained by facts. I believe that if facts can be put forward showing lack of efficiency or alarmingly high costs, then it is proper that this should be done. In the case before us, however, I believe that the honorable member’s words amounted simply to a general charge, unsupported whatsoever, either by anything that I have said or by any other available evidence, and there is evidence available to show that such charges are not justified.
It is recognized, for instance, that the organization and methods system for the Postmaster-General’s Department is the mostly highly developed method of keeping pace with efficiency in the whole of the Public Service, and that it will compare more than favorably with any system in use in private enterprise throughout Australia. This is acknowledged by outstanding authorities, who applaud the efficiency of the department. In actual fact, the officers of the department are quite often sought by Public Service organizations, and by outside organizations, for the purpose of lecturing to trainees on the subject of financial administration and efficiency.
I would point out, as a matter of interest, that the Public Accounts Committee has, on several occasions, more or less gone through the Post Office with the proverbial fine-tooth comb and has always applauded the financial efficiency and accounting methods of the department. The Professor of Accountancy at the University of New South Wales, Professor Smith, some little time ago referred to the Post Office as an example of the practical application of the most modern financial principles.
I have dealt with the financial side. I now turn to the mechanical and engineering side. Let me point out that in recent years the Postmaster-General’s Department has actually pioneered quite a large amount of automatic mail-handling plant, and we have had engineers and technicians from other parts of the world coming to inspect our apparatus. We have also developed automatic accounting and automatic metering, and are keeping pace with all the latest developments in telecommunications engineering and science. There is no lack of efficiency in this regard. The honorable member for Mitchell also said that we should adopt the policy of letting contracts. I completely agree with the policy of doing as much work as possible by contract, but do not let us run away with the idea that this is the solution of all our problems, because we have found in the Post Office that often when we have set out to get a job done by contract either the contractors were not available or the prices quoted by them were greater than the price for which we could do the job ourselves, with om’ workmen.
– That is, in remote areas.
– No, not in remote areas. I thank the honorable member for that interjection. Here is a classic example: Just recently, it was decided to put down a coaxial cable between Sydney and Melbourne. Tenders for all the cable and equipment were called for, and at the same time tenders were called for the actual laying of the cable, which we wanted done by an outside authority. We got two tenders for that, I think, and we found to our amazement that the Post Office itself could do the job for half the price. So I point out that, whilst I completely endorse the principle of contract work wherever it can be applied with advantage, no one is justified in saying that because we do not use contractors in some areas of our work we are not efficient.
It must be realized that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is servicing the telecommunications demands of an economy which is developing at an amazing rate. The demands from both the primary and secondary industry sections of the community and the demands of ordinary citizens are increasing at a rate probably greater than is the case in any other country in the world, or at least as great. That can be measured by the fact that in Australia the demand for telephones alone - and this can be used as a yardstick - is increasing at the rate of about 12,000 a year. How does that affect the demands that the Post Office must make on the capital available to it? It is known, because I have said so on a number of occasions, that approximately £300 is involved in capital cost for the provision of each telephone^ - for the connexion to the exchange, the installation of additional junctions, and so on. This means an extra capital demand of £3,600,000 a year, which the incidentals increase to over £4,000,000. We must have that amount over and above the normal amount we need each year, merely to keep pace with an expanding economy. I have indicated that this year the amount needed has risen to £39,400,000.
Obviously, therefore, the Government has had to take account of those factors, which arise from the expanding economy and the increase in the demand year by year. If we are to keep pace with the demand, as honorable members opposite want us to do, there must be some greater contribution from the users of the postal and allied services to the cost of running them, and some greater contribution from Consolidated Revenue to the finances required by the Postmaster-General’s Department for its capital works.
Now 1 turn to the subject of television, to which most honorable members have applied themselves in this debate. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) dealt with the investigations to be carried out by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board into applications for licences for the third phase of television - its extension to certain country areas. The honorable member criticized the decision of the board - or, I should say, my decision, because it is not the board’s decision, and I accept responsibility for it - that the investigations shall be held in Melbourne. This, he said, for a start, would discourage the presentation of evidence. I am afraid I cannot accept that criticism because a company appearing before the board with a proposal will be prepared to expend £200,000 or £300,000 in the provision of capital facilities. Is it to be contended that the fact that the company has to send a couple of representatives and perhaps an engineer, and engage counsel in Melbourne, will embarrass it financially? I am afraid I cannot see it.
The honorable member realizes, as I realize, that in the determination as to the venue of the investigations several factors would have to be taken into account. I should say that the first of these would be the ability of the applicants to present their cases properly. I repeat that I feel that it is not in any way prejudicial to applicants to hold the investigations in Melbourne. There are also several other factors to be considered. One is the factor to which the honorable member himself referred once or twice in his speech - the time factor. That is a very important factor, because there are 45 applications to be heard.
As I have already stated in the House in reply to a question, it must be assumed that each application will take an average of two days to hear - a few may take less, some will take more. That would mean 90 sitting days, and with four sitting days a week the total time taken would be 22 weeks. But there will be about five-weeks’ holiday in the Christmas-New Year period, so you get a total of at least 27 weeks before the board will complete its investigations. It must then also give time to the consideration of the applications and the preparation and presentation of its report. As the honorable member for Paterson said, it is highly desirable that this third phase of television should be determined as quickly as possible, so that country areas will have the benefit of television within a short period. The honorable member said that he was afraid that country areas would not get television until the end of 1961. I say this: To say to the board, “You must go round parts of Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria to take evidence in each case “, would probably mean adding at least six or nine months to the time taken for the investigation, because it would entail a great deal more travelling by the board. It would also mean that the board would be less able to carry out its normal administration - it still has a lot of other work to do - and it would mean that some of the board’s staff would not be available for an extended tour. So, from all points of view - the point of view of financial ability, and the time factor - I say that the decision was sound.
Then there is the question of the use of counsel. Here, again, I take responsibility for that decision. The honorable member for Paterson reminded the committee, quite properly, of the shemozzle - “ donnybrook “, I think he called it - that developed in some of the previous hearings in Brisbane and Adelaide as the result of counsel for one applicant cross-examining counsel for another applicant. I think he said this went on with the board sitting back watching. That arose from the fact, first of all, that there were counsel appearing for the various applicants and, secondly, from the fact that the board itself did not have counsel assisting it to enable that sort of thing to be properly dealt with. It is not right to blame the board for allowing counsel to appear, because the act itself gives applicants the right to be represented by counsel, and if they choose to exercise that right they can do so. It is believed that the appointment of counsel to represent the board will materially reduce the amount of “ donnybrooking “, if that is the term, very materially. It will enable the investigation to proceed along thoroughly sound lines. It will also help to save a great deal of time and also, I am sure, will ensure that all the facts we want brought out are brought out.
The honorable member suggested individual examination of each application so that some applications which would take only a short time to hear would not be held up by other applications which might take a long time to hear. At first I thought that that might be a good idea. I thought: Why hold up for perhaps six months applications which would not take long to examine, and so prevent the applicants from establishing a television service at an early date? On reflection, however, it was obvious to me that the board should complete the whole of its investigation of the applications before making its determination. There are certain technical as well as financial problems to be decided on, such as the availability of frequencies and the decision whether an area should have one station or two station licences. These matters cannot be determined in isolation for one area. They have a general bearing which makes it desirable that the whole of the applications be dealt with before a determination is made.
Another point that the honorable member made was that the applicants are required to nominate the site on which they propose to erect their transmitters. I feel that that is a sound provision. The idea is that, although the board does not in any way try to escape its responsibilities to make an official recommendation, and while the board and the Postmaster-General’s Department have highly competent engineers who will have a great deal to say on this matter, it is felt proper to allow the applicants themselves to express an opinion. After all, they must have a great local knowledge and must have an idea in their minds as to where they want to erect their transmitters. If they were not allowed to express an opinion the board would not be taking into account all the matters necessary in order to arrive at a decision.
The honorable member for Paterson said that because of the drafting of the form of application he felt that there was some suggestion that the stations would not be allowed to take programmes from city stations. Let me correct that belief. The application certainly states that priority will be given to independent local stations not associated with metropolitan stations. But that does not mean that an independent station will not have the right, if it wishes, to approach a metropolitan station and say that it would like to buy a particular programme. Of course it could do that. The rights of local stations in that matter will not be in any way affected by this proposal.
Several honorable members, including the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) and the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin), spoke about the quality of programmes. Once again the honorable member for Parkes dealt with the Australian content of programmes, and once again, if I may say so without desiring to offend him, he dealt with the subject with his usual extravagance of words. He said that because we would not agree to the imposition of a quota we were suffering from some inferiority complex as to the quality of Australian artists, musicians and others. That is not so. That is not our attitude. The honorable member said that there would be a considerable Australian content in programmes in the future. He said that several times. I agree with him. There will be; but that will not come about as a result of the Government imposing on licensees at this early stage in the history of this medium a quota that could not be met. This Government is just as much determined as anybody in this chamber, or outside, to build up the Australian content of programmes. But we do not believe that that will be achieved by forcing some percentage - 40 per cent., 50 per cent, or 60 per cent. - on the medium before it is ready, before the trained talent necessary to put on top-level programmes is available. Let us face up to the fact that here in Australia we have not at this stage a large body of trained talent on which to draw. That talent is being developed, as the honorable member said, and it will be increasingly developed, but until it is further developed it would be a mistake to enforce the use of second quality material. It would be a mistake to enforce a quota before, as a result of viewer demand, the Australian production has been built up to such an extent that it will be able to compete financially with productions from overseas. A quota could not be enforced until there was an enlargement of the market generally by the extension of television throughout Australia.
Those are matters that must be taken into account. They are matters that affect the use of Australian talent and the building up of Australian content in our programmes. We are steadily progressing towards the ultimate goal, when, as stated by the honorable member for Parkes, there will be a service with a large Australian programme content. Of course this will come, but it will not be as a result of the imposition of a quota. It will be as a result of the steady building up of the factors that I have just mentioned. When we reach that point there will be no need for a quota system, because the Australian content will be there without any quota.
It is interesting to note in passing that the views I have expressed are the views that were expressed by the Royal Commission on Television. That royal commission made a thorough inquiry into this matter and recommended to the Government the course that it is following. Both the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial licensees are doing a very good job in this steady building up of Australian programme content. I think that the honorable member for Parkes admitted that He said that they were setting out to build up Australian programme content. In doing so they are training script writers, technicians and cameramen. At the same time they have undertaken very considerable capital expenditure in the provision of studios to .enable various programmes to be produced. The honorable member referred, for instance, to “ Johnny Belinda “. I agree that that was a splendid effort, but I think that it cost £6,000 to produce. As the market is very limited at this stage, it would be extremely difficult for that production to compete with importations from overseas. I am not decrying local production. I am merely facing the facts and giving them to the committee. I know that a couple of years ago two licensees commenced a play competition, which I thought was a very fine idea. But I was disappointed to find that, although the entries ran into thousands, the quality of the plays submitted was not up to the standard required for a really successful television play. I mention that to show that the licensees are doing their best to meet the Government’s requirement - expressed to them quite often, do not forget, by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board - for a steady build-up of the Australian content of television programmes.
I have made one or two references to what commercial licensees are doing. Let me tell the committee that at present the Australian Broadcasting Commission is devoting about 55 per cent, of its television time to live productions. We should applaud that. The A.B.C. of course is in the fortunate position of not having to keep a careful eye on the viewer estimates taken out by special bodies as the commercial licensees must. Those live productions include news, drama, variety, educational telecasts to schools, interviews and sporting programmes. It is rather significant, bearing that fact in hind, that audience surveys show that the A.B.C. does not attract the same percentage of viewers as do the commercial licensees.
– That is because you do not advertise the service sufficiently.
– The honorable member cannot explain it that way. I think I have answered generally the points raised by the honorable member for Bonython; but he made particular reference to the development of television in Adelaide. He said that a very unsatisfactory position had arisen there and he criticized the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the determination at the end of the hearings that took place for the second phase of television. He said that the board had recommended that the licence should be given to a particular station in Adelaide but that the Government had not accepted the recommendation. I beg leave to correct the honorable member. The board recommended that applications be invited for one television licence in Brisbane and one in Adelaide. The honorable member specified a particular company. He said that the board had recommended that that company be given the licence but that it was not given the licence and therefore there was something rotten in the State of Denmark. As I have said, the board did recommend one licence for Adelaide and one licence for Brisbane, but the Government in its wisdom decided that there should be two licences in each city. It asked the board to make a recommendation for a second station from the applications already received. The board did that and a second licence was issued. I want to make that point clear, because it is not right for the honorable member to refer to the action of the board as an abuse of public office.
– For how long will you be speaking?
– I shall be finished in a moment. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) referred to broadcasting in Western Australia. I think that in his remarks I heard a suggestion implied, if not expressed, that as a result of the rapid development of television the needs of broadcasting services in various areas might be overlooked to some extent. The position in Western Australia is that the power of station 6WA has been increased, I think, to 50,000 watts. If I am not right I am sure that the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) will correct me.
This is the first station in Australia to be increased to that power. In addition, we are increasing the power of station 6WF to 50,000 watts, which will give a much greater coverage in the areas to which the honorable member for Perth has referred. Further, the position in Western Australia is being watched carefully, as it is in the country districts of Queensland and New South Wales particularly, to see what further improvements can be made from time to time in broadcast coverage. Neither this Government, nor the board which administers Government policy, has any intention to allow the requirements of broadcasting to be affected adversely by the spread of television.
Mr. Temporary Chairman, I thank the committee for giving me such a lengthy hearing on this matter. I have not covered all the points that have been raised by honorable members, but I shall reply by letter on any matters that I have not covered or to which honorable members refer later so that honorable members may be fully advised on the points about which they desire information.
– I move - [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 8).]
[Excise Tariff Amendment (No. 4).]
Mr. Temporary Chairman, the tariff proposals which I have tabled relate to proposed amendments of the schedules to the
Customs Tariff 1933-1959 and to the Excise Tariff 1921-1959. The alterations will come into operation to-morrow morning.
Most of the changes now being made are based on recommendations made by the Tariff Board in its reports on cotton piece goods, sheeting, fluorescent lamps, diphenylamine and phenothiazine, artificial silk yarns, other than staple fibre yarns, and clothes pegs.
At a later stage, I shall table the board’s reports dealing with these matters, with the exception of the report on cotton piece goods, sheeting, which was tabled last October.
Honorable members may recall that on 1st October, 1958, I introduced tariff proposals providing for increased duties on plain or matt woven cotton sheeting. I said at the time that, before the board’s findings could be fully implemented, it would be necessary for Australia to negotiate with certain overseas countries. The negotiations have now been concluded and the amendment now proposed adopts in full the recommendations of the Tariff Board in relation to plain or matt woven cotton sheeting.
Also included in the board’s report on sheeting was a recommendation for increases in the substantive rates of duty applicable to twill sheeting. This recommendation has now been brought into effect at the highest level consistent with Australia’s overseas commitments. The rates are 4d. per lb. plus 27i per cent, ad valorem under the British preferential tariff, and lOd. per lb. plus 45 per cent, otherwise.
The existing duties on fluorescent lamps have been reduced on the recommendation of the Tariff Board. The new rates are ls. per lb. under the British preferential tariff, 2s. 6d. per lb. under the intermediate tariff and 4s. per lb. otherwise.
On present values, there is little variation in the duties payable on lamps entitled to entry under the British preferential tariff but the rate of 2s. 6d. per lb. represents a significant reduction for lamps which are the manufacture of a mostfavourednation. The opportunity has been taken to provide for all types of inserted lamps under one item, item 181 (d), and this action requires some adjustment of an administrative nature to be made to various other items in the tariff schedule, namely, item 180(d) and three other items which are set out in the resolution.
Phenothiazine is a chemical used to control worm infestation in livestock, particularly in sheep. The Tariff Board has recommended that the protective duties be reduced to 10 per cent, under the British preferential tariff and 17i per cent, otherwise for this chemical. The board recommended no change in the level of duties now applying to diphenylamine which is a chemical used in the manufacture of phenothiazine.
In its report on continuous artificial silk yarns the Tariff Board recommended that no change be made in the present rates of duty. The board, however, suggested that monofil of 60 denier or more, regardless of its end use, should be classified under item 390 (a) (2) (a) as an imitation gut. Previously monofil used for spinning and weaving was conditionally classified as a yarn under item 392 (g). The Government has accepted this recommendation by the board and an appropriate exclusion has been inserted in the relevant tariff item.
The items relating to yarns wholly or chiefly of man-made fibres have been redrafted, with minor reductions in the general tariff rates, to provide a more compact structure capable of easier administration. Yarns wholly or chiefly of continuous man-made fibres, but not containing wool, have been grouped in one item, item 392 (g), while staple fibre yarns, discontinuous, but not containing wool, have been grouped in item 392 (i). There is a small consequential amendment made in item 392(h).
The Government has also accepted the Tariff Board’s recommendation for an extension of the Rayon Yarn Bounty Act to 30th June, 1962, and appropriate legislation will be introduced during the session.
On clothes pegs the Tariff Board has recommended variation of the duties to provide for increased protection on springtype pegs and for reduced protection on other pegs.
The new rates on spring-type clothes pegs will be ls. 3d. per gross when admissible at British preferential tariff rates and 2s. per gross otherwise, and this represents an increase of 6d. per gross on both rates.
The duties on other clothes pegs have been lowered by 3d. per gross and primage duty has been removed.
I invite the attention of the honorable members to the following changes essentially of an administrative nature: Item 206 (a) has been amended by deleting the reference to parts not elsewhere included of lamps and lanterns. This allows the parts to be dealt with in accordance witn normal tariff principles. Generally speaking, this means that parts peculiar to a particular lamp or lantern will take the classification of the complete goods.
A further amendment relates to pestles and mortars. Item 174 (x) (50) is being widened to include all runner mills irrespective of the composition of the pestle and mortar incorporated therein. A consequential amendment is made to item 263.
The amendments in Excise Tariff Proposals No. 4 are complementary to those in Customs Tariff Proposals No. 7 which were tabled in conjunction with the Budget papers. These changes bring the terminology in the Excise Tariff Schedule in relation to petroleum and shale products into line with that used in the Customs Tariff. No change in excise duty is involved.
– I lay on the table the reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Artificial silk yarns (other than staple fibre yarns).
Diphenylamine and phenothiazine.
I am also tabling two other Tariff Board reports on -
Copper sulphate, and “Unimog” tractor model 30 P.S.; which do not call for any legislative action. The board’s findings have in each instance been adopted by the Government.
Ordered to be printed.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed (vide page 1947).
– Before speaking to the proposed vote for the Commonwealth Railways 1 congratulate the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) on his contribution to the debate in which he set out the department’s attitude to contracts for major work in the department. The Minister exposed the sort of thing that is being done by monopolies and rings in connexion with contracts; and 1 consider that the department deserves to be congratulated because it is prepared to stand up to these capitalist organizations. The Minister’s attitude as a member of the Australian Country Party on this matter was obviously not appreciated or supported by members of the Liberal Party. When he began to speak, there were only four Liberal Party members present and by the time he finished only two were here. The Minister is in control of one of the biggest socialized industries in the Commonwealth; and the Liberal Party is opposed to socialism in any form.
I now wish to deal with another socialized industry in Australia, the Commonwealth Railways. This gives me the opportunity to point out the laxity of this Government in not pushing forward in a more determined manner with the standardization of railway gauges throughout the Commonwealth. Although some people may think that this subject relates only to Commonwealth railways, it has a much wider implication. The Auditor-General has thrown light on to very interesting features of it. In his report for the year ended 30th June, 1959, at page 61, he had this to say -
In 1956, on completion of the new standard gauge railway, the Government of the State of South Australia entered into negotiations with the Commonwealth Government regarding the cost of freighting coal from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta. These negotiations resulted in agreement that the rate should be11s. 6d. per ton which is slightly more than one-third of the standard rate.
This means that the South Australian Government was paying11s. 6d. a ton instead of 33s. a ton. The Auditor-General added -
The amounts thus assessed are substantial - the figure for 1958-59 being £751,639.
In his report for the preceding year, the Auditor-General referred to the same matter. On that occasion he said -
Losses occasioned by transporting Leigh Creek coal at concession rates, amounting to £744,790 were borne by the Railways.
This year the Auditor-General reported -
Claims on the Commonwealth by the Commissioner for reimbursement of these amounts were rejected. Treasury has not authorized the practice of including in the accounts of the Railways the difference between the two rates.
This means that this Government is allowing the South Australian Government - which is of its own political kidney - a rebate out of Consolidated Revenue on the cost of coal hauled, to the tune of over £750,000. When the Playford Government in that State boasts of its cheap electricity rate, people should remember that John Taxpayer throughout Australia is contributing the difference between lis. 6d. and 33s. a ton to bring coal from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta. The fact is that the taxpayers all over Australia are contributing to the cost of electricity in South Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his capacity as acting Treasurer stands discredited for showing partisanship towards that State in this way.
The Auditor-General’s report contains a reference to the Grafton-South Brisbane railway and directs attention to certain unsatisfactory accounting practices. He calls upon this Government to explain why something was not done in accordance with the agreement. I should like to know the facts which caused the Auditor-General to make such a comment not only in his last report but also in that for the preceding year. The Auditor-General referred also to the standardization of railway gauges, and in his report for the year ended 30th June, 1958, concerning the work between Melbourne and Albury, he pointed out that the expenditure by the Commonwealth on this project for that year was £470,000. Members on this side of the committee have been very agitated about the continuing increases of interest charges imposed on railway systems throughout Australia. The AuditorGeneral’s report for this year gives a clear picture of what happens concerning the building of railways within States where governments are the same political complexion as this Government. As I have just said, the expenditure by the Commonwealth last year on the standardization of the railway gauge between Melbourne and Albury was £470,000. The report of the Auditor-General for this year states -
During 1958-59, in accordance with the terms ot the agreement … the two State governments
That is, the governments of New South Wales and Victoria - paid to the Commonwealth £4,935, representing principal £1,410 and interest £3,525.
That interest charge, which in the past year was three times as much as the principal involved, will go on for ever. These figures were not supplied by the Commonwealth Railways authorities but by the Commonwealth Auditor-General. While such a financial arrangement is laid down by the Commonwealth Government it is little wonder that South Australia and perhaps other States hesitate to co-operate in the standardization of railway gauges.
Let me, if I may, deal with the Commonwealth Railways in relation to what is actually happening in rail transport systems. What I have to say, will relate, in the main, to what can be done with dieselization. According to the last financial report, the Commonwealth Railways had a return, over working expenses, after payment of interest, of £1,734,512. But it should be noted that the Commonwealth Railways which cover a vast mileage had only a minor interest bill of a little over £300,000 because the capital invested was never assessed for the Commonwealth Railways, as such, at the outset. This year, New South Wales and Victoria, as the first payment under their agreements with the Commonwealth Government, paid in interest £3,525, or three times the capital repayment. The Commonwealth Railways, to their credit, are in a most favorable position.
What has been the effect of dieselization of the Commonwealth Railways, which is now complete? In the year 1948-49, under steam, the earnings per train mile were £1 0s. 3£d. and the working expenses per train mile were £1 3s. 3d. So there was an operating deficit of about 3s. per train mile. By 1959 the earnings per train mile had risen to £2 15s. 4d. and the working expenses were £1 16s. Id. There we have the picture of what dieselization can do to rail costs.
Keeping that in mind, I think that we should consider that Australian transport costs represent a most fruitful field in which to reduce our costs of living and increase our standards. In other words, reduced transport charges would enable us to restore value to the £1 and compete in overseas markets. Diesel electric locomotives, over a period, will provide the answer to Australian transport costs. It is now accepted in New South Wales that the cost of diesel electric operation is .152d. per ton mile whereas the cost under steam was .525d.
The Commissioner for Railways in Victoria, in a paper called “ Our Railways - To-day and To-morrow “, dated 27th May, 1959, stated that the present total cost of carrying goods by rail was 3id. per ton mile of which 2d. represented overhead charges and only lid. direct haulage charges. Victoria is not yet completely dieselized. In respect of the Commonwealth railway between Leigh Creek and Stirling North, even if we take the £1 13s. per ton overall that should be charged, we have a cost of about 2id. per ton mile over the 160 miles. But it so happens that the Playford Government is having freight hauled at about id. per ton mile, at the expense of John Taxpayer of Australia. Dieselization has made it possible to reduce drastically the cost of rail transport in Australia. If we analyse the costings in the 1959 report of the Australian Transport Advisory Council we find that the cheapest haulage that can be undertaken by road transport is by diesel trucks. With an average load of 3i tons, the cost is almost 4d. per ton mile.
In the few minutes that are left to me, let me deal with the need for the standardization of rail gauges. A start has been made in Victoria. The South Australian work could be commenced immediately. The Commonwealth has finished the job between Stirling North and Marree at a cost of £40,000 per mile, in round figures. The cost of a four-lane highway is not less than £50,000 per mile - possibly £60,000. With the line between Broken Hill and Port Augusta ready for conversion, the Commonwealth Railways construction organization has an opportunity to use its machinery which is now lying idle. It could complete the work on that line in three years at a cost of not more than £7,000,000 We would then, at least, have a standard gauge line between Kalgoorlie and Brisbane which would enable a great national saving. It will stand to the discredit of this Government if that work is not proceeded with immediately because, otherwise, machinery owned by the Commonwealth Railways will remain idle. The construction of a stand’ard-gauge line from Kalgoorlie to Perth will cost about £16,750,000 on the basis of £40,000 per mile. It will be a new line. That could be completed in less than four years if this Government had the courage to go ahead with the job.
As I said earlier, if this Government had any real intention of putting value into the £1 and reducing transport costs in Australia, it would not hesitate to authorize the Commonwealth Railways to proceed with this work. This organization is not itself undertaking the construction of the new line between Melbourne and Albury. It is ready to go on with the building of the line between Broken Hill and Port Augusta. Modern machinery is geared and available, and all that is needed is approval from this Government. It is high time that the Government awakened to its national responsibility in relation to transport costs in Australia.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. BARNES (McPherson) [4.531.- I intend to confine my remarks to broadcasting and television services. I take this opportunity to make a plea for an extension of our national news services. I think that we are coming to realize, more and more, that we have to rely on the Australian Broadcasting Commission for reliable information. As a democracy, we depend at election time, on the individual considered vote. If the people are not well informed our democracy cannot function as it is intended to function.
We have relied, in the past, mainly on our metropolitan newspapers for information, but I think that every one will agree that they have now ceased to be reliable. Indeed, I believe that they are playing a considerable part in lowering the standard of ethics and morals in this country. This is a great opportunity for our national broadcasting system to extend its services with a view to improving standards. We already have a most extensive organization of news gatherers and I believe that it could be extended further. We have agents throughout the world. We have trade commissioners, counsellors and other representatives. These officials could be relied upon to submit news from overseas which is very much lacking in this country.
The information that we in this country are given by the press from time to time can be very misleading and damaging. We all remember what happened when there was a change of government in Singapore. The metropolitan press in Australia tried to make us believe that the change represented a take-over by Communists. That was a very serious piece of misinformation about a country which is very close to Australia and with which we must foster amicable relations. At the time of the Suez Canal crisis, the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “ severely criticized the action taken by the United Kingdom and France. When the community protested, that newspaper immediately changed its tune. I believe, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the expansion of radio news broadcasts is really necessary for our well-being and our standards in Australia, and I think that these news services can be extended without very much increase in government expenditure.
I wish now to speak about a more mundane matter - the broadcasting of weather information. I shall discuss this subject particularly from the standpoint of Queensland. The weather problems of the different States vary greatly. We all realize that it is probably much simpler to forecast the weather in the south than that in the north. In fact, the farther north one goes, the more difficult it is to forecast the weather. Since the advent of large machines which are capable of doing a great deal of work in a short time, it has become increasingly important for farmers to know what the weather will be like, but, very often, we have to rely on unreliable weather forecasts. Most farmers listen to the first weather forecast of the day, which is usually about 7 a.m., in order to get some idea of what the weather will be like for the day. However, these forecasts are usually based on information obtained twelve hours earlier. This is particularly so in Queensland. So far, our meteorologists have not reached the stage at which they can forecast the weather accurately so far ahead. No reflection upon them is intended when I say that. I believe that our meteorologists are equal to any in the world. The fact is that they endeavour to assess the weather twelve hours ahead.
I think that we should change our attitude to these broadcasts of weather information.
Most people who are on the land to-day have a very good idea of most of the technicalities involved, including the causes of rain and the various factors that influence the weather. I believe that a synopsis of the weather broadcast every four hours - in other words, what may be termed a ballbyball description of the weather - would be far more satisfactory to farmers in the southern part of Queensland, where most of the agricultural interests of that State are. The important factor is the movement of cold fronts. In the summer, and, more particularly, in the autumn and the spring, moist, warm air comes down over the northeastern part of Queensland, and cold fronts come up from the south. The movement of these cold fronts controls the weather. They may retreat or advance quickly. According to the results that I have seen so far, it is absolutely impossible for our weather forecasters to say, twelve hours ahead, what the weather is going to be. If more frequent broadcasts of weather information were made, farmers would be greatly helped. These broadcasts should contain not so much weather forecasts as information about the existing weather conditions and about the position of any front that may be present at a certain time. The average farmer would know where he was if he were told, for example, that, at a certain hour, a front had reached, say, Charleville or Surat.
I wish to say no more about the matter than that, Mr. Temporary Chairman. After all, the average farmer cannot afford much loss, and he would be greatly helped if a better assessment of weather conditions were available to him, because better weather information would help him to avoid losses.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I desire to direct my remarks to the estimates for Broadcasting and Television Services, with particular reference to the programmes in both these fields of entertainment. Radio and television programmes, of course, are always of very great interest. I regret that, in the opinion of very many people, radio programmes have deteriorated to a marked degree since the advent of television, which has received widespread support from the public. I can well understand the concern of the radio stations at the competition from television. But surely those people who are not fortunate enough to be able to afford television sets, and who listen to radio programmes, should not be asked to endure programmes of the kind that the average radio station - at least, in Melbourne - now broadcasts. No doubt, the situation elsewhere is similar.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has directed attention to this matter. In paragraph 46, at page 17 of its report for the year ended 30th June, 1959, which was made available to honorable members only this morning, the board stated -
The Board has recognized that it is inevitable that the pattern of broadcasting programmes would be affected by competition from television, but fortunately its fears of the possible extent of the re-adjustments have not been realized.
All I can say is that the members of the board evidently have not been compelled to listen to radio programmes of the kind that I have been forced to listen to in Melbourne recently. A number of splendid programmes which were featured by the more important Melbourne radio stations for many years have now been thrown into the discard. To-day, the accent is on what is alleged to be popular music. One may turn from one end of the dial to the other; it makes no difference; all one gets is large doses of rock-‘n-roll music and other music which seems to be just a discord of strange sounds. The listener who likes light classical music or music of the kind known a few years ago as popular music, listens in vain. Every commercial station in Melbourne has adopted similar tactics. It may be said, of course, that if one does not like a certain programme one may turn to another station. But one seems to hear the same programme - or, at least, very similar programmes - on all stations. A fairly common kind of programme is presented by two stations synchronizing broadcasts of music in order to present what is termed stereophonic music. A listener who switches from one of these stations to the other gets identical programmes from both.
I realize that, when complaints are made, the radio stations reply that they have ascertained the desires of listeners by what are known as audience measurement surveys. I take it that this kind of survey is really some sort of a Gallup poll in which a number of radio listeners are asked what kind of programme they want to hear. All I can say is that I have never been approached by anybody associated with such a survey, and I have never heard of anybody else who has been approached in connexion with a survey of this kind. If such surveys are in fact made, apparently they are made on a very small front and only a very few people are interviewed. If the people who conduct surveys of this kind ask the residents of the suburb in which 1 live what they think of the radio programmes that are broadcast, the result will be far different from the result of the socalled surveys which are relied upon as a justification for the drivel foisted upon Melbourne people by many radio stations at the present time.
I hope that the radio stations will recognize that the middle-aged and elderly people are entitled to some privileges and should be given an opportunity to hear the music that they like. Although the stations may be meeting the desire of the younger people for lengthy programmes of “rock n roll “ music, there are others in the community who do not want to hear this type of music. It is time that the radio stations in Melbourne recognized the needs of a section of the population that is apparently being completely ignored.
I now want to deal with television programmes. Again I shall refer to those in Melbourne, because they are the only programmes that I have seen. However, I assume they are typical of those shown in other States. In many respects, the programmes leave much to be desired. It is true that some features receive popular acclaim, but some programmes can be very much improved. Here again we are told that the programmes meet the demands shown by audience measurement surveys, but I do not know of any person with a television set who has been asked what type of programme he prefers. Apparently this mysterious audience that is surveyed is confined to a few people who are asked what they want.
One feature that annoys people in Melbourne is the practice of stations to repeat programmes. Viewers are not informed through television news magazines or newspaper columns that this is a repeat programme. All that they can do is to tune to the programme and wait for four or five minutes before discovering that it was shown some weeks earlier. Television stations should be compelled in advertisements to put the letter “ R “ in brackets after the name of the programme that is being repeated so that people will know that it is a repeat programme and will be able to turn to some other station for entertainment.
I should like to complain bitterly about the deterioration of the Sunday evening programmes in Melbourne. Television stations have the biggest viewing audience on Sunday nights because there is comparatively little to do then, lt is safe to say that the Sunday night audience is two or three times as large as the audience on week nights. One would have thought that this fact would have led television stations to show programmes commensurate with the size of the audience, but apparently the stations adopt the attitude that, as people have nowhere else to go, they will serve up muck on Sunday nights and keep the good programmes for the week nights to encourage people to stay at home then to see them. Competition is greatest through the week and the stations do what they can to win a large viewing audience, but people must stay at home on Sunday nights, so the quality of programmes is not good then.
The two main programmes starting a: 8 o’clock on Sunday night are the two worst features shown during the whole seven days. The reason is that these pictures possibly were acquired from America at £10 or £15 each because they were twenty or 25 years old, and the viewing audience is expected to look at them. In the main I turn to the programme on Channel 2, but naturally on Sunday nights many people desire relaxation. They are compelled to put up with a poor type of picture. I appeal to the television stations to do the right thing by the Sunday night audiences. When television commenced, the Sunday night programmes were the best that were shown, but now they are easily the worst. lt is high time that the television stations realized that the audiences have at least some rights, and they should show a programme in keeping with the importance of the Sabbath.
In the rest of the time available to me, I want to deal with the vexed question of the employment of Australians in television programmes. The present position, as I see it, will lead ultimately to the relegation of Australian television to the status of a permanent relay unit for the American networks, with occasional breaks for local identification and as a concession to government requirements. The PostmasterGeneral a short time ago - I regret he is not in the chamber now - said that the Government was satisfied with the position and that the extension of the television market through a greater number of people buying sets would result in an increase in the Australian content in television programmes. This has not been borne out by experience over the last two or three years. Experience has shown that the more sets that are bought, the less has been the proportion of Australian talent used in the programmes. That is not my opinion; it is the opinion of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board as contained in its eleventh annual report for the year ended 30th June, 1959. This document became available only this morning. Page 40 of the report contains a graph, under the heading “ Employment of Australians “, entitled “ Figure 2 “, which gives the percentage of time devoted to programmes of Australian origin by commercial television stations as at the end of each quarter from June, 1957, to June, 1959.
Before I deal with the graph, I want to refer to a statement made by the PostmasterGeneral two years ago. If ever a Minister made an ill-timed prophecy, it was the Postmaster-General two years ago. On 17th October, 1957, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) proposed that the Australian content of television programmes be discussed as a definite matter of urgent public importance. At page 1472 of “ Hansard “ for that date, the PostmasterGeneral, referring to the honorable member for Parkes, said -
He said that I had no alibi for not using Australian talent. I reply that an alibi is not required because Australian talent is being used and will be used in increasing proportions.
I ask the committee to remember that his words were, “ in increasing proportions “. I ask honorable members to look at the graph on page 40 of the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which was given to them to-day. According to the graph, in September, 1957, about the time of the Postmaster-General’s speech to which I have referred, station ATN was devoting 68 per cent, of its time to programmes with an Australian content; in June, 1959, this had dropped to 38 per cent. In September, 1957, station GTV was devoting 64 per cent. of its time to Australian programmes, but is now devoting 35 per cent. Station TCN was devoting 54 per cent. of its time in September, 1957, and now is devoting 30 per cent. Station HSV was devoting 50 per cent. of its time in September, 1957, and is now devoting 35 per cent.
With a graph prepared by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board showing those figures, how can the PostmasterGeneral justify his assertion that Australian talent would be used in increasing proportions? How can he sustain the argument he used only a short time ago that increased sales of television sets would mean an increase in the time devoted to Australian talent? It is safe to say that over the last few years 200,000 or 300,000 television sets have been sold in Australia and, in consequence, are being used. Despite the fact that there is a bigger viewing audience, the proportion of Australian talent used has, according to the board’s report, progressively decreased. If it goes down much further, it will vanish altogether. It is time that Government supporters ceased suggesting, with tongue in cheek, that Australian talent is being more widely used now than it was two years ago. The graph to which I have referred gives the lie direct to such an allegation.
I believe that the Government has a marked reluctance to adopt the quota system. In England, no more than 14 per cent. of programmes in a single day’s telecasting can be imported. Canada, too, has a high quota system for local programmes. For some reason, this country has no quota system. The Government says that it is against the use of a quota as a matter of princple. But this is not altogether consistent with the use of a quota in the issue of television licences. The Government has said that it will alow a quota of only two stations in Melbourne; it will not allow any more than two stations to operate in Melbourne. It does not worry about competition and does not require that the stations be efficient in order to survive. Two stations were selected and a quota was imposed. The
Government also imposed a quota on the amount of overseas capital that could be invested in companies operating Australian television stations. No objection to a quota was raised there, but for some reason the Government has refused to introduce a quota system to help a struggling section of the entertainment industry.
I want to bring to the attention of the committee an example of fine Australian entertainment that was telecast over one of the Melbourne channels some months ago. I refer to the “ Caine Mutiny Court Martial “, which was a splendid example of what Australians could do. I saw the motion picture “ The Caine Mutiny “, which was produced in America with quite a number of stars who were academy award winners. The picture was certainly not superior to the production by Australian artists who, 1 understand, are only spare-time entertainers and work in ordinary occupations in their daily lives. That production showed what Australians could do if given the opportunity. The Minister suggested this afternoon that the quality of Australian productions was not high enough to justify a quota system. That argument may have had some substance when television first started in Australia, but in the last two years, as the honorable member for Parkes has indicated, Australian live-artist programmes have proved conclusively that Australian artists can deliver the goods and provide entertainment that is equal to the world’s best. After all, we have been told by overseas visitors to Australia that the technical standard of Australian live-artist shows is equal to anything of the kind in England. The other day I was talking to an Australian who returned a week ago after spending a year in England. He said that Australian television, technically and from the point of view of quality of programme was better than anything he had seen in England. If it is good enough, in those circumstances, for England to have a quota system, it is certainly good enough for Australia.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I fully support my colleague, the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) in the statement that we need frequent and accurate weather-report broadcasts. Those are very necessary for primary producers and for people generally. I also support him in his desire for better news services from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Very often the A.B.C., perhaps as a result of want of news, repeats one news item frequently. I have heard a news broadcast on at least three news sessions of the A.B.C., perhaps in the morning, then at midday, and again at night. By the time it has been heard on the third occasion, one has about had enough of it. It may be necesary to broadcast an item twice, so that people who were not listening on the first occasion would have a chance to hear it. I regard the news services at 12.30 p.m. and 1.30 p.m., for this purpose, as being one service, because they are so close together. It may be justifiable to broadcast an item in the morning and again on the midday news services, but to broadcast it in the morning, at midday, and again at night, is a little too much for me, and I do not think it is necessary.
Very often we hear broadcast announcements by Ministers of the Government. This happened in the same way when Labour was in office. Ministers make announcements for the whole of Australia to hear, but I notice that most of these announcements are made from Canberra on a Sunday. First, I cannot see why they should be made on a Sunday at all. I am very doubtful whether in most cases the Minister concerned is in Canberra. The broadcasts state, “At Canberra to-day the Minister for so and so made an announcement to the effect . . .”, although according to my information the Minister may be in Queensland. Why should these announcements be broadcast on a Sunday? Perhaps the reason is that the A.B.C. has more time available on a Sunday, but I think that news broadcasts should be factual. Announcements by Ministers should be broadcast when they are made. They should not be stated in such a way as to make it appear that a Minister is in Canberra on a Sunday, when I or any one else may know that he is in Western Australia. I should like the A.B.C. and the Ministers concerned to look into this matter. It does not please me to hear a Minister’s announcement coming over the air on the Sabbath.
I have listened very closely to the debate on these proposed votes, and it appears that the Opposition is fairly well satisfied, because I have not heard many complaints. Just a little while ago the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) said, “ I complain bitterly about television programmes on a Sunday night “. I could not possibly conceive of anybody becoming very bitter about it. If that is the only thing about which Labour can get bitter, its ranks must be fairly happy about the Government’s programme. I appreciate that very much. The only disorderly elements appears to be the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who is now interjecting, but even he is becoming milder as time goes by.
The Postmaster-General’s Department has many functions, some of which are very complex. As honorable members know, I represent an area that produces 80 per cent, of Australia’s dried vine fruits. One of the great menaces or dangers to the dried fruit crop is frost, and the Postal Department co-operates with the industry’s organization in giving the alarm when a frost is imminent. With the co-operation of the department, the telephones of all the subscribers who are fruit-growers can be plugged in so that upon a ring from the exchange they all hear the frost alarm. Then, of course, they move out and get their smoke pots going to try to alleviate as much as possible the effect of the frost. They get the news early. I have recently been in touch with the department to ask that when exchanges at places such as Red Cliffs, Victoria, are to be converted from manual to automatic, the local branch of the Australian Dried Fruits Association should be given early notice of the change so that a complete re-organization of this system, which is so valuable, may take place. The Postmaster-General has told me that the department will fully co-operate in giving effect to the suggestion I have made regarding early notice.
During a trunk-line telephone conversation, when we hear what are known as pips we know that our time is about up and that there is only a second or two to go before we incur the expense of an extension. It is my opinion that that system is most unsatisfactory. A man may be engrossed in a telephone conversation about something that is very important and possibly may not hear the pips at all. It might be said that he should be listening for them, but an enthusiastic man engaged in a conversation may not hear them. My own personal experience has been that on occasions I have not been speaking for very long before hearing the pips, and I can say very definitely that it was well within the three minutes period. There is nothing like hearing a voice saying, “ Your time has expired. Are you extending? “ to bring you to your senses and make you realize that if you speak longer you must have an extension and pay more. I do not know how this difficulty may be overcome with the automatic system, but there should be some more definite indication than just the pips - something louder and definite - that will really make one take notice. I do not know what the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) is trying to suggest, by way of interjection, but I am sure that it would be something worth hearing. I understand that he is suggesting that you wake up when you get the bill. That is quite true, and the bills are high enough as it is.
We have been pretty dissatisfied with the higher rates for telephones, letters and other things, but the relevant bill has gone through. We of the Australian Country Party did not think that the matter was of such moment that we should try to defeat the Government and bring in the socialists. Nevertheless, now that the bill has gone through and the higher charges are in operation, or will be in operation in the case of bulk postage in March, we believe and advocate that the best possible service should be given to the people. I live at a place called Boort in Victoria. Mildura is not such a great distance away from it, but rail traffic has to come through Melbourne. I am a subscriber to that well-known publication, the “ Sunraysia Daily “. It comes to me by post, and recently I received three copies, for 4th September, 7th September and 8th September, in the same mail. I hope that this does not happen in the future. It certainly should not, because the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will have more money to spend, and we want better service.
Another paper, the Donald “ Times “ is published on Tuesdays and Fridays. On one occasion, not more than three weeks ago, I received the two copies, for the Tuesday and the Friday, in the same mail.
These things must not occur. We must have more rigid inspections and a better service. I am a great believer in efficient service, and I believe that Australians, generally, are willing to pay if they get service.
We have heard a good deal about television. There was a survey made, I understand, by a certain Sydney newspaper to determine what programmes people liked and what knowledge they had of television. I was asked to ring a certain pressman in this building, who asked me what my knowledge of television was. I said, “ I saw it in Myer’s shop window, near the federal members’ rooms in Melbourne, on one occasion, at about 6 o’clock one night. That is the sum total of my knowledge. I have never viewed it on any other occasion.” He said, “ I suppose it is not much use asking you the other question, as to what programmes you think are the best.” Of course it was no use asking me, because I have no knowledge of television programmes. However, I learned something to-day from the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope), who told us of the good programmes that are being shown, such as one called, I think, “ Smokedust “.
– “ Gunsmoke “!
– That is right, “ Gunsmoke “. He referred to other programmes, such as “ I Love Lucy “, which he said were very good. If I do want to view television I will certainly have my copy of “ Hansard “ with me, and will look up the speeches of the honorable members for Watson and Parkes, to find out just what are the best programmes. Of course I will then have a big advantage over people who view television haphazardly.
I believe that television can be used for more important purposes than have been mentioned in this debate. It can be a strong decentralizing factor. I suggest that the Government should place national stations in moderately populated areas, as an aid to decentralization. If television is as important to the people as we have been told in this debate, we may then induce people to live in the country - or at least not to drift to the cities. At the present time, with the importance that is being placed on television, and the speeches of honorable members in this Parliament telling people about the good programmes, the population is being drawn to an even greater degree to the metropolitan areas. Television is in this way a centralizing rather than a decentralizing influence.
The areas that have been selected in Victoria for the third phase of television are the Goulburn Valley, the Latrobe Valley, the Bendigo area and the Ballarat area. Applications for licences have been received and will be considered by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board almost immediately, although I understand that decisions may not be made for another six months. I suggest once more that when television services are being provided for the Bendigo and Ballarat areas, the transmitting station should be situated as far west from those centres as possible. While giving a service to Ballarat and Bendigo, they will also give more people in the west of Victoria a chance to view television until such time as permanent stations are established in the west, probably at Mildura and Swan Hill, and perhaps at Kerang, Hamilton, Horsham and Stawell, and in that great district of western Victoria that Major Mitchell calls Australia Felix.
We have before us also the estimates for the Commonwealth Railways. Those who have travelled on the transcontinental railway appreciate the excellent service that is being given. I have not travelled on the train that runs north to Alice Springs, but I am assured that the service during the last few years has improved tremendously, and that the trip now is a sheer delight. I am told that more tourists than ever are being drawn to Alice Springs to see the wonderful colouring of the countryside and to experience the unique atmosphere of the surroundings. In the Australian Capital Territory we have a small piece of the Commonwealth Railways, but I would say it is just about the worst railway service in Australia. I understand from memory that this five or six-mile stretch of line is losing £19,000 or £20,000 a year, but is kept going, despite this fact, because it is necessary.
Why does not the Commonwealth Government co-operate with the State of New South Wales and build a railway from
Yass to Canberra? When the work on the standardization of gauge between Melbourne and Albury is finished express trains will be able to run straight through between Melbourne and Sydney. If a line was built from Yass to Canberra, carriages could be attached at the rear of those express trains, as is done in the United Kingdom, uncoupled automatically at Yass and brought to Canberra by another diesel engine.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- First I would like to support my colleagues on this side of the committee in their advocacy of the wider use of Australian artists on television programmes. I believe the arguments they have put forward cannot be disputed. The figures quoted by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), showing the decline in the use of Australian talent since television commenced, must cause a good deal of concern and deserve very serious consideration. Let me remind the committee that Australia has produced very great artists, musicians, vocalists and writers. To suggest that out of the prolific talent available in Australia we cannot find enough to provide a greater percentage of Australian television programmes is simply a refusal to face realities. I listened to the explanation of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). He said that in course of time, as we gain more experience of television and train more people, more and more Australian talent will be used. During the last three years we have had a considerable amount of experience in television, both in Melbourne and in Sydney. There have been opportunities to train people in the technique of appearing before the television cameras, and gradually to build up strong Australian casts to appear in Australian and other productions on the television screen. Unfortunately, however, we have not taken advantage of these opportunities.
It has been said that a solution is not to be found in the fixation of a quota of Australian talent. Let me point out that if it is desired that Australian artists be used, we will be compelled to introduce a quota system in the long run, for the very simple reason that those in control of the television stations are guided solely by considerations of cost with regard to the matter that they present to viewers. If they can buy, as they have been buying, old and long-used American films that have lost their charm, they will continue to use them just so long as the people are prepared to watch them. If we want to see our own Australian talent used more extensively, we shall be compelled to introduce a quota system. However, it was not my intention to speak about television. I wish to speak of certain matters affecting the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
I have the greatest admiration for the Postal Department, for its staff and for the magnificent work that it performs in respect of communications in Australia. The department has been spotlighted throughout this country as a consequence of the very sharp increases of telephone and postal charges that have been made recently. Naturally, people are asking why it is necessary for a service institution of great experience and of long standing to increase postal and telephone charges. They want to know whether the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is on a shaky financial foundation and whether there is something wrong with the administration. Those questions are not being answered to the satisfaction of the public. That being so, I think it might be as well to place before the committee certain facts in respect of the Postal Department that will indicate to the people who pay the increased charges that the increases have not been due to inefficiency in respect of either postal administration or techniques, but are due solely to the fact that the Government of the day has decided to increase charges as a matter of policy.
Unfortunately, the report of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is one of the reports that come out rather late in the year. The latest report that I have been able to secure is dated 30th June, 1958, and was signed by the Postmaster-General on 1st December. With that report has been published a financial and statistical bulletin that gives a tremendous amount of information in respect of the Postal Department. The bulletin gives some idea of the vast extent of the services that are performed by the department throughout
Australia. As was pointed out in a pervious debate, every part of Australia is affected in some way or other by the ramifications and the activities of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Indeed, were it not for that department, the work of providing communications, particularly rapid communications, which is so essential to the social, cultural, business and religious activities of Australians, could not be carried out.
On looking at the balance-sheet that is contained in the statistical bulletin, one finds that the accumulated excess of receipts over funds for the working of the Post Office is no less than £126,000,000. Apparently, having regard to the way in which the accounts are presented, the whole of that £126,000,000 has gone into Consolidated Revenue. In the accumulation account, the profits, after the deduction of the losses from the telegraph branch, amount to no less than £70,000,000. An indication of the prudent manner in which the Postal Department is being operated and of its financial stability, is the huge provision that has been made for reserves. The equalization account shows a credit of £18,000,000. That is in the form of a depreciation account. The sum of £4,000,000 has been set aside for replacement of motor vehicles, while the liability in respect of superannuation has reached the enormous total of £43,000,000. Altogether, the reserves total £65,000,000.
It may be of interest to honorable members if I give some idea of the volume of business which is transacted by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. No fewer than 1,700,000,000 postal articles are handled in the course of a year, and the department deals with 1,200,000,000 local telephone calls. If honorable members care to look at the statistics on page 7 of the statistical bulletin they will be astounded by the activities of the department. Having pointed to those matters, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I suggest that there is need for a definite policy of expansion and development of the communications services provided by the Postmaster-General’s Department. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in his Budget speech, and the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) in his speech on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill 1959, indicated the tremendous development which is taking place in techniques. We must admit that we are living in an age when scientific and technological progress is being made at a very fast rate. I suppose that greater advances have been made in communications than in any other sphere. As efficiency is the first thing that the people require of postal services, it is essential that the plan of development of the Post Office, in order to produce the greatest efficiency and the most modern methods, be carried out in such a manner that it will not stifle the Post Office and prevent it from improving techniques and services.
I suggest to the committee that the method of planning which is determined each twelve months according to the amount allocated from the Budget for capital expansion and capital works of the Post Office, hampers its activities rather than enables it to reach a high standard of efficiency. Very few business enterprises of any magnitude - and this is a business enterprise of very great magnitude - plan only twelve months in advance. I know that the State Electricity Commission in Victoria has always planned on the basis of what may be expected to occur within the next five or ten years. Financial provision is made so that funds will be available to carry out a definite and well-prepared plan, stage by stage, over a period of five or ten years. It seems to me that planning of that type is essential to enable the very efficient, very capable and, in many cases, very dedicated administrators of the Postmaster-General’s Department the opportunity to bring this great institution to the maximum degree of efficiency.
There is one other matter that I wish to mention in the two minutes that are left to me. I agree with what has been said in respect of the undesirability of contract work in the Postal Department. The Minister made the position clear when he pointed out that the Postal Department was able to lay the coaxial cable from Melbourne to Sydney for half the cost that the tenderers had quoted. The Postal Department’s staff, which is constantly undergoing training in training schools, has a special skill of no mean capacity that will enable it to do the department’s work better than it could be done by outside contractors who have never given their men the training that the Postal Department gives its men. For that reason, I hope that the practice of having Postal Department work done by outside contractors will be dropped, and that all developmental, maintenance and repair work required by the department will be done by that very great institution’s own men. I also hope, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the Government will put into operation some planning system that will enable the department to know for five or ten years ahead what funds it will have.
.- I should like to make a plea for the improvement of wireless reception in country areas, and also for the early extension of television to those areas. First, I should like to pay a tribute to those who provide broadcasting services to country areas. One of the things that affect people most in outlying centres is the lack of amenities. There are many of us who can remember the days when there was no such thing as wireless and, of course, no television. In those days people in the country had to rely on other amenities. When wireless came along, it was one of the amenities that was greatly sought after by country people. Over the years radio transmission has been strengthened, with a resultant improvement in reception.
I speak with some knowledge of radio reception, because in spite of every effort that I could make over many years, I was unable to do much about improving reception on summer nights in the country area where I lived for about 27 years. That area is only about 70 miles from the coast. Reception generally in country areas is quite fair in the day-time, but it is hopeless at night, during the summer, unless the listener tunes to the short-wave band, where he does not have much choice of programme and on which he does not always get good reception either.
Generally speaking, it can be said that in country places like Gayndah and Mundubbera, in Queensland, radio reception is unsatisfactory on late spring, summer and early autumn nights. There are other amenities such as electricity and water supplies which have been gradually extended to provincial areas. These amenities differ from wireless reception in that it is possible for any person on any cattle property, for example, to have erected a very fine electricity plant. In fact, there are some cattle stations which I have visited where all you have to do is to switch on two lights and automatically the electric plant starts to operate, and continues to operate until the lights are switched off. In the same way, people fortunate enough to be near a water supply are able to have all the water they require for their household and other needs, and for their stock, merely by starting up an engine, or sometimes an electric motor. So the lack of public water and electricity supplies in outlying country areas is not severely felt. But the lack of good wireless reception is severely felt.
It is for that reason that I make a plea that country areas some distance from broadcasting transmission centres be given improved wireless reception by means of a stepping up of transmission and, if possible, by the installation of new stations nearby. It is difficult for people in the cities to understand what it means not to have good wireless reception. Sometimes it would be proper to describe wireless reception on summer nights in some country areas which are not sub-coastal as a perfect rock-‘n’-roll session, because the noise which emanates from the set is terrific. It would be difficult to describe the reception on other occasions, because there is nothing so annoying as to know that a good programme is scheduled and you cannot hear it. However, I think I have said enough to show the necessity for good radio reception in the country. We cannot afford to have people wanting to leave the country for the city.
Now I should like to say a word on behalf of people in country areas who want to have the benefits of television. The way in which television is progressing at present means that quite a lot of people will have it before very long; but what I am concerned about is the submerged tenth. Is it not reasonable to ask that people who live far from the cities should also be given the benefits of television before very long? Those are the people on whose behalf I make this plea, because, as I see it at present, some people in this country will not have television in the next fifteen years. They may not even get it at all. I know that it is going to be very expensive to extend television to them. It is a matter of £ s. d. But even if the viewer’s licence fee has to be increased, I believe that in all fairness people living far from the cities should have television as well as everybody else. After all, we are living in the modern age. I hate to think what a sad state of affairs it will be if people in country areas cannot see such television programmes as “ Gun Smoke “ and “ I Love Liberace “.
Television is not only a means of instruction, but is also a means of entertainment. Much has been said here about the standard of radio and television programmes; but if the majority of people are satisfied to hear and see bad programmes they must recognize that only they themselves can be blamed for the standards of the programmes. Entertainment is always provided by people for people, and if the public do not want a particular form of entertainment they will not get it. However, I merely say that, from the advice given to me, people in my area will be without the benefit of this fine modern amenity for some time, and I have no doubt that it will still be some years before we shall be able to get even a scrambled picture. In the meantime, I think we shall have to content ourselves, as a substitute for television, with the rather scrambled form of art which is fashionable now. We shall be able to look at modernistic abstract paintings, and after we have surfeited ourselves on them for the next three years we shall be in a condition to receive any television programme that is transmitted to us.
.- I wish to refer briefly to the proposed vote for the Postmaster-General’s Department. At the outset, I would like to join with the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) in congratulating the PostmasterGeneral upon his forth rightness in taking to task the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler), and making it plain that the department is conducting its work more efficiently under day labour than it could under private contract. We hope that he will let his colleagues know, and that the Public Service Board and the Department of Works will realize that it could be equally effective in their work also. We all know that the honorable member for Mitchell is an apostle of big business and private enterprise in this chamber.
In the few moments left to me, I would like to stress that television, that most important medium of communication, should be used in the best interests of all the people of Australia. I agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) that television is an amenity which should be available not only to people in the cities but to people everywhere in Australia. It should be the prerogative of the Government to control television just as it controls the Post Office. We all know that the Post Office is a wonderfully efficient instrumentality of government and we believe, with equal force, that television, employed correctly, can render great service to the community. We must ensure that it is used in the interests of all, and not as a medium of propaganda - something with which to put across a certain line of thought.
In Sydney, where I live, three channels are available. There is Channel 2, the Government channel; Channel 7, controlled by the Fairfax press; and Channel 9, controlled by the Packer press. As yet, Channel 2 is far from perfect, but it is nevertheless superior to the other two stations. One should give credit where it is due and I must say that on Channel 7 I saw recently an example of the way in which television can be used as a medium of education. That station went to great trouble to telecast the tour of America by Mr. Khrushchev, and the meetings between Mr. Khrushchev and President Eisenhower. That was brought into the homes of the people, who were able to gain some understanding of the great and vital events that were occurring, and the equally great necessity for understanding between the nations of the world. However, these stations are not consistent. They telecast other programmes which tend to engender distrust and create hatred among nations. One can, of course, think of programmes upon which private enterprise is to be commended. I have in mind Ed Murrow’s “ Small World “. Honorable members may have seen the interview conducted by that gentleman with President Nehru and Thomas Dewey, the former Governor of New York State. The effect must have been to enlighten and broaden people’s minds. One could see that these men were struggling with the great problems of the world. If such programmes were continued it would be in the best interests of the people. Unfortunately, these programmes are in the minority on the stations conducted by private enterprise.
Television is also bringing the church into the homes of the people. There is, for instance, the Gordon Powell session on Wednesday from St. Stephen’s, and the session conducted by Alan Walker called “ I Challenge the Minister “. Other denominations are also represented. A programme is presented for the Catholic community. All the churches are being brought into the home.
– Order! The time allotted for consideration of the proposed votes for the Commonwealth Railways, PostmasterGeneral’s Department and Broadcasting and Television Services has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Part 4- PAYMENTS TO OR FOR THE STATES.
Department of Health.
Proposed Vote, £1,030,000. [Quorum formed.]
– There are many activities of the Department of Health quite apart from those great activities connected with the national health service itself. Those latter activities are such and So prominent that they tend to overshadow the subject to which this section of the Estimates refers. When I speak about the national health service, I mean in particular such things as medical benefits, hospital benefits, pensioner medical services and so on which are not only great social services but also a great advance in social welfare and which have undoubtedly transformed the whole medical picture in Australia in recent years. As I say, these tend to overshadow the fact that the Commonwealth Department of Health is engaged in other very great and considerable activities as well.
The activities to which these Estimates refer concern expenditure in the Commonwealth by this Government for the purpose of attempting to eradicate tuberculosis from Australia. It may be thought that the attempt to eradicate tuberculosis is a very ambitious project. This, in fact, is so. It is an ambitious project. But it is one which I believe is not impossible of accomplishment. After all, the World Health Organization, which, as honorable members know, is an agency of the United Nations, is engaged in an attempt to eradicate malaria from the world - not just to suppress malaria, but to eradicate it. That is an extremely difficult and much more ambitious project than the one in which we are engaged - the attempt to eradicate tuberculosis from Australia. So I hope that it is appreciated by honorable members that the tuberculosis campaign, as it is called, is not an attempt to control tuberculosis in Australia but an attempt to eradicate it altogether from the country.
This is, of course, a very expensive undertaking, but if it succeeds, as I have no reason to doubt it will eventually, it will be one of the great medical achievements of the century. It is one of the most important things in which the Department of Health and the Commonwealth Government, in the field of health, are engaged. These particular estimates relate to expenditure for this purpose in the States, but perhaps I might point out in passing that this is not only confined to the States, that we have recently launched a campaign in the Northern Territory in order to continue the tuberculosis campaign, and to complete it, throughout Australia.
There are various methods employed in this campaign and it is about those methods that I would next like to speak. The first method is concerned with the diagnosis of tuberculosis. This, I think, can fairly be described as fundamental to the whole undertaking. It depends in the first place on the early diagnosis of tuberculosis. It is not a fact that the early symptoms of tuberculosis are easily discernible, or that the disease, in its early stages, is readily recognized. It may in fact smouldet undetected for quite a long time before, by clinical signs alone, it becomes apparent. So, while we regard early diagnosis as a fundamental step in the whole undertaking, we also regard the establishment of that diagnosis by mass X-ray as the starting point of the whole campaign.
As honorable members know, mass X-ray campaigns are being conducted in all the States and now in the Northern Territory as well. Quite recently, 1 had the privilege of going to the Northern Territory and opening the mass X-ray campaign in the Northern Territory which is being conducted for the Government by the Anti-Tuberculosis Association of New South Wales, a body which has had a great deal of experience in the early detection of tuberculosis.
– In what part of the Northern Territory - what towns?
– The whole of the Territory is being done on a co-ordinated plan - starting from Alice Springs and working throughout the whole of the Territory.
I want to say something about this question of mass X-rays because a great deal of attention has been directed in recent months to the matter of ionising radiation and, of course, X-ray is one of the sources of ionising radiation to which the community is exposed. Some people have expressed doubts about the safety of this mass X-raying of the population on the ground that it might be adding something which is harmful to the total quantity of ionising radiation to which the community is exposed. I want to read to the committee what the National Radiation Advisory Committee has to say on this question of mass X-ray because it is entirely reassuring on this subject. The committee stated in its report that it -
In this connexion, it should be noted that the United Kingdom Committee on Radiological Hazards to Patients has recently reported on its study of mass miniature radiography used in the control of tuberculosis in the United Kingdom. That committee concluded that the practice is of great value and, when properly employed, makes a negligible contribution to the total radiation to which the population is exposed.
I think it is important to bring those words to the attention of the committee, because we are committed to this mass X-ray programme in Australia. It is important for us to realize that the programme is exerting no harmful effects at all on the population.
– What follow-up treatment is given after the X-ray?
– The X- ray is only a process of detection and I will go on to describe what else the Government does. The honorable member for Bonython will realize that there may be quite a number of sufferers detected by the mass X-rays who would prefer to make their own arrangements for subsequent treatment. That is a matter entirely in the hands of the individuals concerned.
The first step, of course, is early detection and the great weapon of early detection - the important weapon of early detection - is mass X-ray. The programme of mass X-rays is being prosecuted vigorously throughout the Commonwealth. The next step, of course, is treatment and I want to give the committee some idea of what is being done by the Government as far as treatment is concerned. Of course, as I pointed out to the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) some people prefer to make their own arrangements for treatment.
What has been done? Since 1949 the Commonwealth Government has embarked on a policy of hospital treatment. I am not saying that the policy was not initiated before 1949. It was, but it has been vigorously expanded since 1949. The objective is first of all the erection of hospitals in which cases can be treated. The second objective is the withdrawal of infected and infectious cases into hospital so that they may be adequately treated. Since 1949, the Commonwealth Governrment has approved the expenditure of £15,000,000 for the construction ofhospitals throughout Australia. Of that £15,000,000 so approved, approximately £13,000,000 had been spent up to 30th June this year. As a result of this expenditure a great chain of chest hospitals has come into being from Cairns in the north of Queensland, down through the eastern States and across to Perth in Western Australia.
– Are they financed by the States?
– No, they are entirely financed by theCommonwealth Government - every penny. This scheme costs the States nothing at all. I can instance some of these hospitals, although I do not intend to go into great detail. Starting from Cairns we have annexes to hospitals in Cairns, Rockhampton and Townsville. We have erected a great chest hospital at Brisbane, which I had the pleasure of handing over to the Queensland Government a few weeks ago. That is a hospital which will contain 566 beds. Chest wings have been added to the Royal North Shore Hospital, St. Vincent’s Hospital, and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, in Sydney, and to other hospitals throughout Australia right round as far as Perth in the west. So, all this money has been made available in these ten years and this great chain of hospitals for the treatment of tuberculosis has been provided throughout the country. As I indicated to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) this building programme has been entirely financed by the Commonwealth Government.
In addition the Commonwealth Government pays all the maintenance costs above the base year figure. From memory I think the base year was 1947-48 - or about that time - and the expenditure in the base year for maintenance was £746,000. The expenditure above the base year is running at an average of £4,840,000 per annum, which is met by the Commonwealth Government. So, in fact, the maintenance of this chain of hospitals is being financed - at least as to 85 per cent. of the total expenditure - by the Commonwealth Government. I point out to the committee that expenditure under this heading - maintenance expenditure - includes such things as nurses’ salaries, the cost of drugs used and the cost of operating clinics that are set up in the various capitals for the detection of, and ordering treatment for, tuberculosis. It also includes the cost of the mass X-ray service in the States. All this is being financed by the Commonwealth Government under the heading of maintenance expenditure. Since 1949 the Commonwealth Government has expended under this ‘heading of maintenance £32,000,000 for the eradication of tuberculosis.
The next element in the process of treatment to Which I want to refer is tuberculosis allowances. I said a few moments ago that the purpose of erecting hospitals was to withdraw from circulation, as it were, infectious cases - to put them into hospitals and enable them to receive treatment there. Obviously, if you are going to do that it is also necessary to make some financial arrangements so that the patients who are withdrawn into these hospitals may be able to look after their affairs and provide for their families and so on while they are undergoing treatment. That is done by a system of tuberculosis allowances, which are paid to infectious cases.
– Your Government did not start them.
– No, but if the honorable gentleman wants to know what my Government did, I will be pleased to tell him. Previous to 30th July, 1950, infectious sufferers received both an invalid pension and a tuberculosis pension - on, as the honorable member forces me to say, a totally inadequate scale. Since July, 1950, those two payments have been replaced by a single tuberculosis allowance on a far more generous and effective scale. The honorable member for Wilmot will be interested to know that in 1949 a sufferer with a dependent wife received a total of £411s. 6d. a week. His present weekly comprehensive payment is £11 2s. 6d. A sufferer with a dependent child or children only, in 1949, received £2 12s. 6d. a week. He now receives £6 17s. 6d. a week. I do not want to go in detail, step by step, through all the increases in the tuberculosis allowances, but let me just inform the committee of some other alterations that have been made. In addition to a great increase, both relatively and absolutely, in the level of tuberculosis allowances, a more generous means test has been introduced - one that ignores the value of property altogether. In 1950 a married sufferer was allowed to have an income of £4 a week and a single sufferer £2 a week. The means test has now been further relaxed and the rates of allowance have been increased so that at the present time the maximum married person rate is £11 2s. 6d. a week with £7 allowable income and the maximum single person rate is £6 17s. 6d. with a £3 10s. allowable income. The tuberculosis allowances paid to sufferers between June, 1950 and June, 1959, amounted to a total of £14,279,000.
The numbers of people who have been receiving tuberculosis allowances reached a peak in 1952. At that time they totalled 6,712. There has been a steady decrease in the number since that date until, at the present time the allowance is being paid to 2,538 persons. Of course, the decrease in the number is a reflection of the efficacy of the methods which have been employed in dealing with tuberculosis.
– And paid for by the State governments.
– I point out that these allowances are paid entirely by the Commonwealth Government. Over this period the Commonwealth Government has expended £13,000,000 on capital works, £32.000,000 for maintenance and £14,279,000 in tuberculosis allowances. The total expenditure by this Commonwealth Government in ten years on this project has been £59,600,000. I said, when I started, that this was an expensive project. I do not want any member of the committee to think that I am cavilling at the expense or objecting to it. If we succeed in eradicating tuberculosis from Australia it will have been worth every penny of what we have already spent and every penny of what we will spend.
– Would there be any others, apart from those you have mentioned, who were not receiving the allowance?
– The tuberculosis allowance is paid to every infectious sufferer throughout the whole of Australia.
– Irrespective of the means test?
– I gave figures for the means test which, as I pointed out, was very generous before there was any reduction at all. I now want to say a few words about the results of this campaign, because they have been very striking. I have spoken about the expenditure and it is necessary that honorable members should have these figures in their minds because, as I said, this is a great activity of the Department of Health. The figures I shall quote are for the ten-year period commencing in 1949. In that year the death rate from tuberculosis throughout Australia was 24.8 per 100,000 of the population. In 1958, the death rate was 5.4 per 100,000. That is a very significant reduction in the death rate.
But that is not the whole picture. The notifications of tuberculosis are also interesting. In 1949, 3,914 cases of tuberculosis were notified in Australia and in 1953, 4,979 cases, which, as honorable members will realize, was an increase. But in 1958, with a much larger population than there was in 1949 and with a much more vigorously prosecuted detection campaign going on, the number of notifications had fallen to 3,948. I point out that this took place in a bigger population and in the midst of energetically prosecuted detection campaigns. To-day I think we are entitled to say that these are, on the whole, satisfactory figures. I am not saying to the committee that there is any room for complacency or that we can imagine, to use a popular phrase, that tuberculosis is licked. We are a long way still from that, but we are entitled to say that we are making steady, and, I believe, satisfactory progress in a great and very difficult project.
What other effects have flowed from these matters I have been describing? I spoke about the numbers of hospitals which have been erected for the purpose of treating tuberculosis. We are now in the happy position where the number of beds we have available for the treatment of this disease exceeds, by quite a considerable figure, the demand for them. Of course, that is not a matter for regret. It does not mean that we have overestimated the position and built a lot of unnecessary hospitals, because as these beds become unnecessary for tuberculosis patients they are, of course, made available for other uses.
– There is more home treatment now rather than hospital treatment, is there not?
– I do not think there is more home treatment for cases in the infectious stage. They continue to receive hospital treatment then, but when they are not infectious they go home. The fact is that we have been able to release 1,006 beds from tuberculosis for general purposes throughout Australia. That is a very considerable addition to the number of beds available for ordinary hospital purposes throughout Australia. Not only is that so, but I point out also that the States have acquired these beds for nothing.
Those are what I might call the material and statistical results, but nobody can measure the results of this campaign that have accrued in human lives and human happiness. I said that we have no room for complacency, and I want to emphasize that. Do not let us imagine that because of this progress, tuberculosis is now a thing of the past. We have to exercise constant vigilance. It is like a runner coming into the straight; he can still be overtaken by his opponents in the last few yards. We have to continue with this programme.
I want to say this about it: Although immense value is attached to the mass X-ray surveys, many of these surveys are voluntary. It is not for the Commonwealth Government to tell the States that they should be made compulsory, but I think it is quite competent for a doctor to point out that if they were compulsory the acceleration in solving this national problem would be immense. With that, Mr. Timson, I leave this matter to the consideration of the committee, and I hope that it will be regarded as one of the great achievements of public health in the Commonwealth.
– I think that we should all agree with the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) that the plan to eradicate tuberculosis in Australia was ambitious. I think that we should agree with him also that a tremendous amount of work has been undertaken by this Government in the eradication of tuberculosis. My only quarrel with the Minister’s presentation of the case is that when he mentioned 1949, 1953 and 1958 he should have mentioned the year earlier - 1948. All that this Government has done has been to follow a planned campaign that was organized by the Chifley Government before this Government came to office. Itis significant that the legislation relating to tuberculosis bears the title, “ Tuberculosis Act 1 948 “. The act received assent on 25th November, 1948.
All the bad features that could flow from the ravages of tuberculosis were considered by the Chifley Government when it planned its campaign to eradicate this disease. In the light of the statements that have been made by the Minister, I think that I should refresh the minds of honorable members in this chamber; and of the public at large, thatwhat Labour felt was necessary to eradicate tuberculosis in Australia has been implemented by this Government; because the Minister has said that the eradication of thisscourgecan and will represent one of the greatest steps forward that have been made; in the history of; civilization towards reducing the death-rate.
There are three diseases that must be attacked, first, tuberculosis, secondly, cancer and thirdly, mental illness because they bring more soul-searing hours to the family unit than most other complaints. We may think that heart failure and heart ailments are becoming: a very important problem that the medical profession must solve, but invariably with those complaints there is not the searing heart-burn that runs through a family that has been touched by any of the three diseases to which I have referred. It, stands- to the everlasting credit of the Chifley Government that, after Australia came out of the war, it was decided to introduce the measure that has made if possible - let me repeat that has made it. possible: - for this Government to do all the work that has been done in the eradication of tuberculosis without the necessity of one amendment to the Tuberculosis Act 1948. The whole framework of the campaign was planned by the Chifley Government. All that this Government has done has been to implement the plan that was designed by Labour when it was in office to rid this country of one of its greatest scourges. However, I do not want it to be thought that I am taking any credit away from this Government for the work that it has done.
Should any honorable member have any doubt as to the correctness of my statements, I shall read to the committee the portion of the act relating to the Commonwealth’s arrangement with the States. It is in these terms -
The Governor-General may enter into an arrangement with the Governor of a State for the provision by the State, subject to agreed conditions, of services and facilities for the diagnosis, treatment and control of tuberculosis.
Section 6 of the act outlines the powers of the Director-General of Health in this way -
The Director-General may, subject to the direction of the Minister -
take steps for the establishment or’ taking over and conduct of hospitals, sana toria, laboratories, diagnostic centres, after-care, radiological and other units and clinics for the diagnosis, treatment and the control of tuberculosis;
arrange for the provision of scholarships for’ the post’ graduate study of tuberculosis;
provide facilities for -
the examination of persons suffering from, or suspected to be suffering from, tuberculosis;
the medical care of persons affected by tuberculosis;
the dissemination of information as to the steps necessary to prevent the spread of tuberculosis; and
the after-care and rehabilitation. of sufferers from tuberculosis; and
conduct, assist and provide for research’,. investigations, experiments, studies and. training in relation- to the detection and. diagnosis of tuberculosis and the treatment and after-care of. sufferers from tuberculosis.
What a tremendous effort by Labour to plan a campaign that has made it possible to achieve in the short space of less than’ ten years that which the Minister has described, without one amendment being necessary tothe framework: that was built by Labour when it was in office! That is the background of the eradication of tuberculosis, in Australia. Let us pay tribute to the brain-work that was behind the plan.
The- Minister has mentioned the expenditure of about £60,000;000 in ten years on the campaign to rid Australia of tuberculosis. I. would say that twice £60,000,000 has been gained in the manpower that has, returned to work instead of dying of tuberculosis on the Government’s’ doorstep. Let the Minister take credit if he will for the implementation of Labour’s plan, but do not let this Government take credit from Labour for the plan. We have had tuberculosis in this country for many years, and we- have had anti-Labour governments in office in this country for many years, but it. was a. Labour government which provided the plan that has given the Minister the opportunity to say tonight that great strides forward have been made in the eradication, of tuberculosis.
Let us not take any credit away from the Government for having reduced by one half the number of persons who receive the tuberculosis allowance. In 1952, 6,212 people received the allowance, but the number has now been reduced to 2,548. But
I remind the Minister that this result has been obtained because this Government has followed so assiduously the plan that was provided by Labour. In cold cash, the amount that is being paid by way of tuberculosis allowance is being reduced day by day despite the increases that have been made in the allowance. But here is the secret - although the Government now pays an allowance of £11 2s. 6d., it is paying that amount to only 2,548 persons, whereas five years ago 6,212 people were receiving the allowance. This excellent result has been obtained because this Government has implemented Labour’s plan to eradicate tuberculosis.
I agree with the Minister that the expense involved in ridding Australia of this terrible scourge is really unimportant. The national economy does not receive £1 in return for the expenditure, but the happiness and the relief from suffering that is evident now in Australian homes is worth many times more than the £60,000,000 that has been spent.
Great strides have been made in the treatment of cancer. There is a great public interest in the war against this terrible disease, and it is time, that the Government took some action on a planned basis to provide an allowance similar to the tuberculosis allowance for people suffering from cancer. I am prepared to say that if Labour had remained in office we would have been dealing with the problems of cancer and mental illness just as we dealt with the problem of tuberculosis. If any honorable member has any doubt of this, I invite him to consider Labour’s attitude in New South Wales towards the treatment and cure of cancer and mental illness.
Let me now refer to mental illness. I urge the Minister, who is the No. 1 leader in health matters on a Commonwealth level, to attack the problem of mental illness on a basis similar to that planned by the Labour Government in relation to tuberculosis. Great strides have also been made in the treatment of cancer, although on a different plane from the treatment of tuberculosis. I think that the Minister would be the first person to agree with me that a great deal of agony is suffered by the family which is unfortunate enough to have a member mentally ill. I do not suppose that there is an honorable member in this chamber, or a person in the gallery who, if he cared to consider the matter carefully for one minute, could not recall at least one family within his knowledge in which the scourge of mental illness is causing great concern. Again, in New South Wales, Labour has started something in the treatment of mental illness, just as it has attacked the terrible disease of cancer. We have eliminated the terms “ asylum “ and “ Master in Lunacy and have replaced the latter title by “ Director of Mental Hygiene “. The Director of Mental Hygiene is the No. 1 man in authority on the State level, and he is entitled to as much consideration by this Government, when it is making grants to the States, as is any organization treating persons suffering from tuberculosis.
The Chifley Government enacted legislation which contained everything necessary for the rehabilitation of persons suffering from tuberculosis. But it is not nearly so important in this community as the rehabilitation of sufferers from mental illness. I acknowledge that great strides were made towards helping sufferers from tuberculosis by providing increased allowances for them and their families. Worry may retard recovery, and the payment of an allowance relieves a breadwinner who is a victim of tuberculosis of anxiety about his dependants’ welfare while he is undergoing treatment. But I remind the Minister that a sufferer from mental illness, who is in receipt of a pension of any kind, ceases to receive the pension immediately he enters a mental hospital, even if only temporarily. From the time the person who is afflicted enters a mental hospital, he receives no further monetary assistance from the Commonwealth Government. There is a corresponding need for the Government to deal with the problem of mental illness as there was for the Chifley Government to deal with tuberculosis in 1948. I urge the Minister to give attention quickly to this aspect of the matter. He should take steps to find out whether something better can be done than was provided in the act of 1955. That act does not do anything to assist the rehabilitation of sufferers from mental illness along the lines that the Chifley Government’s act of 1948 dealt with tuberculosis. Many honorable members feel that the time has arrived when the subject of mental illness should be looked at in the same way that the Chifley Government dealt with tuberculosis. We believe that there is equal scope for the restoration to society and to industry of sufferers from mental illness as there was in 1948 for the restoration to society and industry of sufferers from tuberculosis.
– Order! I must remind the honorable member that the proposed vote before the committee relates to the Tuberculosis Act. It has nothing to do with the subject of mental illness, which is quite a different matter.
– I am suggesting to the Minister that there should be no lessening of activity on the part of this Government in the eradication of illness of any character in Australia. I suggest that it would not be too much to expect the Government to match the Chifley Government’s legislation of 1948,. by making a decided improvement on its mental institutions legislation of 1955. So far this has not eventuated. If, over the next few decades we could achieve in relation to mental illness the degree of success that has been achieved against tuberculosis, what a help that would be to the community! We commend this Government for following so assiduously the plan for the eradication of tuberculosis that was laid down by the Labour government. But credit should not be taken from the Chifley Government, which exhibited its capacity to plan these things. The money that has been expended under the 1948 act in the eradication of tuberculosis in Australia has been well spent. Let us hope that when the Minister presents his report in relation to this matter to the Parliament next year, he will be able to tell us that, as a result of the great work of the medical profession, there has been a reduction of the number of persons in receipt of these allowances - the number is at present 2,548 - by 50 per cent.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- We know that tuberculosis is an infectious disease. That has been known for centuries. We know that to-day it is causing deaths in our Australian population at the rate of 5.4 per 100,000. When we consider the progress we have made over the last ten years or so in dealing with it we as a nation should be, I think, pretty proud of our record. In 1948 - the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) drew attention to this - the number of deaths in our population was 28.4 per 100,000. In 1948, 2,169 people died as a result of tuberculosis. That number has been gradually reduced by the implementation of a sound policy - no matter which government planned it - until to-day we have a rate of 5.4 deaths per 100,000. Last year, 538 people died from this disease.
Tremendous credit is due, without any doubt at all, to those responsible for the initiation of the whole plan for the eradication of tuberculosis and for carrying out so consistently a campaign which has given us such very good results. But however successful it may seem to be at the present time - the Minister’s figures were very encouraging - we must not lose sight of the fact that the number of deaths is still too high, and our aim must be the total eradication of disease. Even with the success we have had to date, tuberculosis is still the principal killer amongst the infectious diseases known to us in Australia. Even though we have spent £60,000,000 over the last ten years, tuberculosis is the principal killer among our infectious diseases.
To me, here is the all-important point: We have reduced the incurable incidence to a reasonably low figure, and if we take the opportunity that is available to us, we can reduce tuberculosis to non-existence. We are told that the disease is preventable and curable, that it is not inherited, and that it is caused by a living organism spread by infected people or by an animal, such as a dairy cow, which might have the bovine strain of tuberculosis. I have been reading a splendid brochure which has been put out by the Department of Health. It contains much valuable information for the public generally. As tuberculosis is a notifiable disease, we know that there are about 4,000 new, positive cases listed each year. We have a very big responsibility indeed to reduce the number to nil. We know what has been done in clearing out the disease from some of our cattle herds. For instance, in registered dairy herds it is, or should be, compulsory to test and to eliminate those cattle shown to be positive. No doubt the clearing up of our dairy herds will contribute greatly to the final elimination of this disease. We might also at the same time point out what should be done about our beef herds in cleaning up tuberculosis. It is not compulsory to test our beef herds, and it is quite common in practice for beef bulls to be run with dairy cows to produce vealers. I have not yet seen many dairy bulls that would necessarily respect a barbed wire fence or any other fence if they have a chance to run with dairy cows. This is a manner in which herds are infected. I believe that the testing of beef herds should be compulsory. It might be suggested that we should move to compulsory testing of these - I think that is highly desirable - and eliminate tuberculosis because sensible cattlemen who have done it in their beef herds know how easy it is over a few years to eliminate tuberculosis from those herds. I mention this because the bovine strain and the human strain of tuberculosis are very closely related. I understand that dairy cattle can be infected by a human being with tuberculosis as he works in and around the dairy.
Honorable members may wonder what the industry has done about this factor over the years - whether it has paid close enough attention to it. I have no wish to start a witch hunt, but I think this is something that should be looked at. In an area in which milk is pasteurized it is possibly not a factor, but there are large areas of Australia in which the population is relying on milk that is not pasteurized. Therefore, I think that this matter needs to be watched closely, and any campaign further to reduce the incidence of tuberculosis must surely take this factor into account.
The Commonwealth and the States have a partnership in an intensive campaign. Each State has undertaken to reduce the incidence of tuberculosis as far as possible and as soon as possible. The ambitious aim, of course, is not merely to control tuberculosis but to eliminate it completely. Complete eradication is not an impossible aim by any means. Whilst our methods of care are so much more effective to-day than they were a few years ago, we still have a challenging problem and a fairly steady stream of new cases is reported each year. Last year, 3,948 new cases of tuberculosis were reported. That is a very great challenge.
One of the greatest advances that we can make is through early detection. The earlier the detection the greater the prospect of cure and recovery. It is surely desirable for all the States to make a co-ordinated approach to this problem so that, as Australians, rather than looking at it from a State point of view, we can accept a national pattern of measures for detection. The campaign that is about to start in north Queensland will be of particular interest in Queensland. Skin tests among children in the north of Queensland have produced some rather extraordinary figures compared to those for southern parts of Australia. In some areas of north Queensland, the skin test produced a positive reaction in 85 per cent. of cases compared with a result in Canberra, I understand, of 3 per cent. A positive skin test reaction does not necessarily indicate that a person has tuberculosis; it merely indicates that a person has been in contact with the disease. The object of the skin test, I understand, is to sort out the negatives from the positives, so that those with a positive reaction may be further examined by X-ray.
The high percentage of positive reactions in North Queensland is apparently not conclusive evidence that there is a higher rate of tuberculosis in northern Australia than there is in the south. But surely it is something that needs to be investigated more quickly to ensure that this is not so. and that standards of health are as good in the north as they are in the south. We know that the over-populated countries to our north have a very high rate of tuberculosis. But obviously we cannot blame over-population in the north of Australia. I think that this matter should be thoroughly investigated. North Australians will await the result with interest.
Great credit is due to Dr. Roche and his small staff in the Tuberculosis Division, to the Commonwealth officers who carry out this campaign for the Commonwealth and to the State teams - so few in number - that do so much of the important work of this campaign. I believe that every citizen has a very definite responsibility to assist in the campaign. None should hide behind it Every thought should be constantly directed towards it so that we can keep it before the public mind the whole time. Complacency, as the Minister said, is a very great danger indeed. I think that we will all agree that the proposals put forward by the Minister are very welcome indeed. But do not let us argue, please, about whose legislation it was and who is responsible for it. Do not let us waste time on that. Let us get on with the job of eradicating tuberculosis and raising the standards of our health to the desirable level.
.- The awakening of the Australian consciousness to the scourge of tuberculosis is one of the most important happenings in this country for many years. I listened to the speech of the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) with considerable interest and satisfaction. I agree with the previous speaker, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray), that we should not make claims for political credit in this matter. The important thing is that there has been, over recent years, an all-out campaign for the eradication of tuberculosis. I believe that the record that has been disclosed to us to-night is one in which this Parliament and previous Parliaments can take pride.
I offer congratulations to the Minister on continuing the important work that was started. He dealt at length with the very great progress that has been made and he made it clear that the eradication of tuberculosis was to be the objective of this Government as it was the objective of the previous Labour Administration. That is to be commended, and we can be heartened by the interesting figures that the Minister has made available. It is most interesting to remember that whereas in 1952 benefits were paid to 6,712 persons, that figure has since been reduced to 2,000. Those figures tell their own story of the successful fight being waged to eradicate tuberculosis.
We should not be complacent, nor should we be carried away with the success that has been achieved in this campaign. 1 think it is proper that we should acknowledge with pride, satisfaction and gratitude the work of the previous Administration which, as the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) rightly said, laid the foundation of the legislation upon which this Government has built in dealing with this allimportant question. I think it would be a grand thing for the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia to broaden its horizons and look to other fields to conquer - those of cancer and heart disease. Also, something should be done to tackle mental illness on a national scale. Perhaps, too, it would not be amiss if this Government were to make a substantial donation to the children’s health foundation in an effort to improve the health of the youth of this country. Many children could, perhaps, be cured of maladies if we were to foster medical skills and sciences in this field. The mind of the Australian people could be turned towards these matters just as it was turned towards the eradication of tuberculosis by the splendid legislation of the Chifley Labour Government.
Mr. Temporary Chairman, I speak with some feeling in this matter because I represent an area in which there are two chest hospitals - the Bodington Red Cross institution at Wentworth Falls, New South Wales, and the Queen Victoria Hospital which is also at that centre. I know of the very wonderful work done by the doctors, the matrons, the nurses and every one else associated with those institutions, and also by the public generally in helping the patients in occupational therapy and in other ways. All concerned co-operate in this work with great goodwill.
This evening, Mr. Temporary Chairman, T want to tell a story which concerns the interest taken by the Australian Labour Party in this matter. Before the Labour government’s legislation of 1948, when the late J. B. Chifley was member for Macquarie and Mr. Gus Kelly was Minister for Health in the New South Wales Government, at meetings of the Macquarie District Labour Assembly, we heard at first hand from stalwarts such as Mr. William Hogan, Mr. Norman Johnson and Mr. Frank Peterson the intimate story of the problems of those afflicted with tuberculosis, and of the need to do more, not only to treat sufferers, but also to provide funds to care for their families so that, when the victims of this disease were taken to hospital, they would not be worried and anxious about the welfare of their families. The Chifley
Labour Government heeded the representations that were made to it. I recall Mr. Chifley himself visiting institutions in which victims of tuberculosis were being cared for, and he became seised of the importance of dealing with this problem, and of the need for the legislation upon which has grown this noble edifice of the wonderful organization developed to deal with this disease in so effective a manner.
When we are handing out bouquets, Mr. Temporary Chairman, we ought to say a kind word about Sir Harry Wunderly, a man of outstanding qualities and of very great human spirit, who devoted himself almost exclusively to the work of eradicating tuberculosis. He applied himself to this task without stint and without reserve, and spent much of his time visiting hospitals throughout the country in order to understand the problem better and to deal with it more effectively. He translated into action the thoughts expressed by the legislature in its legislation. I met Sir Harry Wunderly on a number of occasions at meetings of organizations such as the Citizens T.B. League and the AntiTuberculosis Association of New South Wales. All the people interested in those bodies played a most important part in the wonderful work of dealing with tuberculosis. T think it would be unfair not to pay tribute, also, to the work of the States, which have co-operated manfully with the Commonwealth in dealing with this problem. The efforts of all the people and organizations that I have mentioned have helped considerably.
Most of the things that I can think of that should be done have been done. I agree with the Minister for Health and previous speakers that mass X-ray campaigns are most important. It is necessary to deal with the problem as speedily as possible. Early detection of the disease is essential. I was greatly encouraged when I heard the Minister this evening assure the committee by reading extracts from the report of a committee, that no harmful effects flow from mass X-ray campaigns, which are highly valuable. I hope and trust that the excellent work which has been done in these campaigns in the past will be continued through the years. We have heard that the Government pays an allowance to sufferers from tuberculosis so that they may buy special foods and have peace of mind, rest, proper care and suitable occupational therapy. All of these things are most important indeed. I should like to see this, broad humanitarian outlook extended throughout the entire field of health services in Australia. I commend the remarks made by the Minister.
The vote out of which funds are to be paid to the States should be approved by this committee without any pangs of conscience. Our only feeling in this matter, Mr. Temporary Chairman, should be a determination that we shall try to speed the day when tuberculosis will be completely eradicated in this country. It is true that the inflow of migrants from overseas may aggravate the problem in certain respects. We may find that some migrants will need treatment in tuberculosis institutions. Other new problems may arise, also. All that I say to the committee about that is that we should not slacken our efforts in any way. We should continue the good work that has been started. On occasions such as this, when humanitarian considerations are at stake, the entire Parliament should take a broad humanitarian view of the problem and forget for the time being any narrow, sectional party issues. We should bend all our efforts towards dealing with this disease which threatens the health of people in this country, and take up the challenge with which we are presented.
Mr. DUTHIE (Wilmot) 19.71.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I can assure you that everybody in this Parliament and the country, regardless of political affiliations, could not have failed to be stirred and impressed by the story that was told this evening by the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron). If there is any subject with which we are concerned in the Commonwealth sphere that should be considered without the intrusion of political considerations, it is health, for disease is not a respecter of persons, parties or politics. Therefore, I want to give generous thanks to the Minister and the Department of Health and its various ancillary organizations for the efforts which have made it possible for the Minister to tell such an impressive story of the tremendous struggle to eradicate tuberculosis in Australia.
The first thing that impressed me about this great campaign, Sir, was that it represents one of the few really successful partnerships between the Commonwealth and the States. We know of the great differences between true States and the Commonwealth and of the everlasting wrangling at meetings of the Australian Loan Council about the allocation of finance to the States. We know that, all the time, there is friction between State.fighters and people who believe in the centralization of authority in the Commonwealth. But, in the anti-tuberculosis campaign, which was begun by a Labour Government and which has been continued with a great deal of energy by succeeding governments, we have a remarkable example of unanimity of thought and approach, for all have worked shoulder to shoulder in the fight against this disease. It is a remarkable story of a battle being gradually won against one of the greatest killers in the world. The campaign against tuberculosis is a great humanitarian and Christian project, and everybody who takes an active part in it is performing truly Christian work. After all, good health for every one is a basic aim of all people, regardless of their party affiliations.
Briefly, in round figures, here are some details of the campaign against tuberculosis. Since 1949, £13,000,000 has been spent on the establishment of hospitals for the treatment of patients suffering from tuberculosis, and £32,000,000 has been spent on the maintenance of such hospitals. A total of £14,000,000 has been spent on allowances to victims of the disease. The Commonwealth has provided 85 per cent, of the funds needed for the entire campaign. Part of the Commonwealth’s contribution to this great fight against a terrible disease has been the payment of the cost of nurses’ salaries, drugs, clinics and mass X-ray campaigns. We in this Commonwealth Parliament should be proud of the fact that so much of the total cost is coming from Commonwealth resources.
Let me now continue this impressive story. What are the results so far? The death-rate in 1948 was 24.8 per 100,000. In 1958 it had dropped to the amazingly low figure of 5.4 per 100,000. In ten years the death-rate has been reduced to about 20 per cent, of its former level. The allowances paid to tuberculosis sufferers tell their own story. In 1952 these allowances were paid in 6,712 cases, while last year the figure had dropped to 2,548 - out of a total population of more than 10,000,000. We must surely have one of the best records in the world.
In Tasmania the State Department of Health has a tuberculosis section, which has co-operated very well indeed with the Commonwealth. In fact, we in Tasmania pioneered quite a few methods of tuberculosis detection and treatment. We have our mobile mass X-ray units, and our State was probably the first in the Commonwealth to use these units. They operate throughout the State, in the towns, the cities, the villages and at the big hydroelectric works. In these latter places there may be as many as 2,500 people in one village in the mountains. The mobile X- ray units operate also throughout the coalmining fields of the north-east coast, in my electorate, and also at big industrial plants such as the New Norfolk and Burnie paper mills. The X-ray unit may stay in one place for two or three weeks, and the people are examined at the rate of 250 or more a day. This procedure has been tremendously successful in detecting the scourge in time. It has gradually reduced the incidence of tuberculosis in Tasmania. Not so long ago we closed some tuberculosis wards in one of our public hospitals because the incidence of the disease has been so greatly lessened.
Some very good work has also been done in the sanatoriums. The chest hospital, as we call it, near Evandale is doing magnificent work in nursing sufferers back to health again and restoring them to the work force. It is easing their worries and anxieties, and by means of humanitarian treatment is helping families to stick together.
The Tasmanian Department of Health has also banned the use of X-ray machines in boot and shoe shops. I do not know whether this has been done in other States. At first I thought this action was a bit finicky.
– Putting the boot in!
– Putting the foot in with the boot on it. I have used these X-ray machines. They are most intriguing, enabling a person to see the outlines of the bones in the feet. The picture is not very impressive.
– Especially in the case of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam).
– Probably one would need a special machine to cater for his feet. These machines have now been banned, and shoe salesmen have to depend upon their sense of touch to determine whether a pair of shoes fits properly. This action by the Department of Health was taken to try to minimize the risks of radiation effects, which have been mentioned by the Minister to-night. Perhaps at some later stage, when the full story with regard to radiation has been told, we may be able to allow these machines to be used again, because research carried out by the Commonwealth Department of Health appears to indicate that there is very little danger from X-ray radiation.
Let us never forget the devoted staffs that have carried out the work in connexion with the tuberculosis campaign. It is all very well for this Parliament to make provision for such a campaign, but the implementation of it is in the hands of the devoted men and women in clinics, hospitals and sanatoriums who are, in many cases, separated to a certain extent from the rest of the world because of the fact that many of these sanatoriums are isolated. They must necessarily be isolated in this way, because the treatment must be carried out in an appropriate climate. These staffs throughout the Commonwealth deserve our special praise for their unfailing devotion to this great task, and for the risks that they take with their own health. Many of them break down and contract tuberculosis, which would never have happened had they not been working in close proximity to sufferers from the disease.
Let me also mention the various tuberculosis committees that help to give comfort to sufferers. These are voluntary committees established in the cities and larger country towns. We are grateful to them for their help in restoring the morale of tuberculosis sufferers who, after all, lead very negative and lonely lives during the months when they are being nursed back to health.
I would like to mention also the necessity for early detection of the disease, as has been stressed by the Minister. Many people affected by tuberculosis do not know that they have contracted the disease. A carrier is unaware of the fact that he is a mobile time bomb. At any moment of the day, while mixing with other people in trams, trains or offices, he may emit some of the germs he is harbouring, and so affect others. How are we to pick up that man? When you attend the mass X-ray unit it is like going through a race. The sufferer enters the mobile unit, the X-ray photograph is taken and inspected, and the tuberculosis is noticed. A request is sent to the sufferer to come and have a talk with the hospital authorities. The case is explained and the treatment is begun.
I was visiting a new hydro-electric project in my electorate about three months ago. It was during a tour of the highlands in the Wilmot electorate, where all the hydroelectric plants are situated. This was at a place called Poatina, a town of nearly 1,000 people, which will soon have a population of 2,500. They are building the biggest single hydro-electric tunnel in the southern hemisphere, even bigger than the last one that was opened in the Snowy Mountains. There was a mobile X-ray unit in the town, and the workers coming off the job went through it on their way home to tea. I promptly walked in and had my chest X-rayed. However, thankfully, I have received no message from the health authorities since then. It is extremely easy to have one’s chest X-rayed. It takes about one minute, and you then know for sure whether you have the disease or not.
In this political life, we live at high tension and high pressure, working 80 hours a week, and getting no overtime. We are the people who can easily become run-down to such an extent that we may readily pick up germs. Let us, therefore, take advantage of these X-ray machines whenever we can. I forgot to mention that the chest X-ray is compulsory in Tasmania, and my friend, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) says that it is compulsory in New South Wales - and rightly so.
We are not being boastful when we point out that the basic plan for this campaign was made when the late Mr. Chifley and
Senator McKenna put the matter before Cabinet when Labour was in office in 1948. The comprehensive nature of their scheme was outlined by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), who read out the sections of the legislation. They saw into the future and covered almost every contingency. They had the vision splendid for the defeat of tuberculosis in Australia. Where there is no such vision, the people perish. This is doubly true in connexion with the difficult and tricky disease of tuberculosis. So we are grateful to the late Mr. Chifley, Senator McKenna, and the rest of the Cabinet of that day, for conceiving this scheme and for bringing it to fruition, and to this Government for continuing it year by year.
Finally, I stress that the rehabilitation of sufferers is important. It is important not only that they be nursed back to the stage where there is no infection and the lungs are clear, but also that they be assisted when they are still in a weakened state. They will have lost contact with their jobs and with people generally and a lot of nursing is necessary to enable them to take up work again. Some of them, too, have to overcome an inferiority complex. I have had to deal with many of these cases and I must say that most employers are very helpful and co-operative in getting the tuberculosis patient back on to the job. That aspect is most important. Freedom from anxiety and financial worry is vital to recovery. The allowance is perhaps not as high as we should like it to be, but it does help to relieve a family of the terrible fear of financial disaster. Many have commitments in payments for homes and furniture and in respect of hire-purchase transactions generally. When they are stricken with tuberculosis, they have the worry of keeping up payments. That worry can get a patient down. The allowance helps to keep up their spirit and morale. I would like to see similar national campaigns extended to sufferers from cancer, arthritis and mental disease. We must not rest on our laurels, having removed the scourge of widespread tuberculosis. Wc must now look to the other scourges that are causing so many deaths in Australia to-day.
.- I want to say just a few words on the proposed vote for the Department of Health that is now under discussion. I join with those members on both sides of the committee who have acknowledged the great contribution made by this legislation towards the relief of people suffering from tuberculosis. Like other members on this side of the chamber, I do not wish to be political in my approach, but I may be forgiven for reminding honorable members that the tuberculosis allowance was part of the plan envisaged and given effect by the Chifley Labour Government and carried on somewhat successfully by the present Administration. As the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) said, the decrease over the years in the number of tuberculosis sufferers shows that a disease of this nature, when treated properly, with necessary financial assistance being given to sufferers, can be substantially counteracted. Compulsory X-rays are very desirable, but all people should submit to chest X-rays, irrespective of compulsion, and so safeguard their own health and interests while making also a contribution to the health of Australia generally. 1 should like to refer to one or two other matters in relation to the administration of the Department of Health. One matter in particular has been overlooked for some time by this Government, and possibly by other governments. A few days ago in this Parliament, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) mentioned that a survey made by competent authorities inquiring into dental health showed that nine out of every ten people examined - I believe they were children - had defects in teeth. The point I wish to make is that there is a need for a national dental health scheme. I hope that in the not far distant future the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) will give consideration to some national scheme which will assist us to have better teeth.
– The honorable member is getting away from the subject of tuberculosis, which is now before the committee.
– I bow to your ruling, Sir, but I understood that in this debate we had the fullest scope to discuss medical benefits payments.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.No. It was intimated earlier that the committee would confine its discussion at present to the matter of tuberculosis.
– Only that special item?
– I link up my comments by saying that bad teeth may have an effect on tuberculosis. The Minister,being a doctor, will know that bad teeth can be the real basis of many ailments and canpossibly contribute to tuberculosis. If I must confine my remarks to tuberculosis, I do not wish to continue at great length. I commend what has ‘been done by the Labour Government that introduced the scheme and carried on the process. Many people are still suffering from this grievous complaint. Some do not know that they have contracted it, and the compulsory X-ray schemes in New South Wales and other places have enabled diagnosis of the complaint and the obtaining of treatment in time. This Governments continuance of the scheme implemented by theChifley Government has made a major contribution to meeting a very great need inthe community. But I believe that no medical scheme is complete unless it covers a full range of ailments. The fact that this schemehas proved so successful should be an inspiration to all those who desire good health for Australia to extend these -provisions into other ‘fields, to embrace all -sections of people suffering from complaints of any kind.
I hope that as thenumber of tuberculosis sufferers decreases the Government will not look for a saving in money but will increase very substantially the allowance paid to the smaller number suffering from the disease, by continuing to make available each year the same amount of money. In this way it may be possible to double the allowance. There can be no justification whatever for cutting down the total amount made available as the number ofsufferers decreases. The practical approach is to maintain the vote at the maximum level and as the number of sufferers declines, to spread the benefits over the lower number, enabling the payment of a higher rate. I : make that suggestion to the Minister. I hope that he will give effect to it and in that way make a major contribution to the lot of those persons suffering from tuberculosis by relieving them of financial difficulty.
.- It is with a great deal of diffidence that I enter this debate, but I feel I must question some of the statements made, both by the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) and by other speakers. First, 1 want to say that this fight against tuberculosis is not confined to Australia, but is taking place throughout the world. The United Nations Organization, through its specialized agencies, the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization, is endeavouring to deal with this disease in Asian countries. One of the methods used by the World Health Organization is vaccination. This method has been used extensively in India, but it is not used, as a rule, in Australia. In my opinion, the factor that has been of the greatest aid in combating tuberculosis in Australia has not been mass X-rays so much as the provision of economic security for sufferers while they are undergoing the necessary medical treatment. In the depression days I knew of one family consisting of a widower, three sons and one daughter. The children had all grown up. All of the family were out of work with. the exception of one young man who was suffering from tuberculosis. He had the responsibility, although suffering from tuberculosis, of carrying on his occupation in order that the rest of the family could Jive When one of his brothers was able to secure work, he immediately gave up his employment, went to bed, and within a fortnight succumbed to the disease. Those who have been closely associated with the trade union movement know that an important consideration with tuberculosis and its treatment is what will happen to the breadwinner and to the members of his family if he is forced to cease work because of the onset of the disease.
I mention those factors before . I turn to the’ question of whether mass X-ray examinations are in the best interests of the community. The Minister was very outspoken on this matter and said that mass X-ray xaminations . will not do any harm to the community. I received within the last few weeks, I think with all other honorable members, a document headed -
An Open Letter to Members of the Commonwealth and State Parliaments and the Medical Profession of Queensland and elsewhere.
This letter has been distributed by the editor of the “ John Booth Memorial Monthly “ of Brisbane and encloses a letter from a medical practitioner, lt challenges quite definitely the claim that mass X-ray examinations are not doing harm in the community. I was impressed by this communication because in the late 1930’s and the early 1940’s, Dr. Percy Cherry, a very well-known medical man in Victoria, issued quite a number of brochures on the question of tuberculosis and the incidence of cancer. He was able to show in quite a number of documents which he distributed in Victoria that as fast as the incidence of tuberculosis fell in Victoria, the incidence of cancer grew.
Because I had knowledge of the publications of Dr. Cherry - I have no doubt that the Minister will find copies of the publications in his department - I was rather impressed when I received this letter which intimated that mass X-ray examinations have an effect on the community. I shall quote from the letter, which is signed by J. J. Ryan, a medical practitioner apparently of Queensland and which is addressed to the Premier of Queensland. 1 do not profess to be either a scientific or a medical man, but when statements such as these are made and the effects upon the community of mass X-ray examinations are stated in these terms, I feel that in the interests of the health of the community the whole question of whether mass X-ray examinations should continue should be subject to very close investigation by the health authorities of the Commonwealth and the States. Dr. Ryan, in his letter, gives several reasons for discontinuing mass X-ray examinations. The first is a humanitarian reason and has no relation to the matter that I am raising. He mentions the inefficiency of mass X-ray examinations and cites the experience in Chicago where eminent specialists in radiology were in many instances unable to say from X-rays whether a person was suffering from tuberculosis. The third paragraph reads -
Mass x-ray increases the deaths from tuberculosis.
That is, of course, a startling statement in view of what has been stated here to-night. The doctor continued -
This can be seen by study of the deaths from tuberculosis in the Australian States. Tasmania, which introduced mass x-ray first, has 25 per cent, more deaths from tuberculosis than any other Australian State. N.S.W., with mass x-ray, has worse figures than Victoria, which will not have it. This is despite the fact that Victoria is much more subject to t.b. than N.S.W. and in 1950 had a higher death rate than N.S.W.
Paragraph 5 of the letter seems to support the theories that were enunciated by Dr. Percy Cherry, lt is headed, “X-ray as a Cause of Cancer “. If the use of mass X-ray examinations in fighting tuberculosis will have the effect of increasing the incidence of cancer, the question that arises is whether mass X-ray examinations are in the best interests (Of the community. Paragraph 5 reads -
X-ray as a Cause of Cancer. There is increasing evidence that x-rays and not smoking causes cancer of the lung. Since the year 1500, 85 per cent, of the miners of Shneeberg and Joachimsta, have died of cancer, 90 per cent, of this being cancer of the lung. The radiation dosage they receive is five roentgens a year. When animals are exposed to radiation the females get cancer of the breast, and the males cancer of the lung. In eight years in England, cancer of the breast in women and cancer of the lung in men has doubled and so has the number of x-rays. In Indonesia there is no cancer of the lung even though the population smokes excessively. Lord Adrian admits that mass x-ray may cause leukaemia. The main effect of your Government’s action in introducing mass x-ray is the bad example, suggesting that x-rays are harmless.
As I stated before, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I raise this question with some diffidence because most people believe that X- rays should be used for the detection of tuberculosis. In fact, they have been extensively used for that purpose. Frequently, an X-ray plate will not indicate that a person is suffering. from tuberculosis, and other X-ray plates will indicate that a person may be suffering from tuberculosis but further examination establishes that he is not. The only positive proof that a person is suffering from tuberculosis, as far as I can see as a layman, is the onset of the physical conditions associated with the disease.
This is a matter of very great importance to the Australian people and it should be investigated. I do not claim that I am in a position to speak with authority, but I feel as a member of this chamber that, having read Dr. Cherry’s works, having received this letter and having heard the value of mass X-ray examinations so forthrightly stated this evening, I certainly would not be doing my duty to the people of Australia if this side of the case were not presented to the committee. I present it in the hope that the Minister for Health will see that a thorough inquiry is made into the matter so that there can be no doubt in the minds of the people about the effect of X-rays on their health. I suggest that the theories advanced by Dr. Cherry about the declining rate of tuberculosis and the increasing rate of cancer should be investigated to establish whether there is any connexion between the two diseases.
– I do not intend to detain the committee for very long, but there are one or two matters which have arisen during the course of the debate on which I feelI ought to say something. I have endeavoured, Sir, to conduct this debate, and to say what I had to say when I opened it, on a non-party and an impersonal basis. I do not intend to depart from that attitude. I only want to say, in reply to what has been said by some honorable members, that if we are going to make comparisons of achievement and effectiveness under different regimes, then a previous regime will emerge very poorly. I want to say something to put the record straight in a matter which is probably not appreciated by many people in this country. The inspiration for the whole of this scheme came from some one who has been a great public servant and still is. I refer to the present Director-General of Health, Dr. Metcalfe.
Having said that, I want to pass on to what the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has just said. I freely acknowledge that his remarks were presented to the committee with his usual sincerity. He referred to the danger from mass X-ray. Let me first refresh the memory of the committee by repeating the words that were used by the National Radiation Advisory Committee. I emphasize to honorable members that the National Radiation Advisory Committee is composed of leading doctors and scientists. I think I can fairly say that it is an authority unparalleled in the Commonwealth. What the committee said was that X-rays when properly employed did not cause harm. Of course, it is quite possible, if X-rays are not used properly, to cause most grievous harm by their use. In fact, the early users of X-rays who did not appreciate this fact suffered as a consequence. But I want to assure the honorable member for Bendigo and this committee that the mass X-rays used in diagnosis in Australia not only are essential for the early detection of tuberculosis but are employed properly and with the greatest care.
I wish to refer now to the open letter from which the honorable member for Bendigo quoted. I have seen that letter. Let me say to the honorable member that he must balance the judgment of the writer against the judgment of people such as those who compose the National Radiation Advisory Committee. In fact, he must balance the judgment of the writer against the great weight of medical opinion in this country. I earnestly advise him to examine the standards of competence of these authorities. As I say, Sir, I have seen this document. I have had it carefully examined and I say without hesitation that it is completely mistaken and completely misleading.
– That is a reflection on a brother medico, you know.
– The honorable gentleman says that.
– Is the Minister aware of the writings of Dr. Cherry?
– I am aware of them, but I am not referring to them at the moment. I am referring to the document from which the honorable member quoted. It is an easy inference to draw that if two events follow each other in time they are therefore cause and effect. That is very often a completely wrong inference to draw.
Having said those things, Sir, I only want to say to the committee again that this is not my personal judgment. It is the judgment of the leading authorities in this field in Australia, and not only in Australia, that the use of mass X-rays contributes such a small element of ionizing radiation that properly used’- and they are properly used - they can have no harmful effects in Australia at all-
.-I wish to say a few words in support of what my colleagues have said on this question, and 1 assure the committee that 1 shall be brief. We are all very grateful for the fact that medical science, governments interested in the problem and the community through an awakened conscience, have at last tackled theproblem of the white scourge with very satisfactory results, so satisfactory in fact that sanatoriums throughout Australia are disappearing and, in many cases, are being used as homes for old people. I hope that it will not be long before tuberculosis is as rare as typhus or diphtheria. That is all to the good. With my colleagues, 1 should like to see the Government direct its mind to spending more money on some other forms of medical research, particularly as other diseases are increasing in their incidence while the incidence of tuberculosis is falling.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has mentioned a theory, or a view, or an opinion, put forward by the late Dr. Cherry who, at one time, was the head of the department where 1 worked as a clerk. I remember very well the circumstances surrounding those publications back in 1914, 1915, or later.
I join issue with the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) on the question of the credit that is due to the Chifley Government for inaugurating this scheme. I remind the committee and the country that if it had not been for the 1946 alteration of the Constitution, no allowances would be paid to tuberculosis sufferers to-day because the Commonwealth Parliament would not have the power to pay anything. Every member of the Australian Country Party was pledged against the passage of that 1946 referendum which dealt not only with social services but also organized marketing, which is dear enough to their hearts at all times, and industrial powers.
The Liberal Party opposed it, too, on the flimsy, fraudulent ground that an election day was not the time to make constitutional change. If it had not been for the personal vote cast by the Prime Minister and the opinion he gave on the matter, the social services referendum might not have had the easy passage that it had. As a matter of fact, in spite of the organized opposition of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party to all three questions, we secured a majority vote of the Australian people for each of them. We carried the social services referendum by a majority vote in every State, and we onlylost the other two - I say this in passing, Mr. Temporary Chairman - because we were about 13,000 votes short. If South Australia, where we failed so narrowly, had come our way we would have had a majority of the people in a major ity of the States and the remaining two referendums would have also become law.
It is idle, therefore, for the Minister for Health, or for any other honorable member of this Parliament, to take credit which is not due to this Government for what has been done in regard to tuberculosis. In the matter of tuberculosis allowances, as with other social service payments, we will give them the credit which is their due, but we will give them no more than that. They have never been initiators. They have never been pathfinders. They have been very good imitators, and if imitation be the sincerest form of flattery, then we stand highly flattered. Let the Government continue to do whatever good work it can in the field of medical research, and we shall be the first to applaud it. We have no copyright on our ideas, but we are the propagators of all the new ideas and the leaders of progress always, and if we can convince other people to accept to-day what they opposed yesterday, again we are flattered. So long as the great mass of humanity is bettered, so long as the world moves forward, so long as mankind comes further out of the pit to the higher things, then we of the Labour Party, which, as I have said, is a party of progress, are always satisfied and happy.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £586,274,000 for the services of the year 1959-60. viz.:-
Resolution reported and adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year 1959- 60, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £339,046,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Hasluck and Dr. Donald Cameron do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Hasluck, and read a first and a second time.
– The committee has agreed to take the bill as a whole, and the honorable member may discuss what is in the bill.
.- I wish to raise a matter which I understand you ruled, correctly, Mr. Temporary Chairman that I could not discuss under the previous item before us. I refer to the provision of grants for dental health to each of the various States. I agree that possibly dental health services have to be implemented through the State Health Departments; but there is a great need for a national dental health scheme in this country. I should like to see the Government make provision for grants to the States whereby effect could be given to a national dental health scheme, probably with the co-operation and under the guidance of the State Departments of Health and the organization or organizations representing dentists.
A few days ago in this Parliament the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) told us that an investigation of the dental condition of 35.000 children. I think it was. revealed that a little more than nine out of ten had defective teeth. In a country like this, that is a tragic state of affairs. AsI mentioned earlier to-night - and I think that a medical opinion will support me - the basis of bad health is inmany cases bad teeth. Preventive dentistry is. therefore, a “ must “ in the community.I should like to see the Government do what I know the Labour Party will do when it becomes the government of this country - give effect to a national dental health scheme which will embrace all sections of the community, particularly children, and which will be designed for improvement of dental health generally. There is no such provision in our existing national health scheme. No matter how good or how bad one may regard it as being, and no matter who introduced it, undoubtedly the one thing that is lacking in the present scheme is a national dental health plan whereby the teeth of all Australians, the youngsters in particular, can be protected from decay. If my memory serves me correctly Australians are generally recognized to have bad teeth compared to other people in the world. There is no reason why that should be the case, and I hope that the Government and the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) will consider the implementation of a scheme of the kind that I have suggested in order that the nation’s health may be safeguarded.
One other matter I wish to stress is my disagreement with the proposal to charge 5s. a prescription to people seeking medicine on what has been up to now the “ free “ drug list. It is no longer free. When the Chifley Government introduced the original legislation, the greatest opponents of the implementation of the scheme for free medicine were honorable members opposite, who at that time comprised the Opposition. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said a few moments ago, there would be no social services on a national basis now were it not for a referendum at which the people approved the Labour Government’s social services proposals, in the face of great opposition from those who are now in office, but who were on this side of the chamber during the Chifley Government’s term. We brought in a scheme under which all medicines were to be free. We were bitterly opposed by the British Medical Association. Our scheme was roundly condemned by those who are in government to-day, who now say that the scheme is a good scheme and are giving effect to it, but with changes that they have since made to it. To-day we find that the formulary of drugs is restricted. There is to be a 5s. charge for each prescription, so the “ free “ medicine scheme is no longer free. A number of important drugs are not included in the present formulary, although those drugs, no matter what the Minister and the Government might say to the contrary, are very necessary to many people in the community. However, they are not now available under trie scheme, because they are not in the formulary.
In the Budget speech the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said on the subject of pharmaceutical benefits -
The cost of general pharmaceutical benefits has risen from about £3,000,000 per annum when the scheme commenced in 1950-51 to £18,455,000 last year. The number of prescriptions has increased from 3,600,000 in the first year of the scheme to an estimated 16,000,000 this year and the cost per head of population has increased from 15s. 4d. in 1951-52 to 32s. 8d. last year.
It is obviously necessary to stabilize the position, but I do not see why it should be stabilized at the expense of people who should be getting free medicine. To stabilize the position a charge of 5s. for each prescription is to be made. As some 16,000,000 prescriptions are made out annually, at a cost of £18,000,000, the average cost is about £1 a prescription. With inflation running riot under this Government, with prices virtually uncontrolled, and with profiteers taking full advantage of the community, one could say that, all things considered, £1 a prescription is pretty cheap. The cost cannot be regarded as exorbitant, having in view the number of people involved and the inflationary tendencies which have spiralled under the present Administration. The cost is certainly not out of proportion to the national income, or the revenue from taxation and other sources, and I see no reason at all why people should be charged 5s. a prescription so that they may get free medicine.
When all is said and done, they are to-day paying taxes for their free medicine scheme. They are paying taxes for social service benefits and for tuberculosis benefits. It would be just as illogical to charge every one a couple of pounds before granting him tuberculosis benefits. There can be no justification whatever for the proposal to charge 5s. for a prescription. The miserable tax concession which is being offered to the family man will be taken away from him as soon as he has bought one prescription under the Government’s so-called free medicine scheme. If any Minister deserved to be condemned it is the Minister who is introducing a measure to place an impost of 5s. on every one who requires free medicine.
On what grounds does the Minister justify the imposition of this charge? He gives as his main ground the cost of the present scheme. The Government has plenty of money to waste on all kinds of other things. It is spending £200,000,000 a year on defence, and I suppose that about two-thirds of that is wasted. For a fraction of that sum - say £500,000 - every prescription necessary could be provided without charge for the Australian people. Instead, the Government sees fit to economize at the expense of those who really need medicine. There is no justice or logic in this proposal at all. It is merely cheeseparing - saving money at the expense of sick people. The Minister knows as well as I do that people with a young family require medicine from time to time. The children might not be seriously ill but may require some medicine or other. There can be no justification for charging this sum of 5s. in such cases, merely in order to save a few pounds. The Minister tells us that certain life-saving drugs are to be available and that other necessary drugs will be offered from lime to time - that no one will suffer from want of essential drugs. I do not know whether I am having my leg pulled or not, but I have letters from pensioners and others who urgently require drugs which they say they need to stay alive. They cannot get them under the free medicine scheme. I have before me a letter from the Minister indicating that certain drugs are not included in the free list because they are not necessary. I can only say that people suffering from certain complaints consider that they are necessary. 1 do not intend to read out the names of the drugs, because, to be frank, I cannot pronounce the chemical names, but they are recognized by chemists and sufferers as drugs that are indeed necessary. I cannot accept the Minister’s statement that all the essential drugs are included in the formulary.
– Is butazolidine one of the drugs?
– I could not say. Since the Government has introduced a free medicine scheme why is medicine not, in fact, free? To charge every one 5s. for a prescription is certainly a strange way of giving tree medicine. Why not have a decent scheme which embraces every medicine required throughout the length and breadth of the community? Why spoil a good scheme which was introduced by the Chifley Government by whittling down the benefits? Why try to save a few miserable pounds in a national budget of £1,182,000,000 at the expense of people who want free medicine? Surely this impost is scandalous, a shocking thing at a time when the Government is making tax remissions to wealthy companies. Those remissions will amount to thousands of pounds per annum, but the Government will give only miserable tax remission to the wage and salary earner. The sick, the aged and the infirm will be charged 5s. for each prescription that they require. It is scandalous and contemptible, and any government which does that sort of thing deserves general condemnation. Why did it not arrange to keep the taxes that it will remit to the huge, wealthy companies of this land, and, instead, give really free medicine to the Australian community?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I join the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) in protesting against the prescription tax that the Government is imposing. It is estimated that this year there will be 16,000,000 prescriptions, and accordingly this tax will place a further burden on the sick of this country of no less than £4,000,000. I should like to bring to the notice of the committee the number of age pensioners in the community. This Government has granted 326,221 pensions since 1st November, 1955. Of the persons granted a pension, 72,759 were ineligible for the pensioner medical service, which entitles recipients to free medical and hospital treatment. That means that 22 per cent. of the pensioners will have to pay this 5s. prescription tax. It is a bad tax, an indirect tax which imposes a burden on the person who can least afford to bear it. I join with the honorable member for Grayndler in describing it as outrageous.
This tax seeks to raise £4,000,000 from members of the community who can ill afford to pay it. It is but another indirect tax which, in addition to the increased postal, telegraph and telephone charges, has been imposed by the Government so that tax concessions amounting to £20,000,000 can be handed to the rich. This committee should voice its disapproval of the Government for proposing to levy this tax. It is unworthy of the Government, and an unjust imposition.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Before calling on the honorable member for Yarra, I would remind the committee that we are discussing only the specific matters covered by the bill. I ask honorable members not to go beyond the scope of those matters and endeavour to embark upon a second Budget debate.
.- I take it that the bill seeks to provide funds which will be used during the coming year in administering a department which, among other things, proposes to levy a charge of 5s. on each prescription dispensed under the free medicine scheme. I take it that there is some relationship between the provision of the money and the purposes for which it is to be applied. It seems to me that it is necessary at this stage - if the technical connexion justifies my dealing with the matter - to emphasize the dissatisfaction that the proposed charge of 5s. has caused.
– I rise to order. As you have raised this matter, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I would ask for your definite ruling on the question whether on this bill, which is an appropriation bill, we can revive the debate on one particular item.I did not take a point of order when other honorable members were speaking, Taut if this is to develop into a debate on one particular item in the Whole of the Estimates, I think that we need your ruling on the question whether, on an appropriation bill, the only effective part of which is to provide a total sum of money, we can engage in what is virtually a recapitulation of the whole debate on the Estimates.
– The debate must be related to a particular item in the Second Schedule. I remind honorable members that the legislation relating to the ‘5s. prescription charge has not yet been brought before the Parliament.
– It is quite clear to me that the legislation has not been brought before the Parliament, but these Estimates will provide money for the coming year for the administration of a department which is going to do a particular thing. I should think that technically it is relevant for us to discuss that thing when we are voting the money for the department. I should like to speak to the question of order for a moment, if I may. I think it is quite clear that, technically, we are correct in discussing this matter. I do not think that the reason why we may not discuss it now is that it was discussed before. The time for the discussion of the estimate has been limited. We have curtailed our speeches on a number of occasions when we wouldhave liked to discuss particular matters much more fully. I think that it is not a matter of recapitulation; it is a matter of dealing with something which has not been dealt with before.
– But which can be dealt with in the future.
– Of course it can be dealt with in the future, but if it is relevant to deal with the matter here, why should we not deal with it here? I submit that it is technically relevant to deal with the matter here.
– May I persist in my point? It is that we are discussing an Appropriation Bill. That bill says that a certain sum shall be appropriated for the items set out in the second schedule to the bill. The bill contains nothing other than a statement that a certain sum shall be appropriated for the purposes stated in the schedule. I submit, for your consideration, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that unless honorable members can link their remarks with the proposition contained in the bill they are out of order. I would also submit that not only have we had an Estimates debate during which there was opportunity, when discussing the items for the Department of Health, to discuss this matter, but bills will be introduced in the future to give effect to the Budget proposals in connexion with those matters and there will be opportunity for further debate then.
– I want toargue that this money should not be appropriated, and I want to give reasons why it should not be appropriated.
– The honorable member for Yarra may continue his speech.
– It seems to me that the proposal to introduce a charge of 5s. on all prescriptions is ill-considered and illtimed. We have been given certain information by the Minister, and especially do I want to take the opportunity, at this stage, to ask some questions so that the Minister may have the opportunity to fill in some gaps which, up to date, he has left unfilled.
The Minister has said that the cost of nearly every prescription will be covered by the charge. In other words, he is suggesting that the prescription will be free to the person receiving it except for the payment of the 5s. It seems to me that it is not possible that nearly every prescription could be covered if the estimated aggregate cost is what the Minister says it will be.
Another point on which I submit the committee is entitled to information is whether it is to be compulsory for the person who receives the prescription to pay the 5s. Is it to be a compulsory, or a voluntary payment? If people will not pay the 5s., will the dispensing chemist have to bear that 5s. himself because of the fact that when he makes his claim for the cost of the prescription he must deduct the 5s. which he is supposed to collect from the client?
I understand that this point has been raised by the pharmaceutical guild in particular during discussions with the Minister. I understand that the answer given to the guild, was in effect, “Everybody knows that chemists are making plenty of money “. There is no evidence at all that either the Minister, the Department of Health or the Treasurer has any authoritative knowledge of what money chemists do make and certainly this proposal, which might affect chemists very adversely, is not based upon any careful examination up to date of what chemists’ costs really are.
Another point that I think requires clarity is this: Presumably, the 5s. charge-
– I rise to order. There is no reference in the bill to a 5s. charge. Surely the honorable member for Yarra is anticipating a debate. In the fullness of time, if and when the legislation is brought down, he will have the opportunity to challenge the right of the Government to bring down legislation designed to impose a charge of 5s. In this bill there is no mention of any charge. There is no mention of pharmaceutical benefits, in those precise terms, in this bill. Surely, if it is competent for the honorable member for Yarra to raise a matter of this description, it is competent for the committee to open up the Estimates for detailed discussion all over again.
– That, in effect, is what we have been doing all night. We have been discussing various aspects of the administration of the several departments for which this money is being appropriated. While I have been in the chamber, a number of different aspects have been discussed and neither the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) nor the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has raised any objection. They did not object because they were not embarrassed by the discussion of some of those other matters in the way in which they are being embarrassed now by the discussion of the proposed charge of 5s.
– But the bill has been under discussion for only a short time.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! As to the debate which has been proceeding, I rule that honorable members are entitled to mention matters relating to the items shown in the Second Schedule. We are discussing the appropriation of money, and I suggest, as I did before, that honorable members confine themselves to the particular matter to which they wish to refer in connexion with a particular department.
– There is only one more point that I desire to make, and it is a straightforward one. I should like to ask whether the 5s. charge is going to be met by the friendly societies. Will they be in the same position as chemists in connexion with this charge?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall address myself to this Appropriation Bill, a bill which sets out to appropriate not the total sum provided for in the Estimates, but a sum sufficient to provide for the services of the Government. [Quorum formed.] I propose to address myself to the schedule of this bill in which a number of items are set out and for which an appropriation is sought, not for the total sum required, but for a sum sufficient to provide for the services of the Government for the period immediately ahead of us.
– Order! There is too much audible conversation.
– If we look at the bill dispassionately I think we shall find in it a remarkable record of achievement. I invite the attention of the committee to some of the items in the schedule. Let us take one of the early items - the Prime Minister’s Department - which provides for an appropriation for immediate services - not the total appropriation - of more than £3,000,000. As honorable members will know, comprehended in the vote for the Prime Minister’s Department is provision for the support of university education throughout Australia. One of the matters of which the present Government can rightly be proud is the action it has taken in order to set the universities of Australia on a sounder financial footing and to make it possible for tertiary education in Australia to expand. So with confidence and some pride, we point to that particular item in the schedule as marking yet another achievement of this Government - the provision for tertiary education in Australia.
– I rise to order. I point out that the Minister is now doing precisely what he was objecting to the honorable member for Yarra doing. I ask how he reconciles his tedious repetition on this matter with his previous view.
– Order! The Chair having ruled that members of the Opposition were in order in debating these matters, the Minister for Territories is in order in following similar lines.
-I pass to another item in the schedule - the item for the Department of External Affairs. Once againI invite honorable members to make a mental survey of the present state of our external relations and to look back to a period when there was a good deal of tension and a good deal of irritation in the way our external relations were conducted. I invite honorable members to compare that past state of affairs with the present position, where we can see both additions to Australian representation abroad and an increase in the effectiveness of that representation in improving our relations with our neighbours. In particular we look to the neighbouring continent of Asia. We find that throughout Asia posts have been established under the present Government, staffs have been appointed, and a communication and friendly atmosphere have been created as between Australia and those countries to our near north. Also, when we are thinking of the Department of External Affairs, we cast our minds to the operation of the Colombo Plan - an imaginative and effective way of showing that Australia has an interest in neighbouring countries and is ready to take practical action in order to improve relations and to assist the advancement of our neighbours. I pass rapidly down the list and come to the Department of Civil Aviation, where a provision of £12,000,000 is made in this Appropriation Bill. I think it is a matter for national pride that in Australia we have a record in civil aviation, including the provision of navigational aids, aerodrome landing aids-
– Order! The committee will come to order, otherwise I shall have to name certain honorable members.
– I rise to order. I direct the Chair’s attention to Standing Order No. 86, which states -
The Speaker, or the Chairman, after having called the attention of the House, or of the Committee, to the conduct of a Member, who persists in irrelevance, or tedious repetition either of his own arguments, or of the arguments used by other Members in debate, may direct him to discontinue his speech: Provided that such Member shall have the right to require that the Question whether he be further heard be put, and thereupon such Question shall be put without debate.
The point that I make is that as the Minister is tediously going through department after department he is guilty of tedious repetition and should be dealt with in accordance with Standing Order No. 86.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! It is the prerogative of the Chair to determine these matters. I would suggest that the honorable member for Grayndler might be wise to leave the Chair with that discretion.
– I rise to speak to the point of order. Are honorable members to take it, Sir, that you rule that the Minister is being tedious without repetition?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member for Werriwa should be in a position to know and appreciate when anybody is being tedious or repetitive. The Chair has given no ruling whatever, but was merely answering the point of order raised by the honorable member for Grayndler.
– I am very sorry indeed to find that the Opposition cannot tolerate or endure hearing anything in praise of a national achievement. At the point at which I was interrupted I was saying that we should be proud of our record in civil aviation. I was about to pay tribute to all those good, honest Australian workers in various categories - the technicians, the pilots and even the hostesses, whom the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) praises so unnecessarily at question time. Because the Opposition cannot endure a word of praise of any one who works on behalf of the nation, and cannot bear to contemplate any achievement made by the nation, it seeks to interrupt me by raising points of order. If there has been any tedious repetition it has been when the honorable member for Grayndler has repeatedly risen to raise needless points of order, not one of which he himself thought had any substance.
I pass on from this tribute in the field of civil aviation to the vote for the Department of Immigration. We willingly, readily and without any equivocation agree and applaud the fact that it was under the guidance of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that a programme of post-war immigration was introduced in Australia. With full tribute to what he did, this Government took up that programme and under its administration the programme has been advanced with an energy and an imagination which I think have brought about very considerable good effects in our general national welfare. It has introduced into this country many people whom we are very glad to see here - people who will be good Australian citizens and who are already making a very great contribution to the progress of Australia. So, when this annual vote for the Department of Immigration comes round, we on this side of the chamber readily advance the claims for this expenditure, and we would, in other circumstances, confidently expect that the Opposition would also not cavil at this sort of vote.
Another item which attracts my attention is the very considerable vote for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. That organization is a phase of government activity that has endured under successive governments year in and year out and has made an outstanding contribution to the welfare of our people, to the effectiveness of our industries, and to the economic progress of our country. In its various departments-
– Order! At the moment there is too much audible conversation. I suggest that the committee should come to order, and try to remember that we are members of the Commonwealth Parliament. If not, the Chair will take action.
– I rise to order. It is obvious that the Minister is guilty of tedious repetition. He tried to stop members of the Opposition from criticizing the Government, and now he is attempting to talk out time so that we cannot say anything. He is repeating the same sort of empty praise of the Government which by no stretch of imagination would normally be voiced in a debate of this kind. I submit that he is guilty of tedious repetition within the meaning of the standing order quoted by the honorable member for Grayndler.
– Order! The Minister is referring to matters in the Second Schedule. As members of the Opposition were allowed to refer to such matters, the Minister is entitled to refer to them also.
– It is obvious that this is a little bit of political hop-scotch in which we are trying to baulk each other. But the history of the matter is that these appropriation bills are normally passed through as a matter of form. The Opposition has chosen to use the occasion to raise contentious matters. If honorable members opposite are considered to be in order in doing so, then I am quite legitimately, under your ruling, Sir, completely in order in referring to matters in the second schedule, and pointing out what is the plain fact in every part of the second schedule - that the achievement of this Government is a very considerable one. That is something of which we can be proud and, by and large-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I name the honorable member for Yarra.
– He did not say a word.
– If I have offended, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I apologise.
– Order!. I again remind the committee that I have asked members to come to order, and I suggest they might remember that request. I accept the apology of the honorable member for Yarra.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman-
– The Minister has stonewalled successfully.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I call the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith to order. He is not in his place, and he is completely disorderly.
– I was referring to the vote for the C.S.I.R.O. and attempting to pay tribute to the work that that organization does and to record the fact that it is making a very considerable contribution to the progress of this nation. T now pass to the proposed vote for the defence services, and again we have to record the fact that this Government, by consistent expenditure at a steady level, has improved the defences of this country. I do not want to traverse a matter which has been traversed in recent debates but simply draw attention to the fact that the defence items year by year have been provided at a level much greater than was provided under previous governments. 1 pass to war and repatriation services where we are attempting to do our bounden duty to those who deserve well of this country because of the way they served it in time of war. Then there is the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. This afternoon the committee debated the work of this department, and it was rather notable that in that debate members concentrated rather on the question of television and the way in which it was developing in this country but had few words - in fact, if I remember rightly, no words - of criticism of the way in which this vast organization of the Postmaster-General’s Department is conducted. At this stage we might well join in a tribute to all the people in the department, from the telephonists and the postmen up to the people in the higher positions who, year in and year out, day by day, perform a very excellent service to the community.
I will not risk a charge of further repetition but would suggest to the Opposition and to all members of the committee that this is an Appropriation Bill, the sole purpose of which is to appropriate a total sum. Honorable members have had their opportunity both in the Budget debate and in the debate on the individual estimates to discuss, point by point-
– On a point of order: Is the Minister going to speak until the time allotted for this discussion expires? I have yet to learn that he is in charge of the bill, and that being the case, under the Standing Orders he is entitled to speak for only fifteen minutes.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order! There is no substance in the honorable member’s point of order. The Minister is in charge of the bill and is therefore entitled to speak for as long as he desires.
– I have no intention of trying to talk out time. The last word I was saying was that this is an Appropriation Bill and honorable members do not customarily try to recapitulate, in discussing it, the arguments they have already advanced either during the Budget debate or in the discussion of individual items of estimates. Usually we confine ourselves to the question of appropriation and not particular matters. Some honorable members have sought to debate in detail the additional charge of 5s. on certain pharmaceutical preparations. Measures are to be introduced by the appropriate Ministers and in the debates on those bills there will be undoubtedly opportunity, both at the second-reading stage and the committee stage, for debating the particular matters to which they relate. That will be a more appropriate occasion to do so than on the bill now before the committee.
.-I wish to suggest why some of the amounts included in this bill should not be appropriated.I am very dissatisfied with certain aspects of the administration of the Repatriation Commission. 1 am not referring to the staff, but the way in which money voted for the commission is used. I refer in particular to decisions of the various repatriation boards and appeal tribunals. The Repatriation Act contains provisions, such as sections 46 and 47 concerning onus of proof, but in a report submitted to Parliament one of the repatriation boards stated that it could not comply with those -conditions or with a ruling given by a former Attorney-General, ex-Senator Spicer, who is now the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court. That board found it was unable to give an appellant the benefit of the doubt in respect of onus of proof.
I voice my protest that although the repatriation vote is approved by Parliament, deserving applicants are deprived of benefits. In addition to the ruling given by the former Attorney-General, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) and the learned Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) expressed opinions on this subject. If boards set up under the Repatriation Act are not prepared to function according to the letter and spirit of the act, Parliament should consider whether further money should be voted to enable them to continue.
On a previous occasion I raised the matter of the Department of Works accepting tenders and I mentioned the case of a contract for work at Woomera which was let for £60,000 although that price was about £2,000 above that of a tender by another firm. A difference of £2,000 in £60,000is quite considerable, and the fact that the department accepted the higher tender indicates the way in which this
Government indulges in wasteful expenditure. Honorable members are asked to give their approval to the appropriations proposed by this measure, but I for one will not be a party to that proposal. When the Government calls tenders it should be careful not to spend the taxpayers’ money unnecessarily.
This matter was examined by the Public Accounts Committee. I was told by officials of the Department of Works that invariably the practice was to accept the lowest tender. That did not happen in this case. The lowest tenderer was a firm which was doing work for the South Australian Government and had already done work for the Commonwealth Government. Of course, £2,000 is mere pin money to (his Government which imposes high rates of taxation.
– Who got the contract?
– I know only that it has been suggested that a former Commonwealth employee is connected with the firm that got the contract. So I suggest that the Minister and the Parliament should consider well the letting of contracts.
Before I conclude, let me voice one further protest. This Government is spending large sums of money on Army buildings and defence establishments, but it cannot find the necessary money to build a psychiatric ward in the repatriation general hospital at Dawes-road, Adelaide, where at present ex-servicemen suffering from nervous disorders cannot obtain adequate hospital treatment. As long ago as 1956 the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) said that the temporary prefabricated building was outmoded and completely out of date, and that tenders would be called to build a new psychiatric ward. Until we can fulfil our obligations and give justice to the unfortunate ex-servicemen suffering from neurosis who are housed in this temporary ward, we should not proceed with the construction of further defence establishments. Unless we fulfil our obligations to the ex-servicemen of the last war, we should not continue preparing for a future war.
– It is very rarely that I delay the committee in its deliberations, and I would not delay it this evening but for the turn that the debate has taken. I wish to make a few references to the Estimates as they apply to the Department of National Development.
I would say that it is rather a paradox - a sad paradox - that the greater the accomplishment of the Government in the provision of war service homes, the greater is the criticism that is levelled at it. I do not suppose that there is any escape from that, human nature being what it is and Her Majesty’s Opposition being what it is. But I wish to correct the confusion that was obvious in members of the Opposition when they were discussing the matter of war service homes.
This Government took office in December, 1949. Since then, it has made available for war service homes a total amount of no less than £312,202,894, including the proposed allocation of £35,000,000 for the year 1959-60, compared with £52,795,522 provided by all other governments in the previous 30 years. So you have the situation that, in the 30 years previous to 1949, an amount of £52,000,000, in round figures, was expended on providing war service homes, and that in the last ten years not less than £312,000,000, in round figures, has been provided by this Government. In other words, of the total funds that have been made available for war service homes since the inception of the scheme in 1919, including the proposed allocation for this financial year, approximately 85 per cent, has been provided by this Government in the ten years that it has been in office.
The number of homes that has been provided with the finance that has been made available under the War Service Homes Act since the inception of the scheme to 30th June, 1959, is 178,211. In addition, 1,618 homes have been built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Of the 178,211 homes, 123,670 have been provided since this Government took office in 1949. In addition, as I have said, 1,618 homes have been taken over under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. So you get the situation that, whereas in the 30 years previous to 1949, 52,923 homes were built, in the last ten years no fewer than 125,288 homes were made available - either built, bought or provided in some other way.
The Government has cause to be proud of its achievements in the provision of homes for ex-servicemen under the war service homes scheme. These achievements are all the more remarkable because they were accomplished during a period when the overall economic situation limited, to some extent, the finance which could be made available for war service homes. In addition, we had to contend with great pressures on the building industry. Through the war services homes scheme, the Government has provided the cheapest and best form of home finance that is available in the Commonwealth.
– Tell us about the delay.
– I will deal with the delay in a moment. Eligible ex-servicemen can, under the scheme, borrow up to £2,750. and they can take up to 45 years to pay off the loan. An ex-serviceman’s widow is granted up to 50 years to pay off the loan. Interest is at the rate of only 3£ per cent, per annum. Because of the advantageous terms under which war service homes finance is available, applications have not declined in a way which might have been expected, remembering that a period of fourteen years has elapsed since the termination of the war. During the last two years applications have been running at the level of approximately 22,000 a year. This is an increase compared with 1956-57, when 20,553 applications were received.
The continued high rate of receipt of applications has been accompanied by a diminution in the wastage of applications arising from withdrawal or refusal of applications. The result has been that greater expenditure has been necessary to deal with the same number of original applications. To meet these heavy demands, the Government increased the allocation for war service homes in 1957-58 by £5,000,000, bringing the total to £35,000,000. This record allocation was maintained in 1958-59. A similar provision is proposed for 1959-60, so that to-day funds provided for war service homes approach one-half of the total Commonwealth finance of approximately £80,000,000 that is provided for home building. It is the major home-ownership scheme in operation in Australia.
It has been suggested that, with the increase in receipts of the War Service Homes Division during recent years, the net result has been a decrease in the funds that have been provided for war service homes. I think that that was the point made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren).. This argument assumes that receipts by the War Service Homes Division are available to it for re-expenditure, and that the Government provides only the difference between £35,000,000 and the total receipts of the division. This, however, is not correct. Under the provisions of the National Debt Sinking Fund, all moneys received in respect of purchase money and repayment of advances are required to be paid to the credit of the National Debt Sinking Fund and are not available for re-allocation. The interest portion of the moneys received in repayment of war service homes loans is required to be paid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund and forms a part of the total revenue available to the Government to meet the many calls made upon it for funds. All such receipts are not available to the War Service Homes Division for reexpenditure. That is the complete explanation.
Whilst there has been a progressive increase in the amounts of interest paid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund each year, there has been a considerable increase in the funds made available for war service homes since this Government took office at the end of 1949. The expenditure for 1949-50 was £16,000,000, compared with a proposed expenditure of £35,000,000 in 1959-60. This increase is far in excess of the increase during the same period in the amount of interest paid each year to the Consolidated Revenue Fund under the War Service Homes Act.
– I rise to a point of order. I think that the Minister has spoken for more than fifteen minutes. I understand that the time allowed to a speaker during this debate is fifteen minutes.
– Order! Evidently the honorable member for Reid cannot read the clock. The Minister has been speaking for only ten minutes; his time has not yet expired.
– It is most unfortunate that this interruption has taken place, as I might have finished by now. However, it will serve my purpose to inform the honorable member for Reid and other honorable members who are in some confusion on the question of war service homes that I will make my remarks during consideration of the Works Estimates. So, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I shall resume my seat and continue my remarks at a later time.
.- Nothing becomes the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) so much at the end of a speech than his manner of sitting down. It is futile for the Minister and the Government to dodge behind accountancy procedures in order to try to avoid the valid criticism of honorable members on this Government’s failure to supply adequate funds for war service homes. Some 900,000 men served in the last war. Some 200,000 men served in the first war. We have supplied 140,000 houses, or thereabouts. The applications exceed homes built by some 8,000 homes a year. The number of houses built in 1950-51, I tell the Minister for his information, was 15,579. The number of houses that have been built during this last year is 14,669 - a drop of 900 homes built. The number of applications in 1950-51 was 23,500. The applications received in 1958-59 numbered 22,200. We are still 8,000 and 9,000 houses behind annually, but the point that is made from this side of the chamber, and the point that I think is quite valid, is that the total sum allotted by the Government in accordance with its appropriations is diminishing each year relative to the amounts that are repaid by the ex-servicemen.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! There is too much audible conversation.
– You cannot blame the honorable members who are interjecting, Mr. Temporary Chairman, because this is the kind of topic to get anybody angry. Consider the position in 1950-51. The Government allotted £25,000,000 to build 15,579 houses. In that year, the receipts from interest and repayments were £4,850,000. So the net amount spent was £20,000,000 or thereabouts. There is no denying this; it is a simple matter of arithmetic, although I know that the complex minds of the Liberal Party, when they apply their brains to accountancy and to government finance, are not inclined to use simple arithmetic. But the simple fact exists that the net expenditure in 1950-51 was £20,000,000 or thereabouts. Last year we allotted £35,000,000. Here is a simple question of arithmetic. The amount received from interest and repayments was £16,000,000. No matter how much the Minister dodges behind the various acts or how much he hides behind various accountancy procedures, the net cost to the Government is only £18,000,000 - £2,000,000 less than in 1950-51. I notice the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) trying to say something. If he has a question which can be explained simply, let him ask it.
– What document are you quoting from?
– I am quoting from a document that was distributed with the Estimates, and also from “ Hansard “. These figures appear under the heading, “ War Service Homes Division “. It is a simple, straightforward fact.
– “Hansard” of what date?
– Actually, an index to “ Hansard “ will be published later. I shall obtain a copy for the Minister and autograph it. However, I refer the Minister to “Hansard” of 6th October, 1959. There is a table of figures at the foot of that page. The Minister will be able to tell the figures because they are a different shape from the letters.
The simple fact about war service homes is that they are the best money spinners that this Government has. In the 40 years since the institution of the scheme, the total repayments to the government over and above expenditure on interest and on the administration costs of the division comes to nearly £50,000,000. In fact, this grateful, this generous, this kindhearted Government has accumulated a profit of £50,000,000 at a steady 3 per cent., 4 per cent., and 5 per cent., as the price for its generosity and its devotion to the ex-servicemen. What does this mean? It costs about £9 a year to administer each home under the division. There are ordinarily some 100,000 homes under the administration of the division. The administrative costs are approximately £900,000 per year. All the money that has been put into the scheme, except for some £12,000,000 out of the hundreds of millions that have gone into it, has come from revenue. The Government has not had to pay any interest on it whatsoever. The unit cost of running the scheme can be determined by dividing the total amount of loans granted by the sum of the total terms of those loans and adding £9 a year. Every ex-serviceman, by his payments to the division, enables the division to make a profit of £30 or £40 a year for each year that his home is under the war service homes scheme. These, Mr. Temporary Chairman, are the simple facts of life as applied to housing.
The Minister for Social Services has been bleating here to-night about the Government’s great contribution to housing. I simply remind him that the waiting time still remains at eighteen months or more. This Government exhibits a callous disregard for the rights of ex-servicemen in relation to applications to buy standing homes. As I have pointed out, the Government is making an extravagant profit every year out of war service homes. An examination of the figures that are printed each year in the report of the division - this can be adequately explained by simple arithmetic - shows that the money that is provided each year is a diminishing factor. I have just been handed a document by one of my colleagues. It is Volume 207 of “Hansard”. At page 3265, it is reported that the honorable member for Riverina - that was before the Minister was appointed to the Social Services portfolio - stated during the second-reading debate on the Social Services Consolidation Bill 1950- child endowment for the first child in terms of Ss. a bushel is inadequate . . . The payment . . . will solve no major problems and will leave the mothers of families of this country in the position that has always obtained.
But it remains still the same! The point I am making is that the money that was allocated in 1950-51 in relation to the money that is allocated this vear would build fewer houses. The Minister him.self
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Is the honorable member for Yarra in order in instructing the honorable member for Wills when the honorable member for Yarra is outside the chamber?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The Chair is not able to say whether the honorable member for Yarra is instructing the honorable member for Wills or otherwise.
– There is one final, devastating point that I should like to make. The fact that ex-servicemen have to avail themselves of temporary finance at 8 per cent., 9 per cent., and 10 per cent. interest for the period during which they are waiting for war service homes loans is indefensible, and the Government deserves the strongest criticism for this position.
– Order! The time allotted for the remaining stages of the bill has expired.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
That the Estimates - Additions, New Works and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure 1959-60 - be considered as a whole.
– This gives me an opportunity to complete what I was trying to say when I addressed myself, under duress, to the Appropriation Bill. Since then, I have listened to what the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) had to say, and it was characteristic of what he usually says in this place. He was consistently wrong and he consistently exaggerated all his wrong statements.
I made the explanation that the allocation of £35,000,000 a year for war service homes to the War Service Homes Division was an exclusive sum of money. Repayments of capital by those who are purchasing war service homes are paid into a particular fund and are not available to the War Service Homes Division. Interest payments are paid into another fund and also are not available to the War Service Homes Division.
The total expenditure on war service homes has remained at £35,000,000 a year and that is a greater amount than any socialist government ever dreamed of allocating. As was mentioned when the Estimates for the Department of National Development were under discussion, there is now a waiting period of only three months for ex-servicemen who desire to build under the act. The waiting period is greater, admittedly, for applicants requiring other types of assistance. But, armed with an approval letter from the War Service Homes Division, these applicants are generally able to raise temporary finance.
– At an interest rate of 20 per cent.!
– I will answer that stupid’ allegation.
– Order! I remind honorable members who are interjectingthat the debate has just commenced, and that they will have an opportunity to speak at a later stage. I ask them to cease continuous interjections.
– I appreciate the difficulties that confront honorable members of the Opposition when they are hearing the facts for the first time during this debate. I know that it is most unpalatable for them, having made erroneous statements in. addressing themselves to this question, to have those statements corrected.. But they must be corrected in the interests of truth and good government if we believe in those things.
All in all, it can be said that eligible persons under the War Service Homes Act are in a much better position than any other section of the community in obtaining finance for their homes. Reference has been made in the debate to the interest rates being charged for temporary finance raised by ex-servicemen with the prior approval of the War Service Homes Division. This is a question on which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) needs some instruction and enlightenment.
A survey was made by the division of interest rates charged on temporary finance and the sources from which this temporary finance was being obtained. This survey disclosed that the majority of applicants had arranged temporary finance at an interest rate of 8 per cent, per annum or less. About 50 per cent, were able to obtain their finance at bank or insurance company rates of interest. The survey also revealed that interest of not more than 5£ per cent, was being paid in 19 per cent, of the total number of cases; interest between 5i per cent, and 7 per cent, was being paid in 26 per cent, of the total number of cases; interest between 7 per cent, and 10 per cent, was paid in 52 per cent, of the total number of cases; and interest of over 10 per cent, was being paid in 3 per cent, of the total number of cases.
Whether a successful applicant agrees to these rates of interest or rejects them is a matter of his own choice. I submit to the committee that there are ex-service men and women living under conditions which make it much better for them to pay rates of interest higher than the bank rate, where necessity demands, rather than continue to live in domestic circumstances that would not be tolerated by any person who had the opportunity to escape them. It will be appreciated, therefore, that any suggestion that ex-servicemen are obliged to pay unreasonable rates- of interest does not represent the experience of the majority of the applicants.
It may be presumed that an applicant who enters into a commitment for temporary finance does so with a full knowledge of the obligations being undertaken by him. He does so, apparently, on the basis that it is more advantageous for him to arrange temporary finance than to continue to pay rent for unsatisfactory accommodation while awaiting his turn for a loan. But I emphasize, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the choice is exclusive to the successful applicant.
It was also suggested during the debate that the Government should direct the Commonwealth Bank of Australia to make funds available for temporary finance purposes. It has been the practice of the Commonwealth Bank for some years, to consider sympathetically applications from its customers for temporary finance pending the availability of war service home loans. However, any suggestion that the bank should give ex-servicemen preferential treatment in the allocation of its funds would have to be considered from the point of view of its effect on the national economy. The bank has a responsibility to the public generally, and must necessarily keep a balance in its financial allocations. It should also be remembered, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the preferential treatment given to ex-servicemen in relation to housing is granted in the provision of funds by the Government under the War Service Homes Act and in the allocation of homes built with Commonwealth funds under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, whereby 50 per cent, of the homes built are to be made available to ex-servicemen. It would scarcely be reasonable to extend into the activities of the Commonwealth Bank a further concession in favour of ex-servicemen eligible for benefits from the War Service Homes Division.
Now I want to refer for a moment to the maximum loan, Mr. Temporary Chairman. It has been suggested that the present maximum loan is inadequate and should be increased. This question has already been closely considered by the Government. After full investigation, however, the Government reached the conclusion that an increase in the loan at this juncture would not be in the interests of the majority of the ex-servicemen applicants.
– Here is the answer. Any increase in the maximum loan in the present circumstances would reduce the number of applicants who could be assisted within the amount of the funds available. It is considered that this would not be a reasonable course to adopt while so many applicants are awaiting loans and are anxious to proceed under the existing conditions. There are 22,000 men waiting for their applications to be considered. Is it to be suggested, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the number being given advances should be cut by half and that the remainder should be delayed further because the successful applicants receive higher advances in the first place? The Government’s present policy is not to grant assistance for the discharge of an existing mortgage unless that mortgage had been arranged with the prior approval of the War Service Homes Division. This policy came into operation in December, 1941, and it has been singularly successful in providing new homes for new applicants. It was suggested at the time that the provision under which eligible ex-servicemen could obtain finance in order to discharge an existing mortgage on a home should be restored. The purpose of the present policy is to ensure that the funds made available for war service homes are used in the best interests of ex-servicemen generally.
– On a point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman: Is the Minister in order in informing the committee that a certain policy was adopted in 1941, when, in fact, it was instituted in 1951 by this Government? He is misleading the committee.
– No point of order is involved.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, in the face of some difficulty,
I am getting the facts of the case across to the committee, and that, of course, is my sole purpose.
It was considered at the time that exservicemen who already owned a home were in a much better position than were exservicemen who owned no home, and that the equitable course was to utilize the available funds for the benefit of applicants who did not own homes rather than to improve the financial arrangements of those who already owned homes. I agree with that wholeheartedly. If the policy were varied in order to allow portion of the funds to be used to discharge mortgages on existing properties, and so improve the financial arrangements of the applicants concerned, the result could be further delay in meeting the requirements of those applicants who did not own homes.
I have gone to the trouble, Mr. Temporary Chairman, of preparing a detailed statement of the position at 30th June, 1959. It is a complete survey of the homes provided and the expenditure made in the period shown. With the concurrence of the committee I incorporate in “ Hansard “ the calculations and figures set out in the following table: -
I shall conclude on this note, Mr. Temporary Chairman: For a great many years, the War Service Homes Division was administered by Mr. Lucas, who has recently retired from the position of director. Honorable members who have had cause to do business direct with Mr. Lucas will be grateful to him and to his officers for the assistance that he and the officers of the division were able to give from time to time. Mr. Lucas has been succeeded as director by Mr. Medbury. I believe that honorable members will receive the same quality and quantity of personal service from the new Director of War Service Homes as they received from the previous director. All that is necessary is for honorable members to apply themselves to an objective study of the great progress that has been made by the War Service Homes Division in the last ten years.
– It built more homes in 1951 than it is building to-day.
– In the last ten years it has provided many more homes than were provided in the previous 30 years. It has been expending millions of pounds every year, the annual expenditure now having risen to £35,000,000. Year by year, it has spent more than the total sum expended in the 30 years before 1949. The lag in the previous 30 years can only visit shame on those of us who have any keen desire to accelerate the provision of homes for qualified ex-service men and women.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, honorable members will agree with the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) in the tribute - the well deserved tribute - which he paid to the able and alert officer who has recently retired from the post of Director of War Service Homes. We sympathize with Mr. Medbury, the new director, in the legacy which he has inherited, because he has to prepare, every year, after the estimates covering the War Service Homes Division have been debated1, a rationalization of the division’s rationing scheme. Earlier this week, the whole question of war service homes was discussed during the consideration of the estimates for the Department of National Development. It is unfortunate that the department is administered by a Minister in another place who is out of the reach of honorable members in this place.
The Minister for Social Services, during the consideration of the General Estimates, and now during the debate on these estimates for Capital Works and Services, has read out a very long statement in an attempt to justify a situation which is being felt with increasing acuteness by applicants for war service homes. The Minister tries to gloss over the present position by saying that, during the present Government’s term of office, the War Service Homes Division has built more homes than it built in all its preceding history. That is very true. The explanation is that, when this Government came into office, there was no significant difference between the interest rates, the period of loans and the deposits required by building societies, insurance companies and banks, on the one hand, and the division, on the other. But in the ten years in which this Government has been in office the interest rate charged by banks and insurance companies has been twice increased by the Government, early in 1952 and again early in 1956. Consequently, building societies, which secure all their money from banks or insurance companies, have had to pass on those two successive increases in interest rates. Banks, as a matter of policy and with the Government’s connivance, have gone out of the business of lending directly to borrowers on overdraft or on credit foncier terms. Therefore, the War Service Homes Division, which is the only home finance lending authority still charging the pre-Menzies interest rate, has been the recipient of more and more applications. It would have been politically impossible, even suicidal, for the Government to have completely resisted the pressure on the War Service Homes Division.
When many sources of home finance are available to the Australian people, and when those sources are all equally favorable, there is no concentration on the War Service Homes Division’s resources. But if you put up the interest rate, if you peg the amount of money that other sources may lend, if you reduce the period for which they will lend money - or, at least, do not increase it - it is inevitable that everybody who has served overseas in the forces will make the War Service Homes Division his first point of application. That is why the War Service Homes Division has had what the Minister described as such a successful record in the ten years in which the Menzies Government has been in office. The division has been the most favorable lending authority.
– Is the honorable member suggesting that the rate of interest should be increased?
– Not at all. I suggest that you should put down the other interest rates that you put up in 1952 and 1956. When you want to cut down on lending, when you decide that some pruning is needed in housing, you put up the interest rate. But when you want to prime the pump, you never think of reducing the interest rate. If you want to promote home building, you should reduce the interest rate to enable people to borrow money and spend it on homes. The demand on the War Service Homes Division is the best indication that one could have of the malaise in home-building, in general, in this country. Building is becoming too expensive for many citizens. To illustrate this Government’s record in regard to war service homes, I quote from figures which the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) cited in this chamber a couple of days ago, and which I have checked to my own satisfaction. In 1950-51 the number of homes provided by the division was 15,579. Last year the number was only 14,669. Why the decrease? A lesser number of homes has been provided with a £35,000,000 appropriation than was provided nine years ago with an appropriation of £25.000.000.
Honorable members have pointed out that repayments of capital and interest during those ten years have increased from £4,850,000 to £16,760.000. The consequence is that the net amount which had to be provided by the Government in its first year of office was £20,150,000 while last year it was only £18,390,000, and this year the net amount that will have to be provided for war service homes by the Government will be only £16,000,000. This represents a smaller drain on Treasury funds - if that is how you like to look at home building for ex-servicemen - than the Government has had to bear in any other year.
Now I come to the immediate comparison, between 1957-58 and 1958-59. In those two years the appropriation was the same, £35,000,000. The number of homes provided fell from 14,790 in the earlier year to 14,669 in the later, while unsatisfied applications at the end of the respective years increased from 19,257 to 20,518. From 1951 until the present day the maximum amount that an applicant has been able to borrow from the War Service Homes Division has remained at £2,750. In the former year, this was greater than the average cost of a home and land by some hundreds of pounds in all States, whereas last year it fell short of the average cost of a home and land financed through the division by £600 to £1,200 in various States.
The Minister says, of course, that he refuses to increase the amount of money which people may borrow from the division in order that more people may be assisted. That is, the division is following the principle of helping the maximum number of people instead of helping the people who have the maximum need. In other words, if you can find a large deposit, you can get a loan from the War Service Homes Division, on more favorable terms than are available from any other source. But if you are not well off, you have to abandon hope of assistance from that source of finance.
The Minister has made very great play on the interest rate that is charged to persons who get a letter from the War Service Homes Division in order to obtain finance from other sources, pending the availability of an advance from the division. The Minister says that at the end of the waiting period the division will pay off the temporary mortgage. With very great pride, he tells us that 52 per cent, of the people who get such a letter have to pay interest at rates of only 7 per cent, to 10 per cent. - that is, they have to pay between two and two and a half times the interest rate that they will finally have to pay to the division.
What is the period for which such applicants must wait? I have before me a reply that the Minister gave me, on behalf of the Minister for National Development, on 16th September of this year. The waiting period for persons who, secured the division’s approval to build privately with temporary finance rose to twelve months at 30th June last. At 30th June. 1957. the waiting period had been nine months. As we all know, the waiting period in such cases commences from the date of satisfactory completion of the house. Therefore, if any of us were to go along to the War Service Homes Division and obtain its permission to build a house privately with temporary finance, we would not be able to start on the waiting period for a loan from the division until the home was completed. It might take six months to build the home - say until March or April of next year. We would then have to wait twelve months before we could get the loan from the division. - In other words, we would not get the loan from the division, if we obtained its approval to build with temporary finance, this year, or next year; we would not get it until the year after that.
On the principle that this Government has introduced, anybody who gets temporary finance, at interest rates between, as the Minister has said, 7 per cent, and 10 per cent, in most cases, does not get any help in this Budget, nor in the next, but only in the one after. In other words, the Government is condoning this form of exploitation by means of high interest rates - from 7 per cent, to 10 per cent, in most cases - not only for the twelve months that an applicant has to wait for the division’s loan, but also for the whole period in which he is taking drawings before the house is completed.
Can this Government take any satisfaction from the fact that it has introduced this rationing system, this spinning out of the money to the year after the next financial year in the case of people who want to build a house for themselves, on their land, with their builder and their architect, with temporary finance?
This waiting period, of course, occurs with regard to every form of finance from the War Service Homes Division.
– The waiting period for building under the act is only three months. ; Mr. WHITLAM. - In the year before there was no waiting period at all. Does the Minister take satisfaction from the fact that a man who is having a house built under the act must now wait three months before his first draw instead of being able to receive it without delay, as he could have done a year earlier? The waiting period for the purchase of group homes rose from twelve months to fifteen months in New South Wales, from nil to three months in Western Australia, and from 18 months to 30 months in Tasmania. The waiting period for a person buying an old home rose from fifteen months to eighteen months in all States. Nobody who is waiting to buy an old home through the division will get any assistance this year. If he applies tomorrow morning, he will not get any assistance for a year and a half from now.
It can be safely said that the present appropriations will not assist anybody who applies for assistance this financial year except those who want to build under the act, and they are the least numerous category. Their numbers fell last year because the advance that one can get from the division is now inadequate. In every other category - building privately with temporary finance, purchasing old homes, purchasing new homes, and purchasing group homes - the period has increased, and in each of those four categories no assistance will be given in this financial year to any person who applies at any time during the rest of this financial year. That is, the appropriations we have made in those four categories in this financial year will assist people who applied to the division last financial year or the year before. The whole position that the Minister now glosses over is a steadily deteriorating one. Far from expressing smug satisfaction with it, justifying it, and rationalizing it, the Minister should now have the honesty to correct it. Better still, he should have faced up to the criticism that was made in the debate on the vote for the department itself. No one was given any warning that the Minister was to speak at this stage. Many members who spoke on the matter during the Estimates debate are not now in the chamber. The criticisms they made then have not been answered. The Minister was not here, ready to face them at the time. The position in this financial year, on the Minister’s own reply to questions, is worse than the position twelve months ago. It is deteriorating. We say that the Government’s position has not in any respect been improved by the two interventions the Minister has read in the last hour. .
.- I rise to answer some of the criticisms made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). At the outset, I should like to say that members on this side of the chamber have the utmost respect for public servants, including the officers of the War Service Homes Division. I have had close association particularly with the Deputy Director of the Division in New South Wales, Mr. Dempsey, since I have been in this Parliament, because of conditions in my electorate. I was appalled at racketeering by snide real estate agents, so I made a study and conducted some research into reports tabled by this Government between 1950-51 and 1958-59 and obtained by me from the records section of the Parliament. These reports are quite revealing. I say to the Government, and particularly to its exservicemen supporters, that they cannot be proud of the Government’s record on war service homes. Those Government supporters should be on their feet demanding justice for ex-servicemen. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) has been quite silent in this debate, but in a recent debate he attacked the Government, saying that to limit to £2,750 an advance for the acquisition of a home in the Australian Capital Territory was antique. Later, the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) also criticized the Government’s action, but in this debate there has been silence from ex-servicemen supporters of the Government. Why has there been silence? It is because there have been enough rebels and enough revolts in the Government back benches. Government supporters now have to be good boys. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) must feel very proud of the Government’s record on war service homes.
– It is a proud record.
– It is a bad record, and no matter how much the Minister tries to switch and turn on this issue, these figures are quite conclusive. In 1950-51 there was a net expenditure of £20,150,000. In 1958-59 the net expenditure was £18,390,000, approximately £2,000,000 less than the expenditure nearly ten years earlier. Further, although 15,000 homes were constructed in 1950-51, nearly ten years later only 14,000 were constructed. The average cost of a home and land in New South Wales in 1950-51 was £2,080. These figures are taken from the Government’s papers. Any honorable member can examine them. 1 spent a great deal of time extracting them and I was fortunate enough to have the table from which I am quoting incorporated in “Hansard”. On 11th December, 1951, the maximum advance for the purchase of a home was lifted to £2,750. In 1958-59. when the average cost of a home and land had risen to £3,918, the maximum advance was still £2,750. These are accurate figures. There has been no stretching and no attempt to be dishonest. The Minister told us to face up to the issue. He cannot have his cake and eat it. He said that a fixed amount of £35,000,000 was being allocated. He must agree that the Government is using the War Service Homes Division as a revenue raiser, just as it is using the Post Office and will be using the prescription tax. The Government has to make up its mind one way or the other. Ex-servicemen supporters of the Government, who wear their badges with pride, should look at the annual report of the returned servicemen’s league, which devoted three pages to this subject and pleaded with the Government to increase the allocation from £35,000,000 to £40,000,000. These pleas were brushed aside with the statement that the Government could not afford it, yet the Government, among other things, is giving a handout of £20,000,000 to wealthy taxpayers.
Now let me deal with money lenders. I said that temporary finance was being made available at interest rates of 8, 10 and 12 per cent. There is a great racket in this, particularly in New South Wales. One of my colleagues from a smaller State has just informed me that he, a member of Parliament, is paying a flat rate of 10 per cent, for temporary finance for a war service home until such time as his finance from the division comes through. This Government is fostering black marketing and supporting snide money lenders. Some of the desperate cases to be found in Sydney are appalling.
There is a real estate firm by the name of Arthur Robinson & Sons Proprietary Limited operating in an area in my electorate. I spoke about this matter during an adjournment debate. This firm inserted an advertisement in the newspapers offering to build homes for ex-servicemen with no deposit and no temporary finance. What happened? When the ex-servicemen went to the agent, they found that they had to pay a deposit of £120, although it was not called a deposit. It was called legal fees. Then the ex-servicemen found that there were no fences around the house but the War Service Homes Division required fences. It cost £100 to put a fence around the property. There were no paths, and they cost another £50. There were no cupboards, and these cost another £50. Then, on top of all this, there was no stove, no gas fire and nothing with which to cook. The agent offered to negotiate a loan through the gas company. Repayment of the loan was over four years with instalments of about £2 a week. I cannot give the exact amount; I am giving these figures from memory.
I see that the Minister for Social Services is slinking out of the chamber. He cannot take it. This is the truth. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) is also slinking out of the House. The Government should feel ashamed of what it is doing to ex-servicemen who want homes.
The ex-servicemen who agreed to buy a home from the estate agent to whom I have referred found that they had to repay the temporary loan from the gas company over a period of four years. They found also that they had to wait for some eighteen months before they could get possession of the home. No temporary finance was needed because it was not called temporary finance, but an occupation fee. Ex-servicemen are being misled in this way. This is a real problem in Sydney and I have been informed by honorable members that the position is just as bad in other States. In Sydney, it is a serious social problem. Some ex-servicemen who were prisoners of war with me are still without homes - fifteen years after the end of the war!
Let us look at the position of applications. The War Service Homes Division had 23,000 applications recorded in 1950-51.
Over 22,000 are still recorded and the number is growing. Then there is the amendment introduced by this Government. The Minister could not make up his mind whether it was in 1941 or 1951, but under this Government’s amendment, money will not be made available by the division to discharge a mortgage which an applicant has already given to some other lending institution. I am an ex-serviceman and I obtained my finance for a home from the Rural Bank of New South Wales. I, like many others in the same position, cannot transfer my loan, but there are people whose financial positions are far worse than mine. We are all ex-servicemen and we all went through the same experiences. This Government waved the flag and told us what we should receive, but we did not get it. I am paying 5i per cent, interest on the money I have borrowed and my monthly repayments are almost £15. My loan is much smaller than the amount available from War Service Homes Division. I am quite secure financially in my position, at least for another couple of years, but I do not know what destiny has in store for me after that.
The Government must face up to this problem. It is a bad problem and the fact is that 22,000 applications are outstanding. This number excludes those who obtained finance from other sources, and some of these people are paying 2 per cent, more than they should for the money. Some applicants have the frustrating experience of waiting for eighteen months before they can purchase a dwelling that has been completed. We are told that the waiting time is three months for those who want to build a home. But I think the officers of the War Service Homes Division will agree that rarely does an application get through in under six months. These officers are very sympathetic, and, personally, I have the utmost respect for them. Any one who likes to check with the Deputy Director in New South Wales will find that I have been most co-operative. I have even acted as referee between the officers and people who were not happy with the treatment that they had received. The officers of this division have an obligation not only to the Parliament but also to the people of Australia, and personally I think that they are a grand body of men. Honorable members on this side have the utmost respect for them.
However, the Government must face up to its responsibilities, and I hope that every ex-serviceman with red blood in his veins will say that this is only a sham government.
.- 1 do not want to detain the honorable members unduly at this late hour.
– -No one else wants you to, either.
– We have been unfortunately detained by Opposition members and I hope that they will now give a member from this side of the chamber a hearing in peace.
I want to refer, among the many items contained in this schedule, to an item of £439,000 for public works in Papua and New Guinea. I am surprised that honorable members opposite have concentrated on only one item when we are dealing with works totalling £142,000,000. I want to deal first with the attitude we appear to have to the installation of equipment for power generation in Papua and New Guinea. The attitude of the authorities in the Territory has been rather short-sighted. They have a choice between either hydroelectric or diesel-electric schemes. The figures that have been given to me show that the installation cost of a diesel power station in New Guinea is £150 per kilowatt, against £250 per kilowatt for a hydroelectric scheme. But the difference is that the cost of electricity from a hydro-electric station is only 2d. per unit whereas the cost of electricity from a diesel power station at the moment is between ls. 6d. and 2s. per unit.
I wonder whether, because we have allocated such a relatively small amount for works in New Guinea, we have unduly curbed the outlook of the authorities responsible for spending the money, with the result that they tend to instal generating plants which have a relatively smaller capital cost but a very much higher running cost. I ask the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) whether in the future greater emphasis could be given to the installation of hydro-electric schemes in various parts of the Territory where they could be applicable, and a slightly lesser emphasis to the installation of diesel plant. While diesel plant has a cheaper initial cost, it ties us over a number of years to a higher unit cost The only other matter that I wish to mention concerns the houses being erected by the Public Works Department in New Guinea. A number of houses is now being built there. [Quorum formed.] I am glad to know, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that there are so many people who are interested in what I have to say about this important aspect of the housing situation in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The department has placed a great deal of emphasis on the erection of new houses in the Territory, but I believe that too much attention has been paid to building houses of types that are more applicable to the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory. I understand that two types of houses are being erected in Papua at the moment. They are the M-type and the N-type. The M-type is usually referred to as “ M for mucky “, and the N-type as “ N for nasty “. I believe that the domestic architecture adopted in the Territory is entirely unsuitable and does not provide houses which will best serve the interests of the people who have to live in a hot climate.
I wonder whether the Minister would consider the architectural styles being adopted in the erection of houses in the Territory with a view to seeing whether it would be possible in the future to design houses more in keeping with the climate of the Territory and the needs of the people who live there. The two matters that I have raised are relevant to the Works Department estimates that we are discussing at the moment, and I hope that the Minister will have a look at them during the year.
.- I propose to take the debate back to the statement made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). At the outset, I point out that the provision of funds for the War Service Homes Division is solely the prerogative of the Commonwealth Government. It is possible for this Government, in respect of other types of housing, to blame the State governments, and to say that there is inefficiency or maladministration, or to put forward some other excuse because the housing situation in the States is not as good as it should be, but the Government has no alias in respect of war service homes. The provision of financial assistance to enable ex-servicemen to obtain homes is a benefit that is given to them ^because they served overseas for their country in time of need. The provision of such assistance is covered by an act of this Parliament which the Government may, if it is prepared to do so or is game enough, amend at any time. If the Government wishes to increase the rate of interest on the advances that are made, it may do so. The whole administration of the act is in the hands of the Federal Government.
The fact that this Government has not faced up to the problem of housing for exservicemen and has not kept its promises to them is the reason that the Opposition takes umbrage. The Opposition believes that the Government, having given a promise to ex-servicemen, should now honour that promise. The Minister presented a statement that had been prepared for him by a Minister in another place. I feel that he presented it with some reluctance because he knew that the record of the Government in connexion with war service homes was not at all satisfactory. I suggest that the statement was made only because, a few days ago, members of the Opposition in this Parliament had pointed to many of the discrepancies in relation to war service homes, although not in the administration of the act by the War Service Homes Division. We make no complaint at all about the officers of the division, about their courtesy, or the attention that they give to the representations that we may make. But we do criticize this LiberalAustralian Country Party Government because it is not accepting its responsibility to provide homes for ex-servicemen.
The main point at issue is the long time for which ex-servicemen are expected to wait before they may receive financial assistance from the War Service Homes Division. At the moment, there are approximately 21,000 outstanding applications for assistance. In addition, figures which I checked six months or nine months ago indicated that in New South Wales alone there were about 13,000 ex-servicemen who had applied to the Housing Commission in that State for accommodation. Those exservicemen would not be included in the number awaiting financial assistance from the War Service Homes Division. Therefore it will be found that, in each State of the Commonwealth, large numbers of exservicemen are unable to find the necessary deposit in order to purchase a home with the assistance of finance from the War Service Homes Division.
The honorable members for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and Reid (Mr. Uren) have pointed out that excluding the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, the average cost of a war service home at the present time is £3,968. That is the figure that appears in the annual report of the division. The maximum amount that may be obtained from the division by an ex-serviceman is £2,750, which means that he must find about £1,200 in order to purchase a home. Thousands of exservicemen with families find it impossible to save sufficient money to place a deposit on a home.
The Minister stated that an ex-serviceman who applies to the War Service Homes Division for financial assistance and is given a letter of approval intimating that finance will be made available in fifteen months or twenty months’ time, depending on the type of home that he wants to procure, may raise temporary finance. I point out that the interest rate for such finance is between 7 per cent, and 10 per cent. The Minister suggested that an ex-serviceman did not have to resort to temporary finance unless he chose to do so, but I point out to him that most ex-servicemen who seek temporary finance have found either new homes or old home which they wish to buy. An ex-serviceman who wishes to purchase a house may say to the owner, “I want to buy that place. If you will keep it vacant for me for twenty months until the war service homes people make the money available, I will buy it. “ The natural reaction of the owner of the property is to say, “ I am afraid I can’t wait as long as that. I have two or three buyers lined up waiting to buy the property. I am sorry, but if you can’t give me the money now you will lose the home. “
An ex-serviceman in that position, naturally enough, attempts to obtain temporary finance so that he may move into the home of his choice. In any case, if he decides that he will not purchase a home at that time but wait until his turn for assistance from the division comes round, he may find, if the property that he wants to purchase is an old one, that whereas the price is now, say, £3,900, when he comes to purchase it the price is £4,400 or £4,500.
Another point of criticism of the Government’s policy on war service homes is that, under it, the War Service Homes Division will not take over existing mortgages. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of ex-servicemen who, immediately after the war, built their own homes. At that stage, if my memory serves me right, the War Service Homes Division would not make money available to owner-builders. These people built their homes. They obtained their finance from co-operative building societies, banks or other lending institutions. They built their homes at a lower cost, perhaps saving themselves £1,000 to £1,500. However, since 1951, when this Government changed the policy, the division has refused to take over their mortgages.
I feel that in this regard one exserviceman is as good as another, no matter whether he was in action for the whole period of the war, or whether he merely served in an administrative capacity. A decision has been made, an act has been put on the Statute-book, to provide that money will be made available to ex-servicemen to enable them to obtain homes. Under those circumstances, when the Government says that if an ex-serviceman has obtained finance from some other source, war service homes finance will not be available to him, it is making chalk of one ex-serviceman and cheese of another.
– It was the Labour Government that did that.
– As the honorable member for Lilley has shown that he is awake, I shall answer him. The Labour Government did not do that. It was in 1951, when, as the honorable member for Lilley is well aware, the present Government was in office, that the policy was changed, and existing mortgages were no longer taken over by the division.
There are a number of other things in the policy of this Government regarding war service homes with which the Opposition finds fault. It is now just over fourteen years since the end of the war, yet there are still thousands of ex-servicemen who have to wait fifteen or twenty months before they obtain finance from the War Service Homes Division. The provision of war service homes finance is the prerogative of this Federal Government. If this Government cannot make money available to catch up the back-lag of the War Service Homes Division, what chance have State governments, or persons seeking homes in this Capital City of Canberra, of obtaining finance if they have to wait for this Government to act and make money available in order to provide homes?
The statement made by the Minister had three faults; first, he read the lot of it; secondly, it was not worth reading; and thirdly, he read it badly and it was inaccurate and untruthful. The Opposition says that the Government stands condemned for its policy towards the War Service Homes Division. More money should be made available, the maximum amount of the loan should be raised, existing mortgages should be taken over, and the back-lag in dealing with applications should be cancelled as soon as possible.
.- If anybody in Australia had said ten years ago that he expected that fourteen years after the cessation of hostilities there would be 21,000 applicants for war service homes whose applications remained unsatisfied, he would have been regarded as somewhat mentally deficient. But that is the position to-day, and it is a disgraceful position.
In his speech to-night, the Minister endeavoured to turn the attack that has been made on this Government and on the responsible Minister on to the officers who are administering the War Service Homes Act. A shameful manoeuvre! The whole of the attack is on the Government and on the Government’s administration.
I want to devote a little time to another facet of this situation. It is true that to-night the Minister put up some sort of a defence against lending money to people who were not building homes under the actual administration of the War Service
Homes Division. He said that it was right and proper that those who were acting directly through the division in building their homes should be satisfied first. But let us look at another situation. I have had a case brought to my attention - I have the facts here now, and they are incontrovertible - of a returned soldier who obtained a home some years ago and now has four children. One of the children is a girl. In fact, I think that two of them are girls. This returned soldier recently applied to the War Service Homes Division for a loan of £260. It is desirable that he should build another bedroom for his daughter, but the division, because of the negligence of the Government, has had to inform him that his case cannot be dealt with under eighteen months. Mothers and fathers are becoming neurotic because of the overcrowded conditions in the war service homes they are occupying.
I admit that while other returned soldiers have not been able to obtain war service homes, it would not be good policy to be making loans to returned soldiers who already have some sort of a house. But this situation of other people not being able to get a home at all should not exist at this point of time, so long after the cessation of hostilities. You could understand difficulties, and a waiting period, for four or five years after the war; but fourteen years after the war, when, as this Government says, we are enjoying an era of prosperity, with ample supplies of materials of all kinds, with full employment and ample opportunities to build homes for the people, it is outrageous that they should be without homes. We are in an era when there is a good deal of luxury building going on in this community, and no endeavour is made by this Government to see that first place, or any level of priority, is given to the people to whom the nation has made a pledge.
I heard the Minister say to-night that a survey made regarding the amount of interest returned soldiers are paying for temporary finance showed that the average rate of interest is 8 per cent. I believe that that is incorrect. I know, from numbers of cases that have been brought to my notice directly by returned soldiers, that in many cases 10 per cent, and 12 per cent, interest is being paid. But that is not the worst feature of it, Mr. Deputy Chairman, because in all these cases, unless there is a personal relationship or a very good friendship between the parties, the people who lend temporary finance to returned soldiers require that a lawyer shall see that the transaction is all right and that a mortgage is drawn up. Substantial charges accrue against the unfortunate ex-soldier for a loan that may not run for a period of longer than two or three years. When he ultimately gets his finance from the War Service Homes Division, he again has to meet legal fees. He has to get the mortgage discharged, and go through all the operations necessary to free himself from the person to whom he has been paying a high rate of interest. Surely that is an outrageous state of affairs.
I know that at one stage it was said that it would be unfair to so provide for returned soldiers that the demand on the available building materials would be such as would create a shortage for other people in the community. Perhaps there was some force in that argument at one point of time. There is no force in that argument any longer. It was said that if sufficient funds were provided for the requirements of returned soldiers to be met in full, inflation would be produced, wages and salaries would be pushed up and the prices of bricks, timber, iron and all those things that go to the building of a home would go up also. But the moment that this Government agreed to allow returned soldiers, whom it would not provide with finance, to go to the private financiers and pay them 10 per cent., 12 per cent., 14 per cent., or whatever the interest rate might be, for temporary finance, there occurred exactly the same increase in the demand for, and the prices of, bricks, timber, iron and all the other materials required as would have occurred had the Government made available, at a reasonable rate of interest, the finance which this Parliament determined should be available to returned soldiers without a lengthy waiting period. No longer can it be claimed that any element of inflation, or undue pressure on available materials, adversely affects the scheme.
A disgraceful state of affairs has been revealed by men who have studied the problem minutely. It would seem that, because of the arrangements made for the financing of war service homes the Government is actually showing a profit on the transaction and that from time to time an excess repayment amounting to £3,000,000 has been shown in the National Debt Sinking Fund. There is no reason why that sum, not yet due to the National Debt Sinking Fund, should not be liberated for the building of perhaps another 1,000 homes. It is disgraceful that during this debate the returned soldiers on the Government side - indeed, Government supporters generally - have failed, with but one solitary exception, to take up the challenge and support the Opposition in its fight for more generous treatment of applicants for war service homes. We hear the Minister fluting about the number or homes that have been built and the amount of money that has been provided -£35,000,000 for the last two years as compared with £25,000,000 in 1950-51. However, it has been revealed that the sum of £35,000,000 made available last year and this year will not build a single home more than would the sum of £25,000,000 provided in 1950-51. There you have a shocking state of affairs. The Government endeavours to boost its stocks by saying, “ We are providing more money “, when, in fact, it is not building one more home annually. The way to boost its stocks. is to prove that the amount voted in any financial year is sufficient for progress - for the building of a substantially greater number of homes and the eventual elimination of the disgraceful time lag.
If only £35,000,000 is to be available this year it will be impossible for the War Service Homes Division to build one more home than it did last year. In fact, because inflation continues apace and prices continue to rise, it will probably build fewer homes. That is the problem which confronts the Government - the problem that every returned soldier and applicant for a war service home should know about. When the Government can come along and ask the Parliament to vote £45,000,000 for this purpose it will have something to boast about. It will be able to cope with a great many of the outstanding cases. I add my protest about this disgraceful state of affairs and I hope that Government supporters will pluck up their courage and insist that the Parliament be asked to provide more money for the purpose in the coming year than is at present proposed.
. I rise to correct some of the gross distortions of which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has been guilty. I do not know whether or not he intended to deceive the committee when he asked, “Who would have thought ten years ago that there would be a waiting list of 20,000 people?”
– I said 21,000.
– That is what you said. The impression that the honorable member, in common with every member of the Opposition, wanted to give was that ten years ago there was a waiting list of 20,000. That is a gross distortion. We are very proud of our war service homes record.
– It is not a distortion.
– Of course, it is. The honorable member wanted to imply that these people had been waiting ten years for a home. Not one has been waiting eighteen months. Let us examine the accuracy of the honorable member’s statement. He said that in 1951 a total of 15,000 homes were built, compared with only 14,000 last year. Indeed, it was the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) who first quoted those figures. Has he analysed how many homes have been purchased, as well as built? Of course, he has not. The figures look nice for his purposes, so he uses them. He cannot say how many were- purchased. Opposition members are elusive, but the point is that they are trying to make capital out of activities in a field in which this Government has a splendid record. Each year, the new applications are being met. Why is it that, fourteen years after the war, people still want to buy homes through the War Service Homes Division? Where have these people been in the interim? The simple fact is that the terms of repayment offered by the division are so excellent that they attract new applicants. The Opposition is attempting to make capital out of an activity of which this Government can be very proud.
– Is the honorable member suggesting that my figures are false?
– I say that they have been incorrectly analysed, or, rather, they have been analysed to suit the Opposition’s case. The honorable member for Lalor tried to imply that unfortunate exservicemen have been waiting ten years for a home. That is a gross distortion of the fact. This Government has a magnificent record in war service housing. That is why there is really no necessity for us to get up and defend ourselves. The demands made each year are being met, and the reason for the continual stream of applications is that the terms of repayment are so good that they attract people who wish to build new homes.
.At least the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) has done something that no other Government supporter has been prepared to do. He has attempted - admittedly in a very poor fashion - to defend the Government’s war service homes policy. Never, in my experience of the Parliament, have I seen so many ex-servicemen unwilling to question the Government’s policy on war service housing. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) speaks one way and votes another. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) is in a similar category. Various other Government supporters, such as the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) and all the Liberal and Australian Country Party members of the Government members ex-servicemen’s committee, are as one in failing to act. They have seen the Government’s policy condemned not only by this side but also by the returned soldiers’ organizations. Not one of these honorable gentlemen, except the honorable member for Hume, has been prepared to support the pathetic explanation offered by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). He rose at this late hour, having slumbered through the earlier part of the night, to try to defend the Government’s policy which, fifteen years after the war, causes 22,200 people to wait for homes. To-night, in this Parliament, the honorable member for
Reid (Mr. Uren), speaking as an exserviceman, laid bare for the public of this country to see the incompetence and maladministration of the Government - not of the individuals administering the division - and its failure to make money available to give homes to the ex-servicemen. What must these men think? Many of them are ex-prisoners of war, like the honorable member for Reid and others who fought and suffered during World War II., yet, fifteen years later, they are still waiting for homes. And they are unable to get them!
Those who go to the War Service Homes Division to-day are told, first, that they must wait eighteen or twenty months, as the case may be. Then they are told, in effect, “We will give you a list of money lenders to whom you can go and pay 10 per cent, or 12 per cent, interest and work day and night to pay that interest while you are waiting for your loan “. What a scandalous state of affairs! The Government is saving between £5,000,000 and £10,000,000 a year while the money lenders are waxing fat at the expense of the exservicemen. Is it any wonder that honorable members on the Government side who are ex-servicemen will not get up to defend the Government’s policy! They are ashamed of it, and so they ought to be because it is contemptible in the extreme that ex-servicemen are waiting for homes fifteen years after the war has ended. Even when their applications are granted, they are required to wait from eighteen to twenty months for the money, and in the meantime they are charged exorbitant rates of interest by finance houses who are recommended by a government instrumentality and are given a licence to exploit the ex-servicemen.
What else do we find? At a time when the Government is refusing to make the money available to ex-servicemen, it is remitting £20,000,000 in taxation to the wealthy, to the monopoly interests of the country. I repeat that while the Government is doing this, it is refusing to increase the vote by the £5,000,000 or £10,000,000 that is necessary to enable the lag in war service homes throughout Australia to be overtaken. I believe that the public will agree with me when I say that the Government’s policy is indefensible.
Let the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) rise to-night and make one of his nice speeches about this Government and its failure to give effect to a policy that will really be of some benefit to the people of the country. Where is the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull)? Has any one ever known him to sit so long in this Parliament and not speak? Why, he has even left the chamber to-night. I am sure that he is overcome with emotion because of the failure of this Government to give effect to a policy under which the ex-servicemen may be housed. As the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) said, these honorable members on the Government side are always blaming the Cahill Government of New South Wales or some other State government for its failure to house the people. They blame the State governments for the fact that the housing programme is not going according to plan. But this Government has full responsibility for financing the housing of the ex-servicemen of this country. What do we find? Fifteen years after the war has ended, 22,000 people are still waiting for homes, and this under a government whose full responsibility it is to provide those homes!
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and others interject when I make that statement. They have sat silently here during the discussion of this issue to-night. They cannot explain away the fact that the Government, despite its full responsibility to provide war service homes, has failed to do so after fifteen years. Why does not the honorable member for Moreton speak on this issue? He is ready to make all sorts of fine speeches in this Parliament at all hours of the day and night; he is only too ready to write poems for various journals in New South Wales and to propose expansive motions on all kinds of subjects. Let him stand up to-night. What does he care whether the ex-servicemen are going to be housed or whether they will have to wait another generation before anything can be done?
I am not surprised at the attitude of the Government on war service homes. Why, the greatest year for the building of war service homes in this country was in 1951-52, the year in which the plans of the was the year when the housing of exservicemen went on at a record level under Chifley Government came to fruition. That the great building programme instituted by the Chifley Government, and the record achieved in 1951 has never been equalled since. This is a time when there is manpower available, when there is money available and when there are ample materials available, yet this Government says it cannot afford to house the ex-servicemen, because it has not got the money.
If war broke out to-morrow, money unlimited would be poured in by this or any other government to defend this country. This Government will not give money for peace, it will not give money to house the ex-service men and women but it would call up every man in the country to fight for Australia to-morrow and would provide money unlimited if war were to arrive. I do not complain about that; the country must be defended and the Government must have money for that purpose; but if it is good enough to ask men to fight, it is good enough, fifteen years after the war is over, to make available another £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 in order that those men might be housed.
Why do not honorable members opposite who are ex-servicemen get up to-night and try to defend the Government’s policy? As I say, we cannot be surprised when they remain seated because they cannot possibly defend the policy that was enunciated by the Minister to-night. It is all very well for the Minister to say that ex-servicemen can get a loan of £2,750 but, as the honorable member for Reid pointed out earlier it costs nearly twice as much to-day to build a war service home as it did in the term of the Chifley Government. Costs have increased in every direction yet there has not been any increase in the maximum amount of loan that may be obtained, and an increase is necessary. Like other honorable members on this side of the chamber, I am ashamed of the Government’s policy in almost every field of government endeavour; but on this particular issue, I think that no government in our time has more cause for feeling ashamed of its policy than has the present administration.
Is it not shocking to think that out of, I think, 70 members on the Government side only one since about half-past nine tonight has had the courage to try to defend this Government’s policy. I commend the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) whose courage needs noendorsement from me. Yet i think that to-night he made one of the most courageous speeches he has delivered in this Parliament when he attempted to defend a policy which is indefensible. The fact that he misconstrued the figures quoted by the honorable member for Reid and tried to twist them to suit himself does not go over with the public or the members of this Parliament. We know the honorable member for Reid was quoting figures contained in replies given to him by Ministers in this Parliament or made available by the War Service Homes Division. We know that he quoted facts which could not be denied by anybody, especially by the honorable member for Hume.
Mr. Temporary Chairman, I have probably said enough on this particular issue, and the Government is hard hit. I suppose that when its ex-servicemen’s committee meets, we shall see another rebellion in the ranksof the Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will walk in here one night and wave his magic wand. When the order “ lock the doors “ is given three or four Liberals will be jammed in the doorway as they try to get out of the House. They are scared of this issue. They made great plans, and then, like white mice, they run away. I think that to-night we have had an excellent example of the temerity of these great fighting men who support this great government of Australia Unlimited that denies ex-servicemen homes and ignores its responsibility to the men and women who are urgently in need of homes. I never dreamt that I should see the Government encourage the moneylenders to exploit the ex-servicemen. I never dreamt that I should see a government, 75 per cent, of whose supporters are ex-servicemen, which would refuse to build homes for ex-servicemen fifteen years after the war has ended. I never dreamt that I should see such outspoken critics of the Government as the honorable member for Moreton, the honorable member for Lilley, the honorable member for Flinders - Major Lindsay even gave back his increase of salary - and others stand silently by, or sleep during this debate. I notice to-night - and I say this seriously - that a number of them slept through this debate, so disinterested were they in this great issue. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) has just awakened from his reverie. I would not like him to sit up because he is bad enough when he is lying down. This shows the interest that these people have in this issue. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has not been awake all night, and is not awake now.I join with my colleagues on this side of the chamber in directing the attention of the people of Australia to the scandalous state of affairs that exists here. Not one honorable member opposite has tried to support the Government, except the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), and I commend him for his energy. Two-thirds of Government supporters are asleep during a debate on war service homes, involving the expenditure of millions of pounds! The Minister at the table does not know anything about the department under discussion because he is Minister for Territories. According to some of his own supporters he does not know very much about the Territories, so how can we expect him to know anything about war service homes? What a scandalous state of affairs! Look at the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), asleep on the end of the bench.
– Order! The committee will come to order. I suggest that the honorable member discuss the Estimates instead of individual members.
– I am sorry. I thought that my remark might have disturbed the Minister for Primary Industry, but it has not. I conclude my few brief remarks by summarizing the position. The Government has shown no interest whatever in this measure, which is one of the most important that we have had placed before the Parliament. It will be a long time before we hear a government so witheringly attacked as this Government was to-night by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) and other honorable members on this side without any answer from Government supporters. The Government stands condemned. It claims to consist of 75 per cent, ex-servicemen, but they are sham fighters with respect to the things that matter to the ex-service men and women. Government supporters may be 75 per cent. ex-servicemen but, as the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) reminds me, they are also 95 per cent. inefficient.
Honorable members opposite have refused to defend the Government’s policy. But perhaps in that they have shown commendable wisdom. They have shown that they think the policy of the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Jack) - “ Silence is golden” - is good. The only hope that they have of retaining their seats in this Parliament is to remain as silent as the honorable member for North Sydney. We have seen that policy pursued to-night on a matter that is of great importance to this country.
I join in the scathing condemnation of a government that refuses to do anything for ex-servicemen and allows 20,000 exservicemen to wait fifteen years after the war for a home, with no early prospects of getting one- all for the sake of a paltry £5,000,000. This Government stands condemned as a money lenders’ government exploiting the ex-service men and womenand refusing to make homes available. Its supporters refuse to defend its policy, and for that they deserve the condemnation of the people of Australia.
– I think that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has spoken in such extravagant terms that the way in which he has spoken will be a sufficient answer to all that he has said. The only reason why I have risen is to recall that this debate was initiated by a long, careful and factual statement by the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, who is in charge of War Service Homes. In that statement was an account of what the present Government has done and that account stands as a record of which the Government can be proud. In spite of the considerable verbiage that has been poured over it by members of the Opposition, that record is something for which no excuses need be made and in which the Government is justified in feeling proud. It is obvious that the Opposition has had an entertaining evening and has filled in an hour or two talking without a great deal of seriousness. 1 therefore move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. T. F. Timson.)
Majority . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £141,896,000 for the services of the year 1959-60, for Additions, New Works, and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, viz: -
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the services of the year 1959- 60, for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £86,173,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Hasluck and Mr. Downer do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Hasluck, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
– I have information to give to honorable members with respect to the recording in the “ Hansard “ report of interjections made during debate in the House. This information has been obtained as a result of inquiries seeking the reason why an interjection could be published in the daily press and not appear in the official parliamentary record.
I have received from the Principal Parliamentary Reporter an explanation which will be of interest to all honorable members, but particularly to those who have not long been members of the Parliament and who, mainly, made the inquiry. The Principal Parliamentary Reporter states -
The frequent omission from the official record of interjections which brighten the press reports of parliamentary debates is in accordance with a rule laid down as long ago as 1904 by Sir Frederick Holder, Speaker, when he said - “ The Hansard Staff has been instructed not to take notice of interjections to which the honorable member speaking does not reply”.
This rule has been re-affirmed by successive Speakers down through the years. It has always been understood that the purpose of the rule is to protect honorable members themselves, who might be placed at a disadvantage by the recording of interjections that they did not hear, and therefore did not answer.
Interjections - Allegations against Member - Finding of Royal Commission - Television Programmes - Invitation to Lismore.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
. I do not intend to delay the House very long at this hour, but there are one or two corrections I wish to make so that the record will be straight. The first one refers to the advice which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have just given from the chair. On Wednesday a matter arose in this Parliament in respect of which I asked and obtained leave to make a statement. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) then replied, and he is reported in “ Hansard “ as saying -
I, myself, suffered the ignominy of seeing a headline on the front page of a Sydney paper the other day to the effect that Mr. Ward had declared Mr. McEwen corrupt. I have consulted “ Hansard “, however, and can find no record of such a statement by the honorable member. I am told that what happened was that while I was speaking the honorable member for East Sydney made an interjection, sotto voce, to the effect “The Minister is corrupt”.
First of all, I want to make it quite clear that I am not accustomed to making that type of interjection. I think that even Government members will admit that when I make a statement in this House the term more appropriate to describe the way in which I express myself would be fortissimo. The first time I saw anything in regard to this alleged interjection was when I read the Sydney press. I did not hear the interjection made. I have not been able to discover anybody else who heard it made. If that was said, it was not true. I made no such interjection whatever. I would not be foolish enough to make it in this chamber. What I have said is that the Minister is not prepared to grant a proper and thorough investigation of what I believe is prima facie evidence of malpractice in the department. I have never suggested at any time that the Minister for Trade has acted corruptly in these matters. I believe that there are certain things that ought to be explained, and I think that they can be cleared up only by a proper and thorough investigation.
There are one or two other matters to which I wish to refer. The Minister said that I had asked for a royal commission - according to him, it was an incredible request - into the allegations of Mr. Somerville Smith, and that I had mentioned only incidentally an investigation into the matter of import licensing administration. It is quite the reverse. I shall quote from “ Hansard “ the concluding portion of my statement, which was in these terms -
T invite the Government to appoint a royal commission to examine completely, and in its entirety, the administration of import licensing, and I invite it to ask such a royal commission to investigate the allegations made against me personally.
So the position was quite the reverse of what the Minister represented it to be.
There is one other matter to which I wish to refer. The Minister, in replying to my statement, made another reference to a royal commission and suggested that on a previous occasion when there was some question in regard to the administration of the department that I was controlling at that time, I had declined to give evidence before a royal commission. Let me indicate that the Minister was confused, either unconsciously or deliberately - I do not know which. In his statement he said -
Of course the most fantastic royal commission in the history of the Commonwealth was one appointed by a Labour Prime Minister to investigate allegations concerning the honorable member for East Sydney, who was at that time one of his Ministers.
Obviously he was referring to the royal commission into what became known as the New Guinea timber leases. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) then interjected and said, “And how did it result? “ The Minister, quite obviously referring to another royal commission, replied -
It resulted in the honorable member for East Sydney refusing to give evidence. He claimed that because his allegations had been made in the House of Representatives they were privilged and therefore there could be no inquiry into his honour or his ethical conduct.
Obviously, the Minister was referring to the royal commission into the Brisbane line. The administration of the department of which I had control at that time was not involved. I had made allegations, and it is perfectly true that, acting on legal advice, I did not give evidence before that royal commission, but I did give evidence before the royal commission in the case in which my administration of the departmentunder my control had been challenged. I invited the royal commission and the Government appointed it. Far from refusing to give evidence, I was, as any one who cares to turn up the records will see, subjected to the closest cross-examination for at least a couple of weeks, probably longer in the aggregate. I might say that, after the closest cross-examination, Mr. Justice Ligertwood, the presiding judge, stated in his report - and it is there for any honorable member who wants to read it - that he had no reason to doubt any of the evidence that I had given before the royal commission. The finding of the royal commissioner - and again it is there for those who wish to read it - indicates clearly and conclusively that I was given the most complete exoneration that has ever been given to any man who has had to face a royal commission.
I conclude by saying that those are the facts. They are there for any reasonable person in the community, anybody who is concerned with honesty and truth, to read.
.- I shall not detain the House for very long. In my concluding remarks, when speaking this afternoon on the Estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department, I suggested that TCN Channel 9 and the national station, ABN Channel 2 in Sydney, should encourage the production of more plays composed entirely of Australian artists. An official of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has directed my attention to the magnificent record of the national television stations in Sydney and Melbourne in producing plays presented entirely by Australian artists. This is the record: Seventy-three plays have been produced with Australian artists, set designers and technicians in Sydney and Melbourne. Ten of these were written by Australians. In addition, nine live grand operas, with Australian singers, orchestras and producers were staged. The A.B.C. commenced producing plays with Australian artists almost immediately after the inception of television in Australia. I sincerely apologize to the A.B.C. for any wrong impression that I may have created. I can assure honorable members that it was quite unintentional.
I wish to refer to one other matter. I should like to announce that early to-day I received through the post an invitation, and that I have been authorized by the sender to invite every member of the Australian Country Party to a picnic social to be held in Lismore on Saturday next.
– I wish to say only one thing in relation to the remarks that have been made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). At the time when the remark that has been attributed to the honorable member is alleged to have been made, I was in the chair. In the heat of debate, no chairman would wish to be dogmatic, but I can say that, from my position in the chair, I did not hear the honorable member for East Sydney use the words that have been mentioned.
– As a member of the Australian Country Party, I should like to reply to the invitation that has been extended by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope). The New South Wales Country Party seems to have got into trouble as a result of disagreement between its members, but that is a State and not a Federal matter. The Australian Labour Party is very familiar with disagreements in its ranks. Just as the Labour Party has been kept out of office for so long, so the New South Wales Country Party member has been kept out of office in Lismore.
Perhaps some member of the Country Party should accept the invitation. The Labour Party will be holding a special evening - a gala occasion - because it is such a novel experience for Labour to have a win.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.58 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– I have been advised by the Minister for Repatriation as follows: -
a asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
How many applications for telephone services are outstanding in Australia at the present time?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
l asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Postmaster-General’s Department - Messrs. E. J. Stewart, L. F. Pearson, L. J. Keith, J. S. Wigg, M. Strohfeldt.
Department of Navy - Lieutenant K. A. Williams.
Department of Army - Captain G. J. Mapson.
Department of Air - Squadron-Leader R. K. Starkie.
Department of Civil Aviation - Mr. E. W. Anderson.
Department of External Affairs - Mr. L. J. Arnott and Miss M. McPherson of the Australian Consulate-General, Geneva.
Overseas Telecommunications Commission - Mr. W. R. Baird.
Australian Broadcasting Control Board - Mr. W. H. Hatfield.
Australian Member, Commonwealth Telecommunications Board - Mr. H. A. De Dassel.
Mr. J. M. Moyle, of the Wireless Institute of Australia, is attending is an advisory capacity.
a asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice) -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Newspaper Articles on Social Service Payments.
d asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
Is he able to give an assurance that ali the equipment for the establishment of oil refineries and chemical manufacturing works in this country which can be supplied from Australian sources is being utilized and that imports are only permitted to the extent that local supplies are inadequate to meet the demand?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
If restrictions on imports of items of such equipment are in operation - and I have frequently pointed out that nearly one-half of our total import bill is free of restriction - it is likely that the administrative system of licensing would apply. In that case, applications for import licences would be considered on their merits in the light of such factors as local availability, price, delivery dates and technical features.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
Since the introduction of import licensing, have any licences been issued by Ministerial direction and, in some instances, against departmental advice; if so, what are the details?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
As I have said previously in this House, no individual licences have been issued by ministerial direction since I have been responsible for import licensing. I do not know the basis of individual licensing decisions prior to my assumption of responsibility.
s asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for 1’rade. upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. In the import licensing system, a traditional importer is one who imported Ig00(1 or classes of goods during the financial year 1950-51, which was the most recent complete year of trading prior to the import controls being imposed. The word “ imported “ in this sense means that the person concerned entered the goods in his own name through the customs. Many 1950-51 importers also imported pre-war.
s asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Exempt - bulk petroleum, paper pulp, raw cotton, tea, coffee.
Replacement - parts for machinery, various chemicals, office machinery, scientific instruments.
Administrative - capital equipment, various raw materials, timber.
A category - steel, textiles for manufacturing, paper, tiles.
B category - the great bulk of consumer goods.
Z category - seeds, cinematograph films, iron and steel scrap.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
On very many occasions in the past I have stated in this House that I must respect as confidential the business relations between any person or firm and the Department of Trade. I am not prepared to breach this confidence.
d asked the acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 October 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19591008_reps_23_hor25/>.